The Honourable Mr. Tawnish (Chapter 6, page 2 of 3)

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Chapter 6

"Ah, Dick!" says he, as he turned and saw me, "A Merry Christmas to thee."

Now it had ever been our custom, since he and I and Bentley were lads together at Charterhouse, at this so happy season to greet each other thus, but for once I found the words to stick most woefully, and for no reason in the world my eyes wandered from his face to the miniature upon the table, seeing which he picked it up--yet kept it covered in his hand.

"Dick," says he, staring up at the cornice very hard, "we loved her mother well--passing well--you, and Bentley, and I."

"Aye," says I, "we did."

"This was the first great sorrow of my life--that by my happiness you two were rendered desolate," says he, laying his hand upon my shoulder.

"No, no," says I.

"Yes," says he, "think you I have been so blind, Dick?"

"You were her choice," says I.

"True, I was her choice," he repeated, "and methinks it came nigh breaking both your hearts, yet you were my friends still--the old bonds were too strong for self to break them."

"'T were a poor friendship else," says I.

"And now, Dick," says he, with his eyes on the cornice again, "there is Pen," and I saw his lips quiver slightly.

"Aye," I nodded, "there's Pen--our Pen."

I felt his fingers tighten on my shoulder, but he was silent.

"When I go out to-day," says he at last, and stopped.

"When I go out to-day--" he began once more, and stopped again; then, with a sudden gesture, he thrust the miniature into my hand. "You and Bentley!" says he, and turned to the papers that littered the table. "You understand?" says he, over his shoulder.

"Yes," says I, from the window, gazing across the bleak, grey desolation of the park. "Yes, I understand."

"I've been setting my papers in order, Dick,--a hard business," says he, with a rueful shake of the head, "a hard business, Dick--and now I'm minded to write a few lines to her, and that methinks will be harder yet." And passing his hand wearily over his brow, he took up his pen.

"Oh Jack--Jack," says I, suddenly, "there may be hope yet--"

"None," says he, quietly; "I was ever a fool with the small-sword, as you will remember, Dick. But I do not repine--you and Bentley are left."

So I presently went up-stairs again, and this time I did not pass Bentley's door, but entering, found him already nearly dressed, and as I live!--a-whistling of his eternal "Lillibuleero."

"Bentley," says I, sharply, "you surely forget what day it is?"

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