Living By The Land – Episode 67

“CALLUM!” She shook Edgar away, terrified Callum would misconstrue the situation, but he didn’t even seem to notice the other man. His eyes were on her alone as he leaped down from his horse, and he beamed as she ran forward and clasped his hands. His fingers were warm, dry and firm after Edgar’s damp grip.

“Louisa, it’s so good to see you! I have thought about you every moment since I left. Oh.” He stopped as the farmhand coughed noisily behind them. “Edgar, I didn’t realise you were there. You’re very pale. Are you ill?”

Edgar stared miserably at Louisa.

“Is this why you can’t?”

“Can’t what?” Callum asked.

Louisa held tight to his hand as she faced the crumpled farmhand.

“Yes, Edgar,” she said awkwardly. “You see, Callum has asked me to marry him.”



“When did he ask you?”

“A few days ago.”

“So I was just too late!”

“No. Callum and I . . .”

But the farmhand wasn’t listening.

“Curse my foolish nervousness!” he said, slapping his forehead so hard the sound of it echoed around the farmyard. “If only I’d come forward sooner. If only . . . but wait! Has he asked your father yet?” He spun round to Callum. “Have you?”

Callum looked askance at Louisa, who could only signal helplessly with her eyes that Edgar’s interest was as new to her as to him.

“He hasn’t!” Edgar crowed. “So technically, Louisa, you are still a free woman!”

He looked so triumphant that Louisa hated to let him down. But it had to be done.

“Edgar, I’m sorry, but I want to marry Callum. I love him.”

She couldn’t believe she’d dared to say it out loud, but the words sounded wonderful, though clearly not to Edgar.

“Oh,” he said dully. “I see. Well, he is a lot richer than me, after all.”

“It’s not that,” Louisa protested, but now the big farmhouse door was swinging open and Robert was emerging.

“Callum!” he called. “You’re back. Do you have anything for me?”

Callum spun round, Louisa’s hand still held tight in his own so that she was nearly jerked off her feet.

“Yes, sir, sorry, sir. I was just coming to find you.”

“I suspect you have more urgent priorities now,” Robert said, looking towards Louisa.

“Of course not, sir. I . . .”

Robert, however, just smiled and put up a hand to silence him.

“Don’t fret. I was young once, too, you know, hard though that may be to believe. But I’m afraid I do need to drag you away now. Will you come into my office?”

“I will.”

The farmer ducked inside and Callum moved to follow him, but at the last minute he darted back and pulled Louisa against him.

“I’m sorry, Louisa.”

“What for?”

“I had to do it.”

“Do what?”

“I had to find out – for Robert. For the farm.”

“I don’t understand.”

But he was gone and she was left in the rain with Edgar. When she turned, however, she saw that he, too, had fled.

She stood there in the gloom, confused and almost as fearful as when the farmhand had grabbed her. What had Callum meant? What had he been forced to do? And why did he feel the need to apologise to Louisa?

She looked around the yard, grey in the rain but still smart and welcoming. She loved Lower Meadow, and she was as keen as anyone to see the person who was undermining its prosperity brought to justice. But suddenly she had a terrible feeling that today was going to bring the worst horror yet.

Shivering, she made for the dormitory to change her dress and wake Amelia. Whatever else was happening, the cows still needed milking, and she had neither the ability nor the inclination to manage it alone, especially not after all that had already happened this morning.

Alison Cook