The Luminaries

 THE LUMINARIES
  
The Luminaries tells an epic story of love, murder and revenge, as men and women travelled across the world to make their fortunes. It is a 19th century tale of adventure and mystery, set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush. The story follows defiant young adventurer Anna Wetherell, who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life. There she meets the radiant Emery Staines, an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain. As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?

Hearts Adrift – Part Five

Chapter Five

Five days and four nights later, Richard and his companions reached Amiens.

The journey had been relatively easy, with one checkpoint in Beauvais after twenty-one miles of travelling through the lush Picardie countryside. The farther they moved away from Paris, the less people seemed affected by the Revolution. At least, the farmers were still at their work; the fields had been sowed and the pastures had cattle grazing on them. Even at the Beauvais checkpoint, the guards seemed lax and did not question the travellers. Apparently, a small family of what looked like farmers was not prone to raise their interest.

Richard’s company arrived at Amiens halfway through the fifth day after they left the abbey. The town was buzzing with activity, as if there were no revolution going on. With a population of forty thousand and a thriving community of weavers and drapers, it was not easy to find suitable accommodation. Nonetheless, Richard with Jake acting as the head of the family managed to secure lodgings at an inn in the Quartier Saint Maurice, which was situated northwest of the centre. The Auberge de la Madeleine was run by a large woman by the name of Francine Duval, who ruled her establishment with an iron hand. She put Manon in the common room reserved for women, while the men were lodged in the vast stables. There they joined ten other men, mostly drapers. There were, however, three soldiers as well, so Richard instantly adopted his “demented uncle” persona. They could not afford to let the soldiers address him.

To her utter relief, Manon discovered that she was the inn’s only female guest in the inn that night. After dinner in the taproom, she quickly retired to the far corner of the common room, which was divided into separate booths by means of wooden partitions. Finally some privacy, she sighed. She enjoyed the luxury of washing in a small wooden tub and afterwards donned a fresh cotton nightgown, which her uncle had purchased for her in Beauvais along with an extra change of small clothes, two cotton gowns and a pair of extra walking boots. Together with her toiletries, those items formed the contents of her new travel bag.

Once she was lying on her narrow cot, Manon felt she could finally let her guard down. For almost a week, the four of them had ridden through the vast French countryside, always on the lookout for soldiers or brigands. Manon had not yet told Jéhan about Papa’s death, yet the boy kept asking when they would go back to Paris to ascertain that he was not in need of assistance. Every time that happened, Manon’s gaze met her uncle’s, who in a private moment, asked her if Jéhan knew that their father was dead. He should be told, her uncle said. There was no point in deceiving the boy when he would eventually have to find out the truth.

Now that she was finally alone, Manon found herself sobbing, at last allowing herself to feel the full impact of recent events. All her efforts and thoughts had been taken up with keeping herself and her brother alive. Papa was dead. She had buried him in their garden in Paris, and the last time, she had seen him alive and well had only been the same morning of the day she had done so. They had parted in joyful affection, never worrying, even in the grim circumstances the Revolution had brought on. Now she was alone, and with the added responsibility of having to look after her little brother. She had yet to live a life taking care of only her own person. Even when they now had the protection of her uncle for which she was utterly grateful in these dire times, the care for Jéhan rested on Manon’s shoulders and no one else’s. The burden was indeed heavy.

Resolutely, Manon dried her tears and went to wash her face in the water basin that sat on the side table. There was no point in dwelling on matters she could not change.

Abruptly and without warning, she was seized by strong hands, which gripped her so hard that her arms were painfully wrenched upwards. An arm slung around her waist, effectively pinning her arms against her body and making it impossible to move. A rough hand clasped over her mouth, and a hoarse voice rasped in crude French, “Ah, but what have we here? A pretty little wench, so fit to please a brave soldier of the Revolution!”

A vile stench of unwashed male accompanied these words, and Manon gagged when her tongue tasted the sour skin of the large hand that covered her lips. In a wave of panic, she writhed and kicked, but the man simply lifted her in the air and smacked her onto her cot, face down. With one hand he held her pinned to the straw mattress, while the other shoved her nightdress high until her backside was bare.

She froze, the breath fleeing from her lungs. He was going to rape her! Her face was pressed into her blanket. In despair, she kicked her legs, but the man simply put his knees onto her bare thighs. His weight was heavy and unyielding like tons of bricks on her tender flesh. She was going to be killed …

And then she was set free. The weight was lifted from her body, and she drew in a large gulp of wonderful air. Hastily, she covered herself and turned onto her back.

“Manon, are you unharmed?” her uncle asked, concern making his voice give way. There he stood, in shirt and breeches, apparently the attire he used while abed.  Manon watched him, still dazed from her experience. She gasped in horror.

“Where is he? That man …” She noticed the large, unkempt soldier, lying unconscious at her feet.

“Oh …”, she said in a small voice. “Uncle, what are we to do? Now, everybody will know you are not demented. We must leave immediately!”

“Shhh, child, do not panic. Jake is preparing Jéhan as we speak. Yes, we are leaving, this instant. Jake and I will carry our friend here and dump him somewhere in the yard. I will pour some cheap wine all over him so that it will appear as if he was in his cups and stumbled when he went to relieve himself. You must dress and pack your bag. We will be waiting for you in the yard as soon as Jake has paid our hostess.”

 

As a precaution, Richard decided to give the cart and horse to the landlady and instead, repair to the marshes lining the river Somme and proceed on foot. His purpose was to find two decent horses and attempt to reach Boulogne on horseback.

They marched as quickly as was possible, which was not easy because the rich pastures near the water were soggy. Fortunately, they were also covered with tree saplings, so the fugitives were hidden from the main road that ran alongside the river. Richard was justifiably worried about the soldiers. They might well try to find them and take revenge.

With Jéhan asleep in his arms, Richard took the lead of their small group. Manon walked behind him with Jake taking the rear. The path was so narrow it only allowed them to walk in single file. It was still very dark, with no moon to guide their way. Richard hoped to reach the village of Longpré before nightfall of the following day. They had approximately twelve miles to cover, and their progress would be slow and tiresome. Fortunately, he had taken the precaution of bringing enough coins from England. The exchange of guineas against Louis d’or in Paris had been easy and very profitable. Money lenders knew the value of English coin and hoarded it for the future. And every Frenchman, high or low, loved a Louis d’or.

The three walked in absolute silence, because they needed to watch their footing on the slippery riverside path. Manon doggedly followed in her uncle’s footsteps, ignoring her weariness after the disturbed peace of the night. Her arms and legs were starting to bruise where the brute had grabbed them. Yet she would not give in to weakness. Her uncle would protect them all, she knew. At that moment, Manon had the absolute conviction that nothing was impossible for Richard de Briers.

 

Richard was extremely anxious to progress as quickly as was possible. He was convinced the three rascals would pursue them, even kill them if they caught up with them. Upon Richard’s instructions, Jake had fed the landlady a tale of a dying relative on a farm south of the river Marne. With enough coin and the cart and horse to keep her silent, Francine Duval had vowed not to tell the soldiers too much. Yet Richard had not overly trusted the woman. Anybody could break under pressure, he knew.

His thoughts kept wandering to his niece and what she had gone through this past week.

Her father had been slaughtered, forcing her to leave the only home she had known, and now she had been brutally assailed by that monster. Richard recalled the white-hot rage he had felt surging through him at the sight of that brute, who had been on the verge of raping her. He had literally seen red and had wanted to smash the man into a bloody pulp. He had not hesitated for one second but had thrown himself to Manon’s rescue, blowing their carefully constructed cover in the process. He might well have signed their death sentence, he realised. If he was not able to secure horses soon and lead the group to Boulogne forthwith, they would be caught. He shuddered at the thought – not for himself or Jake, but for Manon and her little brother.

