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 Noble Coachman – Chapter 16

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 16
The Picnic

 

A messenger arrived at Caldwell Hall in London, handing a note to the footman. He passed it to Chandler, who took it to Lord Caldwell. Upon opening it, he asked his Butler who Richards was.

“He’s the head footman when I am away.”

Lord Caldwell began to read the note.

 

Your Lordship,

Miss Lilith Caldwell was found moments ago in the ice house as Miss Mary. It appears she has met the same fate. The Constable is on his way. Although life has left her, the doctor is upstairs with her now. The staff sends their sincerest regrets.

Regards, Richards                      

 

Morgan led Kip through the house toward the back, where he would find Squeaks waiting. “Squeaks, you look like a little doll belonging to a child. Thank you for wearing that for me today. Here, let me take that basket.” He carried it to the coach and set it inside on the floor.

“You are so feminine today, perhaps you should ride inside the coach.”

“No, I will ride beside you.”

“But you have a frock on!”

“I think I can manage. Was this not the day you would let me rein Warrior and Soldier?”

“Yes, but I had not expected you this way. I am quite overcome. Would you care to change and allow me a proper evening out at another time where you can wear your frock? I think I am going to insist. We may have a wind kick up, and although I may appreciate it, it might not bode well for others to see me holding down your frock.” He laughed.

“But I wanted to look like a woman for you.”

“Squeaks, from your head to your toes, shows me that. You are always a woman to me. Please change. Perhaps, you have riding clothes such as I wear.”

“Are you quite decided on this?”

“I am.”

“Very well. I will be a few moments.”

As she walked away from him, Kip was struck with her slim build. The shapeliness of her hips and bust and legs were every bit female. He had fallen in love with her heart, her mind, and her face, never seeing her very feminine attributes. How unmanly of him, he thought to himself, and then laughed at the ridiculousness of such a notion. He had never known any woman who didn’t wear a frock. And now he was asking for her to change out of hers.

Squeaks was still breathtaking to Kip when she returned, wearing riding clothes and a dark green tam on her head. She was a pixie. At that moment, he thought of his sister. She had worn a tam when riding. Kip had seen few of those on women. Apparently, they could be a proper part of women’s riding apparel. He laughed when he saw her carrying a short crop with her.

“Are you off to the hounds, Miss Squeaks?”

“I might need this for you. My saddle is just in there,” she said pointing to the large stable door.

“Do you wish to ride today?”

“Can we do both? I brought apples for the horses.”

“Let me check.” Kip climbed to his bench and lifted it. “Yes, I still have my small saddle stored here. I think we can ride a bit, and I know just the place. Let me carry your saddle.”

He followed her into the barn. The depth of the stable surprised him. He started to wander down looking into all the stalls. “There must have been eight horses in here. Lord Stokes has eight horses?”

“No, he has ten. The wagon is out being used to collect firewood. I do not see it around here.”

“This is a mighty stable. He makes me jealous.”

“Someday you will have your Kipling line of livery, and then you can enjoy the pleasures of a fine stable.”

“One never knows, does one? Where is your saddle?”

Squeaks pointed to one hanging from a hook in the tack room. “There it is.”

“You ride astride?”

“Yes, another way father raised me. I am not sure it ever occurred to him, as I grew, to change it. There is no physical reason why I cannot ride astride.”

“Hmm… I have never had that conversation with anyone. Are you saying it couldn’t … it won’t…?”

“Yes, it can, to whatever you are embarrassed to ask. It’s a bit late, now. I’ve been riding astride for years. Can we go now unless you want a full accounting of the female body and riding?”

Kip, placed the saddle on the ground and folded his arms. Squeaks had started out the door and noticed he wasn’t behind her. She finally stopped and looked backward. “Why are you back there?”

“I am waiting for my full accounting you offered.”

He saw her blush.

“I don’t know you that well.”

Kip crooked his little finger.

