Living By The Land – Episode 62

CALLUM asked me to give you this,” Robert said as she took her place on a line of hard chairs in the farmhouse sitting-room to wait her turn for interview. Edgar was going in before her, which gave her time to read the hastily folded sheet of paper.

My dearest Louisa.

I am so sorry to have to leave you so soon after our wonderful conversation last night. I have played it over in my mind many times and I treasure it greatly. I cannot wait, dear Louisa, to make you my wife, yet wait I must. Robert has asked me to perform an important errand for him, one that may help shed light on Diablo’s terrible fate, and I am duty bound to assist him.

I cannot explain further but please trust, as I do, that we will soon be together again.

With all my love,


Louisa read it over and over. Edgar seemed to be closeted with Robert for an age but she was grateful for the time with Callum’s words. He treasured their conversation, he couldn’t wait to marry her and he had gone away only to help Robert find the person who was tearing up the peace of Lower Meadow! How could she ever have doubted him?

She sat in a happy daze, tantalising herself with memories of their kisses until, finally, the door opened at the far end of the room.

She jumped and folded the letter hastily, pushing it into her apron pocket alongside Xander’s sketches as Edgar emerged. His eyes fixed on Louisa even as he moved past, making her feel like a mouse caught in a falcon’s sights. She shifted uneasily but then Robert called out, “Louisa!” and Edgar scuttled away.

Louisa stood up, grateful to escape the farmhand’s strange stare. She moved towards Robert.

“Come in, please.”

He ushered Louisa into his study, where he sat himself behind a huge mahogany desk and waved her to a high-backed chair set before it. His face was stern and Louisa couldn’t help thinking how terribly different he seemed from the jovial man who had escorted her into dinner just the night before. She shivered.

“Louisa, tell me, where were you last night when Diablo was slaughtered?”

He did not flinch at the harsh word – clearly he had inured himself to it over the morning’s interviews.

Louisa swallowed.

“I saw Betsy and Xander to bed,” she said, “and then I had a talk with Amelia in the kitchen and we went to our dormitory together.”

“But not to sleep?”

“No. We tried but then, er, Amelia went out again.”


“Perhaps she should tell you that herself, sir.”

He had not asked her to call him Robert today, she noted.

“I will, of course, ask Amelia when her turn comes, but right now, Louisa, I am asking you.”

Louisa forced herself not to shift on the chair.

“I believe she went out to meet Tiernan, sir. They’ve become . . . friends.”

“I see. And you stayed in the dorm?”

“No,” Louisa admitted miserably. “I went out, too. I wanted some fresh air.”

“Fresh air. I see. And did you spy anyone else out in this fresh air?”

“Yes. Amelia and Tiernan, in the barn. I heard them talking. And Edgar. I saw Edgar.”

“Doing what?”

“Weaving around a bit. I hid.”

“Why?” Robert leaned forward. “Were you frightened?”

“Not frightened, sir. I just didn’t want to talk to him.”

“Who did you want to talk to?”

“Callum, sir,” she whispered.

“And did you?”

“Yes. I talked to . . . to the cows first and Callum found me there.”

“You talked to the cows, Louisa?”

“I know it sounds daft.” It did sound daft but it was the truth. “They felt comforting and I needed comfort.”


She took a deep breath and fixed on a swirl in the rich red carpet at her feet.

“I had feelings for Callum, sir, and I didn’t know if they were reciprocated.”

“But they were.”

Her head shot up.

“You know?”

“I know Callum proposed to you last night and that you accepted. Congratulations.”

His voice was dull and Louisa knew better than to thank him. He pressed on.

“I am more concerned, Louisa, with what you were doing before this happy event.”

“I was talking . . .”

“To the cows, yes. And they’ll back you up, will they?” He stood up suddenly. “Why did you rescue Diablo, Louisa, that first time when he escaped?”

Alison Cook