Rebecca Dorset called Squeaks by Lord Stokes, and his staff was excited as today was the first day she would take the coach and reins though her father would be beside her. Born into service, Rebecca had always been the apple of His Lordship’s eye. As a baby, she did more chirping than crying, and Lord Stokes began calling her Squeaks. The household adopted the term, and the name seemed hers for life. As she grew, she accompanied her father most days and learned his trade. As the years passed, she pleaded with Lord Stokes to allow her to take the reins when her father could not. Finally, worn down by her giggles and smiles, he acquiesced, never thinking she would want to do the same when she grew into a young woman, but he was mistaken. She took his promise as a gold-crested agreement and undertook her future career with sincerity and vigor.
Squeaks took to horse and carriage as no other woman known. She was unique and had grown into a beautiful, spirited, and intelligent woman. His Lordship allowed all the children born into his service to have a limited education. Squeaks was twenty years of age, neat, trim, and 5’1” with raven-black hair and light blue eyes, tinged in black. Her head was typically covered in a woman’s riding top hat. It, too, was the same royal blue matching her uniform; a dyed beaver hat with a large black bow to hold it on her head. She also had a silk hat for specific outings when rain was sure to stay away. The beaver hat could weather anything. Her hair was long, but she kept it braided. If it weren’t for the wide ribbon, tied into a bow at her neck, she was thought to be a small male until one looked closely.
As her father and Lord Stokes aged, she became more useful to their needs: fetching things and reading to them quite often, keeping them company when they asked. Squeaks knew she would draw attention, not all of it favorable, in her chosen profession, but she did not care. It was her first love, even with all His Lordship’s and her father’s admonishments. She was thankful for what the household had done for both over the years. They raised her. She was rarely treated as staff, running and playing inside the castle until regrettably she was urged to realize her place in life. The house became quiet, as she kept in the kitchen or stables, at the age of eleven. His Lordship missed her smiling face but knew it was time to prepare her for a more realistic life. And she still wanted to drive for him. To help her through the crisis of leaving His Lordship’s private quarters, he had a livery made for her.
Kip sat in the shade of a large oak tree watching his hand flow across the paper, sketching the scenery around him. He liked it when he was asked to drive to one of the parks. Being an independent coach driver in London rarely permitted him a customer who wanted to be driven out of the crowded and congested streets to more open landscapes. Trevor had settled in a profession that kept him among the inner circles of society, a place to which he belonged, but he would forgo for some time. Not yet, at any rate, although his self-imposed feeling of culpability for his sister’s death was begrudgingly dissipating.
Kip was lost in thought as, he blended the shadowed trees on his paper. He began thinking of his life of wealth and privilege, nearly a year ago. His murdered sister was always with him, but seeing her through his dream states, kept her alive and eased his soul. Many times, he wondered if he was suffering some form of madness, after all. However, his brethren drivers lived a full and interesting life, which he slowly learned to incorporate unto himself.
Fully engulfed in his past, Kip snapped his charcoal pencil in half, unaware of the stress he had put on its point. “Damn,” he whispered loudly, seeing the mess he had made of his sketch. Brushing the small bits of charcoal off the page, Kip looked toward the carriage to see if he had been overheard. Apparently, his client and guest were not interrupted. As Kip returned to his drawing, he smiled to himself. Today he was a coachman. Who knew it had been the right choice for him when he left home? He had lost himself in Kip, the driver, but wasn’t so sure he had done much about finding Trevor, the heir.
Out of the corner of his eye, Kip continued his drawing but could see his coach swaying. The couple seemed to be mutually engaged in one another. This happened often, but he always kept his ear attuned to any calls of distress from the woman. If it were two men, he had to walk further away, as the images conjured rankled his male pride.
He looked on as his two horses nibbled at the grass. Today he wore his tailored livery and drove his daily carriage, which had particularly elegant lines and structure, but it didn’t hold a candle to his “Queen Mary,” as he called it. Kip’s entire driving wardrobe was designed by himself and tailor-fitted. His high-valued clients who wanted the best in a driving experience received the full complement. Having the funds, Kip made the most of his new world, and it comforted him. He needed to feel proud of something – to be a success throughout his life, even as a coachman. And he was achieving that. Kip knew he was still an enigma to his fellow drivers, but they soon acclimated to his way of doing things and accepted him as a qualified brother coachman.
Kip heard a whistle from his client and assumed that their matinee was completed. He folded his sketching pad and returned to the coach.
“Where to, milord?”
“The lady’s home, if you will, Kip.”
As Kip climbed to his bench, he felt the man must be known to his father, Lord Caldwell. He wondered what his father would think if he knew this Lord was not keeping true faith with his wife.
Kip prepared for the harshness of the city. He navigated the most scenic and clean routes he could find, arriving at the lady’s home with an easy ride. Jumping to the ground, he waited for a signal to open the door. Often there were last kisses or soft words to be finished between the couple. Usually, the gentleman would knock at the side door when Kip was to appear and open it.
Opening the door, he folded down the step. If the lady exited first, he would extend his hand, and she would take it if she wanted. More often, the gentlemen exited first and took the honors. Quite often during the earlier part of the day, a lady would wish to visit some function or shop, and she would be alone. He would hand her in and out of the coach and offer to attend her and her packages if she desired. All these courtesies came from his own remembrance of the Caldwell coachmen. Whether it was the Caldwell’s’ expected courtesies or not, the practice had held him in good stead. He added his own standards for highborn people, and all his customers received it, reduced circumstances or not.
His client exited the coach, escorted his lady to her door, and returned.
“Kip, take me to my club,” the client instructed, as he came back.
