The Noble Coachman – Chapter 25

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 25
Derby Day One

 

“Father, do you think I should see other men, so I can convince Kip that I know what I want?”

“Oh, I thought that might come up if he’s the man I think he is. Normally, I would have hoped you to see many eligible gentlemen before you settle down with one. I still think it’s worth trying. However, your mother and I had a good marriage without her seeing many men. Being in service, your choices are limited. But it did work for us.”

“Kip said something odd.  He said only he knew what I would go through to marry him, and he wants to be sure that I know he’s the one. Do you know what he meant by that? He did tell me about his sister dying, and that’s why he left home. Do you know more?”

“I do, but I have given my word to allow Kip to tell you when the time is right.”

“Would you approve of him? Can you tell me that much?”

“I am not bothered that you are seeing him now. Let that be the end of it.”

 

The first day of the derby looked like it was going to be successful. Everyone seemed unsure of what to anticipate, but all expected to enjoy the camaraderie, good food, and ale.

The first event was that all coachman paraded around a very large ring with their pair and coach. Kip had entered in his daily clothes and older elegant coach. His horses out-shown all the others, however, he did not take first place. As it turned out the Caldwell coach, driven by Briggs, with the gold-crested letter “C” on the door, stood out strikingly with a hint of modesty. Many important people had been asked to be judges, where no speed or agility needed to be calculated. Other contests that were scheduled that day were trotting, galloping, stopping and fast starting by the coachman and his team. Kip did not enter those. The derby ended early, allowing the entrants to return to make their wages. Tomorrow was the final and biggest day.

 

“Tomorrow is the Grand Parade – the last event of the derby. Have you intentions on entering the Stokes carriage?” Kip inquired of Squeaks. “We never talked about being in an event together.”

“Tsk … You think to ask me now?”  She hadn’t seen Kip for a few days and was unhappy that she didn’t know why.

“Can you attend me as second driver. I have someone without breasts to ride rear footman.” Kip smirked.

“I’m sure I have nothing appropriate to wear, Kip.”

“I have that well in hand. You will match me.”

“Tails?” Her face became excited.

“Yes, tails and a skirt to cover you to mid leg. It’s part of the Kipling line of fine Coachman Apparel. You will have a nice white crisp shirt with a few frills, which separates you from me, a feminine cravat and a velvet top hat designed by yours truly. This one will fit you.”

“You make that hard to resist, Mr. Kipling.”

“That was my intention. I have been busy with that for a few days now.”

“I will agree.”

Kip and Squeaks walked over to a shade tree where they determined times for dressing and meeting.

“I will bring your Kipling livery tonight. Check for any last-minute alterations and get the castle’s seamstress to fix you up.”

“Would you like to come to eat with the servants and me tonight?”

Kip broke out in a smile and started to decline. “Yes, I would like that, thank you.”

“I will see you tonight at 7:00 p.m. Good day, Mr. Kipling.”

“And the same to you, Miss Dorset.” He watched as she popped up and trotted off.

 

Squeaks drove her father and the Lord back to the castle. Clyde was having a grand time planning and watching, while Lord Stokes felt a bit of pride. He had no way to really tell the coachman how grateful he was for saving Squeaks life, and this felt like a worthy way to do it.

As soon as she exited her passengers, and took the coach to the stable, she informed the staff cook to set another place. Then she went to talk with her father. It was about time to explain her latest news, the relationship and the derby.

“Father, can I speak with you?”

“You know you can. Come in,” Clyde said as he settled into the rocking chair in his room.

Squeaks sat on the edge of his bed wondering where to begin. “Father, I don’t know who is the bigger fool but Kip …” The half-hour rolled past quickly as she explained how she couldn’t bring herself to accept an evening out with anyone else. “He feels I need to see other men to know my true feelings for him. He still can’t dismiss the idea that what I feel may be gratitude. He didn’t say those exact words, but I know he’s thinking that.”

Clyde sat patiently and listened. He understood what Kip was doing, and the very high cost to his heart.

“Father … Father! Were you listening?”

“Yes, dear. I was. He’s a braver man than I.”

“What do you mean braver? Surely he’s a fool.” Squeaks saw the pain in her father’s face.

“Father, what is it? Did you over-do today? Is it your leg?”

“No, Squeaks. It is none of that. I see now the depths of his love for you.”

“How? What do you see that I don’t?”

“He is sacrificing himself, his happiness, his future, all of it for you.”

“How is he doing that? I can’t see it!”

“Loves blinds you, Rebecca. He may lose you to another man, Squeaks. In your gaining experience and coming to know other gentleman types, you could find someone who means more to you. And he knows there is that possibility. That’s the chance he is taking to ensure you have the life you want and with whom you want it. He has searched past the blindness into cold hard reality. Kip knows you might be lost to him.”

“Well … we’ll just see about that.  Oh, tonight, he will be here for dinner with the staff.” Squeaks had forgotten all about the Grand Parade.

 

Promptly at 7:00 p.m., Kip rolled into the stable area at Stokes Castle. A groomsman came to attend his team and coach.

“I know. You want Squeaks. She’s through that door. Just walk in,” said the young lad.

“Kip chuckled over him still not knowing Squeaks’ real name.” He went to his coach door and retrieved two boxes and some flowers. He was dressed nicely, but no tails, even though the staff would be wearing their proper attire.

Squeaks spotted him in the hall and came to him. She wanted to rush but held herself at bay. “If we were alone I would beat my fists upon your chest again for making me consider this ridiculous idea of yours,” Squeaks said with a smile on her face. “Oh, are these flowers for me? A peace offering?”

“No, they are not for you. I have had no answer, so they are for the cook.”

“That’s very kind of you. I should think that never happens in this house. She will be overjoyed. I will take you to her.”

Squeaks led the way into the kitchen, introducing many members to Kip as they scurried by with china tureens and bottles of wine. Squeaks finally caught a moment of the cook’s attention as she contemplated the next serving. She introduced Kip. “Oh, so you’re the young man who is stealing our Squeaks. It’s nice to meet you.”

“I’m not sure you are correct about me stealing her, but here are some flowers for the meal tonight and the lovely picnic lunch you made for us.”

Gwen slapped her hands to her face in disbelief. “My gracious. This is a very nice surprise. Thank you, Mr. Kipling.”

“Please call me, Kip. You are welcome.” Kip remembered his home life and knew that a cook was as equal in rank as a driver. They were both hired for their knowledge and would not have to climb the servant’s ladder. Others too were hired the same way – the gardener, governesses, gamekeepers, and nurses. If they did nothing wrong, they had a job for life.

“It was nice to meet you . . .”

“Gwen.”

“It was nice to meet you, Gwen.”

Squeaks was tugging on his shirt sleeve and pulling him into the servant’s lounge area.

“So, can I see inside the boxes?”

“Have you gotten permission from your father and His Lordship?”

“No.”

“No?”

“Actually, I talked with Father today about our big conversation.”

“You did? I had looked for some strange reaction by Clyde to me, today. Did he agree with me?”

“I was so wrapped up in the long conversation that I forgot to tell him about the final parade. Also, Lord Stokes knows nothing. It will just have to be a surprise.”

“That is as I wished it would be, but you haven’t answered my question.”

“I will tell you he told me things I did not know, and I could not see. Perhaps you aren’t the fool I said you were. My answer tomorrow.”

Kip felt his heart sink. Her father did agree with him, and he wasn’t so foolish when he asked her to see other men. He knew the sumptuous meal would last a long time, but he would leave for home soon after. He needed to gird himself for her answer.

“Here is your Kipling line of Elegant Coachman attire. It is the special feminine edition.”