However, that was not his deepest concern. He was more disturbed by the torrent of raw desire he had been experienced when setting eyes on Manon’s creamy white, round buttocks. May the Lord have mercy on him but he had wanted her so much that he felt his body react just by recalling the image. What a miserable cad he was, lusting after his young niece. And what hell his life was turning into. How was he supposed to keep on living when he felt thus?

 

 

 

 Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker  *** March 20 Netflix

 Self-Made:
Netflix

Netflix has unveiled the official title and premiere date for their previously announced C.J. Walker project starring Octavia Spencer. The four-part limited series Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker will debut on the streaming platform March 20. Netflix also released the first look at Spencer as the iconic figure in history.

In the series, Oscar-winning actress Spencer stars as Sarah Breedlove, known as Madam C.J. Walker, the black hair care pioneer and mogul who overcame hostile turn-of-the-century America, epic rivalries, tumultuous marriages and family challenges to become America’s first black, female self-made millionaire.

The series is inspired by the book, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles. Walker overcame post-slavery racial and gender biases, personal betrayals, and business rivalries to build a ground-breaking brand that revolutionized black haircare, as she simultaneously fought for social change.

Self Made also stars Blair Underwood as her husband C.J. Walker, Tiffany Haddish as her daughter Lelia, Carmen Ejogo as Walker’s business rival Addie Munroe, Garrett Morris as Walker’s father-in-law, Kevin Carroll as her longtime lawyer Freeman Ransom and Bill Bellamy as Ransom’s cousin Sweetness.

The limited series is produced by SpringHill Entertainment and Wonder Street in association with Warner Bros. Television is helmed by co-showrunners Elle Johnson & Janine Sherman Barrois, along with writer and co-executive producer Nicole Jefferson Asher, directed by Kasi Lemmons and DeMane Davis, and executive produced by Janine Sherman Barrois, Elle Johnson, Maverick Carter, LeBron James, Octavia Spencer, Mark Holder, Christine Holder, Kasi Lemmons, and Jamal Henderson.

Check out the first look images below.

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Chapter 15 The Friday Event

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 15
Meeting His Lordship

Kips carriage arrived ahead of the Stokes carriage. The parking yard was ablaze with torches, and Kip spotted Squeaks as she turned into the yard. Lord Stokes was exited at the front of the ballroom, and Squeaks parked her team in the next available space. There was no random parking tonight, she could see. Everyone formed a line of teams.

Kip felt pain around his heart, as he noticed all the other drivers following her with their eyes. He smiled, seeing her cravat and watch chain. She went to her most professional look.

God, how I love her.

He watched as she applied the brake and then wrapped her reins around that. Someone, most likely her father, taught her to extinguish her lanterns, conserving the oil.

She was beautiful tonight. Her big, wide black bow framed her petite face. She wore her livery skirt and the silk top hat. There was no mistaking her for a man this time. His chest tightened as drivers started to stroll towards her. He decided to watch for a while.

His heart raced when she appeared to be looking for someone. He supposed it was him. The way she left him last night, the thought that she was searching for him now lifted his spirits.

Kip sat back, folded his arms, and propped up his boots on the driver’s footboard. He was proud seeing her being admired by so many other professionals. Time was needed for her to fully prove herself. And time was what he needed to properly recommend himself to her. He smiled seeing she was clutching the whip. Suddenly, he could tell she spotted him. He sat up straight. In a casual manner, she waved him over. Kip wanted to be over there and hear about her drive to the ballroom. Patiently, he kept his eye on her. This was what it must have been like this morning. Then he remembered she had Boots, the footman, and no one now.

Kip climbed down to the ground and saw her doing the same, except she was descending into a throng of men. They might jostle her around. She still clasped tightly to her whip.

Squeaks pushed her way through the men, even though her breasts were skimming some of them, just to be on the outer rim, when Kip arrived. She saw him tip his hat to her. She curtsied. Kip look pleased, and she smiled broadly back at him. The curtsy caught the attention of many, and they looked his way.

Kip looked heavenward and thanked his sister.

“Good evening, Miss Squeaks. How was your drive from the Castle? The bridge over the moat give you any problems in the dark?” he kidded.

“I am feeling a bit proud right now. No jerks, sways, ruts, or hard turns. I will be told how I did later tonight; I am sure. His Lordship wanted to talk with me when I got home last night.”

“So, I heard.”

“You heard? How do such things travel about?”

Kip realized that he could not tell her that his father had told him. “I believe I told you we are a brotherhood. We hear a lot that is not actually spoken to us. What did you tell Lord Stokes, if I may ask since I was responsible for you?”

“He wants to have a private talk with you before we go out on Sunday.” Squeaks was so full of happiness; she could not resist the temptation to surprise him.

“Are you in earnest?”

“Yes.”

“Can you tell me what you know?” Kip took her elbow and walked her into the empty center of the ringed parking yard where there was less chance of being overheard.

“I told him almost everything. Perhaps, it is better to tell you what I did not tell him.”

“However, you want to say it, sweets.”

“Sweets, not Squeaks? I like that.”

“I do too, but I didn’t know I was saying it.”

“I told him about my embarrassment with Lord Astaire. I think he laughed.”

“Stokes did?”

“Yes, but he said he and Father had drunk too much scotch waiting for me to come home. I told him about pulling the coach out of the yard with you going back and forth. I did not mention going to the park, but I told him you kissed me. I think that is why he wants a private word with you on Sunday.”

“I see.”

“He asked me if you fancied me. I told him no.”

“You said that to him? I fear you have lied to your Lord.”

“I told him I thought you loved me.”

Startled for words, Kip flustered before speaking. “You did not lie to him. I do think I love you.”

“I told him I thought I felt the same way.”

“You said that to Lord Stokes?”

“And father, too.”

“You are overwhelming me as you say I do to you.” He noticed how she was smiling as she looked up to him. “We both need a further conversation on this matter.”

This is unimaginable. It is all too fast.

Kip rubbed his forehead. This was so hard to believe. Her admission of her feelings was something he was not prepared for. He felt this couldn’t be that real for her.

“They are not sure that I mean it.”

“Quite frankly, I feel as they do.”

“Since I have never loved, this might not be the true emotion.”

“That should be your own question, as well. You don’t know me.”

“I know all I have to know. We have time to understand what we have.”

“As long as it takes for you to be sure, my sweet.”

Squeaks could see his eyes in the torch lighting glittering from unshed tears.

“After the way you left me last night, I thought I had lost you.”

“Kip, Lord Stokes asked me why I looked taken aback, and I reminded him that you had kissed me. You completely overwhelmed me in body and heart last night. I thought it all a dream.”

“God, I want to take you and hold you so badly right now. Last night is nothing to what I want for you and me. These feelings are new to me, too. I have been with women, but something deeper and more primitive is at work here. Let’s walk back to the others. I am getting carried away. I do not trust myself at this moment … this momentous moment in my life. One last thing?”

“Yes?”

“Will there come a time in your life when you will not discuss everything with His Lordship and your father?”

“Where my personal life is concerned, that has started now. I had to introduce your importance to me somehow, and last night seemed to be an opportune time. I don’t want to hide anything from the people who raised and love me or even to your friends. They are now aware of our interest in knowing each other. That is all they need to hear. I believe I can actually feel myself becoming a true ‘woman-in-waiting.’”

