The Noble Coachman Chapter 12

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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.”

The Noble Coachman Chapter 10

The Noble Coachman – Amazon Kindle

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.

 

#

“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.

 

The Noble Coachman Chapter 8

The Noble Coachman 2.99 Amazon

Chapter 8
The Rest of the Family

 

Trevor was seated in the pub when his father entered after his day in Parliament. Rather than wave him over, he let his father discover him. Kip doubted if many people from this part of town knew what his father looked like. He stood as his father arrived.

“I hadn’t expected to see you so soon, but I am glad I have, son.”

A serving woman came over to take the order. “What may I get for you gents?”

“Please, let me order,” Kip suggested.

“Very well.”

“We’ll have two pints and two beef sandwiches,” Trevor smiled at his father.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten or tasted this meal. You like it; I assume. Oh, Gus will be visiting soon. He’s anxious to see you.”

“Good. This is one of my meals when out.”

“Which is how often?” Lord Caldwell laughed.

“Actually, quite often, but I do cook.”

“I went to see the other Caldwell family yesterday,” said Lord Caldwell. “They do look a bit familiar, but they are quite far from us – somewhere down my grandfather’s line. I believe he’s a second son, of a first son. It’s quite sad over there. Lilith is officially missing. No ransom note. Her clothes are home; no eloping is being considered. It’s grim, Trev.”

“I wanted to talk about a few other Caldwell members. If there is some conspiracy to our family, I should be aware of them. Tell me about your brothers.”

“This could take a long time, son.”

“For now, just be brief about where they are, what they do, and are their cousins I don’t know about.”

“I believe you met my brother, Hamilton. He has two sons. Hamilton remains in the banking business in Manchester, which now seems to be making him quite wealthy with all this new machine industry flowing into that city. His oldest son, also named Hamilton, is following in his father’s path. I don’t think you have seen either of them since you were very young. Hamilton’s other son, Gregory, went into the legal profession. He is most likely a barrister if he hasn’t made it to his judgeship, yet. I think my brother has a grandchild or two, but how many and their names; I am afraid I have forgotten.”

“You have another brother I remember. He left home early.”

“I did, yes. He was born second and could not accept that he would never hold the title. Many years in our youth, I feared him. Nathaniel and my father argued often. He was wild and remained irate. Your mother called him feral. We know he caused the staff almost unbearable anxiety. We lost several excellent servants. One was a pretty young woman whom he favored more than most. It came to our knowledge that she was with child because of him. We always thought she left on her own, but one day she was gone. God only knows what she endured. Upon hearing of this too late, which the staff was afraid to mention, your grandfather asked him to leave. Your sister had just been born. Nathaniel was given money to live on and left, taking his valet with him. Within a few years, his coach was stopped by highwaymen. Possibly being drunk, we believe, he fired upon them and was killed during the robbery. There is little more I know about that.”

“What happened to his driver and valet?”

“I am not sure about the driver. He could have been part of the gang. We invited the valet back to Caldwell Hall, but he had a love interest by then and stayed in London. All that was years ago. We never spoke of him again. I have at no time met my other nephew Gregory either. If they have families of their own, I know not. Hamilton and I are amiable brothers to each other and parted ways peacefully. He knows how very busy I have been, and I assume he has no time either. We write at the holidays, but that is as far as it goes. He did send your sister a gift at her ‘coming out.’”

“You’ve never told me much about Nathaniel,” Kip remarked.

“Son, we talked sparingly about him most of his life. I believe your grandfather did more covering up for him, too. He was an embarrassment to the family. It is conceivable that he made enemies, but that would have been many years ago, now.

“Have you heard the rumor about Lord Stokes having a female driver?” Trevor asked.

“Yes. I am afraid Stokes is taking the brunt of some banter in the house by his friends. I believe she was born into his service, and he has taken to her since she could walk. Her father is Lord Stokes’s driver for over twenty years, but you probably know that. The daughter grew up wanting to drive like her father. I believe Stokes gave up when she was a young teen and told her she could. She has been riding with Dorset; I hear. I guess the time is getting near, and she never changed her mind, which he actually believed she would. I think that’s how the story goes. Have you seen her?”

“Yes, this morning. It was the second time we’ve talked. Her father broke his leg last evening. She is reining, with a footman riding the rear, but she was alone in the box.”

“She can turn a team of two? Well, the day has come for her, has it? Wait until I see him. Is she pretty?”

“Stunning would be my word.”

“Oh, stunning, is she? Someone with whom you would not mind crossing the class lines to know better?” His father laughed.

Ignoring his father’s slight, Kip continued. “I followed her today. She is quite skilled.”

“Followed her? What kind of son have I raised?” he laughed again. Earl Caldwell secretly was elated that his son might be returning to the man he remembered.

“Lord Stokes doesn’t know about me, does he?” Asked Kip.

“I don’t know about you, son. How could he? I cannot finish this sandwich if you continue to make me chuckle.”

