The Noble Coachman Chapter 5

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Chapter 5
Another Caldwell

 

“Lucy, you stay here. I have no idea how long this will take tonight if she has not returned home. Lilly has always been a well-behaved child as she’s grown. I cannot think of any situation where she would leave her cousin and a ball behind.”

Sir Blevins looked at Kip. “Do you carry a weapon, Kip?”

“Not on my person tonight, but there is one in my bench seat.”

“Fine. Give me a moment.” Sir Blevins walked to his study and closed the door.

“Kip, you have a firearm with you? Is that all the time?”

“Yes, Miss. We are likely targets for theft all the time. Our customers are often responsible persons of great value within the realm, too. I carry several weapons if the truth be told. That is supposed to be a secret.”

“I understand.  I feel protected in your presence.”

“Perhaps that is not a noble assessment of me. Miss, as I said, I am a man and a coachman. Do not become all too familiar to me,” Kip laughed.

Lucy smiled. “Do all drivers carry weapons?”

“I cannot say. Most that I know, do. We have countless ways to defend our person and our rider.”

The study door opened, and Sir Blevins came out with a slightly bulging jacket. “Let us go, Kip.”

“Take care – both of you,” Lucy said as she watched them to the coach. It seemed her uncle wanted to ride atop with Kip. She laughed, seeing him struggling to lift his increasing bulk up the wheel peg.

A few moments later, Sir Blevins spoke. “Turn left down that street, Kip.”

“Yes, sir.”

Kip reined the team up the short circular driveway, pulling to a stop in front of the door. “Do you wish me to wait here?”

“Yes, I will call if I need you.”

Being near midnight, it took a few minutes for someone to come to the door. Most of the second-floor lights were unlit. Sir Blevins entered the residence, and Kip did not hear from him for half an hour. Could this other young lady be missing? A sick feeling was creeping into his gut. “Mary, are you here?”  Kip called out to her, but nothing was heard except a sudden gust of wind rustling the trees, on the quiet night.

Sir Blevins returned to the coach and waved Kip down from his bench.

“Yes, sir?” Kip asked.

“Her uncle is not surprised that she is not home yet. It isn’t often that she is out this late, but it has happened. However, he was taken aback to hear that she left the ball over an hour ago without Lucy. I am going to stay with him until there is some word. Do you have a card?”

Kip flicked his calling card out of his inside pocket. It always happened so fast, it appeared magical. Kip worked on that little aspect of his job while in his times of wait.

“I imagine before the night is over, we will be at the nick. They could want to speak to you if we’re looking at something horrific here. Thank you, Kip. You have been a valuable help. Heaven knows what might have happened to Lucy had you not waited.”

“Good evening, sir, and the best to all of you. I will make a return stop at the ball grounds. Should there be any significant news, I will return here. May I visit in the morning?”

 

“Kip, what are you doing back here?” Asked Marc.

“There is a young lady, Miss Blevins’s cousin, who has not returned home after leaving here with two gentlemen. Before retiring for the night, I wanted any further knowledge known about one woman and two gentlemen, or the coach. Have there been any strange rumors? Do you know?”

“I know they have not returned. I think Kyle saw them. Is there worry among the family for her safety?”

“Possibly. They may seek help from the Met before morning.”

“I see. I will canvass the other drivers and determine who knows about an unknown coach in which she could have arrived. We will all keep an eye out for it.”

“That would be of great help to the family. Thank you, Marc.”

 

The next morning, as promised, Trevor Kipling, visited the home of Sir Blevins. He was shown into the study.

“Thank you for stopping by, Kip. I wish I had good news to report, but I have not. Lilith Caldwell did not return home last night, and we called upon the men at the Metropolitan several hours ago. Miss Lucy is naturally upset and has not risen from her bed as yet. The police may look for you, but I doubt it, as you saw no one yourself.”

“Did you say, Caldwell, sir?”

“Yes, do you know the name?”

The shock of hearing his family name associated with the disappearance of a young woman was too much of a coincidence. “There is Lord Caldwell, I believe. I may follow up at the Met, so they don’t have to hunt for me. Is Lilith Caldwell a relation to his Lordship, do you know?”

“I believe there is some type of distant relationship.”

“Please, allow me to be of any service that I can. Good day, sir.”

“Thank you, Kip. And thank you for taking care of my niece. She said she felt well-guarded with you.”

“It was my honor, sir.” Kip turned and walked to the door. As he received his top hat, he saw Miss Lucy watching him from the balcony above. He looked at her while fitting his hat, then walked through the open door.

 

His knees were shaking as he pulled his carriage home. “This can’t be happening again, and I don’t believe in coincidences,” he reflected aloud.

 

Kip arrived home and changed. Pacing the floor, wondering if there is any association to his Caldwell side of the family. He remembered that eerie feeling he’d had late last night. Dressed in his finery, he decided to seek out his father before the police. He could only start at the House of Lords. It was early. The members were just beginning to arrive. Kip would park his team with the others until he saw Briggs pacing in. Team after team of coaches rolled in bearing the noble lords of the land. He became fascinated with the coaches themselves and felt his stood proud against any of them. Finally, he thought he saw a coach arriving with a crested, gold painted “C” within the coat of arms on its door. That has to be father, he told himself. He tied the reins to the brake and jumped down. The gentleman was about to climb the steps when Kip shouted, “Lord Caldwell!”

