The Noble Coachman – Chapter 27 – Finale~

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Chapter 27
The Final Tears

 

“I don’t think men get nervous. Except perhaps on their first time.”

“That is a beautiful memory, never forgotten?”

“A man’s first time isn’t easy to forget, but in different ways, then you’re thinking.”

“Really?” She looked sad as if his reminiscence was something to be cherished.

“I think most men never live down their gross incompetence of that first experience. Is there something on your mind?”

“Are you competent now?”

“Squeaks, exactly what are you asking me?” Kip picked up speed to get home.

“I think we should approach step four. That is the step where one confesses whatever the other should know. You know … such as … other people, they have been with, secrets that they have kept, titles that they have, and …” She was interrupted.

“Bloody hell.” Kip pulled on the reins and brought the coach quickly to a stop. He turned to stare at her.

She was smiling. “I guessed, didn’t I? Your face says it’s something like that.”

“Youuuu … guessed?” Kip huffed out in astonishment.

“Even though I am small, I do have a modicum of intelligence and woman’s intuition. I don’t need swirling images to see things, although I did.”

“What …?” Kip shouted in disbelief.

What is happening? Maybe I am insane.

“I’ve been wondering how to tell you. I hardly believe it myself. Mary came to me in a dream soon after I was rescued.”

Kip took her shoulders and shook them. “Please, don’t make fun of that part of my life.”

“But she did. That is the truth.”

“I don’t believe you. I’m sorry, but I don’t. I am surprised that you could be this … this disrespectful.”

“Kip … Trevor … whatever your real name is, did your sister meet her death wearing a white sundress with yellow flowers and green leaves? Did she have green eyes like you and light hair? Did she have a cameo ring that she liked to wear?”

Kip was stunned beyond measure, and words were nowhere to be heard. He sat there staring at her wondering how any of this was possible. He still hadn’t accepted completely all that had been happening to him.

“Kip, are you all right?”

“I’m not sure. Can we not talk until we get home?”

“I’m sorry. It took a while for me to believe it, too. I thought you would be happy to hear that.”

The remainder of the ride was quiet. Squeaks could see his mind was elsewhere. She slid toward the center, effectively pushing him to the side and took the reins herself. The slow clip-clop of hooves seemed surprisingly loud, within their silence. She wondered if she should have told him. His sister Mary had appeared to her in a dream. Squeaks was frightened at first until Mary showed herself with her brother. Squeaks sensed she had entered her head when Kip was drawing her portrait at their picnic. Kip’s life with Mary played out in front of her. The images were joyful for both.  Squeaks could see his love for his sister and the home he lived in and the way he was reared. He had to be of peerage. She was shown Mary’s death, and the ultimate payment exacted upon Kip.

Upon awakening, Squeaks was able to remember it and quickly wrote it down. Over the following weeks, Kip’s reasons for being a coachman became clear. Loving him as she did, Squeaks knew her life would dramatically change. She worried herself many nights thinking about it. Kip’s love finally pulled her through all the decisions she was facing in her future. She wasn’t sure how Kip would ask her to be his wife and be accepted by his family, but she loved him and put her faith in him. Perhaps, it was her place to decline. She knew she could bring nothing to that family but embarrassment. Kip loved her but was he doing right by his heritage?

When they reached his stable, Kip jumped down and walked into his house, leaving Squeaks on the bench. A minute later, he was back, apologizing for not thinking she was there. He tethered the team but did not unharness them.

Squeaks entered his back door behind him. He still wasn’t talking. She found her way to the parlor and sat on a shabby sofa. Suddenly, she had a glass handed to her. She smelled it. It was scotch. She hadn’t much liked that drink, yet. Kip settled in a chair across from her.

“I think I am ready to hear about your dream,” Said Kip, pinching the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb.

“Does that mean that my vision is confirmed. I have my own doubts, too.”

“Yes, you were right on all points. Proceed.”

“First, I want to say, we would have been great friends. She was a beautiful and warm person. She showed me how close the two of you were. It was through those images that I made my guess about possibly a noble heritage.” Still sipping his drink, Squeaks watched as Kip’s eyes watered, but he remained attentive and silent.

“I think she loves me, too.”

With that statement, Kip set his glass on the floor, laid his head back on the chair, placing his hands on his face. It seemed an eternity before he spoke.

“I am sure she would have loved you. Is there more?”

“Some. She showed me her death. I have no words strong enough for the gruesome fate she suffered. Mary was not conscious most of the time, so she only showed me small aspects of her ordeal. There were no images of the rape that you mentioned. She made me aware of the suffering that you endured. You don’t know how saddened that made her. She loved you so much that she would not move on until you forgave yourself.”

Kip stood and started pacing the floor listening. He refilled his glass. Returning, he sat beside Squeaks.

“There isn’t much more except she said you have a surprise for me. It pleased her, I think.”

“She teases me from the grave. That sounds like something you would do.” Kip took Squeaks’ drink and swallowed it.  Taking her in his arms, he buried his face in her hair and shed his final tears. She wrapped her arms around him the best that she could and held him tight.

“Should I have told you? Will you be happy now that you know?”

“No one can understand how I feel. The two women whom I have loved most seemed to meet each other in a dream I never had. Both women care and love me. The passing of one led to the coming of the other.

“I still want to marry you, but that’s impossible.” Squeaks looked forlorn. “I don’t think I will accept. I would bring untold awkwardness to your family to speak nothing of your long ancestry. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks.”

“My father has given me his blessing. It wouldn’t have mattered if he hadn’t. My love for you is so deep, I shall never see daylight. You possess me. Wait . . . what do you mean, impossible?”

“Do you know of other marriages by nobles in our situation? I mean marrying into a different class?”

“Yes, there are many instances down through history where the couple married for love. It was most difficult for the females as they would follow the commoner’s way of life if they had little wealth. Sons born into nobility suffered little if any long term effect. I cannot say it will be easy, but I made that decision when I left home and became a coachman. I will still inherit my title, and you will gain one as well.”

“Will I have to take a test of some sort? I don’t even know what the second fork is used for. Can you see me setting an example for staff?”

Kip sat there laughing. “Eventually, you will learn those proper ways and a bit of our history, too.”

“Not history about those red and white roses and which King followed another King? However, I do know which King was the last one to ride into battle with his warriors.”

“That would be Richard III at the battle of Bosworth. See, you are on your way.”

Squeaks’ smile spread across her small face. “Do you think people will call us ‘Tall and Small?”

Kip laughed. “That’s entirely possible from our mates.”

“Am I too small for you?”

“It won’t be easy to kiss you being a foot below me. I shall endeavor not to trip over you. Do you have any other meaning?  Wait …you mean something else, don’t you?”

Squeaks looked down at her hands in her lap, hoping he would know what she meant. Kip released a roar of laughter as her remark became clear. “Are you hinting at step five?”

“I think so.” Squeaks couldn’t look into his face.

“Probably. The doctor will have to examine us both. I’ve been working up the courage to see a specialist and … and … have things … umm … reduced.” Kip thought he would die watching the expression of horror on her face. Then he realized she could be serious and smiled.

“Never mind the doctor, I’ll take care of that myself.” Squeaks folded her arms and sulked. “Where is my surprise?”

“Hold on my little prodigy. What do you mean you’ll take care of that yourself?”

“I know where the gelding tool is,” she laughed.

“Patience, milady. Those are harsh words for someone who belongs on a tuffet. And, you have your surprise. I am sure Mary was aware of your Kipling livery which you are wearing.”

“Oh.”

He smirked. “Just, oh?”

“Take me to your bed.”

“We can kiss fine right here.”

“Will you at least light the fire?”

“Which fire would that be? There’s seems to be plenty of heat to go around.”

“Why are you making this so difficult? Most of the time, you want to hold me until I can no longer breathe. Why are you teasing me?”

“Because I love you and I am happy. This day will never come again. Let us not let it slip through our fingers too quickly. The first thing you must know, which your father is correct, is that at this particular juncture, the man makes the first advancement and likely all the others. You cannot have your way at this point. You have no experience.”

“Doesn’t it come naturally or are you saying a woman isn’t capable?”

“If that’s the way you want it. Fine. I’ll light the fire, and you can begin.”

“Wait …”

“I don’t think so. You wanted it, now you’ve got it. You must strike while the fire is hot, but you knew that, of course.”

“But our iron never cools. All right.” While Kip was building a fire, Squeaks removed her tails. boots, hose, and cravat. She laid the still unopened gold watch on a side table.

Kip rose from the fire pit and turned around. Seeing squeaks without tails and boots, he remarked, “Off to a poor beginning, I see. I’m sorry. Do continue. What would you wish me to do? Dress down to where you are?”

“Yes … er … no.”

“Should we start kissing?”

“Soon.”

Kip spit out laughter. “Soon, huh? All right.” He stood there in front her watching the modicum of intellect and woman’s intuition work it’s magic while wearing a frown.

Squeaks approached him. She stood on the sofa and pulled him back to her where she removed his tails. She laid them nicely over the back of a chair.

“How am I doing?”

“Poorly.”

“Poorly?” She turned him toward her and pulled his shirt from his trousers.

Better?”

“I beg your pardon, milady. You are halfway through and haven’t even found the beginning. Where is the passion? Why are our desires not building? Where is the titillating kiss to my mouth or the side of my neck? Where is the excitement in your eyes instead of that frown? When does my arousal arrive? Why can’t I stop laughing at this?”

Squeaks sat down on the sofa feeling dejected. “My father said I was headstrong like my mother.”

“He is a wise man, that Clyde. The beginning of lovemaking comes from the heart and body, not the mind. You’re thinking of what to do, not reacting to what you feel.”

Kip sat beside her and lifted her chin with his finger. She was still frowning. He encouraged her to stand in front of him. He removed her skirt, leaving her trousers and shirt. He removed his own boots and hose.

Squeaks was lifted to his lap, facing him. He kissed her sweetly and pointed to his cravat.  Squeaks did the honors. “You see, I would have liked to have removed your clothes. However, … there are still a few more. They’re all going this time. Did not that kiss begin stirrings?” He pulled her shirt from her trousers.

“This is convenient, isn’t it? We have the same livery.”

“Not quite, Sweets.”

Kip pulled her fiercely to his mouth, savoring her soft sounds. He heard her breath escape. Again, he took her mouth and pressed for entry. She accepted his advance as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Slowly, disorientation took hold for her. She felt her shirt giving quarter. Kip smothered her mouth with devouring hunger.  His lips were warm and wet, and they covered her mouth.  He lightly nipped and sucked on her bottom lip before parting her lips with his tongue.  Kip was pulling her face hard against his.  He tightened her to his frame, introducing his rigid manhood to her. He unpinned her hair.