Squeaks picked up the pieces and held them against her body. “These are the most beautiful clothes I have ever seen for a driver. Oh, I am going to feel so special. She whirled around the room holding the skirt out to catch the air. She was grinning from ear to ear.

Kip was ecstatic watching her so happy. Perhaps, he would try to draw that womanly bubbling humility.

Suddenly, she was back to the box on the table. “Where’s my hat? Where’s my hat? You didn’t bring it,” she said, frowning at him questioningly.”

“Miss Dorset, do you have to be so expectant?” Kip held in the smile wanting to break through his disciplinary talk. “That’s right. It will be a surprise to you tomorrow. It seems like tomorrow will be a big day for all of us.”

“Kip, thank you for this lovely livery. I don’t know how you did it without someone fitting me, but I think it’s perfect. I will try it on later.”

“You know I said I would want to do that for you. Oh, one more thing.” There was another box that he handed to her.

She opened it quickly and inside were a pair of tooled leather boots and soft leather gloves. “I wanted to ensure you didn’t wear your boots tomorrow.”

“These are beautiful with the design on the toe. I’ve never had fancy boots.” She sat down to try them on, and something was preventing her from sliding her foot forward. She backed her foot out, and felt down to the toe, pulling out a gold chain and watch. She was startled by the most excellent gift and began to whimper quietly.

“Kip, this is far too much. I cannot take this.” She handed it to him. “Please return it. You can’t afford gifts like this. I can hardly begin to think of what these clothes, boots, and hat cost.”

Kip took the watch back and slipped it into his pocket. “I will take it from you, but I had it engraved, so it cannot be returned,” he smiled.

“You did? There are pretty words engraved to me in there?”

“And you will never see them. I think I hear us being called for dinner.” Kip walked out of the room with Squeaks in a pout. The money spent was nothing to him. He wanted to give her the world. He would not sleep tonight, for tomorrow his future could hang in the balance.

Kip became aware that all eyes were on him and Squeaks during dinner.

What are they thinking?

He remembered the cook saying he was taking Squeaks away from them. They were sizing him for a husband and not just any man interested in their little Squeaks. It gave him a prickly feeling. They would all rush to her after he left and offer their opinion. How odd that felt – to have to pass muster with the staff. Nobility rarely encountered such attitudes. A title demanded respect. Within his coachman brotherhood, he was merely accepted. With this staff family, there was a genuine concern for Squeaks, and a test it seemed he had to pass. As much as he understood that concern, it was just so openly displayed that caught him off guard.

Finally, Clyde began telling them stories about Kip. There were many laughing around the table which eased his anxiety.

Kip could see the love for her permeated the room during the meal. How could he take her away from this?

 

Kip called the stable boy over and asked him to bring his team. Squeaks followed quickly behind him.

“You’re leaving?”

“Yes. It seems there is much to do before tomorrow. I must check with my footman. I will arrive in my regular coachman clothes and then change just before the parade. You may change in the coach if you wish or come fully dressed. Are you in any other events?”

“I was going to be, but perhaps I will forget about it.”

“Which one?”

“The Steeplechase run.”

“You mean you can jump your horse? You never told me that when we went riding. I think you toy with me, young woman.”

“Tsk. I wasn’t on my horse. I still have secrets myself.”

“Indeed, you do. I want to see this. Perhaps I will enter the same race. When is it?”

“Just before lunch and the last event before the Grand Parade.”

“Wear what you will. I will have your hat ready and the drapes drawn by lunchtime.”

“Yes, my hat and my watch, if you don’t mind.”

“But you returned the watch to me.”

“Couldn’t I wear it for the parade and then return it to you?”

“If you don’t snap the inside cover open. Promise?”

Squeaks wrestled with what to say. Of course, she wanted to see the inside, and that was her purpose in asking. “I’d be lying if I promised not to. I can only promise that I will try.”

“Not good enough. Good night, Miss Dorset. I shall see you on the morrow.”

Squeaks’ demeanor drooped as Kip pulled away from the castle’s stable.

 

Kip arrived home bewildered. From their conversation, he concluded that Squeaks would be agreeable to his suggestion of seeing other men. However, her actions after that were slightly more positive. He found his sketching pad, charcoals, and sat down to draw the scene he was carrying in his head.

The room had little lighting at the time, and the corners were dark, but he remembered her movements and her expression. He would forget the room and just draw her twirling with her new livery held against her body. She had flared out the skirt as she danced around. Her smile lit his whole world. For one small moment, he wondered if she was attracted to him purely for his interest in her interest – coaching. It made him furious when he had that idea. Kip scratched across his drawing, ripping the paper from the tablet, and began again.

Kip spent most of the evening thinking of her, as was usual. She had not told him she could jump. That was exciting to him. He had looked forward to teaching her. Kip decided not to enter the race as his horses were too heavy for jumpers. What horse would Squeaks use? He had seen other horses in Stokes’s stable that one day, but she never mentioned any of them. Kip eventually finished his drawing, setting it on the mantel. He spent the next hour grooming his horses and the new one, Hero, a rare white Friesian, that was to be a gift for Miss Rebecca Dorset.

The Noble Coachman – Chapter 24

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 24
Let’s Talk

 

Squeaks’ meeting was finally over with an affirmative answer.

“Father, I am going to take a ride with Kip, so we can discuss the Coachmen events. I will need your help and pick a friend of yours, also. We will talk when I return.

Kip was surprised that she took his arm leaving the kitchen. He had been shocked about the marriage comment to his Lordship. “Where to, your Grace?”

“To your home that I have never seen.”

“There is a reason for that. In fact, no one should ever see it.”

“Please.”

“Since you seem to have won the day with Stokes, who am I to tell you, no. You will ride in the coach until that plaster comes off.”

“Very well.”

 

Arriving at his home and stable, Squeaks marveled at it when he pulled to the back. This was Kip’s place. This was where he slept, ate, and changed into his fine tails. Then she noticed the stable. “Oh, Kip, this is very nice what you have done with your stable. It’s large, clean, and painted. I think it does look better than your home. Can I see the tack room?”

Kip was embarrassed taking her in there. His walls were covered with brushes and combs, oils and lotions for rubbing down the horses, special food barrels, and a lot of polishes for the coaches, many sets of harnesses and bridles, plus several saddles. It was a store within a stable.

“Kip, this is extraordinary. You even have horse brasses. Those are like jewelry on the horse. This is better than Lord Stokes’s stable, and he’s fairly prideful of his.”

“I have only had my horses to bestow gifts upon. Now I have you. I want to spoil you. I want to spoil you in many ways.”

“Kip, drivers cannot afford to be so carefree with their earnings. I assume you make a higher fare than most, but still, just spoil me with your love. I do not need gifts.”

Kip led her to the back door and into the kitchen thinking how he wanted to spoil her with his love. “The loo is upstairs.”

“I’ll see it when you show me through the house.”

Kip showed her through the base floor, which had the kitchen, a dining room, and a parlor. Upstairs, there was his bedroom and a second one, which was empty. “Here is the loo, Sweets. I pray I left it tolerable.”

“I will be down in a moment.” Before Squeaks pulled her trousers down, she looked at Kip’s accessories in the room. This was where he cleaned and shaved, perhaps standing naked after bathing. She quickly removed that image from her mind. It felt warm in there. Squeaks carried her boots instead of wearing them. She surprised Kip, being so quiet coming down the stairs without shoes. She watched for a moment while he tidied the parlor without being observed, then she startled him as he turned her way.

“I did not hear you come down . . . I see you carry your boots.”

“Can I see inside your wardrobe?”

“That’s a strange question. Are you asking to go back upstairs to my bedchamber?” He smiled.

