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.

Casting The Witcher S2

     ‘THE WITCHER’ 2ND SEASON
CASTS CARMEL LANIADO
The first season was a record-breaker for Netflix, as it was seen by almost 80 million people around the world, so it is no wonder the 2nd season of THE WITCHER is a definite yes. As Deadline reports, filming is already underway over in UK and now we have the first new cast member announced: Carmel Laniado will appear in a number of episodes as Violet, a young girl whose playful and whimsical demeanor is a front for a smarter and more sadistic character. Henry Cavill returns as a solitary monster hunter who struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts.

Lanado starred in A Christmas Carol and Doolittle this winter

Hearts Adrift – Part Seven

Chapter Seven

Jake eyed them both with barely concealed astonishment, but he said nothing.

“What about Jéhan?” Manon asked. “Could we not take him into the room also?”

“I want to sleep with the other men!” Jéhan protested. “Jake is my friend, and I have to watch over him!”

Manon saw her uncle’s sweet smile curve his lips before he answered, “Of course you must, my boy! Jake will watch over you also; will you not, Jake?”

“Yes, master, I will. Rest assured, miss, he is safe with me.”

Manon pressed Jake’s hand in gratitude, glad that the young man had sensed her anxiety over her brother.

“It would ruin our scheme of deception if we were to take him with us,” Richard whispered. “You understand that, do you not, niece?”

“Yes, I do, Uncle. So, how do we proceed?”

“Just follow me up when I summon you,” her uncle replied.

They finished their repast in silence, and afterwards Richard made a great show of rising from the table and making a hand gesture towards Manon. Amidst the snickering of the other guests, she followed Richard upstairs to a lofty room. Her gaze fell upon the large four-poster bed, which dominated the entire space. She froze, swallowed, and began to tremble with a trepidation she had never experienced before in her life.

“Have no fear, niece. I shall go to the tap room for a last drink whilst you prepare yourself for bed.”

Richard strode towards the bed and picked up a blanket and a pillow.

“I shall sleep on the floor,” he said, and tossed the items behind the screen in the corner. “There,” he joked, “you will not even know I am in the room. I promise not to snore.”

Manon gratefully smiled at him, as he left the room.

Her uncle was such a kind and thoughtful man, Manon reflected. She had only seen a similar kindness once before, and that was in her own father. The way Richard always put her needs before anything else was the way her father had been towards her mother, too. The way Richard watched her at all times, as if he were afraid something might happen to her, had been the same caring concern her father had shown her mother.

While she was donning her nightclothes, after a much-needed wash at the stand in the corner, Manon fretted over the disturbing feelings she was rapidly developing towards Richard. In the past days, she had forced herself to call him “Uncle”, stubbornly refusing to reflect on other terms concerning him. That was who he was – her uncle, her mother’s brother, even though all she could see was a strong, extremely handsome, and brave gentleman in the very prime of his life. They were only seven years apart, despite being of different generations. Manon realised that, had she met Richard under different circumstances and not known he was her uncle, she would have easily fallen in love with him. He was a wonderfully loveable man, was Richard.

Feeling utterly disheartened by this whole impossible situation, she climbed onto the high mattress of the bed and slid under the covers, pulling them high under her chin. Soon, he would be coming up. How would she be able to sleep, knowing he was in the same room, only a few yards away? She was certain to lie awake all night, listening to his breathing, waiting for… oh, heavens! Waiting for what, she dared not hope. She felt the acute conviction that her feelings for Richard were utterly disturbing. And forbidden, too. Oh, merciful Lord … she loved Richard de Briers!

With a muffled cry, she sat up. No, no, no! This could not be happening, it was too appalling for words, too sinful! What was she to do? She was cursed!

 

Downstairs, in the nearly empty taproom, Richard sat staring into his ale, his head full of passionate reflections of the very young woman upstairs. It was no good trying to deceive himself. He was in love with the lively, beautiful, and sweet creature that was Manon. How had this happened? He was no green boy, freshly out of the schoolroom, for God’s sake! He was a distinguished and wealthy country gentleman, sought after by numerous mamas who hoped he would show an interest in their daughters. Many of them were even more beautiful than Manon, and English to boot. Many of them had their own fortune, were lively and sweet, and were eager to become Bearsham Manor’s next baronetess. Why, he had even considered his neighbour, the Honourable Miss Adèle Brinslay of Bishop’s Keep, as a suitable bride, and he had been sorely tempted to make her an offer. Miss Adèle was the daughter of Sir Eustace Brinslay, a dear friend of his father’s since childhood. She was stunning, with golden waves of silken hair and the clearest blue eyes one could imagine. They were the colour of a summer sky in the morning, and combined with a perfect complexion, a heart-shaped face, a pert little nose and a rosebud of a mouth, Miss Adèle was fit to capture any man’s heart, conquer it and keep it in her small hands forever.

At eighteen, Richard had thought himself in love with the captivating young miss of fifteen, but the feeling had not lasted through his Cambridge years, where other female temptations had lured him.

He knew for certain, however, that what he felt for Miss Adèle was but a bleak, shallow part of what he was harbouring now for Manon. She had courage, spirit, endurance and a savvy intellect he had never witnessed in any other woman. Manon was an unbearably sweet torture.

With a sigh, Richard finished his ale and went upstairs, bravely repressing all disturbing thoughts that inhabited his brain. Manon would be sound asleep, by now, he mused. He would stretch out on the floor behind the screen, without bothering to undress. And he would assiduously strive not to look at the bed.

 

Just as he reached the top of the stairs, the door to his room opened, and Manon emerged, fully clothed and carrying her travel bag.

“Where are you going?” Richard blurted out, startling her with his accusing tone.

“My conscience will not allow me to stay the night in your room, Uncle,” Manon replied, eyes downcast and cheeks flushed. “Please, let me return to the common room.”

“Why, Manon? Why would you lay yourself open to danger when you can be safe with me?”

To his utmost sorrow, Richard saw tears rolling down her cheeks. She was weeping! Why? What had transpired while he was downstairs?

