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11 November 2005
Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello
"Let's Not Duello On The Subject"
by E. O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
"Let's Not Duello On The Subject"
by E.O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn, Lodge, Baron and Baronin von Kojote,
Senor, Senora and Senorita de Ciervos, Po'na (c) E.O. Costello
Willow Fawnsworthy, Rosie Baumgartner (c) M. Mitchell Marmel
Part 6I must say, I was a little alarmed when Lodge handed me the envelope with the heavy wax seal purporting to be from Senor de Ciervos. As you may recall (if you've forgotten, you can go back a bit, I'll wait) Senor de C. was the pater of the somewhat misnamed Inocenta de Ciervos, whose room I accidentally barged into (while looking for my inamorata Willow Fawnsworthy), setting off a chain of events that resulted in the gain of one duel against one of Willow's chums, and the loss of a lava-lava (at the paws of the aforementioned Inocenta). The envelope was examined with due care to see if any infernal devices had been added. None being apparent, I was preparing to open it when I saw that Lodge was standing quietly by, unobtrusively attempting to get my attention.
Of late, I had noticed a nervous disposition in my valet's conduct. Granted, this was in part traceable to the fact that his employer, to-wit, me, un to-wit, was peering at him from around corners and altogether attempting to keep The Eye on him. This behaviour was triggered in part by suspicions that Lodge was somehow involved in the plot to keep me away from Willow. That's the devil of having a brain like Lodge's: sooner or later, you're bound to get dragged into one sort of conspiracy or another. I'm sure mediaeval Italian geniuses sighed when they were dragged away from their tables and sent to back rooms to figure out how to poison their enemies. Put anyone off one's feed. In any event, there was a distinct strain in the relationship, as the diplomats would say. I made no move to open the envelope, and merely raised an eyebrow at the worthy toiler.
"You seek conversation, Lodge?"
"I was merely concerned with the communication from Sr. de Ciervos, Sir. You may not be aware that Sr. de Ciervos has quite a reputation as a deulist. My previous employer, the Count de Conejo, spoke of him highly in this regard."
"Previous employer?" This was new. I hadn't heard about the chap who had had Lodge before me.
"Yes, Sir. My services were no longer required, shortly before you engaged me, when the late Count, through absent-mindedness, scheduled multiple duels for the same time and place. Most regrettable."
"I'm sure, Lodge. But that has little to do with the price of gin fizzes in Bermuda."
"I am somewhat concerned, Sir, as to the nature of this impending duel you have scheduled against Miss Baumgartner."
I waved a dismissive paw. "History shall not repeat itself, Lodge, rest assured. He On High has a special place in His heart for chaps like me, and one way or the other, the Buckhorn spirit will triumph." This was all whistling past the graveyard, of course. I knew as much about dueling as I do about Urdu poetry. Which is not much, in spite of the fact that one of my chums at Andover was the son of the Maharajah of Cawapore, who was fond of reciting poetry, particularly in the nude at two in the morning on the lawn in front of the dormitory. The headmaster never did buy the excuse that he was sleep-reciting. He blamed me for this behaviour, of course, insinuating that I was responsible for corrupting the morals of a mynah. But I digress.
I tucked the unopened envelope into my dressing gown and waited patiently. Lodge raised an eloquent eyebrow, bowed, and sort of shimmered off in his usual silent manner. I could tell that he was simply bursting to know what was in the envelope. So was I, for that matter. I opened it, and discovered that the pleasure of my company was requested at 10:45 this morning on the beach at Hairpin Cove, for the purposes of "instruction," particulars omitted. I frowned. I hope this didn't mean quizzes. I had thought I had put those bally things behind me years ago. Horrible things, quizzes. Ruin of many a fine morning for a healthy young buck. I took care to take a clean sheet of paper, write a brief note on it, and slip it into the used envelope, before going to take my morning bath. The original communication was safely ensconced with me in the bathroom, weighted down by a dry loofah. I could hear Lodge bustling about, laying out my morning clothes, and I figured that he would not miss the opportunity to acquire a little tactical intelligence. What intelligence he would be able to gather from "Nyah Nyah Nyah-NYAH Nyah, (signed) The Shadow," I know not. But it was a deeply concerned beaver that held my jacket for me, one wearing an expression of frustrated intrigue.
