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16 August 2005
Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello
Part 1 of 3
by E. O. Costello
Illustrated by SusanDeer
Part 1 of 3
by E.O. Costello
"Lady Gwladys? Your tea is ready."
The pleasant, modulated voice of the stewardess broke into my gloomy thoughts, and I roused myself to give some attention to the little silver pot of tea, and the plate of ginger cookies. Looking at the latter closely, I found that they were Fenwick Ginger Gems. A quick and whispered conversation with the stewardess averted the potential row that would have resulted if she had tried to serve these cookies to my mate, who was seated across the aisle.
Sir Josslyn Buckhorn had purchased the seat next to him in the first-class cabin of the Pan-Nimitz Airways Clipper, though he probably need not have bothered. One look at a tubby, truculent whitetail buck would have put off even the most famished predator. In this case, a tubby, truculent whitetail buck that could afford first-class tickets, here or in any context, as a result of the family business, F.R. Buckhorn & Sons, purveyors of goodies and groceries to the vegetarian anthrops of the world.
At this moment, he had some business papers spread out in front of him, and was glaring at them accusingly through his monocle. This was something of a relief to me, as it likely kept his mind occupied on things other than the purpose of our seaplane flight, from San Francisco to the Spontoon Islands.
Sir Josslyn and I had produced only one fawn. Sir Josslyn had decided, after the fact, that this was quite sufficient, and he did not want to risk, as he put it, any more inflictions on the world. This was a rather harsh judgement on Reggie (said fawn), who was a pleasant, warm-hearted and gentlemanly buck. Perhaps it was the contrast that irritated Sir Josslyn. Or Reggie's taste for practical jokes. Whatever the reason, Reggie has been living in a state of semi-exile in the Pacific for a few years now, and the Spontoons for about the last six months.
Ordinarily, this would be a case of "out of sight, out of mind" for the sire, except for a telegram that reached me when we were in Gnu York some days ago. Reggie, to my delight (and his sire's horror), had apparently fallen in love with a whitetail doe that he had met in the Spontoons. My first reaction was to look up days for a nice wedding. Sir Josslyn's first reaction was to look up the telephone number for Minkerton's Detective Agency, to get a background check on this doe. You can tell, of course, the level of romanticism that is in my mate.
Things might have stayed on a simmer, except that when we were in San Francisco (where Sir Josslyn was surveying the local nut harvest, a clear case of ‘carrying coals to Newcastle’ if I ever saw one), a rather unlucky staffer told Sir Josslyn that Reggie had ordered up one ton of Buckhorn's Salted Acorns, and had charged it to his sire's personal account. This was the straw that broke the proverbial, and Sir Josslyn had arranged for a surprise visit to confront his son and heir.
For the last twenty-four hours, I had been kept under tight surveillance, as my mate thought it was likely that I would try to telegraph ahead and tip off Reggie as to our visit. He was quite right, of course; I thought it was mean of Sir Josslyn to come down like a wolf on the fold, his rep tie shimmering with purple and gold, without at least some announcement, but it was clear to me that he wanted to catch Reggie on the bend, and let him have it.
Which accounted for my gloominess. Some of this was for the doe, who had the perfectly charming name of Willow Fawnsworthy. It would be a terrible thing to spring Sir Josslyn Buckhorn on a young doe without any preparation. Come to think of it, it would be a terrible thing to spring Sir Josslyn Buckhorn on the Spontoons without any preparation. There was nothing I could do about it, for the moment, so I simply sipped my tea, and nibbled my cookies, while I tried to organize a plan of war.
"Keep young and beeeeeeeeutiful it's your duty to be beaaaaaautiful Keeeeeeeep young and beeeeeeeautiful If you want to be lovvved
Don't fail to do your stuff With a little powder and a pufffff Keeeeeeep young and beeeeeeeautiful If you want to be lovvved..."
There's something about the compositions of Harry Rabbitwarren and Al Dobbin that make them perfectly smashing to sing in a tenor voice in the bathtub, which is what I was occupied in doing when I was not scrubbing the stag-self clean with a loofah.
A knock on the bathroom door ensued, and the phiz of my valet, Lodge, peered around the corner, with a somewhat concerned expression. Not from the current state of undress of his employer. I have no secrets from Lodge, and he's seen me many a morning coming back from a cheerful seance at the bar minus a few elements of my wardrobe. The concern was more likely from the fact that I was disturbingly active, cheerful and sober at a relatively early hour of the morning.
It had been the habit of the last few years for me to reverse the advice of the proverb, and be late to bed and late to rise. I am vigorously healthy, even if my wealth is largely from the family sales of salted acorns and such to the cognoscenti, and the question of my wisdom is a fiercely debated topic. This social calendar was largely dictated by an existence barren of anything productive to, or someone to do something non-productive productively with.
"Miss Fawnsworthy has arrived a little early, sir. Shall I have her wait in the living room while you dress?"
"A sound and statesmanlike policy, Lodge. Seat her by all means. Put a bowl of
flowers within paw's reach. I think the tiger lilies are fresh this morning."
Miss Willow Fawnsworthy was the principal reason for the alteration of my habits, as of late. Tennis matches, walks on the beach of a day and strolls 'neath the twinkling stars had been taking up a good chunk of my social calendar, much to the consternation of the assorted curates of the bar in the area. The bartender at Shepherd's Hotel asked me rather sulkily if I was trying to start a recession. As for Willow's employer, one Leslie duCleds (of the Delahare family that makes its stash by selling stuff that makes loud noises and deep divots, when it works), he was taking all of this manfully. I don't know exactly how he was dealing with the loss of a confidential secretary. I wonder if he types?
