Spontoon Island
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21 August 2005

Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello

"Sire Relief"
Part 3 of 3
by E. O. Costello
Illustrated by SusanDeer

"Apres Battle" Reggie from 'Sire Relief' by EOCostello. Art by SusanDeer
"Holding the Fort" art by SusanDeer

"Sire Relief"
Part 3 of 3
by E.O. Costello


  My mate was not in evidence when he got back from his chat with the Magistrate, which indicated that he was either planning his escape, or planning on exacting some sort of revenge. Willow, for her part, was confident that Sir Josslyn could easily be located by the reverberating sound of his temper exploding, but I wasn't entirely certain that was the case. Reggie's ability to plan pranks silently did not necessarily come from my side of the family alone.

 Fortunately, the need to send out scouting parties was rendered moot by the appearance of Lodge. He dropped nickel on Sir Josslyn in a deferential tone, noting that the head gardener here at the Marleybone had observed Sir Josslyn fiddling with a very large and powerful garden-hose. The gardener had overheard my mate making some unkind remarks regarding Reggie's native driver, which led one and all to suspect that an ambush was in the offing, in retaliation for the little incident with the ricksha. Bucks can be so unreasonable at times.

 The driver showed us a Spontoonie war-club. I must admit I was skeptical, since I did not think that under ordinary circumstances, a war-club produced by native paws would bear the trademark of Hillerich & Bradsby and the engraved signature of Rogers Hornsby, additional native decorations or no. He seemed rather put out that we were not in favour of his plan, and was not altogether convinced by Willow's argument that striking Sir Josslyn over the head with a Spontoonie war-club would only produce a dull, resonant tone of Bflat.

 Willow, in consultation with me, hatched a plan that would require some small sacrifice on our part relating to our pride, but which would in her view yield substantial dividends. Lodge was dispatched to keep an eye on Sir Josslyn, while both Willow and I brushed our hairfur and made ourselves presentable.

*****

 The assignment given to me by Lady Gwladys was not altogether welcome, as I did not trust Sir Josslyn's temper. The gardener had informed me that Sir Josslyn was muttering to himself and flagging rather erratically, which indicated a brittle frame of mind. I took the precaution of observing matters from behind a hedge, with the assistance of some field glasses.

 My vantage point allowed me to see Mr. Po'na casually walking up the path, where he would be in Sir Josslyn's direct line of fire. Seeing this, Sir Josslyn frantically turned the handle of the faucet connected to the garden hose, and waited. The act of turning the faucet-handle distracted him from the fact that Mr. Po'na quickly stepped to the side, allowing Lady Gwladys Buckhorn and Miss Willow Fawnsworthy to approach. It was with some trepidation that I noticed that both does were wearing very attractive linen suits and silk shirts.

 No doubt Sir Josslyn was operating under the belief that Mr. Po'na's attire could withstand the vigorous application of water he intended to give it, and it was with a whistling snort of satisfaction that he leaped out from his hiding place and turned the full and substantial force of the professional-grade garden hose on his target.

 It was a full twenty seconds before Sir Josslyn looked down at the ground and realized that instead of seeing a pair of native vulpine foot-pads, which was certainly what he was expecting, he saw a pair of nicely shined hooves. His face changed expression at least five times in the space of ten seconds, running the gamut from smug self-satisfaction, to puzzlement, to aghast concern, trepidation and then, upon turning off the water at the nozzle, frightened surprise.

 Sir Josslyn's monocle popped out of his eye when he realized that standing in front of him were two whitetail does of awful familiarity, whose linen skirts now clung unflatteringly, and whose silk shirts clung to them in a somewhat disconcerting manner. I was thankful Lady Gwladys' maid had evidently laid out a tasteful selection of undergarments that morning. Miss Fawnsworthy's were less elaborate and expensive, but thankfully equally discreet.

Miss Fawnsworthy blinked through her glasses, which had been knocked askew, and a shock of hairfur that had been shaken free from its bun and was currently shading a portion of her eyes. After a few saddened blinks, she produced a loud sniff that I could hear even at a distance, and began to cry, leaning her head against Lady Gwladys' shoulder. Lady Gwladys, for her part, glared through a mass of hairfur that was matted over her eyes, and began to pat Miss Fawnsworthy's heaving back in a comforting manner.