I clearly wanted to be on time for this little venture, so I made off to the garden to set my watch against the hotel's clock. Somewhat to my puzzlement, I discovered that the guts of the hotel clock were exposed to view, with a tangle of sproinged springs. One somewhat largish gear had landed on a piece of garden statuary, giving a somewhat Constructivist twist to a Classical pose. Clearly, the hotel had experienced an invasion of avant-garde pranksters. I went to the lobby to seek knowledge on this matter.
The first hotel official that I encountered was the janitor, who was doing his finger-exercises on the lobby piano. Perhaps this gave him strength for wielding brooms.
"I say, do you know that the hotel clock is broken?"
The janitor paused, and pondered.
"Naw. I-a no knowa that. I know the Mer'Go-Round Broke-a Down though." He started to play same. I was in the mood for information, not merrie melodies, so I turned to the duck at the cigar counter, who was watching all of this with the equanimity a Havana cigar can impart.
"Someone once asked Benelli to tell them what he knew. They got fifteen minutes of silence. You can imagine our relief."
I blinked, and decided to let that pass. "Erahum, do you know what happened to the clock?"
The duck flicked a bit of ash, and wiggled his eyebrows. "Mice."
This seemed like a somewhat unlikely answer, unless the Spontoons had a native species of mouse that was either muscle-bound, had a taste for the avant-garde or both. Clearly another dry hole, information wise. At this point, my neighbor from across the hall strolled into the lobby. He walked up to me, gave me a buck-to-buck smile, and squeezed the bulb on top of his cane.
Cervine brothership being what it is, I decided to pose a simpler question to him.
"Err, do you have the time?"
With that, he opened up his overcoat. On one side, he had a miniature grandfather clock. On the other side, there were about thirty watches suspended by their straps. Amazingly, all had the same time. He closed his overcoat, and with the bulb on his cane, sounded Westminster chimes to mark the half-hour. I thanked him, graciously if confusedly. The janitor beamed.
"Eeeey, Mistah Randolph, he's a ver' smart buck. He make a lotta moolah on Wall Street in a big-a firm."
"Oh? What was he?"
The duck puffed on his cigar. "I think he was a silent partner."
It was about this time that I decided I had best keep my appointment. Po'na being otherwise tied up on Willow-watching duty, I engaged another ricksha driver, and arrived at Hairpin Cove bang on the dot of 10:45. I found Sr. de Ciervos waiting patiently, chatting with a taller wolf who was sporting a monocle on one cheek and a noticeable dueling scar on the other. Introductions were made all around, and it turned out this chap was Baron von Kojote, a chum of Sr. de Ciervos. Amazingly, he had met Willow, and grinned wolfishly.
"This doe, yes, I have met her. Very splendid altogether. I congratulate you, Herr Buckhorn. You have excellent taste. But I am being confused. These troubles you are apart of, they have started how?"
I explained that the troubles started because Buck A (that's me) was prevented from seeing Doe B (Willow) by a group of persons including Lady Feline C (La Baumgartner), who took exception to Buck A seeing Doe B. In the course of Buck A attempting to see Doe B and avoid Lady Feline C, Buck A entered a bedroom that he thought was that of Doe B, but because of machinations by Lady Feline C, it was not the room of Doe B, but rather Doe D (Inocenta de Ciervos). Seeing that Doe D was not Doe B but in fact Doe D, Buck A attempted to retreat, but his retreat was foiled by Doe D, who took it into her head that Buck A had designs of a nocturnal nature on Doe D, and attempted to forestall them by initiating nocturnal designs of her own on Buck A. Buck A, in the course of escaping from Doe D, collided with Buck E (present company). Buck E took exception to Buck A's actions. Doe D took exception to Buck E's actions, and in the course of events, Doe D confiscated the lava-lava being worn by Buck A, leaving Buck A in his boxer shorts. Lady Feline C at this point intervened, along with Doe F (wife of present company), who expressed satisfaction with the physique of Buck A, and agreement with Doe D's taste, by using her paws on the bottom of Buck A. Lady Feline C expressed irritation with the actions of Buck A in attempting to see Doe B without the permission of Lady Feline C. Buck A took exception to this, and in this matter, he was supported by Doe D, Buck E, and Doe F. At the suggestion of Buck E, Buck A initiated a duel against Lady Feline C, by means of Buck A vigorously poinking the nose of Lady Feline C. Bringing us to the present.