His father stopped, looking for the voice that had called out to him. Suddenly, Kip saw his father recognize him. After almost a year, his father looked much older. Kip was not quite the picture of the Lord apparent either, but still, his father turned and walked towards him. They shook hands.

“It is good to see you, Father.”

“Son, I cannot believe you are here standing before me. Never knowing where you were, I have worried this past year.”

“Father, I know you have to be inside, but I must speak with you as soon as possible.”

“Certainly. Is this an emergency?”

“I believe it could be.”

“Wait a minute, Son.” William Caldwell ruffled through his brief to see what was on the floor today. “I believe I will be needed for two hours this morning. Shall you return for me?”

“Yes, but we need privacy for what I wish to ask you.”

“I know the very place, but my driver has gone on. You will have one when I leave this building?”

Kip smiled. “Yes, I will, Father.”

He returned to his coach after watching his father climb the stairs. Before he could pull out, the Stokes driver, Clyde Dorset, and daughter happened to rein their team in next to his. He couldn’t resist a broad smile, and the young lady saw it, to his embarrassment. Kip thought, he just might wait on his father. She was an exquisite pixie.

“Good morning, Dorset,” he called out. “I see you have a helper today.”

“Yes, Kip. This is my daughter, Rebecca, whom we all call Squeaks.”

Kip tipped his hat to her. “That is an unusual name,” he said looking at her. “May I ask how that came about?”

She blushed modestly. “His Lordship started calling me this name when I was not yet one year old. I understand the staff carried on with it, and here it is with me, twenty years later.”

“Squeaks, Kip is an independent driver,” her father mentioned.

“Oh, he is the type to avoid, is that what you told me?” She said it purposely to tease her father, which embarrassed him.

Kip found it amusing. “Yes, miss. Your father is right. We have no higher authority to answer to, as you do, for our behavior. However, we do have to rely on our honor and reputation as gentlemen drivers if we wish to make a living in this trade.”

“Kip, my daughter, is speaking out of turn and jesting, I believe. I am sorry.”

“There is no need to be sorry. I have heard rumors that your daughter hopes to drive one day. Should that be the case, she will be smart to learn the other drivers while you are with her.”

“Squeaks, since you have put me in a rather uncomfortable predicament, I will say that driver Kip has one of the best driver reputations in London. I will tell you more when he is not beaming with pride as you see him now.”

“I never beam, sir,” he said through a grin.

“May I have a closer look at your horses?” Squeaks asked. “They are magnificent?”

“Please do, miss. I am most proud of them.”

“I prefer not to be called miss if you do not mind. Hoping one day to rein for His Lordship, and be accepted among the drivers, I would prefer Squeaks or Dorset.”

“Then Squeaks, it is.” Kip found amusement in that and laughed a little too loudly.

Squeaks laughed at his laughter. She climbed down the wheel.

She looks most fetching in her livery and tiny top hat with a bow. Kip thought. “You have a very striking livery, Miss Squeaks.”

“Thank you, kind sir,” she said as she curtsied, causing more laughter. “His Lordship had a special livery made for me when I was old enough to ride on the bench.”

“Is that so?” He was beside himself, feeling guilty for being happy. His smile just wanted to burst forth and be seen. God, I can’t stop smiling.

“Kip, she has been the apple of his eye since she could run through the castle, squeaking noises at the dogs.”

“One can see her being the apple of many eyes.”

Did she just blush?

Clyde came down out of the box, and the three of them discussed his horses and their history.

“These must have set you back a considerable pound or two,” said Clyde. “And this coach, too.”

“The horses have a brisk high-step, which makes them look elegant. Nearly all are true black with a few chestnut-colored ones that pulled in a reddish color from previous breeding lines. Yes, sir, they did cost a pound or two. I wanted to offer the best possible ride that I could.”

“You have achieved that, I can see. I believe you provide a decent ride for more than a lot of Lords parked here.”

“Not as many as you think. Most Lords have their own stables, but occasionally I come here. Miss Squeaks, you may rein them anytime your father permits.”

Her eyes grew big and bright.  “I am of age, sir. I need no permission. However, I do need the time.”

“Squeaks, watch what you say.”

“Yes, Miss Squeaks. If I were to take you riding on the bench, I would feel better with your father’s permission.”

 I can’t stop staring. Where are my manners?

“She leaned closer to Kip, “I will get his permission. I will storm the battlements of Stokes Castle to drive this excellent attractive team.”

Kip laughed. Their eyes met, and the smiles slowly disappeared as something else overtook them, emotions, perhaps. An image of his sister flitted through his mind and was gone. Mary?

“Being an independent, my time is my own. Here is my card,” Kip said, doing his magic card flicking trick. “I will be available when you are. Furthermore, I should tell you that these horses are brilliant under saddle, as well. Do you ride?”

