Crime and Punishment 2002

This acclaimed BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment remains faithful to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel. Set in St Petersburg in the second half of the 19th century, the psychological thriller tells of a desperate young murderer caught in a web of his own guilt. Rodya Raskolnikov (John Simm) is a poverty-stricken student living among the fetid alleyways and crumbling tenements of St Petersburg. Intense and highly intelligent, Raskolnikov believes he is among a class of men destined for greatness and as such is permitted to breach ‘normal’ moral values. He decides to test his courage and integrity by killing a pawnbroker, a mean old woman whom he is sure nobody will miss. The murder, however, only serves to draw Raskolnikov into a nightmare world in which he is dogged by guilt, paranoia and alienation. Faced with the wily investigator Porfiry, who sets up a complex series of traps, encounters and conversations, can Raskolnikov escape his own conscience or the seemingly inevitable punishment? Simm’s Raskolnikov is a “truly startling, genuinely mature performance” –The Guardian

Amazon Prime, now  *** Filmed in St. Petersburg  *** Never released in the USA  *** All English speaking

 

 

 

The Secret Garden

GETS NEW POSTER & TRAILER

Gorgeous new poster and trailer for their enchanting

Big screen adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN with Julie Walters and Colin Firth, which arrives next spring (April 9th Australia and New Zealand and 10th in UK, 17th in USA, with Russian opening April 30th). Little Dixie Egerickx plays Lennox, a prickly and unloved 10 year old girl, born in India to wealthy British parents who is sent back to England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven on his remote country estate deep in the Yorkshire moors. There, she begins to uncover many family secrets, particularly after meeting her sickly cousin Colin, who has been shut away in a wing of the house. Together, the two damaged, slightly misfit children heal each other through their discovery of a wondrous secret garden, lost in the grounds of Misselthwaite Manor.
Secret Garden is out this April 17th in US Theaters
The movie is based on the famous book by Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

The Ghost Bride (series) – Netflix

Subtitled and/or Dubbed in English
MARRY A GHOST FOR MONEY?
If you don’t know what to binge-watch this weekend, here is something mystical and darkly enchanting for you: over at Netflix you can currently

All episodes are on Netflix from last week

stream THE GHOST BRIDE, 19th century set fantasy series coming from Malaysia which,  based on the novel The Ghost Bride written by Malaysian writer Yangsze Choo, stars Huang Pei-jia, Wu Kang-jen, Ludi Lin, and Kuang Tian.

The Ghost Bride
set in 1890’s Colonial Malacca, follows a Malaysian Chinese woman who accepts a marriage proposal from a wealthy family to be the “ghost bride” to their deceased son – an opportunity that would save her family from a lifetime

The first season has six hourlong episodes

of debt, but require her to spend the rest of her days haunted by a ghostly spouse. Desperate to escape the situation, she soon finds herself wrapped up in a murder mystery and embroiled in otherworldly affairs far bigger than she could have imagined!

Noble Coachman Chapter 18

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 18
Lilith

 

It was nearing four in the afternoon when Kip attached the coach and horses. He and Squeaks had an amazing ride through the forest. He had to admit she was quite a good horseman herself, once he got her in the saddle. Their great love for horses was equally cherished, but how would she feel about being a countess? Kip felt in his heart that his love could reach through her, to the other side if she joined his noble family, but could she reach back to him?

He knew she would not expect or demand extra respect. It would be like her to blend in as one of his own residents rather than their mistress. Perhaps, that would be a good thing. She could ask that something be accomplished instead of issuing commands. She would be well loved. His father would live another twenty years before Kip, himself, would have to accept his due title. Being a coachman for another decade would give Squeaks what she wanted. Their dreams could be fulfilled on both sides of the peerage line. As he rode, Mary came into his mind again, she was there often during this period of his life.  With her presence so entrenched within, his attitude was softening about one day returning home. Squeaks was changing his world, even more. He was beginning to think less of his own life and more of hers.   He had to make her happy.

Kip handed her the reins when they left the forest and traveled the main roads.

“Squeaks, when we get to the outskirts of London, would you like me to ride rear footman?”

She started to giggle thinking about it. “I think we should wait until we are very near Stokes Castle.” Kip could again see the child that was still invading her subconscious. She was easily pleased like a little one at Christmas. There the innocence remained. Someday that would be gone. He would cherish it while it lasted.

“When can we see each other again, Kip?”

“That will be up to you, my love. Tonight, I have an affair to attend. I know you are only available in the evenings, and that tends to be when I am working. We will definitely begin to plan nights so I can refuse fares.”

“How do we tell people about us?”

“We don’t say anything. If someone asks if you and I are a pair, just say that you are seeing me. Word will spread fast.”

“Does that mean I can see no one else? Can I not attend an evening meal with someone who asks?” She was teasing him, but he did not recognize it as that.

“That is usually what that means. Have I totally misunderstood you?”

“No, I am glad to have a reason to turn another down. Friday morning, without you, was a bit sad, having to disappoint so many men.” Her dimpled cheeks popped up.

“So many, was it?” Her charade had worked for a moment. “You don’t know how often I thought about you that day. Did you really have men asking to escort you out?”

“Yes. It was rather thrilling. I’ve never had that adoration, and now it is everywhere. I was asked several times if I was single and once if I was married.” She grinned.

“As if my control with you isn’t hard enough, you are going to make this difficult to woo you, properly.”

“But you said I didn’t need wooing, didn’t you? I’m not sure how I would make it difficult.”

“I believe you just did. A man takes very great pride in his lady. His first aim is to possess her. No one else may have her, or touch her. He will defend her with his life.”

“And you feel that way?”

“Yes. How many ways can I say it? I thought you were riding along with me today. Did you just arrive, woman? What have you done with Miss Dorset? The only problem Dorset has is listening to me, or perhaps it is believing in me.”

“Am I your lady?”

“You said you weren’t a lady if I remember accurately. Do you want to be? I thought you loved me.”

“I do.”

“Then it is a ‘yes.’”

“I think I need an official scorekeeper. I do not know what levels of love there are. I do not like assuming.”

Kip laughed out loud. “Excuse me. I have just been slapped across the face for which I deserve. I love your innocence and then forget that you really are that naïve. Yes, I dare say you need me to keep your score. If it needs to be clear, you are officially my lady. We are seeing each other.”

She gave Kip a broad smile. I now have a ranking. I am your lady. Is this the first step?”

“No, I’d say we were on our third step. We have declared our love to one another. Touching the other in any way that was not a customary courtesy, such as a kiss, was the second step.”

“How many steps are there and what is waiting at the top?”

“That’s hard to say. If we are right for each other, it will continue to grow and strengthen.

“So which level is the most intimate?”

“Squeaks, don’t do this to me. Do not force me to put a number on it. I have never been to that level in love.”

“I hope it is under five, although two was a wonderful awakening. Do you think I am wanton? What does that mean exactly?”

“Good God Squeaks! I should be shot for chipping away at your virtuous veneer. I think we need a few days of separation to cool you down. You are frothing?”

“And you’re not?”

“I think I am barely under control.”

“How about that bump underneath me?”

“The bump?” Suddenly, Kip blushed.

“What step was that?”

“Actually, that can be part of the needy thing and be step zero or lower. Sometimes it is there when we least expect it or don’t want it.”

“Was it that way today?”

“Squeaks, you are going inside the coach. This conversation is over.”

“But you said to ask you, not the women.”

“I did say that, didn’t I? Well, now is not the time or the place. And don’t go asking your father or His Lordship. God, you are driving me insane.”

“I am afraid you created this in me. I am your responsibility.”

“I want that more than anything in life, but let’s take it gradually. I want to be a gentleman and not a rake or a swain. I want to show you respect above all else.”

“How is that going for you?” She giggled.

Startled at that, Kip laughed. “I thought I could leave that up to you, but I see I cannot. You have no boundaries.”

“Should I? Do you have boundaries?”

“I’m starting to believe I’m the only one on this ride today that does. And I am not doing a very good job of it. Just how much Byron did you read?” Kip had to wonder if these questions were in earnest or in jest. He hoped he never found out. It was an appealing part of her nature and fun, which he rarely experienced.

 

It was 7:00 p.m. when Kip arrived at his father’s for dinner.

“Come in, son. Chandler, get Trevor a scotch.”

“And another one for me,” shouted Augustus.”

“We’ve been looking for you. All we knew was that you took Miss Squeaks out for a ride. What a day to not be able to find you.”

“What is it, father … Gus?”

“Lilith’s body was discovered today exactly where Mary was found.”

The air in the room became thick. Trevor gulped his drink and refreshed it. A heavy frown formed as his father and Gus looked to him for some possible guidance …an answer …anything.

“How were you notified?”

“Richards dispatched a rider with a note.”

“And what has been done since you found out?”

“Gus sought out Inspector Marshall, and I went to visit the Blevins. I imagine they will tell the family. I would assume the police in London and Norcaster are communicating by telegraph.”

“Marshall is on his way there,” Gus interrupted.

“I will go tonight, father. My job isn’t critical. I will represent the family and talk with the staff and constabulary.”

“Thank you, son. Are you sure? This could be very hard for you.”

“Trevor, I will be up sometime tomorrow,” replied his brother.

“Yes, father. I want to do this. If dinner is ready, could we eat, and then I’ll be on my way.”

 

Trevor wrestled with his decision to return home for the challenging sadness. The other Caldwell’s could be on this train, he thought. Within two hours he was at his door.

“I’m so glad you are here, Lord Trevor,” said Richards, looking exceedingly relieved. “I believe Chandler should be here on the next train. This way, Sir.”

As Trevor entered the sitting room, there sat Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell, half in tears. Inspector Marshall had been there about two hours, and the local constable was present. No one knew to introduce him to the other Caldwell’s.