“What is it, Manon? Please, tell me,” he urged, thinking she was going to let propriety stand in the way. “We do this only to keep you alive and unmolested. I hope you understand that.” Down deep, Richard knew that was not the only reason..

“I…I feel so greatly confused,” she sobbed. “I do not know what to do. I feel that I am damned and that my happiness is lost.” She dropped her bag and raised her hands to her face, sobbing into them. Her whole fragile body was trembling, and the sight of her ripped through Richard’s heart with a painful force.

“Come,” he said softly, taking her bag and guiding her back into the room. “We must talk, and you will tell me all.”

Manon allowed herself to be seated in front of the empty hearth, already feeling comforted by her uncle’s compassionate tone. He knelt before her, gently taking her hands in his.

“What is the matter, dearest? Is it me? Have I accidentally hurt you? Do you feel unsafe with me?”

Manon’s eyes flew towards his in shock. “Oh, no, Uncle! Not you! You could never hurt me, you are the soul of gentleness! No, it is my stupid ignorance of the world and all its doings. Forgive me for behaving so childishly. I will endeavour to keep my composure from now on.”

His endearment, uttered so sweetly, still rang in Manon’s ears and caused her pulse to race madly. How she adored the way he was looking at her just now, concern and avuncular affection burning in his gaze. What a devilish creature she was, allowing her heart to be filled with such feelings of a forbidden love.

She rose. “I will go now,” she whispered. “You are our anchor during this journey. In the morning, you need to be rested, because we all depend on your strength and intelligence.”

Richard also rose from his knees and said, “Oh, and how will I manage to sleep in peace, when I know you are alone amongst a pack of ruffians in the common room? This is what we will do, since we both need to be at the full capacity of our strength; we will both sleep in the bed, but fully clothed and above the covers. The night is warm enough for us to do so. We will talk some more until we get tired, and then we will sleep. I know we will.” His control would have to be stalwart but he would try anything to keep her safe in his room.

The earnest expression in his blue-grey eyes convinced her, and Manon nodded. They stretched out on the bed, a small distance away from each other, so that they were not touching anywhere. Strangely enough, Manon felt once again at ease, and when her uncle began inquiring about how she fared after her strenuous first day of riding, she was able to reassure him that she was fine.

“Good,” he said, “now that we are on horseback, we can proceed much quicker on our journey than before. I hope to reach Boulogne by three days hence. The distance we have to cover is fifty-six miles, and at our current speed, we are bridging seventeen miles a day.”

“I like riding,” Manon smiled. “I would like to learn it the way I ought to, once I am in England.”

After a small pause, she continued, “What will my life be like, Uncle? How will I spend my days?”

Richard had no immediate answer to her question, so he reflected on it for a while. At long last, he said, “You are of an age that you will begin to seek a husband, Manon. I hope you realise that. I will have to provide you with a female companion who will introduce you to English society, with all its rules and traps. You will have to learn how to run a large house and manage its inhabitants, because that will be your task once you are married.” God! These words I speak to her are cutting to me. I cannot think of her with another man, Richard thought.

She sat up at once, hugged herself and huffed, “You must think me a very coarse person indeed, and unfit for polite society. I do know how to behave, Uncle; have no fear. Maman taught me, and you will agree with at least, that she was a true gentlewoman!”

“Manon,” Richard said, sitting up and turning her towards him, “you misunderstand me. Of course, you are fit for any society you would like to belong to. My offer of a companion was not only given because you must learn the English way, but also because society demands that you have a proper chaperone when attending soirées and balls.”

“Oh … forgive me, Uncle; I had not thought so far ahead,” his niece said in a little voice.

“No, do not apologize, dearest. But you will have to learn to control that feisty temper of yours. I love it when you are brazen, but others might take offence.”

He had said it again, Manon registered with a shock. Again, he had called her by a name that was only associated with affairs of the heart. Her blood was coursing through her veins in a frenzy; her skin was beginning to feel hot. She lifted her eyes to his. Shock struck her when she saw the deep feelings that lingered there. For a few interminable moments, they gazed into each other’s eyes, exchanging what was in their hearts. Time stood still. Then, with every ounce of effort he had, Richard tore himself away and turned his back to her, saying, “We should sleep now, niece. Tomorrow will be a tiring day. Goodnight.”

Manon swallowed the lump in her throat, then returned his wish.

 

 

All Creatures Big and Small

 1ST PICS FROM CHANNEL 5 SHOW
Just when I thought we could never ever count on Channel 5 again, as they haven’t produced anything of interest since forever, they are coming up with something wonderfully delightful! Their ALL CREATURES BIG AND SMALL three part mini series which will air sometime soon.
All Creatures Great And Small
based on James Herriot’s cherished collection of stories, chronicles the heartwarming and humorous adventures of a young country vet. This new adaptation will preserve the rich spirit, tone and values of Herriot’s iconic characters and stories and will bring to life his sharply observed, entertaining and incredibly funny tales of country life in the North of England for a modern audience, introducing a new generation to his life-affirming stories.
Who Is Playing The Big Creatures?

With Nicholas Ralph taking the lead role of James Herriot, the cast also includes Samuel West as Siegfried Farnon, the wonderfully eccentric veterinary surgeon and proprietor of Skeldale House who reluctantly hires the

The new series will also air on PBS for US audience

recently qualified Herriot into his rural practice; Anna Madeley as Mrs Hall, the resident housekeeper and matriarch of Skeldale House; Callum Woodhouse as Tristan, Siegfried’s errant and charismatic younger brother; and Rachel Shenton as Helen Alderson, an independent local farmer’s daughter who helps her father manage the family farm and care for her

Playground Entertainment, who is also doing Dangerous Liaisons for Starz and Tortall Universe epic series, is producing this mini series

younger sister. Diana Rigg is Mrs. Pumphrey, the delightfully eccentric owner of the overly indulged Pekingese Tricki-Woo; Matthew Lewis is Hugh Hulton, a wealthy landowner and rival to James for Helen’s affections; and Nigel Havers is General Ransom, the fastidious manager of the local racecourse.