 In my years of service to Mr. Buckhorn, he has always made it clear (sometimes alarmingly so) that the best and highest practical jokes are those that have no witnesses to the perpetration, and allow the perpetrator to make an easy escape. Sir Josslyn did not appear to have his fawn's expertise in this area of frivolity. He soon became aware of the fact that many other guests of the Casino Island hotels had witnessed Sir Josslyn's efforts to recreate certain portions of the Old Testament without the benefit of gopher wood.

 In particular, Baron von Kojote, who was taking the morning air with the Baronin, was an appalled spectator. The sound of females in distress attracted him in the same way I have seen the sound of cocktail shakers attract Mr. Buckhorn. By which I mean, a rapid advancement to the point of origin of the sound.

 The Baron looked from the two thoroughly drenched and embarrassed does, toward Sir Josslyn, who was still holding the dripping hose, and back again a few times, with rising temper. Sir Josslyn, for his part, was the possessor of an expression that suggested what Othello might have looked like had a husky constable stopped him in the act of toting around a rather large pillow.

 Baron von Kojote, pointing a shaking paw at Lady Gwladys and Miss Fawnsworthy,
managed to splutter out an indignant question at Sir Josslyn.

 "Was is los?" No police constable could have said it better, or with more ominous meaning.

 Sir Josslyn looked evenly at the wolf, who towered over him. A decision was made that the time for words had passed, and the time for action had arrived. Sir Josslyn pointed the nozzle of the hose about a foot from Baron von Kojote's nose, and let him have the full benefit of the hydraulic engineering of the Casino Island water system.

 The twenty or so seconds that this occupied afforded Sir Josslyn the opportunity (while the Baron was otherwise busy in getting up off the ground and finding his monocle) to take to his hooves. I would not have surmised that a buck of his age, girth and sedentary occupation could possibly move as fast as he was going, but the rapidly diminishing sight of his flagging tail indicated that he was indeed running for his life.

 This may not have been a mere figure of speech, given the fact that the Baron began to breathe what sounded like a thirteen-word compound threat in German, resonant with a bounty of heated consonants. Mr. Po'na, who had been watching all of the events with a totally impassive face, stepped toward the Baron and offered him the Spontoonie warclub. Unlike Lady Gwladys and Miss Fawnsworthy, the Baron viewed Mr. Po'na's suggestion as a sound and sensible policy, and grabbed the proffered weapon, and began to effect a chase of Sir Josslyn.

 The Baronin, in the meantime, had advanced upon the does, and with soothing, comforting tones suggesting a warm mineral bath at Karlsbad, took Miss Fawnsworthy by the paw and started to lead her back to Lady Gwladys' suite, with Lady Gwladys following close behind. I felt it best at this point to make an appearance, and take the necessary orders for the retrieval of fresh garments.

*****

 It was getting on toward late afternoon when I came to the conclusion that there was going to be no renewal of hostilities, at least from the assortment of little rascals that populated this corner of the Main Island. The seagull was still eyeing me, and screeching sotto voiced threats, but he held no fears for me at the moment.

 The combination of the somewhat limited diet I had been "enjoying" over the last few days, the force of the sun bearing down on the Buckhorn bean, and what I suspected was the rapid fermentation of the fruit infesting my trench, produced in the self a rather dizzy feeling. I staggered over to another log, escaping the fumes, and rested with my head against it, in a somewhat futile effort to try to clear it.

 The futility of this effort was made manifest to me by the sensation of a very gentle tapping of my shoulder by a very tiny paw. The eye was cracked open, ready to confront yet another wave of native unrest. I was not quite prepared for the appearance of a small, nattily dressed deer on the log about a foot from me. He appeared to be an adult buck, given his horns, but his ten-inch or so size suggested that somewhere along the line he had not been eating his Buckhorn's Silver Medal Corn Bread ("Builds Healthy Fawns Five Different Ways").

 I closed the eyes, hoping the apparition would go away and leave me in peace. Instead, there was another gentle tapping on my shoulder. If this was an apparition, it was avery persistent and polite one. I sat up woozily and looked at it, as it put one paw in front, and one in back, and bowed to me.

