The Spectre of Tappington by Unknown
The Spectre of Tappington
"It is very odd, though, what can have become of
them?" said Charles Seaforth, as he peeped under the valance of an old-fashioned
bedstead, in an old-fashioned apartment of a still more old-fashioned
manor-house; "'tis confounded odd, and I can't make it out at all.
Why, Barney, where are they? and where the d—l are you?"
No answer was returned to this appeal; and the lieutenant, who
was in the main a reasonable person,—at least as reasonable a person as
any young gentleman of twenty-two in "the service" can fairly be expected
to be,—cooled when he reflected that his servant could scarcely
reply extempore to a summons which it was impossible he should hear.
An application to the bell was the considerate result; and the
footsteps of as tight a lad as ever put pipe-clay to belt sounded along the gallery.
"Come in!" said his master. An ineffectual attempt upon
the door reminded Mr. Seaforth that he had locked himself in. "By Heaven!
this is the oddest thing of all," said he, as he turned the key and
admitted Mr. Maguire into his dormitory.
"Barney, where are my pantaloons?"
"Is it the breeches?" asked the valet, casting an
inquiring eye round the apartment; "is it the breeches, sir?"
"Yes; what have you done with them?"
"Sure then your honour had them on when you went to bed,
and it's hereabouts they'll be, I'll be bail;" and Barney lifted a
fashionable tunic from a cane-backed arm-chair, proceeding in his
examination. But the search was vain. There was the tunic aforesaid,—there
was a smart-looking kerseymere waistcoat; but the most important
article in a gentleman's wardrobe was still wanting.
"Where can they be?" asked the master with a
strong accent on the auxiliary verb.
"Sorrow a know I knows," said the man.
"It must have been the devil, then, after all, who has been here
and carried them off!" cried Seaforth, staring full into Barney's face.
Mr. Maguire was not devoid of the superstition of his countrymen,
but he looked as if he did not subscribe to the sequitur.
His master read incredulity in his countenance. "Why, I tell you,
Barney, I put them there, on that arm-chair, when I got into bed; and,
by Heaven! I distinctly saw the ghost of the old fellow they told me of,
come in at midnight, put on my pantaloons, and walk away with them."
"Maybe so," was the cautious reply.
"I thought, of course, it was a dream;
but then,—where the d—l are the breeches?"
The question was more easily asked than answered. Barney
renewed his search, while the lieutenant folded his arms, and, leaning
against the toilet, sunk into a reverie.
"After all, it must be some trick of my
laughter-loving cousins," said Seaforth.
"Ah! then, the ladies!" chimed in Mr. Maguire, though
the observation was not addressed to him; "and will it be Miss Caroline, or
Miss Margaret, that's stole your honour's things?"
"I hardly know what to think of it," pursued the bereaved
lieutenant, still speaking in soliloquy, with his eye resting dubiously on the
chamber door. "I locked myself in, that's certain; and—but there
must be some other entrance to the room—pooh! I remember—the private
staircase: how could I be such a fool?" and he crossed the chamber
to where a low oaken door-case was dimly visible in a distant corner.
He paused before it. Nothing now interfered to screen it from observation;
but it bore tokens of having been at some earlier period concealed
by tapestry, remains of which yet clothed the walls on either
side the portal.
"This way they must have come," said Seaforth;
"I wish with all my heart I had caught them!"
"Och! the kittens!" sighed Mr. Barney Maguire.
But the mystery was yet as far from being solved as
before. True, there was the "other door;" but then that, too, on examination,
was even more firmly secured than the one which opened on the gallery,—two
heavy bolts on the inside effectually prevented any coup de main
on the lieutenant's bivouac from that quarter. He was more puzzled
than ever; nor did the minutest inspection of the walls and floor throw
any light upon the subject: one thing only was clear,—the breeches
were gone! "It is very singular," said the lieutenant.
