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15 September 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, Leslie duCleds (c) M. Mitchell Marmel

"Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts for Soldiers"
Lyrics by R.P. Weston, Music by Hermann Darewski
(c) 1914 T.B. Harms

Part 9

 As the Good Book says, it's a mitzvah to visit the sick and afflicted.

 As far as Willow was concerned, well...

 Okay, so there I am flat on my stomach. Now, anyone who knows hospital gowns know that I'm showing more spots than even the paying customers used to see back in my burlesque days. To complicate matters, my tail has a lovely splint in it and it's in traction. So, yes. you could say that this furshlugginer duel has put my tail in a sling.

 Enter Willow, looking perky, eyeing the aforementioned appendage. "Hey, can you get Duluth on that?"

 "Duluth?" I bragged. "I can get Tierra del Fuego!" I pretended to concentrate.
"Something about 'Motores de Ralph Spoilsport..."

 Willow sniggered, moving down the bed. "Pretty good for, well, hams radio?"

 I chuckled. "Something like that, yes."

 A wise nod from Girlfriend towards my abbreviated attire. "Nice duds. This why they call it an I-C-U?"

 "Very funny," I mock-growled, grinning.

 Willow moved to the foot of the bed and struck a pose. "I'll take a dozen 8x10 glossies, and some wallet-sized, and..."

 "You DO know I'll be leaving this bed eventually, don't you?"

 Willow grinned and sat beside the bed, bestowing a smooch. Nice smooch. "Yup.
That's why I'm taking advantage of the captive audience now." She reached over and gave me a quick neck rub which worked its way down my back to the base of my spine and damn near finished the job that the vibrations from the motor had started at the beginning of the race. I purred happily. "You have precisely ten years to quit doing that."

 Willow patted me on the head. "So, how is the ol' tail doing?"

 I semi-shrugged. "Feels like a motorbike ran over it."

 Willow nodded. "Good reason for that. Here, eat. Nice chicken soup with dumplings. Not matzohballs, but near enough."

 I maneuvered towards the bedside tray stand and picked up the spoon. "Mm-mm good!" A hospital with decent food. Who knew?

 "Your press clippings," Willow said, pulling out the Mirror for the past two days. "The photog got a lucky snap of the motorbike landing on your tail on your second bounce." She looked at me seriously. "You gotta start being more careful, kittycat. You came damned close to pulling a T.E. Loris, there."

 I nodded and quietly looked over the stories. The press coverage was sympathetic. The leader in the Mirror was of the opinion that I'd won fair and square in a hard-fought battle, and hoped that I would be able to participate in the last of the competitions on the 22nd. Ah, well. Grist for the scrapbook mill.

 Willow looked up and tugged the covers up over my tush as Po'na entered (still on Willow Watch, though I wasn't entirely sure if Willow knew that) with Doc Meffit. A goodguy, Meffit. In addition to being helpful when Willow had her crises a couple of months ago, I saw him occasionally at services at Rodent Shalom. Cute, too. Pity he's not really my type; my mother always wanted me to find a nice doctor and settle down.

 Doc had some good news and some bad news. Good news: My head, apparently,
was nearly as hard as Reggie's, so I only had a mild concussion. Bad news: hairline fractures in two of my caudal vertebrae. "We're going to have to keep your tail in traction for a couple of days and put a lightweight cast over the vertebrae. Fortunately, they're mid-tail, so we don't have to immobilize the whole tail, just the middle section."

 I grimaced. "How long you figure I'm going to be out of action? I do have to get back to work at some point."

 Po'na grinned evilly. Payback for when I'd hauled him in over the ladder business? "Query cheetah-lady future negative standing likewise negative moving period six weeks."

 I gave him a glower. "(Laugh-thou presently, tail-possessor like unto dish-cleaning cloth. Myself thou assuredly revenge seek. Impertinent thou being.)"

 Po'na merely folded his arms across his chest, and raised an eyebrow. "(Says thou. True for telling capacity thine negative wishes enforcing. Lessons taught thou re nose-poinking.)"

 I wasn't in any sort of mood for getting lectures from this schmuck. "(Eeeeeeh! Possess-thou Susie female kin Euro-clothing creating gift warriors.)" (#) Best I could think of on the spur of the moment without causing a fight. Po'na frowned, and was obviously thinking of some more native mottoes to bring down on my spotted head.

