The Noble Coachman
By Gene Bohn
This is a new book I have written. I am going to preview the first three chapters over the next three weeks. Here is the second installment. A second follow-up is almost completed, and a third (trilogy) is planned.
Before leaving, Trevor walked into Mary’s room, absorbing the last essence of her. It was chilled as no fire had been lit for the dark and damp nights. He strolled the room, drawing one final scent of her before it was gone. Spotting on her dressing table, a favorite cameo ring that she loved, he slipped it into his vest pocket. Father had two cameos carved, in Mary’s likeness, when she was younger. One was a ring for her finger, and the other much larger piece was a brooch for his wife. Tears traveled down his chiseled patrician face.
Returning to his own room, he opened the wardrobe where his finery, top hats, and boots lay in wait for some grand event. He pulled a small satchel from a cabinet, packing his razor, a few pairs of hose, undergarments and one set of riding clothes. Walking the room, things once meant much to him, held little interest now. He did take the watch that Mary had given him for his birthday. Trevor ran his finger along his bookshelves looking for anything that he might want to take. There was nothing. His heart seemed dead. On an easel in the corner was the beginnings of a portrait that he was trying to paint. Mary wouldn’t sit still long enough for him to continue. The canvas had sat there for several years, with Mary promising to return until it was finished. It was always, soon. Packed light, he said good-bye to his family, valet, and horse before having Brigg’s carry him to the train depot.
Dressed in riding clothes, carrying his small satchel, he boarded the next train. He was heading to where people wouldn’t know him. Laying back on the cushioned seat he drifted off. Dreams of Mary and his mother came and went. Both females, fragile, flooded his mind, Mary, especially. Why did God make them so helpless? “Kipling! Kipling, that’s it,” brought him out of his sleep. He would become Trevor Kipling, naming himself after his mother’s people. Having no one knowing his face, and a name such as Trevor Kipling would hardly draw any particular interest. He fell back to sleep.
LONDON! Next Stop LONDON!
Suddenly the dark stormy clouds that Kip had been sketching in his mind blew away. He sat up, surveying others that had entered his coach while he slept. It embarrassed him as there was no one in the coach when he left the depot. Kip, heard the coach Porter calling “LONDON” again and set off to find him.
“Can you tell me which stop is closest to the Metropolitan Police Station?” Having his answer, he returned to his seat and collected his satchel. Eventually, the train slowed down to his destination surprising him with the mass of humanity waiting to board while his coach mates were standing ready to leave. What a spectacle he was witnessing. He exited last from his coach and began his pilgrimage through the crush of top hats, bonnets, and umbrellas. He saw people kissing and crying, men shaking hands, businessmen with portfolios under their arms alongside parents with wailing children. He breathed a sigh of thanks for not having to go through hours listening to the din of voices every day. As Trevor emerged, a beautiful sight met him. Gleaming horses with polished brass fittings and coachmen wearing fine clothes waiting to carry some wealthy person to a destination. He saw two livery-clothed coaches, each with two drivers waiting on their noble masters. Only one had a crested coat of arms on the door.
“What I wouldn’t give to be the driver?” The thought surprised him. “Why can’t I become a driver.” I’ve always had a great fondness for horses and riding.” His mind began swirling as he approached a smart-looking driver with a polished look.
“May I ride atop with you, driver? I have some questions.” Trevor literally felt his spirits rise from the bottom of wherever they were dwelling. He may have found his new life which he had not forced on himself.
The driver looked him over before replying. “Sir, we do not permit …” The driver noticed the coins in the gents’ extended hand and readily acquiesced. “Yes, sir. Where can I take you?”
“Please, if you will, just drive and allow me to question you about the service you perform.”
The driver stowed Trevor’s satchel and invited him to the top.
“Drive where you will, but I am hiring you for the rest of the day. You may pick up fares while I remain to watch.” Trevor couldn’t remember the last time he had come to London. The architecture fascinated him. There were buildings he would like to sketch one day, but he was taken aback by the sheer volume of people, coaches, and horses. His driver was regularly hailed, as they thought, Trevor was the second coachman. A smile broke through his defenses, and it felt good. It was so unexpected that the moment stood out to remember.
By nightfall, he hired the coachman, Marc, for the next two days, paying him exceedingly well. He was taken to a pub, which catered to coachmen, offering food and a room until he changed dwellings. Loving his own stable of horses at home, the novelty of experiencing this career drew him to its bosom.
After a full belly, hot bath and a real bed, Trevor fell into a deep sleep. Mary’s activity in his dream was most assertive tonight. This was new for him. He would often see her in his dreams, but these images flashed during the night, causing his tossing and turning.
Is she warning me or encouraging me?
Trevor always invited her into his nightly fantasies, never running away in his thoughts or waking due to fright. Tonight, Mary was in his coach. The horses had their heads, even though he held the reins.
“Where is she taking me?”
Coming down to breakfast the next morning, Marc was sitting at a bench table with a few other lads. Trevor was welcomed over and introduced. He met Jon, Matthew, and Lucas. He was introduced as Trevor Kipling, but in short fashion, they started calling him Kip.
Smiling as he shook hands, he responded, “You chaps are having one over on me, are you not?”
The young men were startled at his words. “Sir, are you offering offense? Marc has told us of your interest. We wish to help you learn our trade, but you laugh at us? Not a pleasant beginning.”
“Has no one called you ‘The Apostles?”
Although it didn’t sound like an insult, they chose to remain affronted.
Kip laughed. “You’ve heard of the four Apostles, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, have you not?”
Finally, the fog lifted and a rousing laugh ensued. He was invited to sit down with them, and the education began with … “We are a Brotherhood of Gentlemen Coachmen.”
Over the next two months, Kip learned their ways, which he would improve on, but most importantly; he learned London. He came to know every restaurant, prominent person’s address, gentlemen’s club, theater, train stop, hotel, business, and every brothel that London could offer. He was told of confidences, which he would swear to take to his grave. During that time, Kip purchased two matching Friesians, one magnificent coach and one significant coach for every day. He wanted the very best he could have, no matter the jealousy of the other drivers. He was happy. The drivers talked behind his back about the expense of his horses and coaches, and others remarked about his polished accent. He pacified them by saying that his father had been a prosperous merchant, recently dead. As he was not disposed to follow in the business, he divested himself of it and sought this career for the love of horses.
Each of the Apostles took an added week with Kip, showing him shortcuts, explaining the rumors of many of his prospective customers. He realized quickly that this brotherhood which policed itself was the elite of London coachmen. There were more than a hundred of them, which did not include the in-service drivers. Often, he was told of the nobility that he would carry and protect. Many tricks of the trade were mastered in short order. He knew well, his home’s liveried staff and how he was treated as a noble. He would build on that and develop his own style. The horses and coach had come first, but he could see sizable tipping if he improved his clothing and conduct. He wanted to knock London on its ear. Kip knew he was ready, but the Apostles insisted on spending a week with him as he received his customers and drew them to their stops. Their honor was at risk, and Kip knew he must pass muster before they turned him loose. Otherwise, he would be forced further down the financial and respected chain of customers.
He finally understood why they called themselves a Brotherhood of Coachmen.
The months rolled by, and he began building his reputation as a high-class ride, he was noticing a particular in-service driver, always heading to Parliament, but he chaperoned a female who sat beside him. She was in livery and possibly 12 or 13 years old. The Apostles would know the story as he was finding that in-service and independents often waited together at balls and private parties. Matthew would surely know this driving combination, and he did.