The Noble Coachman Chapter 10

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Chapter 10
The Haunting

 

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

“Kip did this . . . from memory?”

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

“He seems to have a gift.”

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

“I assume you said yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not really.”

“What does that mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you attracted to him?”

“Yes.”

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

“Yes. Very much and often.”

“Then you fancy him.”

“Should I tell him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, he’s been a complete gentleman.”

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

“What have you there in your hand?”

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

“A picture?”

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

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

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

“Kip, you say?”

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

“Does he drive a Lord in the morning?”

“No, he comes just for me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have not heard of his horses.”

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

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

“I will be excited to tell you, sir.”

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

“What is it, milord?”

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

“No, sir. Not where you go.”

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

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

“For women, too?”

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

“And now?”

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

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

“I hope you are not embarrassed, milord.”

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

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

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

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

“You knew of this affair?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#

“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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