The Honourable Mr. Tawnish (Chapter 2, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 2

Myself and Bentley were engaged upon our usual morning game of chess, when there came a knocking at the door, and my man, Peter, entered.

"Checkmate!" says I.

"No!" says Bentley, castelling.

"Begging your pardon, Sir Richard," says Peter, "but here's a man with a message."

"Oh, devil take your man with a message, Peter!--the game is mine in six moves," says I, bringing up my queen's knight.

"No," says Bentley, "steady up the bishop."

"From Sir John Chester," says Peter, holding the note under my nose.

"Oh! Sir John Chester--check!"

"What in the world can Jack want?" says Bentley, reaching for his wig.

"Check!" says I.

"Why, what can have put him out again?" says Bentley, pointing to the letter--"look at the blots."

Jack is a bad enough hand with the pen at all times, but when in a passion, his writing is always more or less illegible by reason of the numerous blots and smudges; on the present occasion it was very evident that he was more put out than usual.

"Some new villainy of the fellow Raikes, you may depend," says I, breaking the seal.

"No," says Bentley, "I'll lay you twenty, it refers to young Tawnish."

"Done!" I nodded, and spreading out the paper I read (with no little difficulty) as follows:

DEAR DICK AND BENTLEY,

Come round and see me at once, for the devil anoint me if I ever heard tell the like on't, and more especially after the exhibition of a week ago. To my mind, 'tis but a cloak to mask his cowardice, as you will both doubtless agree when you shall have read this note.

Yours, JACK.

"Well, but where's his meaning? 'Tis ever Jack's way to forget the very kernel of news," grumbled Bentley.

"Pooh! 'tis plain enough," says I, "he means Raikes; any but a fool would know that."

"Lay you fifty it's Tawnish," says Bentley, in his stubborn way.

"Done!" says I.

"Stay a moment, Dick," says Bentley, as I rose, "what of our Pen,--she hasn't asked you yet how Jack hurt his foot, has she?"

"Not a word."

"Ha!" says Bentley, with a ponderous nod, "which goes to prove she doth but think the more, and we must keep the truth from her at all hazards, Dick--she'll know soon enough, poor, dear lass. Now, should she ask us--as ask us she will, 'twere best to have something to tell her--let's say, he slipped somewhere!"

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