He walked over to the distraught couple. “I am sorry to be meeting you under such tragic circumstances. I am Trevor Caldwell.”

The couple bowed, and Trevor asked them to sit. “Please let us have no formality during these few days. My father wishes to be here, but I am afraid he cannot face another death as has happened. He sends you his best and please honor this house with asking for anything that you need. My brother, Gus, will arrive tomorrow. Inspector, advise me on what you know.”

“I would prefer to do it elsewhere, so these poor folks don’t have to hear it again.”

“Indeed. Would you please excuse us, Sir and Lady Caldwell?”

Trevor, the constable, and the Inspector went into the study across the reception hall. He walked to the bar and asked for drink orders. He was the only one, so he fixed it for himself. All were seated within minutes.

“Lord Trevor, unlike your sister, this young woman was beaten and raped elsewhere, but her body was brought here. The doctor assumes, at first glance, that she died of internal injuries, but there was a strangulation attempt. He believes the body to have been there for about three days. Your brother ordered the icehouse to be torn down, and that was how she was discovered.”

Trevor rubbed his forehead as the Inspector continued.

The body has been moved to the mortuary, where she will be examined and then made ready for transport tomorrow. Her parents will take the same train. I shall stay on here for a few more days and ask around and inspect the site.

“Is there nothing we can do?”

“I will soon speak to your Butler, Chandler when he returns since he has been here the longest. We are sure, now, that it is a revenge killing. Chandler may know things he doesn’t realize he knows. We will talk with him after the Caldwell’s have left for the train. He will assist us with all your previous staff. He has decades of records, I understand. Since Mary was attacked first, this vendetta would seem to stem from your side of the family. We will also look into these other Caldwell histories. Again, the other Caldwell families have been alerted. Both women were young and ‘out.’ They were visible to the public. There are no other females in the Caldwells that match this scenario.”

“What scenario would that be, Inspector?”

“We believe a Caldwell member or Caldwell staff could be responsible for these deaths. It is only the women. The men could be targets, but we don’t think they are. The revenge seems to be aimed at women. We are most likely looking for a man who may have resided in this household. Our initial assumption now is that some harm, discharge or disgrace may have come to a woman who worked here. Unfortunately, I think your uncle, Nathaniel, is at the root of this revenge. Being almost 20 years ago since Sir Nathaniel was asked to leave; and if he is the cause of these murders, a plan has been in the works for a long time. You continue with your coachmen, and I’ll work with Chandler on your previous staff. The end may be close.”

“My father has spoken of Nathaniel. Have you heard that story?”

“Yes. His Lordship and I discussed him at length after Miss Mary. How are you doing, by the way? I see you driving in London, using another name and wonder why?”

“I had to get away. It is that simple. Being Mary’s older brother and her protector I wanted to shoulder all of the blame and I couldn’t do it here. Perspective was needed, no matter the time it took before I felt I could assume the role that is planned for me. I have quite enjoyed being with the lads. We are seen but not noticed. A lot is known to us but no one else. It came to me that at some point, perhaps the subject of Lady Caldwell would be mentioned whereby I could learn something.”

“Please don’t take on any retribution until I know about it. Can you promise me that?”

“No, sir. I cannot.

“Because you are a Noble gives you no special privileges where the law is concerned.”

“I am quite aware of that, and it has been considered. I will tell you, now, if I find the killer of my sister, I will dispatch him myself.”

“There are at least two of them. We know that much.”

“I know that, also.”

“Please reconsider.”

“I am warned, sir.”

“It is past 11:00. We should return to the parents.”

 

The following morning, Trevor gathered every servant and had a long conversation with them. First, he spoke about his feelings of Mary, trying to help him. He mentioned how comforting it felt and hoped they could see it the way he did. That seemed to appease most of them. Anyone wishing to leave their employ would go with a good reference.

 

Later, he, Chandler and the Inspector would have a conversation after Chandler had pulled out his old books. To fill his time, Trevor rode his horse. He could feel the wind whipping through his long untethered hair as he sprinted through the nearby riding acreage. A thought came to him, and he rode across town to see the Friesian horse breeder.

 

After the mid-day meal, the house was quiet. He had nothing to do but reflect on the image of Squeaks in this manor house. Trevor took the stairs to Mary’s room once more. It was still the same. Her clothes had been removed, and he wondered what had happened to her jewelry. However, the wall-hangings and colors stayed the same. Even the furniture was as he remembered. He sat on the side of her bed. Eventually, he flopped back and spread his arms, looking at the ceiling motifs. Suddenly, Mary was in his head. Swirling her image with a vengeance. Trevor found it a bit frightening this time. She seemed angry. She even wore a frown if that were possible. He left her room thinking that being there could have upset her, but the anger did not abate. Something was wrong. He went to visit her gravesite. He wept during his talk with her and told her about Squeaks.

 

Trevor strolled into his father’s study and saw Mary’s portrait over the mantle. His father commissioned it three years before she died. The swirling image didn’t have much resemblance to the portrait at the moment. He rang for Chandler.

“May I help you, Sir?”

“Yes. Please close the door and come in. Do take a seat this time.”

“I prefer to stand, Sir.”

“I know you do, but I would rather you sat.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I want to thank you for what you have done for this family, especially in this past year and moreover these last few days. Who is with father right now?”

“Richards and I changed places for several days until the staff could be settled. I will be heading back tomorrow. Richards should be here before noon.”

“Did you listen when I talked with the staff about seeing Mary in my dreams? Lately, her image is getting stronger in my mind. I’m beginning to feel her presence without seeing her face. I am sure she is going to lead me to her killer.”

“Yes, Sir. I heard you say that. I remember you telling your father and brother about most it, except this more recent sensing.

“What do you think of that?”

“I cannot come to a decision on it, Sir. If you say it, I believe it. From someone else, I would question it.”

“I just came from Mary’s room a short time ago, where she appeared in my head again. This time, she seemed angry. I left the room, but something is bothering her. Do you have any ill feelings about this house or anyone in it?”

“None, Sir”

“Speak up, no matter how insignificant something may feel.”

“Sir, there is nothing to report. All feels as it should in this household. In fact, it is calmer than it has been in a long time. I am sure that is because you are here. They have worried a great deal about you, Sir.”

“Thank you, Chandler. I am returning tomorrow. You are excused for the night.”

What could be bothering Mary?

Kip didn’t remember seeing her this livid when she lived. He didn’t have a good feeling this time.

Noble Coachman Chapter 17

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 17
The Sketch

 

Returning from the coach, Kip spread the coverlet on the ground.

“Shall we eat first, or shall I sketch?”

“I am not that hungry just now. Sketch me. First, I need a drink of water.”

Instead of pulling water from the basket which had been poured into canning jars, she went to the stream. She squatted down as only one can do in pants, cupped both her hands and filled them with cold water. She sipped from them several times, shook the excess from her hands, and dried them on her trousers.

She was the epitome of simplicity and carefree countenance, Kip thought.

“This is a good spot where we sit. I believe I told you before that I am just starting to sketch portraits. You are my first commissioned work of art.”

“Who ordered it?”

“A fine gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous. You are perfect right there, and I will sit here,” Kip said, finding the ground and sitting cross-legged.

“Is this gentleman handsome?” Squeaks asked sheepishly.

“Now what kind of man would I be if I could answer that?”

“An interested one?”

“To me, all men are the same. Now, the female creature inhabits a different sphere. She will walk among flowers and through wisps of clouds, which make her soft, fragrant and porcelain in color. She reveals little of herself leaving the man in mystery. Her fan will be used to communicate with her gentleman.”

“I’ve heard of that, the fan language. Is it really true or were the maids teasing?”

“They spoke the truth to you. I’m slowly picking up the art of the fan by watching my riders as they wait for my coach when I am in a line.

“Tell me.”

“Tell you? Tell you, what?”

“A fan word.”

“Most of the time they are comments—not words. Let me see, what can I tell you? If the lady holds an opened  fan with her right hand in front of her face; she is asking her gentleman to follow her.”

“I don’t believe you. I’ve never seen such goings-on.”

“I am not surprised at Stokes. You have my permission to ask his Lordship,” he chuckled.

Kip readied his supplies and opened his sketch folio to a large blank page. “I want you to look into my eyes for a while. I will be staring at different parts of your face. I say this, so it does not alarm you. We can talk if you do not move your head, and I will draw your mouth last. There we will decide on a smile or a more serious look. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“Look at me. Stare into my eyes. I will draw down to your neck so move your arms however you wish.”

Kip placed the folio on his knee and withdrew the black charcoal from the box. He stared at her and began to draw the sweep of her hair.

“Can I ask a question?”

“Yes, Sweets, what is it?”

“The night that you let me learn to night-drive, the night you really kissed me, remember?”

“Of course, I remember.”

“You introduced me to the other drivers, and you told them if they got ‘caught out’ to take care of that privately; then you went on to talk about language.”

Kip put down his charcoal, laughing. “I would guess you want to know what ‘caught out’ means?”

“Yes.”

“That would be to urinate. Wait. Hold that look. Where is my red charcoal?” He teased her.

“You had to say that with me there?”

Kip continued sweeping lines on his paper. “Look at me. Yes, but you must know that was a very proper way to mention it. There are other words we generally use.”

As Squeaks sat there staring at him, she felt as if she were in a lovely dream. How often she had wanted to stare at him and study his handsome looks. His strikingly green eyes were his most significant feature. “You have a Patrician nose; did you know that?”

“What do you mean, Patrician? Am I girlish looking?” He knew what she meant.

“It’s a feature that goes back to ancient Roman nobility, or is it Greek? It’s a perfect nose, I think. It is not large or too small, it has no bump or hook to it. It is slim and not wide, but not thin either. It is an aristocratic nose.”