“I am asking to go to your wardrobe.”

“Follow me.” Kip took her hand. “Set your boots.” He led her upstairs and into his room.

Before Kip opened his wardrobe closet, she walked over and looked at the jewelry on his chest of drawers.

Kip sweated that he had nothing of wealth showing. He had left most of that behind, except he did bring a gold watch that his sister had given him the year before she died. There was a ring that he liked, too. He did not see any of those pieces where she was looking.

Squeaks walked over to the wardrobe and waited for Kip to open the doors. She was determined to see if he had real Wellingtons. “I’m waiting,” she said.

Kip opened the door, showing several tailed outfits and half a dozen day livery uniforms.

“This is like your tack room … very well stocked. There they are,” she said, reaching down and tapping his Wellington boots. I knew you would have a pair. She started towards the door. Kip blocked her.

He wrapped both of his arms around her and walked her backward to the bed while kissing her. He laid her down gently and kicked off his own boots. “May I kiss you for a while?”

She nodded as words became stuck in her throat. He was going to overwhelm her. “Are you going to get mad at yourself again; upset that you cannot handle your own desires? Will you have a fear that you’re going to ruin me for someone else because I don’t know what love is, and you may not be the one? Are you going to brand me, whatever that means?”

“Probably.” Kip laid down beside Squeaks. He rested on his side, she on her back. Lightly he drew his fingers across her face feeling the smoothness to his touch. He looked into her eyes, stared at her mouth and fondled her hair. Kip sat up and took off his vest and cravat, so there was only his shirt between her and his skin. He noticed as she watched him remove his clothing, her little tongue peeped out to wet her lips. That was almost unbearably sensuous.

“Would you care to take off your jacket and be comfortable?”

“All right. Are we going to do … do it?”

He smiled broadly at her. “No, I told you we are not going to take things that far. Not for a long time.”

“I don’t think you can wait, Mr. Kipling. I seem to drive you mad.”

“You are in a cast. I thought I would wait until you felt the time was right. I’ve reconsidered that since you don’t seem to know where the boundaries are. We are not ready to blaze new trails. That is now a decision I will make. Just let me love you my way.”

Kip leaned down and parted her moist velvet lips. She opened to him, and that was the only invitation he needed. He swept the sweetness from her mouth. His tongue prowled hungrily, aimlessly, and possessively. She wrapped her one arm around him, acknowledging he had a right to be there. His body began to move against hers with the rhythm of his thrusting tongue. Squeaks reached for the V at the neck of his shirt and felt his hair at the top. He pulled his shirt from his trousers. She began to touch his chest.

Kip rolled her over on top of him, allowing her full access to whatever she wanted. Squeaks sat straddled across his manhood as she rested her hands on his breasts, feeling the hair tickle her fingers. He watched her eyes grow and the smile come out. He never had seen a woman enjoy him. She was chipping away at her own innocence. She looked at him and smiled.

“I feel strange doing this,” she said.

He pulled her down to his mouth for another plunge into the sensual depths of her. “I love what you are doing. You seem quite proficient at most things you do.”

Squeaks sat back up and continued her foray into the man exposed to her. This wasn’t like seeing her father change his shirt. This was exciting her hands. She could feel her own pulse below her waist. Her heart sped up, and her breathing became slightly heavier. She knew Kip noticed that.

She found Kip’s hands and placed them lightly over her shirt on her breasts.

Kip quickly pulled his hands down. “No,” gushed a whispered answer. “You will like it, and I won’t be able to stop.”

“You mean like I’m doing to you?”

“It’s not the same, and you know it. I think you are wanton after all,” he kidded, trying to lighten the moment.

Squeaks teared up and moved off the top of him.

“I was only teasing you, Sweets. What have I said?”

“I have spent twenty years without anyone putting their arms around me. I could be wanton. I don’t know. I’ve been starved for this kind of affection.”

“Don’t you think I know that? Because of that, you need special handling, and no, you’re not wanton in the sense you think you mean. I want to take you through this slowly. I want you to feel the love that is deep but not physical. Right now, you are feeding on that desire within you. It’s all a perfectly healthy reaction. God knows I want what you want, but I will deny us both the ultimate intimacy for reasons only I am aware. I’m not an expert, but I did raise a sister, where we had these discussions. Love is much more than a physical yearning.”

“Can you not do anything about this feeling giddy and wriggly?”

“Could you tell me that in a different way?” Kip asked.

“Are you teasing me?”

“No, Sweets no. I’ve just never heard of being in a wriggle state before. Help me understand.”

“When you start kissing me, I begin feeling like jelly, not jam. Do you know the difference?”

“Yes…”

“I feel wiggly all over as jelly wiggles on biscuits. It just continues. If I were a biscuit, the jelly would be leveled, but I never feel that.”

Kip was really enjoying her analogy.

“There is a want of more, I am sure of it. I know you know what I mean. You will just have to stop kissing me with your tongue or prepare for a Squeaks you’ve never seen,” she broke out in a smile.

“I am glad to see that smile.”

“Don’t think I didn’t mean what I said.”

“I know exactly what you mean. It is harder for me if you must know.”

“What? What’s harder?”

“Because I am bigger and stronger, I could go where I want with your body, and you would have little say about it. Wait … I don’t mean it to sound like that. I could complete the journey you desire, and it would only be a burst of ecstasy within the span of minutes. Then … yes, you are ruined for any other man. Only I know what you will have to go through to marry me, but most of all, I have to be sure it is I who you love. Giving you pleasure is one thing; taking it is another. I’m sorry. You’re just going to have to wiggle for me in the foreseeable future. Perhaps, you should see a few other men and make a comparison of your feelings. Think about it.”

“God must be a man.”

Kip laughed. “Indeed.”

“We need to go downstairs, and talk about the derby.”

“I agree. You have started something you may not be able to accomplish.”

“In more ways than one,” she smirked. “I will do it. You know I will. I have lots of ideas, and they include you and me. When this cast comes off, it will start two weeks after that.”

 

#

 

Kip and Squeaks’ beautiful late afternoon was coming to an end. It was time for her to be home. She did not want to leave, and Kip did not want to let her go. After Kip had pulled on her boots, he spun her around, checking to see if she looked neat again. He pulled her against his chest, kissing her and stealing her breath. He hugged her tightly.” I love you, Miss Squeaks. Is there any remorse about our passionless day? Guilt? Embarrassment?”

“Only my own weakness or perhaps the expectation of what lies beyond the immense desire I experienced. I am facing decisions that will change my life forever.”

Kip held her hands and looked into her weeping eyes, as she spoke of her deepest love.

“You, Kip, are causing tremors in my physical underpinnings. You have stolen my heart. In time, we will share my virtue. I am balancing on the edge of the only world I know, about to give the reins of my soul to you. I want to be everything I can to you, no matter where we are or what we do, I want to spend it with you.”

Kip choked up, he held her tightly around her arms and head. She rested her head against his heart with her arms around his waist. She heard him sniffle.

“Dear God, how I love you. I want all of you and forever. You will complete my life, every dream and fantasy I have ever had. I will cherish every piece of you, every moment with you – good and bad. I want to share my eternity with you. I will walk beside you, provide for you, protect you, possess you, pleasure you, and give you children. Whatever I have, whatever I am, it is all because of you and belongs to you. I love you, Rebecca Dorset.”

Kip embraced her tenderly, thus ending a lovely part of the day to always cherish.

 

With Squeaks inside the coach, Kip climbed in with her. He wanted to discuss what he had only touched on moments ago.

