The Honourable Mr. Tawnish (Chapter 1, page 1 of 11)


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Chapter 1

Myself and Bentley, who, though a good fellow in many ways, is yet a fool in more (hence the prominence of the personal pronoun, for, as every one knows, a fool should give place to his betters)--myself and Bentley, then, were riding home from Hadlow, whither we had been to witness a dog-fight (and I may say a better fight I never saw, the dog I had backed disabling his opponent very effectively in something less than three-quarters of an hour--whereby Bentley owes me a hundred guineas)--we were riding home as I say, and were within a half-mile or so of Tonbridge, when young Harry Raikes came up behind us at his usual wild gallop, and passing with a curt nod, disappeared down the hill in a cloud of dust.

"Were I but ten years younger," says I, looking after him, "Tonbridge Town would be too small to hold yonder fellow and myself--he is becoming a positive pest."

"True," says Bentley, "he's forever embroiling some one or other."

"Only last week," says I, "while you were away in London, he ran young Richards through the lungs over some triviality, and they say he lies a-dying."

"Poor lad! poor lad!" says Bentley. "I mind, too, there was Tom Adams--shot dead in the Miller's Field not above a month ago; and before that, young Oatlands, and many others besides--"

"Egad," says I, "but I've a great mind to call 'out' the bully myself."

"Pooh!" says Bentley, "the fellow's a past master at either weapon."

"If you will remember, there was a time when I was accounted no mean performer either, Bentley."

"Pooh!" says Bentley, "leave it to a younger man--myself, for instance."

"Why, there is but a month or two betwixt us," says I.

"Six months and four days," says he in his dogged fashion; "besides," he went on, argumentatively, "should it come to small-swords, you are a good six inches shorter in the reach than Raikes; now as for me--"

"You!" says I, "Should it come to pistols you could not help but stop a bullet with your vast bulk."

Hereupon Bentley must needs set himself to prove that a big man offered no better target than a more diminutive one, all of which was of course but the purest folly, as I very plainly showed him, whereat he fell a-whistling of the song "Lillibuleero" (as is his custom ever, when at all hipped or put out in any way). And so we presently came to the cross-roads. Now it has been our custom for the past twelve years to finish the day with a game of picquet with our old friend Jack Chester, so that it had become quite an institution, so to speak. What was our surprise then to see Jack himself upon his black mare, waiting for us beneath the finger-post. That he was in one of his passions was evident from the acute angle of his hat and wig, and as we approached we could hear him swearing to himself.

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