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10 August 2005
Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello
"The Nuts On the Family Tree"
"The Nuts On the Family Tree"
by E.O. Costello
Sir Josslyn Buckhorn and Lady Gwladys Buckhorn (c) E.O. Costello
All Rights Reserved
There are advantages and disadvantages in being the doe of the wealthiest whitetail buck in England.
Among the advantages are that you have a stately home in Bucks, a closet full of pretty dresses, a luxurious, an elegant, chauffeur driven limousine, and the ability to stay in the Presidential Suite in the most upscale hotel in all of Gnu York.
The principal disadvantage is that you have to sit on the opposite side of the table from Sir Josslyn Buckhorn, Bt., and watch him eat dinner in the aforementioned Presidential Suite. I am not saying that this cancels out the advantages, but it does give them a hard run for the money.
I suppose the gusto with which he was devouring a second bowl of rolled oats could be explained by what he had accomplished that morning and afternoon. I gathered that, in no particular order, this included closing a deal to buy out a bankrupt competitor, yelling at a group of Wall Street underwriters regarding a financing, causing a pair of secretaries to scuttle, crying, from a conference room, and bawling out the manager of the Hotel Metropole for not having his second bowl of rolled oats ready five minutes after the first bowl has been served. Busy man, you've had a little day.
Watching my mate diligently working on acquiring a third chin to go with his other two is not something nice to contemplate. It's better than the alternative, however. Having a father who, until his dying day, believed what one read in mining company prospectuses, does not set one up for a lifetime of ease and contentment, even if one is a proper, well-bred Philadelphia doe.
So, there are no interludes with Argentine polo players, or Italian counts with imperfections in their titles. Society knows that Lady Gwladys Buckhorn behaves with impeccable dignity and a spotless reputation. They wonder how the poor dear manages to live with such an unholy terror. I have my ways.
"Darling, I got a telegram from Reggie today."
The noisy splutter of rolled oats going down the wrong way, followed by a baleful glare through a glinting monocle, revealed that I had succeeded in turning the rolled oats to ashes in the mouth of my mate, and that this success was deeply resented.
"For pity's sake, woman, I'm eating!"
If Sir Josslyn Buckhorn has a weak spot, it does not come from his ankle, but originally from a point a little higher up. He generally views his worst days as the sins of the son visiting themselves upon the father.
Most observers' hearts melt when they see a newborn fawn, with their large eyes, spotted fur and spindly legs. Not Sir Josslyn, who flinched when the nurse handed him the bundle that contained his son and heir, as if he had been handed a neatly diapered magnetic mine. The initial impression was not helped by the fact that Reggie, bless his heart, set up a mighty wail when first confronted with his sire.
Relations never really got beyond these first impressions. Reggie was a high-spirited fawn, full of innocent mischief. I, for one, had always thought the Fawn Scouts had taken an overly narrow view of what constituted "good deeds," but no amount of argument on my part could persuade the Scoutmaster; his temper was likely worn a bit thin by an impertient question tabled in the House of Commons, and some tactlessly worded leaders in the Thymes of London. I certainly thought the use by Reggie, against the senior Latin master at Eton, of a large barrel of treacle and an eiderdown quilt was entirely justified by the brute's savage and backward methods of teaching declensions. It was certainly wildly popular with the students, who carried Reggie on their shoulders as he was being escorted off the grounds.
Sir Josslyn, however, failed to see the humour in the situation, and arranged to have Reggie shipped off first to Andover, and then to the University of Pennsylvania. He was of the opinion that if Reggie could be inflicted on the American educational system, it could improve England's competitiveness. I took a different approach, and gave Reggie a generous allowance, so that he could approach his studies with a happy frame of mind.
We had hired Minkerton's, the famous detective agency, to keep an eye on Reggie while he was in Philadelphia. It was somewhat difficult to keep operatives on the job, as they were subject to terrible headaches and liver trouble after a few months. I didn't think there was any need for this, as Reggie was, and is, a sweet buck of good manners who doesn't get does in trouble, like some of his contemporaries. His sire, however, always opened envelopes from Minkerton's with a shaking paw, half-expecting to find photographs of Reggie with some chorine or such. I told him I don't know how many times that Reggie wasn't that kind of a buck, but usually this was met with some sotto voice snarl and a shudder.
Things reached a boiling point when Reggie graduated from Penn. He arrived, as per orders, at his sire's office promptly at eight o'clock. The fact that he rode into Josslyn's office on horseback was not the point. The point was that Reggie was on time. But my mate refused to listen to reason or logic, and threatened to disinherit him on the spot.