She sighed and returned to him. “If you think I am going to ….” She felt his lips find hers. He walked her backward away from the door entrance to where no one could see them from the house.

Kip pressed her against the wooden stall door. He wrapped his arms around her, almost pinning her own arms to her side. He licked her lips over and over. His tongue pressed for entry, and she parted them for him.

She stiffened momentarily then softened to the gentle stroking of his tongue. Her struggle to free her arms abated.

He progressed from her mouth, wandering down her neck, kissing it and nipping here and there. Squeaks tilted her head back abandoning her inhibitions. Feeling her earlobe being suckled, she began to slide through his arms.

Kip smiled, backing his face away from her body as he held her by her waist.

“Thank you, Squeaks. That is quite a compliment. If you beat me with your crop, I had no feeling of it.”

Squeaks dropped her short whip. There was no reply from her, just as it had been at the pavilion that one night. He watched her eyes slowly open as if she had been in a dream.

“Shall we go, my sweets?”

“Sweets, I still like that,” she said in a raspy voice as she stumbled forward.

As his coach, pulled from the Stokes’ residence, Clyde hobbled back to his bed. There was a knock. It was Lord Stokes.

“Clyde, it looks like you have been out of bed. Looking out the window perhaps?”

“Yes, I admit I was.”

“You and I are like mother birds … unable to keep our chick from jumping out of the nest. I believe she is flying solo now. Anyway … enough of that. I wanted to tell you that I talked with Mr. Trevor Kipling before they left. I was most impressed by his manners, demeanor, and articulated words. He did admit to holding back something, which he would not tell me. He did impart some information that your daughter knows nothing of, and which he wishes to remain confidential. I gave him my word, but I am here to tell you that I like him very much. I believe whatever is behind the mystery to the man is nothing to fear. I am convinced that he loves our Squeaks, and come what may, he will protect her.”

“Thank you, sir. I would have done the same, but I am not in a position to do it from my bed. Here we are worried about Squeaks. I think we need to give some thought to what that young lad is in for with her. He has probably never seen the spirit she can display.”

“Quite true, Clyde. Whatever it is, I think he can handle her. He spoke of her naiveté, and perhaps she only thinks she may love him. He is prepared for her to realize her true feelings, which would not include him. He wants to be the first man for her to allow closeness, as, in his words, she needs to be nurtured and treated with delicacy. He has a fine mind. I wish my own son, wherever he is, can match this Kip someday.”

“Do you think when he said, ‘allow closeness’ means what it could mean?”

“I do not care to speculate on that. He will do right by her no matter what. He’s quite taken with her, and I do believe he is honorable.”

 

“Where are we going, Kip?” Squeaks asked as the wind refreshed her consciousness.

“Have you ever driven into a forest?”

“No. I’ve never been to a forest.”

“There is one about an hour’s ride northeast from here. I think we can picnic, let you drive the team, and we can ride the horses. We will also be very much alone. Does that worry you?”

“I believe you to be a gentleman, and I am safe with you. Am I wrong?”

“I didn’t feel very much like a gentleman the way I kissed you in the stable, I’m afraid.”

Squeaks was quiet. Her cheeks flamed red.

“I do believe you are blushing. It is most becoming on you. Your dimples look like cherries.”

“What did His Lordship want this morning?”

“Now, you must know the answer to that.”

“Nothing was mentioned to me. Several times you have told me that I should know something. I feel rather foolish at those times. I have emotions about a few things. I know what I very much like. Father doesn’t seem to be able to explain the feelings of love and how to recognize it. He says, ‘I will just know.”’

“You are right, Sweets. I have been remiss. You have me off balance with the person I’ve always known myself to be. When we are not driving, I will tell you of my feelings for you. I will not assume that you know them. As for Lord Stokes, he wanted to meet me. He thanked me for watching over you this past week and for the night training. He cares for you a great deal, and I am an unknown, who is taking you away today, for the first time. He wants to feel confident that I can protect you.”

“You’re tall and vigorous. You can protect me. Protect me from what exactly?”