“Since I was four, sir.”

“You are apt to put me to shame,” Kip quipped.

“I believe I will, at that,” she smiled.

Clyde Dorset could see his daughter was enjoying herself as a woman, a stage he feared she would never feel comfortable with. He climbed into his box and let them talk.

“Miss Squeaks, do you realize I am the envy of every driver here right now? They are all looking at you.”

“Flatterer.”

“I beg your pardon, miss. I am that, but only when it is true.”

She’s playful.

Squeaks cast her eyes slowly over the waiting teams, and everyone was looking her way. A sudden thrill ran down her spine.

“Do you think it is because I am a female driver-in-waiting?’

“In-waiting?” Kip laughed quite loudly at that. “Are you the Driver Regent?”

Now she laughed loudly. “I think that is a good phrase for what I am. His Lordship will believe that to be very amusing.”

“You speak with His Lordship often?”

“Almost daily. I do many things for him. I read to him. He discusses his matters of Parliament with me – wanting to get the Commons side of thought,” she smirked.

“That’s piffle, and we both know it,” Kip replied with a laugh.

She is enchanting.

“Yes, you are correct. I read to him little anymore.”

They both chuckled with delight. Kip could feel it happening. She was creeping round his heart. He felt it hammering against his chest.

Please, cast your sweets in my direction, small lady.

“Getting back to the envy of me – yes, there is interest in the Driver Regent but also the lady driver.”

“I am no lady, sir.”

“Woman, then. You are most definitely a woman. Even with all the heavy livery, a man can tell these things,” he smiled.

Thinking she would put him on the spot, she asked, “And how does that manifest itself?”

“Why, Miss Squeaks, you should know the answer to that. Of course, it is your … ahem … um … sweet little top hat with the big black bow. Men do not wear bows, you know.”

“I thought mine looked different,” Squeaks laughed.

Oh God, I am dissolving into mush and cannot stop it. I want to keep her and put her in my pocket.

Her father, overhearing all the conversation, was happy for his daughter to find her femininity. She seemed to be captivated by Kip, and Clyde did not think he was too worried about that.

“Do you carry a comb and brush for your horses?”

“A driver is never without his comb and brush, milady. If you wish to use them, you only need ask.” Kip started to his jump peg but waited for her to ask. She didn’t. She was playing a game with him; it seemed. Such a tease … how amusing. I see I will be challenged with her.

“Ahem … it appears you wish to practice those feminine wiles on me. I must admit to being very susceptible to those. Please be gentle with me. Do not assume that I know when you are jesting. I just may have to kiss you to get you to stop.” Kip looked at her father and winked. Down deep her father knew he wasn’t kidding. He understood the attraction of his own daughter.

“Driver Kip, I have been raised by my father, the staff and His Lordship, spend most of my time at the stable and paddocks, leaving some lessons unlearned about these wiles of which you speak.”

“Just how many are staffed at Lord Stokes’s small, unassuming castle, if I may ask?”

She smiled.

“The truth, madam, if you would, please.”

“I would say … many.”

“Many … as in fifty? How many men would that be who work there? Plenty of women teachers I would think. It’s like living in a small town where you were raised.”

“You seem very knowledgeable about the women,” she started to giggle.

“I drive many women who are alone but wish to visit or shop during the day.”

“I see.”

“What, may I ask, do you see?”

Squeaks was stumped for words. “Do they ever ask you inside the house?” She was serious with that question but did not let on.

“Do I detect a bit of jealousy? And we have only just met. I must be making a good impression on you. A driver never discusses his rides, unless he is to warn others. And on no occasion, speaks of a Lady.”

“My father keeps reminding me all the time.”

“I would like to add my own caution to you in this trade. If you come to know me, and I hope you will, you need to persuade me why you have come to select driving as your profession. I will worry about you. You will not be safe.”

“You won’t talk about it all the time, will you?”

“No, but don’t be surprised if you see me following you one night.”

Squeaks was surprised that he was so open with his words to her in front of her father.

“Miss Squeaks, it has been a real pleasure to meet you for the first time. I hope there will be other occasions. Perhaps your father will permit you to ride with me. However, I must leave now. I will be back in two hours.”

“I doubt we shall be here. Thank you. I have liked meeting you, too. I hope I will be driving those … ah … elegant high-stepping horses someday soon.”

“Good day to you both,” Kip said, tipping his hat, hopping the wheel, and pulling his team out of the yard.

“Father, I like him.”

“That was obvious to both of us.”

“Obvious to you and me?”

“No, obvious to him and me.” Clyde laughed.

“You must like him, too. I would have expected a ‘talking to’ after that conversation.”

“The one thing everyone knows about Kip is his honesty and honor. Somewhere in his life, he has been educated, and honor has reigned heavily within his family. You do not have to be noble to be honorable, you know.”

“Yes, I guess you are right, Father. So … will you give me your consent to ride with him one day? You know I do not need it, but I would like to have it regardless.”