“Squeaks, I believe you should see a few other men. Now, hold on. Before you get angry, let me explain my reasons. I know I love you. You think you love me. I want you in my life forever, but I need to know that you have made that decision weighted against other experiences with men. I know it’s difficult, but can you understand my worry for you?”

“Yes, I can understand that you feel that way. Of course, I do not wish to do this, but if it’s peace of mind you need, and you ask me to provide that to you, I will think about it. I don’t want to, though. I may seek advice from Father. He will probably agree with you.”

“I guess I can understand you need guidance on this, and it should not come from me. Yes, please think about it. I will not question you on any outings you make because I love you.”

“I’m not sure I believe you. I could not offer you the same privacy of actions. I would want to know every minute what was happening.”

“That is not surprising. You are a woman.”

“I thought we had that part settled. Explain yourself.”

Kip laughed at her hands on her hips like an old washerwoman. “Women are naturally inquisitive. Men are not.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“I am sorry to say this, but I grew up with a mother and sister. You did not. So, it stands to reason that you were never encouraged to be nosy, but yet here you are with help from no one.” Even though it sounded theoretically correct, Kip was making it up as he spoke.

“I don’t call that nosy. I call that caring.”

“As you wish. A rose by any other name . . . Would you please take your hands off your hips?”

How I love her.

“Go, ask your father what he thinks. He will agree with me. You’ll see.”

 

The Noble Coachman – Chapter 23

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 23
The Bribe

 

When Kip returned to the hospital; Inspector Marshall was questioning his Rebecca. She was not being released for another day until the swelling went down, and they could ensure her nose bone was set correctly. The apostles had waited for him and then went home for some sleep, as had the other drivers. He hadn’t realized he had been gone that long. Kip wasn’t nearly as tired as he should have been.

He knocked gently on the door to her room, and heard, “Come in.”

“Miss Dorset, I am thankful that you will heal, and now that Trevor Kipling is here, I think I will leave you in good hands.” The Inspector smiled towards Kip. “I shall see you in a few days. Good-day.”

Kip pitched his hat on a nearby table and sat beside Squeaks on her bed. “Is it all right to kiss you?” He asked quietly.

“No, I’m sorry. No ugly girl kissing allowed. I look horrid.” She started to cry.

Kip snorted with a smile. “I am not looking for an ugly girl or even a pretty one. Nevertheless, if you insist. I guess I shall find someone in another room. I’ll be back when I can.” Kip started for the door.

“Stop that,” came the whiny raspy voice.

“I’m sorry. Where you speaking to me?”

“You said I was ugly.”

“I said no such thing. You really did bump your head. I shall believe that is the reasoning for your misconception of my words, milady.”

“Then what did you say?”

“Is that your pouty face; it’s hard to tell. I said you are not pretty. You interrupted before I could finish. I was going to tell you how … nope, I don’t think I’ll say it now.”

“Then don’t tell me!” She tried to cross her arms to strike an attitude but found them rather heavy.

“Pouty and testy … hmmm. Since you are the injured party, I guess I will tell you that I didn’t think alive could look so beautiful. Meaning you, of course. I couldn’t sleep much last night. How about you?”

“Oh no, I was snug in a strange bed.”

“Miss Rebecca Dorset, I love you just a tad more than your army loves you.”

“Really?”

“Yes, your army fancies you quite a lot.”

“Not them. You.”

“I guess I should begin saying it more often, now that everyone seems to know we are more than friends.”

“How do they know that?”

“Because we’ve seen your underwear. You know, you have struggled a whole lot more than you’ve had to if you’ve been putting those on every day.”

“How mean of you to show the drivers my embarrassment.”

“Let me tell you, they love you a whole lot more now. You shared something with them, at this moment in time you are one of them. You allowed them to laugh at you. Besides that, Clyde is the one who is at fault here.”

“I need to have a serious talk with my father and His Lordship.”

“Not about your underwear … to Lord Stokes?”

“I most certainly will. You want to be there?”

“Is that remotely possible?”

“Yes. You bet it is. Now that I will not be driving, I will have plenty of time. I wonder who’ll drive for him.”

“I will, Sweets. I will see him later today and offer my services. Don’t worry about him.”

“Why do I love you so much?”

“I think it’s my charm and chestnut hair that seems to be longer than yours. What say you?”

“Oh, and here I thought it was the hero whom you are. You know, while I was in that dark, I remembered your obsession with protecting women. I was weak, Kip.  I could never have saved myself. And then … and then I realized every driver out there—the hundred or so that I have met or seen could have done that to me. They and you are that strong. I fought several times, and I was snatched up like a toy and hurled to the wall. I became a rag doll, quickly.”

“Oh, God, sweets. Can we talk about this later tonight? I am barely holding myself together right now. I hate you seeing my weak side. What you’ve been through …” Kip was barely keeping his tears at bay.

“I’m sorry.”

“God, don’t say that either. Listen, you need to rest as I do. I will return early this evening to see you. I want to respond to your thoughts on the drivers, but not right at this moment.” Kip leaned over and kissed her forehead. “I love you, sweets, more than I thought love could ever be. Rest now. I’ll be back.”

 

#

 

Kip could hardly believe the trembling in his body. He found his horse and rode far from the city where trees and grass grew. Solace is what he sought. The thick fog that comes with the night crept silently away, as Kip sat on the damp ground, hugging his knees. Warrior kept nibbling the back of his head, sensing low spirits from his rider. Kip was smart enough to know that he was experiencing mental exhaustion from the shredding of stress. “Strange how God girds you when you need it most. That should be the time that you tremble with fear. Instead, you rise above it, surpassing the person you thought yourself to be. I could have lost her so easily, in which I would follow.” Kip spoke to the heavens and maybe his sister, too. “My life is Rebecca. I wish Squeaks could have known you, Mary. You are nearly the same age, but as different as the sides of a coin. Had I lost Squeaks, the devastation would have ruled my world forever. I love her beyond my own life. There are a lot of levels to this building relationship that need explanations, and there is still the threat of her not wanting any part of my heritage.”

 

#

 

Kip was admitted to the Stokes Castle with fanfare. He was embarrassed about that. Lord Stokes almost hugged him. Clyde had tears of joy.

“I left Squeaks only an hour ago. She is in very high spirits. I hope no one tells her she’s been injured. She doesn’t seem to know,” Kip smiled. “I don’t believe she expects you because it appears she will be home tomorrow, and I wish to do the honors.”

Kip was forced to listen to glorifications of thanks and comments on his heroics.

“I have come to explain more to both of you than you know. For Squeak’s sake, I still wish this to be kept to yourselves for a bit longer.”

“Sit down, Kip,” His Lordship commanded. “I do feel there is some involvement of you for her being kidnapped.”

“You are correct, Lord Stokes,” Kip agreed, finding a seat.

“Scotch?” asked the Butler.

“I know it is very early in the day, but I think I can use one myself.”

“Yes, Sir. A bit of fortification is worthy of this hour.”

“Please begin. Your name isn’t Trevor Kipling, is it?”

“Not entirely. Kipling was my mother’s maiden name. How did you know that?”

“You said you came from a titled family. I found no people of wealth with the name Kipling in the registry. Who are you really?”

My name and title are Viscount Trevor William Hamilton Caldwell, son, and heir to my father, Earl William Hamilton Grant Caldwell, the Sixth Earl of Norcaster.”

“You are a Viscount! I thought something but never this,” lauded Lord Stokes.

Clyde was going into shock again, Kip feared.

“I am the reason Squeaks almost died.” Kip began his story from the beginning about the life and the death of his sister, but most importantly his deep and abiding love for Rebecca.

“And your title is the reason you wish to still be Trevor Kipling?”

