IntroducingMr.Tawnish,andwhatbefellat"TheChequers"1 OfthefurtherastonishingconductofthesaidMr.Tawnish39 OfaFlightofSteps,aStirrup,andaStone70 OfhowWefellinwithaHighwaymanattheCrossRoads87 ConcerningthetrueIdentityofourHighwayman113 OftheDawningofChristmasDay123 Whichdeals,amongotherMatters,withtheRingofSteel132 Wherein the Truth of the old Adage is made manifest—to wit: All's well thatendswell152
THEHONOURABLE MR.TAWNISH CHAPTERONE IntroducingMr.Tawnish,andwhatbefell at"TheChequers" MyselfandBentley,who,thoughagoodfellowinmanyways,isyetafoolin more(hencetheprominenceofthepersonalpronoun,for,aseveryoneknows,a fool should give place to his betters)—myself and Bentley, then, were riding homefromHadlow,whitherwehadbeentowitnessadog-fight(andImaysaya better fight I never saw, the dog I had backed disabling his opponent very effectively in something less than three-quarters of an hour—whereby Bentley owesmeahundredguineas)—wewereridinghomeasIsay,andwerewithina half-mileorsoofTonbridge,whenyoungHarryRaikescameupbehindusathis usual wild gallop, and passing with a curt nod, disappeared down the hill in a cloudofdust. "Were I but ten years younger," says I, looking after him, "Tonbridge Town wouldbetoosmalltoholdyonderfellowandmyself—heisbecomingapositive pest." "True,"saysBentley,"he'sforeverembroilingsomeoneorother." "Only last week," says I, "while you were away in London, he ran young Richardsthroughthelungsoversometriviality,andtheysayheliesa-dying." "Poor lad! poor lad!" says Bentley. "I mind, too, there was Tom Adams—shot dead in the Miller's Field not above a month ago; and before that, young Oatlands,andmanyothersbesides—" "Egad,"saysI,"butI'veagreatmindtocall'out'thebullymyself."
"Pooh!"saysBentley,"thefellow'sapastmasterateitherweapon." "If you will remember, there was a time when I was accounted no mean performereither,Bentley." "Pooh!"saysBentley,"leaveittoayoungerman—myself,forinstance." "Why,thereisbutamonthortwobetwixtus,"saysI. "Sixmonthsandfourdays,"saysheinhisdoggedfashion;"besides,"hewent on,argumentatively,"shoulditcometosmall-swords,youareagoodsixinches shorterinthereachthanRaikes;nowasforme—" "You!" says I, "Should it come to pistols you could not help but stop a bullet withyourvastbulk." Hereupon Bentley must needs set himself to prove that a big man offered no better target than a more diminutive one, all of which was of course but the purestfolly,asIveryplainlyshowedhim,whereathefella-whistlingofthesong "Lillibuleero"(asishiscustomever,whenatallhippedorputoutinanyway). Andsowepresentlycametothecross-roads.Nowithasbeenourcustomforthe past twelve years to finish the day with a game of picquet with our old friend JackChester,sothatithadbecomequiteaninstitution,sotospeak.Whatwas oursurprisethentoseeJackhimselfuponhisblackmare,waitingforusbeneath the finger-post. That he was in one of his passions was evident from the acute angleofhishatandwig,andasweapproachedwecouldhearhimswearingto himself. "Betyoufiftyit'shisdaughter,"saysBentley. "Done!"saysI,promptly. "Hownow,Jack?"saysBentley,asweshookhands. "MaytheDevilanointme!"growledJack. "Belikehewill,"saysBentley. "Here'saninfernalstateofaffairs!"saysJack,frowninguptheroad,hishatand wigverymuchoveroneeye. "Why,what'stodo?"saysI. "Do?"sayshe,rappingoutthreeoathsinquicksuccession—"do?—thedeviland
all'stodo!" "Makeitahundred?"saysBentleyaside. "Done!"saysI. "To think," groans Jack, blowing out his cheeks and striking himself a violent blow in the chest, "to think of a pale-faced, pranked-out, spindle-shanked, mealy-mouthedpopinjaylikehim!" "Him?"saysI,questioningly. "Aye—him!"snapsJack,withanotheroath. "Makeitahundredandfifty,Bentley?"saysIsoftly. "Agreed!"saysBentley. "To think," says Jack again, "of a prancing puppy-dog, a walking clothes-pole likehim—andsheloveshim,sir!" "She?"repeatedBentley,andchuckled. "Aye,she,sir,"roaredJack;"tothinkafterthewaywehavebroughtherup,after allourcareofher,thatsheshouldgoandfallinlovewithadancing,dandified