Living By The Land – Episode 56

LOUISA frowned.

“What’s being poor got to do with it?”

Amelia laughed harshly, more a bark than any human sound.

“Oh, Louisa, you really are simple, aren’t you? Being poor has everything to do with it! Love is a costly business, you know.”

“That’s not true. My parents had hardly any money and they loved each other.”

“Then they were lucky.”

“What about yours?”

“Mine?” Amelia sounded strangled. “Oh, yes, my parents loved each other, and look where that got them. She’s dead, and my father might as well be. All the fight went out of him when he lost Mum. Maybe it was never there in the first place. Maybe she was the fighter, like me. Either way, he gave up without her.”

“Gave up on what?”

“Everything. Oh, listen to me. Time I went to my bed, I think. Are you coming?”

Louisa knew Amelia was not one to be pushed.

“I suppose so,” she agreed reluctantly. “Let me just check the little ones are properly asleep.”

Guiltily Louisa remembered her promise to Betsy, but what was she to do? She could hardly go knocking Callum up in his room at this time of night.

Both Betsy and Xander were sleeping soundly, and with the kitchenmaids in their own room just up the corridor they were quite safe. It had been a long day and she was tired and, besides, she didn’t want to leave Amelia alone. So she tucked her arm into her friend’s and together they stepped out into the yard. The moon was high and cast a silver path for them all the way to their dormitory, but revealed no lovelorn men in the corners. It seemed there really was little more to do than sleep.

Sleep, however, would not come to Louisa. She was tired, so tired that her eyelids felt heavy round the edges, but her brain was racing with all the day’s events. Her family’s delight in Lower Meadow; Robert’s kindness; Amelia’s tears . . . and Callum. Always it came back to Callum. She hated to think that he thought ill of her. She hated to think that she might never know again the rush of sweetness that had flooded her whole being when he’d kissed her. If Tiernan went back to Northumbria, surely Callum would go, too, and then whatever slim chance she had left with him would be gone for ever.

Louisa sighed into her pillow but then froze at a sudden noise – a scraping against the window, like spirits rattling to get in.

“Amelia,” she whispered. “Are you awake?”

“Of course I am!” Her mercurial friend sounded not just awake but bright and excited. “That’s Tiernan!”

She ran to the window, throwing back the drapes so that her slender frame was silhouetted against the moonlit window.

“Amelia, come back!”

Ignoring Louisa, she threw up the sash, leaning out. Louisa saw her wave and nod and the next moment she was back inside, tugging on her dressing-gown and forcing her feet into her boots.

“What on earth are you doing?”

“Going to meet him, of course. He still loves me, Lou, despite what I said. He must do!”

“But it’s dark.”



“Oh, Louisa, grow up. This is real life, not a fairy tale. Girls like us can’t sit in our ivory towers brushing our golden hair and waiting for a prince to propose. It doesn’t work like that. If you want a man you have to go out there and get him, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do!”

With that she was gone, leaving Louisa alone, staring into the darkness of the empty dorm. She tried to feel shocked but just couldn’t. Instead, she felt . . . what? Impressed? Envious, even! Esther and Rose were down at the tavern having fun, and now Amelia was out with Tiernan.

Grabbing her sheets, Louisa flung them back and rose decisively. Hastily, she dressed – she certainly wasn’t running around in her nightgown – and before she could back out she ran to the door and down the stairs to the yard.

Alison Cook