Newcomer Nicholas Ralph Cast as Lead in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ Remake

Series will be directed by ‘Downton Abbey’s’ Brian Percival

Last Updated: September 24, 2019 @ 6:53 PM

Nicolas Ralph will make his television debut playing the lead in the remake of the popular British series “All Creatures Great and Small.” Ralph will play James Herriot, a handsome and compassionate veterinarian who brings his practice to the country. Christopher Timothy portrayed Herriot in the original series, which ran for seven seasons and 90 episodes from 1977 to 1990 on BBC1 and PBS.

This latest adaptation of best-selling author James Herriot’s cherished collection of stories is written by Ben Vanstone (The Last Kingdom) and directed by Brian Percival (“Downton Abbey”).

Samuel West (“Mr. Selfridge,” “On Chesil Beach”) joins as Siegfried Farnon, the wonderfully eccentric veterinary surgeon and proprietor of Skeldale House who reluctantly hires the recently qualifiedHerriot into his rural practice. Mrs. Hall, the resident housekeeper and matriarch of Skeldale House will be played by Anna Madeley (“The Child in Time,” “Patrick Melrose”). Siegfried’s errant and charismatic younger brother, Tristan, will be played by Callum Woodhouse (“The Durrells in Corfu”). Rachel Shenton (“Switched at Birth,” “White Gold”) takes the role of Helen Alderson, an independent local farmer’s daughter who helps her father manage the family farm and care for her younger sister.

“This is an exceptional cast made up of a wonderful mix of exciting new and established talent,” says executive producer Colin Callender. “Re-visiting the world of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ is like going home and re-discovering old friends whom we haven’t seen in years. We’re thrilled to be bringing James Herriot’s beloved characters back to life with Sam, Anna, Callum, Rachel and Nicholas.”

“This is exactly the right ensemble cast to deliver the warmth, wit and charm of ‘All Creatures Great and Small,’” says MASTERPIECE executive producer Rebecca Eaton. “Like the original, this new series will capture the hearts of MASTERPIECE viewers.”

Colin Callender’s Playground is producing an initial of six-episode season plus a Christmas special. It is the latest drama commission announced for Channel 5. MASTERPIECE on PBS in the US will co-produce and All3Media International is the international partner. The production will also receive funding and support from Screen Yorkshire.

Noble Coachman Chapter 17

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 17
The Sketch

 

Returning from the coach, Kip spread the coverlet on the ground.

“Shall we eat first, or shall I sketch?”

“I am not that hungry just now. Sketch me. First, I need a drink of water.”

Instead of pulling water from the basket which had been poured into canning jars, she went to the stream. She squatted down as only one can do in pants, cupped both her hands and filled them with cold water. She sipped from them several times, shook the excess from her hands, and dried them on her trousers.

She was the epitome of simplicity and carefree countenance, Kip thought.

“This is a good spot where we sit. I believe I told you before that I am just starting to sketch portraits. You are my first commissioned work of art.”

“Who ordered it?”

“A fine gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous. You are perfect right there, and I will sit here,” Kip said, finding the ground and sitting cross-legged.

“Is this gentleman handsome?” Squeaks asked sheepishly.

“Now what kind of man would I be if I could answer that?”

“An interested one?”

“To me, all men are the same. Now, the female creature inhabits a different sphere. She will walk among flowers and through wisps of clouds, which make her soft, fragrant and porcelain in color. She reveals little of herself leaving the man in mystery. Her fan will be used to communicate with her gentleman.”

“I’ve heard of that, the fan language. Is it really true or were the maids teasing?”

“They spoke the truth to you. I’m slowly picking up the art of the fan by watching my riders as they wait for my coach when I am in a line.

“Tell me.”

“Tell you? Tell you, what?”

“A fan word.”

“Most of the time they are comments—not words. Let me see, what can I tell you? If the lady holds an opened  fan with her right hand in front of her face; she is asking her gentleman to follow her.”

“I don’t believe you. I’ve never seen such goings-on.”

“I am not surprised at Stokes. You have my permission to ask his Lordship,” he chuckled.

Kip readied his supplies and opened his sketch folio to a large blank page. “I want you to look into my eyes for a while. I will be staring at different parts of your face. I say this, so it does not alarm you. We can talk if you do not move your head, and I will draw your mouth last. There we will decide on a smile or a more serious look. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“Look at me. Stare into my eyes. I will draw down to your neck so move your arms however you wish.”

Kip placed the folio on his knee and withdrew the black charcoal from the box. He stared at her and began to draw the sweep of her hair.

“Can I ask a question?”

“Yes, Sweets, what is it?”

“The night that you let me learn to night-drive, the night you really kissed me, remember?”

“Of course, I remember.”

“You introduced me to the other drivers, and you told them if they got ‘caught out’ to take care of that privately; then you went on to talk about language.”

Kip put down his charcoal, laughing. “I would guess you want to know what ‘caught out’ means?”

“Yes.”

“That would be to urinate. Wait. Hold that look. Where is my red charcoal?” He teased her.

“You had to say that with me there?”

Kip continued sweeping lines on his paper. “Look at me. Yes, but you must know that was a very proper way to mention it. There are other words we generally use.”

As Squeaks sat there staring at him, she felt as if she were in a lovely dream. How often she had wanted to stare at him and study his handsome looks. His strikingly green eyes were his most significant feature. “You have a Patrician nose; did you know that?”

“What do you mean, Patrician? Am I girlish looking?” He knew what she meant.

“It’s a feature that goes back to ancient Roman nobility, or is it Greek? It’s a perfect nose, I think. It is not large or too small, it has no bump or hook to it. It is slim and not wide, but not thin either. It is an aristocratic nose.”

Kip continued to stare at her, drawing. “So, does that mean I have nobility somewhere in my lineage? I would think everyone can say that.”