Tappington (generally called Tapton) Everard, is
an antiquated but commodious manor-house in the eastern division of the county of
Kent. A former proprietor had been high sheriff in the days of Elizabeth,
and many a dark and dismal tradition was yet extant of the licentiousness
of his life, and the enormity of his offences. The Glen, which
the keeper's daughter was seen to enter, but never known to quit,
still frowns darkly as of yore; while an ineradicable bloodstain on the
oaken stair yet bids defiance to the united energies of soap and sand.
But it is with one particular apartment that a deed of more especial
atrocity is said to be connected. A stranger guest—so runs the
legend—arrived unexpectedly at the mansion of the "Bad Sir Giles."
They met in apparent friendship; but the ill-concealed scowl on their
master's brow told the domestics that the visit was not a welcome one.
The banquet, however, was not spared; the wine-cup circulated freely,—too
freely, perhaps,—for sounds of discord at length reached the
ears of even the excluded serving-men as they were doing their best
to imitate their betters in the lower hall. Alarmed, some of them
ventured to approach the parlour; one, an old and favoured retainer
of the house, went so far as to break in upon his master's privacy.
Sir Giles, already high in oath, fiercely enjoined his absence, and he
retired; not, however, before he had distinctly heard from the
stranger's lips a menace that "There was that within his pocket
which could disprove the knight's right to issue that, or any other,
command within the walls of Tapton."
The intrusion, though momentary, seemed to have produced a
beneficial effect; the voices of the disputants fell, and the conversation
was carried on thenceforth in a more subdued tone, till, as evening
closed in, the domestics, when summoned to attend with lights, found
not only cordiality restored, but that a still deeper carouse was
meditated. Fresh stoups, and from the choicest bins, were produced;
nor was it till at a late, or rather early, hour, that the revellers
sought their chambers.
The one allotted to the stranger occupied the first floor of
the eastern angle of the building, and had once been the favourite apartment
of Sir Giles himself. Scandal ascribed this preference to the
facility which a private staircase, communicating with the grounds,
had afforded him, in the old knight's time, of following his wicked
courses unchecked by parental observation; a consideration which
ceased to be of weight when the death of his father left him uncontrolled
master of his estate and actions. From that period Sir Giles
had established himself in what were called the "state-apartments;"
and the "oaken chamber" was rarely tenanted, save on occasions of
extraordinary festivity, or when the Yule log drew an unusually
large accession of guests around the Christmas hearth.
On this eventful night it was prepared for the unknown
visitor, who sought his couch heated and inflamed from his midnight orgies,
and in the morning was found in his bed a swollen and blackened
corpse. No marks of violence appeared upon the body; but the livid
hue of the lips, and certain dark-coloured spots visible on the skin,
aroused suspicions which those who entertained them were too timid
to express. Apoplexy, induced by the excesses of the preceding night,
Sir Giles's confidential leech pronounced to be the cause of his sudden
dissolution: the body was buried in peace; and, though some shook
their heads as they witnessed the haste with which the funeral rites
were hurried on, none ventured to murmur. Other events arose to
distract the attention of the retainers; men's minds became occupied
by the stirring politics of the day, while the near approach of that
formidable armada, so vainly arrogating to itself a title which the
very elements joined with human valour to disprove, soon interfered to
weaken, if not obliterate, all remembrance of the nameless stranger
who had died within the walls of Tapton Everard.
Years rolled on: the "Bad Sir Giles" had himself long since
gone to his account, the last, as it was believed, of his immediate line;
though a few of the older tenants were sometimes heard to speak of
an elder brother, who had disappeared in early life, and never inherited
the estate. Rumours, too, of his having left a son in foreign lands
were at one time rife; but they died away, nothing occurring to support
them: the property passed unchallenged to a collateral branch of
the family, and the secret, if secret there were, was buried in Denton
churchyard, in the lonely grave of the mysterious stranger. One
circumstance alone occurred, after a long intervening period, to revive
the memory of these transactions. Some workmen employed in grubbing
an old plantation, for the purpose of raising on its site a modern
shrubbery, dug up, in the execution of their task, the mildewed remnants
of what seemed to have been once a garment. On more minute inspection,
enough remained of silken slashes and a coarse embroidery to
identify the relics as having once formed part of a pair of trunk hose;
while a few papers which fell from them, altogether illegible from
damp and age, were by the unlearned rustics conveyed to the then
owner of the estate.
