Living By The Land – Episode 64

NO such revelation occurred, however, and it was a sombre party which set out from Lower Meadow for Evensong at the end of the gruelling day. Louisa took some comfort from the pale faces all around. Presumably Robert had been as harsh with others as he had with herself. But no-one chose to share the content of their discussions with the furious farmer. Even Amelia had been uncharacteristically silent, commenting only that the farmer was “a bit grumpy, wasn’t he?” before returning to a small tapestry that Louisa had never seen her touch before.

It being Sunday, a certain level of respectful calm was always demanded, but the hours after lunch were usually given over to walking or picnicking, or visiting friends.

Not today. More Bibles were opened than in the whole rest of the year’s Sundays put together, and meals were taken in near silence. Robert had issued dire warnings about gossip and no-one wished to rile him further.

Now, they made their way up the drive, hats pulled low. They passed the body of Diablo, covered by a sheet of canvas but still unmistakable. Someone sobbed. Someone else murmured soft words of comfort.

Louisa thought back to this time yesterday, when she and Betsy had watched much the same group skip down the drive, all laughter and teasing. If only she could turn back time! That, however, was impossible and the group trudged past and on down the lane to church.

The normality of the service soothed Louisa a little. Robert had warned them not to speak of the incident outside of the farm, so the rest of the village was thankfully unaffected by the workers’ gloom. The vicar read out the final banns for blacksmith Ambrose’s wedding, now only a week away. Louisa tried to find a smile for her father’s old friend, due to marry his lady friend and love, Frances Clarke, but it was hard.

She sat in her pew, head bowed, and listened to two village girls whispering about violets one of them had mysteriously found on her doorstep. Louisa thanked the Lord that Lower Meadow was not, as it sometimes felt, the whole world. She prayed hard for a peaceful resolution to the pain that racked the farm.

They walked back in the dusk, Amelia leading the way with maids Esther and Rose on either arm like guards. She had barely spoken to Tiernan all day, and Louisa wondered again what the pair had been discussing so volubly last night.

She herself hung back a little, not much wanting company. She was a little annoyed, therefore, when someone came up at her side, but her annoyance turned to surprise when she realised it was Tiernan who had sought her out.

“I’m sorry if I was brusque earlier, Louisa.”

“We are all tense at the moment,” she replied neutrally.

“Yes. It’s a bad business.” They walked on in silence before he spoke again. “I am glad you and Callum are to marry, you know. I was just surprised. I thought I was the one with intentions in that direction, not my little brother.”

“And do you?”


“Have intentions?”

Tiernan looked at her, then at Amelia, racing ahead with the other girls.

“I do want to marry her, Louisa. I think she is wonderful – so full of life, so much fun and so surprising. I can be too serious. My father has high expectations of me, as you may have heard.” He grinned ruefully. “Amelia brings out another side of me, a more daring side. Reckless, my father calls it, but I like it. I like her.”

“Do you love her?”

“I think I do. I’ll admit, at first, I just thought it was a bit of fun. But Amelia isn’t like that. She has a deeply moral side.”

“She has?” Amelia had many good qualities, but Louisa wasn’t convinced that deeply moral was one of them.

“You sound like you disapprove of her.”

“Of course not. She’s my dearest friend, which is why I don’t want to see her hurt. She may seem very strong and certain, Tiernan, but she’s not, not really. I don’t want you giving her false hope.”

“I don’t want that, either.”

“Then there is hope?”

“Goodness, Louisa, you are very forthright tonight.”

“Is it not time for truth?”

They were turning into the long drive down to Lower Meadow now. Tiernan took hold of Louisa’s arm and pulled her round to face him.

“This is the truth, Louisa – I love Amelia and I want to marry her. But here’s another truth. If I marry Amelia I will destroy all my father’s hopes and plans for the family estate, and I will make him very unhappy.”

Louisa tried to imagine disappointing her own father.

“That is difficult,” she admitted. “Why are you telling me this?”

“You’re to be my sister, aren’t you?” He smiled at her.

“I suppose I am.”

“I have always wanted a sister. May I?”

He offered his arm and shyly Louisa took it. She had brothers already, two wonderful ones, but one more would be no bad thing. Placing their present troubles to one side, for now, at least, she dared to step towards a future she could still not quite believe. If only Callum would return.

Alison Cook