Trevor was seated in the pub when his father entered after his day in Parliament. Rather than wave him over, he let his father discover him. Kip doubted if many people from this part of town knew what his father looked like. He stood as his father arrived.
“I hadn’t expected to see you so soon, but I am glad I have, son.”
A serving woman came over to take the order. “What may I get for you gents?”
“Please, let me order,” Kip suggested.
“We’ll have two pints and two beef sandwiches,” Trevor smiled at his father.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten or tasted this meal. You like it; I assume. Oh, Gus will be visiting soon. He’s anxious to see you.”
“Good. This is one of my meals when out.”
“Which is how often?” Lord Caldwell laughed.
“Actually, quite often, but I do cook.”
“I went to see the other Caldwell family yesterday,” said Lord Caldwell. “They do look a bit familiar, but they are quite far from us – somewhere down my grandfather’s line. I believe he’s a second son, of a first son. It’s quite sad over there. Lilith is officially missing. No ransom note. Her clothes are home; no eloping is being considered. It’s grim, Trev.”
“I wanted to talk about a few other Caldwell members. If there is some conspiracy to our family, I should be aware of them. Tell me about your brothers.”
“This could take a long time, son.”
“For now, just be brief about where they are, what they do, and are their cousins I don’t know about.”
“I believe you met my brother, Hamilton. He has two sons. Hamilton remains in the banking business in Manchester, which now seems to be making him quite wealthy with all this new machine industry flowing into that city. His oldest son, also named Hamilton, is following in his father’s path. I don’t think you have seen either of them since you were very young. Hamilton’s other son, Gregory, went into the legal profession. He is most likely a barrister if he hasn’t made it to his judgeship, yet. I think my brother has a grandchild or two, but how many and their names; I am afraid I have forgotten.”
“You have another brother I remember. He left home early.”
“I did, yes. He was born second and could not accept that he would never hold the title. Many years in our youth, I feared him. Nathaniel and my father argued often. He was wild and remained irate. Your mother called him feral. We know he caused the staff almost unbearable anxiety. We lost several excellent servants. One was a pretty young woman whom he favored more than most. It came to our knowledge that she was with child because of him. We always thought she left on her own, but one day she was gone. God only knows what she endured. Upon hearing of this too late, which the staff was afraid to mention, your grandfather asked him to leave. Your sister had just been born. Nathaniel was given money to live on and left, taking his valet with him. Within a few years, his coach was stopped by highwaymen. Possibly being drunk, we believe, he fired upon them and was killed during the robbery. There is little more I know about that.”
“What happened to his driver and valet?”
“I am not sure about the driver. He could have been part of the gang. We invited the valet back to Caldwell Hall, but he had a love interest by then and stayed in London. All that was years ago. We never spoke of him again. I have at no time met my other nephew Gregory either. If they have families of their own, I know not. Hamilton and I are amiable brothers to each other and parted ways peacefully. He knows how very busy I have been, and I assume he has no time either. We write at the holidays, but that is as far as it goes. He did send your sister a gift at her ‘coming out.’”
“You’ve never told me much about Nathaniel,” Kip remarked.
“Son, we talked sparingly about him most of his life. I believe your grandfather did more covering up for him, too. He was an embarrassment to the family. It is conceivable that he made enemies, but that would have been many years ago, now.
“Have you heard the rumor about Lord Stokes having a female driver?” Trevor asked.
“Yes. I am afraid Stokes is taking the brunt of some banter in the house by his friends. I believe she was born into his service, and he has taken to her since she could walk. Her father is Lord Stokes’s driver for over twenty years, but you probably know that. The daughter grew up wanting to drive like her father. I believe Stokes gave up when she was a young teen and told her she could. She has been riding with Dorset; I hear. I guess the time is getting near, and she never changed her mind, which he actually believed she would. I think that’s how the story goes. Have you seen her?”
“Yes, this morning. It was the second time we’ve talked. Her father broke his leg last evening. She is reining, with a footman riding the rear, but she was alone in the box.”