“Do not say anymore. We will talk on Sunday. I can barely weather your womanhood at this moment.”

“Well . . . I am sorry. It is all your fault.”

“I hope I am never forgiven, Kip replied, looking at his boots.”

#

“Squeaks, would you care to talk a few moments with me about tonight,” His Lordship asked upon returning home and exiting the coach.

“Yes, sir. I would like to know your opinion.”

“See me once you are settled.”

“Yes, milord.”

Squeaks drove around to the back stable where a stable boy was waiting to put away the team and clean the coach.

“Did you do a good job tonight, miss?” Asked the groom.

“I think I did. His Lordship is going to tell me how he felt about it, now.”

“Good luck, Miss Squeaks.”

She looked at herself before entering the main hall. Snapping her uniform into shape, feeling her cravat, and checking her watch chain for a proper look, she knocked at the door.”

“Come in, Squeaks. Would you care to sit?”

“No, sir. I will stand.”

“I will not take much of your time. With your father and his many years of experience, I have paid little heed to the comfort of my ride. This past week, I have made it a priority to be aware of such actions, as I know you are learning. For more years than I can count you have wanted to follow in your father’s footsteps. I am here to tell you that you have succeeded most notably. I know tonight was difficult for you. I paid attention to the lighting and what you had to negotiate on our route. I would never have known your father wasn’t in the box. In fact, and this is between you and me, I believe it was a smoother ride than when he drives. I have to take back all of my doubts about you having the strength or capability to master such a position. I have been wrong. I sincerely doubt just any woman could accomplish what you have, but your perseverance has held true through the years. Your body is small, and your strength is not that of a man, but there is little evidence of that being a hindrance for you. I just wanted to let you know I am very proud of you.”

Tears formed in her eyes.

“Although I have thought of this in the past, last night brought home to me, that you are a woman now, and may not be a driver all your life. There will come a time when you will want to be a wife and mother, I suppose. You will leave my service one day. My goal until that day is an interest that you make your best choice. I will not make any for you, but I may question you, if you allow me, as to the probability that you have thought through any final decisions. You may think that I am talking specifically about Kip, but I am not. Two years henceforth, you may wish to open a training school for women drivers, I do not know,” he laughed. “However, your father and I have nothing but your happiness in mind. We want you to achieve that most of all.”

Squeaks found it difficult to stand and face all these complimentary words from His Lordship. She finally looked away unable to shoulder the accolades.

“I have talked far longer than I wanted to,” Lord Stokes said, seeing tears roll down her face. She never once wiped them away. “Just know that I am proud of you, and I believe the world is at your feet, now. That is all.”

Sniffling she said, “Thank you, milord. It is only by your good graces that I am where I want to be.”

“I cannot take all the credit. Your father has raised you, not I.”

“But through your kindness, you have given me the opportunity to be what I wanted to be. Father helped me get there, but you made it possible and you have just praised my work. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

“All right. Enough of this from both of us. I will need to visit a friend tomorrow noon. You will have your day off on Sunday. Now, be gone with you.”

“Good night, milord.”

 

Kip spent little time with his Father when he delivered him home. There was too much on his mind. Discussing other matters would be a distraction he did not want. He said good-bye and that he would meet for dinner before Gus returned to Norcaster.

His work finished for the night, Kip slipped out of his tails, trousers, and boots and relaxed on his couch in only his undergarments. It had only been a week, but his existence had been turned upside down. Perspectives and goals had changed. If their interest in each other was to be known, he was anxious for all to know. The fewer men hovering over her, the better. She had actually said the words he was building up to say in the foreseeable future, and she repeated them back to him. His head was still swimming. Declaring themselves, was quite a distance away, he had imagined.

All of this happiness that was racing towards him prompted him to begin thinking of his life ahead. At some point, she would have to know who he really was. He would have to decide what he wanted or needed to do. Nevertheless, one thing he did know, he wanted her by his side. But would she stand by him if he was an Earl? She was quite used to being part of a nobility household but as a staff member. Marrying into it was another huge challenge for her. He would take his time, and when the moment was right, and his decision made, he would talk with her about it. He wasn’t eager to pull her away from her new-found career that was two decades in the making. Not only was she making her own career, but she was also setting examples for other women. She could be at the forefront of the woman’s movement and wouldn’t know it. Those were just rumblings now, but soon would be making their demands known. She may even become prominent in her own right.

He looked forward to Sunday with eager anticipation. Being alone with her had only been a dream until the pavilion at the park. He vowed to keep himself controlled. With declarations behind them, he hoped his obsession for her would be abated, at least to a moderate degree.

Kip decided to gather all of his charcoals to take with him. Although her hair was pitch black, he had to capture those light blue eyes and lightly tanned, creamy skin.

 

Saturday evening, Squeaks looked into her wardrobe. It was practically bare except several livery uniforms, white shirts, and stable clothes. She even hung her gloves as her father had taught her. She had one dress for funerals, and one gown passed down to her from Lady Stokes, but she had never worn it. It was not appropriate for a Sunday picnic anyway. Squeaks began canvassing the maids and found the perfect simple dress she could borrow. If Kip was going to be escorting her places, she would have to use some of her savings and have one or two frocks made. Carrying the frock back to her room, she realized she had no stockings or shoes. “What a bad way I’m in,” she sighed. Back to the maids again, where she found success to some extent.

Slipping on the dress, she found it difficult to see herself at full length. Her father had a full mirror; she headed to his room. Walking in, her father beamed.

“Squeaks, dear. Is that really you? I have never known you to wear a dress. Where did you get that?”

“I had to borrow it from Bessy. I needed stockings and shoes too. I think you skipped a few lessons with me,” she frowned. “Father, I need a day during the week to go and get fitted for a couple of frocks. If I am to be seeing Kip outside of driving, I want to look like a woman.”

“My dear, you do look like a woman.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I guess I do. Rearing you has had me scratching my head more often than you know.”

“You taught me the most important parts of life. The women have taught me about myself, and very little about men. It’s time for me to put that to use.”

“I hope I am not misreading you, my dear.”

“I don’t know, are you? Have you ever looked into my wardrobe? I am not sure if my undergarments are for men or women.”

Her father laughed out loud. “I am sorry, child. I was never knowledgeable about women’s fashions.”

“I don’t even have a corset.”

“I do know what that is. You should have one of those. Oh dear, how I have let you down. What will you wear under that frock?”

“I will wear the undergarments that are still in question and a shift to cover the top of me. No wonder I jiggle. It is getting painful to jiggle. They have some weight; you know?”

“Yes, I do know that. Your mother taught me. It seems you are top-heavy like your mother. It’s times like this that I know how much I have missed teaching you. We shall buy a suitable wardrobe for you.”

“Do you think Kip will understand?”

“Understand? I certainly hope not.”

“I mean will I look like a charwoman?”

“Never in your lifetime, my dear.”

“Father, I have a strong regard for Kip. I do not want to shame myself with my clothes.”

“Dear, if he loves you, as I suspect he does; you could never shame yourself to him.”

“I hope you are right about that.”

“I do know one or two things. I was a young man once upon a time.”

“Oh Father, I love you. However, I think some items are lacking in my femininity.”

“Like what, precisely?”

“Like what do I do with the feeling I have when being kissed. I want to leap out of my skin.”

“Let me work on that.” Clyde was embarrassed by himself for never properly speaking with her about the things his wife would have taught her. He was a man and wasn’t quite sure what a woman feels.