Baron von Kojote's monocle popped out of his eye at the whirl of this narrative, and it swung free on its cord. He turned to Sr. de Ciervos, alias Buck E, and indicated me with a forefinger.
"It is veritable that Herr Buckhorn has come to this, because of the actions of four ladies at the very same time?!"
"Si, es verdad."
The jaw of the Baron dropped. "Himmelherrgott, you will be telling me the English learn to cook, next." The monocle was returned to its proper place, and I was scrutinized with an impressed look. While being viewed as some sort of raging libido in a linen suit may have appealed to some, I felt abashed. This was one reputation I didn't want to live up to, and accordingly, I turned to Sr. de Ciervos.
"Errrr, uhm, Sr. de Ciervos? Look, about a few nights ago. Well, I mean...what I'd like to say is...well, dash it, I'm awfully sorry about what happened. I mean, you have to believe me about your daughter and all. I had no intention..."
Sr. de Ciervos waved a dismissive paw. "Poof. Es por nada. I have been speaking to the bartender of the Grand Hotel, and he has told me much about you."
I winced at that. The bartenders on Casino Island know much about me, indeed, and I felt that I was treading on very thin ice, if they told even one-tenth the part of the truth. Sr. de Ciervos seemed unconcerned, and patted my shoulder.
"I pray that you do not agitate yourself. You are known as a gentlebuck with the ladies, and I know you not make the sport with the does lightly."
I gulped. "Errr, but your daughter seemed to think otherwise..."
Sr. de Ciervos winced, and pinched his eyebrows. "I know not why I send Inocenta to the convent school. She come out with the good manners, and the good education, and the large appetite for the bucks. I am getting the headaches constantly because of my Inocenta. We move from Samoa last week to avoid the scandal."
von Kojote was curious. "But the Senora, you say she too had an interest in..."
The older buck made shushing motions with his paw. "Please, I beg of you not to bring that subject to the forefront. Madre de Dios, all the time she say these things to me in the bedroom. I am suspecting she have the conversation with Inocenta regarding the bucks, and I am deeply regretting it. Like mother, like daughter, as you say. Please, let us speak no more of these things. We take the apologies as mutually read, Senor Buckhorn?"
This was a sound and statesbuck-like policy, and I eagerly nodded my head. Sr. de Ciervos exhaled, wiped his forehead with a handkerchief, and looked rather better.
"Bueno. Now, to business. The Baron and I, we are the supporters of you in this venture, and we feel that it is our duty to give you the instruction on these matters, so that all may be satisfactory. Now, if you will permit me, I have brought some things with which to impart to you the instruction."
Baron von Kojote grinned wolfishly again. "Take notes. There will be the quiz later. Ha-ha!"
I hoped he was kidding.
Sr. de Ciervos produced a largish mahogany box, and busied himself with measuring out something from a gold flask which I imagined contained the black powder, and whatlooked like a collection of flat rocks, presumably the flints. Baron von Kojote meanwhile collected a pawful of cocoanuts, and set them up on a convenient rock ledge. By the time this was finished, affairs had evidently been set to the elder buck's satisfaction, and he produced another mahogany box. This one was longer and happened to have seven notches carefully cut in the lid, which in turn were filled with bright gold paint. Baron von Kojote saw the look of concern on my face, and patted my shoulder.
"Be of good cheer, Herr Buckhorn. See? Senor de Ciervos knows much about these things. I myself have knowledge of this."
"Errr...you've seen him in action?"
The Baron nodded. "Ja. At ten paces. We have the affair of honour, it is being two years ago, eh Carlos?"
Sr. de Ciervos interrupted his examination of a large, ornate pistol. "Si. I remember it well."
"Hah! Kolossal! We shoot each other three times in the sweetmeats, Herr Buckhorn."
A rum way to spend a bright, early hour of the morning. "Good Lord, you mean you reloaded?!"
"Ach, nein, Herr Buckhorn. That is why one is traditionally having the seconds in a duel. Speaking for myself personally, I had no wish to bleed on the flints. In any matter, I was being seven months in hospital, Carlos, he have two operations. It was the great success, there was much honour gained."