Kip continued to stare at her, drawing. “So, does that mean I have nobility somewhere in my lineage? I would think everyone can say that.”

“Perhaps, or maybe you are just lucky.” His lips and mouth were perfectly shaped. All his features were handsome, from his ears to his brow to his chin. “If I were with another man at a restaurant and you walked in …”

“I don’t think I’m going to like this.”

“What do you notice first about the other gentleman. What makes one man jealous of another man and don’t say it is because I am there?”

“You sure are tough on me. Can’t we men have any secrets?”

“Please.”

“Men are fairly territorial. They need to protect what is theirs. Now if that is not a factor, I would think a man could worry if he was handsome enough for his lady. Did he have a nice build? Is his profession worthy of her?”

“Does intimacy enter  a man’s jealousy?”

“Most assuredly. That is the number one factor, which is usually an unknown, and the most difficult to cope with. You gaze at me rather hard, Miss Squeaks. Must I pass muster, again?”

“I’ve waited to do this.”

Kip smiled. “I’ve waited to do this. Do you know I came home that night and drew you standing as footman? Remember, I asked you to look at me and smile. That is what graces my mantle.”

“Perhaps, I shall see your home one day.” Squeaks wondered what it looked like. “Let me tell you about your home, may I?”

“Yes. This should be interesting.”

“You are a single man, who I believe lives in a place where his stable looks better than his residence.”

“You are very nearly right with that.”

“Your house is two levels but only two bedrooms. It is devoid of nearly everything except a bed, kitchen, and a few items to rest upon. You have old furniture for the apostles to sit when they visit. You have never brought a woman to your house.  You have a nice wardrobe for your clothing finery. A charwoman comes in weekly to sweep the dirt from the floor, change your bed linen and finish washing your dishes. She takes your laundry home when she leaves. You keep two tins of boot polish all the time. You have more shoes than I do. I believe you to have saved for and purchased real Wellington boots. I see you’re smiling.”

“Proceed. I am enjoying hearing about myself.”

“Your loo is outside. You have a post office box in London proper, and you collect your post rather than having it delivered. Your address is part of your image. By looking at your face, I cannot tell if you cook or eat out. In your bedroom, you have one nightstand and one oil lamp beside it. You do not have indoor gas lighting, but that doesn’t bother you, as your best fares are at night. You like to whistle when you drive. Now you are laughing. Tell me where I am right or wrong.”

“Oh, I cannot do all of that. You must still find me mysterious. I will say I drew the line at an outdoor loo. It is inside. And I do not whistle while I drive, except for whistling for my horse, but I do not do it for entertainment. I will say that I have three tins of boot polish. I have black and brown boots. As you see today, I am wearing the brown boots. Do they look polished to you?”

“Why … the leather is blinding when the clouds pass.”

“You should know I would not be caught dead with worn leather boots. I am ready to add your mouth. Perhaps, I shall kiss it first.”

“Yes, please.”

Kip crawled over on his knees and leaned in to kiss Squeaks.

Squeaks burst forth with laughter as he reached her lips. He sat back on his ankles wondering what was causing this moment of amusement.

“Miss Squeaks, you take my romantic attentions too lightly, I fear.”

“It’s not that. You tricked me. What a novel joke.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Now, stop that. You know very well what I mean?”

“I wish it was true, but I have not an idea at all.”

“Your sketch, silly.”

Kip looked down and was shocked. He pushed the folio off of his lap, wanting it away from him.

“Kip, now stop playing. That sketch of yourself is exactly how I just pictured you in my mind. How did you do that? I would like to have it. If you wanted me to have your portrait, you could have given it to me. I would love to hang it in my room. This charade wasn’t necessary, but it is funny.”

Kip staggered to his feet aghast. “How did I do that?”

Squeaks held up her hand for him to take it and sit beside her. “Kip you look awful. You have gone pale. What is happening to you? What is wrong?”

Lowering his body next to her, keeping his distance from the sketch, he said, “I did not knowingly draw my own face.” He stared at the portrait. Squeaks became quiet. She didn’t have words, as she felt he was telling the truth.

“Can you read minds, Kip? That is exactly, and I do mean accurately, the way I see you. Could you see the image in my head?”

“If I did, this is a first. This doesn’t make any sense. I looked down every so often to see what I was doing, and it appeared as I saw you. I have no gift. I hope they don’t still hang people for witchcraft.” The near accident came back to his mind and how he thought of Mary.  Mary, Mary, you are making this happen? “Are you sure this is how you see me?”

“There is no doubt. Perhaps, you do have a gift. You said you were new to portraits, and you stared at me, and I stared at you. Should we try something else? Are you afraid to know if you are gifted?”

“I do not believe in such things. What do you wish of me?”

“I will sit as before, but I will not look at your eyes. I will look away. I will imagine a vision and hold it. Perhaps you can see what I see by looking at me again.”

Kip hesitantly pulled his folio back to him. “This cannot work. But I will try.”

“I have a vision in my mind now. Do not see my face, but look deeper.”

Kip sat for a minute trying to force himself to reveal an image. “This isn’t working. It cannot be that.” Mary’s image swirled through his mind.

“Give it more time, Kip. Try again. Concentrate. I will be quiet.”

Kip put the folio aside. If he could see her vision, he could tell her. He would not have to draw it. “I think I am guessing. I feel like you are seeing Warrior.”

Squeaks gasped. “That is right. It may have been a guess, but how did you think of it?”

“I do not remember thinking. I was thinking about not thinking when I saw Warrior. Actually, that isn’t the truth. I believe I can tell you now. I was clearing my mind, and an image of my sister seemed to rush past my consciousness.”

“You don’t think …”

“I don’t know. Something allowed me to know of the impending danger with the runaway carriage.”

“Let us try this again. This time, I will envision something you have never seen. Give me a moment.” On the wall in her bedroom was a small painting of her in her mother’s arms as a baby. Her father was standing behind her seated mother. It was crudely done, but it was something Kip would not know about. “I have it. Now concentrate and so will I.” Squeaks conjured up the picture as she would see it from her bedside.

“Oh my god, something is forming. Don’t say anything. Hold the image.”

“I believe it is a picture hanging on a wall. You are looking at it from below, as it is hung over your head. Let me concentrate on the picture. It is in a dark frame, most probably walnut. Sitting in a kitchen chair, there is a woman holding a baby. The man behind her with his hand on her shoulder appears to be a young Clyde Dorset, your father.” With that final word, Kip fell backward, utterly spent.

Squeaks hurriedly moved to him. “Kip, what can I do? Your eyes look unfocused. Does your head hurt?”

“Give me a second. I feel totally exhausted. I couldn’t keep myself upright. It is starting to recede. Where was I? Oh, yes. How close was I to your vision?”

“Kip, you are gifted. Your words told me more than I saw. I didn’t consciously remember the frame color or the chair coming from the kitchen. You looked through my eyes because you spoke of the perspective from which I see it every day. It is across from my bed, over my head by quite a lot. I do not think I can reach it from standing on the floor. This is incredible. Nothing like this has ever happened before?”

“Never.” Kip felt, if he was developing a gift, it was being given to him by Mary. But why?

“Are you strong enough to try it once again, for good measure?”

“Yes, I would like to. If this turns out to be a real gift, I wish to keep it quiet until I figure out what is going on with me. This time, do not envision anything specific. Just have random thoughts with images, but do not stand on one.”

“All right. I guess you can start anytime you want.”

Squeaks turned to Kip and looked at him but thought of a day in her life. She rose and washed, dressed, ate, and went to find her father. She brushed the horses and helped her father harness them. Later, she would walk some of the horses in the paddock along with the other lads.

“No, I cannot see anything clearly. Will you do me a favor tonight?”

“If I can.”

Kip laughed, preparing to have his face slapped. “At 9:00 p.m., if you can, make ready for bed, strip down until you are naked, and stand in front of your mirror. Hold that vision. I will try exceedingly hard to conjure what you are seeing.”

“Are you serious?”

“Only if you don’t hit me.”

“Since I do not have a full-length mirror, I will do it.”

“You will?”

“You will have to try this on others. Perhaps it is just me.”

“Oh, I hope not. I do not want to know what you are thinking. That would never work for us.”

“What happened to my kiss?”

“I hope I do not see me kissing myself.”

This time, he placed Squeaks on her back, and he rested on his elbows looking down at her. Her hair was spread around her face. He wanted to drown in her big, light blue eyes. Kip looked at her beautiful skin, impeccably arched brows, perfect pixie nose, and lips that he wanted to kiss until he died. He leaned toward her mouth and kissed her simply and gently, then backed away from her to see her face again. Quietly, she laid there smiling, looking directly at him.

“You are not trying to see how much I love you, are you?”

“A bit ago you said you think you loved me. Why are you sure now?” Kip wondered.

“Can’t you tell me?” She asked.

He smiled broadly, “No. I do not want to wander in your mind if I find I can. Nevertheless, are you saying you know you love me?”

“Yes, I am.”

Kip wrapped his one arm around her body as he plundered her mouth over and over. She brought her hands to his face and held him there to look at him. Kip rolled on his back and brought Squeaks on top of him. He wrapped his arms tightly around her and penetrated her lips repeatedly until she forgot all concerns and yielded herself, passionately.

I must stop this.

“Do I please you enough?” she asked.

“Far beyond what I thought it would be like kissing you.”

“I’m not sure what I can do for you.”

“What do you feel like doing to me?”

She sat there and blushed for a moment.

If you can’t say it, just picture it,” Kip laughed.

He unbuttoned his shirt, pretending that was what her thoughts were telling him.

Kip wished he could let her feel how much she pleased him.

“Sweets, allowing me to kiss and touch you is your precious offering.”