Removing her shirt, Kip saw the new corset. Her ivory shoulders, neck, and cleavage unfolded before him causing his heart to start hammering even faster. Kip wrapped his arms around her backside and, with a sustained pressure she was powerless to resist, moved her high and hard against him. He positioned himself at the apex of her thighs.

She softly moaned and closed her eyes. Squeaks fell softly against his chest. He had longed to show her what she was capable of feeling. Her journey was beginning.

He stood Squeaks up and removed his trousers and hers. She was barely conscious of what was happening. He set her down before she fell and unlaced her corset that bound her beautiful breasts, leaving her in the lace knickers he had bought for her. Kip leaned back against the sofa and brought her to his lap once again. The smooth ivory neck that had beckoned him for weeks was within reach. As he kissed and licked her neck, his hands found her breasts. He kneaded her softly while his thumbs gently massaged the pink beaded tips, eliciting cooing sounds from her. As he held her, he felt her muscles lose all resistance.

Drawing one nipple into his mouth, a gasp was heard while he savored her. She became a ragdoll with her head listing to one side. She was exquisite in her response to him. With no shame, he pulled her against him once again, rocking her; spilling himself.

Kip lifted her in his arms and laid Squeaks in front of the fire; then slipped off his and her undergarments.

He paused, wanting to hold this image with the flames from the fire casting their shadows against her porcelain skin. Kneeling, he gently nudged her thighs apart.

Squeaks, with much humility, tried to decline but when Kip’s mouth covered hers, she unlocked the gate.

“Kip, I’m afraid.”

“I know you are. Have I hurt you in any way?” He whispered into her ear.

“No, but this is embarrassingly intimate. In my dreams of this moment, I didn’t feel this hesitation.”

“This is the other part of your life that you have waited twenty years to experience. Do you wish me to stop? There will come a time when I cannot. That will happen to you, as well, if I am competent,” he smiled.

“My nerves are all tingly.”

“Then I am competent. That is desire building. I am way ahead of you in that area of passion, but I am taking my time with you, and drawing out every ounce of pleasure you can sustain. I love your every sound, gasp and moan. I wait to see your body move in reaction to how I please you. A man in love lives for that.”

“When is step five? I want something more. My muscles are tightening. I feel heat. I am very aware that your knees are between my thighs right now.”

“Sweets, this is only the overture. My heart has begun its strumming. Soon you will become my violin. I will tune your pitch and play your sensual strings. They will vibrate and quiver for me. I will hold you there and sustain your ascent.

“Isn’t it supposed to hurt?”

“It should be of short duration and only moderately discomforting. We’re not near there yet.”

“Well, can you not do something about my fidgeting? It almost hurts. Please! Do something.”

I want to laugh so badly right now. She doesn’t know how amusing she can be. I will not let her spoil her finest moments.

Kip had to bite his lip watching her frown at him. Immediately, he covered her mouth to quiet her. The kiss was violent, his tongue was thrusting into her, sweeping her mouth, nibbling her lips and then he was gone.

Squeaks next conscious moment found him suckling her breasts, First one and then the other.”

“Oh, Kip. You’re doing that really makes me aware of myself in … umm … in another place.”

“I love you telling me what you feel.”

Kip slid down and took his first lick through the curls. Squeaks jerked and arched her back without her own knowledge. He nudged her legs further apart. Her succulent little button was waiting for his attention. He lifted her to his mouth while holding her steady. Her hands were in his hair and then on his shoulders trying to push him away.

“Do horses do this? I’m embarrassed. “Her voice was whiney, and her face grimaced with confusion.

“Don’t push me away. Don’t think I don’t love doing this to you. I would live here if I could. This brings me as much pleasure as it will to you. I want this so badly for both of us. Try to lay still.”

“You must be jesting. Oh, my God,” Squeaks shrieked as Kip began in earnest.

Slowly and gently, he licked and suckled her womanhood, drawing out her pleasure for many long minutes. Her body movements slowed as she lost her inhibitions. When her sounds of breathing accelerated, she began to lightly thrash. He knew she was entering delirium.

“Talk to me. I don’t know what this feels like for you.” Kip knew she only existed in the world he was creating with the tip of his tongue. She was lost, and only he could guide her home.

She clung to him as intoxication coursed through her. Her gasps and moans had quickened. Her legs were quivering. “I’m … lost … my god.”

Everything crested with the intense pleasure rolling through her until her consciousness existed on a different plain.

The sensation, so shattered her, that she called Kip’s name in alarm. “Kip!”

Her bountiful breasts were heaving as Kip watched her floating back to the awareness of her own existence.

“You went over the precipice of desire, sweets. I wanted you to experience the ecstasy of my loving you.” Kip pulled her up against his body, wrapping his arms tightly around her. Kissing her madly and possessively. She was weakened, disoriented, legs still shaking, bosom heaving. “You had better get used to this.”

She slumped against him, breathing hard, still gulping air.

Kip looked at her lost little face, her unfocused eyes and scattered hair. “Are you ready for the final act?”

“Final act?” Squeaks whined, still being adrift.

“I love that smile on your face. It must mean I am competent. There’s more my sweet.”

“I will never live through it. Am I really smiling? I need rest. My nerves and withers aren’t ready for another fight.”

“A fight? I thought I was pleasuring you.”

“Too much so, unlike anything … ah … er … anything at all. You did that to me. You made me soar out of my world. I tried to fight it, but I lost control of myself.”

“You are supposed to lose control of yourself and all else. I wanted you to cast off all earthly feelings and exist just for me.”

“There is nothing that approaches where you sent me. One feels unworthy of such bliss.”

“No, my love. That’s one way a man shows his woman his love for her. I need to possess you, and that is inborn and cannot be denied me.”

“And there’s more? Of course! You storm my battlements, and run me through with your sword.”

“Don’t say it like that That isn’t romantic talk. You’ll make me self-conscious.  This is my branding, I mentioned.”

She’s going to make me laugh before this is over. That will not do.

Kip laid her back down and lowered himself to her moist opening. Nudging her legs again, he took the first light touch. Squeaks put her hands through his hair.

It took no time for Squeaks to regain her feminine longing. She started to tremble.

Kip knew she was prepared to receive him. He lifted up, placing himself at the door of dreams. He inserted himself partially and Squeaks clenched herself there. It was heavenly for him. She was small, though.

“Are you all right so far?”

“Yes. I want you inside of me no matter how it feels.”

Kip thrust further meeting her virginity. Looking into her eyes, he pushed through the barrier, as he watched her eyes squeeze tightly and a grimace appeared. There was only a small moan from her. He continued until he was fully immersed in her velvet sheath.

“The worst is over. Are you still feeling well?”

“Yes,” she replied with closed eyes and a raspy voice.

Kip began his thrusting movement slowly, allowing her body to take him smoothly and without fear. Her pleasure should start any moment … and it did.

“Feel me, my love. Enjoy me.” He saw the smile appear. His movements increased. Squeaks began to rise up to meet him, encouraging a faster pace. He couldn’t believe this was going to be his life. He watched her closed eyes and face until the moment came. As she moaned out his name, he completed his own release with a shudder, after her.

Nothing exists but this moment.

Moments passed with only the sound of panting from them both.

“Hail, the Conquering Hero!” Squeaks whispered aloud.

He kissed her deeply as she lay there breathing hard. “I love you so very much.” Kip moved to the side, so she could take her air. “Ever since I’ve known you, I have dreamed of this, our first time together.”

“How did we do, Kip?”

“The question is, how did I do?” he asked her.

“You couldn’t tell? Why are you smiling?”

“You are the most sensuous, responsive and beautiful person in my life.

They stayed in each other’s arms for almost an hour. Squeaks dozed for a bit, and Kip was making plans for the future in his mind. Nothing ever in his life could match this day. From the Steeplechase until now. He must marry her soon. Chances were slim that she was pregnant this first time, but he wanted her in his bed.

Kip slipped from the hearth area and brought back a cloth and a basin of water. He had washed and brought fresh water for Sweets.

Missing him, she slowly came awake.

“I am going to clean you.” He waited for a denial; it didn’t come. He sat beside her with the wet cloth. As he parted her thighs to clean her, there was evidence of her innocence. “You know, you were right.”

“I was. About what?”

“About riding astride. You were still intact. Although, we both knew that before seeing it.”

“Tsk.”

“Will you stop saying that. You make me laugh every time. This is a moment I have waited my whole life to do. Don’t spoil it for me. Let me see, here. Yes, you’re clean. Let’s get you out off this floor.”

“Really?”

“It’s mussed. I don’t want you lying here.”

“What will your cleaning lady think?”

“I’ll dispose of this small carpet.”

“Good. With your noble history, I don’t want that going up on some trophy wall.”

“What am I going to do with you? Hurry up and get dressed. I have something to show you.”

“Is it the watch?”

“Well … almost.”

Kip slipped her watch into his pocket and walked her out to his stable.

“This is a grand stable, Kip.”

“This is our grand stable, Sweets.”

“This tack room is suffocating with horse accessories, oils, lotions, and the like,” Squeaks said as she paraded around the room.

“Are you sure you will marry me?” Squeaks asked.

“Completely.”

“And we share everything?”

“Yes, as we did this most fervid afternoon.”

“So, does that mean that I get either Warrior or Soldier or half of both?”

“Well, as much as I love you, I cannot give you my horses.”

“So, I come second in your life?”

“Noooo….”

“What is that noise. Oh, that’s the horse you are stabling for a friend, right?”

“Right. Care to see him?”

“Yes.”

The two walked down to the end of the stable holding hands.

“Oh, Kip! It’s another Friesian and he’s white. He’s beautiful.  He’s young. He’s exquisite. What’s his name?”

“Hero.”

“Who? Whose is it? Is it mine? Is it mine?” Squeaks was jumping up and down.

“He’s yours, Rebecca. All yours,” Kip smiled, never seeing her so glowing. “You know, I am quite put out that you should look more radiant now than about half an hour ago.”

“Oh! Well, being both the most magnificent gifts in my life, I have to say that Hero will last longer,” she giggled.

“I guess we will just have to see about that. I’m not called the Almighty for nothing,” he gleamed. He took her hand and walked her into the stall where Hero was, pulled her to his chest and kissed her long and lovingly.

“Hero is too much. I can’t parade around with a horse like him.”