“Squeaks, I have waited several years for you to begin to feel and act like a woman. Today I saw it. If it is because of Trevor Kipling, I am fine with that. I was serious when I told you he was one of the finest and most sought-after drivers in London. Perhaps, he would allow you as a second driver one night in his coach. He may even let you drive it, and he rides rear footman.”

“Oh father, I cannot believe that. That is too much to hope for.”

“You couldn’t see how he was looking at you, as I did. Even seeing his face, you could not read it. I believe only another man could.”

“What are you trying to tell me, father?”

“I believe he may be a serious suitor somewhere in your future.”

“Suitor? Have you ever actually explained what that means? Does it mean marriage?”

“Perhaps. I do not know him that well, but I am sure there is much interest in you, as there will be from many others. Take your time. Do not make any decisions about any of them. Spread your friendship around to many men, as long as I can know who they are, too.”

“Father, it sounds like you are trusting me now.”

“I think you handled yourself fairly well with him. You almost stood all of your ground. I think he had you with the staff at Stokes Castle.”

Clyde saw her sigh with a happy smile. It was a different look to her. He hoped Kip was in earnest, and he had no reason to think otherwise.

 

Kip could hardly believe the whistling that he heard coming from his own mouth. In the glorious days of his youth, until now, he never remembered doing that. Nobles didn’t whistle, except for their horse, perhaps. His mind began to swim, causing light-headedness. Quickly, he turned a corner and pulled his rig to a stop. He sat for a moment with his elbows on his knees holding his head, trying to come to grips with the situation he was enduring. If this was love overwhelming him, Kip wasn’t sure he would live through it. Closing his eyes, Mary swirled around and around as if on a carousel. Once again, he felt she was with him. But how did she feel about it all?

“Driver … driver, is your coach available?

The Noble Coachman Chapter 4

Chapter 4
Kidnapped

 

Arriving at Blevins Manor, Kip watched Sir Blevins escort a young woman to his coach. He jumped to the ground to meet her.

“Kip, this is my niece, Lady Lucy Blevins, who is staying with us for the season. I trust you to see that she arrives at the ball and is escorted into the hall. There she is to meet her cousin.”

“Sir, I will see to it that she is delivered safely. Am I to wait?”

Sir Blevins looked at his niece, wondering if she had further plans.

“Uncle, if this driver would not mind waiting an hour, I would appreciate that. I may not wish to stay. Otherwise, Lilly said her driver would return me here.”

“Very well. Kip, you will wait for one hour.”

“Yes, Uncle,” Lucy said with a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”

“Yes, Sir. Understood.”

Kip assisted her into the coach and was on his way. Upon arrival, he did not feel comfortable leaving her at the door with only the ball footman. She would be alone, once out of the coach. He pulled under the covered entrance; the event footman opened his coach door and exited Lucy Blevins. Kip jumped down, against protocol, and walked her inside the door.

“Miss, you are inside the door as your uncle instructed, but I feel uneasy with you here alone. I will park my team and return until your cousin arrives.”

“I believe I am asking too much of you, sir.”

“You would be doing me the service of not worrying about you. May I?”

“Yes, all right. Kip, is it?”

“Yes, Miss. One minute.”

Kip pulled the coach to a vacant spot, handed the reins to another driver friend and told him to tether the team, he would be back.

Kip approached Miss Blevins at the entrance into the hall.

“This is most kind of you, Kip.”

“It is my honor.”

“Oh, you certainly don’t mean that,” she smiled as they entered the foyer.

“I do, Miss. This is not just a courtesy.”

“I see. Well, it is more than generous, I should say.”

“You should say exceedingly little to me. I am but a driver.”

“I sense more to you than a driver. I cannot quite place it.” Lucy Blevins scanned the faces of all she could see. Her cousin was not there. “I am sorry you feel as if you have to wait. I do not see her.”

“Would you like to walk further into the actual ballroom?”

“Lilly said she would be by the doors.”

“Very well, Miss.”

“I see you are dressed in tails. Do you always drive in such evening elegance?”

“No, Miss. Only on particular occasions such as this.”

“I suppose I will allow you to walk with me into the ballroom, so I can see for myself if she is here.”

“If you wish it. I could stand at the hall entrance and keep an eye on you. Whichever you prefer.”

“I do not know anyone here. She was going to introduce me. Yes, I would appreciate it if you walked with me. At least, you do not look like a peacock.”

Kip chuckled, which caused her to smile.

As they entered the room, Lucy Blevins slipped her arm through his, surprising him. He accepted the honor and walked as the gentleman he was. It felt lovely to have a woman at his side. More than a year had passed since he was in the company of a fashionable lady.

“Kip, you look quite comfortable walking among the classes.” She smiled.

“I believe it to be my charm and good looks that help me pass for your lot.”

Lucy laughed. “My lot? As in upper society? If you only knew!”

“Are we both passing ourselves off as highborn types? How are we doing?”

“You are full of humor. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am a social climber, but I do belong to the more common side of the family. I think my cousin is being kind to me.”

“Could your cousin think, ‘I should ask little Lucy out. She will never meet eligible men any other way’?”