“Probably protect you from myself. There is a big world out there with many different people. We are going to an area that we know little about. Who is going to protect me from you?”

“You will.”

“I’m not so sure I want that type of protection from anyone.”

 

Kip arrived at the outer rim of the vast forest. There were roads that crisscrossed through the dense woods. He turned onto a path and pulled to the side. He wanted to kiss the woman beside him but knew it would lead further than it should.

“Are you ready to rein Soldier and Warrior? They have been patiently waiting for your deft hand.”

“Like I’ve been waiting for yours?”

“Do you want the reins or not?”

“Oh yes, please.”

She won’t allow me to fight for control of myself.

“Do you want to sit right or center?”

“Do you mind if I sit center.”

“May I sit behind you?”

“Yes, of course. I will have more confidence if you were looking over my shoulder for a while.”

Kip moved back as far as he could, spreading his legs for her to fit in between them.

“I’m sorry. This is the best I can do, Sweets. We cannot have this.”

Squeaks looked at the situation. “Perhaps I will sit right.”

“No, I will move to the edge. You will sit center.”

“I … I …”

“You don’t have to say anything. That became quite obvious when I could not move further back. It was not intentional.” He should have known how it would look. He was just hoping to put his arms around her that way.

“Here are the reins. Take their heads and lead the way.”

“Walk on.” Squeaks ruffled the reins lightly. She thought it was too light a touch, but they responded.

“Kip, it was a very light touch on the reins. Are they reacting to the reins or the voice?”

“Both, I should think. They will react to the voice, but they only need a light hand to steer them. This type of horse is becoming very desirable because they can train well. If you read the old books, there are stories of the dedication of this horse to its rider four centuries ago. They were paired for life with their knight unless he was unfortunate. There is a myth that great warriors killed in battle return as great horses.”

“That is a fascinating story. I will hope to own one of these for myself someday. I would like to train one. I like training. He will dedicate himself to me.”

“You will be amazed when you ride one of them later today. What name would you give your own horse?”

“Oh, I’ve never given a thought to that. Let me think. By the way, how am I doing? Do they look nervous to you?”

“Sweets, you are doing an excellent job. Further ahead there are several small bridges and a few hard turns. After that is the last bridge. We will find an area near there to park. I will unharness them, and we will take them to the river to drink.”

“I have a name for my fabled horse.”

“Tell me.”

“Guess.”

“Guess?” Kip replied with incredulity.

“Well, you have told me their story of dedicating themselves to their master. They braved the battlefield with arrows and spears. I imagine a lot of them died during battle.”

“Yes, they did. They were almost wiped out. Eventually, full armor came along, and the knights became too heavy for these horses. Pestilence was next to take nearly all of them. That is why there are few, but coming back. So, your fairy-tale horse would be named Knight?”

“No, but I like that. They are as black as night, and they carried the knights. It may be better than my name.”

“Tell me your name.”

“I was thinking of Hero.”

“Hero! A splendid choice, if I do say so. Admiral is a good name as well as Knight. You are coming to the first bridge. I will be quiet.”

“I have never driven over an old wooden bridge before. Here we go.”

“Nothing extra to do, just keep them in the middle. They know wooden bridges. I said I was going to be quiet and just listen to me babble. Good. You came over that well. One thing to always know about your coach and team is how much wider your coach might be than your horses’ hindquarters. Some coaches are wider, and if you try to go over a narrow bridge just watching your team, you may lose a wheel off the edge. That would be catastrophic. Most of the coaches pulled by two horses are about the same width. Sometimes those large coaches, like touring coaches or those stagecoaches in the Americas, which all need four horses drawing, can be wider.”

“I wish I could live with you and know all you know.”

Kip opened his mouth to alert her to the next bridge but found himself stymied by her words.

“Here’s the next bridge,” Squeaks told an astonished Kip.

“Yes. Yes, I was just going to say that.”

“How much do these horses cost?”

