Living By The Land – Episode 68

AMELIA was buried beneath her blankets and only emerged, dark-eyed and creased, when Louisa pulled them away.

“Don’t, Louisa,” she protested. “I can’t get up today.”

“Why? Are you unwell?”

“I feel dreadful. I hardly slept a wink.”

“Well, maybe some fresh air will help. Come on, the cows are waiting.”

“Let them,” Amelia grumbled, but she stood up all the same.

She allowed Louisa to bundle her into her milking gown and shove her matted curls under her cap, but she spoke little and Louisa surreptitiously felt her friend’s forehead to see if she was running a fever. Amelia’s skin, however, was cold, and she did seem to perk up a little once they got into the barn.

“You know where you are with cows,” she commented, patting the flank of the first beast fondly.

“Very true,” Louisa agreed, grateful her friend was talking at last. “Much easier than people. Still, it sounds as if Callum has brought back some sort of evidence, so perhaps we’ll get to the bottom of this nasty business at last.”

“Really? How do you know?”

“I saw him arrive.”

Distracted and warmed by the thought of her fiancé, Louisa had not caught the strange tone of Amelia’s voice, and she jerked back in surprise as her friend suddenly appeared behind her.

“What did he say?” Amelia demanded.

Louisa looked up at her, confused.

“Just that he’d found something out. Why? Amelia!”

The girl had gone deathly pale, and as Louisa stared, a tear squeezed out of her eye and ran down her cheek.

Louisa grabbed her.

“What is it? Is it Tiernan? You know something, don’t you? You have to say something. You have to tell them!”

“It’s not Tiernan.”

“Then . . .”

The sudden bang of a door across the yard made them both jump. Amelia looked wildly around, then turned and bolted for the back entrance. Louisa ran after her, grabbing at her arm just as she made it to the large opening.

She thrust her back inside.

“What’s going on, Amelia? Tell me!”

Her friend glanced back at the door again, then down at Louisa’s hand around her arm, and finally up at her face.

“It was me, Louisa.”

“What was?”

“All of it. Blocking the water system, letting the ram into the sheep field, releasing the bull the day the King’s men came. All of it.”

“You?” Louisa stared at her fragile little friend in disbelief. “It couldn’t be! You’re covering up for someone. What about Diablo?”


“But, but why?”

Amelia glanced to the wet field beyond the big doors and Louisa felt her attempt to break free, but she held tightly on to her arm.

“Why, Amelia?” she asked again. She could not believe it, would not believe it.

Yet was that the reason Callum had apologised? Had he known the criminal was Louisa’s own dear friend?

“Why?” she demanded a third time, and now Amelia tore her eyes from possible escape routes and looked into Louisa’s.

“Because I hate him!”


“Farmer Robert. I hate him and I hate Lower Meadow and all it stands for. He’s corrupt, Louisa. Corrupt, self-seeking and greedy!”

“Robert? How can you say that?”

Amelia tossed her head.

“It’s all so easy in your world, isn’t it, Louisa? You think that if someone works hard they’ll be rewarded. Well, in real life it doesn’t work that way! In real life it is money that counts, and them that have it use it to get more off them that don’t.”

Louisa swallowed. Her first instinct was to defend Robert and the farm that had treated her so well. But she owed it to her friend at least to hear her out.

“In what way?”

Amelia scowled.

“Enclosures,” she said, spitting the word out as if it were poison. “Enclosures gave all the power to big farms like Lower Meadow. It’s not fair! I hate the way Robert is so smug, so pleased with his great big efficient farm, so delighted with his fancy drainage and his clever machines and his Royal breeding programme. He doesn’t see the cost. He doesn’t see the little farmers done out of the right even to till their own small furrow.”


Alison Cook