“It’s all for the sake of Squeaks. I know she loves me; she even proposed to me at the hospital,” he smiled. “I am sure that comes only from gratitude at the moment. However, I do not know if she would accept a life of nobility. She loves her driving very much. I am willing to play the driver for years if need be to allow her, her dream. Someday, she will need to be told, and she will have a difficult decision to make. I am selfish in trying to stave that moment, as long as I can.”

“And your father?”

“Has given me his blessing. Perhaps you can understand his thinking that nothing is dearer than family or the love of one. He will welcome a commoner into our family with open arms if it makes me happy.”

“Well, I cannot think you could have brought us any more surprising news than this. I am sure Clyde, who looks positively speechless, and myself welcome you into the Stokes family as long as Squeaks permits it. Her wishes will come first, no matter who you are.”

“Will you allow me to court her?”

“I believe so. What do you say, Clyde?”

“Yes. Yes, of course,” he responded in a feeble voice.

“One other thing, your Lordship, I will be happy to be your driver until either one of your drivers can return to duty.”

“I am going to feel rather strange having a Viscount of the realm as my driver, but someday it shall make another interesting story.”

“Indeed.”

“I am going to return to Squeaks later. Would one of your maids gather some clothing for her?”

Lord Stokes saw his Butler leave the room for the clothing. “Kip, Squeaks has been praising these drivers in London as gentlemen and so has Clyde. I don’t know what to make of their calls-to-arms if you will. I am overwhelmed and shall mention that in the House. I wish I could repay them in some way.”

“Your thanks is all they will take. Perhaps a note in the daily paper would reach them all.”

“Brilliant.”

Morgan returned to the room carrying a satchel and handed it to Kip.

“I will leave now and return with Squeaks tomorrow, I am told.”

“Thank you, Lord Trevor,” expressed Clyde.

“Remember, I am Lord Trevor at the moment. I will be Kip tomorrow. Good-day.”

 

Kip returned to the hospital late that afternoon, carrying flowers, a wrapped package, and her clothes. He could see she was now going through the stage he went through only hours before.

Squeaks looked down.

“What is wrong, my sweets?”

“I feel weak as if I couldn’t move from this bed.”

“That is completely normal. Did not the nurses tell you that?”

“No. So, how do you know?”

“I have been through that myself today. It is the stress leaving your body. You do not realize what you put your body through when tensions were high, and especially for a prolonged period of time. You were always tense. And when it’s over, your body tries to relax and does a relatively good job of doing it.”

“This is good, then?”

“Yes, my love.” Kip leaned in and kissed her forehead and took her hand.”

“Are those flowers for me?” She cheered. “No one’s ever brought me flowers. You seem to be the first in my life for everything. Are those my clothes?”

“Yes. First, I should check to ensure your boy’s undergarment is in here.”

“I will never live that down, will I? ”

“No, I am afraid you won’t. Sorry. Perhaps this will help.” Kip handed her the small box covered in cloth and wrapped in ribbons.

“A present? For me?” Squeaks tried unwrapping it with one hand.”

“Do you wish some help?”

“No. Oh no. These are rare. I want to have the whole experience.”

“Suit yourself.”

Kip pulled up a chair, leaned back in it, crossing his arms and watched the struggle. He thought he would fall over from laughing.

Squeaks managed to pull the bow into a knot. She was trying to pick the knot apart with one hand while holding the other end with her elbow. She finally sighed and looked toward Kip.

“Kiiiiip?” Squeaks looked over at him with defeated eyes.

“Yes, dear?”

“You know I’m weak.”

“Yes, I do. I believe I heard that. Hmm…yes, I am sure I just heard that. Should I find a nurse?”

“Tsk.”

“Tsk? There you go again. I don’t know what that means, really.”

“Would you please untie this present,” Squeaks said in exasperation.

“Oh, that. Here let me get the ribbon off for you.”

Squeaks opened the box to find several pairs of lady’s lacy knickers. She inhaled loudly and smiled broadly. Then she frowned.”

“You’re frowning. Wrong size?”

“I see there is a split in the middle. Is that the natural way these are made or are these the ones you said you liked?”

Kip let out a howl of laughter and kissed her gently on the mouth.

Just as she was holding them up with one hand to see how they worked, the apostles walked into the room.

Kip turned red.

“Oh, my, men. Maybe we should leave.”

“No, don’t go,” said Squeaks.

“Yes, go,”  said Kip.

“Hmm… I think we’ll stay. This ought to be more rewarding.”

“See what Kip just brought me?”

Kip wished the floor would open up and swallow him. “Squeaks, I didn’t want you to be the laughing stock of the drivers.”

“They wouldn’t have known if you didn’t show them. Now you have something to share like you made me do.”

“How was that, Kip, walking into a woman’s intimate apparel shop and asking for knickers, and lacy ones at that?” Marc laughed.

“Yeah, and what did you say when they asked for a size?” Lucas carried on.

“All right, men that’s enough,” Kip said in cordial tones.

“Oh, I don’t think so. Wait until the Brotherhood hears this.”

Kip bravely faced them and said, “I think you gentlemen are jealous.”

“Would one of you fine gentlemen tell me if they are naturally made in this fashion?” asked Squeaks.

“What fashion would that be?” Matthew asked in all seriousness.

“You know … with this split down the middle.”

“Kip! Did you mean to get her that kind?” The apostles laughed hysterically.

“They are kidding you, Squeaks.” He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his brow.

“Wow, now that I think of it, you’ve been through a lot of effort for nature calls. Everything has to come down. Why with us …” Marc elbowed Lucas in the ribs.

“Kip, do they come with instructions?” Everyone laughed, even Squeaks after she said it.

 

#

 

Several weeks later, when Squeaks’ face was nearing normal, and Kip was still driving for Lord Stokes, she wandered out to talk with Kip.

“I am ready to speak to His Lordship and my father about my boy’s underwear. Do you still wish to listen? I know you didn’t believe me when I’ve told you how I have scolded His Lordship. I am ready to show you proof.”

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I’ve really come to like this Lord.”

“Come inside with me. First, I will find Mr. Dorset.”

Squeaks went to find her father, while Kip waited in the kitchen. He was quite at odds with all the kitchen help staring at him. They knew he was driving for His Lordship but never ate at their table.

Squeaks returned, bidding Kip to follow her.

“Hello, Clyde. You’re looking much better.”

“Thank you. It won’t be long now before I can climb the wheel.”

“That’s good to hear. You have any notion of what Squeaks is up to?”

“Nary a clue. I can’t imagine why she’s bothering His Lordship. However, I do think he enjoys her interruptions once in a while. It’s nice to see us both invited.”

Squeaks had been in asking Lord Stokes for a meeting. He acquiesced. She opened the door, requesting her father and Kip enter. Lord Stokes wasn’t expecting an audience.

“Please gentlemen, would you take a seat.” Kip would have rather heard that from Stokes, but Clyde sat, and so did he.

“All right, Squeaks, what is this you bother me with?”

“I have brought the men in my life into one room for a discussion.”

Kip was being stared at and felt like he should leave. “Should I be here, Miss Squeaks?”

“Yes, especially you. Now, your Lordship, Kip seems to think I am having fun with him when I tell him that you and I have talked. You remember when I spoke to you about being a footman that night and the problems that we had.”

Kip was red as a beet.

“I do indeed. Is that the point of this meeting?

“Well … no, that is not my main reason.”

“And what is your main reason?”

“You like fundraisers for charity, do you not, sir?”

“Squeaks, just tell me what it is. You do not have to patronize me.”

“Is that what I’m doing? I have an idea where you could be looked upon as a great and giving Lord.”

“Squeaks!”