 "Cead mile failte, worthy sir. And to whom, might I ask, may I have the pleasure of a bit of chat to pass this fine afternoon?"

 I don't recall anything in the books I've read about how one conducts oneself in a conversation with an apparition. Usually, the pink elephants I see quietly go about their business, and don't essay a discussion of current events. Still, it would have been rude not to answer, so I introduced myself.

 "The pleasure is mine. I am being your humble servant, Bonapairt Michealangalo Phedair Eoghain Shorcha Thomais Mhaire Sheain Sheamis Dhairmada O'Hooney. As that is a frightful jawful altogether, I extend to you the courtesy of referring to me by my unadorned surname."

 I pinched the brow between a pair of shaking fingers. "Would I be rude in asking you what exactly you are doing here, at this moment?"

 The micro-deer beamed with pleasure. "That is a question of great intelligence.
Pleasurable it is in the answering. I have the satisfaction of being your conscience. Which, I might add, is after being very thirsty work. It is traditional to not to stint one's efforts in slaking the thirst of one's conscience. I prefer single malt, though blended is quite acceptable."

 I gave my tiny chum the eye. "That's not bloody likely, for a number of reasons."

 "Indeed? Relate for me these reasons."

 "In the first place, you're the wrong species of deer, being a roe deer and not a whitetail. In the second place, any conscience of mine would stick to gin and tonics. In the third place, why would my conscience speak with an Irish accent...?"

 "Because you are a poet at heart. Sweet and melodious is the rendering of poetry in Irish. It represents the best of yourself. All the more reason to be generous in offering one's conscience refreshment."

 I wasn't buying this for a minute. "Well, that's all well and good, but it's a moot point, anyway. You're fired."

 My interlocutor gave a start of surprise, and then looked sad. "That is altogether unsatisfactory, and additionally very hard on us, as the sun is producing a significant thirst in ourselves. Talk the like of that is gloomy and disheartening, true for the telling. Relate for us the reasons for our dismissal."

 "If you were a halfway decent conscience, and on the job instead of thinking about cocktail hour (here my ex-conscience looked a little abashed), you would have talked me out of having it out with my Sire."

 "You had some class of a row with your Sire?" For a conscience, this O'Hooney was proving to be rather ill-informed. One would think my id or my superego or whatever would have briefed him.

 I drew up the knees, and rested the Buckhorn chin on them. "Yes, dash it. Over Willow Fawnsworthy."

 My conscience perked up its ears. "Willow, like unto the tree, slender and supple?"

 "Yes."

 "And Fawnsworthy, like unto whatever a Fawnsworthy is?"

 I had an uncanny feeling of deja vu, but I shrugged it off. "My Sire, when it comes to the notion of his one and only fawn breeding, quickly acquires the toughness of an egg that has been boiled for twenty minutes in a mixture of vinegar and macadam. He came here to the Islands with, no doubt, an intention to throw a spanner in the works, and if his fawn put a hoof off the straight and narrow, it would be curtains."

 The conscience scratched his nose. "Your man sounds like a hard one. I relate to you the sweet and melodious truth that I would find the inside of his brain-case hard and joyless country, and I would not prosper there."

 For the first time, I was in agreement with my ex-conscience, and nodded, and then sighed. My alleged better self swung his tiny hooves over the side of the log.

 "You refer to the pleasant and happy task of fulfilling the ancient urge. I, in turn, refer to procreation. This of necessity implies the existence of a doe, as procreation, unlike the consumption of refreshments, cannot be done alone. Which brings me to raise the subject of refreshment again. Are you sure you do not have access to at least a jigger of distilled spirits upon your person?"

 My silence was interpreted as being more in relation to the subject of the doe, rather than the lack of a snootful.

 "And was there a state of love between yourself and this doe? I beg your pardon if I ask a painful question."

 There was a long silence, interrupted only by the tapping of tiny hooves against wood. That was a tricky question.

 "To be honest, I'm so dashed confused, I have no idea. Ever since I came to these Islands, I've been involved in one mishap or another..." Here I gave the conscience the eye. "...and if you had been paying attention, you'd have noticed that when it comes to the finer and nobler feelings in life, I've been bowled for a duck." I immediately regretted that choice of word, winced, and rested the chin on knees again, trying to drive out the sad memory.