 The fun was interrupted by the doc, who coughed discreetly. "You should be out of here in a day or two; we're going to keep you here mainly for observation purposes. I will also prescribe some painkillers for you that you should be taking for the next ten days. I'm afraid, however, that painkillers and the amount of alcohol you will be required to drink with Mr. Buckhorn on the 22nd do not go together."

My ears drooped. "You mean I'm going to have to forfeit?"

 Doc scribbled on his prescription pad. "Not my bailiwick. You'll have to see if you can come to some sort of arrangement. But I must emphasize, Miss Baumgartner, that under no circumstances should you be drinking, let alone the amount you would likely have to drink in competition with Mr. Buckhorn. The risk of injury is too great."

 I sighed. The doctor smiled, and gave me a gentle pat on the shoulder. "If it's any consolation, I had to give Mr. Buckhorn an allergy medicine earlier this year that prevented him from drinking anything. One can well imagine the state that he was in. Just take good care of yourself, Miss Baumgartner, and you'll be up and about in no time. Here is my card, in case you need anything."

 Exit the doc. Nice bedside manner. Good catch for some little mephitette out there.

Back to business, though. I had to contemplate the the disgrace of forfeiting the whole works to Lover Boy in the near future as well as enduring Po'na smirking at me in the present. Sassafrassing razzing stupid Spontoonie fox. The traction was keeping my mobility down, so there wasn't much I could do.

 Willow gave me another shoulder pat. "Maybe you can ask Lodge for some advice.
After all, he is your second."

 I nodded. "Any idea where he is?"

 "I am over here in the corner, Miss Baumgartner."

 My be-tractioned tail kept me from jumping, but Willow and Po'na got a good startle.

Sure enough, the little beaver was standing in the corner, paws behind his back and head lowered in an attitude of thought. A good sign.

 "Lodge! How did you-"

 "I used the door, Miss Baumgartner."


 "When Dr. Meffit and Mr. Po'na came in. You did not see me?"

 "No, can't say I did."

 "Ah. Most gratifying."

 I muttered something about "Lamont Craneston" under my breath as Willow buttonholed the beaver. "Lodge, did you hear all of what went on just now?"

 "Are you referring, Miss Fawnsworthy, to the Doctor's remarks, or to the exchange of remarks in Spontoonie between Miss Baumgartner and Mr. Po'na?" Po'na's ears twitched at that, another good sign.

 Willow smiled. "I was referring to what the Doctor said, Lodge. We have a situation, here..."

 "Indeed, Miss Fawnsworthy. Some sort of remedial action will be necessary."

Willow nodded grimly. "The question is, what sort of action? Can we reschedule?"

 Lodge shook his head. "I believe the dueling licence expires before any possible rescheduling could take place. We are, for better or worse, committed to the date in question. However..." Lodge looked thoughtful. "I noticed a provision for a 'champion' in the licence. Traditionally, a champion would act as a stand-in for someone who could not fight a duel, for one reason or another. In some cases, as with the sovereigns of England, this was an actual office..."

 A hopeful look. "H'm. Of course, most duels aren't in three parts, but...If someone were unable to fight a duel, couldn't they call on a champion to do the fighting for them?"

 "One would have to ensure that the arrangement was satisfactory to the opposing seconds, Miss Fawnsworthy, but your point is well taken." Lodge coughed a bit. "In some circumstances, seconds were often called on to fulfill the duties of champion. I regret to say, Miss Baumgartner, that my capacity to act as such in this matter would be very difficult. If you wish me to compete against Mr. Buckhorn in a drinking bout, I will do so. However, I fear, it is not likely to have a very promising result."

 I waved a paw. "Don't sweat it, Lodge. You're a sweetie for stepping up to the plate. We need a champion who can give Reggie a good run for his money, right?"

 "That would be the regular and, indeed, popular thing to do, Miss Baumgartner."

 "Good! 'cause I've got *just* the fellow in mind..." With that, I turned to a certain smart-aleck native fox, and gave him the full benefit of a set of pearly white (and very sharp) feline teeth. "*DON'T I*, Po'na?"

 Po'na's initial reaction was a pleasing flattening of the ears and widening of the eyes. He recovered quickly, and shook a forefinger at me.

