Living By The Land – Episode 50

“LOUISA, Oh, Louisa, it’s so good to see you.”

Little Betsy stepped down from the trap and flung herself into her big sister’s arms. Pulling her close, Louisa felt the glow of her love chase away the chill of the last few days. Whatever Martha had said, she’d been unable to bring herself to approach Callum again. He, in his turn, had resolutely ignored her until she was almost beginning to wonder why she’d ever liked him at all – almost.

The fact that her heart still skipped whenever he walked into the kitchen for meals or, indeed, if she caught the smallest glimpse of him across the fields, told her that his hold on her wasn’t going to be easy to shake off. But she was doing her best. And for today, at least, she could forget romantic nonsense and just enjoy having her dear family at Lower Meadow.

She went to hug her father, then turned to Xander who had clambered down and was standing awkwardly at his side. He was far more self-conscious than his little sister, but was still pleased enough to see Louisa to let her briefly hug him. Then came David, who seemed to have grown even in just the short space of time since she’d seen him last, and towered over her as he threw a broad arm around her shoulders.

“I hope Martha’s here,” he said, glancing over to the dairy.

“I thought it was me you’d come to visit,” Louisa teased.

He laughed.

“No, no, Louisa, you’re just the excuse.” He turned to Xander. “You should see the hams she cures, and the cheeses! Ah, Martha!” Spotting her emerging from the dairy, he was off, grasping her hands in both of his and exerting an easy charm that saw him led within in a moment.

Louisa smiled – David was a man indeed, these days.

“Are you hungry, too, Xander?” she asked her younger brother, who was gazing all round him in wonder.

“Only to see the machines and the stock,” he said in an awkward whisper. “I’ve been asking around at market, Louisa, and everyone’s got something to say about Farmer Robert. Oh, my goodness, is that him now?”

Louisa turned to see Farmer Robert striding towards them. She nodded, catching Xander under the arm in case he buckled beneath the excitement. Sometimes these days she forgot how renowned her employer was in the farming world. With all the recent upsets at Lower Meadow she’d lost sight of how privileged she was to be here at all.

“Samuel!” the farmer boomed and Louisa’s father turned from sorting the horse and strode forward.

“Robert. It’s so good to see you, sir.”

“You, too, man. It’s been too long.”

Robert was looking at his old friend with genuine pleasure and for a moment she saw them as they must have been as carefree young men. Fleetingly, she wondered where she would be 20 years hence. She felt a twist in her gut at the thought that she might not – nay, would not – be with Callum, but she shook it off as introductions took place.

“This must be Betsy. Why, Louisa, you told me she was your little sister, but this young lady looks very big to me.”

Betsy swelled with instant pride.

“Dad says I’ve grown two inches with the help of Lower Meadow broth and cheese.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Robert agreed, “and I look forward to putting another two inches on you before your return home. We will have roast beef tonight.”

“Roast beef?” Betsy gasped and looked to Louisa for confirmation that this was not some joke.

Louisa nodded. Eating well was another thing to which she’d grown accustomed.

“And this is Xander,” Samuel said, drawing the boy forward.

Robert held out a hand.

“Pleased to meet you, Xander. Do you like beef, too?”

“I do, sir.”

“But?” the farmer prompted, hearing hesitation in the boy’s voice.

“Most of all I want to see your farm, sir. I’ve heard tell that your cross-breeding programme is second to none!”

Now Robert’s eyes lit up, and he crouched down slightly to be on a level with the twelve-year-old.

“Louisa said you like science?”

“I do, sir, very much. It’s the future, you know.”

“I do know, Xander, but not everyone agrees with me.”

The boy frowned.

“Then they must be stupid – or mad.”

Robert roared with laughter.

“Quite right, young man. You and I are going to get on famously. Now, come inside and take some refreshment.” He stilled Xander’s impatient jiggle with a soft hand on his shoulder. “And then I will show you everything.”


“Of course.”

Alison Cook