In any event, all was sweetness and light as the self was dutifully toweled off, and the pair of silk boxer shorts selected and applied. This operation had just been completed when a cheerful, pleasant voice, which was decidedly un-beaver-like, piped up behind me.
"I like the colour, Reggie, even if I can't tell if it goes with your eyes. At least from this angle."
I turned around to find Willow peering at me with a greatly interested look. This was a little embarrassing, as the boxer shorts and a deep blush were all that I was wearing at the moment. I admit the red of the blush might have contrasted well with the blue of the silk boxers, but nevertheless I grabbed my trousers and put them on, rather to her disappointment.
If I hadn't done so, it could have proven dashed awkward, since Miss Fawnsworthy was dressed in her prim secretary mufti, with tweed suit, blouse, glasses and butterscotch hairfur done up in a ponytail. I had seen her dressed like that when I first had the dashed good fortune to set eyes on hers. I had guessed she was hiding soomething behind that disguise which was proven correct when I invited her to my suite for dinner a few days later, and she came sporting an extremely flattering dress and hairstyle that I'm sure caused whiplash in the hotel lobby. This was right before she slammed the tiki-head umbrella stand over my bean, an incident that was now happily buried in the past. In any event, a vision not to be forgotten when contemplating a meek and charming doe, so it was all for the better that the trousers were applied instanter.
Willow helped me on with my shirt (I thought she spent a rather long time smoothing it out on me, but I didn't complain) and fixed my tie and blazer, and then enquired as to the plan of operations for the day. A proposal that involved feeding her brunch, paying a great deal of attention to her during the afternoon, followed by a spot of dinner, met with a response consisting of an arm placed in mine, and a brisk stroll out the door, past a rather concerned-looking Lodge. Or was it envy? Who knows?
Nothing, I felt, could spoil the day.
While Miss Fawnsworthy was "helping" Mr. Buckhorn dress, a task that I felt was unnecessary but inadvisable to interrupt, the telephone had rung. I'm sure Mr. Buckhorn didn't hear it, being otherwise occupied, but this was probably all for the better.
We valets have an understanding among ourselves, that information is to be shared for our mutual benefit. This is of great help in selecting future employers. It is of even more help when current employers are heading for trouble with the assuredness of a silent-film comedian heading for an open manhole cover. Given Mr. Buckhorn's uncanny ability to attract the necessary ingredients for a small-scale riot, the valets employed by the guests here in the Spontoons regularly consult with me, to determine whether it is best to take cover until the all-clear is sounded.
The valet for M. de la Riveriere, over at the Marleybone, had heard from the lady's maid for Mrs. Otterburn, who had heard it from the boots, who hhad heard it from the doorman who had overheard the desk clerk and the hotel manager speaking in worried tones about a reservation that had been made by radio that very morning, from a seaplane yet, for a certain Sir Josslyn Buckhorn and Lady Gwladys Buckhorn. Earnest enquiries were being put out as to whether there were any blood ties between my employer and these guests. I felt it only fair to tell the complete truth in the matter, which was greatly appreciated.
I have not had the experience of working for Sir Josslyn, though I have known a few valets who have. One of them, who had been in the BEF, stated that for sheer volume of noise and terror, Sir Josslyn could best be compared with Vimy Ridge or Third Ypres, and that he would rather face the Germans again, than have to deal with Sir Josslyn right after the latter has had his bath. Mr. Buckhorn is by no means a bed of roses to work for, but at least historically he has been unconscious for long stretches of the day, which can relieve the tension.
I had thought of taking the matter up with Mr. Buckhorn, but he seemed to be otherwise engaged in walking arm-in-arm with Miss Fawnsworthy, and it seemed rather unsporting to tell him the news. It would have ruined his day. I am, after all, a valet, and not a maitre d'hotel. I felt rather more sorry for Miss Fawnsworthy, who may not have known what she was getting into...
Po'na ricksha with, stand Shepherd's Hotel outside, likewise Spontoonie Daily Eleleread. Po'na for man-creature with horns outlander wait, likewise for lady-creature friend.
Po'na man-creature with horns outlander employment by like. Po'na work Reggie-buck soley for. Reggie-named negative Euro behaviour normal. Reggie-buck to Po'na polite, to Po'na cowries pay well. Reggie-buck negative paw-handle Spontoonie female, likewise negative hurtful alternative crude remarks make. Po'na requirement events often carry Reggie-buck, selfsame drink- unconscious. Reggie-buck to Po'na grateful for Po'na service. Po'na Reggie-buck help often.
Po'na see Reggie-buck doe find. Po'na at heart glad this. Lady-creature friend affection Reggie-buck show. Reggie-buck negative firewater drink-unconscious, lady-creature friend with Reggie-buck be. Po'na good influence think lady-creature Reggie-buck is.
Creature with flat-tail outlander, likewise bodyservant Reggie-buck, relieved seem. Requirement clean Reggie-buck, likewise repair clothes Reggie-buck, tiring makes. Po'na crossword Daily Elele completing, subsequent creature with flat-tail outlander Po'na paw-wave beckon concerned- fashion. Po'na negative knowledge want creature with flat-tail outlander, Po'na request answer all same, as Reggie-buck and lady-creature friend morningmeal consume, likewise Po'na not need.
I had a wager running with my maid as to how fast my mate would lose his temper once we got to the Spontoons. I won, with a guess of 11 minutes.