Whether the squire was more successful in deciphering them
was never known; he certainly never alluded to their contents; and little
would have been thought of the matter but for the inconvenient memory
of one old woman, who declared she had heard her grandfather say
that when the "stranger guest" was poisoned, though all the rest of
his clothes were there, his breeches, the supposed repository of the
supposed documents, could never be found. The master of Tapton
Everard smiled when he heard Dame Jones's hint of deeds which
might impeach the validity of his own title in favour of some unknown
descendant of some unknown heir; and the story was rarely alluded to,
save by one or two miracle-mongers, who had heard that others had
seen the ghost of old Sir Giles, in his night-cap, issue from the postern,
enter the adjoining copse, and wring his shadowy hands in agony as he
seemed to search vainly for something hidden among the evergreens.
The stranger's death-room had, of course, been occasionally haunted
from the time of his decease; but the periods of visitation had latterly
become very rare,—even Mrs. Botherby, the housekeeper, being forced
to admit that, during her long sojourn at the manor, she had never
"met with anything worse than herself;" though, as the old lady
afterwards added upon more mature reflection, "I must say I think I
saw the devil once."
Such was the legend attached to Tapton Everard, and such the
story which the lively Caroline Ingoldsby detailed to her equally mercurial
cousin Charles Seaforth, lieutenant in the Hon. East India Company's
second regiment of Bombay Fencibles, as arm-in-arm they promenaded
a gallery decked with some dozen grim-looking ancestral portraits, and,
among others, with that of the redoubted Sir Giles himself. The gallant
commander had that very morning paid his first visit to the house of
his maternal uncle, after an absence of several years passed with his
regiment on the arid plains of Hindostan, whence he was now returned
on a three years' furlough. He had gone out a boy,—he returned a
man; but the impression made upon his youthful fancy by his favourite
cousin remained unimpaired, and to Tapton he directed his steps,
even before he sought the home of his widowed mother,—comforting
himself in this breach of filial decorum by the reflection that, as the
manor was so little out of his way, it would be unkind to pass, as it
were, the door of his relatives without just looking in for a few hours.
But he found his uncle as hospitable and his cousin more
charming than ever; and the looks of one, and the requests of the other, soon
precluded the possibility of refusing to lengthen the "few hours" into
a few days, though the house was at the moment full of visitors.
The Peterses were there from Ramsgate; and Mr.,
Mrs., and the two Miss Simpkinsons, from Bath, had come to pass a month with the
family; and Tom Ingoldsby had brought down his college friend the
Honourable Augustus Sucklethumbkin, with his groom and pointers,
to take a fortnight's shooting. And then there was Mrs. Ogleton, the
rich young widow, with her large black eyes, who, people did say, was
setting her cap at the young squire, though Mrs. Botherby did not believe
it; and, above all, there was Mademoiselle Pauline; her femme de
chambre, who "Mon-Dieu'd" everything and everybody, and cried
"Quel horreur!" at Mrs. Botherby's cap. In short, to use the
last-named and much respected lady's own expression, the house was
"choke-full" to the very attics,—all, save the "oaken chamber," which,
as the lieutenant expressed a most magnanimous disregard of ghosts,
was forthwith appropriated to his particular accommodation. Mr. Maguire
meanwhile was fain to share the apartment of Oliver Dobbs, the
squire's own man; a jocular proposal of joint occupancy having been
first indignantly rejected by "Mademoiselle," though preferred with
the "laste taste in life" of Mr. Barney's most insinuating brogue.
