The Noble Coachman Chapter 10

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Chapter 10
The Haunting

 

Squeaks spent her mealtime with her father, telling him about her day, and the chaps she was coming to know. She produced the sketch, and that seemed to cheer her father as he sprouted a big smile.

“Kip did this . . . from memory?”

“No, Father. I never posed or sat for him.”

“He seems to have a gift.”

“When we go riding, he has asked to sketch my face. He says he is just starting on portraits, as he’s been drawing landscapes on his waits.”

“I assume you said yes.”

“Yes, I did. However, he said he wanted it for himself.”

“Oh, he did, did he?” Clyde chuckled. “Now it seems that Kip has been at Parliament twice or is it three times, without a passenger. Is that right?”

“Has it been three days? I don’t know. I asked him to be there tomorrow, too. I want to talk with him about night driving with the lamps.”

“And, of course, he said he would be there.”

“Yes, Father. I know what you are thinking … and you may be right. He could have a bit of a fancy for me. I must say I am flattered and hope that it is true. I approve of him a great deal.”

“Approve? You sound like the lady of the manor. I believe his feelings are becoming stronger if he is giving up fares to be with you.”

“I asked him why, the other day, why he was abandoning his fares. He said he had his priorities. I think he may have meant me.”

“It would seem so. Have there been any words?”

“Not really.”

“What does that mean?”

“Today, he said he had an interest in my safety. Furthermore, he did say he favors me, and it becomes more difficult to leave.”

“Oh, those are words all right. How do you perceive them?”

“I am pleased to hear them. No one has ever said words such as those that make me feel giggly.”

“That’s not what I meant, but it answers my question. So, you are taking a fancy to Kip?”

“Right now, I want to, but I don’t know if I have a fancy or not. I’m not sure about what is a real fancy.”

“Are you attracted to him?”

“Yes.”

“Do you wish for him to be attracted to you and be near you often?”

“Yes. Very much and often.”

“Then you fancy him.”

“Should I tell him?”

“Well, you have me there. Women usually don’t speak such thoughts first. The man does. He is very careful with every step he takes. He’s likely ensuring you are ready or willing to accept his advances. But I hardly know much about that, as your mother was as headstrong as you.”

“He cautioned me not to wear a scent when I work.”

“He did? That was proper thinking on his part. You need nothing to lure men to you, my dear.”

“I told him I wasn’t wearing any. He didn’t take it that well,” she laughed.

“Well, if Kip is to be the first man in your life, I think you are starting out well with a fine gentleman.”

“First? You think he’ll be the first of how many?”

“I have no idea. It will depend on how well you get along. If you cast him off, you will have others standing in line.”

“That sounds cruel. Cast him off, as if I can throw away my fancy. I would hurt his feelings, would I not?”

“A fancy is not quite love; you see. It’s an interest is in someone … keen interest. It may not be love for him. You do not know. You are not at that point yet. Has he tried to kiss you?”

“No, he’s been a complete gentleman.”

“I have no doubts about that. There is something different about him. He’s been reared as a true gentleman, I believe. I know nothing about his past.”

“He did say his master was able to educate him.”

“That seems to shine through once in a while, but it’s as if he tries to hide it. Enough of this. His Lordship would like to see you this evening. Here, take your sketch.”

“Yes, I wanted to show it to his Lordship, although I think Kip is embarrassed that others are seeing it.

 

“Enter,” Squeaks heard from the other side of the door.

“Good evening, Your Lordship. You wish to see me?”

“What have you there in your hand?”

“It is a picture of me next to a big horse.”

“A picture?”

“A sketch, really. Driver Kip drew it at home. He thought it was funny because I am short, and the horse is tall.”

Lord Stokes unrolled the sketch that he had seen earlier in the day. “It is a good likeness of you.”

“I thought so, too. I asked Kip if I could bring it to you and father to show you. He said I could keep it if I wanted it.”

“Kip, you say?”

“Yes, sir. He seems to have taken over as security for me for an hour or so, in the mornings. Yes, the lads are at my coach. Kip watches over me since he knows them. I am sure he would warn me about the unsavory ones, and he hasn’t, as yet.”

“Does he drive a Lord in the morning?”

“No, he comes just for me.”

“Is that so? And what do you think about that?”

“I like it. In fact, I asked him to be there tomorrow, too.”

“And why would you do that? Are you taking a fancy to this coachman?”

“Father and I just discussed that. It would appear I am. I certainly enjoy talking with him.”

“Squeaks, I know I am an old man, and I am prying into your adult personal affairs. I should not be doing this.”

“I don’t mind, milord. I will stop you if your questions become too bold,” she smiled.

“You will?” he laughed. “That is good then.”

“When I have my day off, he is going to take me riding and allow me to rein his pair of fine horses. I will feel like a queen holding those reins.”

“I have not heard of his horses.”

“You must be the only one, milord. Excuse me,” she paused. “That was improper.”

“That would be improper for everyone except you. However, even though I am a Lord of the realm, I do not know all. Someday, after you rein these grand animals, you must come and tell me about them.”

“I will be excited to tell you, sir.”

“I was going to ask your father this, but I have decided to ask you. You can tell me you don’t want to talk about it if you wish.”

“What is it, milord?”

“For your personal needs when out for the day, is there any trouble finding facilities for women?”

“No, sir. Not where you go.”