nincompoop, all powder and patches. Why damme! the wench is run stark, staring mad. Egad! a nice situation for a loving and affectionate father to be placedin!" "Father?"saysI. "Aye, father, sir," roars Jack again, "though I would to heaven Penelope had someoneelsetofatherher—thejade!" "What!"saysI,unheedingBentley'sleeringtriumph(Bentleyneverwinsbuthe mustneedsshowit)"what,isPenelope—falleninlovewithsomebody?" "Whydon'tItellyou?"criesJack,"don'tItellyouthatIfoundasetofverses— actuallypoetry,thatthejackanapeshadwrittenher?" "Didyoutaxherwiththediscovery?"saysI. "TobesureIdid,andtheminxownedherloveforhim—vowedshe'dneverwed another,andpositivelytoldmeshelikedthepoetrystuff.Afterthat,asyoumay
suppose,Icameaway;hadIstayedIwon'tanswerforitbutthatImighthave boxedthejade'sears.Oh,egad,aprettybusiness!" "AndIthoughtwehadsettledshewastomarryBentley'snephewHoracesome day,"saysI,asweturnedintotheHighStreet. "It seems she has determined otherwise—the vixen; and a likely lad, too, as I rememberhim,"saysJack,shakinghishead. "Whereishenow,Bentley?"saysI. "Humph!"saysBentley,thoughtfully."HislastletterwaswritfromVenice." "Aye,that'sit,"saysJack,"whilehe'sgaddingabroad,thismincing,languidass, this—" "Whatdidyousaywasthefellow'sname?"saysI. "Tawnish!" says Jack, making a wry face over it, "the Honourable Horatio Tawnish.Come,DickandBentley,whatshallwedointhematter?" "Speakingformyself,"Ireturned,"it'sdevilishhardtodetermine." "And speaking for us all," says Bentley, "suppose we thrash out the question overabottleofwine?"andswingingintotheyardof"TheChequers"hardby,he dismountedandledthewaytothesandedparlour. Wefounditempty(asitusuallyisatthishour)saveforasolitaryindividualwho loungedupononeofthesettles,staringintothefire. Hewasagentlemanofmiddlingheightandveryslenderlybuilt,withapairof dreamy blue eyes set in the oval of a face whose pallor was rendered more effectivebyapatchatthecornerofhismouth.Hiscoat,ofafinebluesatinlaced with silver, sat upon him with scarce a wrinkle (the which especially recommended itself to me); white satin small-clothes and silk stockings of the same hue, with silver-buckled, red-heeled shoes, completed a costume of an elegance seldom seen out of London. I noticed also that his wig, carefully powderedandironed,wasoftheverylatestFrenchmode(vastlydifferenttothe rough scratch wigs usually affected by the gentry hereabouts), while the threecornered hat upon the table at his elbow was edged with the very finest point. Altogether, there was about him a certain delicate air that reminded me of my own vanished youth, and I sighed. As I took my seat, yet wondering who this
finegentlemanmightbe,Jackseizedmesuddenlybythearm. "Look!"saysheinmyear,"damme,theresitsthefellow!" Turning my head, I saw that the gentleman had risen, and he now tripped towardsus,histoescarefullypointed,whileasmall,gold-mountedwalkingcane dangledfromhiswristbyariband. "I believe," says he, speaking in a soft, affected voice, "I believe I have the felicityofaddressingSirJohnChester?" "The same, sir," said Jack, rising, "and, sir, I wish a word with you." Here, however,rememberingmyselfandBentley,heintroducedus—thoughinavery perfunctoryfashion,tobesure. "SirJohn,"saysMr.Tawnish,"yourveryobedienthumble;gentlemen—yours," andheboweddeeplytoeachofusinturn,withaprodigiousflourishofthelaced hat. Page12. "IbelieveIhavethefelicityofaddressing SirJohnChester?"Page12. "I repeat, Sir," says Jack, returning his bow, very stiff in the back, "I repeat, I wouldhaveawordwithyou." "Onmysoul,Iprotestyoudometoomuchhonour!"hemurmured—"shallwe sit?" Jack nodded, and Mr. Tawnish sank into a chair between myself and Bentley. "Delightful weather we are having," says he, breaking in upon a somewhat awkwardpause,"thoughtheydotellmethecountryneedsrainmostdamnably!" "Mr.Tawnish,"saysJack,givinghimselfasuddenthumpinthechest,"Ihaveno mindtotalktoyouoftheweather." "No?"saysMr.Tawnish,withatingeofsurpriseinhisgentlevoice,"whythen, I'm not particular myself, Sir John—there are a host of other matters—horses anddogs,forinstance." "Thedeviltakeyourhorsesanddogs,sir!"criesJack. "Willingly," says Mr. Tawnish, "to speak the truth I grow something tired of