“Perhaps, or maybe you are just lucky.” His lips and mouth were perfectly shaped. All his features were handsome, from his ears to his brow to his chin. “If I were with another man at a restaurant and you walked in …”

“I don’t think I’m going to like this.”

“What do you notice first about the other gentleman. What makes one man jealous of another man and don’t say it is because I am there?”

“You sure are tough on me. Can’t we men have any secrets?”

“Please.”

“Men are fairly territorial. They need to protect what is theirs. Now if that is not a factor, I would think a man could worry if he was handsome enough for his lady. Did he have a nice build? Is his profession worthy of her?”

“Does intimacy enter  a man’s jealousy?”

“Most assuredly. That is the number one factor, which is usually an unknown, and the most difficult to cope with. You gaze at me rather hard, Miss Squeaks. Must I pass muster, again?”

“I’ve waited to do this.”

Kip smiled. “I’ve waited to do this. Do you know I came home that night and drew you standing as footman? Remember, I asked you to look at me and smile. That is what graces my mantle.”

“Perhaps, I shall see your home one day.” Squeaks wondered what it looked like. “Let me tell you about your home, may I?”

“Yes. This should be interesting.”

“You are a single man, who I believe lives in a place where his stable looks better than his residence.”

“You are very nearly right with that.”

“Your house is two levels but only two bedrooms. It is devoid of nearly everything except a bed, kitchen, and a few items to rest upon. You have old furniture for the apostles to sit when they visit. You have never brought a woman to your house.  You have a nice wardrobe for your clothing finery. A charwoman comes in weekly to sweep the dirt from the floor, change your bed linen and finish washing your dishes. She takes your laundry home when she leaves. You keep two tins of boot polish all the time. You have more shoes than I do. I believe you to have saved for and purchased real Wellington boots. I see you’re smiling.”

“Proceed. I am enjoying hearing about myself.”

“Your loo is outside. You have a post office box in London proper, and you collect your post rather than having it delivered. Your address is part of your image. By looking at your face, I cannot tell if you cook or eat out. In your bedroom, you have one nightstand and one oil lamp beside it. You do not have indoor gas lighting, but that doesn’t bother you, as your best fares are at night. You like to whistle when you drive. Now you are laughing. Tell me where I am right or wrong.”

“Oh, I cannot do all of that. You must still find me mysterious. I will say I drew the line at an outdoor loo. It is inside. And I do not whistle while I drive, except for whistling for my horse, but I do not do it for entertainment. I will say that I have three tins of boot polish. I have black and brown boots. As you see today, I am wearing the brown boots. Do they look polished to you?”

“Why … the leather is blinding when the clouds pass.”

“You should know I would not be caught dead with worn leather boots. I am ready to add your mouth. Perhaps, I shall kiss it first.”

“Yes, please.”

Kip crawled over on his knees and leaned in to kiss Squeaks.

Squeaks burst forth with laughter as he reached her lips. He sat back on his ankles wondering what was causing this moment of amusement.

“Miss Squeaks, you take my romantic attentions too lightly, I fear.”

“It’s not that. You tricked me. What a novel joke.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Now, stop that. You know very well what I mean?”

“I wish it was true, but I have not an idea at all.”

“Your sketch, silly.”

Kip looked down and was shocked. He pushed the folio off of his lap, wanting it away from him.

“Kip, now stop playing. That sketch of yourself is exactly how I just pictured you in my mind. How did you do that? I would like to have it. If you wanted me to have your portrait, you could have given it to me. I would love to hang it in my room. This charade wasn’t necessary, but it is funny.”

Kip staggered to his feet aghast. “How did I do that?”

Squeaks held up her hand for him to take it and sit beside her. “Kip you look awful. You have gone pale. What is happening to you? What is wrong?”

Lowering his body next to her, keeping his distance from the sketch, he said, “I did not knowingly draw my own face.” He stared at the portrait. Squeaks became quiet. She didn’t have words, as she felt he was telling the truth.

“Can you read minds, Kip? That is exactly, and I do mean accurately, the way I see you. Could you see the image in my head?”

“If I did, this is a first. This doesn’t make any sense. I looked down every so often to see what I was doing, and it appeared as I saw you. I have no gift. I hope they don’t still hang people for witchcraft.” The near accident came back to his mind and how he thought of Mary.  Mary, Mary, you are making this happen? “Are you sure this is how you see me?”

“There is no doubt. Perhaps, you do have a gift. You said you were new to portraits, and you stared at me, and I stared at you. Should we try something else? Are you afraid to know if you are gifted?”

“I do not believe in such things. What do you wish of me?”

“I will sit as before, but I will not look at your eyes. I will look away. I will imagine a vision and hold it. Perhaps you can see what I see by looking at me again.”

Kip hesitantly pulled his folio back to him. “This cannot work. But I will try.”

“I have a vision in my mind now. Do not see my face, but look deeper.”

Kip sat for a minute trying to force himself to reveal an image. “This isn’t working. It cannot be that.” Mary’s image swirled through his mind.

“Give it more time, Kip. Try again. Concentrate. I will be quiet.”

Kip put the folio aside. If he could see her vision, he could tell her. He would not have to draw it. “I think I am guessing. I feel like you are seeing Warrior.”

Squeaks gasped. “That is right. It may have been a guess, but how did you think of it?”

“I do not remember thinking. I was thinking about not thinking when I saw Warrior. Actually, that isn’t the truth. I believe I can tell you now. I was clearing my mind, and an image of my sister seemed to rush past my consciousness.”

“You don’t think …”

“I don’t know. Something allowed me to know of the impending danger with the runaway carriage.”

“Let us try this again. This time, I will envision something you have never seen. Give me a moment.” On the wall in her bedroom was a small painting of her in her mother’s arms as a baby. Her father was standing behind her seated mother. It was crudely done, but it was something Kip would not know about. “I have it. Now concentrate and so will I.” Squeaks conjured up the picture as she would see it from her bedside.

“Oh my god, something is forming. Don’t say anything. Hold the image.”