“Where I go? What do you mean by that?”

“You only go to where the high-borns would have been driven by an in-service coachman. There are facilities for drivers at all the finer places.”

“For women, too?”

“Well, no. I use the gents. Father would stand guard.”

“And now?”

“Until I can find a trustworthy coachman, such as Kip, I carry a canning jar under the bench. I see that look on your face. Yes, I get in the coach and close the shades. I hope that is all right.”

“I guess it will have to be,” he laughed. “You know Parliament is becoming enjoyable again, as Lords approach me, knowing of you being my driver.”

“I hope you are not embarrassed, milord.”

“Embarrassed? No, I am quite proud and delight in calling them jealous. The rumors are just beginning to circulate about you. I will have more fun going to work in the days and weeks ahead.”

“I hope I never disappoint you, milord. You have been remarkably kind to father and me.”

“I received more than I gave, Squeaks. All right, off with you. Oh, one more thing. Do you feel you could take me to an affair on Saturday night?”

“Yes, sir. That is why I have been asking Kip about night driving.”

“You knew of this affair?”

“Kip did. I believe he has a client that night, too.”

“I wonder who that could be. Perhaps, this person’s staff driver will be unavailable or sick. Be ready to drive by 8:00 p.m.”

“Yes, sir. I am looking forward to it.”

“I wish my life were as simple as yours.”

“Being a girl is not all that simple, milord. I don’t think you would like it.”

Lord Stokes laughed heartily and waved her out of the room.

 

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“And?”

“Trevor didn’t you hear what I said. Mary is haunting the manor.”

“Son, something is going on within our home. Listen to your brother. He’s most upset with the staff or whoever is playing these pranks.”

“In what form are these pranks being played, Gus? Are people seeing the ghost of her? Is she lifting people to the ceiling, frightening them to death?”

“I can see you’re not taking me seriously. We have seen her name smudged on the outside glass of the window in her room. That area is unreachable without hanging from the roof.”

“Interesting,” Trevor smiled. “And you have questioned every one of the staff and have concluded that Mary is haunting the house.”

“The staff are frightened. I am worried they will start leaving.”

“Trevor, you know something, don’t you?” His father eerily remarked.

“Yes. Yes. I do know who’s doing it. I just didn’t expect it at the Manor house. I find it fascinating that an actual physical movement of dirt on the window could be accomplished.”

“Trevor!”

“Hmph, I guess I am not the only one she warns. Your prankster IS Mary.”

“Trevor, don’t blaspheme her memory.” Earl Caldwell, full of sadness, said emphatically. “Explain that comment.”

“You both remember before I left here how I talked with Mary. That has never stopped. She often comes to me in dreams, swirling her image. On several of these extraordinary occasions, I believe she was trying to warn me. However, I am unable to discern if the warnings are for danger or not.”

“Lord Caldwell stood and began pacing the floor in front of his son.”

“This has been happening since you left home?”

“Yes, but she has become more active since the other Caldwell woman went missing. I must admit that even I began to worry about my passionate belief that she was watching over me, until a few days ago. There is much talk about the coach which departed with Lilith Caldwell, which I believe the coachmen are going to solve. But what the two men look like, only one person knows, and that’s the cousin who was in attendance that night, who I happened to drive. Within a night or two, Mary swarmed into my night. I wasn’t sure if I was awake or asleep. What she presented to me is beyond belief. I saw the man that was raping her, through her eyes at that very time. Unfortunately, her eyes were full of tears, and the image was blurred. I will not explain what I felt during the session, that I now call it, because it is too horrible to hear. Until then, until she showed an image that I could not have made up myself, all the encounters could have come from my own need to see her. This was different. The event at the Manor confirms it to me. I believe she is trying to tell us something. It is my fervent hope that she can lead us to her killer or to Lilith Caldwell. I suggest you keep a diary of anything such as what you’ve seen.”

Lord Caldwell dropped back in his chair, long ago. The room could have heard the proverbial pin drop. It took some time before anyone could speak.

“It will be unbearable to think she hasn’t completely passed over.”

“Father, I have agonized over that myself. I feel she is here for a purpose. Once that is resolved, she will continue her journey. I believe she senses my guilt and is trying to relieve me of it.”

“Why haven’t we seen her so vividly in our dreams?” asked Gus.

“Since I was always closer to her than anyone else in the family, is my only explanation. Now that a coach is involved with Lilith, that is a path to me.” Kip walked over and refreshed his drink. “I don’t understand any of this, but I do know that I do not fear my visions, if fact, I welcome them. She must know that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t think these manifestations would be so pleasant.”

“Trevor, I am glad you have found a way to accept whatever may be happening. There certainly is no precedent for it.” His father had exhausted all his words on Kip’s extraordinary experiences.

“Trevor, I don’t know if father has told you, but I have a lady friend. Would you think she could be in any danger?”

“I wish I could voice an opinion. We don’t know what has actually happened to this Lilith. Is this a coincidence or is there a vendetta against our family? We can find no cause for that. When you return, settle the staff with my feelings on these strange happenings. Someone should talk to Chandler in regard to any type of motive, no matter how vague. He has been at the manor since father was a boy. He’s the one with knowledge of our family. See what he knows about our uncle, Nathanial.”

“It seems you have been giving this quite a lot of thought, Trevor.” The tenor of the Earl’s voice signaled the end of the conversation.

 

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