themmyself;thereseemsverylittleelsetalkedofhereabouts." "Mr.Tawnish,"saysJack,beginningtolosehistemperdespitemyadmonitory frown,"thematteronwhichIwouldspeaktoyouismydaughter,sir,theLady Penelope." "What—here,SirJohn?"criesMr.Tawnish,inahorrifiedtone,"inthetapofan inn,witha—pinkmyimmortalsoul!—asandedfloor,andtheveryairnauseous with the reek of filthy tobacco? No, no, Sir John, indeed, keep to horses and dogs,Ibegofyou;'tisasubjectmoreinharmonywithsuchsurroundings." "Nowlookyou,sir,"saysJack,blowingouthischeeks,"'tisagoodenoughplace forwhatIhavetosaytoyou,sandedfloororno,andIpromiseitshallnotdetain youlong." HereuponJackrosewithasnortofanger,andbeganpacingtoandfro,striking himself most severely several times, while Mr. Tawnish, drawing out a very delicate,enamelledsnuff-box,helpedhimselftoaleisurelypinch,andregarded himwithamildastonishment. "Sir,"saysJack,turningsuddenlywithaclickofspurredheels,"youareinthe habitofwritingpoetry?" The patch at the corner of the Honourable Horatio's mouth quivered for a moment."Really,mydearSirJohn—"hebegan. "Yousentasetofversestomydaughter,sir,"Jackbrokein,"well,damme,sir,I don'tlikepoetry!" "Idonotdoubtitforamoment,sir,"saysMr.Tawnish,"butthesewerewritten, ifyouremember,to—thelady." "Exactly,"criesJack,"andyouwillunderstand,sir,thatIforbidpoetry,onceand forall—curseme,sir,I'llnotpermitit!" "ThisnewFrenchsaucethatLondonisgonemadoverisathoughttoostrongof garlic,tomythinking,"saysMr.Tawnish,flickingastraygrainofsnufffromhis cravat."Youwill,Ithink,agreewithme,SirJohn,thattoadelicatepalate—" "ThedevilanointyourFrenchsauce,sir,"criesJack,inafury,"who'stalkingof Frenchsauces?" "MyverydearSirJohn,"saysMr.Tawnish,withanengagingsmile,"whenone
topic becomes at all—strained, shall we say?—I esteem it the wiser course to change the subject, having frequently proved it to have certain soothing and calmingeffects—hencemysauce." Here Bentley sneezed and coughed both together and came nigh choking outright(ahighlydangerousthinginoneofhisweight),whichnecessitatedmy loosening his steenkirk and thumping him betwixt the shoulder-blades, while Jack strode up and down, swearing under his breath, and Mr. Tawnish took anotherpinchofsnuff. "Frenchsauce,byheaven!"criesJacksuddenly,"didanymaneverhearthelike ofit?—Frenchsauce!"andherewithhesnatchedoffhiswigandtrampledupon it,andBentleychokedhimselfpurpleagain.IwilladmitthatJack'sroundbullet head,with itsclose-cropped,grizzledhairstandingonend,wouldhavebeena whimsical, not to say laughable sight in any other (Bentley for instance)—but Jackinarageisnolaughablematter. "By the Lord, sir," cries he, turning upon Mr. Tawnish, who sat cross-legged, regarding everything with the same mild wonderment—"by the Lord! I'd call yououtforthatFrenchsauceifIthoughtyouwereafightingman." "Heavenforfend!"exclaimedMr.Tawnish,withagestureofhorror,"violenceof allkindsisabhorrenttomynature,andIhavealwaysregardedtheduelloasa particularlyclumsyandillogicalmethodofsettlingadispute." HereuponJacklookedabouthiminahelplesssortoffashion,asindeedwellhe might,andcatchingsightofhiswiglyinginthemiddleofthefloor,promptly kickeditintoacorner,whichseemedtorelievehimsomewhat,forhewenttoit and, picking it up again, knocked out the dust upon his knee, and setting it on verymuchoveroneeye,sathimselfdownagain,flushedandpanting,butcalm. "Mr.Tawnish,"sayshe,"asregardsmydaughter,Imustask—naydemand—that youceaseyourpersecutionofheronceandforall." "SirJohn,"saysMr.Tawnish,bowingacrossthetable,"allowmetosuggestin themosthumbleandsubmissivemanner,thattheword'persecution'isperhapsa trifle—Isayjustatrifle—unwarranted." "Be that as it may, sir, I repeat it, nevertheless," says Jack, "and furthermore I must insist that you communicate no more with the Lady Penelope either by poetryor—oranyothermeans."