“More than you have. Now watch the road.” The price of these horses would certainly add more questions that he was not prepared to answer, but truth be told they would cost an average lower-class worker around five years of wages or a London coach driver about four years for one of them.

“Can you see the turn ahead?”

“Yes.”

Kip sat back and folded his arms, gazed at the trees, hoping to give her a sense of confidence. He looked over at her profile. Her cheeks were ruddy from the wind.

“Can I take the pins from your hair?”

“Yes, if you wish.”

Kip pulled her tam off and stuffed it into his vest. He found a total of four pins. He pocketed them and again sat back watching the wind catch her long tendrils being blown about her face. There was a strand that caught on her moist lips. He pulled it from her face.

“Thank you.”

“I thank you. You are a vision, I must say. Am I allowed to say that?”

“What do you mean?”

“The other day I was overwhelming you with too much attention and compliments. Oh, here’s the hard turn.’

He sat up, although he had complete faith in her. She began to strain the reins in the turning direction. This was the motion he felt would forever prevent women from driving a team.

“Sweets, you need not pull so hard. These horses only need a light touch. They are not like your master’s horses.”
He went back to studying her hair. Now one was caught in her eyelashes. He slid over, putting his arm around her back and removing the wayward strand from her eyes with his other hand.

“Very nice, Sweets. One more and then a final bridge. You know … we make an excellent team.”

“I think so, too. I have thought about that several times.”

Kip wanted to ask her about that, but he would let it pass for now. She was concentrating, trying to give her lightest hand to their heads.

“I think I could let these reins go, and they would follow the road on their own.”

“Yes, they will, but eventually, they will stop if there is no one ruffling them to continue. And then there is the other action, which is to take off and fly.” Kip laughed, as that had happened to him as a young man.

“Where should I park?”

Kip sat up watching her hair begin to lie against her head. His arousal was painful.

“Just up the road is a small area to pull into.”

“How do you know about this place?”

“I brought a couple here, so the man could propose to his lady. He was aware of the area. I was not.”

“Squeaks, stop here. I will unharness the horses. Will you hold them while I push the coach backward? There is no turning room. We will park so that we can pull out easily.”

The two climbed down. Squeaks started looking over their rigging. It did not look too different from what she had been taught. She began loosening harness straps. Kip looked across the team, trying to watch her face as she studied the strappings. He could unharness blindfolded, so he did not need to watch what he was doing. All he could see was the top of her head. She was head height to Soldier’s back.

“How short are you, Sweets?”

“Don’t you mean to ask how tall I am?”

“I think I asked it correctly.”

“I am short compared to you, average for a woman, though.”

“I don’t think so.”

“How tall is an average woman?”

“Oh, about 5’5’’.”

“I am almost 5’1”.”

“That means I am three hands taller than you. In Stokes Castle, do you live in a toy box?”

“Are you going to carry me about on your shoulders?” she frowned but laughed.

“Sensitive about our height, are we?”

“I’m not, but I wouldn’t have thought you were,” she rebutted.

Laughing at that, “All right. Here are the reins.” Kip said, still chuckling at her comment.

Kip picked up the thill and easily rolled the coach backward.

“You make that look easy.”

“The wheels are heavily greased. Are you ready for a walk?”

“Yes, I’ll take this horse. Which one is he?”

“That is Soldier.”

“Give me a minute, I forgot something.” Kip handed the reins to her and went back to his box. Hoping she wouldn’t notice, he pulled a pistol from the box and slipped it into his pocket.

“Ready!”

Kip knew he could see the coach from the water’s edge. The last time he was here, the couple sat by the stream, and he stayed with his coach. He could see them if he wanted to, but he gave them their privacy, whether they knew it or not.

“Should I bring the basket with us?” he asked.

“It isn’t that far. Let’s leave it for a while. I would just like to sit by the water if the ground is dry.”

“The stream awaits,” he smiled.

Kip reached for her hand. Would she let him hold it while they walked? She did.