Kip pulled her shirt from her trousers and unbuttoned the top three. Exposing her cleavage, he slid his hands underneath, climbing her ribs. Slowly, they found the swell of her breasts, and Kip watched her eyes close. He felt their fullness while the nipples pebbled. Flames ignited in both of them. Kip removed his hands and pulled her up hard against him, nestling himself in the apex of her thighs.

Squeaks gasped, emitting a small unexpected moan. Her eyes opened to him staring into his face. “I … I.”

“I know, Sweets.” He took her mouth again, making love to it while his hands reached under her shirt. Once more, her eyes closed as did his. Kip felt tears drop onto his face. He reached for her head and licked them from her cheeks. “I need this very essence of you, Sweets.”

“I never thought it would feel like this,” she whispered. “There are other sensations at work here. I guess you know that, though.”

Kip smiled. “Yes, I know. We are merely at the beginning of what I hope will last a lifetime.” Kip found control and ceased his actions, but his chest was still pounding from the interminable pleasure and patience.

She placed her hands on his hairy chest and saw his eyes close immediately. A great sigh and smile came from him. She retracted her hands back.

“I don’t know what I am doing. I think I should talk to the women again.”

“I think you should talk to me. I love what you are doing. You can’t tell?” He buttoned her shirt.

“Have you been with many women?”

“I don’t know of your relative term of ‘many,’ but I am experienced.”

“Have you been with many women when it was her first time?”

“No, I haven’t, but I know what to expect. Please don’t have that on your mind. I will not ask for your virginity.”

“Well … suppose … I might …”

Kip kissed her deeply and sensually.

Catching her breath, “If you keep kissing me like that I might have to insist.”

Kip rolled his head from side to side, laughing. “Sweets, do not ever, I mean ever, think you have to offer yourself to show me you love me. What you are thinking is only part of you. I will want all of you, your heart, mind, body and your soul one of these days. I want you by me for life. What you are embarrassed to talk about is making love. Yes, it is pleasant beyond words, and a part of marriage I would not care to live without, but I could if you could not. Do not feel you have to prove anything to me. Promise me that.”

“I can promise you I will not do that to prove my love to you.”

“You sound rather vague.”

“Well, there you have it!”

“There I have what?”

“My promise.”

“Perhaps, it is a good idea to talk with the women. Not about the act itself. I will control all of that. You need them to tell you how normal you are for a woman in love.”

“Well, stop kissing me then. I’m feeling all funny inside.”

“I can’t help myself.” Kip pleaded.

“That is how you make me feel when you kiss me the way you have today. I can’t help myself. I have no idea where the brakes are. I don’t want them.”

“What is it that you think you cannot help but do?”

“Never mind. Can we have our lunch now?”

“I think the timing is just perfect to have our lunch. I’ll check the leads on the horses while you place the food out for us.” Kip remembered thinking how he loved the idea of her being raised without restrictions and proprieties. He was having second thoughts on that now. Neither had the will to control their passion. She was soaking in desire, unhindered. They had better marry soon.

Squeaks smiled to herself as she watched him walk toward the horses. He was not coping very well with what he had started. She placed the food out and waited for him to return. He was smiling, too.

“Do you want roasted chicken or a beef sandwich?”

“I’ll take the chicken.”

Squeaks handed the cloth wrapped chicken to him.

“Why do they geld horses?” She asked out of nowhere.

“To subdue them. They are lust-driven, mighty powerful and strong otherwise. And you don’t want them trying to mate with the horse waiting at the next coach. Wait a minute. What are you trying to say?”

“Oh nothing,” she laughed. “How many women have you been with in your young life? I’ll tell you if you tell me. I think we are supposed to not be embarrassed to talk with each other about lovemaking, is that so?”

“You are a brat. I have never made love to a woman.”

“Other men?”

“Stop it, Squeaks. I will paddle your backside if you continue this.” He snickered.

“What do you mean then – you have never made love to a woman?”

“Surely, or maybe not, you know there is a difference between having sex and making love. You know men have needs, do you not?”

“I haven’t understood a lot about that. And I do not know the difference between having sex and making love.”

“You will never know that difference as you will never have just sex.”

“And the needy part?”

“Can I finish my chicken?”

“You have been driving for over one year, correct?”

“Professionally? Yes.”

“You have trained me on a few new things which tend to be known more by independents.”

“I have, I believe.”

“I have ten years more experience with a coach than you do. Who would you say is the better driver sitting here today?”

“That would be me, of course,” he smiled.

“Why?”

“Because, Sweets, I am a man.” Kip thought she was throwing down the proverbial gauntlet. He was going to have some fun with her.

“Is that your same declaration for saddle riding?”

“Not quite.”

“What do you mean?”

“I am the better rider, but not because I am a man. I am an excellent horseman.”

“I see.”

“Pray tell. What do you see?” Kip asked with a sparkle to his eye.

“Wait and see.”

“I guess I will have to.”

“I would practice if I were you.” Squeaks countered.

“I need do nothing of the sort, Madam Horsewoman.”

“I will hate embarrassing you in front of your friends.”

“My friends? What do they have to do with this?”

“Wait and see. Tell them to practice, too.”

“You are really piquing my interest now,” Kip smirked.

“So that’s what it takes to arouse you?”

“Please don’t use that word. Miss Sweets, I think you are jesting with me.”

“I think not. You will have a month to practice.”

“To practice what exactly?”

“Your skills as a coachman and horseman.”

“Are you in earnest?”

“I am hoping I will be,” Squeaks replied. “I want to have a derby. Can we saddle-ride after we finish eating? Also, I need to find a bush. I did not bring a jar with me.”

“We can empty a water canning jar,” he mentioned, still scratching his head over whatever she was talking about.

“Yes, that will do.”

“I will guard the coach, but not listen.”

“Thank you.”

They packed up their belongings. Kip carried the folio, and the coverlet and led Warrior after having a final look at his gaskin area.  Squeaks managed the empty basket and Soldier.

Squeaks had no idea where the coachman derby idea came from. She blurted it out to tease Kip, and it caught in the wind and carried on. She would speak with Lord Stokes. Perhaps, he could suggest a way to withdraw this challenge or indeed let there be one. The more she thought about it, the more exciting an idea it became.

The Gilded Age Series

 
HARRY RICHARDSON & THOMAS COCQUEREL JOIN THE CAST

While you can expect Julian Fellowes‘ new drama Belgravia this spring, he is already preparing another costume series but set in America. I’ve already announced the cast for THE GILDED AGE, a 19th-century series he is producing for HBO, but now they’re joined by Poldark’s Harry

Harry Richardson will be a rich son in the series

Richardson and In Like Flynn’s Thomas Cocquerel alongside Jack Gilpin. They join Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Amanda Peet, Morgan Spector, Taissa Farmiga, Blake Ritson and Simon Jones who are already in the cast.

The Gilded Age
begins in 1882 – introducing young Marian Brook, the orphaned daughter of a Southern general, who moves into the home of her rigidly conventional aunts in New York City. Marian gets caught up in the dazzling lives of her stupendously rich neighbors, led by a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife struggling for acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set. Will Marian follow the

Thomas Cocquerel will be a lawyer in the new series

established rules of society, or forge her own path in this exciting new world that is on the brink of transformation into the modern age?

Harry Richardson will play Larry Russell. Appealing and good-natured with an easy charm, Larry is a recent Harvard University graduate eager to make his way in the world. Thomas Cocquerel will be Tom Raikes, a sensible young lawyer who has been a solitary and career-driven practical man but is smitten when he meets Marian, his late client’s orphaned daughter. Jack Gilpin will portray Church, the Russell family’s butler. He is American, from a dismal background, but evades his past by excelling at his job. He has no time for nonsense in the workplace due to his attention and care for his job.
Still no releasing date.  We’ve been waiting for a least two years for this.

The Personal History of David Copperfield *** May 8, 2020

     ‘THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD’ COMEDY
The movie opened in UK this weekend

FROM RAGS TO RICHES AND BACK AGAIN

This one has been criticised for forcefully imposing diversity in the casting for a period set movie and for putting quirky humour which did not exist in the original book by Charles Dickens, but some also praised it for the funny approach to a costume drama. We shall have to judge for ourselves as THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD is currently playing in British cinemas and will head over to USA and Russia in May. The big screen adaptation re-imagines

This is the first movie adaptation of the novel in last 50 years

Charles Dickens’ classic ode to grit and perseverance through the comedic lens of its award winning filmmakers giving the Dickensian tale new life for a cosmopolitan age with a diverse ensemble cast of stage and screen actors from

Tilda Swinton is Betsey Trotwood in the period set movie

across the world. Director Armando Iannucci lends his wry, yet heart-filled storytelling style to revisiting Dickens’ iconic hero on his quirky journey from impoverished orphan to burgeoning writer in Victorian England!

    What’s The Story About? 
From birth to infancy, from adolescence to adulthood, the good-hearted David Copperfield is surrounded by kindness, wickedness, poverty and wealth,

Ben Whishaw is Uriah Heep in the period set adaptation

as he meets an array of remarkable characters in Victorian England. As David sets out to be a writer, in his quest for family, friendship, romance and status, the story of his life is the most seductive tale of all.

Who Is In The Colourful Cast?

Beside Dev Patel who takes the lead role of David Copperfield, the cast also includes Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick, Tilda Swinton as Betsey Trotwood, Ben Whishaw as Uriah Heep, Morfydd Clark as Dora Spenlow, Aneurin

Hugh Laurie takes the role of Mr. Dick in the period set drama

Barnard as James Steerforth, Daisy May Cooper as Peggotty, Gwendoline Christie as Jane Murdstone, Rosalind Eleazar as Agnes Wickfield, and Paul

The budget of the costume movie was close to 16 million dollars

Whitehouse as Mr. Peggotty.The movie already won awards for best supporting actor (Hugh Laurie), best screenplay, best costume and

The film premiered at Toronto Film Festival back in September

production design at British Independent Film Awards last year. Although many consider the casting quite controversial, the movie did score a nomination for best casting at British Film Academy Awards for 2020.

