"But Will. . ."
"What use would you have for a pistol?"
"I could. . .use it to protect myself!"
"From who? Pirates? Or do you plan to turn pirate yourself and wear a
cutlass and a brace of pistols slung over your shoulder?"
"You sound just like my father!"
"Your father isn't always wrong, you know."
"I just. . .Nevermind!"
On the evening before Elizabeth's birthday, Will arrived home to an empty
house. From the garden came the crack of gunfire and an excited cheer, and
when he opened the back door, he saw Elizabeth firing a pistol at the fence.
Jack's arm was around her, steadying her aim. The acrid cloud of smoke
suggested that they'd been at this for some time.
"Will! Look what Jack brought me for an early birthday present." She thrust
the pistol forward with a defiant swagger. There was a black smudge across
her cheek and her face was lit up with feverish joy.
Will didn't know whether he was angrier at Elizabeth or Jack. "I suppose she
told you that I didn't want her to have a pistol?"
Jack assumed a hangdog look and then shrugged. "Never could resist a lady,
Will sighed and shook his head. "Would you like your present from me now,
Elizabeth, or would you prefer to wait until your actual birthday?"
Elizabeth had hardly spoken to him in weeks, but now that she had what she'd
wanted, she was all smiles again. "Don't be cross!"
Jack clapped an arm over Will's shoulder. "At any rate, what's done is done.
We're all together, and it's almost Elizabeth's birthday; might as
well make a celebration of it, eh?"
"It looks like you two have already been celebrating."
"Just a drop of rum. Here, you should have some, it'll improve your temper."
The rum helped, as did Jack's clever fingers and Elizabeth's conciliatory
kisses. Presently, they moved the party into the parlor, where they were
assured of more privacy, and it was some time later when, in a better humor,
Will remembered his gift.
"Go on, open it; it is your birthday now, after all."
Elizabeth lifted the lid and burst out laughing. "You sly dog!"
Jack looked over her shoulder and chuckled. "Great minds. . ."
"It seems a bit superfluous now."
Elizabeth grinned wickedly. "Nonsense! You know how much I like a matched
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