Living By The Land – Episode 57

AT first all seemed quiet, but as her eyes adjusted to the darkness she saw she was far from alone in Lower Meadow. Amelia was disappearing into the milking barn, hand in hand with Tiernan. Someone else was coming down the drive, swaying slightly, and Louisa ducked into the shadows behind the well as she identified Edgar, the morose farmhand. He was muttering to himself and waving his hand insistently at some argument of his own making.

He looked around and Louisa slunk even further back, hardly daring to breathe until he disappeared around the girls’ dormitory, hopefully heading for his own bed.

A few minutes passed and when Edgar didn’t return, Louisa dared to step out again. But what should she do now? Another noise caused her to press herself against the milking barn, heart pounding, but it was just Robert’s hound sniffing round the yard. She glanced ruefully up at the moon and it seemed to smile back at her foolishness.

This was Lower Meadow, she reminded herself. She was quite safe here.

Behind her, through the rough wooden wall of the barn, she could hear Amelia and Tiernan talking to each other in low voices. Her higher tones seemed to weave in and out of his bass like a miniature symphony. They were speaking urgently; not quite arguing but certainly not whispering sweet nothings. Louisa forced herself to move away. Whatever they were discussing was none of her business.

Louisa moved along the line of the barn and round to the vast stretch of the fields beyond. The cows, perhaps sensing the movement in the yard, were huddled close to the gate. Louisa moved across to them, cheered by their familiar presence.

“Hey, girls,” she murmured and the closest cows, recognising her, nudged forward. “Are you not cold out here?”

They huffed softly in response, steam rising up out of their gaping nostrils in small clouds. Louisa wrapped her arms around herself and then, on an impulse, clambered up on to the gate. The cows’ breath tickled against her face and she ran a fond hand along the back of the nearest beast.

“I’m cold, and lonely, too.” The cow seemed to tip her big head to one side as if trying to understand, and Louisa sighed. “I’ve made a mess of it all, you see, though I’m not really
sure how.”

It felt good to speak out loud. Words seemed to gather in her throat, fighting to get out.

“It’s all so confusing. One minute I thought he liked me. Callum, that is.” Even saying his name made her smile. “But the next . . . oh, I don’t know.”

She paused, then leaned confidingly in to her cows.

“He did kiss me once. It was wonderful.”

The cows snuffled appreciatively and, encouraged, Louisa spoke on.

“I know he’s richer than me, much richer. He’s probably cleverer, too, and I’m sure there are lots of girls who would love to be his wife. But that doesn’t stop me wanting it, too, does it? Not just wanting it. Longing for it! I look for him all the time, and then I jump every time I see him. I can’t sleep for thinking about him. I’m as bad as Amelia!”

“Surely not?”

The voice jolted through Louisa and shock sent her toppling backwards.

“Aargh!” Stars whirled past and Louisa closed her eyes, braced to hit the ground.

Instead, she found herself caught up in two strong arms.

“As bad as Amelia?”

The voice was soft with amusement and wonderfully familiar. Slowly Louisa dared to open her eyes and there was Callum’s handsome face, just inches from her own and looking down at her with such love.

Alison Cook