“In my mind, that is what it feels like. That is why I asked uncle to allow you to remain another hour. I genuinely feel out of place.”

“May I have this dance?”

“Kip!”

“Sorry. The music made me forget myself.” I must be more careful. That just slipped out.”

Lucy was being overwhelmed with this driver in tails. He was amusing her immensely.

“Do you happen to see your cousin?”

“I do not, but I cannot see across the floor.”

Kip faced her and placed his arm in the middle of her back, took her hand and waltzed her to the other side. “Here we are – the other side. Does this help?”

“Who are you? Has my cousin planned this whole evening? Are you the gentleman she wanted to introduce to me but felt I would run away? She slips you to me on a silver platter?”

“Brass, Miss. I would be slipped to you on a brass platter. I do think I shall put that on my calling cards. Being a gentlemen escort is rather appealing. It looks like I am quite proficient at it. What do you think?”

“I cannot believe the liberties you are taking if you truly are a driver. You are too amusing.”

“Now, you see; you have begun me to think that I could sweep you off your feet. You would be flattered. I would be honored, and it would be all innocent fun.”

“Will you kiss me goodnight, too?”

“Miss, you are not nearly ready for my fervid attention.” Kip kept his composure with a decidedly staid look while Lucy Blevins’s eyes twinkled with delight.”

“There she is! Lilly sees me.”

“Miss, you have been charming. I will wait outside until the appointed time. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to regale you.”

“I thoroughly was that I must say. Thank you. I still have a feeling I will not stay.”

“I will be waiting if that becomes your decision. Good evening.”

“Goodnight, Kip.”

Kip bowed to her approaching cousin and left the area.

“Lucy, who was that handsome gentleman?”

“I do not think I will tell you, Lilly.”

“I have not seen him before. Here, I was going to introduce you to my gentleman’s friend, and you found someone.”

“Would you believe; he is my driver tonight?”

“No, I would not believe you. Coachmen do not come that handsome. And how many of them wear tails and walk ballroom floors?”

“You haven’t even seen the coach. I am living a fairy tale; I think.”

“Have you had any wine, yet?”

“No, but I feel as if I have.”

“Come. Let us find our gentlemen who were just behind me. I’m afraid I scurried over when I saw you.”

Miss Lucy Blevins was pulled merrily along by her hand toward two other guests.

Kip returned to his team and, as usual, found drivers milling around his horses and coach. Other drivers were looking to see what he was doing differently to attract more riders.

“Whom did you drive tonight?” Marc questioned.

“A Miss Lucy Blevins, cousin to someone named Lilly. She is a niece of Sir Blevins.”

“Dunno her, mate. Is she young and beautiful?”

“Yes, and quite.”

Kip took the wheel spoke to reach under the lid of his bench seat and pulled out a brush. He began raking one of his horse’s long mane and tail. “Are the other apostles here, tonight?”

“Mathew is across the way. Lucas is still expected, and I think Jonathan has another ball.”

This was the world he was coming to love. The camaraderie was always good fellowship. They spent many hours together and relied on one another. All of them were like a team of brothers. They were gentlemen drivers with souls of gold. He could never thank them for pulling him through some terribly rough emotional times that he had hidden from them after his sister’s murder.

Matthew approached the pair and patted down the other horse which was not being brushed. “Evening, gents. Is this Warrior or Soldier? I can never tell them apart even in the daylight.”

“That is Soldier. The three of us were rescuers late today. A woman came running to the coach, fleeing from a man. It appeared the young lady did not want to marry him, and they had had a heated discussion.”

“Do you know who she is?”

“No, I know where she lives, which I will not speak, but she was visiting near Hampstead.”

“Did you know the man?” asked Marc.

“No. I did go back later to see if there was a name on the house but there was not. In a few days, I will return to the young lady’s home and see how she is. I believe you are jealous of me, dear friends. Who among us does not enjoy the benefits of driving a young woman who is alone?”

“You keep telling us that, but no one seems to have your flair.”

“I have no flair, mates. I love women, as we all do. They are quite helpless against any man. You’re a hard lot, you chaps,” he laughed. “Anyone bring cards, Willy?”

#

It was nearing ten in the evening when Kip saw Miss Blevins exit the front entrance. He quickly scurried to meet her.

“Are you out for the air, or can I be of assistance?”

“I would like to leave, but not return home just yet. I feel quite shaken with my cousin and her guests. I think something is wrong.”

“I hope there is nothing amiss. Where may I drive you?”

“I know little of London. Can you choose a place for you and me to sit and talk? I do not mean privately; you understand.”

“Miss, are you quite certain? It is not my place to be a companion or socialize.”

“I do understand that. I had enjoyed your company before my gentleman was introduced to me. Is there no proper place?”

“Yes, there are benches in front of the courthouse. It is quite a public area, even at this time of night. If you wait here, I will bring the coach.”

“No matter. I will walk with you. Will you be shamed in front of the other drivers?”

“They may take to teasing me, but I will be admired,” he smiled.

Lucy felt her own smile return.