 

The Luminaries

 THE LUMINARIES
  
The Luminaries tells an epic story of love, murder and revenge, as men and women travelled across the world to make their fortunes. It is a 19th century tale of adventure and mystery, set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush. The story follows defiant young adventurer Anna Wetherell, who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life. There she meets the radiant Emery Staines, an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain. As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?

Chapter 13 Night Bloom

Available Amazon Kindle

Inspector Marshall was waiting patiently for Kyle and the sketching policeman to finish his drawing of the driver who was unknown to everyone.

“I had not thought of this, until now,” Kyle said, “but I think his top hat was frayed and well worn. He must have come from another place. London drivers are not that rumpled. Too many high-borns to hail a cabby looking like that. He definitely does not fit the London independent coachman and certainly not a liveried staff driver. He looked like he was from the Whitechapel district if you ask me. I cannot see anyone attending that affair who would hail or hire a driver from that area.”

Marshall sat back smoking his pipe. Whitechapel could have drivers hardly seen by the London mainstream coachmen. Perhaps, there were some with no scruples who would do anything for money. That would be his next area to investigate once he had this sketch in hand.

Finally, a face was born. Kyle thought it to be the best he could remember, but it was dark that night. “I’m sorry. I wish I could do better. I can draw the coach for you, though.”

Kyle took the pad and pencil in hand and slowly sketched the coach. To Inspector Marshall, it looked like every other coach out there, but Kyle started pointing out differences. One of the biggest differences was that it could carry four people, similar to Kip’s. Peerage families have at least one of these. It was old as if discarded from a wealthy family. It was muddied, looking as though it had been driven some distance before arriving. Inspector Marshall seemed to get lost when Kyle started talking about the suspension.

 

Typically, Kip gathered with the other men talking but not this evening. He was training.

Squeaks asked about the “Apostles” and “The Almighty” words that had been spoken. As Kip began his story, feeling slightly self-conscious about their reference to him, several lads came out and lit the yard torches, so the drivers had a small amount of light. Kip continued his story, dismayed to see his area being lit. He would have preferred only the lighting coming from the back of the building.

“Kip, you know a lot about me, but I know little about you. I very much want to hear of your life growing up and how you came to be a coachman.”

“Squeaks, I am not ready to speak with anyone concerning my upbringing, but I will tell you something  that no one knows.”

“Thank you for that.”

“I have a father, and a brother, and had a sister. She was murdered over a year ago, and that sent me to the depths of depression. I will not speak of her now; I still find it difficult. I left home shortly after that. From there I wandered to London, and the first person I met was Marc, my coachman. The job looked ideal for me. I was visible but hidden if you know what I mean. That is not so true anymore, but I love this life. In all honesty, I cannot say it will be my entire life. I will have responsibilities that must be settled within the family.”

“May I ask a question?”

“Yes, but I may not answer just yet.”

“Are you running from something?”

Kip chuckled. “No, I am not running from anything or anyone except myself. I am sorry to tell you so little. No one even knows I have a sister who died recently.”

“May I ask how you have been able to afford the coach and rare horses?”

Kip mulled that around in his mind. “They have not been purchased with ill-gotten gains. I would rather wait on telling you that if you do not mind.”

“I do not mind whatever it is. I might mind if I knew something was affecting you sadly, and I tend to think it is.”

“Please, do not speculate on my character.”

“If you say so, I will not. You do know you are a mystery to many?”

“Yes, I am a mystery to everyone, including my family. Within me, there are solutions I must seek. I hope that does not affect our new friendship.”

“Friendship? Is that what this is?”

“I am a gentleman. That is the only way I should see it at this time.”

“But … you wish it to be different?”

“Yes. Above all, I hold dear.”

“You fancy me?”

“I do fancy you. Does that upset you, Squeaks?”

“No. I welcome it.”

Kip removed his top hat and hers. He turned to her and could tell she knew he wanted to kiss her. His eyes roamed her face, finally resting on her mouth. He felt her hold his hand, which was resting on his knee. Kip tentatively began to lean towards her, still watching her wet, trembling lips. His eyes drifted to hers before she closed them. Their lips met. It was a light kiss, with Kip taking in her sweet breath. The luscious sensation traveled his body like warm honey, seeking out every part of him.

Squeaks moved her hand to his shoulder, and Kip placed his hand on her waist, moving towards her middle back.

He reluctantly pulled back to see her acceptance of his advance. Her eyes were still closed. He slid his body closer to her and kissed her again, this time encircling her with his arms. Regretfully, Kip heard someone whistling. He let go of her with a sigh as he sat back. That interruption was painful. Bloody hell. He was immediately deflated, which all in all, was better for Squeaks, he realized. Although desperately, he wanted that smooth, exquisite ivory neck of hers, which had been beckoning him for days.

Squeaks whispered, “That was wondrous.”

“Kip, I thought that was you,” called a voice. Oh, I see you have … a … a woman with you?”

“Kyle, this is Squeaks, driver for Lord Stokes.”

“Hello miss. You are the one everyone has been talking about. It is nice to meet you. Is Lord Stokes here tonight? This does not seem his type of affair.”

“No, he is not here, but Kip is showing me how to drive at night since I have to drive Lord Stokes tomorrow evening.”

“Yes, I guess we will all be working tomorrow night. I say, Kip, I have just come from seeing Inspector Marshall. I drew the coach, but another officer drew the driver. It looks a little like him, but I could not explain what I saw in my head. I did the best that I could.”

“I am sure you did, Kyle. Did he have any thoughts?”

“I believe he is going to canvas the Whitechapel area, where a coach like that one could have been hired.”

“That is a good idea.” Kip could hardly talk, thinking about their kiss, and Squeaks was silent herself.

“Anyone here?”

“Marc is here, and I think Jonathan is too. I have not seen him, though.”

“I will go find Marc and disturb you no longer. Good luck, Miss Squeaks. Please know that all of Kip’s friends are at your service and hope the best for you.”

“Thank you, Kyle. I am genuinely grateful. It is nice to have friends among all these men. I may come to rely on all of you at times.”

“Miss, we are your humble champions. Never forget that. Good night.”

As Kyle walked away, Squeaks said, “I feel like I am building an army.”

“You are Squeaks . . . you most certainly are.”

Silence reigned for a few moments; neither having words to proceed such an overture.

Kip thought about what she had just said. He feared his heart would break realizing she was out alone driving the coach at night. Knowing that she was building an army, a large portion of admirers watching over her, gave him some relief. Anyone of them would come to her aid if it was needed.

Squeaks began to speak but stopped herself.

“Please, go on milady,” Kip implored.

“Was that kiss to warn the other drivers away from me or was their real meaning to it? I must know.”

“I have overstepped my boundary.”

“So … it was just for show?”

“No, it was genuine. I beg your pardon, even if it was not unpleasant. I’m getting too far ahead of myself with you.”

They both sat there quietly, wondering what to say or do next. The fear of being seen kissing her was too great an issue for her reputation. Kip assured himself as a gentleman.

“Squeaks, about before …” he was interrupted.

“I understand. I will remember it always, even if it never happens again. It was pure and sacred to me.”

Looking into her eyes, he could see the pool of tears reflecting the golden glow of the yard torches. One slipped down her cheek, and Kip wiped it away with the back of his finger.

“No. Permit me to make myself understood. I wish to be alone with you before I do that again. I will not chance to put your character in any doubt. I should not have done that here and now, as I did. I should have waited.”

“So, does that mean I will be paid later?”

Kip smiled, “If you wish it. I have coin, though.”

“I’ll take your first offer if it is like what just happened.”

Kip had moved away, watching her profile in the torch lighting when Kyle unexpectedly returned. The light was at a distance, and her head and body were silhouetted against the brilliant firey torches. He wanted to reach over and pull the pins from her hair. He’d wanted to do a lot for her, but he must lay those thoughts aside.

Their talking turned to night driving eventually and other small talks about his friends and his sketching until it looked as if the event was coming to an end. Footmen were calling out names to the torch-lit driver’s yard for the lords and ladies who were waiting for their coaches.”

“Do I stay up here with you, this time, Kip?” She looked at him with excitement.

“Yes, Miss Squeaks, you do. You will exit the couple when we arrive at their residence. Remember to wait for a signal. These people have been married for a long time. I doubt you will have to wait at all. I am not sure if you bow or curtsy. What did you do before?”

“I bowed. If I wear a skirt, which I will from this day forward, I will curtsy. I still want to maintain my image as a woman and not one wishing to be a man.”

“I am pleased to hear that,” he smiled. “That suits me as well.”

Kip handed her the top hat she had worn and popped on his own. He found the reins, loosened the brakes, and waited for the name to be called out.

“Kip, I watched as you drove. You are magnificent. I hope to drive as well as you.”

“I have seen you rein. You did very well that day.”

“You followed me?”

“I did, but only for a short time. I think you will find all the drivers do an excellent job. We are out all day and driving all day, unlike you. You are a driver who waits most of the day. I am no better than my friends and other independents.”

“You will tell me what you are seeing or doing special as we drive tonight?”

“I believe that is the reason you accepted my offer, is it not?”

“Not entirely.” Squeaks could see a smile spread across his face as he peered straight ahead.

She is stealing my breath.

He had to remind himself of her innocence, but she had no shyness, which was refreshing. Women seemed to be inherently coy, vague, timid and reserved. Although, amiable qualities all, it appeared to be a blessing to him that those walls didn’t exist. Meeting any challenges with her, if she allowed a romance to blossom, would be her own barrier and not some rule of propriety. That must be the difference of a girl growing up under the guidance of only a father. Everything with her feminist ways would be pure emotions with no hindrance of what was expected. Kip hoped it would be he who she allowed into her heart and not some other man who might not handle her with the delicacy that was needed.