They walked in quiet, down to the bridge. Kip felt her small hand tighten around his fingers. He looked down at her, wondering what she was thinking. She was dwarfed by him on one side and Soldier on the other.

Kip wasn’t sure what happened, but he felt a sense of danger before he heard the sound. He grabbed at Soldier’s reins and shouted for Squeaks to run to the side of the road. Pulling bridles, Kip managed to move both horses off the road just as a flying coach and horses were on top of them.

“Are you, all right?” he shouted to Squeaks.

“Yes, Kip. And you and the horses? I thought Warrior might have been clipped.”

Dust from the road was still billowing in the air when Squeaks made it over to Kip. He handed her Soldier’s bridle and began to look over Warrior.

“He has been brushed by the wheel hub. Bloody idiots.” He squatted down to take a closer look. Relieved that no real harm was done, he let out a sigh. “He’s fine. I don’t think the skin is broken. Let’s get them to the river so I can wash the area.”

Kip didn’t know what Squeaks thought just happened. Was it the foolishness of a driver racing his team? Recalling back, Kip knew there had been an undeniable sensory expansion acknowledging the danger before he heard the coach. Immediately, he knew his sister was responsible for awakening his inherent protective reaction. Otherwise, a tragedy would have occurred. Moreover, the speed of that coach appeared suspicious.

By the riverbank, Kip soaked his handkerchief and wiped away the loose hair around Warrior’s abrasion. Using his hands, he inspected the leg bone, too.  Squeaks watched while she held on to Soldier lapping at the water.

“He’s fine. Our rest here will do him good, but he is well enough to pull us home.”

“What would you have done if Warrior was injured?”

Standing, shoving the handkerchief in his pocket, “I have never had that happen, but I would ride Soldier to the nearest town and rent a horse to pull with him. Warrior could travel behind, unhindered by the coach weight. Anything less, and I might have had to put a bullet in his head.” Kip literally shivered at the idea.

Kip mulled over again what had happened as the two horses slurped from the chilled stream.

“Find us a seat, Sweets. I will tie the horses and be with you in a moment.”

It was mossy and damp near the water’s edge. She traveled toward the inside of the forest and found a fallen tree. Sitting down on the leaf bed in front of it, Squeaks leaned against the log. She wondered what Kip thought about the charging coach. She had not been looking ahead, but down at her own hand holding Kip’s. They could have been seriously injured or worse, but Kip saved her first. The driver must have been a madman, or his master was in a furious hurry. That slight bend in the road could have hidden them until the last moment. It was an old coach, once used by a privileged family.

Kip sat beside her and took her hand once again. “You’re trembling.”

“Yes, I guess I am You could have been hurt, saving your horses. I was not looking ahead. I never saw it coming until you called for me to run. You saved all of us from a horrible accident.”

“Don’t give me that much credit. You will learn as a driver, that you will make quick decisions. In a second, you can visualize the impending problem and compensate for changing the outcome. We do that in life, Sweets.”

“We do? How?”

“Had you not spoken with Lord Stokes about a building regard that I have for you …”

“And mine for you, too.” Squeaks interrupted.

“With reacting first, you probably have avoided a lot of questions and worry by those men who love you. Here you are with me today. We are alone. We are not hiding from anyone. You and I are freely deciding to be together. Personally, I think you just want to be with my horses.”

“Kip,” Squeaks began looking at her hands, not into his face, “I think I love you. I am young and naïve and never had a romantic thought about a man, but I think of you all the time. I cannot promise that it is love because I don’t know how that feels. But I like how I feel with you. Friday night I felt so empty until I spotted you. I was almost mad that you had to be called over. I thought about that later and understood why you did that. These may be words a lady ought not to say.”

Kip moved next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulder ensuring her hair wasn’t caught under him. The breeze was fluttering through the long strands which he was intently watching. “Why … Sweets? Why was I not there immediately?”