“Shall we go, miss?” Kip extended his arm, mostly because it was dark, and where he was headed was wheel-rutted.

The drivers moved away from Kip’s coach as he, and the lady appeared to head towards them. He purposely did not look in their direction as he handed Miss Blevins into his coach. Kip stepped on the wheel peg and lifted himself onto his bench. His fellow drivers were huddled together watching intently since he had brought her there on his arm.

Kip wasn’t sure what he was doing. He had done what he could to dissuade her, which failed. They arrived at the courthouse without much ado. There were the gas street lights and a dozen lighted windows in the Court House. He parked his team on the main street and attended Miss Blevins to a bench.

“You will sit with me, will you not?”

“Yes, Miss. Did you not enjoy your evening tonight?”

“It isn’t that which has me upset. It is my cousin Lilly.”

“Miss, this is not my business. Although whatever you say to me will remain private, reconsider that you are talking to a coachman. Perhaps, you should discuss this with a family member.”

“I am not sure what to do. I believe she is being coerced into something or blackmailed.”

Kip found his seat on the bench. This was far and away never the troubles he thought her cousin could be experiencing. “What makes you think that, Miss Blevins?”

“Twice she and her gentleman seemed to be having harsh words while they danced. I saw her frowning and shaking her head. She returned with watery eyes one time. The two of them kept taking short walks onto the back veranda. The gentleman who was with me observed that I noticed something was amiss. He became overly attentive to me at that time.”

“You do not think it was lovers quarrel?

“As they neared the table, returning from the veranda, I faintly heard her say, ‘I do not think I will do that.’”

“That could be a reply to any number of topics.”

“She and I are not all that close for her to openly confide in me. They wanted to leave early. I told them I would prefer to go home, so I left to find you. I did not want to stay with the friend, and he seemed anxious to go with them.”

“Do you know if they were taking her home?”

“No, I don’t, Kip,” Miss Blevins said as she leaned against his shoulder and began to weep.

Kip was not making any progress stemming the flow of her tears or her grip on him. “I feel you should be home explaining your observations to your uncle. He may have thoughts on this unusual situation. One woman and two men in a coach could signal … umm … improprieties.”

“Yes, I am sure you are right.”

“Splendid. Let us depart.”

Kip pulled his coach to the front of the dwelling where he had started. Miss Blevins was stepping out before he could reach her.

“I will walk with you to the door. Do you wish me to enter?”

“Yes. I will go find uncle.”

“Indeed, Miss.”

Lucy found her uncle, who was in his dressing robe and asked him to come speak with the driver. As the two walked towards Kip at the entrance, Lucy told him what had transpired during the ball.

“Good evening, Kip. What’s this Lucy is trying to tell me?”

Kip, clasping his hands behind his back, began his narration of events as he knew them, which was less than what Miss Blevins had told him. He mentioned he would have conversations with the other drivers.

“Please, wait until I dress. Kip, I’d like you to drive me to Lilly’s home. She is my sister’s niece. I wish to be comforted in the fact that she is home.”

As Sir Blevins left for upstairs, Miss Blevins approached him, took one of his hands, and kissed it. “Kip, I do not know how to thank you.”

“Miss Blevins, this type of gratitude is not expected nor earned. Please know your place.”

Lucy looked into his green eyes intently, “I think I do know my place.”

Kip felt the undeniable pleasure sweep over him, but all he could see was a black-haired cherub sitting atop a coach bench.

“Miss, you are charming and quite endearing but do not let your imagination take hold. This may be a serious situation. My help does not require payment. I desire that you refrain from complimenting me. You are putting me at a disadvantage, which is hard to resist. I am but a man as well as a coachman.”

“I am quite aware of that,” Lucy smiled.

Chapter 3 The Coachman Brotherhood

Chapter 3
Squeaks

 

Rebecca Dorset called Squeaks by Lord Stokes, and his staff was excited as today was the first day she would take the coach and reins though her father would be beside her.  Born into service, Rebecca had always been the apple of His Lordship’s eye. As a baby, she did more chirping than crying, and Lord Stokes began calling her Squeaks. The household adopted the term, and the name seemed hers for life. As she grew, she accompanied her father most days and learned his trade. As the years passed, she pleaded with Lord Stokes to allow her to take the reins when her father could not. Finally, worn down by her giggles and smiles, he acquiesced, never thinking she would want to do the same when she grew into a young woman, but he was mistaken. She took his promise as a gold-crested agreement and undertook her future career with sincerity and vigor.

Squeaks took to horse and carriage as no other woman known. She was unique and had grown into a beautiful, spirited, and intelligent woman. His Lordship allowed all the children born into his service to have a limited education. Squeaks was twenty years of age, neat, trim, and 5’1” with raven-black hair and light blue eyes, tinged in black. Her head was typically covered in a woman’s riding top hat. It, too, was the same royal blue matching her uniform; a dyed beaver hat with a large black bow to hold it on her head. She also had a silk hat for specific outings when rain was sure to stay away. The beaver hat could weather anything. Her hair was long, but she kept it braided. If it weren’t for the wide ribbon, tied into a bow at her neck, she was thought to be a small male until one looked closely.

