The Friendly Little War of Lyman Cutler
Cutler and Marlene stepped out from among the red trunks of the madrona trees, pausing at the edge of the slight drop down to the beach. Cutler stepped out onto a large driftwood log and was turning to assist Marlene when she stepped nimbly across the gap and onto the log beside him. With only the slightest and briefest expression of chagrin, he stepped down to the sand. When she failed to join him, he turned and found her wearing a coy smile and extending a hand.
He took her hand, and she allowed herself to be assisted in stepping down from the log. This, as they had both anticipated, led inevitably to her leaning gently against him as she said, “Thank you.”
Striking a pose of overdone gallantry, Cutler replied, “An honor, I’m sure.”
Still holding her hand, he led her in silence toward the water, where they stopped and Cutler slowly smoothed out a small patch of sand with one boot before clearing his throat and asking, “Do you like working for Miss Griffin?”
“It has its points. I will say the traveling around’s been some fun.”
“Ever thought of settling down?”
Marlene slanted her eyes at him and asked, “Now exactly what do you mean by that?”
“Well, I mean, have you ever thought of getting married?”
“I guess I’ll think about that when the right man asks me.”
They were silent for a long moment. Cutler appeared to be bracing himself to ask the question that a man might be expected to ask after such a statement. He took a deep breath, then slowly released it and said, “Nice of Miss Griffin to give you the afternoon off.”
Marlene sniffed contemptuously and said, “It’s only because his nibs is calling on her again.”
“You mean that Percy Fainworthy? The fella that wanted to arrest me for shooting Mister Griffin’s pig?”
Cutler went on: “Sometimes I think he’s got his sights set on her, and other times I wonder.”
Marlene sniffed again and muttered, “Oh, I’ve no patience with him, and no more does she. It’s always Permit me to say and Your devoted servant.”
“The cultured approach,” said Cutler.
“There’s some as might wonder if it was any kind of an approach. Not but what a lady has a right to expect a gentleman to be polite, but he’s no right to leave her wondering about his intentions.”
“A man should make his intentions clear, you think?”
“It’s only right.”
Cutler took another deep breath, folded her in his arms, and said, “Permit me to say that I intend to kiss you.”
“Your devoted servant might say you’re taking your sweet time getting around to it.”
As they kissed, Fainworthy and Mary stepped out from among the trees and down to the beach a short distance away.
“Potts!” Mary exclaimed as Fainworthy blurted, “I say!”
Cutler, still embracing Marlene, smiled and said, “Howdy.”
“Permit me to say, Mister Cutler,” said Fainworthy, “that this is rather a public place for . . . er . . . that sort of thing.”
“It wasn’t a minute ago,” Cutler replied.
As Marlene smoothed her dress and patted her hair, Cutler added, “Too bad about your warrant not working out, Fainworthy. But I’m sure you’ll find it’s nicer to settle things in a friendly way.”
“I don’t believe Governor Douglas is prepared to regard the matter as closed.”
With an envious glance at Marlene, who had made no significant effort to back away from Cutler’s embrace, Mary said, “Mister Fainworthy, perhaps we should walk up to the meadow.”
“Of course,” he agreed.
They walked back to the log line, where he extended an arm and said, “Permit me.”
Mary placed a hand on his arm and stepped onto the log and then across the narrow gap to the ground above the beach.
Cutler grinned and said to Marlene, “Your obedient servant” before kissing her again, only to pull away as he caught sight of a British troop ship passing in the distance.
Marlene followed his gaze and asked, “More English marines?”
“Afraid so,” Cutler said. “That’ll make it right around three thousand in the harbor.”
“But there are only sixty-six American soldiers on the island. What do you think Captain Pickett will do?”
“He’s a Southerner. He’ll go down fighting.”
. . . .
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