We does DO have our weapons, of course, most notably soft brown eyes that tear up very easily, and an innate ability to use the nose to produce a sniffing sound somewhat similar to a pair of canvas trousers being slowly torn. I have added to these natural talents by developing a fine side-arm motion in throwing glassware and china with a fair amount of accuracy.
After about ten days of this, Sir Josslyn finally gave up. His initial inclination was to try to get Reggie hired by Fenwick Foods. The solicitors for F.R. Buckhorn & Sons made it clear that this was unlikely to pass muster with the authorities in charge of maintaining the competitive playing field for firms. I put my hooves down, repeatedly, demanding that Reggie be given a job at the family firm. The sire promised that he would structure a programme to train Reggie in the running of the family business. Of course, he said with a smile that should have put me on my guard, this would take time, and Reggie should go off on a long voyage to the Pacific, while things were prepared for him. That, of course, was nearly five years ago.
The main thing that Sir Josslyn has his eye on, of course, is a little coronet. He's been busy giving large sums of money to various worthy charities and unworthy political parties for well over 20 years, attempting to instill goodwill among all and sundry. Every New Year's and Sovereign's Birthday, he scans the Honours List, hoping to see a familiar name there. Silly, really. I cannot for the life of me see how someone as tubby as he is is going to be able to get a set of Coronation robes that will not make him look like a pumpkin playing dress-up. Nevertheless, he is of the view that the further away Reggie is from Fleet Street, the less likely it will be that the pitch will be queered for the infliction of Josslyn, Lord Buckhorn on an otherwise innocent and unsuspecting House of Lords. It would make him virtually the poster-fawn for republicanism.
Reggie, being stashed safely away from the clicking cameras, has since moved from place to place in the Pacific. The governments there can be frightfully unreasonable when it comes to foreigners, and I have written any number of letters to the Foreign Secretary regarding the way they've treated Reggie in places like Samoa. I don't think, for example, Reggie could possibly have known that snakes were taboo in Samoa when he gave that island maiden the trick tin of Buckhorn's Salted Acorns.
At least Reggie had his valet with him. Lodge is a treasure, easily the star of his agency. His expertise in keeping Reggie's clothes clean and in good order alone justifies his salary, which I supplement a bit, to keep him in lumber. Beavers have *such* good common sense. It was Lodge who suggested that an extended stay in the Spontoon Islands would be wise. Apparently, there are far fewer bluenoses there than anywhere else in the Pacific.
All that said, I know Reggie is frightfully bored and lonely, being so far from home. His father is being entirely unreasonable in the way he's going about preparing Reggie's programme, and I'm starting to have my suspicions that Sir Josslyn is deliberately dragging his hooves. There was a remark the other day about "sharks doing their duty," for example, which played very poorly with me.
That's why I was delighted with the message Reggie had sent me, by urgent rate, in the telegram. I waited until Sir Josslyn's breathing had become more normal, and he had picked up his spoon again, before sharing it with him.
"Reggie's found a simply lovely whitetail doe, and they've fallen in love."
I could tell that the news deeply affected him, by the way he turned bright purple and clutched at his head.
My mate clearly believed that the notion of his heir breeding, and presenting him with grand-fawns, was something that would have presented the rulers of Egypt with a set of circumstances proving that their plagues were really not that terrible, after all. I, on the other paw, thought this the best news I'd heard in some time.
"I think I know where I put Reggie's old fawn-clothes..."
The loud, whistling snort of terror this produced from Sir Josslyn indicated that he was under the impression that unless something was done, and instanter, history would repeat itself, skipping the tragic part and moving straight to farce.
"Minkerton. Minkerton. Must get on the phone..."
The sire stumbled from the dining room table, and proceeded to bellow at a hapless switchboard operator for the telephone number for Minkerton's Detective Agency.
"What th' devil d'ye mean, she has a spotless record?!?"
Sir Josslyn was staring at Allan Minkerton III through his monocle, with a look of wild surmise. I'm sure he had been hoping to find out that Willow Fawnsworthy had left a trail of broken hearts and broken bank accounts from Hanoi to Monte Carlo. No such luck for my mate, however.
Minkerton twitched an ear and winced at my husband's choice of volume for conducting his conversation. I'm sure he would have preferred dealing with kidnappers, forgers or bank-robbers to the current conversation, but at $100 an hour, he was in no position to argue niceties.
"Please understand, Sir Josslyn. When Miss Fawnsworthy was suggested for the role of confidential secretary and personal assistant for Leslie duCleds, I was asked by the duCleds family to consider Miss Fawnsworthy's character. I vetted her personally. She is honest, hard-working, and very capable. You can see for yourself Pierre duCleds has written me a number of letters regarding Miss Fawnsworthy's performance, all couched in highly favourable terms..."
"Balderdash. Everyone knows that bloody Pete duCleds is barking mad."