As her father and Lord Stokes aged, she became more useful to their needs: fetching things and reading to them quite often, keeping them company when they asked. Squeaks knew she would draw attention, not all of it favorable, in her chosen profession, but she did not care. It was her first love, even with all His Lordship’s and her father’s admonishments. She was thankful for what the household had done for both over the years. They raised her. She was rarely treated as staff, running and playing inside the castle until regrettably she was urged to realize her place in life. The house became quiet, as she kept in the kitchen or stables, at the age of eleven. His Lordship missed her smiling face but knew it was time to prepare her for a more realistic life. And she still wanted to drive for him. To help her through the crisis of leaving His Lordship’s private quarters, he had a livery made for her.

 

#

 

Kip sat in the shade of a large oak tree watching his hand flow across the paper, sketching the scenery around him. He liked it when he was asked to drive to one of the parks. Being an independent coach driver in London rarely permitted him a customer who wanted to be driven out of the crowded and congested streets to more open landscapes. Trevor had settled in a profession that kept him among the inner circles of society, a place to which he belonged, but he would forgo for some time. Not yet, at any rate, although his self-imposed feeling of culpability for his sister’s death was begrudgingly dissipating.

Kip was lost in thought as he blended the shadowed trees on his paper. He began thinking of his life of wealth and privilege, nearly a year ago. His murdered sister was always with him, but seeing her through his dream states, kept her alive and eased his soul. Many times, he wondered if he was suffering some form of madness, after all. However, his brethren drivers lived a full and interesting life, which he slowly learned to incorporate unto himself.

Fully engulfed in his past, Kip snapped his charcoal pencil in half, unaware of the stress he had put on its point. “Damn,” he whispered loudly, seeing the mess he had made of his sketch. Brushing the small bits of charcoal off the page, Kip looked toward the carriage to see if he had been overheard. Apparently, his client and guest were not interrupted.  As Kip returned to his drawing, he smiled to himself. Today he was a coachman. Who knew it had been the right choice for him when he left home? He had lost himself in Kip, the driver, but wasn’t so sure he had done much about finding Trevor, the heir.

Out of the corner of his eye, Kip continued his drawing but could see his coach swaying. The couple seemed to be mutually engaged in one another. This happened often, but he always kept his ear attuned to any calls of distress from the woman. If it were two men, he had to walk further away, as the images conjured rankled his male pride.

He looked on as his two horses nibbled at the grass. Today he wore his tailored livery and drove his daily carriage, which had particularly elegant lines and structure, but it didn’t hold a candle to his “Queen Mary,” as he called it. Kip’s entire driving wardrobe was designed by himself and tailor-fitted. His high-valued clients who wanted the best in a driving experience received the full complement. Having the funds, Kip made the most of his new world, and it comforted him. He needed to feel proud of something – to be a success throughout his life, even as a coachman. And he was achieving that. Kip knew he was still an enigma to his fellow drivers, but they soon acclimated to his way of doing things and accepted him as a qualified brother coachman.

Kip heard a whistle from his client and assumed that their matinee was completed. He folded his sketching pad and returned to the coach.

“Where to, milord?”

“The lady’s home, if you will, Kip.”

“Yes, milord.”

As Kip climbed to his bench, he felt the man must be known to his father, Lord Caldwell. He wondered what his father would think if he knew this Lord was not keeping true faith with his wife.

Kip prepared for the harshness of the city. He navigated the most scenic and clean routes he could find, arriving at the lady’s home with an easy ride. Jumping to the ground, he waited for a signal to open the door. Often there were last kisses or soft words to be finished between the couple. Usually, the gentleman would knock at the side door when Kip was to appear and open it.

Opening the door, he folded down the step. If the lady exited first, he would extend his hand, and she would take it if she wanted. More often, the gentlemen exited first and took the honors. Quite often during the earlier part of the day, a lady would wish to visit some function or shop, and she would be alone. He would hand her in and out of the coach and offer to attend her and her packages if she desired. All these courtesies came from his own remembrance of the Caldwell coachmen. Whether it was the Caldwell’s’ expected courtesies or not, the practice had held him in good stead. He added his own standards for highborn people, and all his customers received it, reduced circumstances or not.

His client exited the coach, escorted his lady to her door, and returned.

“Kip, take me to my club,” the client instructed, as he came back.

“Yes, milord,” Kip replied. Even though there were several men’s clubs in London, it was his job to know his clients’ preferences. One or two drives for someone made him or her a patron; more than three, and he or she became a client. Rarely did they switch to another driver once driven by him. His elegant livery was better than most peerage in-service drivers. Kip was projecting an air of sophistication and style, which brought him higher fares and the most influential of people. For special occasions, he offered a second driver or the back-footman service so the client could feel envy. Changing from daily fares to evening balls was never a problem. He had clothes and coaches for both.