“Kip! They called the Astaire driver.”

He ruffled the reins and pulled the team out into the line that was forming.

“You were far away. You didn’t hear them call us? What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking of you,” Kip said shyly and softly.

Squeaks felt her flesh ripple all over with those words as if someone had poured a cold bucket of water down her back. Every nerve ending seemed to come alive. She assumed her straight back posture and kept her eyes forward. Attention to detail was the expected. She would be humiliated in front of him if she did anything wrong.

“Would you like me to enter them, Kip? They are on my side?”

“The footman will do that because he is waiting with them, specifically. We don’t want to usurp his position. Here we go, now, quiet, please.” Kip couldn’t help but smile, which was all the better for his job. He continued to look straight ahead and listen for the door to close. Next time he would have to tell Squeaks to pay no attention and keep eyes forward when an event footman attended. He felt like this was one of the happiest nights of his life. The carriage pulled into the flow line of teams and coaches leaving the premises.

As they drove, Kip kept his voice low, so his rider would not be disturbed. He talked about the team which was in front of him and told her how they would slow down as they made a turn onto the main thoroughfare.

“See, I am barely applying the reins.”

“Kip! You forgot the coach lanterns.”

“I did? Here, you take the reins, and I will light them.”

It took several minutes for Kip and Squeaks to quietly change places so he could light both sides. Squeaks was ducking around him, looking through his legs as he stepped over her, keeping an eye on the team in front. They were less than a coach length away. Before Kip could settle back in the driver’s seat, Squeaks had negotiated the turn out of the yard, with nary a sway. She took it slow and wide just like a professional. Kip was proud of her.

“Can you take the reins back? That was exhausting.”

“You were excellent. I am proud of you. Why are you exhausted? There will be many of those.”

“I know, but this is your fare, your reputation and I’ve never done that before. I could barely see to turn with you crossing in front of me. This team almost had their noses pushing the coach in front of us. Not driving in, while it was light, I had no gauge of the width I would have to turn coming through the gate.”

“You did all that on instinct?”

“I had no choice. Not instinct but intuition.” She almost screeched.

“Shhh . . .”

“I am sorry,” he chuckled softly, seeing her with that look of consternation on her little face. With those dimples, it was hard to take her seriously.

Kip noticed her hands shaking in her lap. He placed his hand over her folded fingers and squeezed gently, reassuring her of a job well done. “I’ve heard women have intuition, but we men cannot understand it. However, I have now seen it for myself.”

“Will the rider be expecting me to wait for a signal to open the door?”

“This client will, but it will be almost immediate. You are too nervous, Squeaks. We have been over this before. Calm down. You’re trying too hard.”

“I should not apologize for what happened before? You know, the jiggling?”

“Never. That would be my place, and we certainly do not want to alert his wife about your entertainment show.”

“But I didn’t show anything.”

“Not in your mind, Miss Innocent.”

“So, you don’t think he will hold that against you?”

“No, not at all. He might request you riding footman next time.” All Kip could do was grin, but he wanted to laugh at the very thought of that happening to a male rider.

As they were nearing the residence, Kip passed the street.

“Are you missing your turn, Kip?”

“Now, think about why I did that.”

Squeaks figured it out as soon as he made the second turn. “You did it to right the coach to the curb in the proper direction. Is there a correct side to exit and enter from?”

“I’m not sure about a rule of this, but I try to offer them the side where the gentleman had last entered the coach.”

“Meaning he most likely is sitting on that side and would exit first?”

“Correct, my promising prodigy.”

Squeaks looked at him and glowed. “That hardly came up between my father and me.”

“All right, get ready to climb down.”

Before the coach had stopped, Squeaks’ boots hit the cobblestone road. She stood out of sight of the door and waited. The gentleman shouted, “driver,” and she opened the door and lowered the steps. Their butler was on his way. Lord Astaire exited first and passed his wife’s hand to the butler’s arm.

“Miss Squeaks, from what I could see, you did an admirable job. I am sure Lord Stokes has made a sage decision installing you. Just be mindful of your safety.”

“I will, milord. Thank you, milord. Good evening to you and Her Ladyship.”

“May I suggest one thing to you?”

“By all means, Your Lordship.”

“You should wear a skirt.”

“Sir, Lord Stokes’ livery has provided me with a skirt to cover the male’s uniform. I do have that. I had to borrow one of our footmen’s uniforms to blend with Kip tonight. I could not wear my master’s colors. I was hoping you would not notice that I was not a male, sir.” She blushed under their street lamp.

“Miss Squeaks, it was quite unmistakable that you were not a male by your … your hat that does not fit well. I believe driver’s hats to be fitted tightly as to not allow the wind to blow them off of their heads, yes?”

“I beg your apology, sir.”

“Please do not do that. I think it was the best part of this whole evening. I am just glad that you now know what smiles you will bring to your male riders.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Lord Astaire laughed heartily and looked up at Kip. “Thank you, Kip. Another pleasant ride. I will send you a draft for this month. Is there any extra for your attendant?”

“No, Your Lordship. This was a training session for her.”

“Lucky lad. Good night.”

“Good evening, milord.” Kip knew but would not tell Squeaks that Lord Astaire’s experience would circulate Parliament tomorrow, like a torch to a barn.

Squeaks waited on the ground until they entered their doorway. She did that with Lord Stokes but did not know if that was proper for all of Kip’s clients.

“Squeaks, get up here, you beautifully skilled show-off. Next time you need to explain something, make it short. He doesn’t want your life history.” Kip couldn’t hold back the laugh.

Kip reined away from the curb but pulled over to the side only moments later and took Squeaks into his arms with an intensity that surprised him. He wasn’t as gentle as he had planned.

Squeaks felt her hat fall off. The closeness was overwhelming. No one had held her in their arms like that since her mother was alive. She couldn’t breathe. Instinctively her own arms wrapped around him pulling him closer.

Kip held her head as his firm kiss was pushing her backward. The signs were clear that she was enjoying it. He felt a hairpin. As he continued to press his lips hard against hers, and slide his tongue over them, he pulled out several others.

Finally, he allowed her to absorb what was happening between them and released his hold on her head. Her black hair cascaded down her back, almost touching her waist. In the lamplight, the sheen of her hair reflected shooting stars of brilliance as a full moon lights the sea.

“What happened to my hair? Did you do that?”

“I kiss you like that, and you talk about your hair? You are different in so many ways,” he laughed, ruffling her hair and then the reins.

Squeaks became quiet.

“Kip?”

“Yes, Squeaks?”

“I have no words for how you made me feel. It was the most pleasant experience I can remember, ever. No one has held me like that since I was a child. I had forgotten how beautiful and warming that could feel. You made me feel wanted. Thank you.”

“Squeaks, you are wanted … wanted by me, and I am beginning to think you are needed by me. I never thought I needed anything. You are weakening my restraint. I fear the gentleman will leave me before you do.”

“I am not sure you could frighten me away even with my innocence. You are awakening in me … some form of sensitivity. I cannot explain it. It’s so deep, and I have little understanding of it. I shouldn’t be trusting myself to you. I want to be accountable for my own responses.”

“I pray to God that you trust me. I am growing more than fond of you. It seems to be irreversible. There is no effort on my part to enjoy you. It just keeps rolling toward me and filling me with … with happiness which has been unprecedented in my life.”

“You are going to make me cry with words such as those. No one has ever talked to me that way.”

“Then weep, my sweet, and I will dry your tears.”

Kip drove the team slowly while deep in thought. The quiet grew to be an entity unto itself. The feeling that he might burst apart with words of love was nearing panic. What is happening to me?

“I know why you pulled the pins from my hair,” she giggled.

“I’ve wanted to do that since I met you.”

“I do not think that is the reason.”

“And just what is your reckoning on my pulling the pins from your hair?”

“You did not want anyone thinking you were kissing another man.”

Kip laughed. “Surely, that is why. Do you need to be home now?”

“Not for a while. Can we park and talk somewhere?”

“Yes, I know the very place. I will take you for a walk.”

“A walk?” There was a hint of disappointment in her voice.

“Would you rather not?”

“Will we sit at all?”

Kip saw her frowning and wanted to grin, thinking he might know her thoughts.

“Yes, we will go to the park and sit at one of the empty pavilions. There should be a few people there at this hour.”

“Yes. Let’s do that. I’ve only seen it in passing. Perhaps I should put my hair back up.”

“Please don’t. Just pile it under your hat for our short walk.”

“All right. You like my hair?”

“I think I love your hair.”

“Do you have a brush under the bench? It’s not much different than brushing your horse’s mane.”

“Perhaps I shall buy a brush and keep it with me. I am definitely buying you a top hat, in hopes, we can do this again.”

“I think you should design a Kipling Driver line of livery clothing,” she chided.

“You may have a good point. I actually designed what I am wearing.”

“I wasn’t serious.”

“I know you were not serious. I kind of like the idea, myself.”

“There! That remark right there, adds to your mystery.”

“I hope you will want to discover all about me.”

“I really do not need to know any more about you than I do now. I respect you. I am trusting you. I admire you. And I think I want to be with you often.”

“I want you with me if you can find your way across the moat,” he chuckled. “I anticipate every coming moment, such as Saturday night.”

“You are overwhelming me. I will not sleep for days. I would like you to kiss me again, but your words are driving deep into my soul. I need time to work through them. I am new at this.”

“Your pleasure is my thirst. Just let us become familiar with each other. Here we are. In two days, on Sunday, you can drive the team.”

“You are overwhelming me again. No more emotional words, I beg of you!”