#

Sunday morning came, and Kip pulled into the Stokes’s stable area. He drove his day coach, and he dressed as a man riding a horse – no livery. A stable hand escorted him to the kitchen. There he asked to see the Butler.

Several minutes later, Morgan came to greet him.

“I believe Lord Stokes wished to speak with me today,” Kip told the Butler. “I will wish to see Miss Dorset after my talk with His Lordship.”

“Very good, sir. I believe she is waiting. Your name, sir?”

“Trevor Kipling.”

“This way, sir.”

Kip followed the Butler, being more than a little nervous. They came to a set of big doors. The Butler opened one side, and announced, “Trevor Kipling to see you, sir.”

“Show him in.”

“Good morning, Kip,” he was greeted by Squeaks.

He bowed, “Good morning Your Lordship, good morning, Miss Squeaks.”

“His Lordship said I must leave when you arrived. I will collect our luncheon-basket and wait outside for you.”

“Very good, miss.”

Squeaks was smiling while he was dying inside. She backed out of the room, paying close attention to His Lordship’s face. The door closed behind her.

“Sit, Mr. Kipling.”

“I would prefer to stand, sir.”

“I wish you not to stand on formality on this occasion. Please sit. Can Morgan offer you some refreshment?”

“No, sir,” Kip said finding a large chair.

Lord Stokes took the opposite chair.

“I am sure you are wondering why you are here or perhaps have an idea, but still, wonder why a Lord would seek to know the goings-on of a staff member.”

“Sir, I believe most drivers know of your kindness to the Dorset’s. I will speak honestly with you about that, sir, if I may.”

“Thank you, proceed.”

“It is known that you have a fondness for Squeaks since she was born. It is believed that you never had a daughter and found that missing child in Rebecca. There have at no time been any other rumors about your interest in her. It is plain to see she has been loved, treated well, and reared with care.”

“I believe your arrow has flown true with your understanding. However, I would like to speak of her future. She tells me that there is regard for you, and she feels you have an interest in her.”

“Yes, sir. More than interest, sir. I am sure I love her. I do understand that she is naïve in this world and may be mistaking her heart for more than is actually there. Being the first man in her life, outside of yourself and her father, I am quite aware that her interest in me might not be what I hope it to be. I am prepared for that. It could be envy for my knowledge of a trade she professes to love. I understand you had a conversation with her in her regard for me and in her perceived regard of I for her. Nothing had ever been mentioned or intimated beyond friendship until that time.”

“Well . . . it seems you know why you are here. I do know it is not my place to pry into her affairs, and they will be laid to rest after our conversation unless a matter is brought to me.”

“Understood, Sir. You are correct. She is of age to handle her own affairs, but I am thankful she has the guidance of Your Lordship and her father. At the same time, I would be honest in hoping you do not stand in her way when she is resolute, whether it be a career, or marriage, or whatever her heart desires.”

“I take your meaning as well and admire your honesty and courage to say that to me. May I ask a few questions?”

“By all means, Your Lordship.”

“I understand from several levels of society that you possess a remarkable skill in your trade, but also I am told that your own values in life are exceedingly high and unexpected for a man of your bearing. You are a mystery to many.”

“Yes, sir. I have been told that.”

“Are there any words that you can say to me to alleviate this anxiety her father and I feel about you?”

“Lord Stokes, I will tell you what I feel I can, but I would hope this would remain confidential between yourself, only, and me. It will not be the entire story, but if the day comes and Miss Rebecca accepts a suit that I offer, you will know all there is about me, and she will, too. There will be undeniable proof at hand, but big decisions are ahead.”

“Agreed. Proceed.”

“I was reared in a titled home. I am extremely well educated but wish that wasn’t known, as there are questions, I cannot answer. I am not in trouble with the law. I do not have loose morals or bad habits. I have suffered the loss of a beloved family member which has impacted my life severely. Depression has followed me. I had to leave home and redefine myself. Finding interest in the coachman trade has brought back some self-worth. It has helped me get back on my feet as a responsible man. I take pride in my profession and wish to provide the best possible service.”

“Miss Squeaks is entering my life and giving me back hope and a sense of self that I had lost. She knows nothing of this. I do not love her for what she is doing for me. I love her for who she is. My intentions towards her are sincere. I know she needs to be nurtured and handled with delicacy. I wish to be the man in her life whom she allows a closeness. I will never hurt her. I will protect and defend her. Her happiness is my ultimate desire in life. I wish there were more I could add, and I will should she accept me. Sir, I hope this puts your worries aside.”

“A titled English family, you say. Are you a firstborn son?”

“I am, Sir.”

“Thank you, Mr. Kipling, for being straightforward and honest. I fear you have raised more questions than answered, but I am content that you mean what you say about taking care of Squeaks. I also want to thank you for your attention to her safety during this past week and her training in night driving. I must admit she had a compelling tale about herself that night being a footman. It seems the House of Lords found great favor in hearing it.”

Kip felt awkward. “I apologize, Sir, for any embarrassment. I wish I could have foreseen such an issue.”

“Perhaps, it is just as well that you didn’t. Squeaks has grown into a beautiful young woman. She has great pride in her chosen profession. She is spirited, delightful, and far too outspoken to me, her Lord and master, but I have encouraged it, I admit. Her father and I are quite jealous that she is allowing another man into her life who we will share, but she is grown now. I do know that these relationships are not always what one hopes, but whether the two of you see your way far into the future or not, I do believe you will always take care of her. You say you were raised in a ‘titled’ family, but that does not mean that your land, connections or finances are in good stead. Should you be, however, barriers will be thrown in your way. I wish you the best. If you have no questions, I believe you have satisfied my curiosity, and you may go.”

“Thank you, Lord Stokes, for your confidence in me to watch over and love a very special gift to us all. I will protect her with my life, so help me. Good day, sir.”

The Stranger *** Jan 20 – Netflix

With Richard Armitage as Adam Price

“The Hobbit” actor Richard Armitage will star in “The Stranger,” Netflix’s latest series in collaboration with bestselling author Harlan Coben.

The eight-part thriller, produced by the same team that did previous Netflix Coben series “Safe,” starring Michael C. Hall, and “The Five,” goes into production in March. Coben will executive produce the series along with Danny Brocklehurst, who will serve as lead writer, and Nicola Shindler, the CEO of Studiocanal-owned production company Red. The director has not been named.

Armitage will play Adam Price, a happily married father of two whose life is turned upside-down after a stranger tells him a secret about his wife. The revelation catapults him into a larger world of conspiracy and danger.

Armitage, who also starred in “Berlin Station,” can currently be seen in “The Lodge,” directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, which will screen at Sundance.

Larry Tanz, Netflix’s vice president of content acquisition, called “The Stranger” a “riveting rollercoaster of a novel.”

Brocklehurst said: “It’s fantastic to reunite with Netflix, Harlan, and Red for another complex, emotional thriller. Richard Armitage is perfect for the role of Adam, and I can’t wait to bring our binge-able new drama to life.”

The Stranger follows Adam Price as a secret destroys his perfect life, sending him on a collision course with a deadly conspiracy. Price has a good life, two wonderful sons, and a watertight marriage, until one night a stranger sits next to him in a bar and tells him a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them.

Richard Fee will also executive produce the series. Madonna Baptiste will serve as series producer.

