Living By The Land – Episode 53

“ARE you sure you don’t want to come?”

“Truly, Dad, I’m happier here.” Louisa pressed Samuel’s warm hand. “I’d like to spend some time with Betsy.”

Samuel looked down at the little girl, curled in tight against Louisa’s skirts, and nodded reluctantly.

“It certainly looks as if she’d like that.”

“That’s settled, then.”

“And Xander? Can you watch him, too? Not that the poor lad’ll keep his eyes open long. His day at Lower Meadow has fair worn him out!”

They both looked across at Xander, nodding over a second helping of jam roly poly, and smiled.

“I’ll make sure he’s safe to bed. You go out and enjoy yourself.”

“If you insist, sweetheart.”

“I insist. Now, go!”

Louisa gave Samuel a little shove towards Robert and David, waiting at the door. All Robert’s senior workers and several of the farmhands were going to the village tavern and it was quite a crowd that set off down the drive. Louisa watched them leave, noting, despite herself, that Callum was not amongst the chattering group. She felt ridiculously relieved that he was no more in a party mood than she.

“Louisa, are you all right?”

Hastily Louisa blinked her errant thoughts away and turned to her little sister.

“Of course, Betsy. Come, now, let’s get you up to your room. Xander, too. Look at him, poor lamb!”

The two girls giggled together at the sight of their brother, who had apparently fallen asleep nose down in his custard. Louisa moved across and shook him gently awake.

“Wh – what?” Xander spluttered. He looked fearfully around. “Oh, no! Where is everyone? Did I make a fool of myself? Is Farmer Robert laughing at me?”

Louisa hastened to reassure him.

“No, Xander, everyone’s gone out, don’t worry. It’s just us and the kitchen maids. Here . . .” She passed her pink-cheeked brother a napkin and he hastily scrubbed at his face.


“Bed,” he agreed sheepishly. “Sorry, Louisa, it’s just all been so exciting. I can’t believe you get to be here all the time.”

Louisa smiled.

“I know, Xander, I’m very lucky. Now, come on, up we go.”

She collected a jug of hot water and guided her younger siblings up the wooden stairs to the guest rooms on the top floor of the main farmhouse. She poured half the water into the bowl in Xander’s room, leaving the boy with strict instructions to wash before bed, then shepherded Betsy through to hers. It was very small but prettily done out in delicate chintz and Betsy was charmed.

“Isn’t it just perfect?” She bounced on the bed as Louisa poured the water into the washing bowl, then ducked under her arm to dart over to the window. Set up in the eaves, the room offered a perfect view on to the farmyard and out across the fields.

The sun was dipping down towards the horizon, painting Lower Meadow in romantic pinks, and even Louisa was distracted from her sister’s bedtime routine by the glorious sight.

“I’m so glad we came.” Betsy sighed. “I can picture where you are now, Louisa. I like that. It will stop me missing you as much.”

Louisa’s heartstrings tugged.

“Are you happy, though, Betsy?”

“Happy enough,” the little girl said earnestly. “I won’t make myself ill again, I promise.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“It was, a little. I don’t think I worked as hard at getting better as I could have done. It seemed not worth it, with Mother not here.”

Louisa wrapped her arms around her sister, but the girl squirmed away.

“It’s all right, really. I don’t feel like that now. I’ve got a new friend – Eliza. Her mother died, too, giving birth to her baby brother, and she says we have to live extra hard to make up. She says that’s what her mother told her. That Eliza had to do lots of things and meet lots of people and see lots of places for Mother, so Eliza says she’s trying to do that. I’m trying, too. Look, here I am at Lower Meadow with you! I think Mother would like that.”

“I think so, too,” Louisa agreed, cuddling Betsy again, and this time her sister flung her arms around her neck and hugged her back.

Within minutes, however, she was bounding away again. Clearly her day on the great farm hadn’t tired her as much as it had her brother.


Alison Cook