Living By The Land – Episode 48

AMELIA nodded and turned brimming eyes up to Louisa.

“I’m sorry I embarrassed you, Louisa. It was mean.”

The remains of Louisa’s fury dissolved and she hugged Amelia tight against her.

“Forget it,” she managed, shrugging off an image of Callum’s tight shoulders as he’d left her at breakfast. “It’s not important. What’s upset you, sweetheart?”

The cows shifted, as if uneasy at the dairymaid’s sadness, and Amelia reached out and patted the nearest one.

“It’s Tiernan,” she admitted, as much to the cow as to Louisa. “He’s talked to his father, but . . .”

“He’s still contracted to marry the neighbour’s girl?”

“Sally,” Amelia spat. “Yes.” She looked up at Louisa at last. “He says he went out riding with her. On their own and everything.”

Louisa felt her friend shudder with jealousy and pushed her gently down on to a milking stool. Amelia’s hands found the cow’s teats instinctively and the action seemed to calm her, as it had calmed Louisa earlier.

“He says that Sally understood. She doesn’t want to hold him to the engagement. She doesn’t want to be married to a man whose heart belongs to, to . . .”

Now Amelia’s tears fell in earnest and the milk squirted more furiously into the pail. The poor cow shifted in protest but Amelia paid no attention.

“It’s so unfair. On Tiernan, on this Sally, on me. I’d love him like no other, I swear I would. And I’d do everything I could to be a good farmer’s wife. I can work hard, can’t I? I do work hard! I’ve done everything since Mother died, since Dad – well, you know. He’s useless now, but I haven’t let that stop me! I can do anything that Sally can, and more besides, I’ll bet, but just because she’s sitting on thousands of acres and I have nothing, she gets . . .”

Amelia broke down. Heart aching for her friend, Louisa prised her away from the cow and held her close.

“I’m not a bad person, Louisa,” Amelia cried. “Truly I’m not. Life’s just been hard, you know. I’ve had to do whatever I can, however I can. Perhaps I haven’t always done it the best way, but I thought, at last . . .”

More tears. Louisa tried to find something to say but there was nothing. Amelia was right, it wasn’t fair,. But what could they do? They couldn’t blame Tiernan’s father for wanting to increase his son’s landholdings, especially when he had Callum to provide for, too.

Louisa’s heart contracted at the thought. Perhaps Tiernan was intended to run this Sally’s farm, leaving their own free for Callum? If Tiernan married Amelia instead, what would Callum have?

She hugged her friend again, guilty at her conflicting thoughts. Not that it was relevant, anyway, if Callum was angry with her.

“Come on, Amelia,” she said gently, “let’s at least finish the milking and see what unfolds. Tiernan’s not married at this moment, is he?”

Amelia shook her head.

“No use crying when the milk’s not even spilled yet,” she managed weakly, and Louisa tried to laugh, though it came out as a strange, strangled sound.

The two girls sank on to their stools and began to milk, both lost in their task and in their own awkward thoughts before suddenly, as the last cows took up impatient position, Amelia looked up.

“Of course!” she exclaimed, her voice bouncing off the timber roof with some of its old confidence.

“Of course what?”

“Why didn’t I think of it before?” Amelia demanded of the air. “It’s the perfect solution.”

“What is?” Louisa repeated, relieved at hearing Amelia cheerful again.

Her friend’s next words, however, cut any laughter dead in her throat.

“Why,” Amelia said happily, “Callum can marry Sally, and then all will be well for everyone, will it not, Louisa?”

Louisa, however, had no breath to reply.

Several times that day Louisa tried to find Callum to talk to him, but always he seemed to be occupied with one or other of the farmhands. As Louisa was shy enough about speaking to him alone, she was certainly not about to approach him in company. She had little idea what to say, anyway.

As evening began to fall she sought the comfort of the fields, striding across the open grasslands to try to walk off some of the ridiculous emotional energy that seemed to be churning round and round inside her. Despite her misgivings, she found herself desperately hoping that Farmer Robert’s letter would reach her father and that the family would be able to come on Saturday. Their love for her was uncomplicated and unconditional and she longed for the reassurance of their simple companionship.

Could she talk to them about all this, though? Her mother had always been her first source of comfort and advice and now Louisa looked with longing up at the soft clouds on the skyline. They were laced with palest pink, as if they were blushing, and she smiled as she caught the shadow of her mother’s pretty face amongst them.

“What do I do, Mother?” she whispered.

Grace Harris’s voice came back to her immediately from her past, soft but firm.

“Talk to him. Fear is always worst when stuck inside your own head.”

Louisa sighed and nodded. This problem was hers to deal with, and she had to take her courage in both hands and do so.

She went to bed feeling stronger and when, the next morning, she saw Callum crossing the yard alone, she seized the moment. Heart beating wildly, she picked up her skirts and hurried over.


He turned and glanced around as if looking for escape. Finding none, he visibly squared his shoulders to face her.


Alison Cook