“I think I spoke out of turn the day Kip took me on the picnic, and now I do not know what to do about it.”

His Lordship and Clyde looked to Kip, who shrugged his shoulders.

“What did you do?”

“It was almost a … boast, about who was the better coachman, he or me.” She hesitated.

“I see no problem or charity anywhere near this, so far.”

“I told him to practice. I told him to tell his friends to practice.”

“Practice what?”

“All right, here it is. I said that we would have a coachman derby. Furthermore, a horseman derby.”

“Where have you seen such an event? I have never heard of one?”

“Does it sound appealing?”

“Where have you seen one of these events, I repeat?”

“I haven’t. I made it up.”

“I see. I think I need you in the House of Lords. You have been gifted with the art of wheedling your opponents into certain comforts before pouncing on them.”

“I want to laugh at that, but afraid to.”

“I suppose I figure into this somehow, so I can be a great and giving Lord.”

“Yes! I will drive you for free if you help me.”

“You drive for me free, now.”

“I do? I thought my earnings were going into a bank for me. I need clothes.”

Lord Stokes started laughing and holding his stomach. The look on her face was one he’d never seen.

“I don’t have money? I need a corset and a frock. I have to wear other women’s clothes if I want to look like a woman.”

Lord Stokes stuttered, “You need a corset?”

“Have you not noticed I should have one?”

Squeaks was ready to pounce. “You men! You and Father raised me. Somewhere along the way, you forgot that I was a girl growing into a woman. I had no idea if my undergarments were a man’s or a woman’s. And that’s why I jiggled the other week – because you and Father never noticed these,” she said, pointing to her bosom. Kip did.

“Oh God,” Kip muttered with downcast eyes.

“When I wanted to wear a borrowed frock the day of the picnic, he looked at me and made me change into riding clothes. Do you know how many years I have had to strip completely from the waist down when I didn’t have to?”

All the men were blushing and smiling with their heads down. No one looked at Squeaks.

“So, how much is this guilt going to cost your father and me?”

“I could go on.”

“I think you have made your point. Now, if we can reach an accord, you will tell no one about wearing men’s fashions underneath, and I will do what?”

“Well, it’s too late to hide the fact that I’ve been brought up in boy’s undergarments and the missing pieces I should have had. It became apparent during my rescue. Ahem…”

“So, these drivers know of your maturing embarrassment?”

“Kip, the man I hope will marry me, very bravely walked into a woman’s intimate apparel store and purchased some knickers for me. He brought them to the hospital.

“Oh, heavens,” said Clyde. “You’re a better man than I.”

“Mr. Kipling, that was another heroic for you on the day. One that seems did not make the next day’s newspaper. God give us strength.”

Kip was speechless.

“Again Squeaks, what is this guilt trip going to cost me, so I can be a great and giving Lord?”

“You will allow your grounds, far from the house, to be used for a Coach and Horseman Derby … and, you will contribute some prizes to the winners. They will have to pay a small fee to enter. That keeps out the Whitechapel types. That entry fee you can donate and be a great Lord. Noblesse oblige, sir.”

“You don’t even know what that means.”

“Excuse me, Your Lordship. Privilege must be balanced by duty towards those who lack such privilege.”

“You read that somewhere. I bet you have been saving that one.”

“Sir, the fact that I read it does not make it any less true.” Squeaks smiled.

Kip was awestruck at her forthrightness.

“You do belong in the House of Lords.”

“Sir, with all the respect due to you, I am asking to borrow your land for several days. There will be charity money for you to award. You will pay for prizes. It will be a way to thank the drivers. We need no accord.”

“I think we do. I would like to wipe the slate clean with that. You may hang it over my head on your wedding day.”

“Hmm…” Squeaks strummed her fingers in front of her mouth, scheming.

The Noble Coachman – Chapter 22

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 22
Squeaks’ Army

 

The thundering of more than eighty horses echoed through the rundown tenement houses of east London. Hearing over three hundred horseshoes galloping on cobble-stoned streets, resonating echoes in the dead of night, brought people to their windows. Fog shrouded the riders creating fear in the hearts of Whitechapel. There was pride in the drivers seeing their valiant horses in the hunt, anxious to be successful on a rescue for Dorset’s daughter. The former Whitechapel drivers lead two teams on different routes for faster arrival. Within a block of Hanbury Street, the Whitechapel drivers began the sharp piercing whistles. Together, they created a cacophony of sounds, which split the silence and woke all of east London.

“What the bloody hell is that noise?” Asked the one-eyed man. Both brothers ran to the window and could see carriages pulling along the street, as far as they could see. Brad went to the back. “Same back here. I think they’ve come for us. There must be a hundred of them, and some are coming in the back way.”

“Upstairs, now!” The men ran upstairs where Squeaks was shivering under her bloody shredded nightshirt.

“Thank you, God,” Squeaks said to herself hearing the drivers coming to rescue her. “Up here,” she shouted, waving her nightshift out of the window. “My Army!” she said aloud with tears rolling down her cheeks.

The brothers ran into her room and shoved her to the bed. They locked the door behind them. The three of them could hear the downstairs doors being kicked open, while others gathered below her window. One of the brothers placed his pistol to Squeaks head. The one-eyed man was at the foot of the bed, also with his gun pointed towards her. Heavy boots were clambering up the steps.

Suddenly, their door burst open with a dozen or more drivers piling into the room. All their pistols were drawn at one man or the other. Kip found his way to the front.

“Kip,” cried Squeaks as the other brother Brad cocked his gun. The sound was very distinctive.

“One more step and she’s a dead little girl. Seems we have a stalemate, mate,” The one-eyed man gleamed, pointing his firearm at Kip. “There’s a right lot of you drivers. If you let us leave, she will live. Otherwise, all three of us die right here.

Squeaks was trembling while trying to hold her nightshift in front of her. She felt the cold steel against the side of her face. She prayed the one-eyed man wouldn’t fire at Kip.

“Let me through.” Inspector Marshall arrived next to Kip.

Kip was seething with hate. His eyes focused on the one-eyed man, while he remembered the image of his sister dying on the floor of the icehouse. The same was planned for Squeaks. He was surprised that the inspector was keeping quiet, allowing him to vent the scathing words that had been fermenting for a year.

“You raped and beat two women to death, and Miss Dorset was next,” Kip said, pointing to Squeaks, purposely, not looking at her. Death is too good for you. Perhaps you should suffer the same fate. I know of some jails where the raping would never end for you. You would beg for death.”

“Your words don’t mean much to my brother and me right now. We want a carriage and a driver, then we will let the little lady and the driver out of the coach once we leave London.”

The room grew silent. The drivers knew Kip was compelled to make a decision.

Out of the quieted crowd in the room, a single shot rang out. Brad, with his pistol to Squeaks’ temple, flew back against the wall, dead. Blood splattered on Squeaks face. A driver ran to Squeaks’ side and using his cloak, he covered her.

All the drivers trained their guns on the man with the glass eye. It seemed everyone wanted a shot at him.

The one-eyed man now trained his gun in Squeaks’ direction.

“Inspector, arrest me. You must arrest me! I wasn’t going to kill her. See for yourself. She is unharmed.”

Inspector Marshall stood there, staring at him.

Kip had looked at the injuries to Squeaks face and the blood trickling from her ear and mouth. He cast his head to the side and looked sternly at the inspector.

“Justice is yours, Kip.”

Kip turned and faced the man, as Squeaks looked on. Chants emanated from behind …  KILL HIM!