I suppose it was predictable. We were at the customs and immigration area of the seaplane terminal, and the officials were going over our passports. The mephit who collected my passport and Sir Josslyn's did a violent double-take when he saw the name on the passports, and immediately convened a worried huddle with a number of his colleagues. The delay set my mate to tapping his hoof impatiently and letting out small snorts of irritation. A series of paw movements indicated that the customs officials were playing rock-scissors-paper to determine something or other, which turned out to be the person who would ask Sir Josslyn a question. It turned out to be a somewhat unlucky springbok.
"Errrrr...ulp. Um...g-g-good morning, Sir Josslyn."
"That's a bloody matter of opinion."
The springbok, not quite expecting this turn in the conversation, gulped a few more times, sending his Adam's apple bouncing like a tennis ball. It took about fifteen seconds for him to work up the courage to ask his next question, with a shaky smile.
"Ahhhhh...*cough*...by any chance, Sir Josslyn, do you have a son named Reggie?"
My mate turned a colour that gave him the appearance of an eggplant given sentience, if not a means to control a tempter.
"WHAT'S THAT SUPPOSED TO BLOODY WELL MEAN? I DON'T SUPPOSE SIRING A BLASTED IDIOT IS AGAINST THE LAW HERE. IF IT IS, SOMEONE SHOULD DAMNED WELL TELL YOUR MATE, AND EVERYONE ELSE'S MATE ON THESE GODFORSAKEN PUDDLES OF VOLCANIC ROCK!"
I, personally, thought it took some cheek for a buck of his temper to be disparaging volcanic products. In any event, the springbok managed to stamp two passports, return them, and pronk to a safe distance in record time. The answer, as opposed to the medium by which it was delivered, seemed to greatly concern his colleagues, one of whom was making a hurried telephone call. The rest were adopting the ancient and honourable principle of discretion being the better part of valour, and were hiding behind a convenient file cabinet, in a tangle of paws, tails and caps.
There are two types of redcaps. The quick and the unlucky. In this case, a literal redcap in the form of a woodpecker was frantically stashing our bags on a trolley, giving a peculiar, high-pitched and nervous laugh. I suppose it was mere bad luck that a heavy valise got dropped on Sir Josslyn's hoof, though I did notice a little later the peculiar circumstance of the springbok tipping the redcap. In any event, after Sir Josslyn hopped about on one hoof, administered a kick at the redcap with the other hoof, lost his balance, fell on his flag, and tipped over the trolley, depositing the piled baggage on himself, I would have to say that the springbok got his money's worth. Sir Josslyn's valet cleaned up the mess, and volunteered to "borrow" a water taxi to Casino Island, much to the intense relief of the taximan from whom we borrowed it.
Willow and I passed a simply marvelous brunch. She wore a very fetching tweed suit and silk blouse, and chose to wear her butterscotch hairfur in a ponytail, with her glasses. Oh, I see I have mentioned that already. Well, what of it? These are my memoirs, and if I want to describe Willow Fawnsworthy repeatedly, I can jolly well do so. So there. Now, where was I? Oh yes, I think we ate something, too, but that was a matter of relative unimportance.
One thing did puzzle me, while we were eating whatever it was we were eating. Andre, the maitre d'hotel, and thus the sworn enemy of all peaceful diners, took a telephone call. A few seconds' conversation seemed to greatly unnerve him, and it was a changed squirrel that hung up the phone with shaking paw, and began to look at me with a great deal of nervousness, biting his claw-nails.
I couldn't, for the life of me, recall if I had any pending schemes of practical jokes targeting Andre, so I merely wiggled my eyebrows at him, and rubbed my paws together, grinning fiendishly. At this, Andre stopped a passing waiter and confiscated a pair of double whiskies, much to the latter's dismay, and the dismay of the intended recipients, who were apparently a pair of kangaroos touring with a trans-Pacific rugby team. While this was a situation simply bursting with possibilities, or at least entertainment, I had far more pressing matters to attend to, which involved escorting Willow about and telling her how marvelous she looked. Willow seemed to take enjoy this particular thread of conversation, as evidenced by the firm grasp of paw upon paw in the quiet of the hotel garden.
I was warming to the subject of her nose there amongst the frangipani when I saw Lodge waving at me with his paw from the balcony of our suite. I waved back at him. He waved at me with more vigour. I stood up, and waved both arms at him, at which he waved both arms at me. This, I felt, was behaviour entirely lacking in the feudal spirit. I mean, did anyone ever interrupt Sir Lancelot in his wooing? Well, come to think of it, that might have been a good thing, for all concerned. Well, I'll think of another parallel when I get the chance. Suffice it to say that I gritted my teeth, daintily assisted Willow in rising from her wicker chair, and went to see what class of disturbance was rippling the normally placid waters of my valet. If he was choosing this moment to take up semaphore lessons, or Walter Crab's Daily Dozen, there would, unquestionably, be bitter words exchanged between us.
When I summoned Po'na, the ricksha driver, I lost no time in immediately apprising him of the facts regarding the impending arrival of Sir Josslyn and Lady Gwladys Buckhorn.
Po'na thought for a minute.
"Sir Josslyn...likewise sire-buck Reggie buck of?"
I nodded, grimly. The native fox's ears immediately flattened against his head, and he said something in the native language, which I took to mean that Mr. Buckhorn had put Po'na in the picture regarding the state of relations with his father. This confirmed my belief that it was imperative that I inform Mr. Buckhorn of the news at once.
I went to the balcony of our suite. Mr. Buckhorn was exchanging some pleasantries to Miss Fawnsworthy, oblivious to the fact that he had seated himself directly in the line of fire of one of the lawn sprinklers. It was thus for more than one reason that I endeavoured to obtain Mr. Buckhorn's attention. The first few attempts succeeded in merely irritating Mr.Buckhorn, who seemed to be on the verge of signaling me in a rather brusque manner not particularly fitting for a gentlebuck. Po'na offered me a large flower-pot. While this mode of communication had its attractions, I was unsure of my ability to accurately aim such a missile. Mr. Buckhorn forestalled any further suggestions in this vein when he collected Miss Fawnsworthy and headed up to our suite. He did not appear to be in the best of tempers.