 

As Kip traveled back into central London looking for his daily hails, he passed driver Clyde Dorset, in-service driver to Lord Stokes. They nodded to each other as a greeting. His daughter was beside him on the bench. Everyone had heard a rumor that she wanted to be a coach woman and succeed her father. All the elite independents and the in-service teams, who waited at Parliament for their Lords, had been watching her ride with her father. Along with Kip, not one of them thought the day would come that Lord Stokes would allow her to take the reins of a team. It took great strength to turn a team of two, and Miss Dorset looked too young and small to handle the job. She was thought most likely to greet and open the door for His Lordship.

Today she was holding the reins aside her father. She sat proudly, almost bursting those cherub dimples with pride. Kip was earnestly amazed but assumed the coach was empty, on its way to fetch Lord Stokes where her father would then assume the reins.

 

“I’ll have a beef sandwich and a pint,” said Kip wandering over to sit with Marc, who had arrived at the pub before the others. I see Driver Dorset’s daughter is holding the reins today,” remarked Kip, restraining a smile. “She looks quite young.”

“Is she now?” Responded Marc with a laugh. “I’d suppose the coach to be empty if she were heading towards the House of Lords at this time of day. I know His Lordship is worried about her, but she’s determined.”

“I think she looks quite charming sitting up there with her father in her livery.

“You and every other bloke driving. We’ve all been watching her.”

“So, what can you tell me about this bewitching young lady. She’s small; it appears.”

“She was the age of 11 when Lord Stokes had a livery made to match her father. I’ve been told this because she’s about 20 years old now. I haven’t been around that long. The word is that Dorset lost his wife early in his daughter’s life. Lord and Lady Stokes looked kindly on their driver’s plight of raising her. They had no daughter of their own. I hear that her father, His Lordship and the staff have been raising her. She used to have run of the Castle, Dorset has told us.”

“I had a good chuckle over her small matching beaver top hat being held on her head with a large black bow. It endears her further to onlookers if that is possible. Being an independent, it is unlikely our paths will converge. I rarely have a call to Parliament. Seeing her today, holding those reins, beaming like the morning sun on a spring day, encourages me to be introduced to her. Is that possible?” It was a year since his heart felt a stirring of activity. “I’ve had my share of invitations from Lady customers, to which I decline, but a female driver is different. Her interest in horses and coaching is exciting my fancy.” A long-lost feeling of lust engulfed him. It was a raw and primitive urging, which never in his life had he felt to this extreme.

Lucas and Jon arrived at the table after ordering.

“Kip, here, would like to be introduced to Miss Dorset. Can either of you arrange that for him?” Marc howled. The other two joined in.

Kip felt embarrassed. “Apparently, I have asked for the impossible?”

“Well, yes, I say. It may be possible, but we hardly stand on having someone known to both of us to introduce one to the other. Only nobles are that principled.” More laughter from the table and Kip joined in the fun of being mocked.

Using polite society protocols had snagged him several times. Occasionally, he had to sand off the veneer of nobility to blend with the Brotherhood. All-in-all, his politeness carried a lot of reputation which was starting to reach far and wide. “I guess I’ll just have to outwit you blokes and accidentally meet her at the House of Lords.”

“You know Kip; your fares have been picking up considerably of late. Don’t think we haven’t noticed. We’ve passed you on a few of these night affairs and see you in your tailored tails and velvet top hat. Are you playing God to us, Apostles? You’re certainly doing something we don’t know about. I think it’s time for you to train us. You owe us that much.” Lucas cajoled.

Kip was rocking in his seat with laughter. “Lads, go another step with your uniforms, and you can raise your fees. We all know the gentry need pampering, and that’s all that I am doing.”

“I guess those green eyes, brown hair, pulled into a horse’s tail with a ribbon have nothing to do with it,” Lucas chided.

“Look!” Kip pulled out a couple of introduction cards. “See here. It has my name, Trevor Kipling, lists my services and address. I have been getting requests for my unique service, well in advance of events. It may work for you, too.”

“What are your special services?”

“Naturally, it’s my best bib and tucker, best coach and flowers for the coach vases. My coach is always cleaned, and polished. My boots are like mirrors. I can hire Ioan, you know Ioan, to ride second driver or footman. We can make an unusually rich look for being independent.”

“Damn, Kip. That’s brilliant.”

“Now will you introduce me to Miss Dorset?” Everyone clinked their beer mugs, roaring to the rafters.

 

It was nearing six in the evening, and Kip headed home to clean and wash the coach, and himself for the Lady Blevins fare tonight.

To accommodate his stable and quarters, Kip selected a residence with a large stable near the edge of outer London. His reputation was growing, causing him to check his in-town post often for reservations being asked for in advance. The name “Kip” seemed to be on the lips of many people wanting his premiere appearance, and he was being recommended among the gentry of society.

A quick look inside the Queen Mary revealed only bits of boot sand to sweep out. He dressed in his handsome, understated but elegant livery with tails. It was unlikely that any driver could match his coach, and they certainly never would match his horses, costing a driver five year’s salary for one of them. Kip at no time meant to laud his superior team and coach, over the others, but he wanted the best for himself. They had become the only spark in his life until he anticipated a way to meet Miss Dorset.

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