“I have money. You know that now. I’ve wanted you to have one almost since I’ve known you.”

“When can I ride him?”

“He’s saddle ready but too young to pull a carriage. You can take him home today, tied to the coach, but you should work him first.”

“Oh, Kip. Thank you. Thank you. What a day this has been. One life-turning event after another. You’ve made me the happiest woman in the world. Please, no more gifts. As wonderful as they are, I am not used to being showered with presents. I will become selfish quite quickly. Let me take the time to get acquainted with your lifestyle. Don’t spoil me anymore. I mean that. Can I have my watch now?”

Kip pulled the chain and watch from his pocket, laughing and smiling at her, while he swung it before her eyes.

Squeaks grabbed at it with both hands and slowly opened the back case where the engraved words were revealed.

 

Reign over my Reins,
My Beloved Rebecca
You Are My Life

 

“You know, I love you, my noble coachman.”

 

The End

 

 

 

The Noble Coachman – Chapter 26

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 26
Derby Day Two

(next to the last chapter)

 

Early the next morning, Clyde and his friend Dirk were down at the field ensuring the proper set up for the steeplechase. Fences were being pounded into the ground, and ditches were being filled with water. The course was a half mile long, but the entrants would circle the course four times, making it a total two-mile run.

Bradley and Squeaks were doing the final grooming on Regent, a purebred Arabian, Lord Stokes’s personal horse, who had done some flat racing by a former owner. As Squeaks entered her late teens, she took to Regent and began working with him. Her father told her with what she had taught Regent, she should show well in the race today. It would be their first race together. She was nervous.

“Bradley, do a nice job on that tail. I’m almost done with his mane. Did you feed him lightly this morning?”

“Yes. Gee, look at him gleaming in the sun.”

“He’s beautiful. I wish His Lordship would ride him once again.”

“What next Squeaks?”

“Rub down his leg muscles, and then run him in the paddock, while I get ready. Do we still have those horse brasses that no one knew what they were meant for?”

“Yeah, I know where they are. You want them?”

“Yes. I will be down within half an hour.”

 

Kip was dressed in his gentleman driver outfit, boots, and top hat. The Queen Mary was spotless, flowers were in the vases, and the drapes clean and pressed. Inside he placed his new formal attire, sporting a black velvet collar, and embroidered cuffs which matched Squeaks. The top hats were also made of the same velvet set off by a purple hat band. This was one of his family crest colors, and he wanted to fit it in somewhere. Squeaks would have a bundle of purple chiffon bows at the rear hat band. The bow ended in two scarf ribbons, hanging down about a foot from the band. It gave it a very feminine look. He designed it. Perhaps a Kipling livery line would be in his future. He had worked all this through the seamstress he had visited one day. The seamstress suggested small darts be sewn in. Kip wondered what she meant. She told him that wearing a man’s straight coat would not accentuate her female allurements. He readily agreed to the darts. When he went to fetch the clothing, the seamstress said she had never sewn so elegant yet understated attire. Kip was glad to hear this as that was exactly the image he wanted. Be seen but not seen. He placed his harness brasses and an etched leather bridle in the coach.

Ion would arrive at the parade site at lunchtime. He had his own formal attire, but Kip had a matching top hat made for him. Kip brushed his Friesians one more time before leaving.

 

Squeaks arrived on Regent and placed him in the temporary paddock with all the horses. She walked over to see her father and Dirk, sitting at the entrant’s table.

“Excuse me, gentleman, I wish to enter the steeplechase event.”

Her father looked at her and said, “Sorry, no women allowed.” Then he and Dirk broke out laughing. “Yes, my child, you are entered. I know I will be a proud father today no matter your placement. You are causing quite a stir among the single gentlemen here. In fact, all of them, I believe. We’re always being asked if you are participating in anything. I think several have signed up just to ride with you. Little do they know that you’re a jumper.”

“Father, I forgot to tell you. I will ride with Kip in the Grand Parade.”

“I’ve been waiting to hear that. I figured you two would enter.”

“He asked me yesterday. When he came to dinner, he brought a box with a beautiful livery for me.”

“I hope that man isn’t going into debt over you.” Clyde knew that Kip was a noble and money was no problem.

“He wanted to give me a gold watch, but I told him to return it.”

“A gold watch?” Stammered Dirk.

“Father, can I borrow yours until the parade is over?”

Clyde pulled on the chain and slipped the watch off his vest, giving it to Squeaks.

Dirk remarked, “I haven’t seen Kip yet. Does he have any other events?”

“I don’t think so. Only the final one.”

Matthew and Marc crept up behind Squeaks and tapped her on the shoulder. “How are you today, Miss?” Asked Marc.

“I am feeling rather gay. I plan to enter the steeplechase.” Squeaks saw them grinning. She stood there proudly with her leather pants, dark-green wool blazer, and her red tam, which she cocked to the side. They didn’t believe her. Kip had never mentioned it because he didn’t know it either. They were in for a show, whether she placed well or not. Her biggest excitement was having Lord Stokes see his horse in the race.

“I guess you have a fair chance in that one as any other.”

“Why are you smiling?”

“Well, we have a few steeplechasers that are now drivers. You will have competition.”

“I certainly hope so.”

“Have you seen Kip today?”

“No, but I know he intended to watch the steeplechase race.”

“That’s good. He should be here soon, then. They’re having the open event now. Want to go watch?”

“I might as well,” she said, as they walked down the slope that overlooked the large field. “Exactly what is the open?”

“Any horseman may show off any stunts that he can do with his horse. It’s amazing what these animals can be taught. Judging is difficult for this one. I see many of the lords are beginning to show up with their stables for the Grand ending. I am sure Kip will be entered in that one. He’ll have some big competition with the in-service stables and coaches. He has a chance, though. At least, he should finish in the top five and get a horse brass as a prize.”

 

Lord Stokes arrived at the tented table with Dirk and Clyde. “Well gents, how is the derby faring?”

Both immediately stood and were signaled to be seated. “Your Lordship, I think you have an excellent event to be associated with. There have been few disputes over the judging. The coachmen are having a grand time. I hear there may be more in-service entrees next year. Even though the prizes are small, they seem to covet them.”

“Next year?”

“Sir, I have made no promises to anyone. I have heard mumblings about ‘I’ll beat you next year’ and words like that. I think the steeplechase will have more entrants than expected and plenty of on-lookers.”

“And why is that, do you think?”

“Because our Squeaks rides in that one.”

“Does she now? When is that?”

“This open event is nearly over. There will be a half-hour pause to set up the steeplechase obstacles in the big viewing field. When they are completed, a horn will be blown, calling all participants.”

“I shall stay to watch this myself. Is that Lord Clayton over there?”

“Yes, sir. Many Lords are coming in for the final Grand event.”

“This is becoming more attractive by the moment. I shall take a stroll.”

 

Squeaks was watching intently at the open event when Kip sat down behind her. He easily looked over her head, seeing Matthew and Mark, “Morning mates.”

“Good morning, Kip.”

“Everything fit?”

“There are darts in my coat.”

“Yes, I know. Your seamstress suggested them. I had no idea what they were.”

“Kip …” Squeaks sniffled. “They’re beautiful. Thank you.”

“Where are they?”

“In our coach. Father brought the boxes.”

“I still have your hat. Are you excited?”

“Terribly. I told Father, but His Lordship doesn’t know, yet.”

“Did you know you will drive, too?”

“No! No, I didn’t know that. How is that to work?”

“After the opening speech, we take the coach. Each one of us will parade around the ring. You will go first. I will go last to finish any other movements they wish us to make after the ring trot. Trot. You must trot.”

“All right.”

“I understand that after the steeplechase, while all are eating, several deep holes will be left from the previous race. You will have to deftly go around them.”

“Do others know?”

“I don’t know. I believe all the independents do.”

“Is that fair?”

“It wouldn’t matter. They should be trained to look for such hazards all the time. There may be others that I don’t even know about. We’re not out there solely to look pretty.”

“Squeaks, can we have our private talk after this is over. I need to know if you will accept my suggestion.”

“Yes.”

“Yes, to my suggestion, or yes to our meeting?”

Just then the steeplechase horn blew.

“I must go. I have to get my horse and get down there. Bradley should have him ready for me.” Squeaks jumped up and ran back to the paddock.

“Kip, aren’t you thrilled for her?”

“Embarrassed,” Kip said, “I never knew she could jump. This is all a surprise to me. I know she is anxious to feel part of the Brotherhood, but she didn’t have to enter this as proof.”

 

Bradley handed the reins to Squeaks and wished her luck. Once more, he reminded her of the weaving around the barrels in the big field.

“That will be no trouble for Regent.”

 

Kip and his apostles stood because of the large crowd which had formed ahead of them on the slope. Everyone wanted a higher view which could allow them a bit more visibility into the woods where half of the path led. For once Kip’s height came in very handy.

The trumpet blew, and all the entrants walked in, single file, leading their animal. Squeaks was sixth walking in. The crowd murmured when they saw her. Someone asked if children were allowed in. Someone else said it was a woman, and everyone shouted him down. She must be crazy if that is a woman. She’s wearing a tam. It must be a woman. Kip was grinning from ear to ear, and the apostles kept elbowing each other and laughing.

Kip saw that the horse was a thoroughbred Arabian. “Look at her horse, lads. How will she ever get on it?”

They all laughed. “Ten to one, she’s boosted,” said Lucas.

“I’ll take that bet,” replied Kip. Loser rides rear footman for a night.”

“You’re on. So, how is she going to get on, do you think?”

“I don’t have any idea, but I bet she won’t need any help. They didn’t put a horse block out there for her.”

“Looks like there are about twenty entrees. That seems like a lot to me. I don’t know that many former steeplechasers. Must be a lot of in-service I don’t know about.”

The ring announcer told them to mount their steeds. Kip watched as the rider next to her came over to assist. She curtsied to him but dismissed him. There were murmurs among the crowd. Kip spotted Lord Stokes, Clyde, and Dirk behind him.

As the riders mounted, all eyes were on Squeaks.

“Now, what’s she going to do?” Someone in the crowd asked loudly.

“What is she doing?” Stokes asked Clyde.

“You’ll see, Sir.”

Squeaks walked out in the front of the horse while holding the reins. She tapped her crop on the ground twice. A hush fell over the crowd. As if on cue, Regent got down on his front knees and then went down on his back legs, crouching like a stone lion figure. Squeaks easily slid into the saddle and patted him on the neck, and talked to him. Regent rose majestically into a standing position, and everyone clapped and whistled.