"Before I start in on my critique of what appears to be your efforts to adopt the latest dance craze, Lodge, would you please tell me why you didn't lay out the proper articles of attire for me this morning? As you can see, there have been some very brief but rather fierce rain showers this morning."
"My apologies, sir. It would appear that the Mirror was in error in its weather forecasts. I shall endeavour to do better, sir."
This seemed to mollify Mr. Buckhorn somewhat, and in his usual manner, he waved a deprecating paw. "Well, that's water under the bridge. Which, if you want my opinion, is where it belonged in the first place, rather than on my suit. Moving to the next item on the agenda: what on earth *were* you doing, just now, on the balcony? And please don't tell me you're working on your Shakespeare. For one thing, if you're doing a balcony scene, you need a lady beaver. For another, she's supposed to be up here, and you, down there. Make a note of that. Furthermore, I am not a beaver. Make a note of that, too. They'll never hire you for the R.S.C. with that kind of stagecraft, Lodge."
"No, sir. I received a telephone call a few minutes ago, sir. I believe that you will be receiving unexpected visitors some time today..."
"Is that all? Pish-tush, Lodge. You have been working for me entirely too long. You're starting to develop a whitetail deer's hypersensitive sense of danger. You'll be flagging your tail, next. Mark you, with your tail, that will take some work. You would think, from the way you and Po'na...Po'na, don't flatten your ears like that, they'll freeze that way...where was I? Oh, yes, you would think that my sire was inflicting himself on an unsuspecting world a mere few hundred yards from us."
"That would be correct, sir."
The effect of this news on Mr. Buckhorn could best be described as electric, as the hair on his tail stood out on end, his eyes bulged out, his ears quivered, and he developed a rather frantic facial twitch.
Po'na hear often Reggie-buck sire-buck speak of. Reggie-buck speak of same, sour face often make. Sire-buck, states Reggie-buck, stature small, likewise voice additionally temper large.
Flat-tail outlander, Reggie-buck servant of, additionally sire-buck speak of. Flat-tail outlander statement make, employment refusal of, negative payment acceptance tea-harvest Chinese. Flat-tail outlander heart-stout, requirement Reggie-buck serve, emphasis occasion Reggie-buck drink-silly. Concern to Po'na accordingly news sire-buck Spontoons arrive.
Comparison Po'na reaction small Reggie-buck large news sire-buck. Reggie-buck trance enter like unto some Wise Ones meditation. Reggie-buck negative peace location is, negative like unto Wise One.
Lady-creature friend Reggie-buck concerned looking. Lady-creature friend paw-wave Reggie-buck face proximity. Lady-creature friend additionally finger snap. Reggie-buck negative respond. Flat-tail outlander find furniture tiki-head, same remove proximity lady-creature friend. Po'na wise-think this.
Po'na lady-creature friend assist Reggie-buck to sofa. Reggie-buck self-revive, self-control gain passage minutes few, additionally thinks-starts.
We managed to arrive at the Marleybone without any further casualties, either inflicted on Sir Josslyn or by Sir Josslyn. Though certainly, with Sir Josslyn's backseat-driving, he was sorely tempting fate at the paws of our valet, who had volunteered to drive the water-taxi taking us to the hotel. Vulpe is a white-knuckle driver, but for reasons that have very little to do with his own skills.
Management at the Marleybone had been suitably warned, and the lobby fairly boiled with assorted uniformed staffers that whisked our belongings onto brass carts and hurried them up to our suite. Busby Barkley would have seethed with envy at the precision display. Sir Josslyn simply seethed at the cost in tips.
The desk-clerk seemed to have been a veteran of a Guards regiment. This became clear, not only from his ramrod straight posture, waxed mustache and spotless morning suit, but also from the way he conducted the check-in with my mate.
"Well, is the suite ready?"
"SAH! YES, SAH!"
For once, Sir Josslyn was stunned into silence, allowing the desk-clerk to present the register with a flourish. And, perhaps, a reflex action.
"H'AT THE COMMAND 'REGISTAH,' YOU WILL PROCEED TO INSCRIBE YOUR NAME H'IN THE BOOK. WAIT FOR H'IT! REGISTAH!"
My mate signed the register, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the desk clerk, who was standing "eyes front," at attention. When the signature had been duly affixed, the desk-clerk did a smart left-turn, and addressed a nearby bellboy.
"BELLBOY FRONT AND CENTRE, DOUBLE-TIME!" This was duly obeyed, as was the roared command to "h'escort Sah Josslyn h'an his mate to their h'accomodations." In a way, I was pleased at this performance, since it managed to keep Sir Josslyn quiet, at least until we got up to the suite. It's not often you see Sir Josslyn Buckhorn out-shouted. The serenity was not to last, however.
Nearly the first thing Sir Josslyn did (after flinging a pawful of silver coins at the heads of the bellboys), was to pick up the telephone. Looking at me, directly and with a nasty look of glee, he asked the switchboard to connect him with Shepherd's Hotel.
I think the last time I had had a shock like this was when I saw one of my paternal aunts standing in front of one of those "What the Butler Saw" machines, and enjoying the performance with a great deal of glee. Of course, that was an out-of-character performance. I had every reason to expect that my sire was going to be both in character and in voice.