Minkerton pursed his lips, not liking neither the choice of words by my mate, nor the inherent libel contained in them. "You can believe what you like regarding Mr. duCleds, Sir Josslyn, but the fact remains that Willow Fawnsworthy is a healthy, intelligent and otherwise quite attractive young whitetail doe. You should feel lucky that Reggie is attracted to her."
"Lucky?!? LUCKY?!? For mercy's sake, you've seen your own blasted firm's reports on Reggie's habits! The good Lord only knows what sort of horror he'll sire. Any blasted doe that would be attracted to the likes of him needs to have her head examined. My God, insanity from both sides..."
Minkerton turned to me, hoping at least for a change in tone. I was happy to give it to him.
"I've known you for... a long time, Allan, and I know you are very good at this sort of thing. If you say Miss Fawnsworthy is a nice young doe, that goes a long way with me..."
The loud, whistled snort produced by my mate indicated that he would like to take Minkerton's statement and send it a long way. Preferably one-way, via a slow, leaky and unsafe boat to China.
"....but given some of the Doubting Thomases we have, why don't you have some of your men write us a report on Miss Fawnsworthy. We are going to be in San Francisco for the next few weeks, because Sir Josslyn is looking at almond groves, so you might be able to contact us there."
"I think that can be arranged, Lady Gwladys. What do you say, Sir Jossyln?"
Minkerton accepted the clenched teeth and rocking back-and-forth motion as a "yes."
For my part, I felt that alternative sources of information would be of great utility. One cannot grow up as a Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square doe without acquiring some knowledge of the social habits of Delahare duCleds. So it was with a totally confident stride that I crossed the threshold of the City Chemical Club on Park Avenue, at exactly 5.20, and handed my calling card to the porter.
I wore my hairfur shoulder-length, and put on a particularly charming dress, figuring that by this time, Pierre duCleds would be starting in on his second or third cocktail, and would be in just the mood to have a chatty, bright and gossipy conversation with a still-attractive doe.
Sure enough, into the foyer weaved a very cheerful and well-refreshed canine in a Brooks Brothers suit.
"Gwladys, *darling*, wonderful to see you! Come into the library, and let me fill you in on the details of how marvelous you look..."
The cool and pleasant climate of San Francisco, not to mention its close proximity to vineyards and nut-groves, soon had my husband in fighting trim again, and he was happily abusing all manner of vegetable and nut growers, while sampling large quantities of their products. I felt sorry for the poor little turtle that had to speak to the boss of all bosses in the firm.
"REGGIE ORDERED *WHAT*?!?! AND YOU LET HIM HAVE IT?!? ON MY PERSONAL ACCOUNT?!?"
"B-but, Sir Josslyn, I-I thought this was some part of y-your plan..."
"PLAN?!?! DO YOU HONESTLY EXPECT ME TO COME UP WITH SOME HALF-BAKED PLAN TO SEND TWO THOUSAND BLOODY POUNDS OF SALTED ACORNS TO A BLOODY, GOD-FORSAKEN SET OF ISLANDS THAT HAS NO BLOODY WHITETAIL DEER OTHER THAN MY HALF-WITTED SCAPEGRACE IDIOT SON?"
"Well, I...um, I mean, the acorns w-were sh-shipped there all right, and Mr. Buckhorn has m-managed to distribute them..."
"GOD ONLY KNOWS HOW!! D'YE REALIZE WHAT THE BLOODY IDIOT IS CAPABLE OF? TRUST HIM TO FIND SOME BLOODY MEANS OF BLOODY-MINDED TOMFOOLERY TO WRECK OUR BUSINESS FROM HERE TO HONG KONG! GWALDYS!!!"
"Don't you bloody "yes, dear" me. This is all your fault. This is YOUR side of the family tree, shaking its nuts down on my head."
"Mmm-hmmm. That's not what your mother told me on our wedding day. She told me some very interesting things about your father and grandfather, Josslyn. For instance, there was an incident with those springbok sisters during the campaign in '99..."
The turtle seemed to be very interested in this angle, but he was grabbed by the scruff of his shell and tossed out of the room. The pleasure this gave my mate was only transitory, in some sense. He turned to me with a very nasty, unpleasant smile on his face.
"Well, Gwladys, we're going to have a little change in plan. We're going to pay a little surprise visit to the Spontoons. We're going to start off *tonight*, and I'm going to keep my eye on you, to make sure that you don't cook up some little scheme to bail out *your* blasted chucklewit fawn, and allow him to take up with this Pinebough..."
"Willow. Willow Fawnsworthy. You had better start getting the name right, Josslyn. That's going to be the name engraved on the invitations..."
The yell of psychic pain this produced was sweet and musical to my ears.