"Alas!"sighsMr.Tawnish,"cheatmyselfasImay,thepossibilitywillobtrude itselfthatyoudonotlookuponmysuitwithquitethedegreeofwarmthIhad hoped.Sir,Iamnotperfect,fewofusare,butevenyouwillgrantthatIamnot altogetherasavage?"Asheended,hehelpedhimselftoanotherpinchofsnuff withapretty,delicateairsuchasaladywoulduseintakingacomfit;indeedhis hand, small and elegantly shaped, whose whiteness was accentuated by the emeraldandrubyringuponhisfinger,needednoverystrongeffortoffancyto betakenforawoman'soutright.IsawJack'slipcurlandhisnostrilsdilateatits veryprettiness. "Therebeworsethingsthansavages,sir,"sayshe,pointedly. "Indeed, Sir John, you are very right—do but hearken to the brutes," says Mr. Tawnish,withliftedfinger,asfromthefloorabovecamearoarofvoicessinging a merry drinking-catch, with the ring of glasses and the stamping of spurred heels. "Hark to 'em," he repeated, with a gesture of infinite disgust; "these are creatures the which, having all the outward form and semblance of man, yet, beingutterlydevoidofallman'sfinerqualities,livebuttoquarrelandfight—to eat and drink and beget their kind—in which they be vastly prolific, for the world is full of such. To-night it would seem they are in a high good humour, whereforetheyareatriflemoreboisterousthanusual,indulgingthemselvesin thesehowlingsandshoutings,andshallpresentlydrinkthemselvesoutofwhat littlewitDameNaturehathbestowedupon'em,andbecartedhometobedby theirlackeys—pah!" "How—what?"gaspsJack,whileIsatstaring(verynearlyopen-mouthed)atthe coolaudacityofthefellow. "Areyouaware,sir,"criesJack,whenatlasthehadregainedhisbreath,"thatthe personsyouhavebeendecryingarefriendsofmine,gallantgentlemenall—aye, sir, damme, and men to boot!—hard-fighting, hard-riding, hard-drinking, sixbottlegentlemen,sir?" "Ifearmemyignoranceofcountrywayshathledmeintoagraveerror,"says Mr. Tawnish, with a scarce perceptible shrug of the shoulders; "upon second thoughtsIgrantthereisaboutamanwhocanputdownonethroatwhatshould sufficeforsix,somethinggreat." "Orroomy!"addsBentley,inastranglingvoice. "Weareatsideissues,"saysJack,veryredintheface,"thepointbeing,thatI
forbidyoumydaughteronceandforall." "MightIenquireyourveryexcellentreasons?" "Plainly, then," returns Jack, hitting himself in the chest again, "the Lady PenelopeChestermustandshallmarryaman,sir." "Yes," nodded Mr. Tawnish, "a man is generally essential in such cases, I believe." "Isayaman,sir,"roaredJack,"and,damme,Imeanaman,andnotaclotheshorseoradancingmaster,or—oraFrenchsauce,sir.Onewhowillnotfaintifa dog bark too loudly, nor shiver at sight of a pistol, nor pick his way ever by smoothroads.Hemustbeaman,Isay,abletouseasmall-swordcreditably,who knowsoneendofahorsefromanother,whocanwinwellbutlosebetter,who canfollowthehoundsovertheroughestcountryandnotfallsickforatrifleof mud,norfretaweekoverasplashedcoat—inaword,hemustbeaman,sir." "Alas,whatadivinecreatureisman,afterall!"sighsMr.Tawnish,withashake ofthehead,"smallmatterofwonderifIcannotattainuntosohighanestate;for I beg you to observe that though I am tolerably efficient in the use of my weapon"(herehelaidhishandlightlyuponthesilverhiltofhissmall-sword), "though I can tell a spavined horse from a sound one, and can lose a trifle without positive tears, yet—and I say it with a sense of my extreme unworthiness—I have an excessive and abiding horror of mud, or dirt in any shapeorform.Butistherenootherway,SirJohn?Inremotetimesitwasthe custominsuchcasestosettheloversomearduoustask—someenterprisetotry hisworth.Comenow,injusticedothesamebyme,Ibeg,andnomatterhow difficulttheundertaking,Ipromiseyoushallatleastfindmezealous." "Come, Jack," cries Bentley, suddenly, "smite me, but that's very fair and sportsmanlike!Howthinkyou,Dick?" "Why, for once I agree with you, Bentley," says I, "'tis an offer not devoid of spirit,andshouldbeacceptedassuch." Jacksatdown,tooktwogulpsofwine,androseagain. "Mr. Tawnish," says he, "since these gentlemen are in unison upon the matter, andfurther,knowingtheyhavethegoodoftheLadyPenelopeatheartasmuch asI,Iwillacceptyourproposition,andwewill,eachofus,setyouatask.But, sir,Iwarnyou,donotdeludeyourselfwithfalsehopes;youshallnotfindthem