"Come, Charles, the urn is absolutely getting cold;
your breakfast will be quite spoiled: what can have made you so idle?" Such was
the morning salutation of Miss Ingoldsby to the militaire as he
entered the breakfast-room half an hour after the latest of the party.
"A pretty gentleman, truly, to make an appointment with," chimed
in Miss Margaret. "What is become of our ramble to the rocks before
"Oh! the young men never think of keeping a promise now," said
Mrs. Peters, a little ferret-faced woman with underdone eyes.
"When I was a young man," said Mr. Peters,
"I remember I always made a point of——"
"Pray how long ago was that?" asked Mr. Simpkinson from Bath.
"Why, sir, when I married Mrs. Peters,
I was—let me see—I was——"
"Do pray hold your tongue, P., and eat your breakfast!" interrupted
his better half, who had a mortal horror of chronological references;
"it's very rude to tease people with your family affairs."
The lieutenant had by this time taken his seat in
silence,—a good-humoured nod, and a glance, half-smiling, half-inquisitive,
being the extent of his salutation. Smitten as he was, and in the immediate
presence of her who had made so large a hole in his heart, his manner
was evidently distrait, which the fair Caroline in her secret soul
attributed to his being solely occupied by her agrémens,—how
would she have bridled had she known that they only shared his
meditations with a pair of breeches!
Charles drank his coffee and spiked some half-dozen eggs, darting
occasionally a penetrating glance at the ladies, in hope of detecting
the supposed waggery by the evidence of some furtive smile or conscious
look. But in vain! not a dimple moved indicative of roguery,
nor did the slightest elevation of eyebrow rise confirmative of his
suspicions. Hints and insinuations passed unheeded,—more particular
inquiries were out of the question:—the subject was unapproachable.
In the mean time, "patent cords" were just the
thing for a morning's ride, and, breakfast ended, away cantered the party over
the downs, till, every faculty absorbed by the beauties, animate and inanimate,
which surrounded him, Lieutenant Seaforth of the Bombay
Fencibles bestowed no more thought upon his breeches than if he had
been born on the top of Ben Lomond.
Another night had passed away; the sun rose
brilliantly, forming with his level beams a splendid rainbow in the far-off west,
whither the heavy cloud, which for the last two hours had been pouring its
waters on the earth, was now flying before him.
"Ah! then, and it's little good it'll be the claning of ye,"
apostrophised Mr. Barney Maguire, as he deposited, in front of his master's
toilet, a pair of "bran-new" jockey boots, one of Hoby's primest fits,
which the lieutenant had purchased in his way through town. On
that very morning had they come for the first time under the valet's
depuriating hand, so little soiled, indeed, from the turfy ride of the
preceding day, that a less scrupulous domestic might, perhaps have
considered the application of "Warren's Matchless," or oxalic acid,
altogether superfluous. Not so Barney: with the nicest care had he
removed the slightest impurity from each polished surface, and there
they stood rejoicing in their sable radiance. No wonder a pang shot
across Mr. Maguire's breast as he thought on the work now cut out
for them, so different from the light labours of the day before; no
wonder he murmured with a sigh, as the scarce dried window-panes
disclosed a road now inch-deep in mud. "Ah! then, it's little good
the claning of ye!"—for well had he learned in the hell below that
eight miles of a stiff clay soil lay between the manor and Bolsover
Abbey, whose picturesque ruins,
"Like ancient Rome, majestic in decay,"
the party had determined to explore. The master had
already commenced dressing, and the man was fitting straps upon a light pair
of crane-necked spurs, when his hand was arrested by the old
question,—"Barney, where are the breeches?"
Mr. Seaforth descended that morning, whip in hand,
and equipped in a handsome green riding-frock, but no "breeches and boots to
match" were there: loose jean trousers, surmounting a pair of diminutive
Wellingtons, embraced, somewhat incongruously, his nether
man, vice the "patent cords," returned, like yesterday's pantaloons,
absent without leave. The "top-boots" had a holiday.