  Web channel: Netflix Runtime: 60 minutes Status: In Production (May 2019) Show Type: Scripted Genres: Thriller

 

 

Hearts Adrift – Part Four

Chapter Four

The company set off at dawn, as was agreed, in a cart drawn by a large horse, one that de Briers had purchased from a brewer. He had paid handsomely for the horse, as well as for the cart, and had asked the brewer and the landlady to keep quiet about himself and his charges. As a precaution, he had let slip that their destination was Le Havre, instead of Boulogne. It was an insurance that meant whoever followed them would take the wrong road, heading due west instead of north.

Jake and Manon sat on the bench, with Jake holding the reins, while Jéhan and de Briers were in the cart. The latter was dressed as drably as was possible, with a large cap shielding his face. Manon was extremely curious to see how he would behave if they encountered a checkpoint.

They crossed the Bois de Boulogne and reached the village of Suresnes where they crossed the river Seine. From there they followed the riverbank, travelling east for a while, until they reached the small village of Clichy. Travelling northwest, they next set off on the road to Calais. Eventually, the horse had to be rested and fed. That left the travellers time to have their luncheon.

As soon as the foursome sat down on the Seine’s grassy sloping bank, Jéhan chose de Briers’ company, barely glancing at his sister when she handed him a piece of bread and an apple.

“Uncle, tell me about England. I want to become an Englishman, like you,” the boy said in rapid French.

De Briers laughed, a sound so joyful it made Manon’s heart leap.

“Well, first of all, Jéhan, you must learn to speak English! Once you have mastered that, I can hire a private tutor for you so that you can be properly educated.”

“I do not speak English,” the boy moped. “Is it difficult to learn?”

“Not to me,” de Briers smiled, “and I am certain that a clever lad like you will learn it very quickly.”

Manon kept her mouth shut about her ability to speak the language. Up until now, the travellers had always spoken in French. However, Manon’s mother had insisted on Manon learning English from a very tender age. Manon spoke it fluently, albeit with a slight accent. She was reluctant for de Briers to learn of this – it was convenient to be able to overhear conversations between the two men when they discussed matters they did not want her to hear.

After the meal, de Briers ordered Jéhan and Manon to take a nap, given the fact that their early rising had left the boy sleepy. Brother and sister stretched out on the cool grass, basking in the warm June sun. De Briers waited a quarter of an hour before he challenged Jake.

“What exactly were you blabbering about last night, Jake? I overheard your comment about the Dowager Baronetess, and I was displeased with it.”

“I apologize once again, master, but the girl was asking eager questions about you. I saw no harm in telling her facts that are common knowledge.”

“Enlighten me, Jake,” de Briers said, his tone becoming rather implacable. “What exactly was my niece asking after?”

“Well, she wanted to know …” Jake hesitated, then continued, “… about the women in your life.”

Manon felt heat flaring up her cheeks and neck. She pinched her eyes closed more  firmly, afraid that they might think her awake.

“Did she now?” de Briers drawled. “And have you managed to satisfy her curiosity?”

“No! What do I know about that subject, sir? I am merely your Parisian man of business.”

“Good,” de Briers grunted. “I would very much appreciate it, Jake, if you did not venture to proffer personal details of my life to anyone in the future.”

“No, master, I won’t. You have my word.”

 

They stayed at the riverside for two hours to make sure the horse was properly rested. Their survival might well depend on the animal’s ability to bring them all the way to Boulogne, which was one hundred and sixty miles from Paris. That distance was but a bit shorter than what they would have to travel once they reached England.

Eventually, Jake mounted the bench while de Briers lifted Jéhan into the cart. Manon hesitated.

“I … could you just wait a moment, Uncle?”

De Briers turned in surprise upon hearing the name she had given him. Finally, he reflected, his niece was letting her guard down. “What is it, Manon?”

“I … I have … to go,” she mumbled, and began to head off for a small copse some twenty yards from the road.

Of course, De Briers realised a tad too late. She was female and did not have the luxury to go and do her business in the river, like the rest of their little band. Stupid of him, not to have anticipated that. However, he did not like the notion that she should stray into the woods all by herself and followed her. When she turned and saw him, Manon put her hands on her waist in the universal gesture of annoyance. “You do not need to come with me,” she challenged. “I will be only a moment.”

“No,” her uncle stated curtly, “times are too uncertain. There are lots of fugitives in France, nowadays, and desperate people do not shy away from violence. Let me take a look first.”

Manon had not thought about that, and she realised her uncle was not only intelligent and careful, but also sweet and caring.

“Thank you, Uncle,” she said, and waited patiently until he signalled her to come nearer.

“Here,” he said, “this is a safe place. I will be waiting just a few yards away. Be quick about it, Manon. I want us to reach Fraconville before nightfall. There is a decent auberge where we can spend the night. I do not like the look of those clouds in the west.”

 

Unfortunately, de Briers was right. The clouds became large, black, and ominous, and the group was soaked to the bone by a deluge right after they crossed the Seine outside Clichy. The river meandered through the countryside repeatedly on its way to the North Sea, so they would encounter it again and again before they reached Boulogne.

Fortunately, while the passengers of the cart sat hunched under their soaked cloaks, feeling miserable, the placid, sturdy horse kept on plodding along, oblivious to the pelting rain. There was one large benefit to the situation, de Briers mused. At least they would not encounter guards or checkpoints now.

Their progress through the lush countryside was slow but steady, and eventually, the rain subsided. The warm sun that followed the torrent was a welcome change to the bone-cold travellers, who basked in the warmth it provided. Yet, when they reached the Auberge du Coquelicot in the tiny village of Fraconville, clouds had come drifting in again.

“Remember,” de Briers warned, before they went in, “Jake is the head of our “family” and you, Manon are posing as his wife. I am a demented uncle and Jéhan is your son.”

“Actually,” Manon said, “that will not do. Jake and I, as man and wife, would be given one bedchamber. I will be his widowed sister and Jake can sleep with you. Jéhan sleeps in my room.”

“I want to be with the men,” Jéhan piped. “I am a man, too!”

But, as it turned out, there were no private rooms at the “Poppy Inn”. All guests had to sleep in the common room, but as times were uncertain, they were the only guests, that night.

Times were indeed uncertain, as Manon soon experienced. The landlord, a thickset, gloomy looking man with a head as bald as an egg, had little else to offer but a hard straw mattress and a thin blanket for a bed in the cold common room.

“I have no wood to burn, and besides, it is June,” he said sourly. “Be glad I have some rabbit stew ready for your supper. That and a tankard of wine will get you warm quickly enough.”

After their meal, Jéhan settled next to Jake, who spread his blanket over the both of them. The boy seemed to have formed a friendship with Jake, who welcomed him good-naturedly. De Briers put his pallet to Jéhan’s other side, almost automatically, and Manon envied the three males. She was banished to the far end of the room, where a curtain separated her from the rest.

 

Manon felt miserable. She was damp, cold and still hungry. She had not dared to drink wine, for fear she might be sick afterwards. Wine made by the common people could not always be trusted, her father had taught her. They added dubious extra ingredients to the mixture in order to increase the alcohol content more efficiently than was possible with grape fermentation alone, such as wood spirits, an alcohol produced by the distillation of wood and used as a diluent in cheap wines. It was poisonous and could kill or blind a person, if they were lucky enough to survive.

Her uncle, as it turned out, forbade all of them from drinking the drinking the landlord’s wine. Manon asked for a pitcher of hot water and made a mint tisane for them. She had the satisfaction of seeing her uncle’s eyes widen with surprise as she rummaged through her medicinal bag to retrieve the pouch with the dried mint leaves. She even produced a small pot of honey, which she used to sweeten the beverage. It was succulent but it did nothing to warm the body, especially hers, when she lay shivering on her lonely pallet. After a long time, she drifted into a fitful sleep, interrupted by her frequent coughs.