He heard a small sniffle. Kip turned facing her profile, as she spoke peering at the moving water.

“You did that for my own reputation, didn’t you? You thought we needed to show some distance or rumors were sure to start. You did it for me.”

Kip was silent, still watching her face. She finally turned to face him. She was flushed. Her eyes were glistening, but she wasn’t crying.

Squeaks met his eyes and his smile, which was waiting for her.

“Are you not going to say anything?” She began to fret at his silence.

“Yes. I have been practicing something to say.”

“Practicing? Saying what??”

 

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

 

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

 

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

 

The tears rolled down her face as she listened.

“I’m sorry. Was that too personal?”

“No, it is beautiful. It is Byron, is it not?”

“Yes. I remembered the ‘raven tresses’ when seeing your hair. I have labored to remember it completely for you.”

“Why are you so nice all the time? I’ve never felt this comfortable before. When I am with you, it is a different world to me. Please do not play with my new feelings. It is challenging to wander through these blissful emotions. I want to enjoy them and not harden myself against them for fear of being hurt when they disappear. I am lost in this world of love and your romantic overtures.”

Kip heard words that only were in his dreams. He could not bring himself to interrupt the purest echoes resonating within him.

“The way you kissed me this morning in the stable caused new … well … I … there was much more awareness . . . umm …”

“Emotional feelings?” I must have her.

“More than that. It was something physical,” she said, embarrassed.

“Sweets, I think you are falling in love. I certainly know I have, but overtures; it will only be. You have changed my world, sweet lady. You know that you’re the breath of my life. You fill my senses. I wait from one moment to the next to see you, to hold you, to feel your hands touching me. I want to run my fingers through that long black mane you have. And I want to pleasure you beyond your own belief. Please don’t weep. I don’t know what to do when you weep. I’ll tell you one of the many reasons I love you more than there are words to explain it. Simply, I love you because you are you. You are Rebecca Dorset, a young lady raised by her father who allowed her spirit to fly. I’ve had my fair share of lady friends, and inevitably play the game of ladies. Oft times there is a myriad of meetings, both clandestine and proper before the final curtain is lifted. It is then that I see the true woman behind the expected shyness, who plays her games to hold my attention. Most of them are not interested in a long-term relationship. They merely want a man on their arm to take them places, and some solely want just intimacy. It is difficult for a man to find the perfect match for himself. I see none of those games in you, and I credit your father for that. It may not be from what he was teaching but rather what he wasn’t teaching you. Unknowingly, I believe he taught you what a man can understand about a woman, and made you uncomplicated. Men are common thinking and women are more complex. Had you a mother, I believe our situation would be very different and perhaps difficult at this point. With your naivete, spirit, bravery to achieve what you want, even though forever thought impossible, innocence and honesty, I feel I have known you my whole life. I dare any man to say these same words about his lady. You are an exception to every rule I’ve come to know about women, and I love you for it. I embrace the unexpected in you.”

“Your words are stirring my soul, I can’t think. My head cannot take it all in. I have this thrill of soaring when I am with you, yet I fear to fall.”

Kip faced her and pulled her into his arms during her sobbing storm. When their eyes met, the moment stood still. Before she could encircle his neck, his lips were upon hers. One kiss followed another and another until he roamed down her neck, which he had been yearning to taste. There he dwelled and licked her skin that was showing over her buttoned shirt. Her response to that was sensual. He returned to her mouth and parted her lips repeatedly.

He pulled her into his lap. As she opened to him, her tongue met his, and they salaciously intertwined. Occasionally, he would retract it and reenter. She ran her hands across the front of his vest, feeling the strength in his chest.

Kip left her mouth and began to nuzzle towards her cleavage and discovered no corset. There was nothing fitted there to cause him to cease. He was embarrassed that she might feel movement on her backside from his lap. A piece of innocence chipped away as she heaved a heavy sigh.