This was recounted with a fervour that I usually see for chaps recounting a fondly remembered cricket match at school. "Would I be rude, Baron, if I asked what the matter was about?"
"Hmmm? You ask why we fight the duel? Ah, well, you see it was...hrm..." The Baron thought for a minute. "Carlos? What was the matter for which we were making the gunplay?"
A shrug and a toss of antlers accompanied the response. "Poof. I forget. Something or other that was being important at the time. Ah! Now then, Senor Buckhorn..."
With this, Sr. de Ciervos offered me the large, ornate pistol with which he had been fiddling. It looked heavy and altogether ominous. I reached out for it, but I misjudged its weight, and I dropped it. A loud report indicated that the gun was loaded. This knowledge was confirmed by the fact that a nearby cocoanut palm bore a large, fresh gash in its trunk.
The elder buck, after picking himself up off the ground, turned first to the dropped weapon, and examined it carefully. The Baron also looked concerned, and asked if the pistol was damaged. Only after it was discerned that the implement of destruction was in good working order, was attention turned to yours truly.
"Ah! No, no, no, no, Senor Buckhorn. The dueling pistol, it must be grabbed firmly and with great purpose. Is that not so, Heinrich?"
The wolf nodded sagely. "Ja. You must grab the pistol, Herr Buckhorn, like you grab..."
At this point, the Baron drew an analogy regarding a certain prominent physical feature of the average lady deer. The Baron observed what must have been a wide-eyed blush (if that's the phrase I want).
"You do not grab the lady deers so?"
"You have never grabbed Fraulein Fawnsworthy like so?"
"Good heavens, no!"
The Baron polished his monocle, replaced it, and peered at me closely through it. He then turned to Sr. de Ciervos, who was busy recharging the pistol.
"And yet I am knowing this Fraulein Fawnsworthy is very fond of Herr Buckhorn. I see this so during the meetings with Herr Buckhorn's father. All this fondness, without the making of the paw-work. The workings of the lady deers are very mysterious, Carlos."
Sr. de Ciervos shrugged. "I am married the twenty-one years, and I am not understanding Senora de Ciervos. They have the passions unknowable, Heinrich."
I didn't think this was true, judging from how I felt when I met Senora and Seniorita de Ciervos. Or, rather, how they felt me. But I decided this wasn't a wise topic to pursue, given present circumstances. In any event, a recharged pistol was handed to me, and this time, I took it with both paws. Baron von Kojote took me by the shoulders, and walked me to the front of the rock ledge, and then had me taken ten hoof-steps back from the ledge, and turn around. My dueling partner was a large, green cocoanut.
I aimed the pistol with both paws, before being gently admonished by the elder buck to use one paw, as it was better form. So I did so, and aimed at the cocoanut, carefully. I squeezed the trigger.
Two seconds later, I discovered I was flat on my back in the sand, with the sound of a gunshot ringing in the buck-ears, and a distinct smell of burned gunpowder in the air. I was thankful it wasn't burning deer-fur or wolf-fur. I looked up. The cocoanut was mockingly intact. Baron von Kojote and Sr. de Ciervos were in conference. The latter took the other pistol, charged it, and walked forward.
"Ah. I show you, Senor Buckhorn, how it is done."
And with that, he stepped briskly up to the rock-ledge. A smart turn on the hoof, and ten paces later, he was at the point where I fired. He turned around, one paw behind his back, and carefully leveled the pistol. Baron von Kojote took out his pawkerchief, and dropped it. At the instant same hit the sand, there was a loud bang! which was followed by a spray of sour cocoanut milk on the ledge. I was so impressed (and frightened) by this that I forgot to ask whether this would count as another notch on the box.
With a hopeful air, my two instructors measured out some more powder, and prepared the pistols for me. And again. And again. And again. After roughly forty-five minutes of this, what I had to show for it was a very sore wrist, a very sandy nose, a smugly intact cocoanut, and two concerned tutors in the art of conducting affairs of honour.
"Hmm," said Sr. de Ciervos.
"Hmm," opined Baron von Kojote.
"Achoo!" stated yours truly, who had sand up his nose.