over-easy,I'llwarrant." Mr.Tawnishbowed,withtheveryslightestshrugofhisshoulders. "Firstly,then,"Jackbegan,"youmust—er—must—"Herehepausedtorubhis chin and stare at his boots. "Firstly," he began again, "if you shall succeed in doing—" Here his eyes wandered slowly up to the rafters, and down again to me."Curseit,Dick!"hebrokeoff,"whatthedevilmusthedo?" "Firstly," I put in, "you must accomplish some feat the which each one of us threeshallavowtobebeyondhim." "Good!" cries Jack, rubbing his hands, "excellent—so much for the first. Secondly—I say secondly—er—ha, yes—you must make a public laughing stockofthatquarrelsomepuppy,SirHarryRaikes.Raikesisadangerousfellow andgenerallypinkshisman,sir." "So they tell me," nodded Mr. Tawnish, jotting down a few lines in his memorandum. "Thirdly,"endedBentley,"youmustsucceedinplacingallthreeofus—namely, SirRichardEden,SirJohnChester,andmyself—togetherandatthesametime, atadisadvantage." "Now,sir,"saysJack,complacently,"proveyourmanhoodequaltothesethree tasks, and you shall be free to woo and wed the Lady Penelope whenever you will.Howsayyou,DickandBentley?" "Agreed,"wereplied. "Indeed,gentlemen,"saysMr.Tawnish,glancingathismemorandawithaslight frown,"IthinkthelaboursofHerculeswerescarcetobecomparedtothese,yetI donotaltogetherdespair,andtoprovetoyoumyreadinessinthematter,Iwill, withyourpermission,goandsetaboutthedoingofthem."Withthesewordshe rose,tookuphishat,andwithamostprofoundobeisanceturnedtothedoor. Atthismoment,however,therecameatramplingoffeetuponthestairs,another door was thrown open, and in walked Sir Harry Raikes himself, followed by D'Arcy and Hammersley, with three or four others whose faces were familiar. They were all in boisterous spirits, Sir Harry's florid face being flushed more than ordinary with drinking, and there was an ugly light in his prominent blue eyes.
Now,itsohappenedthattoreachthestreet,Mr.Tawnishmustpassclosebeside him,andnotingthis,SirHarryveryevidentlyplacedhimselffullintheway,so that Mr. Tawnish was obliged to step aside to avoid a collision; yet even then, Raikes thrust out an elbow in such a fashion as to jostle him very unceremoniously. Never have I seen an insult more wanton and altogether unprovoked, and we all of us, I think, ceased to breathe, waiting for the inevitabletofollow. Mr. Tawnish stopped and turned. I saw his delicate brows twitch suddenly together,andforamomenthischinseemedmorethanusuallyprominent—then all at once he smiled—positively smiled, and shrugged his shoulders with his languidair. "Sir,"sayshe,withaflashofhiswhiteteeth,"itseemstheymaketheserooms uncommonsmallandnarrow,forthelikesofyouandme—yourpardon."And so, with a tap, tap, of his high, red-heeled shoes, he crossed to the door, descendedthesteps,turnedupthestreet,andwasgone. "He—hebeggedthefellow'spardon!"splutteredJack,purpleintheface. "A more disgraceful exhibition was never seen," says I, "the fellow's a rank coward!"AsforBentley,heonlyfumbledwithhiswine-glassandgrunted. ThedepartureofMr.Tawnishhadbeenthesignalforagreatburstoflaughter from the others, in the middle of which Sir Harry strolled up to our table, noddingintheinsolentmannerpeculiartohim. "They tell me," said he, leering round upon us, "they tell me your pretty Penelope takes something more than a common interest in yonder fop; have a care,SirJohn,she'saplagueyskittishfillybythelooksofher,haveacare,or likeasnot—" Butherehisvoicewasdrownedbythenoiseofourthreechairs,aswerose. "SirHarryRaikes,"saysI,beingthefirstafoot,"beyoudrunkorno,Imustask youtobealittlelesspersonalinyourremarks—d'yetakeme?" "What?"criesRaikes,steppinguptome,"doyoutakeituponyourselftoteach mealessoninmanners?" "Aye,"saysBentley,edginghisvastbulkbetweenus,"ahardtask,SirHarry,but youbeinsadneedofone."
