Living By The Land – Episode 59

AS Louisa surrendered her mouth to his, however, the air was rent with a new sound – a tortured cry of anguish.

“God have mercy!”

Callum pulled Louisa tighter against him and crushed them both against the side of the barn. The noise continued and now it was accompanied by shouts and cries for help. Callum and Louisa looked at each other in horror. What could have occurred?

“I’ll go,” Callum told her. “I’ll see you safe into the house and then I’ll find out what’s going on.”



“No! I’m coming with you,” she said defiantly.

“Are you going to be this disobedient all our lives?” he asked, amused. But then the scream sounded out again and, chilled, they both ran to find its source.

It was immediately apparent where the trouble lay. Robert stood on the drive, his hands gripped in his hair and his shoulders bowed as though in pain. The others from the tavern hovered helplessly around him and as Callum and Louisa drew closer they saw, on the ground before them all, an enormous shape.

“What’s happened?” Callum asked.

The farmer turned to them.

“Diablo,” he said, his voice raw. “He’s dead!”


Louisa looked down at the great bull, Robert’s pride and joy. She turned instinctively to her father, who hastened forward and grabbed her hands.

“The poor beast seems to have had his throat cut, Louisa. With a very sharp knife. Someone knew what they were doing, that’s for sure. We should all go inside.”

They all looked nervously around, but the farm was still, save for the people coming out of the various bedrooms. Amelia was running from the girls’ dorm and Edgar was staggering out of the men’s. The kitchen maids were approaching in a nervous cluster and, although Xander was nowhere to be seen, Louisa was horrified to spot Betsy with them. She ran to the little girl and pulled her into her arms.

“What’s happened, Louisa? Why is everyone upset?”

Louisa didn’t believe in lying to children, even had she been capable of it at this moment.

“Farmer Robert’s bull is dead, Betsy, and everyone is very sad about it.”

“The cornerstone of my breeding programme, he was!” Robert bellowed suddenly. “Everything I am, I’ve built on this wonderful beast. And now look at him! Who has done this to Diablo? Who’s done this to me? Who?”

He whirled round, eyeing up each of his workers in turn. His eyes blazed like fire and his brow was dark with a thunder Louisa had never seen on him before. All his tolerance and calm had drained away with his favourite creature’s lifeblood, and he was wild with anger. She flinched back against Callum as Robert’s eyes fell on her.

“Louisa! Why are you dressed?”

“I . . . I had not yet gone to bed.”

“I see. And you, too, Callum?”

“We were talking, sir.
I . . .” Callum dried up, clearly aware that this was no place to announce their engagement.

“You kept your promise, then,” Betsy whispered in Louisa’s ear. But her sister could only nod. She’d kept her promise, yes, and for a moment everything had seemed wonderful, but now it had all turned sour.

“Ach, I’m sick of this!” Farmer Robert waved an arm around the crowd. “All of you back to your beds – now. We’ll talk in the morning. By heaven, we’ll talk, and, make no mistake, I will get to the bottom of this. I am not having my farm terrorised. I am not having my systems sabotaged and my animals hacked down. I am not! Now, go.”

The terrified workers needed no second telling. As one, they made for the farm and their beds, though it was doubtful anyone would get much sleep tonight. Callum put a solicitous arm around Louisa’s shoulders as she turned back, still carrying Betsy. She saw her father take quiet note, though he said nothing.

“Dad, we should talk,” she started, but Robert wasn’t finished yet.

“Silas, Isaac, Joshua, could I trouble you to stand guard this night? Take my gun. I want no more trouble at Lower Meadow and I want no-one escaping, neither.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Callum, you come with me.”

“But he didn’t . . .!” Louisa began to say, horrified, but Callum stopped her with a squeeze of his hand.

“It will be all right, Louisa,” he said softly.

Then he let go of her and went to Robert’s side. Louisa stood, clutching Betsy and watching her fiancé of less than half an hour walk into the farmhouse by the side of a tight-shouldered Robert.

What on earth was going on here? Why had Callum been singled out by the furious farmer? Louisa felt desolate. Much as she wanted to believe Callum’s reassurance – much as she needed to believe it – it was hard to see how, after this, anything could ever be all right again.

Alison Cook