The Honourable Mr. Tawnish (Chapter 8, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 8

So swift and altogether unexpected had been the end, that for a long minute there was a strange, tense stillness, a silence wherein all eyes were turned from the motionless form on the floor, with the ever-widening stain upon the snow of his shirt, to where Mr. Tawnish stood, leaning upon his small-sword. Then all at once pandemonium seemed to break loose--some running to lift the wounded man, some wandering round aimlessly, but all talking excitedly, and at the same time.

"Dick and Bentley," says Jack, mopping at his face with his handkerchief, "it's in my mind that we have made a cursed mistake for once--the fellow is a man."

"I've known that this month and more," says I.

"I say a man," repeated Jack, "and devil anoint me, I mean a man!"

"Who writes verses!" added Bentley.

"And what of that, sir?" cries Jack, indignantly. "I did the same myself once--we all did."

"A patched and powdered puppy-dog!" sneers Bentley; "look at him."

Now at this, glancing across at Mr. Tawnish, I saw that he still stood as before, only that the point of his sword was buried deep in the floor beneath his weight, while his pale face seemed paler even than its wont. As we watched, his hand slipped suddenly from the hilt, and he tottered slightly; then I noticed for the first time that blood was running down his right arm, and trickling from his finger-tips.

With an exclamation, I started forward, but Bentley's grasp was on my shoulder, and his voice whispered in my ear: "Leave him to Jack--'tis better so." And indeed Jack was already beside him, had flung one arm about the swaying figure, and half led, half carried him to a chair.

"Ah!" says Purdy, laying bare a great gash in the upper arm--"a little blood, but simple--simple!" and he fell to work a-sponging and bandaging, with a running exordium upon the humanity of the sword as opposed to the more deadly bullet--until at length, the dressing in place, Mr. Tawnish sighed and opened his eyes.

"Sir John," says he, sitting up, "give me leave to tell you that my third and last task was accomplished this morning."

"Eh?" cries Jack, "but first, let me get you out of this."

"What of Sir Harry Raikes?" says Tawnish, rising.

"Serious," says Purdy, shaking his head, "serious, but not altogether dangerous."

"Good!" says Jack, giving his arm to Mr. Tawnish, "I'm glad of that."

"Though," pursued Purdy, "he will be an invalid for months to come, the right lung--as I pointed out to my colleague, Prothero--a man of very excellent sense, by the way--"

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