Living By The Land – Episode 63

LOUISA jumped at the sudden change of subject.

“Why would I not, sir? I wanted him safe.”

“Did you? Or had you, in fact, been trying to kill him but he had given you the slip?”

“No! He would hardly trust me, sir, if it was me from whom he had been running.”

“True. And you were not here when that bundle of rags was stuffed into my drainage system to foul it up.”

“I was at home, sir, as you know. My sister was sick.”

“She seems well now.”

Tears welled in Louisa’s eyes. What was he saying?

“We have only your word for it that you did not come back earlier.”

“That is true, but I’d have had to leave in darkness to do so. Do you think my father would have allowed that?”

For the first time the farmer hesitated and Louisa dared to speak further.

“Why would I do such a thing, anyway? Why would I want to harm Lower Meadow, when you have all been so good to me?”

Now the tears spilled over and she looked down.

Silently Robert rose and handed her a handkerchief.

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“Nay, Louisa, I am the one who is sorry. I should not have upset you. Lord knows your father is dear to me, and your family is a fine one, especially the lad, Xander.”

Louisa fumbled in her pocket for Xander’s sketches and pushed them out towards Robert, still not looking at him. She heard the crackle of paper being unfolded and held her breath.

“These are excellent!” Robert said eventually. “Such accuracy, such an eye for detail. The boy has talent.”

“He thinks so highly of you, sir, as do I. I did not kill Diablo, I swear it.”

She heard her employer sigh deeply and dared to glance up. His face looked lined and drawn with worry.

“I want to believe you,” he assured her, “but the problem is that I keep coming back to one thing. All this trouble started when you arrived at Lower Meadow.”

Louisa stared at him in dismay.

“It started with the King’s men visiting,” she protested weakly, but he did not even seem to hear her.

“I didn’t do it,” she whispered.

He stared at her.

“I hope not, Louisa, truly. You may go.”

Robert showed Louisa, her head still bowed, out of his study.

Tiernan was sat waiting in his best clothes, his back rigid, and Louisa was reminded of something.

She turned back to the farmer.

“We saw Amelia going back to our dorm.”


“I’m not sure. It was before Callum . . .”


“Proposed?” The cry came from Tiernan, who shot forward. “Callum proposed to you?”

“What of it?” Louisa demanded, stung.

“Nothing. I am sorry. I just didn’t realised his heart was taken.”

“You are not the only one who has feelings.”

“No. No I suppose not.”

Louisa looked back to Robert for permission to leave, desperate to be alone, but he did not release her.

“So you saw Amelia return to the dormitory. And Tiernan, did you see him?”

“No, sir.” She glanced nervously at Tiernan. “But I was a little distracted.”

“By my brother?”

Louisa met the eyes of the man who would, assuming all went well, become her brother-in-law.

“We love each other,” she told him and then, on a nod from Robert, she fled.

“Come in,” she heard him say to the young Northumbrian.

She did not envy her master the numerous interviews still remaining. She could only hope, cruel as it sounded, that someone would crack under his harsh questioning and that then this would finally all be over.

Alison Cook