Kip felt so proud of her, he wanted to weep. She won everyone’s heart, not just the drivers.

Lord Stokes puffed out his chest in pride. “She’s on Regent,” he said loud enough for Kip to hear.

“I owe you one, Kip. That was incredible.”

Kip was stuck for words. His heart was pounding so heavily against his chest; he could hear nothing around him.

All the horses lined up at the end of the field, Squeaks felt very smart in her boots, tam, and corduroy vest and wool blazer. As she sat there waiting for the gun to sound, words came back to her. Let the others lead for half the race. She didn’t understand why, but she would let them lead.

The gun sounded, and Squeaks held back while the pack congested itself trying to weave through the barrels. When it cleared, she took off like a shot, catching up to the pack too quickly. The big field had two fences before going into the woods. Five riders went down trying to get over them. Squeaks could see that the pack jostled each other for the lead, therefore, forcing mistakes. Squeaks held back again and even came to a dead stop, before sailing over the first and second fences alone. They turned into the woods where there were men if one fell, was injured or tried to cheat by taking a shorter route.

Squeaks was starting to calm her insides and do more concentrating on the race. “A rider will always see ahead and compensate for something unexpected.” Kip’s words came to her. She passed another three entrants who were thrown into the muddy water jumps. She kept her head down and watched the two jumpers in front of her. If something went wrong with them, she knew to be ready to react. She could tell the jumps easily by their movements. The rider ahead of her was suddenly knocked from his horse by a low hanging branch. Squeaks ducked her head and had to jump the rider on the ground.

Kip and everyone was milling around, waiting for them to come into sight again. The barrels had been removed from the field, and two fences were erected. They were very close together. Kip thought he had never seen anything like that. As the riders came back into the field, only three made it over the close fences. The failed riders were in a pile near the fence when Squeaks came through. The crowd murmured again. She’d never make it.

Squeaks pulled back on her reins, essentially stopping her horse. She trotted him around at the end of the field until the fence was reset and riders were walking away. Squeaks used her riding crop and whipped Regent to a fast start. Everyone thought she was headed too fast to the double fence. At the right moment, she pulled Regen’ts head up, and he flew over both at once. A huge round of applause was heard. People were jumping up and down at the feat, she accomplished.

“Kip,” Mark shook him. “Why aren’t you saying anything?” This is fabulous. Her skills will never be doubted after today.”

“I am too choked up to speak. Excuse me.” Kip had to walk away for a moment to dry his eyes. He happened to catch Lord Stokes doing the same thing behind the crowd. Kip gave him a moment and walked over to him.

“I see we are both overwhelmed by our Squeaks,” said Lord Stokes, seeing the reddened eyes of Kip.

“Where did she learn this?” asked Kip.

“I thought you taught her,”

“Not I, sir. I’ve never done this in my life, only a fox hunt or two. Flat races yes, but not this.”

They both were silent.

The remaining four riders came back into the main viewing field and saw that four fences were erected, each one taking the rider across the field.”

“Here they come,” said Kip. “Oh, dear God, she’s still in the race.”

They both watched as the first rider missed seeing the first fence and had to repeat it or drop out. That put him behind Squeaks. The second rider had no difficulty. Squeaks took her time and was flawless over the fences.

Coming into the third pass, another fence had been added to the center with water on the other side. Very easy to miss if you weren’t watching. Squeaks was second of four. The third jumper passed her and failed the water jump. Squeaks was too close to stop. She approached the water and fence with great care. At the last minute, Regent bounded over the fence and the rider in the water without his hooves kicking the man.

As Squeaks and the two last jumpers left the viewing field, she picked up considerable speed which she had been holding back. She and the horse knew the path now. She had caught up to the first horse and was staying right behind him until the open field at the end. The first jumper began whipping his horse. Steam was coming from the horse’s nostrils. Squeaks pulled alongside him. She gave Regent a small whip on the final part of the field and finished first by a horse length.

Kip turned to his Lordship, and they shook hands. Both were beaming with pride. The crowd was wild. Top hats went sailing in the air. One would have thought it was a betting race. It seemed they all wanted the little woman to win, and she did not disappoint. She managed feats unseen by most people, the double fence, the horse bow and the phenomenal water jump.

The three winners were brought to the center field. Kip couldn’t hear anything being said, but the announcer handed horse brasses to the winners. Apparently, he had plenty to say about Squeaks, which caused the other two winners to applaud her. As Squeaks accepted her prize, she bowed and had Regent bow on one of his front legs. The applause was deafening. Kip could see those cherry dimples from where he stood.

 

She will be my wife someday.     

 

Finally getting Regent settled, she found her way to the lunch buffet. There was applause as she entered the area. Lord Stokes stood and motioned to her where they were sitting. Squeaks was stopped and congratulated many times on the way to her seat.

His Lordship motioned for her to come sit next to him.

“My dear Squeaks; you have won the day and the hearts of all here. We cannot be prouder of you at this moment. How did you learn to jump?”

“On my own. I’ve had a lot of time in the years before I was allowed on the bench. Father would drive you somewhere, and I would saddle Regent and go riding. You had stopped riding him, and he needed to be worked. You see, it’s all your doing,” she smiled. Everyone laughed.

His Lordship made everyone lift their glasses, and he toasted to her great success. “What did you win, Squeaks?”

She hadn’t looked at it, assuming it was a nice ornament for her horse. Everyone heard her gasp as she read the inscription molded into the brass. She read it aloud. “Squeaks Derby 1867, First Place Steeplechase.”

Everyone applauded. She sat down and ran her fingers over the lettering. The motif was of two knights with lances, charging at each other. Around the edge were the words. Tears came to her eyes, and His Lordship put his arm around her. Her father was slapping her knee.

“This is the first you have seen of these?” Clyde asked.

“Yes, I had no idea. I am so honored.”

“It was His Lordship’s design and derby name.”

Squeaks looked toward Lord Stokes, threw her arms around his neck, and kissed him on the cheek. Everyone grew silent seeing anyone touch His Lordship. But Lord Stokes laughed, and the festive lunch went on.

Several times during their meal, Squeaks caught Kip looking at her. He hadn’t eaten much. He looked worried, and she understood why. Before this day was over, changes will have been made, she told herself.

“Miss Dorset,” Kip called to Squeaks, “You have some explaining to do.” Everyone laughed. “It surprises me that no one knew of your skills in a steeplechase.”

 

Ion was brushing down the horses when Kip arrived. “Are you ready Ion?”

“That I am. Thank you for picking me to ride with you.”

“Ioan, you match me more than any other, in height, build, and courtesies. I think we make a splendid fit. Someday, I will ride rear for you.”

“Do I take it that the young lady headed this way is second driver?”

Kip turned to see her grinning face. “She is, indeed.” He wanted to sweep her into his arms and smother her with kisses. “Congratulations, Miss Dorset on a spectacular race. His Lordship and I were speechless. Perhaps you will teach me a trick or two.”

“I will be most honored to do that, Mr. Kipling.”

“This is Ioan, our breast-less footman. I think we had better change.”

“Does everyone know that story?” Squeaks asked.

“Yes,” replied Ioan with a smile.

“I will change in Lord Stokes’s carriage over there.”

“All right. We have a lot of competition in this one.”

“I see all the in-service teams that I have come to know. I don’t think they hold a candle to you. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Kip climbed in and made fast work of getting redressed. The crease in his trousers was razor sharp. He had to feel his cravat without the mirror. His boots shined, and his watch gleamed. He packed his old clothes in a satchel and put it in the rear box. As he stepped out, Ioan whistled.

“Kip, I would think you were a noble dressed as you are. I want the name of your tailor.”

Kip laughed. He reached in pulled out the two velvet top hats. Ioan was taken aback.

“Kip, this is magnificent. Please let me pay for it.”

“No, it’s my payment to you for today.”

“Thank you!”

“Don’t forget Ioan, you are first on the coach after lighting the torches.”

“Yes, sir. Will do.”

Kip looked over Ioan’s shoulder and saw a dream walking towards him. She was majestic. As she neared, both Kip and Ioan removed their hats and bowed. “Your Ladyship,” said Kip as he replaced his hat. Squeaks curtsied, and they laughed.

“Turn around and let me see it.”

“I want my hat. Those are beautiful with the purple bands.”

“I said, turn . . . around.”

As she twirled, she looked beautiful, but he laughed when he saw the silver watch, which was too big for her.

“Why are you laughing?”

“The watch.”

“Well …”

“Give it to me and wear this one.” Kip pulled the gold watch from his pocket and fitted it on her. He took the silver one and put it in her pocket.”

Kip looked into Squeaks eyes, and he wanted to die. He wanted to drown in those light blues.

“Ready for your hat?”

“Since last night.”

Kip pulled out the very feminine hat with the chiffon bows and tails.

Squeaks gasped, and so did Ioan.

She took it slowly into her hands and turned it around and around and kept looking it over. Kip watched her amazement.

“I designed that, I’ll have you know.”

“Kip, it is stunning. I don’t want to wear it. I just want to sit and look at it,” she smiled.

“Well, here …” Kip took it from her and snugged it on her head. “We have to get moving. You see all the other carriages are moving.”

Squeaks adjusted her hat, looked at the coach, and stepped up the wheel peg.

Ioan had lit the lanterns and Kip was coming aboard.

“Kip you have a new set of reins and halter. They’re etched. And you have jewelry on them. I hope we can win a horse brass for you.”

“I would like one of your brasses very much. Here we go.”

 

Kip reined his beautiful blacks into the procession. There did not seem to be any particular order. He only saw a few independents, and none of them had second drivers or footmen. The more opulent in-service coaches were a mix of single drivers or two drivers. Very few had footmen, which surprised him. They were led into a formation where they parked their team only several feet from the next one. Kip realized that was on purpose. That was a feat they were looking at. Would the horses grouped close together spook the team? There were twenty-two entries.

They were asked to leave their brakes off and come to ground so everyone could see the drivers and their livery uniforms. Kip saw two other independents that were dressed smartly but not in formal tails.

As they entered the field together, as a threesome, the crowd grew loud. He knew they had spotted Squeaks. Once all were seen, they were told to bow, but Squeaks curtsied, which brought small laughter to the crowd. Next, they were to walk half of the field, but the teams were expected to stand still. Two teams and their coaches moved to follow their drivers and were immediately eliminated.

All the drivers turned and could use any method to draw their team to them. Kip split the air with a whistle, which Soldier and Warrior answered immediately. They were the first team to move to their driver. They stopped in front of Kip and stood still. More than half of the remaining riders had never taught their horses to come on command. They were eliminated.