 "(Fire-gods thou take, outlander feline. Negative myself drink ardent spirit-water behalf thou. Thinks-thou period time any myself effort-making behalf thou, appeal-thou Goddess Reason-Loss!)"

 Translation: Hell, no, I ain't boozin' for you, you're nuts.

 Not much I could say to that. Luckily, I didn't have to.

 "Oh, Po'na?"

 Po'na turned around, to see a very winning smile, and the batting of long cervine eyelashes. I grinned. He was for it, now. Willow was turning on all the charm, and that's saying something. She took one of Po'na's paws in her own.

 "Now, Po'na, Reggie has you watching me very carefully, doesn't he?"

 (Oh-ho, she HAD figured it out.)

 "Affirmative is, b-..."

 "Reggie has told you that I'm to be taken good care of, right?"

 "Affirmative is, b-..."

"And you're supposed to do *everything* you can to assist me, *right*?" More
eyelash-batting. Po'na was starting to shift his footpads. Too late, brush-boy.

 "Affirmative is, Willow-doe, but..."

 "And you *are* loyal to Reggie, right? He's been a good employer to you?"

 Po'na gulped and nodded. He was starting to see where this was going.

 "Now, Po'na, it's *very* important to me that the third contest with Reggie go off, without Reggie getting hurt in *any* way." The paw went up to Po'na's chest. Still MORE eyelash-batting. "Now, I need someone I can *trust* to make sure everything goes off just right, and we can put this whole mess behind us..."

 Po'na's ears flattened. He now saw where this was going.

 "So, Po'na, I would *really, really* like you to act as champion for Miss Baumgartner. Don't think of it as something for her. Think of it as something for me, hmmm?"

 "Affirmative is...ah, affirm...is...ah...aaaaaaaaaaah! (Fire-gods Po'na-self take! Idiot likewise reason without Po'na-self is, involving self affairs creatures with horns outlanders. Species bereft sanity is!) Gaaaaaaaaah!" Po'na gripped his ears, and began rocking back and forth on his footpads, making extravagant appeals to the native pantheon. He was running through them at a good clip for about two or three minutes, before he ran out of breath. Finally, he sighed, and looked at Willow.

 "Po'na self future acting warrior Miss Baumgartner is. Creature with flat-tail instruct Po'na self tasks doing?"

 "I'm sure Lodge will be happy to do that, Po'na. I knew you'd help." She gave him ahug and a kiss. A damned sight more than he deserved. *I* wanted that. Oh, well. Another time. Po'na slumped out of the room, followed by Lodge, who said he would discuss matters with Baron von Kojote and Sr. de Ciervos in order to make the necessary substitutions. As the door closed, Willow turned to me, and wiggled her eyebrows.

 "There's nothing like unarmed combat, Rosie."

 I wondered if Lover Boy knew exactly what he was in for.


 Developments in the affair of honour were discussed with Sr. de Ciervos and Baron von Kojote. In the case of the latter, this was rather easy, as he was camping out on the sofa in my suite. The Baronin had taken a dim view of the business relationship between the Baron and Miss Sobol'yeva, and diplomatic relations were strained. This was signaled to the Baron by the forcible emplacement of a tiki-head umbrella stand over his noggin. I sympathized with him more than he knew on this subject. Sr. de Ciervos was philosophical on the matter.

 "Poof. The Baronin, she in love with the Baron. Is it not so, Heinrich?"

 "Ja, Carlos. I am being thrown out on the one or two times a year. The Baronin, she has the rages every so often." He sighed happily. "Ah, Herr Buckhorn, it is only when the ladies are enraged that you can truly make the love passionate. I am reminded of last year, when I come back after the throwing out, to find the Baronin dressed only in a..."

 I discreetly changed the subject before we got much further in this line. Rather to the Baron's disappointment, I think. Still, if I were to learn more of these matters, I would rather have Willow explain them to me.

 In any event, Recent Events were discussed. Both the Baron and Sr. de Ciervos were of the opinion that La Baumgartner was well within her rights to effect a substitution, under the circumstances, and that to refuse the substitution would reflect poorly on my sportsbuckship. Put like that, one could see the point, though in my heart of hearts I still wanted to drink La Baumgartner into a condition where she saw spots before her eyes.

Well, more than usual, anyway.