"A fine morning after the rain," said Mr. Simpkinson from Bath.
"Just the thing for the 'ops," said Mr. Peters.
"I remember when I was a boy——"
"Do hold your tongue, P.," said Mrs. Peters,—advice which
that exemplary matron was in the constant habit of administering to "her P.,"
as she called him, whenever he prepared to vent his reminiscences.
Her precise reason for this it would be difficult to determine, unless,
indeed, the story be true which a little bird had whispered into Mrs.
Botherby's ear,—Mr. Peters, though now a wealthy man, had received
a liberal education at a charity-school, and was apt to recur to
the days of his muffin-cap and leathers. As usual, he took his wife's
hint in good part, and "paused in his reply."
"A glorious day for the Ruins!" said young Ingoldsby. "But,
Charles, what the deuce are you about?—you don't mean to ride
through our lanes in such toggery as that?"
"Lassy me!" said Miss Julia Simpkinson,
"won't you be very wet?"
"You had better take Tom's cab," quoth the squire.
But this proposition was at once overruled; Mrs. Ogleton
had already nailed the cab, a vehicle of all others the best adapted for a
"Or drive Miss Julia in the phaeton?" No; that was the post
of Mr. Peters, who, indifferent as an equestrian, had acquired some fame
as a whip while travelling through the midland counties for the firm
of Bagshaw, Snivelby, and Ghrimes.
"Thank you, I shall ride with my cousins," said Charles with as
much nonchalance as he could assume,—and he did so; Mr. Ingoldsby,
Mrs. Peters, Mr. Simpkinson from Bath, and his eldest daughter with
her album, following in the family coach. The gentleman-commoner
"voted the affair d—d slow," and declined the party altogether in
favour of the gamekeeper and a cigar. "There was 'no fun' in looking
at old houses!" Mrs. Simpkinson preferred a short séjour in the
still-room with Mrs. Botherby, who had promised to initiate her in
that grand arcanum, the transmutation of gooseberry jam into Guava jelly.
"Did you ever see an old abbey before, Mr. Peters?"
"Yes, miss, a French one; we have got one at Ramsgate; he
teaches the Miss Joneses to parleyvoo, and is turned of sixty."
Miss Simpkinson closed her album with an air of ineffable disdain.
Mr. Simpkinson from Bath was a professed antiquary, and
one of the first water; he was master of Gwillim's Heraldry, and Milles's
History of the Crusades; knew every plate in the Monasticon, had
written an essay on the origin and dignity of the office of Overseer,
and settled the date of a Queen Anne's farthing. An influential member
of the Antiquarian Society, to whose "Beauties of Bagnigge Wells" he
had been a liberal subscriber, procured him a seat at the board of that
learned body, since which happy epoch Sylvanus Urban had not a
more indefatigable correspondent. His inaugural essay on the President's
cocked hat was considered a miracle of erudition; and his account
of the earliest application of gilding to gingerbread, a masterpiece of
antiquarian research. His eldest daughter was of a kindred spirit: if
her father's mantle had not fallen upon her, it was only because he
had not thrown it off himself; she had caught hold of its tail, however,
while yet upon his honoured shoulders. To souls so congenial what a sight
was the magnificent ruin of Bolsover! its broken arches, its mouldering
pinnacles, and the airy tracery of its half-demolished windows. The
party was in raptures; Mr. Simpkinson began to meditate an essay, and
his daughter an ode: even Seaforth, as he gazed on these lonely relics
of the olden time, was betrayed into a momentary forgetfulness of his
love and losses; the widow's eye-glass turned from her cicisbeo's
whiskers to the mantling ivy; Mrs. Peters wiped her spectacles; and "her
P." pronounced the central tower to be "very like a mouldy Stilton
cheese,—only bigger." The squire was a philosopher, and had been
there often before; so he ordered out the cold tongue and chickens.
