The Honourable Mr. Tawnish (Chapter 4, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 4

So it was in moody silence that we walked our horses up the hill where the beacon stands, and were barely on top, when we heard the sound of rapidly approaching hoofs behind us, and a few minutes later Sir Harry Raikes with his friend, Captain Hammersley, galloped up.

Hereupon Bentley, in his usual easy, inconsequent fashion, fell into conversation with them, but as for me, having bowed in acknowledgment of their boisterous salutation, I relapsed once more into gloomy thought. Little by little however, it became apparent to me that for some reason I had become a mark for their amusement; more than once I caught them exchanging looks, or regarding me from the corners of their eyes in such fashion as set my ears a-tingling. The Captain was possessed of a peculiarly high-pitched, falsetto laugh, which, recurring at frequent intervals (and for no reason as I could see), annoyed me almost beyond bearing. But I paid no heed, staring straight before me and meditating upon a course of action which had been in my head for days past--a plan whereby Jack's duel might be prevented altogether, and our sweet maid shielded from the sorrow that must otherwise blight her life so very soon.

As I have said before, there was a time, years ago, when I was accounted a match for any with the small-sword, and though a man grows old he can never forget what he has learned of the art. I had, besides, seen Raikes fight on two or three occasions, and believed, despite the disparity of our years, that I could master him. If on the other hand I was wrong, if, to put it bluntly, he should kill me, well, I was a very lonely man with none dependent upon me, nay, my money would but benefit others the sooner; moreover, I was a man of some standing, a Justice of the Peace, with many friends in high authority, both in London and the neighbourhood, who I know would raise such an outcry as would serve to rid the county of Raikes once and for all. And a better riddance could not well be imagined.

Thus, I argued, in either case my object could not fail, and therefore I determined on the first favourable opportunity to put the matter to a sudden issue. Presently the road narrowed so that we were forced to ride two abreast, and I noticed with a feeling of satisfaction that Raikes purposely reined in so as to bring himself beside me.

"By the way, Sir Richard," says he carelessly, "what of Jack Chester?"

"You possibly allude to my friend Sir John Chester," I corrected.

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