“Yes, milord,” Kip replied. Even though there were several men’s clubs in London, it was his job to know his clients’ preferences. One or two drives for someone made him or her a patron; more than three, and he or she became a client. Rarely did they switch to another driver once driven by him. His elegant livery was better than most peerage in-service drivers. Kip was projecting an air of sophistication and style, which brought him higher fares and the most influential of people. For special occasions, he offered a second driver or the back-footman service so the client could feel envy. Changing from daily fares to evening balls was never a problem. He had clothes and coaches for both.
As Kip traveled back into central London looking for his daily hails, he passed driver Clyde Dorset, in-service driver to Lord Stokes. They nodded to each other as a greeting. His daughter was beside him on the bench. Everyone had heard a rumor that she wanted to be a coach woman and succeed her father. All the elite independents and the in-service teams, who waited at Parliament for their Lords, had been watching her ride with her father. Along with Kip, not one of them thought the day would come that Lord Stokes would allow her to take the reins of a team. It took great strength to turn a team of two, and Miss Dorset looked too young and small to handle the job. She was thought most likely to greet and open the door for His Lordship.
Today she was holding the reins aside her father. She sat proudly, almost bursting those cherub dimples with pride. Kip was earnestly amazed but assumed the coach was empty, on its way to fetch Lord Stokes where her father would then assume the reins.
“I’ll have a beef sandwich and a pint,” said Kip wandering over to sit with Marc, who had arrived at the pub before the others. I see Driver Dorset’s daughter is holding the reins today,” remarked Kip, restraining a smile. “She looks quite young.”
“Is she now?” Responded Marc with a laugh. “I’d suppose the coach to be empty if she were heading towards the House of Lords at this time of day. I know His Lordship is worried about her, but she’s determined.”
“I think she looks quite charming sitting up there with her father in her livery.
“You and every other bloke driving. We’ve all been watching her.”
“So, what can you tell me about this bewitching young lady. She’s small; it appears.”
“She was the age of 11 when Lord Stokes had a livery made to match her father. I’ve been told this because she’s about 20 years old now. I haven’t been around that long. The word is that Dorset lost his wife early in his daughter’s life. Lord and Lady Stokes looked kindly on their driver’s plight of raising her. They had no daughter of their own. I hear that her father, His Lordship and the staff have been raising her. She used to have run of the Castle, Dorset has told us.”
“I had a good chuckle over her small matching beaver top hat being held on her head with a large black bow. It endears her further to onlookers if that is possible. Being an independent, it is unlikely our paths will converge. I rarely have a call to Parliament. Seeing her today, holding those reins, beaming like the morning sun on a spring day, encourages me to be introduced to her. Is that possible?” It was a year since his heart felt a stirring of activity. “I’ve had my share of invitations from Lady customers, to which I decline, but a female driver is different. Her interest in horses and coaching is exciting my fancy.” A long-lost feeling of lust engulfed him. It was a raw and primitive urging, which never in his life had he felt to this extreme.
Lucas and Jon arrived at the table after ordering.
“Kip, here, would like to be introduced to Miss Dorset. Can either of you arrange that for him?” Marc howled. The other two joined in.
Kip felt embarrassed. “Apparently, I have asked for the impossible?”
“Well, yes, I say. It may be possible, but we hardly stand on having someone known to both of us to introduce one to the other. Only nobles are that principled.” More laughter from the table and Kip joined in the fun of being mocked.
Using polite society protocols had snagged him several times. Occasionally, he had to sand off the veneer of nobility to blend with the Brotherhood. All-in-all, his politeness carried a lot of reputation which was starting to reach far and wide. “I guess I’ll just have to outwit you blokes and accidentally meet her at the House of Lords.”
“You know Kip; your fares have been picking up considerably of late. Don’t think we haven’t noticed. We’ve passed you on a few of these night affairs and see you in your tailored tails and velvet top hat. Are you playing God to us, Apostles? You’re certainly doing something we don’t know about. I think it’s time for you to train us. You owe us that much.” Lucas cajoled.
Kip was rocking in his seat with laughter. “Lads, go another step with your uniforms, and you can raise your fees. We all know the gentry need pampering, and that’s all that I am doing.”
“I guess those green eyes, brown hair, pulled into a horse’s tail with a ribbon have nothing to do with it,” Lucas chided.
“Look!” Kip pulled out a couple of introduction cards. “See here. It has my name, Trevor Kipling, lists my services and address. I have been getting requests for my unique service, well in advance of events. It may work for you, too.”
“What are your special services?”
“Naturally, it’s my best bib and tucker, best coach and flowers for the coach vases. My coach is always cleaned, and polished. My boots are like mirrors. I can hire Ioan, you know Ioan, to ride second driver or footman. We can make an unusually rich look for being independent.”
“Damn, Kip. That’s brilliant.”
“Now will you introduce me to Miss Dorset?” Everyone clinked their beer mugs, roaring to the rafters.
It was nearing six in the evening, and Kip headed home to clean and wash the coach, and himself for the Lady Blevins fare tonight.
To accommodate his stable and quarters, Kip selected a residence with a large stable near the edge of outer London. His reputation was growing, causing him to check his in-town post often for reservations being asked for in advance. The name “Kip” seemed to be on the lips of many people wanting his premiere appearance, and he was being recommended among the gentry of society.
A quick look inside the Queen Mary revealed only bits of boot sand to sweep out. He dressed in his handsome, understated but elegant livery with tails. It was unlikely that any driver could match his coach, and they certainly never would match his horses, costing a driver five year’s salary for one of them. Kip at no time meant to laud his superior team and coach, over the others, but he wanted the best for himself. They had become the only spark in his life until he anticipated a way to meet Miss Dorset.