“I believe it is a picture hanging on a wall. You are looking at it from below, as it is hung over your head. Let me concentrate on the picture. It is in a dark frame, most probably walnut. Sitting in a kitchen chair, there is a woman holding a baby. The man behind her with his hand on her shoulder appears to be a young Clyde Dorset, your father.” With that final word, Kip fell backward, utterly spent.

Squeaks hurriedly moved to him. “Kip, what can I do? Your eyes look unfocused. Does your head hurt?”

“Give me a second. I feel totally exhausted. I couldn’t keep myself upright. It is starting to recede. Where was I? Oh, yes. How close was I to your vision?”

“Kip, you are gifted. Your words told me more than I saw. I didn’t consciously remember the frame color or the chair coming from the kitchen. You looked through my eyes because you spoke of the perspective from which I see it every day. It is across from my bed, over my head by quite a lot. I do not think I can reach it from standing on the floor. This is incredible. Nothing like this has ever happened before?”

“Never.” Kip felt, if he was developing a gift, it was being given to him by Mary. But why?

“Are you strong enough to try it once again, for good measure?”

“Yes, I would like to. If this turns out to be a real gift, I wish to keep it quiet until I figure out what is going on with me. This time, do not envision anything specific. Just have random thoughts with images, but do not stand on one.”

“All right. I guess you can start anytime you want.”

Squeaks turned to Kip and looked at him but thought of a day in her life. She rose and washed, dressed, ate, and went to find her father. She brushed the horses and helped her father harness them. Later, she would walk some of the horses in the paddock along with the other lads.

“No, I cannot see anything clearly. Will you do me a favor tonight?”

“If I can.”

Kip laughed, preparing to have his face slapped. “At 9:00 p.m., if you can, make ready for bed, strip down until you are naked, and stand in front of your mirror. Hold that vision. I will try exceedingly hard to conjure what you are seeing.”

“Are you serious?”

“Only if you don’t hit me.”

“Since I do not have a full-length mirror, I will do it.”

“You will?”

“You will have to try this on others. Perhaps it is just me.”

“Oh, I hope not. I do not want to know what you are thinking. That would never work for us.”

“What happened to my kiss?”

“I hope I do not see me kissing myself.”

This time, he placed Squeaks on her back, and he rested on his elbows looking down at her. Her hair was spread around her face. He wanted to drown in her big, light blue eyes. Kip looked at her beautiful skin, impeccably arched brows, perfect pixie nose, and lips that he wanted to kiss until he died. He leaned toward her mouth and kissed her simply and gently, then backed away from her to see her face again. Quietly, she laid there smiling, looking directly at him.

“You are not trying to see how much I love you, are you?”

“A bit ago you said you think you loved me. Why are you sure now?” Kip wondered.

“Can’t you tell me?” She asked.

He smiled broadly, “No. I do not want to wander in your mind if I find I can. Nevertheless, are you saying you know you love me?”

“Yes, I am.”

Kip wrapped his one arm around her body as he plundered her mouth over and over. She brought her hands to his face and held him there to look at him. Kip rolled on his back and brought Squeaks on top of him. He wrapped his arms tightly around her and penetrated her lips repeatedly until she forgot all concerns and yielded herself, passionately.

I must stop this.

“Do I please you enough?” she asked.

“Far beyond what I thought it would be like kissing you.”

“I’m not sure what I can do for you.”

“What do you feel like doing to me?”

She sat there and blushed for a moment.

If you can’t say it, just picture it,” Kip laughed.

He unbuttoned his shirt, pretending that was what her thoughts were telling him.

Kip wished he could let her feel how much she pleased him.

“Sweets, allowing me to kiss and touch you is your precious offering.”

Kip pulled her shirt from her trousers and unbuttoned the top three. Exposing her cleavage, he slid his hands underneath, climbing her ribs. Slowly, they found the swell of her breasts, and Kip watched her eyes close. He felt their fullness while the nipples pebbled. Flames ignited in both of them. Kip removed his hands and pulled her up hard against him, nestling himself in the apex of her thighs.

Squeaks gasped, emitting a small unexpected moan. Her eyes opened to him staring into his face. “I … I.”

“I know, Sweets.” He took her mouth again, making love to it while his hands reached under her shirt. Once more, her eyes closed as did his. Kip felt tears drop onto his face. He reached for her head and licked them from her cheeks. “I need this very essence of you, Sweets.”

“I never thought it would feel like this,” she whispered. “There are other sensations at work here. I guess you know that, though.”

Kip smiled. “Yes, I know. We are merely at the beginning of what I hope will last a lifetime.” Kip found control and ceased his actions, but his chest was still pounding from the interminable pleasure and patience.

She placed her hands on his hairy chest and saw his eyes close immediately. A great sigh and smile came from him. She retracted her hands back.

“I don’t know what I am doing. I think I should talk to the women again.”

“I think you should talk to me. I love what you are doing. You can’t tell?” He buttoned her shirt.

“Have you been with many women?”

“I don’t know of your relative term of ‘many,’ but I am experienced.”

“Have you been with many women when it was her first time?”

“No, I haven’t, but I know what to expect. Please don’t have that on your mind. I will not ask for your virginity.”

“Well … suppose … I might …”

Kip kissed her deeply and sensually.

Catching her breath, “If you keep kissing me like that I might have to insist.”

Kip rolled his head from side to side, laughing. “Sweets, do not ever, I mean ever, think you have to offer yourself to show me you love me. What you are thinking is only part of you. I will want all of you, your heart, mind, body and your soul one of these days. I want you by me for life. What you are embarrassed to talk about is making love. Yes, it is pleasant beyond words, and a part of marriage I would not care to live without, but I could if you could not. Do not feel you have to prove anything to me. Promise me that.”

“I can promise you I will not do that to prove my love to you.”

“You sound rather vague.”

“Well, there you have it!”

“There I have what?”

“My promise.”