 

Richard de Briers listened to his niece’s coughs with growing unease. The girl had no spare clothing so she was forced to sleep in her damp dress, he knew. It must by sheer misery. He could barely get warm under the thin, mouldy blanket their host had provided, so he could only guess how Manon must feel. At least he had little Jéhan’s body to warm his back, while she had no one’s warmth to comfort her. Tired of wrestling with his worry for Manon, Richard rose and crept to the other end of the room.

His niece was sleeping like a child would do, one hand under her cheek and the other wrapped tightly over her small breasts. The blanket had slipped away to leave her trembling with cold. Without giving further thought to the matter, Richard curled up behind her and enveloped them both in his spare woollen cloak. This one was fairly dry since it had been stored inside his leather travel bag.

The moment he felt Manon’s soft, round body snuggle up against his, Richard realised his mistake. His treacherous male body immediately responded with the usual embarrassing reaction. He froze, not daring to move for fear Manon would wake. How was he, her uncle, to explain the very

non-avuncular behaviour he had just displayed by joining his virgin niece on her pallet?

However, with a sigh of well-being, Manon sank deeper into sleep, and was soon breathing, deeply and regularly. Gradually, Richard relaxed and his body with him. It felt … well, right, although he knew that it was not right, not at all. Manon was his niece – his ward, even. He was honour-bound to protect her, to offer her a home where she would feel loved and safe. His mind and heart knew her for what she was, his sister’s daughter, but his lascivious body only acknowledged her exquisite femininity.

Richard inwardly cursed himself for staying away from Madame Herodias’ London nunnery for far too long. Then, as their combined body heat started to relax him, he willed himself to rule out all inappropriate thoughts and go to sleep.

 

Manon woke as soon as de Briers gave the signal. She was surprised to see him already dressed and giving instructions, while Jéhan and Jake were still preparing, dizzy with sleep. She herself felt marvellously rested, which caused her to wonder, since she had had such a hard time falling asleep.

When they were on the road again, Manon reflected upon it. She had been cold and wet and shivering. Yet she must have fallen asleep sometime, and had a sound sleep as well, since she had not dreamt or tossed around on her pallet. She did, however, remember a wonderful warmth that had spread over her at some point. By that time, she had already been too soundly asleep to bother about trying to understand it.

 

The weather was bright and sunny again, and the group made excellent progress. Come nightfall, they had achieved their planned fifteen miles, and they reached the Abbaye Notre-Dame du Val.

The abbey had been sold to a draper from Paris a few years ago, when the Revolution dispersed the monks. It stood empty but people from the vicinity still worshipped our Lady in the ruined church, which was the only building that had been destroyed.

De Briers knew about the abbey because he had stayed there when accompanying his father to France during his boyhood. He was also acquainted with some of the farmers who lived nearby. His father had always showed an interest in how others gained their produce so that he could apply their methods at Bearsham Manor.

The four of them stopped at Thierry Dubois’ farmhouse and bought some food from him – at a very substantial price, of course. Afterwards, they took refuge inside the abbey for the night and restored themselves.

 

Rise of Empires: Ottoman ***Jan 24, 2020 Netflix

‘RISE OF EMPIRES: OTTOMAN’ 
 ON MEHMED THE CONQUEROR
Ottoman starts January 24th on Netflix

We already had an epic series on this particular Turkish sultan two years ago but it wasn’t overly successful and got cancelled after five or six episodes, but now Turkish Netflix is ready to launch new series RISE OF EMPIRES: OTTOMAN which is a mix of docu series and a scripted one. Starting on Netflix from January 24th in 190 countries around the world, this new historical documentary will follow Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II who wages an epic campaign to take the

The six part series is a mix of documentary and scripted scenes

Byzantine capital of Constantinople and shapes the course of history for centuries. This event is celebrated in Turkey as the highlight of their history,

Cem Yigit Uzumoglu plays one of the darkest figures in mediaeval history

but in Europe it was a dark moment when the last barriers against their invasion fell announcing many centuries of Ottomans’ bloody rule in Southern Europe, a rule marked by death, rape, slavery, genocide and gruesome tyranny.

What’s The Story About?
Directed by Emmy Award winning Emre Şahin and written by Celal Şengör, Liz Lake, Kelly McPherson and Emrah Safa Gürkan, the series sees young Turkish superstar Cem Yiğit Üzümoğlu portraying the infamous

The sultan was just 21 years old when he conquered Constantinople

sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, while Tuba Büyüküstün appears as famous Serbian princess Despina Mara who, as one of sultan Murad II’s wives, took care of him after his mother died and then helped him later on secure the

Tuba Buyukustun plays Serbian princess Mara who was forced to marry her country’s mortal enemy Murad II in order to become a sultana and secure peace for her country threatened by the Ottoman empire

throne for himself. Tommaso Basili plays Emperor Constantine XI, while Tolga Tekin portrays Mehmed’s father Sultan Murad II! Charles Dance is narrating the six part documentary which launches on the streaming service

Tomasso Basili plays Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI

next week bringing the epic 15th-century story of Mehmed II, known as Mehmed the Conqueror, which chronicles his astonishing and fabled rise from 13-year-old Child Sultan to toppling Constantinople in 1453 at the age of 21

The series was shot in English, although not very good as you can hear in the trailer

and becoming the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. The series also features historians including Roger Crowley and Jason Goodwin who give their in-depth analysis.

 

 

First Cow *** 03/06/20

Check it out yourself:     coming into theatres March 6th based on a novel by Jonathan Raymond.
What’s The Story?
A loner and cook (John Magaro) has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, though he only finds connection with a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee). The men collaborate on a business, although its longevity is reliant upon the participation of a wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow.

 

The cow is out March 6th

Chapter 14 The Friday Event

 

Chapter 14
The Friday event

 

As Squeaks and Kip came to rest on the benches under the pavilion, she said, “I can only stay a short time.”

“I am aware of that. So, tell me, what did you learn tonight?”

“I learned how I feel about you.”

Kip audibly sucked in air, hearing that and not expecting it. “Did I pass muster?”

“Pass muster?”

“I am asking if I passed inspection.”

“I think you should have a medal.”

“Would a knighthood be asking too much?” he smiled.

“That would be the perfect title to bestow as you championed me in battle.”

“In battle? Did I?”

“Suppose I had driven Lord Stokes tonight without you; what would I have done with all those men out there?”

“It would be the indoctrination of the twenty years you have waited.”

“Yes, I guess it would be. No matter how often my father or Lord Stokes tried to convince me of what I would be up against, I was sure I could manage. There are just so many of them, though.”

“Yes, there are many, but in the circles, you will drive, I think you will be among real gentlemen drivers. Certainly, any driver, driving for someone at the House of Lords will be beyond question. In your world that was all you saw; the handful in the Parliament area. Now, that you are out and about, you see the bigger picture of the world you have chosen. I doubt you accompanied your father on many night events. I know a good many independents and can say they are gentlemen, too. They would always come to your rescue. We are a brotherhood and police ourselves. The drivers who drive for a service have someone to answer to and could lose their jobs if they are not polite. Just stay away from the low-end districts.”

“I think I am aware of that. But even though they are gentlemen, how do I handle all the interest in me? I don’t think safety is my concern. I might be wooed to death.”

My God. She’s right. “Some are married, so it’s not all of them.”

“Suppose they think I belong to you; would that prevent the attempted wooing?”

“Yes, but not by me. After that wooing statement, yes, let us do assume you belong to me.”