After a moment, he set her back down beside him and held his head in his hands. “I am destroying your innocence little by little. I don’t want this for us. I have never been obsessed with anyone as I seem to be with you, Rebecca. I’ve always been a gentleman until now. I am losing myself,” he said hanging his head. I am becoming just a man around you and no longer the gentle-man. “I am going to scare you away. Please forgive me for being so forward. This is totally improper.”

Squeaks had concern on her face. “What do you mean to do? We love each other.”

He had no answer that he could tell her.

“Do you want to love me?” she asked.

“Yes. Desperately. I want to love you slowly. I must take these beautiful steps with you so we can enjoy them longer. I can’t imagine anything more perfect and pleasurable that could happen for us in the rest of our lives. Down deep, I seem to want to brand you as my own property.” Kip stood, paced and threw his hands in the air as if asking God for permission. “I don’t even believe what I hear myself saying to you after such a short acquaintance. These should only be my personal thoughts. When you spoke of being wooed to death, that set something off inside. I knew I couldn’t live without you. I want to skip over the wooing and go straight to pleasuring you. You are making it far too easy. You are too free with the favors you bring to a man. We shouldn’t have it this easy. Men pay for the ease you are allowing. Can you see my confusion? Because I love you, I want to take you, and yet I hear myself saying, don’t permit me such access. These are things that only a mother teaches her daughter, for which I am glad you haven’t learned. It’s not you, sweets. It’s me. If you knew how you shall be one day, you would understand why I feel I always need to be in control of myself.”

“What can I do to help?”

“I can’t believe you are asking that question as if I had rights to you. I need to get through this on my own. Someday I hope you understand why that is important to me.”

“My father wants me to be happy above all else. I want to make you pleased. You are making me happy.”

“Yes, but this is wrong if left unabated in so many ways. We’re charting our course to a physical relationship, and I know it’s not what your father meant by happiness. If you were just any woman, I would have no cares. There is guilt here, and I have ruined my life once with guilt. I am afraid I will ruin yours. And even though the physical relationship is what we desire right now, there is so much more to loving someone. That’s what you have to know within yourself.”

“I don’t understand that.”

“I know you don’t. And you should know what I mean by that. It is so much you don’t know about love and about me. I am the experienced lover between the two of us. This is totally my responsibility, no matter how encouraging you are.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, but please do not discuss this with your father. The world has opened up to you too quickly. You attained your goal. You are meeting the world outside Stokes. You are interacting with men for the first time. These are intoxicating experiences for a young woman and all men.”

“Do not worry about that. Your kisses and attentions are making my body fully aware of where the next step could lead. I think I still have enough strength to say no, not yet.”

“I believe you think so, but you don’t. I am still not sure in my heart that you know what you want. As you said, this is all new, it’s more than pleasant, and it begs to grow. My horizon is to love you beyond life itself. This does not give me unlimited privileges with you. I have another life you know nothing of. Someday, when the time is right, I will tell you. You must know me in every way before you give yourself to me. That knowledge could change the way you feel toward me and the life I must live.”

“What are you saying, Kip?”

“I don’t know. I think I am talking more to myself than you. I hadn’t expected my advances to be this well received. Can we lay this discussion down? I will collect my sketch pad and the basket. I must reflect on this when I am alone, which up until now has done me no good at all.”

“No more kissing?”

“Not for a while, Sweets.” Kip walked through the woods toward his coach.

As he tramped through the thick leaves, he was aware of the fool he was making of himself. He had been with a woman recently; it was not a physical need driving him, yet he was acting like it. She was of age. She was receptive. She regarded him. Where was the nurture and delicacy he’d promised himself? Away from her, his plans seemed honorable and gentlemanly. With her, they all went to hell. He couldn’t think around her anymore. He didn’t know what he could do about it. He couldn’t marry her and take away her career, not yet anyway.  Resistance was useless.  There had to be a way. Above all, for her or for him, it was not going to be paid for by her reputation.

Kip reached the coach and collected the luncheon-basket, the old coverlet, and his sketching kit.

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.”

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

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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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