Kip felt guilty for having such easy revenge. Finally, he had the man who killed his sister right in front of him, begging, pleading and soiling his trousers. A few moments passed, feeling like minutes, as Kip contemplated what he was about to do. He wanted this man to continue to plead and cry, as his sister must have done. The inspector gave him great power, but he was a nobleman. It was his duty to protect others. “I wish I had time to castrate you before you die. However, one of these drivers is going to shoot you if I don’t.”

“You can’t do this. Think of your sister.”

“I am.”

Kip raised the pistol slowly and cocked it. The room went silent as the night.

“Kip, do you know what you’re doing?” Came a rasping voice from Squeaks.

“I do.”

“This is for the brutal death of two frail women you beat and raped; and for the abduction and torture to Miss Dorset. I have been waiting a year to find you, and I will be damned for this, but I don’t care.”

He squeezed the trigger with great satisfaction.  Suddenly, another half dozen firearms were fired simultaneously, so no one man could be made the murderer. They were protecting Kip from prosecution. Blood started pouring from the man’s head and body. The last brother crumpled to the floor, the one eye still open in horror.

“He didn’t deserve the easy way out,” Kip said, handing his pistol to Marshall.

 

Kip rushed to Squeaks with her bloody face and labored breathing.

The inspector asked the drivers to wait downstairs. He did not want to know who fired the first shot killing the one brother. He would see that it was handled in the police records without questions or real names. He closed the door behind him but waited there.

Kip’s eyes wept as he saw the bruising and puffing to her face, blood running from several places and a mass of clotted blood was caught in her hair. Beginning to hug her, he realized she had a broken arm, too. Under the driver’s cloak, he could see a nightslip.

“I need this to make a sling, for your arm, Sweets.” As he pulled it away, he saw her perfect breasts and her undergarment.

“You saved my life, you … you saved me. You are so brave.” Tears slipped from her eyes. “I was so afraid for you. I couldn’t go on if anything happened to you.”

They both wept openly while they kept touching the other as if confirmation was needed that they were alive. Looking at her battered body, he said, “Let’s get you out of here. Are you injured in any other way but your face, arm, and head Sweets?” He asked as he stroked her shortened hair. He lifted her to his chest and walked to the door, where the Inspector opened it for him.

“No, I don’t think so. I don’t remember everything. Thank you, Inspector.”

“You’re going to the hospital to be checked all over.”

“I can’t.”

“Bloody hell, you can’t. I am carrying you there, like it or not.”

“But …”

Kip stopped. “But what?”

“I found out father has been buying me boys undergarments all these years. They will see that at the hospital.”

Inspector Marshall was heard snickering. “You take her to the hospital. I’ll go visit Lord Stokes and then come find you.”

“Why are you laughing?” Squeaks asked with her one good arm around his neck.

“Only you could have been through this horrendous time and then worry about your underwear. Can I reward your Army for their help?”

“Yes, but how? You said they wouldn’t take money.”

“I have a way.”

 

Kip carried her halfway down the steps to a large cheering group of drivers. He stopped.

“Men, Squeaks is forever in your debt. She knows her Army came to her rescue. As battered as she is and with a broken arm, too, the first thing she worried about was that you men might see her in her boy’s undergarment that Clyde has continued to buy for her.” Kip moved his arm, so the men could see her butt in that garment. An uproarious laugh echoed the house.

Squeaks started to complain.

“Shush, you pesky little driver.”

“You didn’t think I was pesky when you . . .” She mumbled something into Kip’s ear.

“She’s still being trained for polite company,” Kip shouted to the men.

All the drivers laughed.

“Drinks on me, tomorrow night. You all know where.”

Kip carried her through the cheering brotherhood of drivers, who were shouting all kind of accolades to London’s own female driver. She was a trinket to them.

“Is Zac still here?”

“Over here, Kip.”

“Can you drive us to the hospital. Marc, bring my horse to me, there.

“I don’t think I’ve met Zac,” Squeaks said.

“No, I don’t think you have either, but he has a surprise for you.”

“For me?”

“Yes, he and another driver, Perkins, brought you a present.”

It was pitch black as the drivers began to ride their coaches and horses home. It had taken a moment before Zac appeared at the front of the house. A large neighborhood crowd had gathered. Zac jumped down and opened the door, folded down the stepping mechanism as usual. Kip stepped inside the coach and heard Squeaks, shout with glee.

“Sarah! Oh, how I worried you wouldn’t get caught. I have you to thank for this mass of men who came to save us.”

“Deary, I’ve never had so much fun as when they started into London. What a sight, what a sound. I see they broke your arm after I left. Did they …?”

Squeaks quickly answered, “I don’t think so. I was unconscious for a while. We are on the way to the hospital now. Kip, could you see that Sarah is taken care of for a night or two until I can reward her. I am sure Lord Caldwell will want to do something.”

“Of course, I’ll take care of her.”

 

“I’m happy to tell you, Mr. Dorset and your Lordship that Squeaks is alive and released. She is injured, but nothing that is life-threatening.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you,” Dorset said, pumping the Inspector’s hand up and down.

“I had very little to do with it. I think you’ll both be proud that over fifty drivers came to her rescue at 3:00 a.m. this morning and swarmed the house she was being held in. This was all organized by driver Trevor Kipling. He planned it, executed it, and took down the man with the eyepatch.”

“Took down?” asked Lord Stokes.

“He dispatched him. Both brothers are deceased. He walked out carrying Squeaks in his arms to a cheering mass of drivers, or the Brotherhood as I believe they’re called.”

“Yes, that’s what we call ourselves,” smiled Clyde.

“It’s all over. Kip will bring her home later after she’s been examined and had her arm plastered. Your Lordship, you now have two drivers in casts.”

“Yes, I guess I will have to give that some thought. Thank you, again, Inspector.”

 

“We are nearing the hospital. Sarah, I can tell Zac where to take you home, if you wish, or you may stay in the second bedchamber at my home.”

“I thinks I’ll go home for the time bein’.”

“Oh, Sarah, you accomplished a dangerous mission. I wish everyone could know of your courageous act. I will visit soon.”

“You take care of yourself, Deary.”

The carriage stopped at the entrance to the hospital. Kip reached into his pocket and pulled out coins and gave them to Sarah. “That is, for now, Sarah.”

The coach door opened. As Kip exited, still carrying Squeaks, he asked Zac to note the address where she was left off.

Climbing the steps of the hospital, he was looking into Squeaks face. His heart was breaking for her. “You know, I once thought you were pretty.”

“And now you don’t? It is because of my face?”

“I’m not quite sure in this light. Your hair is gone; your eyes are black. You have blood all over your face. Your cute little petite nose is now big and crooked. You have a limp arm here somewhere, and your naked under this cloak.”

“You forgot to say I have boy’s underpants on.” Squeaks added as she frowned.

“How could I forget that? And I’ve even seen them. There’s not many that would love a woman looking like this … except maybe me.”

“I have a lump on my head.”

“Oh dear. One of those, too? What will I do with you?” He frowned.

“Marry me?”

“Hmmm … Well … I will have to think about marrying someone who doesn’t wear lace knickers.”

“You know about those, do you?”

“It appears you know nothing of them. I should buy you the kind I like most.”

Kip pushed open the hospital door with his foot and backed in carrying his future wife. Several nurses came running up to them.

“This young woman, named Rebecca Dorset, was kidnapped and tortured. I think she could use a good going over,” he smiled down a Squeaks.

“Does that mean everywhere?” She asked, casting her eyes down.

“It’s either them or me. Your choice.” It was hard to see, but Squeaks was blushing like he’d never seen her. Her spirits were high, and that was a godsend to him.

A rolling bed was instantly before him, and he laid her on it. He wanted to kiss her before she was whisked away, but he thought better of it. “How long will she be?”

“Are you her husband?”