The dread presence of said sire could be traceable. Not any practical joke or high-spiritedness on my part, since these had been largely suffered in sullen, gritted-teeth silence, since at least the time of the incident with the toy ballista. Nor was it likely that this had anything to do with the family firm, as I had it on reliable authority that given an choice between my presence in the boardroom at F.R. Buckhorn & Sons, and the presence of a dragon with a nasty case of gout, the latter would be distinctly preferable. It was clear to me that there was only one reason there was going to be a family reunion, and it was sitting next to me, holding my paw tightly. Thankfully, this was not Lodge or Po'na. Nice chaps though they are, holding their paws is not something high on life's list of priorities. I had every reason to believe that reports of the fact that I had gained one inamorata had stirred the sire to vigorous action, probably to throw a spanner in the works.
"Well, at least there's one thing to be said...I'm sure Father is quite tired from his trip, and right now, he's no doubt enjoying a well-earned..."
The telephone chose this interval to shriek its presence, freezing Lodge, Po'na and the self like artist's models. La Fawnsworthy sensed that if the rules of civilization were to be observed, the task would fall on her soft shoulders, and so it was she who answered the 'phone, in a respectful, business-like voice.
"Mister Buckhorn's suite. May I announce your name?"
"I beg your pardon, but I am not Mister Buckhorn's secretary. If you do not identify yourself, I will have to assume you are some type of crank caller..."
I could hear the crackle of abuse from feet away, and as it was clear that La Fawnsworthy was ready, willing and able to return fire with compound interest, I hurried to her assistance, taking the instrument.
"Er, ah, what ho, Reggie here..."
Judging from the almost immediate action of holding the telephone receiver about a yard from his ear, I gathered that Sir Josslyn was not enamored of the informality of Mr. Buckhorn's greeting. The greeting Mr. Buckhorn essayed was just about the last semi-complete sentence he was able to utter. The burden of his half of the conversation was largely limited to monosyllabic agreement, and I believe it was with no small sense of relief that he hung up the telephone. Although to be perfectly accurate, it was Miss Fawnsworthy who took the receiver from his paw and performed the action for him.
Mr. Buckhorn bore a vacant expression. I should elaborate that this was somewhat different from the one often seen on his face, which is usually of a cheerful nature. This vacant expression could best be described as one that might be produced by a symphony orchestra sneaking up on Mr. Buckhorn and surprising him with the final movement of the "1812 Overture" at an early hour of the morning.
Miss Fawnsworthy had the presence of mind to make Mr. Buckhorn a cup of tea, which allowed him to gather his thoughts.
"Lodge, a condemned buck is usually allowed a last meal before he walks the Final Mile. I doubt that even Iosif Starling himself, however, has come up with a time-motion study that suggests the method of execution be combined with the Nosh From Which There is No Return. My presence is requested, if you can call something bellowed at foghorn decibels a 'request,' for dinner this evening, at 8 o'clock, here in the hotel. Miss Fawnsworthy's presence is likewise commanded upon pain of, no doubt, being forced to have after-dinner drinks with the sire."
Po'na-self puzzled is by Euro-speak. Euro-speak odd phrases is having. Reggie-buck reference make to "lulu," reference moon-meal upcoming Po'na negative know "lu-lu" is, likewise negative know Shepherd's building have fire cook-pit, query Reggie-buck intend-say. Food-makers Shepherd's have funny hats wear, likewise food-guides dark clothes wear, make hurtful comments. Po'na puzzled is Euros method-eating. Query explanation is Euro ailing-tummy common is.
Po'na-self hungry was, likewise Po'na-self Reggie-buck permission ask Po'na-self have moon-meal. Po'na-self request make twice. Reggie-buck gloomy was, negative hearing Po'na. Po'na-self permission get, likewise self instructed lady-creature friend convey to Shepherd's building, hour being hours seven likewise three-quarters beyond half-day.
Po'na-self situation normal negative worry is situation Reggie-buck. Reggie-buck person often Po'na-self rescue. Normal is. Po'na self believe is duty, Reggie-buck carry, likewise Reggie-buck locate, likewise Reggie-buck retrieve swimming pool, likewise Reggie-buck retrieve tree-telephone. (Po'na-self negative knowledge creature with horns outlander ability tree-telephone climb.) Moon-specific, Po'na-self worry is.
Po'na-self lady-creature friend retrieve, hours seven likewise three-quarters. Po'na-self impressed was. Lady-creature friend elegant was. Lady-creature friend dress modest, yet lady-creature friend additionally emphasis species female. Po'na-self thinking is negative sire-buck, Reggie-buck repeated tail-flick. Po'na repeated see Reggie-buck tail-flick lady-creature friend see.
Po'na lady-creature friend compliment dress, receive smile warm. Po'na heart-glad, likewise ricksha drive emphasis care, lady-creature friend hairfur negative disturb. Po'na lady-creature friend deliver Shepherd's building, Reggie-buck wait same, lady-creature friend kiss modest. Lady-creature friend Shepherd's building enter.
Reggie-buck give Po'na envelopes two, likewise large. Po'na-self Reggie-buck speak, request same envelopes open, negative Reggie-buck appear conclusion moon-meal. Po'na knowledge negative reason. Reggie-buck negative speak reason, enter Shepherd's building. Po'na envelopes look, writing for creature with flat-tail, Po'na self present there.
I confess I was a little nervous waiting for Reggie and his lady friend to arrive. Part of this was due to the fact that Sir Josslyn was pacing about the suite like a caged tiger, looking at the clock every few minutes, eager to get the confrontation started. Part of it was also the fact that I had not seen a photo of Miss Fawnsworthy, so I did not quite know what to expect. I hoped for the best, but feared the worst.