“Kip, there’s only seven of us left,” Squeaks whispered out of her smiling face.

The other two independents were still in.

“Squeaks, independent horses respond to whistles every day. We had an advantage there.”

It was called out that single drivers and second drivers were to mount the box, followed by the first driver and footman. There were no teams left with a rear footman.

One of the field handlers, indicated to coach number one to begin the parade around the ring. Then the second coach was alerted and so on until all seven were ringing the field with their second driver. Again, the crowd began murmuring when seeing a small woman manage a coach and turning two large horses. One single coachman used a whip to keep his team in line. He was asked to leave the field.

“Kip they’re really judging the driver and the horses independently.”

“As they should. You are doing splendidly. Keep smiling.”

Clyde was standing next to Lord Stokes when he spotted Squeaks. “You didn’t tell me Squeaks was in this. She looks so beautiful and all grown up.”

“Sir, I only found out about this before lunch.”

“Just look at their stunning livery. Kip spared nothing. They look regal out there.”

“That they do, Your Lordship.”

 

The six remaining coaches were stopped close to the on-lookers so they could have an opportunity to see them. The announcer then told the audience that at the end, they would be the judges of the Grand Team. Everyone clapped to know they would take part.

The teams were directed to change drivers if there was a second.

Another team was eliminated because the two men crossed in front of each other in the box. Kip and Squeaks and one other team stepped to the ground. The first driver went around the rear of the coach and the second driver passed the heads of the horses. In tandem, they both climbed the wheels, which indicated their passenger was balanced. Once ready to begin a new round, they were surprised that each coach was presented a real passenger.

A lady and gentleman walked up to each coach. Kip saw what was happening and told Ioan to tend them, which he was doing. Ioan was perfect as Kip and Squeaks kept their heads straight ahead. Ioan opened the door, lowered the step mechanism and offered his arm to the lady. He raised the step, waiting for the signal to close the door and then closed it.

The final two passes around the ring began, but they were ordered closer to the fence. It was only moments into the trot that Kip saw the first ground hole that a team in front of him had been dragged through. He didn’t know about the ones in front of that one, as his eyes were on the ground. The crowd became very attentive to the coach and team, perhaps now understanding what drivers endure.

Suddenly, a half dozen men on horseback, dressed as highwaymen, galloped into the ring and tried to disturb the drivers or the team. Kip was smooth as glass, and so were Warrior and Soldier. No other team reacted well-behaved. The horsemen were rearing their horses or traveling face on towards them. They tried to edge the competing teams against the fence. Squeaks thought this was a nightmare.

“Am I supposed to be helping you in any way?” Squeaks asked. “Should I pull out the pistol and shoot?”

“Do any have masks on?” Kip asked.

“Two of them do. I can’t believe this is happening.”

Kip started laughing.

“One is headed this way, Kip.”

“All right, let’s give them a show. Reach down under the seat and find the pistol. Wait until I say go, then point the pistol in the air and fire.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. I am having so much fun; I don’t care if we lose for this.”

As the masked man drew closer, Kip pulled his team out of formation and whipped them into a gallop. The audience was stunned. He was watching for holes while Ioan shouted about the masked man.

“He’s getting closer. Definitely in pistol range,” Ioan yelled.

“Now, Squeaks.”

Squeaks stood, holding onto Kip’s shoulder and fired the pistol into the air; not once but twice.

The onlookers were astonished. The masked man rode away, and Kip pulled his coach to a stop. Both he and Ioan went to each side of the coach to see to their passengers.

“By God, that was fun,” said the gentleman inside.

Kip tipped his hat and returned to the procession which was coming to an end.

“Are they going to dismiss us, Kip?”

“I don’t know. I bet they didn’t expect us to react that way, but it was the right thing to do in that situation.”

As they pulled the coaches to a stop, they parked facing the gathered crowd. The announcer said the course designers had that activity planned in but didn’t expect such an exciting ending.

There was no question as to the winner. Even the remaining drivers came down to shake their hands.

The announcer walked in front of each coach team and asked for applause. The standing ovation went to the Trevor Kipling Stable.

Kip was presented with a gold ornament for his team. It wasn’t the usual brass. Ioan and Squeaks did receive the brass ones. Kip shook Ioan’s hand and looked down at Squeaks. He picked her up about a foot off the ground and spun her around and around.

“We must make our closing bows. Ready?”

As the applause continued, Ioan and Kip bowed, holding their hats and Squeaks curtsied. The crowd was quite vocal about the winners. Squeaks disappeared from the center and went to exit their passengers. Everyone laughed.

The riders mounted their coaches and slowly walked from the field as the crowd began to disperse.

“Squeaks, you have given me the grandest day of my life. Thank you.”

“Of course, it is the same for me, and the day isn’t even over.”

“Does that mean what I think it means?”

“Let’s go to your home to talk and kiss.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather I take you home?”

“I am sure. I am sure about a lot of things.”

“You know kisses get us in trouble.”

“Not me.”

Kip smiled. “Well, they can get me in trouble, then. You seem to want to leave me with all the responsibility of control.”

“I don’t do anything. I have no control over anything, do I? You once said that you would take over the handling and for me to only talk to the women about feelings. Father said that men are usually the dominant ones or something like that.”

“Yes, but you let me.”

“Let you do what? I don’t know what’s coming so how I can I let you? It’s a wonder you can control your own team,” she giggled.

Kip dangled his gold horse brass in front of her face. Looking sideways at her, he could see the cherub face. “I think you are toying with my affections. I bet you are sore from that steeplechase.”

“No, I’m not.” Squeaks quickly replied.

“So … kisses only, then. Am I correct?” He watched her hands as she constantly intertwined her fingers. She was nervous. “You seem a bit jumpy about something.”

“No, I’m not. I’m not.”

“If you’re sure then.”

“I think I said I was sure, just a moment ago.”

“Excuse me. You did say that. Maybe I’m the one who is nervous.”

“Do men get nervous before … you know?”

Panicky is more like it at the moment.

“Before what, Squeaks? Kisses?”

 

 

 

 

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.”

The Noble Coachman – Chapter 21

 

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 21
The Brotherhood

 

To Squeaks, it felt like hours since Sarah hopefully escaped the house. Suddenly, her door burst open. Whoever it was, did not have a lantern with them.

Squeaks coward in a dark corner of the room, hoping the open window would not be noticed.

“Where is she?” Came a booming voice.

Squeaks could hear him moving about the room as if searching for her or a missing charwoman. That must mean that Sarah escaped, she thought. Being in a crouched position, she could see a dim light coming from the open door. She debated whether to run or not. The other man was somewhere. She had heard him return. Squeaks sensed the man in her room was coming her way and made a dash for the door. She was quickly subdued with her nightshift being ripped from her body. The man put his rough hands on her breasts.

“What have we here,” he asked in a playful voice.

“Nothing that belongs to you.” Squeaks started kicking his shins. She remembered her father telling her what to do if any man approached her with violence. As she swung her foot into his groin area, she felt her arm snap. He hollered louder in pain than then she did. The second man entered the room carrying a lantern.

His brother was writhing on the floor while Squeaks tried again to slip past him to the door. He easily caught her by the throat and lifted her onto the bed. “Did my brother try to have his way with you, pretty lass?” Placing the lamp on the table, his hand still in a stranglehold around her neck, he felt her breast, finally resting his hand between her thighs overtop of her undergarment.

“You know, my brother is selfish. He took both lasses first. I had to take second. That won’t work three times. He began to rip her underwear off but not without a fight.

Squeaks tried to fight back with her one arm, but she wasn’t succeeding in her own defense.

“Brad, you idiot,” came from the brother on the floor, “that charwoman you hired has escaped. We don’t have time for the wench.”

Unclenching fingers left her neck and private area. Brad backhanded her, knocking her unconscious against the wall. Her mouth bled badly from her teeth cutting the inside of her lips. The two men left the room.

It took Squeaks a few minutes to focus. She struggled with the pain in her arm, face and was gasping for air. She would never survive the next round. She felt like she was going into a coma. Her mind whirled. Any of the hundred drivers she had met or seen was capable of doing what just happened to her … and she hadn’t seen the worst. She knew men were much stronger, but the power they could actually wield against a woman fighting shattered her image of how she could protect herself. Why are women so weak? Now, she understood Kip’s obsession with protecting her or any woman. She’s not sure if she fainted again.

#

 

Kip heard his kitchen door open and men talking. Kyle returned with Inspector Marshall.

“Kip, you seem to have a plan. Do you mind sharing it with me or shall I endeavor to find her with my men?” Marshall cautioned.

Before answering, Kip looked at Kyle, who was holding a bag. “Stokes is gathering what he has in the house,” said Marshall.

Kip took the bag from Kyle and opened it, first pulling out a hank of her beautiful black hair that he loved so much. The apostles silently flinched in sorrow for Kip. Unable to grasp the enormity of what he was holding, he laid her hair in front of her sketch on the mantel. It looked like a shrine to those who saw it.

“There’s a note, Kip.”

Dropping the bag to the floor, he unfolded the note and read it. Mary swirled in his mind, bidding for his attention. He fell into the nearest chair. Holding his head, seemingly in a trance, he watched the images she produced for him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Asked the Inspector.

“We don’t know, but he’s done this before. Just wait. He’ll tell us something after he faints.”

“Faints?”

“Just wait.”

Kip closed his eyes, and the room went silent. First, she showed him the one-eyed man in the room with Squeaks. He jumped to his feet, pacing the floor with his eyes closed, fingers rubbing his temples. Everyone took a step back giving him room. As the image broadened, the one-eyed man was holding her bloodied nightshift. All went blank after that except for the number twenty-seven. Without realizing it, he kept repeating 27, 27, 27. Kip collapsed to the floor after that. Matthew and Lucas rushed to him as he was opening his eyes.

“Give me a few seconds, men.” Kip laid there and collected his thoughts and strength. Everyone was staring at him.

“The one-eyed man has her; he has a glass eye,” he said, looking at Marshall. She is still alive, but she’s been injured in some way, and I believe she’s stripped of most of her clothing. Excuse me for a minute or two.” Kip took the steps, three at a time, to the upstairs.

“Dear God, what he must be going through.”

There was silence in the room.

“Did anyone hear him say twenty-seven? I thought I heard him repeat that.”

“Me too.”

“Can someone explain what’s going on with him,” inquired Marshall.