Kip stopped there. Squeaks looked expectant for more of an answer.

“And what?”

“And this.” Kip pulled her gently into his arms and began kissing her face, removing her hat. As the curls unfurled, he swept his fingers through her long tendrils and drew them to his nose, across his face, filling his lungs with her scent. The gas lights around the park walkway lit her pale neck and porcelain skin. She was trembling. He was moving too fast.

Squeaks whispered, “Kip, I am going to faint soon. Please give me room for air.”

“God Almighty, I cannot help myself,” Kip said, holding his head in his hands. “I never lose control like this. I beg your apology even if this was welcome. I did not want to treat you this way. I was hoping you would accept me, and you have, but I have pushed past my own boundaries as a gentleman. I must take you home.”

Squeaks quietly stood as she wrapped her arm around his. She was delirious with emotions and sensations throughout her body, all new to her, but unreservedly welcomed.

When they arrived at his coach, Kip opened the door and asked her to sit inside. She entered without protest. He closed the door and stepped up to his bench.

The short journey to the Stokes’s residence was agony to Kip. What had he done? Had he frightened her? She was silent after his apology. “I am making a disaster of myself, my life.”

Fearing her words, Kip pulled the coach to a stop in the Stokes’s stable area, jumped down and opened the door. A shaking hand appeared, and he took it, assisting her out. He watched in painful silence as she walked towards the servant’s entrance without looking back. She had forgotten her hat, and her hair hung beautifully long. Everyone would know that something had occurred and question her. One of the stable hands came out to see who arrived, and Kip gave him the hat she had worn. “A gust of wind took her hat and hair,” he lied.

Kip pulled his team home. Disappointed in himself, a proper gentleman, a nobleman, and an heir apparent; he could not accept his own conduct. He was positive that he was falling in love but never expected to feel a fierce obsession. Perhaps it was the conversation of all the men wanting to woo her. Did he have to prove all of his love in one moment? He had apologized to her, hadn’t he? There was nothing left but to take what was handed to him.

 

The night kitchen cleaner was mopping the floors when Squeaks entered.

“Miss Squeaks, His Lordship wanted to see you when you returned. He’s waiting in his study. Are you, all right?”

“Yes, I am all right,” Squeaks uttered in her foggy voice. She shuffled towards Lord Stokes’s den, trying to pull herself together. She felt as if she had drunk too much of her father’s wine. She knocked.

“Enter, Squeaks.”

She managed the door knob and the-now-heavy door; taking only a few steps into the room, which was unnatural for her.

“Come closer, Squeaks. Are you tired?”

“Yes, I am tired, sir.”

“How did your training go with Kip tonight?”

“Heavenly.”

“Heavenly?” Stokes almost laughed out loud.

“It was a grand experience for me, sir. Kip said I did a good job pulling the team out onto the dark road. Nary a sway, sir.”

“He let you drive his team?”

“Well, we were talking when his rider’s name was called. He pulled into the line. There were torches all around our area, and I do not think he remembered he had not lit his lanterns on the coach. I pointed it out, and instead of me trying to light them while moving, he handed me the reins. I was out of the yard before he could take back his seat.”

“Bravo, Squeaks. I will feel thoroughly confident in you for tomorrow night. How did you do as footman, if I may ask?”

“I think I embarrassed Kip. Something happened that neither of us had thought about ahead of time.”

“You could embarrass no one. You must feel that way in your mind. What happened?”

“My bosom jiggled against the back window, sir. Lord Astaire thanked me for the view when he got out. He was laughing, sir.”

Lord Stokes thought he would burst through the seams of his night attire. Yes, he would hear about it tomorrow and suffer the embarrassment with a smile.

“I am sorry, sir. I have caused you embarrassment, too, I should think. I apologized to Kip. I wish I could have left them home, sir. I am too short for a rear footman.”

“I see,” he said, squelching his smile. “I believe no one would have foreseen that coming.”

“No, sir. Kip said he had thought everything through every step, every footfall, but never that.”

“How did he react?

“He felt Lord Astaire would not be embarrassed and said I should not apologize to him. He stated that he would. Kip said he had no intentions of hiding me and making people think I was a man. He was proud to have me, and then I go and do something like that. I had to press even harder against the glass to keep them from bouncing.”

“Bosoms … always drawing attention.”

“Excuse me, sir? Am I not supposed to be wearing something that keeps them from jiggling?”

“I would assume so. We shall find out in due time. Don’t mind me. Too much scotch tonight as your father and I worried about you. Any other stories to tell?”

“Yes, I talked with Kip about all the men who came to meet me. He made me sit on his bench and told them who I was and that I was his responsibility tonight, his employee.”

“Were they gentlemen?”

“Yes, they were. I do not fear for my safety anymore. I told Kip I might be wooed to death. Oh, and he kissed me. Will that be all, sir?”

Stokes cleared his throat, “Ahem … it seems you had a very exciting evening, then.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then why do you have that glazed look?”

“I believe I said Kip kissed me, sir.”

“And this is the result? I shall have words with that man tomorrow if you feel impugned in any way.”

“Impugned, sir?”

“Disrespected.”

“Oh, no sir. I wanted him to do it again, but he said he didn’t feel gentlemanly. I guess he’s been thinking about kissing me, and maybe he was disappointed. I have never been kissed, sir.”

“How did that happen; do you think?”

“I was telling him I might be wooed too much and asked him what if people thought I belonged to him, would it stop.”

“And?”

“He said, ‘what if you did belong to me,’ then he kissed me. After that, he brought me home.”

“Do you think he fancies you?”

“No, sir.”

“You think he was just playing with your affections?”

“No, sir. I think he loves me.”

“So soon?”

“Are there time periods of falling in love, sir?”

“You have me there. I do not think so. And how do you feel about this driver, Kip?”

“I think I love him, too.”

“Have you two had words to this effect?”

“No, sir.”

“I would like to meet your Kip. I had heard of him before you met him.”

“We are going on a picnic Sunday. He will let me rein his horses. He wants to sketch me. Should he come and visit with you before we leave?”

“Yes, I would like to have a private chat with him.”

“Yes, sir.”

“That is all. You may retire.”

“Good evening, milord.”

Squeaks left the room. During the conversation, she knew she was saying too much, but the words spilled forth effortlessly.

 

Late in the evening, sitting on his sofa, Kip felt he would seek out his sister. “I am too impatient,” he told the air. “Where do I turn now? I will not survive the loss of another woman whom I love.” Kip began to imagine his dead sister. She was trying to tell him something. Her image swirled vividly into his mind. He was taken aback by the sharp details of her face. She is watching over me. I can feel it.  Or do I desperately wish it to be true.”

Kip stayed awake a long time. He drew and drew again, the picture in his mind of Rebecca Dorset standing rear footman, turning towards him with a smile. To him, that was his pinnacle moment, He would still hope. His sister’s appearance left him feeling well about Squeaks. He wanted more than life to believe that.

 

The next morning, on his drives through the city, he kept wondering how Squeaks was coping at the Parliament yard. Boots had better take his place and stay near her. She would probably be proposed to before the day was over. He was adding salt into his own wound in some effort to exact revenge on himself for his thoughts of which she had no knowledge.

The hours wore on, and he stopped into the Horse and Harness Tavern for a meal with his friends. Of course, Squeaks was the topic of conversation, and Kip kept his smile, telling them how skilled she was. No remarks were made towards a romantic inclination. He was happy for that.

“Who are you driving tonight, Kip?”

“It will be Lord Caldwell.”