Happily, my fears proved to be quite groundless. Miss Fawnsworthy revealed herself to be a believer in the principle that simplicity was best, and she wore a very attractive pale-cream dress, It was cut very modestly, with a high neckline, and while the dress did accentuate her legs, no fault could be found in its length. She wore her glasses, and her hairfur was done up in a very fetching braid. Her matching evening purse was simple, and obviously contained only the necessaries. She was wearing no jewelry except for a small gold locket around her neck. It left me with an altogether pleasant impression of someone with taste and restraint.
Which, of course, meant that all of this flew about six feet over my mate's antlers. The limit of his greeting was a whistling snort, and an about-face in the direction of the dining room. Reggie himself was not his usual champagne-merriment self, but wore a gloomy, pre-occupied expression. He gave his loving mummy only a distracted kiss, and trudged after his sire with a distinct scaffold air.
I looked at Miss Fawnsworthy, who had a grim expression on her face. She turned to me.
"Stone cold sober. I take it Sir Josslyn has cleared the decks for action in the same way?"
"First time in twenty-three years I've seen him refuse his five o'clock martinis."
A slight snort. "You can put whitetail bucks in white tie and tails, and you can seat them in the only four-star restaurant in all of Casino Island... but if the subject's a doe, they might as well be walking on all fours, grunting incoherently, just like their primitive ancestors."
"If you think it takes talk of a doe to make Sir Josslyn act like that, you don't know him, my dear."
"Anyone inform them of the rules? Where the neutral corners are, no antlers below the belt, standing eight count, et cetera?"
"I think management was prepared for the main event. I notice the waiters seem to be a little huskier than one normally sees in this kind of establishment. That's the first time I've ever seen a wine-captain with a cauliflower ear, for example."
Reggie's lady friend sighed, and pushed her glasses up. "Then I believe we're ready for Round One, Lady Gwladys..."
I took her arm in mine, and we caught up to the boys (and they *were* boys) as they were standing, glaring at each other, at the maitre d'hotel's station...
"Entering L'Etoile d'Argent" art by SusanDeer
In all the years Reginald Buckhorn has trotted his hooves across this mortal coil, there have been many awkward interviews. There was, for example, the recent case in my previous abode, where I presented a simply charming native lass with one of those trick cans, disguised as a tin of Buckhorn's Mandarin Sunshine, that contained a fake springy-snake. Facing a baker's dozen of native chaps with sharp spears ordinarily used for shark hunting, but readily adaptable for whitetail buck-hide, is not something I recommend for the nerves. The islands may have been Samoa, but it was clear that with regard to myself, the word was Lessa.
Still, on reflection, I rather think those spears had something to recommend them, at least as compared to the prospect of dinner with the Sire. The chances of making a good impression with him were roughly akin to my chances of securing the job of God-Emperor of Cipangu. I mean, one can apply, but the reaction is likely to be hot and vinegary.
The Sire himself was standing at the entrance of L'Etoile D'Argent, and was accepting as his due the fawning obsequiness of the maitre d'hotel, André. André, for some reason, most likely related to the prospect of substantial gratuities, was complimenting Sir Josslyn on the quality of offerings of the family firm. The old buck's mood changed when the offering of the family, viz., yours truly, padded along side. A quiet, drawn out, whistling snort greeted his offspring. I decided, for the nonce, that a dignified silence was the sound and statesmanlike policy.
At least there was one cheering prospect: Mummy hove into view arm in arm with LaFawnsworthy, chatting with her in a low, soothing voice. La Fawnsworthy, for her part, was returning comments in kind. A meeting of the minds had evidently occurred, and I had high hopes that at least Mummy would manage to help keep the fun clean.
André, as is his want, was not going to allow for any air of good feelings about my person.
"Ah, Mr. Buckhorn, good evening. You are expected. A table for three and a high chair for yourself."
This greatly pleased the Sire, who rewarded André with a beaming smile. (And not, I imagine, the golden sov that he was expecting.) Mummy took a somewhat less positive outlook on the comment. She disengaged from La Fawnsworthy, and held out a paw.
"I beg your pardon, but may I please see the wine list for a moment?"
André handed over the wine list, a somewhat heavy leather-bound binder, with an air of puzzlement. This was cleared up rapidly when Mummy took the wine list in both paws, lifted it into the air, and brought it down with a resounding smack on André's muzzle. She then handed the wine list back.
"I believe you have a table with *four* chairs, do you not?"
André, holding his bruised muzzle, made haste to escort us to our table. The two does once again went arm in arm.
"That, my dear, is how you handle a bad dog. Or a squirrel. Or a whitetail buck."
The Sire seated himself. I held out the chair for La Fawnsworthy and seated her, and then went over to help Mummy with her seat. Mummy passed over the incident without comment, though I noticed La Fawnsworthy looking somewhat less than pleased, down her glasses, at the offender, who promptly ignored her.
The sommelier was not the usual one; this one was a very large, broad shouldered fox with a slightly crooked nose and a cauliflower ear. He gave the impression that if you did not accept his recommendations from the wine list, his feelings would not be hurt, though he could make no such guarantees about your person. He proffered the wine list to the Sire (who took it with great haste, lest Mummy decide she wanted make use of it again), and noted some of the star attractions, in a low, grumbly voice.
"A bottle of dry white chardonnay for myself and the lady. The fawns are going to have mineral water."
A quick, gentle application of the hoof under the table forestalled any quick retort from my inamorata, who merely gave a tight little smile.