"ByGod!"criesRaikes,clappinghishandtohissmall-sword,"isitaquarrelyou areafter?Isayagainthatthewench—" Thetablewentoverwithacrash,andRaikesleapedasideonlyjustintime,so thatJack'sfistshotharmlesslypasthistemple.Yetsofiercehadbeentheblow, thatJack,carriedbyitsveryimpetus,tripped,staggered,andfellheavilytothe floor.InaninstantmyselfandBentleywerebendingoverhim,andpresentlygot him to his feet, but every effort to stand served only to make him wince with pain;yetbalancinghimselfupononeleg,supportedbyourshoulders,heturned uponRaikeswithasnarl. "Ha!"sayshe,"I'velongknownyouforadrunkenrascal—fitterforthestocks thanthesocietyofhonestgentlemen,nowIknowyouforaliarbesides;couldI butstand,youshouldanswertomethisverymoment." "SirJohn,ifyouwouldindulgemewiththepleasure,"saysI,puttingbackthe skirt of my coat from my sword-hilt, "you should find me no unworthy substitute,Ipromise." "No,no,"saysBentley,"beingtheyoungerman,Iclaimthisprivilegemyself." "Ithankyouboth,"saysJack,stiflingagroan,"butinthisaffairnoneothercan takemyplace." Raikes laughed noisily, and crossing the room, fell to picking his teeth and talking with his friend, Captain Hammersley, while the others stood apart, plainlymuchperturbed,tojudgefromtheirgesturesandsolemnfaces.Presently Hammersley rose, and came over to where Jack sat betwixt us, swearing and groaningunderhisbreath. "My dear Sir John," says the Captain, bowing, "in this much-to-be-regretted, devilishunpleasantsituation,youspokecertainwordsintheheatofthemoment whichwereatrifle—hasty,shallwesay?SirHarryisnaturallyalittleincensed, still,ifuponcalmerconsiderationyoucanseeyourwaytoretract,Ihope—" "Retract!" roars Jack, "retract—not a word, not a syllable; I repeat, Sir Harry Raikesisascoundrelandaliar—" "Verygood,mydearSirJohn,"saystheCaptain,withanotherbow;"itwillbe small-swords,Ipresume?" "Theywillserve,"saysJack.
"Andthetimeandplace?" "JustsosoonasIcanusethislegofmine,"saysJack,"andIknowofnobetter place than this room. Any further communication you may have to make, you willaddresstomyfriendhere,SirRichardEden,whowill,Ithink,actforme?" "Actforyou?"Irepeated,ingreatdistress,"yes,yes—assuredly." "Thenwewillleaveitthusforthepresent,SirJohn,"saystheCaptain,bowing andturningaway,"andItrustyourfootwillspeedilybewellagain." "Whichisasmuchaswishingmespeedilydead!"saysJack,witharuefulshake ofthehead."Raikesisadevilofafellowandgenerallypinkshisman—eh,Dick andBentley?" "Oh, my poor Jack!" sighed Bentley, turning his broad back upon Sir Harry, who, having bowed to us very formally, swaggered off with the others at his heels. "Man,Jack,"saysI,"you'llneverfight—youcannot—youshallnot!" "Aye,butIshall!"saysJack,grimly. "'Twillbeplainmurder!"saysBentley. "And—thinkofPen!"saysI. "Aye,Pen!"sighedJack."MyprettyPen!She'llbelonelyawhile,methinks,but —thankGod,she'llhaveyouandBentleystill!" And so, having presently summoned a coach (for Jack's foot was become too swollenforthestirrup),weallthreeofusgotinandweredriventotheManor. AndImustsay,agloomiertrioneverpassedoutofTonbridgeTown,foritwas well known to us that there was no man in all the South Country who could standuptoSirHarryRaikes;andmoreover,thatunlesssomemiraclechancedto stopthemeeting,ouroldfriendwasassurelyadeadmanasifhealreadylayin hiscoffin.