“I would like to see more of her, Father. I thought I should let you know in the event she accepts my calling on her.”

“Do you call in the lower classes? I am sorry, that was terribly rude and unfair, but you are making me laugh, and here I am so happy to hear you looking forward to seeing a woman.”

“You are correct, Father, you don’t know about me,” Trevor agreed.

Earl Caldwell scratched at his beard, “I’ll tell you there is to be a special dinner invitation this Saturday. Someone is announcing an engagement or some other event. Many of us will be attending. I did not plan on going, but if Lord Stokes accepts, I will, also. That’s the best I can do, son. You will drive me.”

Kip finally blushed in front of his father. He had never done that for anyone.

“I can hardly wait to see this beautiful young lady driver.”

“Father, somehow, I doubt you ever will. You are the upper class, remember. You keep saving the realm, and we’ll keep seeing that you do.”

They smiled at each other as if a broken bond had been renewed.

“Tell Augustus I will see him while he is here.”

“He will be overjoyed. Augustus won’t tell you or show it, but with you, Mary, and myself away, he has been abandoned, so to speak. I ask him to London as often as I can. He’s a young man. The young are here, in this city.”

“That never once entered my mind. I have been quite selfish it seems.”

“No, son. Don’t feel that way. We both knew that if you had not walked away when you did, you would be lost to us, forever, as an upstanding man. Our only hope has been that you would see there was nothing you could do to save her that day.”

“After nearly a year, it has been only recently that I feel life flowing into my lungs again. I am now faced with learning the art of wooing. This will not come naturally to me.” Kip laughed.

 

#

 

“What did His Lordship want, Squeaks?”

“He asked about my day. I told him about talking with Kip and meeting many other drivers. He gave me another talk. Then he complimented me on getting around that horse that was rearing on the other side of the road. He said I did a grand job.”

“I am so proud of you. Perhaps, I can retire early.”

“Would you do that, Father?”

“No, you silly child.” Clyde laughed. “But I think you may be allowed to be the second driver and no longer waiting in training.”

Squeaks blushed. “I don’t know if you heard Kip yesterday calling me the driver regent. We both laughed at that.”

“No, I did not hear that. However, you are no longer regent; you are installed as the first driver right now.”

“Father, you had days off to do what you wanted, didn’t you?”

“What’s this? Twenty years you have wanted to drive the coach and are now looking for a day of rest?” Clyde smirked.

“Oh no, I want to drive more than anything. Even so, I don’t think His Lordship will allow me to do it every day. I want to make plans for my day away.”

“Away? Away, where? Oh, I know. You still want to drive but another coach with other horses, hmm?”

“You knew I was going to say that.”

“Yes, but I knew that because of Kip. I had no idea what your answer would be unless it really was for his team and coach.”

“I think these feelings are more than that. I would like to know if it is. I need to assess it, somehow.”

“Assess it? What kind of foolishness is this you speak? Are you talking about love? You don’t even know the man.”

“I know! So how do I get to know him? How did you get to know mother?”

“I thought you said you’ve have had all these talks with the servant women. I do not believe I can tell you how YOU will tell. I think you just know, and you are nowhere near that stage.”

“I do have some sense, Father. I know he is not going to propose or anything. Suppose he is a nice gentleman wanting to be friends?”

“I would be quite happy with that.”

“Suppose I want to know him? How do I get him to see me?”

“Young lady, he definitely sees you. I guess what you are asking is what type of mistakes you must not make. What could you do to turn him away?”

“Yes, that’s it. Such as what, Father? He drives so many beautiful women; I doubt I hold a candle to any of them.”

“You’re suddenly not my little girl anymore.” Clyde became saddened.

“Father, I will always be your daughter and love you. Someday, you knew you would share me, didn’t you?”

“I gave it as little thought as possible, but the day is shortly upon me; I sense.”

“I don’t want you telling me silly stuff to drive a gentleman away from me.”

“Do you think I would do that to you; dearest Squeaks.”

“Well …” she said, looking down at her tapping foot. “You might.” She laughed.

“My only goal in life is to see that you are happy and content. I want to know that you have a fine man in your life when I am near my end. He doesn’t have to be rich, or important. He just has to love you as I do.”

“I want that, too, Father. I want more than that.”

“I think I believe you. I see your flower is about to bloom. It will not wither as I once feared.”

“So what mistakes could I be making if I want to keep his attention?”

“I do not think you can make any mistakes if you remain yourself. You are a wee bit headstrong, but that may be inevitable, living with a lord of the realm. This house has always had high standards and expectations.”

“Do you think Lord Stokes will want to approve of a man I want to marry someday?”

“He will take an interest. If he is a gentleman with income, you will most likely not be questioned on anything. You will not pander to those other types, anyway. Just be yourself. You know how to be polite. Don’t show a gentleman what you are not. Do not mislead him. Whatever your life will be with another person; you want to be able to be yourself, and he will too. There will be some compromises, but few if the love is really there.”