 "And what class of objective did you have in coming here with your existence? Not that I myself find your company burdensome. To the contrary, pleasurable it is to be sitting here and having a bit of chat, thirst-making though it is."

 I thought for a while. Nothing came to mind, and I could only helplessly shrug at the tiny self.

 "Am I right, then, is making the assumption that you are without a family, a fair specimen of doe-hood, a means of support or (and here he looked at my lava-lava) access to a dictionary of the native argot? And, most crucially, the liquid that at once cheers, refreshes and sparks conviviality?"

 Put like that, the whole situation looked very depressing and unhappy, indeed. I was starting to change my mind regarding the bona fides of this conscience. I closed my eyes and sighed.

 I felt the small pat-pat of paw on my foot. "I shall leave you alone, then, as you are experiencing some class of disheartenment and illness of spirit. As I see, in spite of the abrupt termination of my services, you are a buck of poetic feeling, I extend to you the hopes of a change in circumstances. Love does not walk straight in the sunlight, but weaves from side to side in an unsteady path in the evening's dark, until it collides with a lamppost. This wisdom I leave you with."

 I was left to ponder that in the quiet of the surf and the waning hours of the afternoon.

*****

 The Baronin was kindness itself to both Willow and myself and soon, with the assistance of my maid, a pair of warm baths, a change of clothes, and the application of some hairfur brushes, we were restored to our normal selves. The Baronin took the precaution of returning to her hotel suite, in order to properly secure the case containing her husband's dueling swords.

 "I want to remove temptation," she explained. "Heinrich can be *so* impetuous, sometimes."

 While the Baronin was occupied with that, Willow and I held a hurried conference. We were left with the general impression that public opinion had taken a decisive turn against Sir Josslyn, which indicated that a public departure, via the seaplane terminal, would most likely be out of the question, especially if the Baron was watching the logical point of departure. This left the possibility of a private charter.

 I went over to the suite's writing-desk, and examined the blotter. Willow gave a small smile of self-satisfaction as she recognized standard operating Minkerton procedure. By tilting the blotter against the light, a telephone number was revealed.

 This proved to be the telephone number for a young ladies' academy in the Islands that taught the essentials of aeroplane and seaplane handling and maintenance. I identified myself, and was soon placed in touch with a senior member of the faculty, who confirmed that Sir Josslyn had in the very recent past made a substantial contribution to the building fund of the academy. As a generous benefactor, he was naturally entitled to the courtesy of calling upon the resources of the school. A courtesy that he was not slow to utilize.

 Willow, who was listening in on the extension, scribbled a note, which Lodge passed over to me. I pondered the advice, and immediately changed the subject of the telephone call to the question of the status of endowed chairs at the academy. It turned out there was an unfortunate shortage of these, a matter that was going to be taken up by the administration in the near future. I expressed my approval for the vocational training of young ladies, and offered to endow a chair to further the promotion of the propagation of emergency and evasive flight techniques. The faculty member thought that with the world being in the state that it was, such a course would have great practicality, and she thanked me for my generosity and far-sightedness. I indicated that a cheque would be delivered by ricksha driver within the hour. It was felt by all concerned that embarking immediately on setting out a plan of study in emergency and evasive flight techniques was a course of action that was advisable.

*****

 Po'na-self to bird-metal school go, additionally teacher envelope Reggie-mother give. Teacher Po'na acknowledge envelope. Teacher Po'na receipt give, additionally book glossy school pictures, same to Reggie-mother give.

 Po'na-self young lady see, operator bird-metal clothes see. Teacher young lady talking, additionally paper like unto sheet-exam give. Po'na-self young lady see emphasis smile. Po'na-self knowledge have young ladies bird-metal school. Young ladies bird-metal school smile, emphasis negative place safe being.

Po'na-self Casino Island return emphasis speed. Po'na-self bird-metal afraid. Po'na-self young ladies operators bird-metal greater afraid.

