The Honourable Mr. Tawnish (Chapter 5, page 2 of 3)

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Chapter 5

"His shirt?" gasped Jack at last, wiping his eyes.

"His shirt," groaned Bentley, wiping his.

"Lord!" cries Jack, "Lord! 'twill be the talk of the town," says he, after a while.

"To be sure it will," says Bentley, and hereupon they fell a-roaring with laughter again. For my part, what betwixt thumping Bentley's back and the memory of Christmas morning now so near, I was sober enough.

They were still howling with laughter, and Bentley's face had already assumed a bluish tinge, when the door opened and a servant appeared, who handed a letter to Jack. Still laughing, he took it and broke the seal; at sight of the first words, however, his face underwent a sudden change. "Is the messenger here?" says he, very sharp.

"No, Sir John."

"Humph!" says Jack, "you may go then;" and he began to read. But he had not read a dozen words when he broke out into his customary oath.

"May the devil anoint me! Did you ever hear the like of that, now?"

"What?" says I.

"I say, did you ever hear the like of it?" he repeated. "Dick and Bentley, this fellow is the very devil!"

"What fellow?" says I.

"Lay you fifty it's Tawnish," gurgled Bentley.

"Done!" says I.

"A deuced pretty coil, on my soul!" says Jack, beginning to limp up and down, "oh, a deuced pretty coil--damn the fellow!"

"What fellow?" says I again.

"Make it a hundred?" says Bentley, in my ear.

"What fellow?" cries Jack, taking me up, "d'ye mean to sit there and ask what fellow--whom should it be?"

"Aye, who indeed?" added Bentley.

"If it's Raikes--" I began.

"Raikes," roars Jack, snatching his wig off, "Raikes--bah!"

"Then supposing you will be so very obliging as to tell us who the devil you do mean?"

"Why, aren't I trying to?" cries Jack, indignantly, "but you give a man no chance between you. Listen to this." And, having re-settled his wig, he drew the candles nearer to him and read as follows: "'My very dear Sir John--'

("The devil anoint his very dear Sir John!) "'It gives me infinite pleasure to have the honour of telling you--'

("There's a line for you!) "'of telling you that the second of my tasks is now accomplished--to wit, that of making Sir Harry Raikes a laughing-stock.'"

"What?" I cried.

"Listen," says Jack.

"'Whether a gentleman riding abroad in naught but his hat and shirt is a sufficiently laughable matter, or an object of derision, depends altogether upon the point of view, and I must leave your friends, namely, Sir Richard Eden and Mr. Bentley, to decide. There remains now but one more undertaking, that of putting you all--together and at the same time--at a disadvantage, which I shall confidently hope to perform so soon as Dame Fortune will permit.

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