 Frankly, I was not a little alarmed that somehow Po'na had been suborned into acting as the substitution. I saw dirty-paw work behind this, and it was clear to me that only Lodge could be behind such a cunning and subtle plan to employ an ally of mine against me. A note was made to self to read up on mediaeval literature, to see if any Italian city-states were run by beavers. I don't care what the historians say, I have my suspicions as to who was really in charge in those days.

 I left it up to my representatives to work out the last details regarding timing, dress and tipple of choice, and they bowed themselves out, to effect whatever i-dotting and t-crossing was necessary. This left me alone with Lodge. The worthy obtained my attention.

 "Have you given any consideration, sir, to what you will be wearing for this final encounter?"

 "Indeed, Lodge."

 "May I enquire as to what this consideration is?"

 "I have determined, Lodge, to wear clothes."

 Lodge frowned. "That is most gratifying, sir. Public nudity ill becomes you."

 "Inocenta de Ciervos would disagree with you there, Lodge."

 "Be that as it may, sir, there is the question of the depleted state of your wardrobe."

 It was my turn to frown, now. "Lodge, you are developing a perfect monomania on the subject of my clothes. Were I from Vienna, I would be developing suspicions."

 "I beg to point out, sir, that you are running short on certain necessary articles of clothing."

 "Nonsense, Lodge. I have made suitable arrangements, so to speak. These
arrangements are going to be kept under my rack, for the time being. I wish to hide them from the rotter responsible for nicking that pair of boxers..."

 "Boxers, sir?"

 "Lodge, you are failing remarkably to show innocence. You know perfectly well which boxers I am referring to. The one with hearts that Miss Fawnsworthy gave me. We've discussed this before. Someone in league with dark forces has nicked them, and they will be answerable to my righteous wrath when I find out who said someone in league is."

 "Be that as it may, sir, the cleaning ladies have begun to notice the musk-smell about the suite. It is causing comment, and I fear that an interview with the management of the hotel may soon be in the offing."

 "Lodge, I defy them as Ajax defied the lightning."

 "One would do well to remember, sir, that Ajax comes down to us from Greek mythology as being over-proud and slow-witted."

 I dismissed Lodge with an irritated paw-wave. I knew not exactly how Lodge was mixed up in l'affaire du boxers, but this seeming overwhelming interest in my wardrobe was either an effort to put me off my game, or disconcert me in some other fashion. I would have none of it. The coming contest would be at the bar-rail, and there, the Buckhorn form was at home.


 Came the evening of the 22nd of December, 1936. Now, I am told that normally this is the off-season for places of refreshment in the Spontoons, as the tourist trade is somewhat slack. I now saw the reason for the spirited bidding by Shepherd's for the hosting of this event. The bar-room was packed as I haven't seen it packed since the day I stood drinks for the house on the winnings from Lady Fenwick. A red-letter day in the annals of the curates of the bar, judging from the post-proceeding tips they received. The full staff was on paw, mixing drinks for all and sundry.

 The betting commissioners had been doing a roaring trade all throughout the proceedings between the self and La Baumgartner. Another group grateful, I suppose, for the distraction. Large sums of money had changed paw on the first two events, and I was up about two hundred and twenty pounds. I considered the lay of the land before putting my lucre down on this match, though.

 For one thing, I was facing an unknown quantity in Po'na. Po'na had a generous ration of biblical cubits going up, and was rather broad of shoulder. Those in the Silver Ring were of the opinion that Po'na had great potential in his form. Additionally, the seconds had agreed that in order to make the match as fair as possible, the tipple of choice would be snifters of the local pineapple brandy. I had had a bit of experience with this some months before, and had woken up in a row-boat with potatoes on the points of my rack. The potency of the local home-brew was something to be respected. Caution was thereupon called for in the betting, and I laid out my money on whitetail deer to win, but native fox to carry it to a dozen snifters or greater, a bet that was getting little action, and thus very good odds.

 The native contingent in the crowd sent up a cheer, as The Home Favourite made his entrance. Po'na did not look all too happy, though this could be explained somewhat by the fact that he was in full white-tie and tails, boiled shirt, studs, trousers and all. From the way that he was pulling at his collar and grimacing, it was evident that he was not used to so much in the way of clothing, and the "Euro-duds" were making him uncomfortable. I myself was in the usual soup-and-fish, having ordered the requisite from my tailors in Honolulu. They had delivered them in plenty of time for the match, cut to perfection, and the buck-self was feeling in peak form. I had laid off the G&Ts for a few days, and had developed a rare old appetite for the fruits of Bacchus.