“We don’t know. He just showed us this tonight. See these drawings; this came from his head, he said. He says they are exact drawings of who we are looking for. Kyle can testify to the coach.”

“So what did the note say?” Someone asked.

“The Inspector picked it up from the floor and read it to them.”

“It sounds like she may still be alive,” Marc replied.

“I am sure Kip, and I put no credence in that part of the statement.” The inspector added.

Kip came down the stairs asking what time it was.

“Quarter past 2:00 a.m.”

 

Hiding in dark doorways, because of the increasing streetlamps, Sarah felt she was finally in the better part of town. The streets were full of coachmen ferrying home the society after their evening out. She tried hailing a few coaches, but no one would stop for a person dressed as her.

Sarah would have to think of another way.

One coachman, having delivered his riders, was coming through town and saw a body lying in the road under a street lamp. Quickly pulling on the reins and setting the brake, the horses stopped in time. Another coachman coming the opposite way saw it, too, and stopped.

The first coachman knelt down to discover it was an older lady who may be injured. Suddenly, the driver felt his lapels being yanked, shocking him to the point of almost dropping her. The second coachmen assisted him in the carry.

“Do either of you know a driver, names Kip?”

The two coachmen looked at each other. “Yes, we do. What is it you have to say about him?” They inquired as they placed her on the curb.

Sarah pulled out a scrap of paper and handed it to the second man.

“It seems to be from Squeaks, saying she has been kidnapped. She is on Hanbury Street but gives no number. Zac put the lady in your coach,” said Perkins. “We must find Kip.”

 

“Let’s get to the park, lads. Inspector, are you coming with us? You will likely need to arrest me before the night is over.” Kip proclaimed with unfaltering resolve. “Just don’t get in my way.” He walked to Warrior like a knight approaching his noble steed. He was ready.

Arriving at the park, many drivers were waiting. There were over fifty, talking in groups. Some had horses. Others had their coaches. Everyone seemed to be armed, which surprised Kip. Again, tears came to his eyes in the darkness. This friendship overwhelmed him more than they could possibly imagine.

All the drivers parked and tethered their horses. They made a circle around Kip. There were in-service and independent drivers coming together for Squeaks.

“Thank you, gentlemen, for the help you are extending tonight to find Miss Dorset. To let you know what we know, I’ll start with telling you that Lord Stokes has a doctor with him because he has had chest pains. Clyde Dorset is going to have a breakdown, I fear. We have just received a ransom note, so there is hope that Squeaks is still alive. I know that she has been kidnapped by the same men who murdered Miss Caldwell. We have narrowed our search area to Whitechapel. I hope you may have seen the sketches of the men or coach we are looking for. If not, Marc has them in his coach. We do not have an address, but we do have an hour, and we do have Squeaks’ Army. She once said to me with all the help offered to her, she felt like she was building an army. Little did she know how true that would come to be. Detective Inspector Marshall shall be riding with us tonight. Is there anyone here that knows the Whitechapel District well?”

Several drivers raised their hands.

“Please come forward and help coordinate the search areas. It seems we have about 50 men here.”

“There are two coaches approaching. They are traveling fast.” Someone shouted. Everyone turned in that direction. The two coaches entered the park but had to park far in the rear. “That’s Zac. It looks like he has an old woman with him.”

“Make way,” Zac was heard shouting. He had to hold up the woman, so another driver took her other side.

“Kip, this woman has brought a note from Squeaks. She was hired to feed her, but Squeaks made her escape for her life. Here is the note. Her name is Sarah.”

Kip took both of Sarah’s hands in his as he faced her. “Was the lady alive when you left her.”

“She were, yes. They cut off her hair and broke her nose.”

Gasps came from the crowd surrounding them.

“She ain’t going to be alive long, though. I overheard them. They gots some kind of ransom note. I heard them say she and I would be dead before morning. They was going to hang me in the stable.”

“So they have a stable?”

“Aye, it’s around back. It’s really a shed. There are no doors on it, only a roof. You has to go down the back alley to get to the opening in the back.”

“Thank you, Sarah.” Kip read the note out loud.

“How long has it taken you to get this to us?”

“Maybe 2 hours. I didn’t know which way to get to the good drivers as the little Miss called you blokes. She told me to look for the brighter streets with many lamps.”

“You will be well rewarded. I’d like you to rest in the carriage you came in. We must find the young lady immediately.”

“You better hurry before they have …their way … with her, is whats they said. I knows what they meant.”

Kyle stepped up and took the lady by the arm and escorted her back to Zac’s coach.

Unexpectedly, Kip was overtaken by his sister’s swirling image. He stopped speaking in mid-sentence and held his head. He fell to his knees and closed his eyes. Mary was beautiful. She looked gay and happy as he had remembered her. “What do you want me to see? Show me what you wish me to see?” The drivers heard him pleading.

The drivers milled around talking among themselves at this strange sight.

“He’ll be all right in a moment,” shouted Matthew.

Just before Kip fainted, the number twenty-seven returned. Round and round it went in his mind, like a carousel. He collapsed. Lucas and Matthew ran to him and pulled him into a standing position. It took him a moment to focus. He pulled out Squeaks note.

“Listen up, men. I believe we will find her at 27 Hanbury Street.”

“What happened, Kip,” someone asked.

“I have a small gift of sight. It’s only recent but it has been steady and true, For the second time today, I kept seeing the number twenty-seven. Squeaks note says she’s on Hanbury Street. Where are the drivers that know Whitechapel?”

Kip had a street map ready from when he was learning. The former Whitechapel drivers showed everyone where Hanbury Street was.

“If I could have everyone’s attention. We will fast-pace from here to Hanbury Street. It’s unfortunate that people are abed. We should be a sight. When we get within one block of Hanbury, I would like to hear everyone whistle sharply, like we hear all day. That is intended to get their attention and move away from Squeaks to the windows. This should buy us another minute or two. We will encircle the block to prevent any attempted escape. Myself, the Inspector and several others will go through the front door. Those near the back, break that door down. Inspector, do you have anything to add?”

“These two men will be armed and prepared to fire. As will be expected, they will know they cannot escape the house and will find Miss Dorset and use her as a shield. We may have to negotiate, but I doubt that. We just want to be able to prevent them from shooting her. They will have no compunction about pointing a gun to her head, hoping we will let them go. I’m asking everyone here not to act hastily. That is all.”

“Tomorrow, the world will see us as more than mere drivers. All set men? Let’s drive.”

The Noble Coachman – Chapter 20

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 20
Squeaks’ Plan

 

By 7:00 p.m., Kip was home with two sketched faces of the men who killed the Caldwell relative. It was apparent, only to Kip, that these men were responsible for Mary’s death and were currently holding Squeaks. He couldn’t let himself think about the worst. The four apostles plus Kyle piled into his sitting room, and Kip began his sketch of the old coach. Finishing in an exhaustive faint, the line drawing was an exact image of the carriage. His friends wanted to know how he did that, but he didn’t have time to make up something believable.

Kip drew several copies of each and handed them around to the gathered drivers. “I want you to show these to the Brotherhood. Inform them of who and what they are looking for. I am calling for all coachmen, who could help in the rescue of Squeaks, to meet us at the park at 3:00 a.m. Tell them they will be paid.

“Kip, none of us will take your money. You know that.” Marc reminded him.

“Squeaks is one of us now, anyway.”

“Are we going to Whitechapel, Kip?”

“We are. Should anything change overnight, I will take care of it myself or speak with all the drivers before dawn.”

“I am going to stay with you.”

“Me, too.”

“I think all of us will be with you through the night after we circulate your drawings.”

Kip’s eyes began to water, but the embarrassment would just have to be understood. None of the apostles knew the depth of his love for Squeaks, until now. It only was a fondness in their thoughts. The brother drivers, the union of fine gentlemen, were the army that Squeaks felt she was creating. Little did she know.

“I don’t know what to say, except thank you. Kyle, I promised Stokes that someone would be by his castle once an hour. If either of us has any news, we share it then.”

“I’ll do that, Kip.”

“Thank you. I want to contact the police, while you men contact all the drivers you see. Come back here when you can think of no one else.”

Kyle and the apostles left. Kip had lied about the police. He went to see his father.

 

Arriving at Lord Caldwell’s apartment, Briggs came from the stable.

“Lord Trevor, excellent to see you so soon. You have no coach with you, I see. Just your horse tonight?”

Yes, Briggs. We have a family emergency, and I must ride fast. Is father home?”

“Yes, milord. Your brother went home today.”

“Thank you. I’m just going to go in. No announcement.”

“Very well, milord.”

Trevor walked through the servant’s area and found the steps to the upstairs. His father was hunched over his desk reading documents of some sort. “Father!”

“Trevor, what’s wrong? How did your visit to Norcaster turn out? Scotch?”

“Yes, please. Squeaks has been kidnapped from her bed, nearly two days ago,” Trevor stressed in a helpless tone. “She’s been missing since yesterday morning, while I was in Norcaster. I contend it’s the same brothers, our former servants, we talked about earlier.”

“Sit for a moment. Please, this can’t happen to you again, or Miss Dorset. Oh my, God, I don’t know what to say. What can I do to help? Is there anything?”

“Yes, you can help.”

“Name it. It’s done.”

“It’s going to be four hours round trip, but could Briggs ride home and collect Inspector Marshall. I will be in trouble when this is over, and before you say anything, nothing will change my mind.”

“I see you have two pistols with you. Trevor, if I were a good father, I would warn you against what you are planning, but I am not a good father. You do what you need to do. I will stand behind whatever are your actions. All I care about is that you stay alive. I know if it came down to it, you would save her before yourself. Just save both of you. Do you have anyone to help you?”

“An army. Squeaks’ army. Probably, I will have forty to fifty drivers if they’re the men, I think they are.”

“Promise any monies you need to. We will pay anything if that will encourage them.”

“Father, they are a brotherhood. They will not take money to help me. Our problem is finding Squeaks before she is injured or dead. I am going to meet all the men coming to help at 3:00 a.m. If you have any word overnight, send someone with a note to Stokes. If you have the Inspector, tell him what you know. We will be at the Promenade Park.”

“Indeed, son. How is Lord Stokes doing?”

“Not well. The doctor is staying with him until this is settled. He is having chest pains. I’m not sure how much longer driver Dorset can hold up either. I will send a messenger to Stokes every hour for communication.”

“I will not go to bed. Have your messenger stop by here, now and then?”

“Thank you, father. Thank you for understanding that I may do something this noble family is going to regret.”