*****

 I was in discreet attendance during a long afternoon tea that Lady Gwladys and Miss Fawnsworthy were being given by the Baron and Baronin von Kojote in the lobby of the Marleybone. The Baron was sulking, either from the fact that Sir Josslyn had successfully eluded him, or from the fact that the Baronin had confiscated the Spontoonie war-club from him as he sat down to his scone.

 Lady Gwladys and Miss Fawnsworthy were eyeing each other nervously for the first hour or so of the tea, and continually checked their watches. Their patience was rewarded near 4.15, when a seaplane came roaring past the hotel near enough to rattle the windows. One could easily hear the engines screaming as they thrashed about ten feet above the surface of the harbour. At least, I believed it was the engines screaming and thrashing. I could well have been mistaken. After this, Lady Gwladys and Miss Fawnsworthy relaxed, and enjoyed their cucumber sandwiches.

 Some forty-five minutes later, a hush fell over the tables in the lobby, and even the string quartet ceased its efforts. Walking through the front door of the hotel was something that at one point might well have been Sir Josslyn Gordon Michael Buckhorn, Bt., but which appeared at the moment to be a badly frazzled whitetail buck whose morale was shaken to the core.

 From his vantage point, the desk-clerk could not help but observe the entrance. The silence allowed his commands to echo in the vastness of the lobby.

"PREEEEEESSSSSSENT....H'ARMS!"

 As one, sixty-two tea-goers (minus Lady Gwladys, Miss Fawnsworthy, and the Baron and his mate, and myself of course) hefted an assortment of scones, cucumber sandwiches, and slices of lemon-cocoanut cake. Tea-goers without ammunition were supplied by helpful waiters.

"H'ABOOOOOOOOOOUT....FACE!"

 As Sir Josslyn began to stagger uncertainly through the lobby, he realized that the eyes, and more, of the tea-goers and the waiters were upon him.

"H'AT THE COMMAND, YOU WILL PRO-CEED TO GIVE THREE ROUNDS
RAPID FIRE....WAIT FOR H'IT!"

 Sir Josslyn's face drooped, and he began to walk with slumped shoulders.

 "READY....!"

 Sir Josslyn sighed with a tumbril-esque air of resignation.

 "FIRE!"

 A hail of eclairs, cream cakes, scones, finger sandwiches and clotted cream began to whiz through the air. I could see the desk-clerk beaming with satisfaction, as the marksmanship of the tea-goers proved to be of Guards standards. Sir Josslyn was being liberally bespattered by the denizens of the lobby, and the firing squad was being resupplied by the waiters, who seemed to be actively supporting the effort. The Baron grabbed a teapot, and was getting ready to hurl it when he received a smack on the ear from the Baronin, and was informed that he was to mind his manners, or else. The Baron placed the teapot back on the table and resumed sulking. The fact that all this mayhem was being inflicted on Sir Josslyn while his paws were tied (metaphorically) must have been galling.

 Sir Josslyn looked around, an action that proved difficult when a large, gooey ├ęclair impacted his monocle, but he eventually managed to locate Lady Gwladys and Miss Fawnsworthy. The tea-goers very considerately slackened fire as he approached the table, so as not to cause any friendly fire incidents.

 Lady Gwladys sat up bolt straight, and looked down her muzzle at Sir Josslyn. In a tone that I imagine she usually reserved for recalcitrant under-gardeners, she addressed her mate.

"Well? What do *you* want?"

 Sir Josslyn sighed again, and fished a handkerchief from his pocket. It was probably the only clean article he was wearing. He waved it in the air, sadly.

 "I want terms."

 Lady Gwladys wrinkled her nose, tossed her hairfur, and gave a disdainful, faint whistle-snort. She merely crossed her arms, glaring at Sir Josslyn, who wilted like a garden salad exposed to a Bessemer furnace. After a minute of this, she turned to Miss Fawnsworthy, and gave a curt nod. Miss Fawnsworthy nodded back, and stood up. She leaned on the table and put her nose a few inches from Sir Josslyn. She no longer looked like the meek secretary that was her ordinary lot in life. She looked rather like a meek secretary that had unexpectedly been appointed Prime Minister, and was putting it across to the head of the outgoing government.

 "No terms. Unconditional surrender. Is that clear?"