The pistols were sadly packed away, and the wolf brought out what appeared to be his favourite implements of anthropicide. These were also in a long, mahogany box, with an ornate crest which I took to be the von Kojote arms. The box was covered with nicks, slashes and cuts too numerous to count. The Baron saw I was looking at that wild-eyed.
"I do not keep the score like Carlos does, Herr Buckhorn. What you see is from my university days, when a wolf, to be a wolf, needs carry around the implements of honour at all times. Sometimes, myself was caught by surprise. The box is useful for these purposes. Now then, Herr Buckhorn, I must ask you to strip to your waist."
I blinked. Things had taken a somewhat unexpected turn. "Beg pardon?"
The wolf blinked back. "Remove the clothes down to the trousers, Herr Buckhorn. Is traditional, to show you are not wearing the armour."
"Good Lord, what on Earth would I wear armour for? That's dashed silly."
It was a pleased monocle that flashed at me. "Ah! Sehr gut, Herr Buckhorn. Exactly the attitude to take. You gratify me. Now, then, the clothes?"
I removed the jacket, tie and shirt, and laid them carefully on the rock ledge, away from the spilled cocoanut milk. It was at that point that I discerned we had an audience.
"And the trousers, yes?"
Senor de Ciervos looked around, and then glowered at the source of the suggestion.
"Inocenta, go home!"
The young doe, who was dressed in what I had to admit was a very fetching skirt-suit with frilly blouse, pouted and stamped a hoof. "But *why*, papa?!? I want to see Reg-gie play!"
"Because I am your father, Inocenta, and if you do not obey, I will spank you!"
Inocenta pondered this threat. "You make Reggie spank me instead?" This said with an air of hope and cheer.
It was evident from the way that the doe was hustled off the scene that the father was not of the view that the statement last offered was in the nature of a suggested punishment. As the squalls of protest faded in the distance, Baron von Kojote, who had stripped to his waist as well, presented me with my choice of one or the other of two rather murderous looking swords. Each was thin, with a paw-guard, and made of a metal that gleamed in the sun. Well, one of them did. The other seemed a bit discoloured. I gently pointed this out to the Baron, who took a closer look.
"Ach! My dummy head valet, he did not the sword clean after my last fight. I do not like the blood-stains on the sword, it is not good for the metal. Never mind. I use this one."
With the point of the sword, he sketched out a box and a series of lines in the sand, and indicated where I was supposed to stand. There followed some barked commands as to the proper stance. Once this was accomplished, he saluted me by bringing his sword up to his nose. I tried the same, and gave my nose a resounding smack instead. First blood to Reginald Buckhorn.
The Baron waited patiently until the flow stopped, by which time Sr. de Ciervos had returned. All was made ready, and then he howled:
This was followed by the sound of sword hitting sand, the result of a somewhat unexpected primal noise. Baron von Kojote face-palmed, and the elder buck sadly shook his head.
"You must, Senor Buckhorn, hold the sword like you would hold..."
I waved him off before I received any more suggestions that implicated La Fawnsworthy. I tried again, and this time managed to hang onto the sword from the start. At least for about ten seconds, before it was knocked from my paws.
Things went rather downhill from there. There were numerous heated comments about my backhand. Apparently, there was no backhand in fencing, which was news to me. No forehand, and no punch-volley, either. There was much heavy lupine breathing as missed or dropped swords were retrieved. Finally, the wolf stepped back, growling heavily.
"Himmelkreuzdonnerwetter, I give up."
This was puzzling. "But I haven't touched you, Baron."
Glower. "Not in that sense, dummko--- I mean, Herr Buckhorn." Sigh. "It is obvious we must think of something else, some other means to settle this matter with honour."
I put my clothes back on. "Baron, how is that decided, anyway?"
The wolf nodded sagely. "I am required to meet the second for Miss Baumgartner. In fact, we meet this afternoon. As the challenged party, the choice of weapon is theirs. I can only hope that they have the taste outre for the implements of honour."
I pondered this. "Do you know who Miss Baumgartner has chosen?"
Sr. de Ciervos nodded, and produced an engraved card. I knew the paw-writing on the card, without even looking at the printed name. Of all the dashed nerve! How had Lodge gotten himself mixed into this? There were dark doings, you mark my words.