“Soon.” They wheeled her through the door.

“A few hours if she is allowed to leave.” The nurse called back as the doors swung closed.

He sat down in the waiting room. First came in the apostles, then Zac, followed by many drivers. It was standing room only.

“Marc, she will be several hours before anyone can see her. Is my horse outside. I need to get away for a while.”

“Aye, Kip. I’ll watch over her until you return.” Marc thought Kip was headed to Lord Stokes.

Kip would visit his father’s home.

 

#

 

“Son, I am so glad to see you safe and hear that Lady Squeaks can mend. I’m proud of you.”

“Father, I am going to ask her to marry me. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but I felt you should know.”

“Trevor, if she is who you want as a wife, you have my blessing. Does she know of your title, yet?”

“So far, I think it is still unknown. It is my intention to continue allowing her to drive if she wants to do that. I will stay a driver, too, until you think I need to be home. Perhaps I can break it to her gently. I will try, at any rate. I must leave for home. I need to change and get my coach to take Squeaks home to Lord Stokes. We will see you when we can.”

“And Mary?”

“When she last appeared, she was happy again. I think she has moved on. I will always believe she stayed because she knew I needed some closure. She assisted me with that. I will miss her terribly now.”

Noble Coachman Chapter 18

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Chapter 18
Lilith

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do we tell people about us?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And you feel that way?”

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

“Am I your lady?”

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

“I do.”

“Then it is a ‘yes.’”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So which level is the most intimate?”

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

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

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

“And you’re not?”

“I think I am barely under control.”

“How about that bump underneath me?”

“The bump?” Suddenly, Kip blushed.

“What step was that?”

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

“Was it that way today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Should I? Do you have boundaries?”

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

 

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

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

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

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

“What is it, father … Gus?”

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

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

“How were you notified?”

“Richards dispatched a rider with a note.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trevor rubbed his forehead as the Inspector continued.

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

“Is there nothing we can do?”

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

“What scenario would that be, Inspector?”

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

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

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

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

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

“No, sir. I cannot.

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

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

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

“I know that, also.”

“Please reconsider.”

“I am warned, sir.”

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

“May I help you, Sir?”

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

“I prefer to stand, Sir.”

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

“Yes, Sir.”

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

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

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

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

“What do you think of that?”

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

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

“None, Sir”

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

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

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

What could be bothering Mary?

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

Domina – 2020

Sky Sets Ancient Rome Drama ‘Domina’ With Isabella Rossellini (Exclusive)

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Isabella Rossellini

The 10-part political period epic is being produced by Comcast-backed Sky Studios and Fifty Fathoms.

The power struggles of Ancient Rome — told through a female perspective — are to be dramatized for TV in a new original series from Comcast-owned European giant Sky.

Domina, being produced by Sky’s new production arm Sky Studios alongside Fifty Fathoms (Fortitude, The A Word), part of Endemol Shine, with Cattleya as exec producers, is a 10-part drama following the life and the extraordinary rise of Livia Drusilla, the mother of the emperor Tiberius, who overcame adversity to become the most powerful woman in the world. Filming started this week at Cinecittà Studios in Rome.

The series features Kasia Smutniak (Perfect StrangersThemDevils) playing Drusilla, supported by an international cast including Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) playing Livius, Livia’s father, and Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Death Becomes Her) playing Balbina, an early enemy. Alongside them star Matthew McNulty (Misfits) as the future emperor Gaius, Christine Bottomley (The End of the F***ing World) as Scribonia, Colette Tchantcho (The Witcher) as Antigone, Ben Batt (Captain America: The First Avenger) as Agrippa, Enzo Cilenti (Free Fire) as Tiberius Claudius Nero, while Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black) plays Claudia Octavia.

Domina follows Livia’s journey from a naïve young girl whose world crumbles in the wake of Julius Caesar’s assassination, to Rome’s most powerful and influential Empress, driven by a deep desire to avenge her father and secure power for her sons. Livia and her peers navigate their way through a brutal society by means of strategy, conspiracy, seduction and murder. This is a visceral and authentic family saga, grounded in historical accuracy and bringing to life the incredible true stories of the women who would create one of the most enduring and fascinating dynasties of all time.

Created and written by Simon Burke (ZenFortitude), the lead director is Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy (OpheliaThe Luminaries).

The crew includes top Italian professionals: costumes will be designed by the Academy Award winning Gabriella Pescucci (The Age of InnocenceOnce Upon A Time in America), production design by Luca Tranchino (Prison Break), makeup by Katia Sisto (Penny Dreadful) and hair design by Claudia Catini (Trust).

“I am thrilled to be playing such a complex character as Livia Drusilla,” said Kasia Smutniak. “As a frontrunner in defending women’s rights, she was a tough woman who was both feared and cherished and was strong enough to seal the fate of the Roman Empire.”

Added Nicola Maccanico, Sky Italia’s executive vp programming: “Domina is an international production and we are very proud of its strong Italian roots. It is a great epic drama that brings to life ancient Rome again, but from a different perspective, that of the women, and reshapes our view of them. They are the masters of their fate and fiercely pursue their ambitions and ultimately the conquest of power. With Domina, Sky Studios will once again bring together major international artistic values and top Italian talents.”

Patrick Spence, managing director of Fifty Fathoms, added: “Simon’s scripts offer a unique opportunity to see Ancient Rome as it has never been shown before. Authentic, messy, visceral, and with the agenda-driven quietly, but ruthlessly by the women.”

Claire McCarthy, Domina lead director, said: “This period of Roman history is truth being stranger than fiction. I’m tremendously excited to bring this rich and visceral world to life with this incredible troupe of stellar actors and the gifted creative team. What an honor to be working out of Cinecittà studios too where so many of the greats have built cinema history.”

Domina is being executive produced by Spence, Marcus Wilson, Faye Dorn, Burke and McCarthy and produced by John Phillips.

The series will air exclusively in all Sky territories, in Italy, U.K., Ireland, Germany and Spain. NBCUniversal Global Distribution holds international rights in the rest of the world on behalf of Sky Studios.

Production underway.

Miss Scarlet and the Duke

   ‘MISS SCARLET AND THE DUKE’
NEW PERIOD SET SERIES PHOTOS AND TRAILER ARE HERE

A+E Network‘s MISS SCARLET AND THE DUKE 19th century drama has new pictures from the sets featuring lead stars Stuart

As far as I’ve heard the series will also hit PBS sometime next year

Martin and Kate Philips as 19th century London’s first female private detective! The six episode series will also star Ansu Kabia, Andrew Gower, Matthew Malone, Simon Ludders. You can also check out the first trailer

Stuart Martin and Kate Philips in lead roles

featuring a scene in which she hits a policeman in a disgusting example of violence against men which is, I’m guessing, supposed to be funny. It is not. It is a despicable and vile example of hypocrisy and double standards.

 

London’s First Female Detective
When Eliza’s (Kate Philips) father dies, he leaves her penniless in a time where marriage is her only option for financial security. But the headstrong Eliza is determined to find another way. Luckily, she has an ace up

Stuart Martin returns to period set drama after Medici and Jamestown

her bonnet – her father’s business – a private detective agency. Eliza knows all the tricks of the trade but as a genteel 19th century lady she’s never been allowed to put them into practice. To operate in this man’s world, she needs a partner. Step forward Detective Inspector William Wellington (Stuart

The first season will consist of just six episodes

Martin) of Scotland Yard, who is also known as “The Duke;” drinker, gambler and womaniser. Eliza and The Duke strike up a mismatched, fiery relationship that will crackle and smoulder with sexual tension as they team up to solve crime in the murkiest depths of 1880’s London.

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