 Sir Josslyn gulped, and nodded. Miss Fawnsworthy pointed a firm paw at the writing-room off the hotel lobby. Sir Josslyn flinched, thinking Miss Fawnsworthy was going to poke him in the eyes. Sir Josslyn looked relieved when this turned out not to be the case. I could not say as much for the Baron, who found the lack of mayhem disappointing.

 "In there," Miss Fawnsworthy stated in tones of quiet, dignified, polite menace, "you will find paper and pens. You are going to take pen in paw, and you are going to write me a letter. Spelling and neatness will count."

 Sir Josslyn gulped, and nodded again. Miss Fawnsworthy continued.

 "You are going to write to me that your fawn Reginald is restored to his inheritance, and that you are going to take no further steps, at *any* time, to disinherit him. Furthermore, you are going to keep the promise you previously made that you are going to have Reginald trained for a job at the family firm..."

 Here, Miss Fawnsworthy paused, partly for dramatic effect, as she saw that she had the house in her paw.

 "You are also going to tell me in that letter that you are going to take no actions that would interfere with whatever Reginald wants to do with his love life. He is going to be given complete freedom to follow his heart wherever it goes."

 The murmur from the house indicated the approval of this diktat. Miss Fawnsworthy paused, and looked over at Lady Gwladys. Returning her gaze to Sir Josslyn, she continued.

 "And last, but by no means least, you *are* going to give your mate the respect she deserves. How on earth she lives with a blivet like you is beyond my understanding. I can only speculate she's laying up treasure in heaven. Whatever the reason, what she says, goes. Got it?"

 The table-thumping and cries of "hear, hear" from the tea-goers indicated that Miss Fawnsworthy's demand was very much vox populi, vox dei. Sir Josslyn looked nervously at his mate, who rewarded him with a very cool, calculated smile that promised a great deal. Sir Josslyn shuddered, and then flinched again as Miss Fawnsworthy went nose-to-nose.

 "And I want something very clearly understood, SIR Josslyn Buckhorn. If I don't have that letter in my paw within the half-hour...I'm going to get ROUGH."

 Sir Josslyn gave a faint whistle-snort of terror, and then visibly deflated. He said something inaudible, which may well have been a first for him. Miss Fawnsworthy was not to be deterred.

 "I can't *hear* you!"

 "Errrrr....*gulp*, yes...?"

"Yes...*WHAT*?"

 "Yes...ma'am."

It was a beaten and demoralized buck that made the long, silent trudge to the writing-room.

*****

 I caught up with Willow as she was waiting for a water-taxi to take her over to the Main Island, having obtained clearance from the Constabulary to do so. She had changed into the same dress as she had worn at the dinner (however many days ago that was). She showed me an envelope, and grinned.

 "No smudges, no misspellings, Blivet gets a gold star."

 I smiled, and looked out across the harbour toward the Main Island. The smile faded from Willow's muzzle.

 "Aren't you coming along? He's your fawn."

 I looked down at my hooves, then back at her, and shook my head. "Yes, my fawn. But your buck."

 Willow bit her lower lip, and had to blink back tears. She gave me a kiss, and a lingering hug that she seemed deeply reluctant to break.

 "Good night, Agent Fawnsworthy. Good luck."

 "Good night, Agent Ritterherz. Thank you."

*****

 There was little sunlight left in the day when I became conscious of the fact that I once again had a visitor. I opened my eyes, looked down, and saw a pair of hooves. For the second time that day, I experienced an uncanny sense of deja vu. I looked up to see that Willow had located me. She was carrying a small bag, and a big secret, both of which she seemed eager to share with me.

 She sat down on the log, and presented me with an envelope. I opened it, and perused the contents. Under ordinary circs., I would have skipped about like a fawn on the last day of term. For some reason, though, I was merely depressed by the contents, and I handed back the missive to Willow.

 "And so the dopey fawn was rescued from his idiocy, and they all lived happily ever after, or as much as you can be when you have an IQ smaller than your jacket size."

 Willow seemed surprised by my reaction, and the fact that the touch of a soft paw on the shoulder seemed not to move me. She thought for a while, as the sun finally dipped with a kerplop over the horizon, and then shook her head.