“Perhaps, it is a good idea to talk with the women. Not about the act itself. I will control all of that. You need them to tell you how normal you are for a woman in love.”

“Well, stop kissing me then. I’m feeling all funny inside.”

“I can’t help myself.” Kip pleaded.

“That is how you make me feel when you kiss me the way you have today. I can’t help myself. I have no idea where the brakes are. I don’t want them.”

“What is it that you think you cannot help but do?”

“Never mind. Can we have our lunch now?”

“I think the timing is just perfect to have our lunch. I’ll check the leads on the horses while you place the food out for us.” Kip remembered thinking how he loved the idea of her being raised without restrictions and proprieties. He was having second thoughts on that now. Neither had the will to control their passion. She was soaking in desire, unhindered. They had better marry soon.

Squeaks smiled to herself as she watched him walk toward the horses. He was not coping very well with what he had started. She placed the food out and waited for him to return. He was smiling, too.

“Do you want roasted chicken or a beef sandwich?”

“I’ll take the chicken.”

Squeaks handed the cloth wrapped chicken to him.

“Why do they geld horses?” She asked out of nowhere.

“To subdue them. They are lust-driven, mighty powerful and strong otherwise. And you don’t want them trying to mate with the horse waiting at the next coach. Wait a minute. What are you trying to say?”

“Oh nothing,” she laughed. “How many women have you been with in your young life? I’ll tell you if you tell me. I think we are supposed to not be embarrassed to talk with each other about lovemaking, is that so?”

“You are a brat. I have never made love to a woman.”

“Other men?”

“Stop it, Squeaks. I will paddle your backside if you continue this.” He snickered.

“What do you mean then – you have never made love to a woman?”

“Surely, or maybe not, you know there is a difference between having sex and making love. You know men have needs, do you not?”

“I haven’t understood a lot about that. And I do not know the difference between having sex and making love.”

“You will never know that difference as you will never have just sex.”

“And the needy part?”

“Can I finish my chicken?”

“You have been driving for over one year, correct?”

“Professionally? Yes.”

“You have trained me on a few new things which tend to be known more by independents.”

“I have, I believe.”

“I have ten years more experience with a coach than you do. Who would you say is the better driver sitting here today?”

“That would be me, of course,” he smiled.

“Why?”

“Because, Sweets, I am a man.” Kip thought she was throwing down the proverbial gauntlet. He was going to have some fun with her.

“Is that your same declaration for saddle riding?”

“Not quite.”

“What do you mean?”

“I am the better rider, but not because I am a man. I am an excellent horseman.”

“I see.”

“Pray tell. What do you see?” Kip asked with a sparkle to his eye.

“Wait and see.”

“I guess I will have to.”

“I would practice if I were you.” Squeaks countered.

“I need do nothing of the sort, Madam Horsewoman.”

“I will hate embarrassing you in front of your friends.”

“My friends? What do they have to do with this?”

“Wait and see. Tell them to practice, too.”

“You are really piquing my interest now,” Kip smirked.

“So that’s what it takes to arouse you?”

“Please don’t use that word. Miss Sweets, I think you are jesting with me.”

“I think not. You will have a month to practice.”

“To practice what exactly?”

“Your skills as a coachman and horseman.”

“Are you in earnest?”

“I am hoping I will be,” Squeaks replied. “I want to have a derby. Can we saddle-ride after we finish eating? Also, I need to find a bush. I did not bring a jar with me.”

“We can empty a water canning jar,” he mentioned, still scratching his head over whatever she was talking about.

“Yes, that will do.”

“I will guard the coach, but not listen.”

“Thank you.”

They packed up their belongings. Kip carried the folio, and the coverlet and led Warrior after having a final look at his gaskin area.  Squeaks managed the empty basket and Soldier.

Squeaks had no idea where the coachman derby idea came from. She blurted it out to tease Kip, and it caught in the wind and carried on. She would speak with Lord Stokes. Perhaps, he could suggest a way to withdraw this challenge or indeed let there be one. The more she thought about it, the more exciting an idea it became.

The Gilded Age Series

 
HARRY RICHARDSON & THOMAS COCQUEREL JOIN THE CAST

While you can expect Julian Fellowes‘ new drama Belgravia this spring, he is already preparing another costume series but set in America. I’ve already announced the cast for THE GILDED AGE, a 19th-century series he is producing for HBO, but now they’re joined by Poldark’s Harry

Harry Richardson will be a rich son in the series

Richardson and In Like Flynn’s Thomas Cocquerel alongside Jack Gilpin. They join Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Amanda Peet, Morgan Spector, Taissa Farmiga, Blake Ritson and Simon Jones who are already in the cast.

The Gilded Age
begins in 1882 – introducing young Marian Brook, the orphaned daughter of a Southern general, who moves into the home of her rigidly conventional aunts in New York City. Marian gets caught up in the dazzling lives of her stupendously rich neighbors, led by a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife struggling for acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set. Will Marian follow the

Thomas Cocquerel will be a lawyer in the new series

established rules of society, or forge her own path in this exciting new world that is on the brink of transformation into the modern age?

Harry Richardson will play Larry Russell. Appealing and good-natured with an easy charm, Larry is a recent Harvard University graduate eager to make his way in the world. Thomas Cocquerel will be Tom Raikes, a sensible young lawyer who has been a solitary and career-driven practical man but is smitten when he meets Marian, his late client’s orphaned daughter. Jack Gilpin will portray Church, the Russell family’s butler. He is American, from a dismal background, but evades his past by excelling at his job. He has no time for nonsense in the workplace due to his attention and care for his job.
Still no releasing date.  We’ve been waiting for a least two years for this.

Hearts Adrift – Part Six

Chapter Six

Longpré was reached in the late afternoon, and the travellers were all exhausted, hungry and downtrodden. They hid in the surrounding woods while Jake went into the village. He was the least conspicuous of them all; he could pass as a harmless farmhand.

Jéhan was fast asleep, his head on Manon’s lap. She gently brushed the boy’s auburn hair from his brow, a gesture that went straight to Richard’s heart.