Sir Josslyn was behaving as he normally does, which is to say abominably. I thought of Miss Fawnsworthy's earlier comment about whitetail bucks on all fours, and decided she was probably closer than she ever realized. I thought the pointed reference to Reggie and his lady friend as "fawns" was designed, along with the choice of beverage, to goad Reggie into saying something intemperate to his father. He merely continued glaring at his father.
"For God's sake, boy, stop gawping at me like a moon-struck fawn. What the devil are you looking at?"
"Greater minds than my own have been baffled by that question."
Sir Josslyn coloured at that. First blood to Reggie. My mate recovered his form, though.
"How hard could it be to find a damned idiot with a mind greater than your own?"
Reggie was unruffled, and merely shifted his salad fork slightly. "I suppose that would depend, Father, on whether they visited your office first."
As I could see the Sire's colour starting to turn darker, I quickly changed the subject and began to chat with Willow about the restaurant's offerings. This allowed the boys the luxury of remaining silent, while glaring at each other. Sir Josslyn selected a bread stick, and slowly began crumbling it in his fist, shedding crumbs everywhere.
I did notice some of the diners at the neighbouring tables look over at us with a great sense of unease, and chairs were shifted slightly. Whether this was to afford a better view of the proceedings, or give adequate notice of flying china and bucks, I couldn't say. Certainly the staff seemed to be on tenterhooks, and it was with great difficulty that we got a waiter's attention to take our order.
Sir Josslyn selected a second bread stick, and began grinding it into dust.
"Damnit boy, out with it. I can tell you're thinking. Your lips are moving, your head is giving off grinding noises, and smoke will be wafting from your ears, next."
Reggie's eyes shifted over to Willow, who gave a small shake of her head. Reggie nodded, and turned to me. "I'm thinking that it's a great pleasure to see you again, Mother. How was the trip here?"
This forestalled a nasty remark from Sir Josslyn, who had his muzzle open for a crushing remark. He sat sulkily while I talked about San Francisco and the flight. Willow, it developed, had been to the wine country there. She asked Reggie if he had ever visited the vineyards.
My mate saw the opening. "If he had, they'd be bloody bone dry by now. I keep getting impertinent letters of thanks from distilleries regarding you, boy."
It was now Reggie's turn to select a bread stick, and crumble it, snapping off little bits at a time. Willow, thankfully, seemed to be up to the task and kept up a conversation regarding the local tourist industry. She was describing tiki-heads to me, which seemed to irritate Sir Josslyn.
"Who'd want to see an ugly, swollen, grimacing head gawping back at them all the time...don't you DARE say a word, you blasted blot, I can tell what you're thinking!"
Reggie took the shaking finger pointed at him in stride, and yawned. "Well, comparisons *are* odious, though I can think of certain things that compete in that category."
A party of two at a nearby table, hearing this, quickly adjourned to have their coffee out on the patio, and one of the waiters moved the wine bucket just out of Sir Josslyn's reach. Only the timely arrival of the soup prevented an imminent outbreak of high-decibel rhetoric.
The soup course came off in silence, unless you count the slurping noises that my mate was giving off in consuming his portion. I am rather used to this, so I simply ignored it, and Reggie kept a grim silence. Miss Fawnsworthy, however, began smiling at Sir Josslyn in a rather pointed fashion, her paws folded in her lap. Sir Josslyn looked up at her, as the soup plates were being cleared, and met her smile with a frosty glare, tapping his fingers on the table. Another nearby party fled for the safety of the patio, and the wine bucket was moved again. I could hear the waiter frantically requesting our entrees from the chef, in the hopes that mouths consuming artichoix a l'Indochine would be too busy for other actions. Such as biting, for example.
The Sire was examining Miss Fawnsworthy with an air seemingly involved with deciding where her assorted cuts and sides were. Outwardly, Miss Fawnsworthy was all beatific smile, though her eyes were flashing like railroad crossing signals.
A decision was made to dispense with superfluous verbiage.
"What could you possibly see in this ghastly twit?"
Willow blinked slowly, composing her thoughts carefully, which pleased me.
"Well, Sir Josslyn, I rather enjoy his company..."
This produced a loud snort. "Bah. Especially when he's paying for it, out of his overgenerous allowance."
Willow's eyes narrowed at this. "I'm afraid I don't follow you, Sir Josslyn."
"Thank God for that. I wouldn't want some gold-digging little chippy traipsing after me, taking down every word I say. God knows, you'd have your work cut out for you making sense out of anything that blockhead says...."
The waiter, overhearing all of this, dashed into the kitchen, and I could hear him pleading with the chef for our orders. Willow, for her part, managed to keep a grip on herself, and managed to reply in a civil tone, slowly parceling out her words. Though she started crumbling a bread stick as well.
"I'm afraid you are quite mistaken, Sir Josslyn, if you think money is involved."
A squadron of waiters hurried out with our main courses, and set them before us, hoping this would deflect matters. They hoped in vain, as Sir Josslyn sneered at Willow.
"Misapprehension, fiddlesticks. Reading that report that sneak Minkerton gave me on you was illuminating. I don't know what those damned fools the duCleds are thinking, but I can see you're waiting for your main chance. Especially if it's with some chucklewit with as much sense as a wedge of Stilton."
Willow gritted her teeth, and spoke, even more slowly. "So...you think I'm just in it for the money, SIR Josslyn?" There was an unmistakable soupcon of social commentary in the pointed reference to the honorific, and the honorificee. One sees her point.
"Not unless you're some blasted New Haven revolutionary. God only knows with those ridiculous glasses, and that tied-up hair, you look like one. I'm only surprised you haven't got a bomb stashed in your purse."
Willow turned deathly pale at that comment. Reggie looked very displeased, and merely snapped out a word.
Sir Josslyn whirled on his fawn. "What did you say, boy?"