“She can turn a team of two? Well, the day has come for her, has it? Wait until I see him. Is she pretty?”
“Stunning would be my word.”
“Oh, stunning, is she? Someone with whom you would not mind crossing the class lines to know better?” His father laughed.
Ignoring his father’s slight, Kip continued. “I followed her today. She is quite skilled.”
“Followed her? What kind of son have I raised?” he laughed again. Earl Caldwell secretly was elated that his son might be returning to the man he remembered.
“Lord Stokes doesn’t know about me, does he?” Asked Kip.
“I don’t know about you, son. How could he? I cannot finish this sandwich if you continue to make me chuckle.”
“I would like to see more of her, Father. I thought I should let you know in the event she accepts my calling on her.”
“Do you call in the lower classes? I am sorry, that was terribly rude and unfair, but you are making me laugh, and here I am so happy to hear you looking forward to seeing a woman.”
“You are correct, Father, you don’t know about me,” Trevor agreed.
Earl Caldwell scratched at his beard, “I’ll tell you there is to be a special dinner invitation this Saturday. Someone is announcing an engagement or some other event. Many of us will be attending. I did not plan on going, but if Lord Stokes accepts, I will, also. That’s the best I can do, son. You will drive me.”
Kip finally blushed in front of his father. He had never done that for anyone.
“I can hardly wait to see this beautiful young lady driver.”
“Father, somehow, I doubt you ever will. You are the upper class, remember. You keep saving the realm, and we’ll keep seeing that you do.”
They smiled at each other as if a broken bond had been renewed.
“Tell Augustus I will see him while he is here.”
“He will be overjoyed. Augustus won’t tell you or show it, but with you, Mary, and myself away, he has been abandoned, so to speak. I ask him to London as often as I can. He’s a young man. The young are here, in this city.”
“That never once entered my mind. I have been quite selfish it seems.”
“No, son. Don’t feel that way. We both knew that if you had not walked away when you did, you would be lost to us, forever, as an upstanding man. Our only hope has been that you would see there was nothing you could do to save her that day.”
“After nearly a year, it has been only recently that I feel life flowing into my lungs again. I am now faced with learning the art of wooing. This will not come naturally to me.” Kip laughed.
“What did His Lordship want, Squeaks?”
“He asked about my day. I told him about talking with Kip and meeting many other drivers. He gave me another talk. Then he complimented me on getting around that horse that was rearing on the other side of the road. He said I did a grand job.”
“I am so proud of you. Perhaps, I can retire early.”
“Would you do that, Father?”
“No, you silly child.” Clyde laughed. “But I think you may be allowed to be the second driver and no longer waiting in training.”
Squeaks blushed. “I don’t know if you heard Kip yesterday calling me the driver regent. We both laughed at that.”
“No, I did not hear that. However, you are no longer regent; you are installed as the first driver right now.”
“Father, you had days off to do what you wanted, didn’t you?”
“What’s this? Twenty years you have wanted to drive the coach and are now looking for a day of rest?” Clyde smirked.
“Oh no, I want to drive more than anything. Even so, I don’t think His Lordship will allow me to do it every day. I want to make plans for my day away.”
“Away? Away, where? Oh, I know. You still want to drive but another coach with other horses, hmm?”
“You knew I was going to say that.”
“Yes, but I knew that because of Kip. I had no idea what your answer would be unless it really was for his team and coach.”
“I think these feelings are more than that. I would like to know if it is. I need to assess it, somehow.”
“Assess it? What kind of foolishness is this you speak? Are you talking about love? You don’t even know the man.”
“I know! So how do I get to know him? How did you get to know mother?”
“I thought you said you’ve have had all these talks with the servant women. I do not believe I can tell you how YOU will tell. I think you just know, and you are nowhere near that stage.”
“I do have some sense, Father. I know he is not going to propose or anything. Suppose he is a nice gentleman wanting to be friends?”
“I would be quite happy with that.”
“Suppose I want to know him? How do I get him to see me?”
“Young lady, he definitely sees you. I guess what you are asking is what type of mistakes you must not make. What could you do to turn him away?”
