The Honourable Mr. Tawnish (Chapter 7, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 7

My anger toward Bentley, sudden though it may appear, was scarcely the outcome of the moment. I could not but call to mind the thousand little things he had both done and said during the past weeks that demonstrated the strange indifference he had shown toward the whole affair. Thus, as the day advanced, my feeling against him grew but the more intense. Looking back on it now, I am inclined to put this down partly to the reason already stated, partly to lack of sleep, and partly to the carking care that had gnawed at my heart all these weeks--though even now I am inclined to think that his conduct, as I then viewed it, justified my resentment.

I noticed as the day advanced that he seemed to be labouring under some strong excitement, and more than once he manifested a desire to speak with me aside, but I took good care to give him no opportunity. At length, however, Jack chancing to be out of the room for a moment, he seized me by the arm ere I could escape him.

"Dick--" he began.

"Sir!" I cut in, shaking myself free of him, "whatever explanation you may have to offer for your strange, and--yes, sir--utterly heartless conduct of late, I beg that you will let it stand until this most unhappy affair is over--I'm in no mood for it now." He fell back from me, staring as one utterly bewildered for a moment, then he smiled.

"If you will but listen, Dick--"

"Sir," says I, drawing away from him, "I have asked no explanation at your hands, and desire none--the callousness which you have shown so persistently of late has utterly broken down and severed once and for all whatever feeling of friendship I may have entertained for you hitherto."

"You don't mean it--you can never mean it," says he, stretching out an eager hand towards me. "Dick, do but listen--"

"Mean it, sir!" I repeated, "I tell you it is but the memory of that dead friendship which stays me from calling upon you to account to me with your sword."

"But," he stammered, "you--you would never--you could never--"

"Enough, sir," says I, "I have no desire for further speech with you--save that it would be well at least to keep up an appearance of the old relationship, until this affair is over and done with."

"Why, Dick!" says he, his lips twitching strangely, "why--Dick!" and with the word he turned suddenly and left me.

The duel had been settled for twelve o'clock, and it was exactly half after eleven by my chronometer when a servant came to warn us that the coach was at the door. So we presently descended and got in with never a word betwixt us. When men know each other so thoroughly, there is no need for the mask of gaiety to be held up as is usual at such times; thus we rode very silent and thoughtful for the most part, until we heard Purdy, the surgeon, hailing us from where he stood waiting at the cross roads as had been arranged.

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