 The bartender rapped on the bar, and the house obediently fell silent, and made space for the combatants. The rules were decreed: snifters were to be 3/4 full, each combatant had ten minutes to drain the snifter fully without any lees, all glasses would be turned over to ensure that there was no cheating, spilling would result in disqualification, and anyone passed out on the floor would be given a ten-count before a winner would be declared. We were to shake paws, and come out drinking. As we did, there was a mighty cheer from the crowd, accompanied by much popping of flashbulbs and the like. The match was on! I picked up my snifter, clinked it to Po'na's, and it was down the hatch.


 I must say that Mr. Buckhorn was indeed in rare form. (Miss Baumgartner had declined to spectate, stating that if you've seen Mr. Buckhorn drink once, you've seen him drink a thousand times.) I have been his valet for a number of years, and I thus have a great deal of knowledge as to this form. I am reminded of one incident at Andover when Mr. Buckhorn, owing to the impending arrival of the sixth-form dean, drank off an entire bottle of whisky, with a pawful of peppermints as a chaser. It was a performance to be remembered. Tonight, Mr. Buckhorn was imbibing with confidence, pleasure and enthusiasm. Mr. Po'na, on the other paw, seemed to be pacing himself, taking nearly the whole ten minutes to consume his first snifter.

 It was apparent by the fourth snifter that the match was going to be well-fought, as Mr.Po'na showed few effects from the consumption of the native spirits, other than a slight unsteadiness on his footpads. Mr. Buckhorn, on the other paw, was growing brighter and more cheerful, and demanded that the bartender fill the snifter to the top. This show of bravado on his part was greatly appreciated by the audience, though it caused certain frantic adjustments in the odds by the bookmakers, who feared that Mr. Buckhorn was setting too fast a pace in his drinking.

 The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth snifters came and went, with tactics unchanged. Indeed, Mr. Buckhorn drained his eighth snifter in one prolonged pull, belched, and giggled. Mr. Po'na was indeed keeping pace, though in a more magisterial manner. Indeed, the only change that came over Mr. Po'na was that he started to hiccup, and he rather absentmindedly ate the flower from his lapel.

 There was great concern when Mr. Buckhorn sank to one knee in the tenth snifter. I was not sure if this was intentional or accidental, and the point was rendered moot when Mr. Buckhorn began his celebrated imitation of Al Goatson singing "The Spaniard That Blighted My Life." Sr. de Ciervos, who had been drinking along with the combatants, had been carried off after the sixth snifter, and was thus in no position to indicate his feelings on the choice of song by Mr. Buckhorn. Mr. Buckhorn rose to his hooves again, and thumped rhythmically with both paws on the bar while his eleventh snifter was being poured.

 Mr. Po'na, after consuming his twelfth snifter, began to sing a native song, in a rather surprisingly rich baritone. This was taken up by certain elements of the crowd, and the odds shifted again, as there was a belief that Mr. Po'na was holding his own.

 There was a slight delay in the fourteenth snifter, as a fresh supply of pineapple brandy had to be brought over from the Grand, as Mr. Buckhorn and Mr. Po'na had between them consumed the entire stock available at Shepherd's. Indeed, Shepherd's was having serious problems keeping up with the demand for beverages by the crowd. I could see the hotel manager rubbing his paws in glee. He looked as cheerful as Mr. Buckhorn did, without thirteen snifters under his belt.

 It was in the fifteenth snifter than Mr. Po'na began to show weakness, and he barely finished his snifter within the allotted time. He began to weave back and forth on his footpads, as if buffeted by some unknown and undetectable zephyr. Throughout it all, he had kept his composure and his dress, save for the lapel-flower. Local pride was running high, and seemed fit to stay there, even after the inevitable occurred.

 Which it did, in the seventeenth snifter. Mr. Po'na started at it, and was slowly blinking at in puzzlement. He reached for the snifter a few times, apparently grabbing it at a location that only he (and perhaps Mr. Buckhorn) could see. The fifth attempt to take hold of the snifter was successful. Alas, the best Mr. Po'na could do was stick his nose in the snifter. In a grotesque parody of an oenophile, he snorgled the brandy with his nose, then attempted to place the snifter back on the bar. This was not entirely successful, as he could not locate the bar. The snifter was thereupon dropped into a spittoon. Mr. Buckhorn had been watching this with great interest, his snifter untouched.