“Yes, that’s it. Such as what, Father? He drives so many beautiful women; I doubt I hold a candle to any of them.”
“You’re suddenly not my little girl anymore.” Clyde became saddened.
“Father, I will always be your daughter and love you. Someday, you knew you would share me, didn’t you?”
“I gave it as little thought as possible, but the day is shortly upon me; I sense.”
“I don’t want you telling me silly stuff to drive a gentleman away from me.”
“Do you think I would do that to you; dearest Squeaks.”
“Well …” she said, looking down at her tapping foot. “You might.” She laughed.
“My only goal in life is to see that you are happy and content. I want to know that you have a fine man in your life when I am near my end. He doesn’t have to be rich, or important. He just has to love you as I do.”
“I want that, too, Father. I want more than that.”
“I think I believe you. I see your flower is about to bloom. It will not wither as I once feared.”
“So what mistakes could I be making if I want to keep his attention?”
“I do not think you can make any mistakes if you remain yourself. You are a wee bit headstrong, but that may be inevitable, living with a lord of the realm. This house has always had high standards and expectations.”
“Do you think Lord Stokes will want to approve of a man I want to marry someday?”
“He will take an interest. If he is a gentleman with income, you will most likely not be questioned on anything. You will not pander to those other types, anyway. Just be yourself. You know how to be polite. Don’t show a gentleman what you are not. Do not mislead him. Whatever your life will be with another person; you want to be able to be yourself, and he will too. There will be some compromises, but few if the love is really there.”
Squeaks had tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Father. You make it sound easy.”
“With your looks and brains, it will not be too easy for you. You will be admired and sought after by many, and decisions may come hard.”
“Suppose I meet a driver, who I like – will he not be intimidated by me?”
Clyde laughed. “Are you that good of a driver to intimidate another professional driver?”
“I guess that’s not what I mean, and he may not be a coachman.” She frowned.
“Are you saying he will not like you being in a man’s world with lots of other handsome men admiring you?”
“I believe so, yes.”
“I cannot answer that. It will depend on the man. It will take a lot of trust on his part. It will be difficult for any man being in love with you, you know. He will have to be endowed with much confidence in himself. You must always be honest, and I have no doubt that you will.”
“Thank you, Father. I will go collect our meal.”
“Too late,” someone called from the stairway.
Kip picked up fares until he spotted one of his apostles. It was nearing dusk when he found Marc. Kip nodded, and they both pulled to a side street and parked.
“I’ve been looking for you all day, Kip. Kyle had a nice look at the coach and just a glance at the driver. He was not familiar with either one. They’re new in town. He said the coach was old and hadn’t been cleaned. Kyle figured it came from quite a distance before picking up the young lady. Is she still missing?”
“Yes … well, she was as of this morning. Do you know where Kyle is now?”
“Sorry, mate. Haven’t seen him since then.”
“If you do see him, ask him to see Inspector Marshall at the Met. I will tell him of Kyle, and they will come looking for him.”
“I’ll spread the word. I heard the lady driver was alone today. She was driving Lord Stokes.”
“Yes, I spoke to her. She has a house footman riding the rear step. He is her protection. I wish us all to keep vigilant of her. I followed her for a short time and found she is well skilled.”
“If any of us was to meet her first, why did it have to be you?” Marc kidded.
“When I last saw her this morning at the Parliament Building, she had just been introduced to another thirty drivers, mostly in-service.”
“What are we to call her?”
Kip laughed before he could get the words out. “Apparently, being born into service, His Lordship started calling her Squeaks, and she is still called that today. I think her father said her name was Rebecca.”
“Squeaks? Is she pretty?”
“No, she’s beyond that.”
“Oh, I see. Does the old Kipper have an interest?”
“Any man who meets her will have an interest. I may have the first edge because of these beauties,” Kip said, patting the horse closest to him.”
“You know; she’ll only want you for Soldier and Warrior. Can you live with that?” Marc laughed.
“Bloody right, I can.” Kip roared. He didn’t want his fresh emotions showing to anyone just yet. He played the game of men.