Ofthefurtherastonishingconductofthe saidMr.Tawnish MyselfandBentleywereengageduponourusualmorninggameofchess,when therecameaknockingatthedoor,andmyman,Peter,entered. "Checkmate!"saysI. "No!"saysBentley,castelling. "Begging your pardon, Sir Richard," says Peter, "but here's a man with a message." "Oh, devil take your man with a message, Peter!—the game is mine in six moves,"saysI,bringingupmyqueen'sknight. "No,"saysBentley,"steadyupthebishop." "FromSirJohnChester,"saysPeter,holdingthenoteundermynose. "Oh!SirJohnChester—check!" "WhatintheworldcanJackwant?"saysBentley,reachingforhiswig. "Check!"saysI. "Why, what can have put him out again?" says Bentley, pointing to the letter —"lookattheblots." Jackisabadenoughhandwiththepenatalltimes,butwheninapassion,his writing is always more or less illegible by reason of the numerous blots and smudges;onthepresentoccasionitwasveryevidentthathewasmoreputout thanusual. "SomenewvillainyofthefellowRaikes,youmaydepend,"saysI,breakingthe seal. "No,"saysBentley,"I'lllayyoutwenty,itreferstoyoungTawnish." "Done!"Inodded,andspreadingoutthepaperIread(withnolittledifficulty)as follows: DEARDICKANDBENTLEY,
Comeroundandseemeatonce,forthedevilanointmeifIeverheardtellthe likeon't,andmoreespeciallyaftertheexhibitionofaweekago.Tomymind,'tis butacloaktomaskhiscowardice,asyouwillbothdoubtlessagreewhenyou shallhavereadthisnote. Yours, JACK. "Well,butwhere'shismeaning?'TiseverJack'swaytoforgettheverykernelof news,"grumbledBentley. "Pooh!'tisplainenough,"saysI,"hemeansRaikes;anybutafoolwouldknow that." "Layyoufiftyit'sTawnish,"saysBentley,inhisstubbornway. "Done!"saysI. "Stay a moment, Dick," says Bentley, as I rose, "what of our Pen,—she hasn't askedyouyethowJackhurthisfoot,hasshe?" "Notaword." "Ha!" says Bentley, with a ponderous nod, "which goes to prove she doth but thinkthemore,andwemustkeepthetruthfromheratallhazards,Dick—she'll knowsoonenough,poor,dearlass.Now,shouldsheaskus—asaskusshewill, 'twerebesttohavesomethingtotellher—let'ssay,heslippedsomewhere!" "Aye,"Inodded,"we'lltellherhetwistedhisanklecomingdownthestepat'The Chequers'—would to God he had!" So saying, we clapped on our hats and salliedouttogetherarminarm.JackandIarenearneighbours,sothatawalkof some fifteen minutes brought us to the Manor, and proceeding at once to the library,wefoundhimwithhisleguponacushionandabottleofOportoathis elbow—a-cursingmostlustily. "Well,Jack,"saysBentley,ashepausedforbreath,"andhowistheleg?" "Leg!" roars Jack, "leg, sir—look at it—useless as a log—as a cursed log of wood,sir—snappedatendon—soPurdysays,butPurdy'sadamnedpessimistic fellow—thedevilanointalldoctors,sayI!" "Andpray,whatmightbethemeaningofthisnoteofyours?"andIhelditout
towardshim. "Meaning," cries Jack, "can't you read—don't I tell you? The insufferable insolenceofthefellow." "Faith!"saysI,"ifit'sRaikesyoumean,anythingisbelievableofhim—" "Raikes!" roars Jack, louder than ever, "fiddle-de-dee, sir! who mentioned that rascal—yougotmynote?" "Inwhichyoucarefullymadementionofnoone." "Well,Imeantto,andthat'sallthedifference." "To be sure," added Bentley,—"it's young Tawnish; anybody but a fool would knowthat." "To be sure," nodded Jack. "Dick," says he, turning upon me suddenly, "Dick, couldyouhavepassedoversuchaninsultaswesawRaikesputuponhimthe otherday?" "No!"Ianswered,veryshort,"andyouknowit." JackturnedtoBentleywithagroan. "Andyou,Bentley,comenow,"sayshe,"youcould,eh!—comenow?" "NotunlessIwasasleeporstoneblind,ordeaf,"saysBentley. "Damme!andwhynot?"criesJack,andthengroanedagain."Iwasafraidso," sayshe,"Iwasafraidso." "Jack,whatthedevildoyoumean?"Iexclaimed. Foranswerhetossedacrumpledpieceofpaperacrosstome."Readthat,"says he, "I got it not an hour since—read it aloud." Hereupon, smoothing out the creases,Ireadthefollowing: TONBRIDGE,OCTR.30th,1740. MYDEARSIRJOHN, Fortune, that charming though much vilified dame, hath for once proved kind, for the first, and believe me by far the most formidable of my three tasks, namely,toperformthatwhicheachoneofyoushallavowtobebeyondhim,is