 Mr. Po'na bowed gravely to Mr. Buckhorn, and continued the act of bowing gravely past the point from which a bow turned into a full-fledged fall. The room resounded to the echoing thud of Mr. Po'na's form hitting the floor. The sound of a gurgling snore indicated that a ten-count was likely unnecessary.

 Mr. Buckhorn picked up his snifter, saluted Mr. Po'na, and drank off the snifter in one pull,setting the snifter down with great care on the bar. It was thus left to myself and Baron von Kojote (who had limited himself to three snifters of calvados) to declare Mr. Buckhorn the winner of both the drinking match, and the duel, to the acclaim of the crowd.

 As Mr. Po'na was carried off the field of battle by six volunteers, reporters from the Elele and the Mirror asked Mr. Buckhorn to make a comment. Mr. Buckhorn, with great presence of mind, staggered over to the piano. Amazingly, he was able to both play and sing with brio and clarity; one wonders what Mr. Weston would have made of the effort Mr. Buckhorn was giving to the lyrics (#):

Sister Susie's sewing in the kitchen on a "Singer,"
There's miles and miles of flannel on the floor and up the stairs,
And father says it's rotten getting mixed up with the cotton,
And sitting on the needles that she leaves upon the chairs.
And should you knock at our street door, Ma whispers "Come inside,"
Then when you ask where Susie is, she says with loving pride:

Sister Susie's sewing shirts for soldiers,
Such skill at sewing shirts our shy young sister Susie shows!
Some soldiers send epistles, say they'd rather sleep in thistles
Than the saucy soft short shirts for soldiers sister Susie sews.

Piles and piles and piles of shirts she sends off to the soldiers,
And sailors won't be jealous when they see them, not at all,
And when we say her stitching will set all the soldiers itching,
She says our soldiers fight best when their back's against the wall,
And little brother Gussie, he who lisps when he says, "Yes,"
Says, "Where's the cotton gone from off my kite, oh I can gueth!"

Sister Susie's sewing shirts for soldiers,
Such skill at sewing shirts our shy young sister Susie shows!
Some soldiers send epistles, say they'd rather sleep in thistles
Than the saucy soft short shirts for soldiers sister Susie sews.

I forgot to tell you that our sister Susie's married,
And when she isn't sewing shirts, she's sewing other things,
Then little sister Molly says, "Oh, sister's bought a dolly,
She's making all the clothes for it with pretty bows and strings."
Says Susie, "Don't be silly" as she blushes and she sighs,
Then mother smiles and whispers with a twinkle in her eyes.

Sister Susie's sewing shirts for soldiers,
Such skill at sewing shirts our shy young sister Susie shows!
Some soldiers send epistles, say they'd rather sleep in thistles
Than the saucy soft short shirts for soldiers sister Susie sews.

And with that, Mr. Buckhorn passed out on the piano keys. It was agreed by all that this was a night to cherish and remember. There was talk already of a plaque to be set in the bar-room floor.


 "Well done, Lodge."

 "I endeavour to give satisfaction, Miss Fawnsworthy."

 "How is Reggie doing, anyway?"

 "Mr. Buckhorn is safely tucked away in bed. I received a request from Senorita deCiervos to help put him to bed."


 "I felt, Miss Fawnsworthy, that you would not appreciate her assistance in the matter."

 "Understatement of the year, Lodge. By the way, how is the whole wardrobe situation?"

 "I took the liberty of abstracting the key to the laundry hamper from Mr. Buckhorn while I was undressing him for bed. Mr. Buckhorn's laundry is being taken care of as we speak. I have also aired out the suite, in order to remove the buck-scent from the premises."

 I could see Willow sigh. I could tell what she was thinking, and she could tell I knew what she was thinking, too. "Cheer up, kiddo. Two more days, and the six weeks will be over. And I'll bet Lover Boy will be sleeping off most of that, too. Even he isn't likely to get in that much trouble, especially with the katzenjammer he's going to have."