“You both have Lily’s colouring, Manon,” he said, his voice a bit hoarse, “and she was the image of her own mother, Lady Elizabeth. There is a large portrait of her in Bearsham Manor’s great hall. Your mother’s picture is in my library, where I can look at it while I work. I loved your mother very much, Manon. I was but a child when she left, yet I acutely felt her absence for years. When my father informed me of her demise, five years ago, I was downcast for months.”

“Your father informed you? How can that be? How did he know?”

“Our fathers kept up a correspondence, apparently. They started it soon after Thibaut Favier settled himself in Paris with Lily. My father, though heartbroken because she ran away with his valet, never stopped loving his daughter. I learned of the connection between our fathers when your mother died giving birth to Jéhan. After my father’s death, I found the letters in his desk. You may read them, if you wish it.”

“Thank you, Uncle; I know for certain I will enjoy reading them. So my father wrote to yours for years? He never told me.”

“My father, your grandfather adored Lily, just like I did. Lily was …”

He stopped, and in his eyes, Manon could see a dreamy sadness. “Lily was beautiful,” he went on.  “Not just pretty, but truly exquisite, with her wavy hair the colour of the purest copper and her sparkling green eyes. She was smart, lively, and sweet. Graceful she was, with a natural elegance, combined with a perfect figure.”

“Maman was always perfect in everything she did. Papa was devastated when she died, and we missed her terribly. I talk about her to Jéhan whenever I think of her. It is a shame that my brother never knew her.”

“We will show him her picture when we reach my home.”

“Your home …” Manon whispered, as if the words meant something unreachable for her.

“Yes,” Richard replied, a sudden constriction in his throat at the forlorn expression on her face. “Bearsham Manor, which will be your home and Jéhan’s from now on, Manon.”

“So I will never see Paris again? How will we fare in England, Jéhan and I? It is another country, another language.”

“I will hire a tutor for Jéhan, to prepare him for a decent boarding school. He has to learn English, of course, and so do you.”

Manon bowed her head so that her uncle would not see her face. She was inwardly debating if she should tell him that she already spoke his language. After what he had done for her the previous night, she knew she could trust him unquestionably. Her decision made, she looked up and said, in perfect English, “No need for language lessons for me, Uncle. Maman insisted that I should learn her mother tongue to perfection.”

Her slight French accent was the arrow that struck him, Richard realised. She was irresistible with those finely clipped consonants and those stretched vowels. As if she had not been utterly striking and charming already. She had pulled her bow and pierced his heart.

“Why did you not tell me before?” he asked, in a voice hoarse with emotion. The answer mattered to him, for some reason.

She shrugged, then smiled. “You were a stranger. I did not trust you, but I do now. Since last night, when you saved me.”

Before Richard could go further into that topic, they both heard Jake’s whistle. He had returned with fortunate news.

“There is this farmer called Bontemps, master,” Jake grinned. “He was part of a gang that raided the local squire’s manor after the family fled. Now he is stranded with four thoroughbreds, and he has no inkling what to do with them. Their upkeep costs him an arm and a leg, he says. I figure we could relieve him of at least two horses.”

“Good, that is what we will do. Listen, Jake, there is no need to speak French anymore, except with the boy. Miss Manon is fluent in English.”

Jake looked at Manon with delight. “She is? Oh, that’s capital! I was growing tired of having to speak the damn …”

“Jake!” Richard threatened, but with a grin on his face.

“Sorry, miss! I was about to speak nonsense, of course!”

“It is of no consequence, Jake. You are my friend, so you may speak to me about whatever you like.”

Richard cleared his throat, waking Jéhan in the process. The boy peered around sleepily before he said, “I am terribly hungry, Manon. When will we have breakfast?”

“Soon, mon chou,” his sister answered in French. “For now, you must pay attention to what our uncle is planning.”

“We must change tack,” Richard explained. “When we buy the horses, it will be under a different disguise. I will pose as a wealthy Parisian shopkeeper, and the three of you as my servants. Having just acquired a large house in Paris from a former aristocrat, I am in need of skilled horses. You, Jake, will do the talking, as I, your master, will be too haughty to speak to riffraff. Manon and Jéhan, you will be there to serve me and see to it that I have everything I need while on the journey. It will be just a pretence, in case someone is nosy enough to ask who we all are. The keyword is haughty. Do not offer information, not even when you are asked, unless it is by soldiers. If that happens, Jake will do the talking. Are we ready? I am counting on you, friends!”

 

They readily pulled it off, the farmer being all too keen to sell three of the horses, for which he was handsomely paid by Richard. Richard rode the largest animal, a big black hunter of seventeen hands by the name of César. Jake had a much smaller bay gelding who answered to the name Cyrano, and Manon, with Jéhan behind her, was to ride a placid chestnut mare named Mélissande.

Richard had decided on three horses so that they could carry their travel bags and food supply more conveniently. Manon, who could not ride, received a quick, elementary riding lesson, with regard to her position in the side saddle and how to find and maintain her balance.

“I hope you will manage, Manon,” her uncle said. “We will go slowly, and you must ride beside me. I noticed that the mare and my own steed are comfortable with each other. When you stay at my steed’s side, Mélissande will be more at ease.”

“I will manage, Uncle. Have no fear.”

After a much-deserved breakfast at the only inn Longpré boasted, they repaired to the main road and covered the ten miles to Abbeville in time for dinner and a bed in one of the inns. Abbeville was smaller than Beauvais, with a population of eighteen thousand. In one part of the city, nearly a thousand houses had been destroyed twenty years before when the ammunition depot exploded. A hundred and fifty people had been killed and trice as many had been gravely injured. The gaping holes where the houses had been had not yet been filled in with new ones.