Squeaks had tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Father. You make it sound easy.”

“With your looks and brains, it will not be too easy for you. You will be admired and sought after by many, and decisions may come hard.”

“Suppose I meet a driver, who I like – will he not be intimidated by me?”

Clyde laughed. “Are you that good of a driver to intimidate another professional driver?”

“I guess that’s not what I mean, and he may not be a coachman.” She frowned.

“Are you saying he will not like you being in a man’s world with lots of other handsome men admiring you?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“I cannot answer that. It will depend on the man. It will take a lot of trust on his part. It will be difficult for any man being in love with you, you know. He will have to be endowed with much confidence in himself. You must always be honest, and I have no doubt that you will.”

“Thank you, Father. I will go collect our meal.”

“Too late,” someone called from the stairway.

 

Kip picked up fares until he spotted one of his apostles. It was nearing dusk when he found Marc. Kip nodded, and they both pulled to a side street and parked.

“I’ve been looking for you all day, Kip. Kyle had a nice look at the coach and just a glance at the driver. He was not familiar with either one. They’re new in town. He said the coach was old and hadn’t been cleaned. Kyle figured it came from quite a distance before picking up the young lady. Is she still missing?”

“Yes … well, she was as of this morning. Do you know where Kyle is now?”

“Sorry, mate. Haven’t seen him since then.”

“If you do see him, ask him to see Inspector Marshall at the Met. I will tell him of Kyle, and they will come looking for him.”

“I’ll spread the word. I heard the lady driver was alone today. She was driving Lord Stokes.”

“Yes, I spoke to her. She has a house footman riding the rear step. He is her protection. I wish us all to keep vigilant of her. I followed her for a short time and found she is well skilled.”

“If any of us was to meet her first, why did it have to be you?” Marc kidded.

“When I last saw her this morning at the Parliament Building, she had just been introduced to another thirty drivers, mostly in-service.”

“What are we to call her?”

Kip laughed before he could get the words out. “Apparently, being born into service, His Lordship started calling her Squeaks, and she is still called that today. I think her father said her name was Rebecca.”

“Squeaks? Is she pretty?”

“No, she’s beyond that.”

“Oh, I see. Does the old Kipper have an interest?”

“Any man who meets her will have an interest. I may have the first edge because of these beauties,” Kip said, patting the horse closest to him.”

“You know; she’ll only want you for Soldier and Warrior. Can you live with that?” Marc laughed.

“Bloody right, I can.” Kip roared. He didn’t want his fresh emotions showing to anyone just yet. He played the game of men.

 

 

 

Portrait of a Lady of Fire – Dec 6

As Orpheus led Eurydice out of Hades, why did he turn around to look for her just before getting out, and thus lose her forever? Was it because he made a poet’s choice that the memory of his love was enough, or was it perhaps Eurydice herself who called him to turn? The Greek myth is at the center of Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival this year and had its U.K. premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. Sciamma was invited to speak about her career as a film director and screenwriter at the festival’s Screen Talk, and discussed further her latest film.

Set in 1760 Brittany, on the northern coast of France, Portrait of a Lady on Fire recounts a beautiful love story between two young women. The film explores the different steps from desire to love and then eventually how one lets go until this love becomes a memory.

The film opens in an art class, as a female tutor, Marianne (played by Noémie Merlant), teaches young female artists how to look at their subject in order to draw. Marianne is a young female artist, who learnt her trade from her artist father, painting portraits of the wealthy for a living. The title of the film is the title of a painting she made, which one of her students has taken up to their classroom. The painting depicts a female figure in a darkened background with her dress on fire. As Marianne gazes longingly at her painting, the film sets about to tell us who this mysterious figure is, and how this painting came about.

Marianne met the lady on fire when she was invited by a countess (played by Valeria Golino) to paint a portrait of her daughter, Héloïse (played by Adèle Haenel), who has just come out of a convent after the death of her sister. The mother intends this portrait for her daughter’s betrothed who lives in Milan. As Héloïse refused to pose for the previous painter, the mother asks Marianne to pretend that she is a walking companion for her daughter, and to draw her from memory without Héloïse’s knowledge. Sciamma takes her time to reveal the face of Héloïse. Anticipation sets in, much like Marianne, who is eager to discover her subject.

However, cleverly, Sciamma does not make her protagonist fall in love with her subject on first sight, like so many films we have seen before. This is not the typical story of the painter falling in love, or lusting, over the image of the model. Marianne observes, scrutinizes Héloïse’s face, but fails her first drawing of her. The film suggests that desire between the two women does not begin when Marianne gazes at Héloïse to capture her every facial detail to memory. Desire rather starts when Héloïse returns her gaze. After Marianne reveals her real purpose, Héloïse agrees to pose for her. It is at that moment, as Héloïse sits for Marianne to paint her that desire rises between the two women.

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