“We will regret nothing except my brother Nathaniel that started all of this. Goodbye, son.” Lord Caldwell walked over to Trevor and hugged him. “Come back safe and bring that young lady with you. I love you, son.”

“As I, you, father … Gus, too, of course. Tell him that if … if I don’t come back.”

 

Sarah brought the tray of food, the pencil and a scrap of paper to Squeaks room near half past 9:00 p.m. One of the men was getting ready to leave for somewhere. This was her best chance to get away. She unlocked the door and Squeaks cringed in the darkness. “It’s just me deary.”

“Did you bring the pencil and paper?”

“This is the best I could find.” Sarah handed a bit of paper to her. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t see no number on the house, but we are on Hanbury Street.”

“That will have to do.” Squeaks scribbled quickly. “Thank you. You may be saving my life and yours. I did use the chamber pot, so you have something to empty. Once you get outside, just start running. Begin looking for the brightest streets. The more lighting on the street, the closer you are to the center of London where the good drivers will be working. Ask a coachman if he knows Kip, the driver. If he says yes, give him the note. Then hide. If possible, he may take you with him so you can show the drivers where I am. When you can, come to Lord Stokes Castle for your reward.”

“I will, miss. I had thought that you could take off your slip and wave it out of the window in a while from now. I know you have them man’s undergarment on. At least, it’s something.”

“This is a man’s, is it?”

“Yes, deary. How old are you?”

“Old enough to have known better.” She hugged Sarah before she picked up the chamber pot. “Good luck to you. Stay alive.”

 

The front door to the old tenant flat was slammed shut and rattled the glass in Squeaks’ window. Dark had come, and the only light she had was from oil lamps burning in the two flats close by. She could barely see the street as there seemed to be only one street lamp near the corner. She kneeled in the chair watching dusk saying goodnight. The cool air felt good. Feeling her face, she knew her nose was broken. She had trouble breathing, and it was quite swollen. She imagined she was sporting two black eyes. For the moment, she still felt brave. Her father and Lord Stokes had always remarked about her spirit. Sarah had to make it to center London before her captors found out. Squeaks felt she could survive anything except a bullet. She listened at her door for any sounds of discovery, but all was quiet. “Sarah should be away by now,” Squeaks told herself. Her fate now lay in the hands of an old woman and a London coachman.

 

It was 11:15 p.m. when a young boy rapped on the Stokes Castle door. Morgan was there instantly. He asked the small lad to step inside. “Do you want to see the master of the house?”

“I don’t know. I was just paid to bring this bag to you.”

“Wait here. We may want to pay you, too.”

“Blimey, Guv. I’ll wait.”

Morgan took the cloth bag into the study where the vigil continued. “A young lad, who is still at the door, was told to bring this bag here.”

“Morgan will you look inside for us.”

“Yes, milord.” He untied the string and walked closer to a gaslight. “There is a note and something else.” Morgan gasped. “It appears to be Miss Squeaks’ hair.”

“Oh, dear God,” Clyde began whimpering.

“The note, Morgan!”

 

“Stokes. If you want this pretty little lady back, we want gold or jewels tonight. We haven’t hurt her too much, but she’s only got a few more hours. Fill this bag with enough for two men to live comfortably for a lifetime. If you contact the police, or the bag is light, I’ll place your little girl where someone will find what’s left of her. If you know of the Caldwell girls, you’ll know I’m serious. Send your driver on horseback to Regents Park at half 4:00 a.m. If he doesn’t return, she is dead. Someone will be in touch.”

 

“Bring the lad in here.”

Morgan brought the lad in who had his palm outstretched for a coin. “Lad, you will have to talk with the Master before he pays you.”

“Young man, where were you when you were given this bag to bring to our house.”

“I was near me home on Grover Street.”

“And where is that?”

“That be in Whitechapel.”

“Did a man approach you on his horse?”

“Aye, Guv. He rode me over this far and pointed to this house. Then he paid me and sped away.”

“Did he say how you would get back home?”

“No, Guv. I thought he’d be waitin’ on me, but he left.”

“I will give you 2 pounds if you wait here until morning, and we will find someone to drive you home. It may even be earlier than that.”

“Two pounds? How do I know you’re not lying to me like that other bloke?”

Stokes went to his desk and pulled out a box. From within, he pulled two notes being a pound each. “Here you are. You can put it in your pocket.”

“Bloody hell! I’m obliged, sir.”

“Morgan, take him to the kitchen and get him something to eat. Find one of the drivers we have left and ask him to come in here.”

Stokes would have to wait for another twenty minutes before the communication driver would arrive.

 

Kip, Kyle and the apostles were pacing around his flat.

“Why don’t we go down to Whitechapel and look for this coach ourselves?” Marc was anxious to free Squeaks.

“How badly, I want to do that, but I fear alerting them to our presence, driving up and down streets. If we go in as a band of drivers, by the time they realize we’re swarming the area, they may run, leaving Squeaks alive.”

“Kip, I know we would be doing this for Dorset no matter who it involved, but we didn’t have any idea of your deep feelings for Miss Dorset. We thought it a mild fancy. We will find her and find her in time. Believe me, brother.”

“I’m sorry, gentlemen. It all happened extremely fast. Primarily being brought up by her father, she wasn’t taught the politeness of society. She is pure naivety. She has welcomed me into her space with no hesitation, even hearing my weak discouragements. I am quite sure, once she is out and about, she will find a proper man.”

“You’re a proper man.”

“I may be proper, but there is much in my past that I believe would dampen her current interest in me.”

“You know we’ve never been interested in your past to much extent. We have relied on other skills and attributes you display. We’re comfortable with you. Will we one day find disappointment with you?”

“I can assure you, it is nothing like that. I do thank you for giving me space in my silence. Someday, you shall know what there is to know. I will say this much, and no one knows except Squeaks—and she’s only known for a day or two. I ran away from a death in my family that I was unable to bear. That’s all I will say.”

“We are exceedingly sorry for such an unfortunate incident in your life. We shall ask no more.”

“I’m going over to Stokes. Anything I should tell him?” announced Kyle.

“First ride to the Caldwell estate. If Detective Inspector Marshall is there, tell him of our plan and where we are. Bring him here if you can.”

 

 

The Noble Coachman – Chapter 19

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 19
Abduction

 

Kip left the railway coach and hired a cabby to take him home. When he arrived, a curious sight of three other coaches parked by the stables met him. He was sure the carriages belonged to Marc, Lucas, and Matthew.

“What the bloody hell has happened?” He mumbled, paying the driver whom he knew. He speculated as he walked to his door. Jonathan’s had an accident. They didn’t know he went home to Norcaster. Surely, they were here to tell him about Lilith Caldwell. He remembered Mary’s swirling anger. Mary’s anger had now infused him. She followed him here, still full of wrath. Coming through the back door, his friends stood.

“What has happened? You three look pathetic. Has something happened to Jonathan?”

Nobody could speak.

“Speak someone!  I know about Lilith being found. I wanted to follow up on her demise, so I hunted her family.”

“The Caldwell girl was found? We hadn’t heard that.”

“Then what the bloody hell is wrong? Someone say something!” Kip was in a bad mood, and he let the men see his annoyance, a scene rarely witnessed by anyone among his family or friends.

“Kip, I don’t know how to say this except to say it,” declared Marc.”

“Just say the words, whatever they are, before I go mad.” Kip’s voice rose in tenor as he shouted at Marc.

“Squeaks has been missing for a day and a half.”

“Sorry?” Kip barked with incredulity.”

“Squeaks has been missing from Stokes Castle since yesterday morning. We have been looking for her since we heard. Jonathan is out searching now. Please go to see Dorset and His Lordship as soon as possible. We know you’re fond of her. Tell us what to do.”

“Give me a moment.” Kip flopped down in his reading chair. He leaned forward placing his elbows on his knees and holding his head. “Could you wait outside for me?”

“Of course, Kip.” The men noticed the portrait of Squeaks standing as a rear footman that was on Kip’s mantle and knew instantly that this was more than a fondness.

When the door slammed shut, Kip slid to the floor, allowing the tears to flow. “I will kill the bastard who has done this. Why Squeaks? Where could she be? Where do I start? I cannot live without her.”  He felt a trembling inside of him that had been absent since he lost his sister. It was a sickening helplessness.

Mary, tell me what to do. Where do I begin?

He knew who had kidnapped her and violent anger roiled inside of him. Kip didn’t care if he lost his life, he would find her.

Kip dried his face and headed towards his stable. He had no time for the agony anymore. Action with leadership had been the mainstay of his learning. All rules, regulations, legal maneuvers, politeness, and nobility weren’t words he recognized anymore.

“If you chaps would canvass the other drivers for any news. Be back here by 7:00 p.m. and bring Kyle. Tell the others, they may soon be called upon for a rescue.”

“Aye, Guv,” said Lucas. The three took to their benches and rolled out of the yard.

Kip looked heavenward and shouted at God and shook his fist. “Why Squeaks, God? Why her? I have only just found her, and you let them take her. This is my fault, not hers.”

Kip went to his stable and loaded his two pistols. While harnessing his horse, a swift pain came to his stomach, causing him to bend at the midriff and vomit. It was pure fear for the woman he loved.

Mary was back. Thank God. He stopped and closed his eyes trying to catch what she wanted him to know. She no longer was angry, but saddened. He glimpsed his image of Squeaks riding footman. He didn’t know why but he went back for his sketch pad.

As Kip began his twenty-minute journey on horseback to the Stokes Castle, he thought about Mary appearing after the discovery of Lilith. “Is she trying to confirm to me that the men that had killed her, had Squeaks?” The intent seemed obvious, as he raced to see Clyde Dorset.

Kip thought that once Lilith was located, Mary would find peace. Nevertheless, with Squeaks being taken, it would explain her angry images yesterday. And he knew, because of him, she would be their next victim. He couldn’t bear to think past kidnapping. He needed his head, and dwelling on something unknown would hinder him, right now.

“The killers know who I am. They must! There would be no other reason for Squeaks to be captured.” Now he knew why he brought the sketch pad. He would visit with Lucy Blevins and draw a picture, from her memory, of the two men who were at the ball. Resolving that gave him hope, but a whole day and a half had passed.

 

Squeaks woke, not knowing where she was. It was a bare room with only a bed, small table, chair and no oil lamp. Her head ached and feeling her scalp, there was a large lump up there. The last she remembered was talking to her father about her picnic day and then going to bed. It was a day she would never forget. She became Kip’s lady. She remembered being so happy when she told her father who did not look very surprised. However, he was moved when hearing about Kip saving her life from that racing carriage and team. She wondered if that coach rode hard toward them for a purpose.

