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


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Chapter 2

"Aye," I nodded, "we'll tell her he twisted his ankle coming down the step at 'The Chequers'--would to God he had!" So saying, we clapped on our hats and sallied out together arm in arm. Jack and I are near neighbours, so that a walk of some fifteen minutes brought us to the Manor, and proceeding at once to the library, we found him with his leg upon a cushion and a bottle of Oporto at his elbow--a-cursing most lustily.

"Well, Jack," says Bentley, as he paused for breath, "and how is the leg?"

"Leg!" roars Jack, "leg, sir--look at it--useless as a log--as a cursed log of wood, sir--snapped a tendon--so Purdy says, but Purdy's a damned pessimistic fellow--the devil anoint all doctors, say I!"

"And pray, what might be the meaning of this note of yours?" and I held it out towards him.

"Meaning," cries Jack, "can't you read--don't I tell you? The insufferable insolence of the fellow."

"Faith!" says I, "if it's Raikes you mean, anything is believable of him--"

"Raikes!" roars Jack, louder than ever, "fiddle-de-dee, sir! who mentioned that rascal--you got my note?"

"In which you carefully made mention of no one."

"Well, I meant to, and that's all the difference."

"To be sure," added Bentley,--"it's young Tawnish; anybody but a fool would know that."

"To be sure," nodded Jack. "Dick," says he, turning upon me suddenly, "Dick, could you have passed over such an insult as we saw Raikes put upon him the other day?"

"No!" I answered, very short, "and you know it."

Jack turned to Bentley with a groan.

"And you, Bentley, come now," says he, "you could, eh!--come now?"

"Not unless I was asleep or stone blind, or deaf," says Bentley.

"Damme! and why not?" cries Jack, and then groaned again. "I was afraid so," says he, "I was afraid so."

"Jack, what the devil do you mean?" I exclaimed.

For answer he tossed a crumpled piece of paper across to me. "Read that," says he, "I got it not an hour since--read it aloud." Hereupon, smoothing out the creases, I read the following:

TONBRIDGE, OCTR. 30th, 1740.

MY DEAR SIR JOHN,

Fortune, that charming though much vilified dame, hath for once proved kind, for the first, and believe me by far the most formidable of my three tasks, namely, to perform that which each one of you shall avow to be beyond him, is already accomplished, and I make bold to say, successfully.

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