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

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Chapter 8

At this juncture, at a sign from Prothero, Purdy left us with a bow. Hereupon we saluted the others, and turning into an adjacent room, called for wine and filled our glasses to Mr. Tawnish, with all the honours.

As he rose to make his acknowledgment, for the first time in my recollection he seemed ill at ease.

"Sir John, and gentlemen," says he, slowly, "I had scarce looked for this kindness at your hands--it makes what I have to say harder than I had thought. Gentlemen," he continued, after a brief pause, "you each in turn set me an undertaking, little thinking at the time that there was any likelihood of my fulfilling them. As you know, however, the first two I accomplished some time since, and this morning I succeeded in the last, namely, in taking all three of you, together and at the same time, at a disadvantage. Sir John, gentlemen--scarce an hour ago the Lady Penelope Chester became my wife."

Jack started up from the table with an oath, and fell back, staring at the speaker with knitted brows--while Bentley gazed open-mouthed--as for me, I could do nothing but think that our Pen was gone from our keeping at last.

"By Gad, Jack, he's done us," cried Bentley, fetching the table a great blow with his fist.

Now, as I stood with my back to them, staring out into the yard below, my eyes encountered a great, four-horsed travelling chariot, and as I watched it, gloomily enough, the door was flung suddenly open, and ere the waiting footman could let down the steps a lady leapt lightly out and stood looking up at the windows. All at once she turned and gazed straight up at me--then I saw that it was Pen. With a wave of her hand she darted up the steps, and a moment later was in the room.

"Oh, I could wait no longer!" she cried, looking round with the tears in her lovely eyes, "we have been wed but an hour, and I have sat there praying 'twixt hope and fear, until methought I should go mad."

[Illustration: "Father," says she, "this is my husband--and I am proud to tell you so." Page 159.] Here, catching sight of Tawnish with his wounded arm, she uttered a low cry, and in a moment was kneeling beside him, kissing his uninjured hand, and fondling it with a thousand endearing terms. And seeing the infinite tenderness in his eyes and the love-light in her own, I was possessed of a sudden, great content. In a while, remembering us, she looked up, and, though her cheeks were red, her glance met ours freely and unashamed.

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