 Lodge gave just the slightest hint of a smile. "I have laid out some bromo and some aspirins for Mr. Buckhorn when he revives, Miss Baumgartner. Indeed, I think it quite likely Mr. Buckhorn will feel the effects of his epic combat."

 I grinned unsympathetically. "Good. Wish I had been there to see it."

 Willow snorted. "Knowing you, you'd be tempted to join in against doctor's orders."

 "Which is why I stayed away," I sighed. "I hate being a good little girl."

 I eyed Willow, who was looking surprisingly spruce. She smiled. "Some shrewd
betting, Rosie. I gave myself an early Christmas present, and had my hooves and hairfur done, not to mention some nice new clothes."

 "Going to see out the six weeks in style, eh?"

 Willow took out a thick envelope. "Well, there's one bright spot for you..."

 I looked to make sure my flannel nightie was closed in the back.

 "Not that, silly. I collected your winnings at the same time I collected mine. Decent return for you. What did you bet on?"

 "Cheetah to go tail-over-ears in the motor-bicycle race, at 7-1."

 Willow looked shocked. "You bet against yourself? Say it ain't so, Rosie! Say it ain'tso!"

 "I'm afraid it is. Po'na isn't the only one who has black sox around here." I grinned evilly. "Bet your boots I'm not spending any of this gelt on Lover Boy, though. But I'll also bet you spent a bit of your winnings on him, didn't you?"

 Willow smiled, and blushed a little. "Well, I got Reggie something. A...stocking stuffer."

 She opened up a bag, and took out a brand-new pair of silk boxer shorts, with little hearts on them.


 The flight in from Constantelople (Istanbull, whatever) took forever, and I was practically nodding off on my footpads when I was going through Customs. The only thing I really wanted right now was Sleep, and plenty of it.

 Miss Baumgartner hadn't cabled me with the results of the drinking bout, though I imagine Reggie was in his usual form. Hurrah for the Red and the Blue. I'll bet, though, he wasn't feeling as flat-out bushed as I was. That was, of course, assuming he was in any position to be feeling anything.

 It was getting on about eleven by the time I managed to get my things together and get to the Grand. I could hardly see straight, and I crossed the lobby. Somehow. It seemed like I was crossing the Gobi, the distance between myself and the pillow being that great. Hopefully, Willow had remembered to have my bed turned down for me. The manager on duty tried to get my attention for something, but I just waved him off. Whatever it was, I'd deal with it in the morning.

 I unlocked the door to the suite quietly. It was dark inside, so Willow must have gone off to bed already. I tiptoed to my room, which was unlocked. It was the work of a minute or so to get out of my clothes. I decided not to bother with pajamas, and just clamber into bed in nothing more than the Great Architect had given me on my birth.

 I felt the pillow against my head. That felt good. I felt the sheets on my chest. That felt good. I felt a paw on my thigh. That felt alarming. I heard a loud squeal, as I fumbled around for the light switch, to discover that I was sharing the bed with a rather attractive doe with long, black hairfur. And not much else. She stared at me with wide-open eyes.

"Who you?" she asked.


 Back in the suite, Willow and I were studying something rather mysterious: A single red long-stemmed rose in a slim glass vase. The accompanying note, addressed to me, simply read: YOU HAVE DONE GOOD.

 I wrinkled my brow. "Not very grammatical, is it?"

 Willow looked at the note thoughtfully. "No-ooo, I think it's correct, as in the sense that you have done a good deed."

 "H'm!" I looked at the vase. "Interesting. Wonder who sent it."

 Willow shrugged. "I guess we'll find out in good time." She looked at her watch. "You know, I could have sworn Les was coming in tonight. I wonder if his flight got delayed. It's not like him not to call or radio in."

 I shrugged. "Eh, he's probably dead to the world after all that traveling." The sound of crashing, thudding and yelling erupted from upstairs. I twitched my ears. "Or maybe just dead."

 Willow clapped a paw to her forehead. "Hell! I forgot to remind Les we'd changed suites. I hope he won't be angry with me."

 The sound of alarmed masculine squealing and delighted feminine squealing came through the ceiling. "I'll bet he's got something else on his mind, right now. "

 Willow grinned. "Knowing Inocenta, I'll bet that's all he's got on right now..."

The End of this episode of "Let's Doe It (Let's Fall In Love)"

to be continued in "The Bells Are Ringing For Me And My Doe", coming soon.

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