Kip smiled at Squeaks with longing in his body and soul. He pulled the coach to a stop.

 

 

The Noble Coachman Chapter 12

Available Amazon Kindle

 

Chapter 12
An Affair to Remember

 

The Inspector had a long talk with Lord Caldwell. Marshall was convinced the two occurrences to Caldwell’s women were related. For a year, he and the other law officers had been looking for any man with a patch over one eye. Many had been questioned, and alibis had been checked as well as they could. It was rare if any of them could remember where they were when Mary Caldwell was beaten to death. The coroner said the man was missing his left eye. From the state of Mary’s hands and nails, the possibility of the person having other scars near the other eye was high. Marshall had finally resigned himself to it being a vagrant passing through, but with this second Caldwell woman missing, initial doubts began to resurface.

Squeaks took no time in visiting her father in his room. She talked about her day, which felt better than the day before. She said that Kip was there once more, but would not be tomorrow. She would be on her own, come morning.

As she sat and ate her dinner with him, she said, “I’m going out this evening.” Clyde Dorset huffed out his displeasure, causing pain in his leg as he twisted about.

“Who are you going out with? You are not taking the carriage alone, young lady.”

“Yes, father you are right. I am not taking any carriage from here at all, and driver Kip invited me to ride footman tonight. He has an elegant affair and a client to drive.”

“He asked you to go with him? Does he need a footman so badly that he has to ask you?”

“Father, you are making me sound unworthy. No, he is going to teach me about night driving.”

“But you are riding as rear footman. Do you even know how to do that?”

“Father, I have been with you constantly, for many a year now. I open doors. That is it. There is no baggage. How hard can it be?”

“We use no rear footman. How is he going to teach you with you on the back?”

“I will ride on the bench until we pick up his fare.”

“You cannot wear His Lordships livery, you know.” Clyde couldn’t imagine Squeaks wanting to ride in the rear.

“Yes, I know, but I think Jimmy has a black footman livery I can wear.”

“Men’s clothes? Sweetheart, no woman does that. Do you have a skirt you will wear over it?”

That was the signal that her father would approve.

 

#

 

It was quarter past the hour when Kip rolled into the back of the estate in The Queen Mary. He had not expected Squeaks to go with him but thought she would be there to decline. He descended from his perch to talk with one of the grooms.

Calling out to one, “Is Miss Dorset about?”

“Who?”

“He’s asking about me, Bradley,” said Squeaks appearing from inside the stable. It was a dark night, but Kip could easily tell she was dressed as one of Lord Stokes’s footmen, black tails and a top hat that barely kept from covering her eyes. It sat on the bridge of her nose.

As Squeaks walked towards Kip, he rolled his fist to cover his mouth and stifle the smile he had at seeing her in men’s clothes.

I feel like I am being ambushed. She is stealing my life.

 

“If I could only draw her strutting towards me, pulling at her gloves and smiling,” he sighed to himself.

She walked straight to him and peered into his smiling face. “Will this do? This is the best we have.”

Kip wanted to pick her up, hug her, and spin her around for the joy she was giving him. His heart raced at the sight of this noble urchin. He knew he was in love there and then. At that moment … his life changed forever. He would not find a way forward without her.

“I cannot believe you found a way to do this and a footman’s real livery. I am stunned. I shall never doubt you again. Yes, it will do most splendidly. Perhaps in future, I will buy a hat that fits you, but I assume you are trying to pass as a man. Of course, that will not work, but I love your look all the more.”

Squeaks smiled. “What do you mean I cannot pass for a man? I’ve tried very hard to hide my hair and keep this hat on. I have taken all the snickering from the staff that I can stand. My father is laughing himself to tears, upstairs. I was going to wear a skirt over the pants but thought that might embarrass you to your client. So, this is what I am. Does it look good with the footman uniform with these high boots covering the legs? You did not tuck your trousers into your boots tonight.”

“You may want to pull the trousers over your boots for this evening. We are in tails, and we dress a bit differently. Ahem … I only see one failed attempt at being a man, but you are more charming than I could have hoped for. I just may have to kiss you before the night is over.”

“I insist that will be my payment.  Where did I fail? Should I get my father’s watch and chain? Wave to my father. He is watching out of the window.”

“We will talk about this failure later,” Kip stated as he looked where Squeaks pointed and waved, showing a very broad smile.

Squeaks made Kip turn in a circle to appreciate his effort of elegance. “You look most handsome, Sir Kip.”

He bowed to her. “Would madam like to see the coach interior?”

“Madam would.” Squeaks followed Kip to The Queen Mary, and he opened the polished brass door handle. He pointed out the stepping mechanism, which was shining and well oiled. Squeaks liked the broader step that it offered the ladies in fancy shoes. She entered and sat on the most comfortable seat she could imagine. Seats on both sides. They were much softer than the traditional horsehair-stuffed seating. Overwhelmed with fragrance, she touched the flowers in the vases on each side of the coach. There was an embedded torch lamp that could be lit but seldom was. Also, a window at the back with a courtesy drape to be unfurled if one wanted privacy.

“Kip, I have never seen a finer coach, including His Lordship’s. This is exquisite. You are exquisite. This is a fairy tale for me, and to think I will be part of it.” Squeaks left the coach as time was wasting, and she asked Kip where she would stand later and what he wanted her to do. Was she to open doors or was his client expecting him to do it? Was she just for show?

Inside, Kip was bursting with emotions. His stomach was jittery with excitement. Her breasts were her failure, which is something he never thought he’d hear himself say. She neglected to bind them down if she wanted to pass as a male. But it was too endearing to correct. His selection of coach and horses had meant the world to him for over a year, but none so much as this moment in time, seeing her elated face.

“Miss Squeaks, since you are dressed appropriately in your footman tails, you may ride rear footman or second driver. You will look spectacular in either position. I shall open the door as they enter, you may open the door when they exit. Do not forget to extend your arm if the lady exits first.”

“Oh yes. Thank you. I am so excited. I will ride rear footman going and second driver when leaving. Is that all right?”

“More than all right, Miss Squeaks.”

“Should you call me that tonight or Dorset?”

“I think Squeaks as you wish to be called and it will separate you from your father. You will not pass for a man, so no need to call you Dorset.”

“Is it because I don’t have hair on my face? I tried to pull my hair down by my ears, but it looked foolish.”

“Thank you for the trouble you have gone to. It is a little more than facial hair, but I am glad you do not look like a man. I will be proud to have you with me.”

“Really? You’re not just kind, are you?”

“Well, I hope at the very least I am kind, but it is more personal than that.” Kip stared at her a moment longer. “I think we should leave now.”

Squeaks waved to her father and walked toward the back of the coach. As she stepped up, Kip showed her the handholds, as there were holdings for two rear footmen. She was to stand at the right side. He would rein on the left, keeping the coach balanced.

“Are you sure your legs can take it? It will be two ten-minute rides, and you will need spring in your knees and thighs.”

“I will do it. Have faith. This is a fantasy I’ve had for many years.”

“Somehow, I believe you will. Let us depart.”

Kip backed away, holding that image in his mind of her standing rear footman. He never wanted that to leave him. He would draw her tonight when he got home. “Squeaks, look at me.” She stopped fiddling with her gloves and turned towards him. “Now smile.” She gave him the world just then. “Perfect. Let us away.”

Kip sprung to the box, took the reins, let loose the brake and looked back at Squeaks. “Ready?”

“More than you’ll ever know,” she answered loudly.

Turning with a big smile, Kip ruffled the reins, Squeaks waved to her father, and the horses began their slow pace of starting. He never wanted to jerk the head of his rider by starting them too fast.

On their way, Kip looked back at Squeaks several times, and at one point, he broke into a laugh. Most of the time, he could only see a hat. She was holding herself on with one hand and keeping her hat down with the other. Tears came to his eyes from the sight of this, and the laughter that he had not felt for so long.

I feel as if my spirit is coming home.

Kip pulled up to the peerage-owned flat and jumped down to wait.

“Should I get down, too?” lightly called Squeaks.

“No, stay your stand. You look regal to the client.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see she was ensuring her hat was correctly placed.

The butler opened the door for the couple. The woman took her husband’s arm and proceeded to the coach.

Kip bowed as they neared. “Good evening, Lord and Lady Astaire.”

“Good evening, Kip. I see you have a footman tonight. Thank you. What’s his name? The Lord asked as he entered the coach.”

“Squeaks, milord.”

“What?”

“Squeaks, sir.”

“Squeaks? That wouldn’t be Stokes’s Squeaks, would it?”

“Yes, milord. It would.”

“You chaps do have an exciting life.”

“Yes, milord.” Kip closed the door and returned to his bench. He waited momentarily for the sign to begin. Hearing the knock of a cane, he started.

Squeaks thought she could not smile any wider. The excitement was overtaking her. Watching Kip maneuver his team was a dream. He was extremely skilled. She hardly felt herself sway. When they arrived, it was her turn to exit the couple, and she began the procedure in her mind. Should she wait for a signal to approach the door? No, that was only when arriving home. She would open the door quietly, let down the steps, and extend her arm if the lady exited first. What if an event had footmen was attending the coaches? Should she insist herself? She knew she would not if she were the driver, but she wasn’t. She was in a dither. Squeaks did not move as they made their way there. She knew her breasts were jiggling against the rear window of the coach. She must tell Kip about what was happening. She began to giggle to herself, which made her breasts jiggle faster. She prayed no one inside noticed. She pressed herself harder against the glass to stop them from bouncing about. As a rear footman, her chest area should exceed the height of the coach. Squeaks wondered how silly she looked. She was a dwarf rear footman, not likely to be found in nature.

As the coach was slowing down to stop, Squeaks jumped off the back and appeared at the coach door before the event footman. She prepared her smile and opened the door. She let down the step and stepped back, holding the door at its widest angle. The man exited first. She bowed.