Squeaks walked to the window, which was boarded from the outside. She could peek through the slats that didn’t fit well. It seemed to be afternoon. There was an old poor tenant flat next door and another across the street from that. Seeing all she could, she went to the door to listen.

Two male voices and one female were heard, but not what was being said. It was only a moment later when she heard footsteps coming closer and then a knock on the door.

“Deary, can you hear me?” Came the elderly voice.

“Who are you and where am I?” Squeaks replied.

“I have brought you some stew. I want you to sit on the edge of the bed, while I unlock the door.”

Squeaks was starved, she complied. “I’m ready. She heard the lock click.

The door opened a fraction barely before swinging open. The old charwoman carried a tray to the small table. She quickly closed the door and then sat on the bed. Squeaks went to the small table and pulled up the chair.

“Who are you and why am I here? Do you know who I am?”

“Listen, deary. It makes no never mind to me who or why you’re here. I’m being paid to see that you are fed, and your chamber pot is emptied. It’s under the bed.” The woman checked it. “It’s still empty. Don’t you piss, Deary?”

“How long have I been here? I only just woke.”

“Well, I gots here after dark last night, and you was up here by then. I think those two  men down there, are up to no good. ‘Tis you worth somethin’? They says I will be paid real good, enough for a fancy frock.”

Squeaks kept quiet and allowed the charwoman to wax on about this task she was hired to do. “They makes me stay in the kitchen. They been talkin’ about a ransom note all day. Your pa got money?”

“No. I am in service. I know my Lord would pay you a lot more if you let me out.”

“Awe … deary, I can’t do that. They might kill me.”

“They will probably kill us both. You’ve seen their faces. They won’t let anyone live who has seen their faces.”

“One sure is an ugly cuss. He only be havin’ but one glass eye. I gotta go. They be wantin’ their dinner.”

“I don’t know your name, but think about my Lordship paying you more coin, even a whole lot more if you can find a way to free me.”

“I’ll think about it, but I thinks I likes livin’ more. Stay where you are.” Sarah, watched Squeaks closely as she unlocked the door and slipped out. “My name is Sarah,” she locked the door.

Squeaks sat there eating her stew, wondering why she was taken. She wasn’t worth anything unless they wanted money from His Lordship. They were foolish to try that. She thought of Kip and could make no connection there. She began to worry about her father, and Lord Stokes. They would be most upset by now, yet; she was still unharmed except the bump on her head. Squeaks noticed she had a night shirt on. She finished her food and water and went back to the window. Although it was nailed shut, she took her fork prying out the two nails holding it closed. She was able to raise the window only a little which left her room to knock out one of the slats of wood. That seemed as far as she could go unless she smashed through it all with her chair. She closed the window and slipped the two nails back in the holes.

The slat of wood fell to the ground leaving more light coming into the room. She was thankful that dusk was near. She sat on her bed and looked at the window. “What else can I try? I can wave my arm outside. Someone might notice.”

Suddenly, she heard heavy boots coming toward her door.

 

As Kip came up the drive to Stokes Castle, he jumped off his horse and threw the reins to a stable boy headed towards him. Without asking or saying anything, he walked into the servant’s area and asked which room was Clyde’s. He was told that Clyde was with His Lordship.

“Where is that, again? Take me there immediately.”

The housekeeper led him through the labyrinth of staircases until she met Morgan.

“This gentleman …” she was interrupted.

“I know who he is. It’s all right. Follow me, Mr. Kipling.”

“How is the family? Has there been any word on Squeaks?” Kip was frantic.

“No word, sir. The entire household is quite worried. We all love her as I am sure you know.”

Morgan knocked on the door to the study. “Mr. Kipling, your Lordship.”

Kip passed into the room, and the sight looked worse than he imagined. A doctor was attending His Lordship, who apparently was having chest pains, and Clyde was distraught with worry.

“Kip, Thank God you are here.” Both men tried to speak at once. “Go ahead, Clyde. You tell him what we know.”

Kip was handed a glass of scotch to which he declined, but he did take a seat close to Clyde.

“Please, Clyde. Everything you know and what you think?”

“No one on the property has seen Squeaks since the night she returned from the picnic with you. Upon waking, we found her bed empty. The police think she was taken during the early hours of the morning. We are still trying to find out how that could have possibly happened. Our only conclusion is that this Castle has never been broken into for centuries. We are sure a window was unlocked, but the back door was wide open—perhaps to carry her out. No one at the stables heard anything. The police believe she was moved further down the lane to some other transportation. They also think she was unconscious at that time, as there is a spot of blood on her pillow.

Kip had taken to his feet long ago and was pacing the room. As he stopped and peered out a window, Clyde stopped talking. “Please proceed,” he said with his back to the room and water in his eyes.

“Our first thought was that the two of you may have run off to be together, but that was quickly dismissed. However, the police did find that you had left London the night of your picnic. I think you were under suspicion for a while since you both were gone so soon after having been together.”

Kip turned to see if they were expecting an explanation. They were.

“Kip, I am sorry. I had to break your confidence with me, but only to Clyde.”

“I see. In such matters, it is entirely understood. As for leaving London, we had a rider from our estate come to my father’s apartment, telling us of the discovery of Lilith Caldwell’s body. She was found where my sister was found. I left on the train that night to represent the family and settle the staff – my brother was visiting here. I returned only an hour ago. I am worried there is a connection from me to Squeaks. What is being done?”

“The police are in the dark. There was nothing similar to Squeaks being found missing and the abduction of Lilith Caldwell. I dare say they do not associate the two cases. Do you?”

“Most certainly.”

“How do you come by that?” Asked His Lordship.”

“It comes from my dead sister. I will explain at another time. I have irons to cast into the fires. I will bring all the London coachmen to bear. We will find her. I only hope we are not too late.”

“Do I see two pistols in your belt.”

“Yes, you do. I have a rifle with my horse. If Squeaks has been hurt in any way, they will find a dead man. I will send a driver over every hour for any communication. I must go. Good evening.” Kip waited for no reply. He turned on his heel and left.

Kip headed for the Blevins Manor.

 

The heavy boots did not call out to her to stand away from the door, he opened it, giving Squeaks no decency had she needed it. He entered carrying an old lamp with a bailing wire handle, holding it high to see the dim room. “There you are. Cute little thing, as were the others.”

Squeaks couldn’t help but tremble. Although dressed as a gentleman, his speech, and unkempt look said differently. She gauged he was twice her weight. “I think you are mistaking me for someone else. I have no worth to anyone.” Squeaks began to plead her case.

“We knows exactly who you are Miss Dorset. You live with His Lordship, isn’t that right?”

“I am only a servant there. I am not a member of the family. I only have my father, and he works as staff. What do you mean, I’m like the others? What others?”

“I guess I can forgive you for not knowing the Caldwell women. You wouldn’t be traveling in the same circles.”

“I heard about Miss Lilith Caldwell if you are trying to scare me. I know there is Lord Caldwell at the House of Lords. I knew neither and have no association with them, and have no value. How can I benefit this scheme of yours?”

“You have a nice young body, like those two. Me brother and I fancy that. First, though, we have decided to get some money for you since you aren’t a noble.” The one-eyed man laughed. “You’re so small, I don’t know if you be worth much.” He laughed again.

“That makes no sense at all,” Squeaks said in her normal spirited attitude.

“Well, you have two Lords that are keen on you. At least one should be amiable to pay to get you back.”

“I don’t know what you mean by two Lords. You have me confused with some other.”

“It doesn’t matter which one.”

Squeaks saw the other brute-of-a-man come through the door with a long kitchen knife.

Squeaks felt the urine running down her leg as she began backing into a corner. She called for help but was quickly subdued.

“Miss, we ‘taint going to kill you yet. We just want some of that lovely hair of yours. They’re going to need proof that we have you.”

In her stuttering voice, “I should think being missed is proof enough for them.”

“We won’t take all of it this time. Brad, I’ll hold her. You cut.”

Squeaks was violently thrust to the one-eyed man, while the other began sawing off her hair with the dull knife, about halfway up. Squeaks started to cry. The seriousness of her situation was pressing in. Would she ever see Kip again?  “Did you kill Miss Caldwell?”

He roared with a laugh. “We got them both. You seem to think we are here to have a conversation.”

“Why?”

“Why? That family killed our sister just as if they shot her. She was young and pretty, like all of you. My brother and I have waited a long time to even the score.”

“How am I involved in this?”

“You are the lady to Lord Trevor Caldwell. But Lord Stokes will pay more for ya.”

“I know no Lord Trevor Caldwell. You want some other woman.”

“Maybe this will stop you from insisting on that.” Hair cutting completed, the one-eyed man punched her in the face, breaking her nose.

Squeaks fell to the floor, staining her nightshirt red while she lay unconscious.

The charwoman came running in when she heard the noise. “You men are brutes. What that young lady ever do to you blokes?”

“Shut up, or you’ll get the same. Clean ‘er up.” The brothers left the room mumbling about getting on with their job.

“I figure we have one more day. We’ll get that ransom note to Stokes and see if he reacts. If he doesn’t send gold or jewels within a few hours, we’ll have our fun with that young thing upstairs. In the morning, you take care of that old woman. I think you can hang her in the back stable.

Unknown to the men, Sarah overheard the end of the conversation as she headed for a pan of water and a cloth to wash Squeaks. “I don’t have no clothes for her,” she said, hoping they didn’t give a thought that she heard anything.

“You can leave her clothes off. We’re gonna tear ‘em off anyway.” The brothers laughed and refilled their glasses.

“So … which one? Stokes or Caldwell?

“Stokes. Hit him while we can. We still have the other Caldwell brother’s lady to snatch and then we can leave this country. After finding that last Caldwell wench, they know the deaths are connected. That inspector may be putting things together. Throwing in the Stokes girl should muddy their thinking for a couple of days. Where’s the coach?”

“It’s around back like you wanted. I put it under the coach shed. Don’t worry, brother. It may be a bit old, but that was an expensive ride at one time. The inspector won’t be looking for a carriage like that down here.”

 

By the time Sarah had cleaned up Squeaks, she had a new opinion on the offer that was made to her. Squeaks regained consciousness. She and the charwoman had a brief chat about how could they live through the next day.

That evening, Sarah folded a piece of scrap paper, along with a pencil, and put them in her apron pocket. She took a food tray to Squeaks.

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.

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