 "Nope. Don't believe it. Penn doesn't graducate blithering idiots. Even Les has his moments. " Some more companionable silence followed. "Po'na and Lodge have told me about...well, about how you were getting on before we met."

 I could well believe it. Lodge probably dines well on all the anecdotes he has regarding my history.

  "He told you about the doe and the sheep?"

  "Yes."

  "He told you about the muntjac?"

 "Yes."

 "He didn't refrain from the experience with the native waterfowl?"

"No, he didn't."

 I hung the bean in despair. The whole wretched catalog of my gallant incompetence, laid out in clinical examination. And that was just the part experrienced here in the Spontoons

 Willow thought some more, and then sighed.

 "If I told you I had no family left, you'd wonder if I was playing a mean, crooked trick on you. If I casually tossed off how I felt about you, you'd wonder if I really meant it. I understand, Reggie. I have a really hard time getting to trust someone. I'm not going to go into the details of how I got the bliv...I mean, your father, to write that letter, but...Reggie look at me when I tell you this..."

 I turned, and looked at Willow, who had removed her glasses and had freed her hairfur. She gave me a heartfelt look.

 "In getting your father to write that letter...in the process, I got your father so angry, confused and upset that he...well, he hauled off and gave Andre a black eye."

 I looked at Willow, slack-jawed with surprise and astonishment.

 "And he smacked Andre about the ears with the wine list." My respect for the old buck raised a fraction of a notch.

 I blinked at Willow a few times, and then comprehension dawned, followed by a sense of shame and humility. Any doe that would cause a maitre d'hotel to have his clock cleaned and be given the ten-count for your greater good must absolutely have your best interests at heart. It would take a heart of stone not to acknowledge this gesture, and at the moment, my heart was as soft as, well, an overripe melon.

 Apropos of which, Willow was sniffing at me with a puzzled air.

 "Reggie, if I asked you why your headfur was stiff with melon-pulp, would I regret the answer?"

 "I'll explain later, Willow. As a chum of mine recently said, Love does not walk a straight line in the sunlight."

 I peeked into the bag, and found that Willow had packed a clean set of evening wear for myself, along with some toiletries. I picked up the bag, and looked around for a convenient washing-up place.

 "They tell me that there's a stream a few yards in that direction," pointing a paw. "Don't worry, I won't peek..."

 She may not have realized that I was still in earshot when I heard her say under her breath "...much." Then again, maybe she did.

*****

 Po'na-self newspaper Spontoonie read, additionally Nootnops Red drink. Po'na Reggie-buck, additionally Willow-doe previously collect stand water-taxis. Reggie-buckWillow-doe paw hold. Willow-doe Reggie-buck hip hold.

 Po'na-self ricksha take, same on beach leave. Po'na-self reservation Euro-restaurant cancel. Reggie-buck, additionally Willow-buck mind-think elsewhere, believe Po'na-self.

 Po'na-self Reggie-buck, additionally Willow-doe collect moon-hour later. Po'na-self sensing is negative need driver ricksha presently.

*****

 I was dressed for bed, and looking out the window at the beach, when Lodge approached.

 "If it is satisfactory to you, Lady Gwladys, I would like to head back to Shepherd's. I believe that I will be shortly re-engaged by Mr. Buckhorn, and I would like to set his suite in order once again."

 I smiled, nodded, and went over to a table. I wrote Lodge a cheque, and handed it to him. He examined it, raised an eloquent eyebrow, and bowed to me in silent thanks.

 As he left, I returned to the window. My reverie was interrupted some minutes later by the sound of a throat being cleared timidly. It was my mate, who was eyeing me nervously.

 "Ummm. Gwladys?"

 "Yes?"

 "Am I to sleep on the couch, tonight?"

 I thought about this for a minute. The quality of mercy, after all, is not strained, and the sight of Casino Island's beach at night, under a clear tropical night sky, moved me.

 "Go to bed, Joss. I'll join you in a few minutes."




*"Let's Doe It" continues with: "Let's Not Duello on the Subject"*
 
Gracious thanks are rendered to Simon Barber for his review of this story,
and to M. Mitchell Marmel, for his sage counsel regarding same.


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