“Good evening, Squeaks.”

She was stunned that he spoke her name.

“Good evening, My Lord and Lady.”

“I quite enjoyed my view.”

“Your view, sir?”

He laughed and walked on.

Kip had been watching her the whole time. It was his reputation he was modestly risking tonight. View?

Squeaks closed the door and returned to her post.

Kip pulled away from the front and headed towards the driver’s area. There were more than twenty other teams. He saw two of the apostles. The looks he was getting from the other drivers had him sitting proudly with a rear man. Wait until they found out, he thought to himself.

 

Lord Stokes tapped on the door to Clyde Dorset’s room.

“Enter. Your Lordship. To what do I owe this honor?” he asked, sitting up straight in his bed.

“May I ask what is going on with our Squeaks? She may think that I do not know what she is doing, but she would be wrong.” He smiled.

“Am I wrong in thinking that this is a night off for her?”

“No, she is perfectly permitted to do as she pleases, once I release her for the day. I would like to know what she is doing tonight. I know she is with Kip. I trust and respect that driver, but what is her motive?”

“Sir, she desperately does not want to make any mistakes driving tomorrow night for you. She has had little practice at night. Kip offered to teach her.”

“I see. She is doing this for me, is she?”

“Honestly, sir, I would say yes. Although I do think there is more motive there than she realizes. Being a father, my judgment may be biased. I feel comfort in the fact that should Kip find a regard for her, which I think he has, his intentions will be all that they should be.”

“Clyde, you and I have watched this young, crawling, squeaking baby rise to a lovely striking woman. I know you have always been first in her heart, and I have hoped I have been close behind. I find it difficult to allow another man in with us. What is your thinking?”

“I am thinking you have been a second father to her and feel the pains of your child becoming an adult and wanting to control her own destiny. It is life, milord. We have been lucky to have her as long as we have. She has been hidden away on this estate. The road has opened, now, and she has tasted freedom. I know she loves it here, and nothing will pull her from my or your side unless it is the strong love of a man. This is natural and right, as much as we dislike it. All we can do now is to ensure the man who takes her from us is worthy of her.”

“Clyde, it sounds like you have been giving this a lot of thought. You are preparing yourself. Good on you.”

“Sir, there is little to do, lying here, but think of her out there. That leads to further realizations.”

“And you know this driver Kip fairly well and like him?”

“Sir, of all the drivers whom I know, he lives by a high moral standard. He has a good education that he tries to hide. I wish I knew why. He has been reared in a family that values honor above all else. His professional standing in the trade cannot be exceeded. He is well-liked and respected. As any man would protect a woman from harm, Kip is fiercely involved in the safeguard of young women. I have heard this from other drivers. He is driven in that respect. Again, I wish I knew why.  She is a lucky young lady if his feelings are sincere.”

“Well, we must ensure that they are,” Lord Stokes said, rising from Clyde’s bedside. “I am well enjoying the remarks about my driver from the other Lords. It seems I am not as stodgy as I once was,” he laughed.

“I am indeed happy to hear she has not embarrassed you.”

“That could never happen, even if she fails at this driving. Her bravery holds a significant place in many people’s minds.”

“Are you not being a little biased yourself, milord?

They both laughed as Lord Stokes walked out of the room.

 

Before Kip could get down to the ground, Squeaks was there asking if she did well.

“From all I saw and heard, you were perfect. What was the comment His Lordship said about ‘the view’?”

Other drivers were arriving to know about the footman more than his horses this time.

“I will tell you later, Kip.”

“Please be sure to do so. I must know what my rider is thinking.”

Marc arrived first. “Kip, you brought a footman tonight. Who was your fare? He’s a bit short if you ask me, and he needs a better fitting hat.”

“Marc, I would like to introduce you to Squeaks, Lord Stokes’s female driver.”

“What?” Marc looked her up and down.”

“Bloody hell, if she isn’t. You lucky bast … ahem. Nice to meet you, Miss Squeaks. We have been waiting for this day, and of course, The Almighty brings you to us?”

“Pardon me?”

Kip laughed. “I’ll explain later. This is Marc, one of my best friends I was telling you about. He was the first driver I met when arriving in London. He took my coin and pulled me under his wing.” They all laughed.

“Darn, I cannot believe this, my man. How … how did this ever come to be?”

Other drivers were arriving, and the voices grew louder. Kip waited for all he could see to arrive.

Kip quickly pulled Squeaks up to his bench. “Drivers, may I have your attention. And I know I do,” he laughed, as they did. “This is Miss Rebecca Dorset, daughter of Clyde Dorset; driver for Lord Stokes. His Lordship gave her the name Squeaks, and she would prefer to be called that or Dorset. She has been training to be a driver for…” he looked at Squeaks, “…for many years. Her father has broken his leg, and she is now first driver for His Lordship. She has had little experience reining at night, and she must drive her master tomorrow evening. She is here to learn. Tonight, she is my responsibility; she is my employed footman. If there are any issues, tell them to me.”

Someone from the rear shouted, “Is she single?” “Can she drive footman for me?”

“I will not speak for her. She is a professional driver, so I want you to treat her as one of us, which is what she wants, too. Just watch your language around her. If you are caught short, please take care of that privately. Thank you.”

Kip asked her to stand on the bench, so everyone could see her in the dark.

“Oh Kip, you’re shining a light on me. I don’t think I want this.”

“Squeaks, what happened to ‘I must get through this or twenty years is wasted’? This will get a lot of that out of the way, and I am here with you.”

“All right. Questions then?”

“Everyone, I know you men are gentlemen; at least that is what Squeaks has been told. She is willing to answer questions for a short time. She is very aware of the novelty she is to all of us.”

“Kip, give me the whip, please.” Squeaks said loud enough causing all the men to laugh.

The questions went on for an hour. The drivers were enamored with her. She had won each and every one of them. However, she still knew she had to prove herself to be considered a brother … or would that be a sister?

Finally, they dwindled away, all except Marc. Kip jumped down to stretch his legs. Squeaks followed.

“Kip, on our way here, I thought about the event footman, and should I open the door? As you saw, I jumped off and insisted myself. Was that all right?”

“Yes, being an independent, you have no allegiance to the rider if there are event footmen about, so it would matter not who opened the door. Staff rear footmen usually want to open their master’s door. What was that remark about the view from His Lordship?”

“I am glad you cannot see me blush. There is an issue we had not thought about.”

“And that would be what? I think I thought it all through.”

“Can I speak in front of Marc? It is embarrassing.”

“Whatever you say to me that isn’t too personal, you can say in front of Marc and the other apostles.

“Apostles, The Almighty? You said you would explain.”

“I will later; now what about this ‘view’?”

“We never thought about my breasts,” she blushed.

“I am not sure that is exactly true.” Kip was holding back a huge smile. “What was the problem, do you think?”

“It seems, with my height, they jiggle against the glass rear window.”

Kip turned his back to her so she wouldn’t see his beaming face. His eyes darted to Marc, who turned to look at him with the same expression.

“Are they that humorous?” Squeaks asked. “It’s not like I can leave them at home.”

“Miss, please forgive me,” said Marc. “In my life, I would never have expected to hear that as a driver, and I have heard it all.”

Now, Squeaks was laughing.

“I made a spectacle of myself and embarrassed Kip.”

“Squeaks, I am sure if anyone was embarrassed it was you. If this happens again, we will find a lift for you.”

“Suppose Lord Stokes hears of this?”

“He is a man like any other.”

“And that means what, exactly?”

“Squeaks, don’t make me explain that,” Kip pled.

“Next time they will be bound tightly.”

“Squeaks, if Lord Stokes doesn’t mind that you helped me tonight, it will become known that you are a woman. We are not trying to hide that fact; you know?”

How could anyone not fall in love with this breathtaking fearless female?

“I thought maybe you might be. That is why I left the skirt behind.”

“Listen, Squeaks, I asked you if you wanted to come along, knowing full well you would be known to all as a woman. I had not expected you to be able to accept, but still, I was prepared for both of us. I am proud to have you on board.”

“He is, miss. It is rare who he lets ride rear.”

“If you wish, I will speak with him.,” offered Squeaks. “I will apologize.”

“No, let us not bring it up any further.”

Kip sighed. “I am almost sorry this has been settled. The conversation has been quite entertaining. I admit, I thought I had figured everything, every move, every footfall, but so help me; your breasts never entered my mind … in that regard.”

“I am curious,” remarked Squeaks.

“About what?”

“Could I ask Marc to stand rear, and I get in the coach? You are too tall, Kip, for this.”

“At your service, my dear.” Marc climbed to rear footman.

Squeaks entered the coach. Kip knew what she was doing and laughed so hard he was about to bring up his dinner.

Inside, Squeaks found disappointment. The glass came to Mark’s mid-thighs, but no higher. She left the coach.

“Disappointed, Miss Squeaks?”

“Yes,” she pouted.

“Don’t you think that was a bit unladylike?”

“You don’t know many ladies, do you?” she coughed out laughing. “I was a driver checking the views presented to my rider. Suppose I have Lady Stokes and a footman?”

“Oh, I see. Research, was it? I think you have a point. I should know what my rider is seeing. Would you mind?”

“Mind what?”

“Would you mind returning to your post?”

“Some gentleman, you are!”

“I am the same as you. Researching.”

Squeaks walked back to her post. She stepped up. She heard laughter and a voice saying, “A little more to the left, please.” Squeaks jumped off the rear.

“Thought you had me, didn’t you?”

“I believe I will not comment on that.”

“I think I will leave you two,” Marc said, tipping his hat and leaving.

“Marc, before you go, did Kyle get the message about seeing Inspector Marshall?”

“I believe the Inspector found him first. He’s probably there now.”

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