The Honourable Mr. Tawnish (Chapter 5, page 1 of 3)


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Chapter 5

'Twas some half-hour later that we found Jack in his library, seated before the fire, his wine at his elbow and Pen at his feet, reading aloud from Mr. Steele's "Tatler."

Upon our sudden appearance Penelope rose, and looked from myself to Bentley a trifle anxiously I thought. Now, as I made my bow to her, I heard Bentley softly begin to whistle "Lillibuleero," and though I had heard him do so many times before, it suddenly struck me that this was the air the highwayman fellow had whistled as he sat swinging his legs upon the bridge.

"Bentley, to-day is Wednesday!" I expostulated, as breaking off in the middle of a bar, he kissed Pen full upon the lips.

"To be sure it is," says he, and kissed her again upon the cheek.

"And ten o'clock," added Jack, "and time all maids were abed."

"Not before I even matters," says I. "I'll give second place to none, least of all Bentley!" And I having kissed her twice--once upon the cheek for Wednesday, and once upon the lips for myself,--she dropped us a laughing courtesy, and with a final good-night kiss for Jack, and a nod to each of us, ran up to bed. But even then Bentley must needs follow her out to the stairs and stand there whispering his nonsense--which goes but to prove the jealous nature of the man!

"What's to do?" says Jack, pushing the wine towards me. "I've sat here with the cards beside me ever since eight o'clock--what's to do?"

"Why, you must know," I began, "we were stopped at the cross roads by a highwayman--myself and Bentley, with Captain Hammersley and Sir Harry Raikes--"

Here Bentley, returning, must needs throw himself into a chair, laughing and choking all at once.

"Raikes--" he gasped,--"in his shirt--by the Lord! Oh, egad, Jack! fluttering in the wind--"

"What in the world!" began Jack, staring. "Is he drunk or mad?"

"As I tell you," says I, loosening Bentley's cravat, "we were stopped by a highwayman--" and forthwith I plunged into an account of the whole matter.

"Egad!" cries Bentley again, breaking in ere I was half done, "here was Dick offering Raikes a choice betwixt his horsewhip and his sword--and he, look you, a full six inches shorter in the reach, while I--"

"You!" says I, "he couldn't help but pink you somewhere or other at the first pass--"

"Well, Raikes was a-sneering as I say," pursued Bentley, "when up comes our highwayman and coolly strips him to his very shirt, Jack--ties him to his horse, and parades him all through Tonbridge--rat me!--and as I tell you, the wind, Jack--'t was cursedly cold, and--and--oh! strike me purple!" Here Bentley choked again, and while I thumped his back, he and Jack rolled in their chairs, and shook the very casements with their laughter.

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