alreadyaccomplished,andImakeboldtosay,successfully. Tobeparticular,youcouldnotbutnoticetheveryobjectionableconduct,Imight say, the wanton insolence of Sir Harry Raikes upon the occasion of our last interview.Now,SirJohn,you,togetherwithSirRichardEdenandMr.Bentley, willbearwitnesstothefactthatInotonlypassedovertheaffront,butevenwent sofarastoapologisetohimmyself,whereinIthinkIcanlayclaimtohaving achievedthatwhicheachoneofyouwilladmittohavebeenbeyondhispowers. Having thus fulfilled the first undertaking assigned me, there remain but two, namely,tomakealaughingstockofSirHarryRaikes(whichIpurposetodoat theveryfirstopportunity)andtoplaceyouthreegentlemenatadisadvantage. So,mydearSirJohn,inhopesofsoongainingyouresteemandblessing(above all),Irestyourmostdevoted,humble,obedient, HORATIOTAWNISH. "Thispassesallbounds,"saysI,tossingtheletteruponthetable,"suchaudacity —such presumption is beyond all belief; the question is, whether the fellow is rightinhishead." "No,Dick,"saysBentley,helpinghimselftotheOporto,"thequestionisrather —whetherheiswronginhisassertion." "Why, as to that—" I began, and paused, for look at it as I might 'twas plain enoughthatMr.Tawnishhadcertainlyscoredhisfirstpoint. "We all agree," continued Bentley, "that we none of us could do the like; it thereforefollowsthatthisTawnishfellowwinsthefirsthand." "Sheertrickery!"criesJack, hurlinghiswigintothecorner—"sheertrickery— damme!" "Foregad!Jack,"saysI,"thisfellow'snofool,ifhe'quitshimselfofhisother twotasksasfeatlyasthis,sinkme!butImustneedsbegintolovehim,forlook you, fair is fair all the world over and I agree with Bentley, for once, that Mr. Tawnishwinsthefirsthand." "Ha!"criesJack,"andbecausetheroguehastrickedusonce,wouldyouhaveus sitbyandletPenthrowherselfawayuponaworthless,fortune-huntingfop—" "Why,astothat,Jack,"saysBentley,"abargain'sabargain—"
"Pish!"roaredJack,fumblinginhispocket,"whyonlythisverymorningIcame uponmoreofhispoetry-stuff!Here,"hecontinued,tossingafoldedpaperonthe tableinfrontofBentley,"itseemstheyoungrascal'sbeenmeetingher—overthe orchard wall. Read it, Bentley—read it, and see for yourself." Obediently Bentleytookupthepaperandreadasherefolloweth: "'DearHeart—'" "Bah!"snortedJack. "'DearHeart!'"readBentleyagainandwithacertainunction: "'DEARHEART, Isendyouthesefewlines,poorthoughtheybe,forsincetheywereinspiredby mygreatloveforthee,thatofitself,methinks,shouldmakethemmoreworthy, Thine,asever, HORATIO.'" "Youmarkthat?"criesJack,excitedly,"'hers asever,'and'Horatio!'Horatio— faugh!Icouldha'takenitkinderhadhecalledhimselfTom,orWill,orGeorge, but'Horatio'—oh,damme!Andnowcomesthepoetry-stuff." HereuponBentleyhummedandha'd,andclearinghisthroat,readthis:
"'Whendrowsynightwithsombrewings O'erthisworldhisshadowflings Andthou,dearlove,dothsleep, ThendoIsendmysoultothee Thyguardiantillthedawntobe Andthysweetslumberskeep.'" "'Slumbers keep,'" snorted Jack, "the insolence of the fellow! Now look on t'otherside." "'Ishallbeintheorchardto-morrowattheusualhour,inthehopeofawordora lookfromyou.'" Bentleyread,andlaiddownthepaper. "At the usualhour—d'ye markthat!"criesJack,thumpinghimselfinthechest —"'tisbecomeahabitwith'em,itseems—andthere'sforye,andanicekettleo' fishitis!" "Ah,Bentley,"saysI,"ifonlyyournephew,theyoungViscount,werehere—" "TothedeucewithBentley'snephew!"roarsJack."Isayheshouldn'tmarryher now,no—notifhewere tenthousandtimesBentley'snephew,sir—deucetake him!" "Sothen,"saysI,"allourplansaregoneastray,andshewillhaveherwayand wedthisadventurerTawnish,Isuppose?" "No,no,Dick!"criesJack;"curseme,amInotherfather?" "Andisshenot—herself?"saysI. "True!"Jacknodded,"andasstubbornas—as—" "Her father!" added Bentley. "Why, Jack—Dick—I tell you she's ruled us all witharodofironeversincesheusedtoclimbupourkneestopullatourwigs withherlittle,mischievousfingers!" "Such very small, pink fingers!" says I, sighing. "Indeed we've spoiled her wofullybetwixtus." "Ha!"snortedJack,"andwho'sresponsibleforallthis,Isay;who'spettedand pampered, and coddled and condoned her every fault? Why—you, Dick and