"I said, 'enough.' Why don't you pick on someone your own size, if not your own shape. Which reminds me, you need to see your tailor to have your waistcoat attended to. Bursting buttons are a hazard, you know."
"Hold your tongue, damn you."
"I'm not going to allow you to treat Miss Fawnsworthy here like one of your office boys. If you're going to say something nasty, and heaven knows you have an inexhaustible supply, why don't you direct your comments at me? Insulting my intelligence is like shooting fish in a barrel, of course, but one has to remember the acorn doesn't fall from the oak..."
"I'm warning you, boy..."
"You didn't happen to ask what *I* see in Miss Fawnsworthy. Allow me to elaborate. Miss Fawnsworthy is charming, gracious, intelligent, and pleasant to look at. When I look at her, I feel that He on High has been very generous. Where as when I look at you, I think that if we're made in our Creator's image, the notion that He is like you is enough to set theology back 4,000 years. Hell would be like unto Palm Beach if you were running the show Upstairs."
Sir Josslyn stood up, and leaned on the table, snarling at his offspring. "One more word, just one more word, out of you, and..."
Reggie looked up evenly. "Or what? You'll never speak to me again? I'm confused. Is there a promise or a threat in that prospect?"
My mate thumped the table hard enough to make the glasses jump. Rearing back his head, he roared out:
"DAMN YOUR INSOLENCE, BOY. THE ONLY REASON I'M NOT CUTTING YOU
OFF WITH A SHILLING, IS THAT I HAVEN'T GOT ONE ON ME, RIGHT NOW!!!"
It was pretty quiet in the dining room after that conversational gambit. I mean, threatening to disinherit a chap tends to grab the attention of any nearby listener, and frankly I don't see how anyone in Honolulu couldn't have heard that threat. There was little I could do, but stand up and fish about in my trouser pocket...
Reggie pulled out a small silver coin, and casually flipped it into the air, where it landed with a plop in Sir Josslyn's drinking glass.
"There's two-and-six. Keep the change."
And with that, Reggie turned around to leave.
I think my departure would have been a lot better if the blasted waiters hadn't placed the wine bucket square in my path. It takes a bit from a dignified exit when you have to pick ice cubes out of your jacket. But, in any event, the cuffs were shot, the tie straightened, and the Buckhorn form ventured out of L'Etoile D'Argent and out into the October air.
I was horrified. Willow was thunderstruck. The wait-staff was frightened.
Sir Josslyn was hungry. He sat down and began to eat his main course with complete serenity. Willow watched this performance with cold deliberation.
My mate paused, a forkful of artichoke in mid-air, glaring at Willow. "Well, what have you got to say?"
Willow thought for a second, leaned a bit closer to her opponent, and spoke in a very ladylike tone of ominous doom. "I have just two things to say to you, SIR Josslyn Buckhorn. First, I think you know, of course, that this means war."
Sir Josslyn casually ate his forkful, and with a mouth of artichoke, sneered. "Duly noted, as if I cared. What's the other thing?"
"The other thing, is that you have dribbled food on yourself."
My mate looked down at his shirtfront, confused. "No, I haven't."
Willow stood up. "My mistake. Allow me..."
Reggie's lady friend picked up her plate of artichoix a l'Indochine, and immediately emptied the contents over Sir Josslyn's head, making sure to bang the plate over his antlers. With that, she turned on her hoof, and marched out of the restaurant.
The waiter came over to me, timidly.
"And is everything to madame's satisfaction?"
After making my less-than-spectacular exit from the restaurant, I headed first to the lobby, where the gift shop yielded a Gladstone bag and a native lava-lava with some sort of mottoes printed on it in Spontoonie. I took this to the W.C., where I changed out of my evening clothes, and deposited my watch, wallet, keys and the like, along with the evening clothes, in the bag. The lava-lava was donned in the place of the soup-and-fish. Slipping out the tradesman's entrance, I hailed a passing ricksha driver, and gave him a pound to deliver the bag to Willow at her hotel suite.
For myself, I strolled over to the west side of Casino Island, and prepared for a longish swim over to the Main Island. It's a good thing whitetail deer are strong swimmers. And that we have handy antlers to act as lava-lava laundry racks.
Po'na-self worried was. Moon-meal concluded was, negative Reggie-buck. Additionally, no lady-creature friend. Po'na-self talking-instrument use, flat-tail outlander speak with. Flat-tail worried was negative Reggie-buck appearance. Flat-tail outlander
Po'na tell moon-meal unpleasant was, sire-buck emphasis unpleasant, Reggie-buck table leave, negative moon-meal finish. Po'na-self flat-tail outlander tell envelopes of. Flat-tail emphasis worried become, hear Po'na-self news state.
Po'na-self talking-instrument finish, likewise see lady-creature friend to Po'na-self walking. Lady-creature friend Po'na ask, Reggie-buck sighting. Po'na-self to lady-creature friend relate knowledge of Po'na. Po'na-self show envelope, likewise explain. Lady-creature friend tell Po'na envelope open. Po'na-self do, likewise read:
Look, I'm awfully sorry, but if you're reading this, it means I've made a mess of things, as usual, and knowing the Sire, it's bound to have extreme consequences. I'm afraid I've got to sack you and Lodge. There's a letter of recommendation for each of you on my desk. I will have gone off to do some thinking, though what with I'm not sure.
P.S. What on Earth I'm going to say to Willow, if she ever speaks to me again, I don't know."
Lady-creature friend message read. Po'na-self lady-creature friend eyes look, see fire-look. Po'na-self negative desire existence sire-buck. Po'na self negative sire-buck pity, additionally...