“What has happened to Briggs, his own driver?”

“I believe he has been called away for a short time. I might have Caldwell for several days. I will know more tomorrow.”

“I’ve got Lady Huston,” said Lucas. “She tips rather well.”

“Lucky you. I have Baron … Baron … oh, what’s his name? The one who dresses like a peacock all the time. He never takes a woman with him,” Jonathan added.

“And you know why that is, right?” Marc inquired, laughing.

“I do. I keep as much distance as possible. I hear he propositions drivers all the time.”

“Does he tip well, Jonathan?” They all laughed.

“Where are Matthew and Kyle?” Kip asked.

“Matthew was feeling unwell yesterday, and I think Kyle has been called back to the Met. They want several pictures of the coach to pass to the bobbies in Whitechapel.”

“Still no word on that Caldwell woman?”

“None, Kip. I wonder if she is related to your Lord Caldwell.”

“Her cousin, my rider that night, thought there might be a very distant connection. She had heard of an Earl in their lineage but had no knowledge how any of them were related.”

“Squeaks has her first night drive, tonight, right Kip?”

“Yes. You will not believe what happened last night.” Kip proceeded to tell them the story of lighting the coach lamps and Squeaks pulling the team out into a dark turn she had never taken or seen. And how she did it all with him going back and forth in front of her. “No sway or lean whatsoever, lads. I could have been walking a rope.”

“So, when are you inviting the lass out, Kip?”

Surprised at the question, he answered, “What makes you think I haven’t?”

“Well, in the past, you couldn’t have waited to tell us; that’s why we ask.”

“Why haven’t any of you asked her out?” Kip continued.

“I might just do that tonight,” said Lucas.

“Excuse me gents. I shall get back to making coin to take out this new driver.” He smiled at them as he left.

Kip thought about Sunday and his planned sketching. If she declined, he had no one to blame but himself. At least, he had the best sketch of her on his mantel at home.

 

Squeaks stayed on her bench most of the next morning. The crowd that came by to say hello was slightly smaller than previous days. Perhaps one day she might be able to stroll to other coaches and talk casually as drivers do.

 

Dusk would settle in an hour, encouraging Kip to end his day and head home. He would clean his coach, dress, and have dinner with his father and brother. After dinner, he would once again become Kip the driver, instead of Trevor Caldwell, the heir.

During dinner, Gus announced that he was thinking of asking for Regina’s hand. There were questions, and a discussion about the lady since Lord Caldwell had met her once, and Kip knew her not at all.

“I am happy for you, Gus,” Trevor said, shaking his hand.

“And you, Trev?”

“There is a lady I may wish to bring into my life, and there will be significant decisions to be made if she takes to me.”

“That wouldn’t be Lord Stokes’s driver, would it? His father asked. “I am afraid we had a jolly laugh at your expense over her predicament last night.”

“How did you know about that?”

“It seems Stokes waited up to see about her adventure, and she told him everything.”

“Everything?”

“I would assume so, son. I know it was you who offered the additional night training for her last night. Was there more than the footman failure?” he laughed.

“What’s this?” Gus asked. “What is footman failure? Who is ‘her’?”

Trevor became red in the face. Over brandy and cigars, Trevor told them the story and how that part of his plan had never been considered. The three men laughed and smiled hearing it. They were not making sport of Squeaks but the fact that it happened under Trevor’s tutelage. “And yes, Father, I have an interest in Miss Rebecca Dorset.”

“Were there other tales from last night?” Gus inquired.

“Yes, but one is personal, and the other couple would take time that we do not have. Perhaps in the future.”

It was time to leave for the dinner engagement.

 

Squeaks kept pacing back and forth in front of her mirror. Did she look smart enough? Was her livery crisp and pressed? She had braided her hair so that not all of it was hidden under her hat. Squeaks ironed her black bow. She had talked to Jimmy, the footman, and pleaded to borrow his cravat. He gave in to her smiles, trotting off to find that part of his uniform. Jimmy tied it on Squeaks in an unassuming style. It was not to be frilly or fancy. It was to blend in with the shirt and be close to invisible.

“Squeaks, check your cravat often to ensure it has not turned on your neck. It must be kept neat at all times. If you ask to wear a pocket watch, you are headed into Butler livery,” he laughed.

“Drivers must have timepieces. They have to, don’t they? I am going to ask father.”

Squeaks tapped lightly on her father’s door, knowing he was still awake.

“Come in.” Clyde noticed the cravat immediately and smiled. “You look most becoming, Squeaks. Very professional. I am not sure I will have a job available to me when I am well.”

“Father, you know that isn’t so. Perhaps, I can work some evenings with Kip. Didn’t you wear a pocket watch? A silver one with a chain?”

“Don’t tell me you want that, too?”

“I think that will complete the entire look, wouldn’t you say?”

“In-service rarely need them because they just wait. It’s in my top drawer over there. Get it for me, Squeaks.”

She retrieved it as she announced, “Let me see if I know how this goes. Don’t tell me.”

“As you wish.” Clyde sat back and smiled at her fumbling. He could see some type of thought process going on as she started from the vest pocket backward toward the buttonholes.

“Isn’t the chain supposed to be seen, Father?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm.”

“I will tell you that is a short chain, not a long one. It will not drape from both pockets as some seem to do today with the newer watches.”

“What do you mean? I see it has a key on the end and a small medallion of the Stokes’s coat of arms.”

“Yes, it also has a t-bar. All chains have a t-bar. That prevents the chain from sliding through the buttonhole. First, figure out which hand you will use to pull the watch from your pocket. Remember you may have reins in one hand. Place the watch in the opposite pocket from your rein hand. Slide the T-bar through the second buttonhole from the bottom of your vest. The medallion or any small piece of men’s jewelry is called a fob. It is strictly ornamental and is a personal choice.”

“Great. How does it look?”

“With your small body, it looks too big, but I know you are trying to look outstanding tonight. You have succeeded.”

Squeaks kissed her father on his forehead. “Thank you, father. I feel perfect. If I can only drive that way tonight.”

“There should be no issues tonight. I know the route, and there are no tight turns or road slants. Since it hasn’t rained for some time, there may be very few ruts to avoid. You will see Kip tonight?”

“I hope so.”

“If you have questions, go to him.”

“Father, I might go to him without questions.”

“You are scaring your old father with that talk.  Don’t give your heart away so easily.”

“How can I help it?”

“He is the first man to approach you. It may not be real love, but it feels like it is.”

“When I have time, you shall tell me how to know the difference. I must go.”

“Good luck, Rebecca.”

“Good night, Father.”

 

As Lord Caldwell arrived at the coach, wearing his long cape, silk top hat, and ornamental cane, his son opened the coach door. Trevor kept his eyes forward, not looking at his rider. The step was already in place.

“Good evening, milord.”

His father smiled. “Good evening, driver.” He played along and stepped inside.

Trevor raised the step assembly, closed the door, and climbed to his seat. There he waited for the signal.

His father sat inside waiting for the movement, but it didn’t come. “Are you going to drive me tonight or not?” he chuckled.

“If milord is ready.”

“I am ready.”

Trevor paced the horses to a slow start. It was a strange feeling to be driving his father to a special event, being in his most elegant state of service.

The route and drive were uneventful, and his horses performed flawlessly. They trotted in tandem giving a light foot impact, which never kicked up divots on the road or grass parking areas. Trevor pulled up to the rented ballroom, and his father was attended by a footman. Hearing the door close, he paced the horses toward the parking yard and scanned the ring for Squeaks.

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