According to what they had agreed upon earlier, the travellers acted as a company of servants to a Parisian bourgeois. Understandably, they dressed in character. Richard donned his breeches and riding boots, and his frock coat, with white shirt, black waistcoat and cravat. He wore his beaver hat and riding gloves and made use of a riding crop. Jake was dressed in modest but well-cut attire, with buckled shoes instead of boots, and a tricorne hat. Jéhan kept his own Parisian clothes, which were suitable for a servant lad and Manon donned one of the gowns her uncle had purchased. It was a morning dress of pale blue cotton with a navy blue bodice. Over her auburn curls, which she had pinned up in a bun at the nape of her neck, she wore a mob cap. That way, she could hide the too noticeable beauty of her long, shining locks in order to avoid unwanted attention. With her eyes downcast and her hands demurely folded in front of her, she truly looked the part.

Jake haughtily requested a private room for his master, Messire Jean-François Breton, master draper of Paris, and three beds in the common room for himself and his companions. While they were having their supper, Richard softly spoke to Manon in French.

“I must ask you to trust me once more, niece. I am not at ease with the riffraff that is staying here, tonight. In the common room, you will doubtless be bothered again. As a gentleman, I cannot allow that. You must stay the night in my room so that I can watch over you.”

Richard paused to look at Manon’s reaction, but she merely nodded.

“You know what people will think, do you not?”

“Yes,” she stated, looking him in the eye, “they will assume that you take your maidservant to bed. I do not care what they think, Uncle. I am ever so grateful that I will be safe and can have a decent night’s rest.”

 

 

The Personal History of David Copperfield *** May 8, 2020

     ‘THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD’ COMEDY
The movie opened in UK this weekend

FROM RAGS TO RICHES AND BACK AGAIN

This one has been criticised for forcefully imposing diversity in the casting for a period set movie and for putting quirky humour which did not exist in the original book by Charles Dickens, but some also praised it for the funny approach to a costume drama. We shall have to judge for ourselves as THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD is currently playing in British cinemas and will head over to USA and Russia in May. The big screen adaptation re-imagines

This is the first movie adaptation of the novel in last 50 years

Charles Dickens’ classic ode to grit and perseverance through the comedic lens of its award winning filmmakers giving the Dickensian tale new life for a cosmopolitan age with a diverse ensemble cast of stage and screen actors from

Tilda Swinton is Betsey Trotwood in the period set movie

across the world. Director Armando Iannucci lends his wry, yet heart-filled storytelling style to revisiting Dickens’ iconic hero on his quirky journey from impoverished orphan to burgeoning writer in Victorian England!

    What’s The Story About? 
From birth to infancy, from adolescence to adulthood, the good-hearted David Copperfield is surrounded by kindness, wickedness, poverty and wealth,

Ben Whishaw is Uriah Heep in the period set adaptation

as he meets an array of remarkable characters in Victorian England. As David sets out to be a writer, in his quest for family, friendship, romance and status, the story of his life is the most seductive tale of all.

Who Is In The Colourful Cast?

Beside Dev Patel who takes the lead role of David Copperfield, the cast also includes Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick, Tilda Swinton as Betsey Trotwood, Ben Whishaw as Uriah Heep, Morfydd Clark as Dora Spenlow, Aneurin

Hugh Laurie takes the role of Mr. Dick in the period set drama

Barnard as James Steerforth, Daisy May Cooper as Peggotty, Gwendoline Christie as Jane Murdstone, Rosalind Eleazar as Agnes Wickfield, and Paul

The budget of the costume movie was close to 16 million dollars

Whitehouse as Mr. Peggotty.The movie already won awards for best supporting actor (Hugh Laurie), best screenplay, best costume and

The film premiered at Toronto Film Festival back in September

production design at British Independent Film Awards last year. Although many consider the casting quite controversial, the movie did score a nomination for best casting at British Film Academy Awards for 2020.

 

The Noble Coachman – Chapter 16

Available Amazon Kindle

Chapter 16
The Picnic

 

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

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

Lord Caldwell began to read the note.

 

Your Lordship,

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

Regards, Richards                      

 

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

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

“No, I will ride beside you.”

“But you have a frock on!”

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

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

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

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

“Are you quite decided on this?”

“I am.”

“Very well. I will be a few moments.”

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

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

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

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

“Do you wish to ride today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You ride astride?”

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

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

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

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

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

He saw her blush.

“I don’t know you that well.”

Kip crooked his little finger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shall we go, my sweets?”

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

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

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

“Yes, I admit I was.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Have you ever driven into a forest?”

“No. I’ve never been to a forest.”

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

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

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

Squeaks was quiet. Her cheeks flamed red.

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

“What did His Lordship want this morning?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You will.”

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

 

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

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

“Like I’ve been waiting for yours?”

“Do you want the reins or not?”

“Oh yes, please.”

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

“Do you want to sit right or center?”

“Do you mind if I sit center.”

“May I sit behind you?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I … I …”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have a name for my fabled horse.”

“Tell me.”

“Guess.”

“Guess?” Kip replied with incredulity.

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

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

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

“Tell me your name.”

“I was thinking of Hero.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much do these horses cost?”

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

“Can you see the turn ahead?”

“Yes.”

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

“Can I take the pins from your hair?”

“Yes, if you wish.”

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

“Thank you.”

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

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where should I park?”

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

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

“How do you know about this place?”

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

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

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

“How short are you, Sweets?”

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

“I think I asked it correctly.”

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

“I don’t think so.”

“How tall is an average woman?”

“Oh, about 5’5’’.”

“I am almost 5’1”.”

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

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

“Sensitive about our height, are we?”

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

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

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

“You make that look easy.”

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

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

“That is Soldier.”

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

“Ready!”

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

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

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

“The stream awaits,” he smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We do? How?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Practicing? Saying what??”

 

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

 

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

 

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

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

 

The tears rolled down her face as she listened.

“I’m sorry. Was that too personal?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Emotional feelings?” I must have her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He had no answer that he could tell her.

“Do you want to love me?” she asked.

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

“What can I do to help?”

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

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

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

“I don’t understand that.”

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

“Are you sure?”

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

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

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

“What are you saying, Kip?”

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

“No more kissing?”

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

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

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

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