"Bolsover Priory," said Mr. Simpkinson with the air of a
connoisseur,—"Bolsover Priory was founded in the reign of Henry the
Sixth, about the beginning of the eleventh century. Hugh de Bolsover had
accompanied that monarch to the Holy Land in the expedition undertaken
by way of penance for the murder of his young nephews in the
Tower. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries the veteran was enfeoffed
in the lands and manor, to which he gave his own name of
Bowlsover, or Bee-owls-over, (by corruption Bolsover,)—a Bee in
chief, over three Owls, all proper, being the armorial ensigns borne by
this distinguished crusader at the siege of Acre."
"Ah! that was Sir Sidney Smith," said Mr. Peters; "I've heard
of him, and all about Mrs. Partington, and——"
"P. be quiet, and don't expose yourself!" sharply interrupted his
lady. P. was silenced, and betook himself to the bottled stout.
"These lands," continued the antiquary, "were held in grand serjeantry
by the presentation of three white owls and a pot of honey——"
"Lassy me! how nice!" said Miss Julia. Mr. Peters licked his
"Pray give me leave, my dear——owls and honey, whenever the
king should come a rat-catching into this part of the country."
"Rat-catching!" ejaculated the squire, pausing abruptly in the
mastication of a drumstick.
"To be sure, my dear sir: don't you remember that rats once came
under the forest laws—a minor species of venison? 'Rats and mice,
and such small deer,' eh?—Shakspeare, you know. Our ancestors ate
rats;" ("The nasty fellows!" shuddered Miss Julia in a parenthesis)
"and owls, you know, are capital mousers——"
"I've seen a howl," said Mr. Peters; "there's one in the Sohological
Gardens,—a little hook-nosed chap in a wig,—only it's feathers
Poor P. was destined never to finish a speech.
"Do be quiet!" cried the authoritative voice, and the would-be
naturalist shrank into his shell like a snail in the "Sohological Gardens."
"You should read Blount's 'Jocular Tenures,' Mr. Ingoldsby,"
pursued Simpkinson. "A learned man was Blount! Why, sir, his
Royal Highness the Duke of York once paid a silver horse-shoe to Lord
"I've heard of him," broke in the incorrigible Peters; "he was
hanged at the Old Bailey in a silk rope for shooting Doctor Johnson."
The antiquary vouchsafed no notice of the interruption; but, taking
a pinch of snuff, continued his harangue.
"A silver horse-shoe, sir, which is due from every scion of royalty
who rides across one of his manors; and if you look into the penny
county histories, now publishing by an eminent friend of mine, you will
find that Langhale in Co. Norf. was held by one Baldwin per saltum
sufflatum, et pettum; that is, he was to come every Christmas into
Westminster Hall, there to take a leap, cry hem! and——"
"Mr. Simpkinson, a glass of sherry?" cried Tom Ingoldsby hastily.
"Not any, thank you, sir. This Baldwin, surnamed Le ——"
"Mrs. Ogleton challenges you, sir; she insists upon it," said Tom
still more rapidly; at the same time filling a glass, and forcing it on the
sçavant, who, thus arrested in the very crisis of his narrative, received
and swallowed the potation as if it had been physic.
"What on earth has Miss Simpkinson discovered there?" continued
Tom; "something of interest. See how fast she is writing."
The diversion was effectual; every one looked towards Miss
Simpkinson, who, far too ethereal for "creature comforts," was seated apart
on the dilapidated remains of an altar-tomb, committing eagerly to
paper something that had strongly impressed her: the air,—the eye in
a fine frenzy rolling,—all betokened that the divine afflatus was come.
Her father rose, and stole silently towards her.
"What an old boar!" muttered young Ingoldsby; alluding, perhaps,
to a slice of brawn which he had just begun to operate upon, but which,
from the celerity with which it disappeared, did not seem so very difficult
But what had become of Seaforth and his fair Caroline all this
while? Why, it so happened that they had been simultaneously stricken with
the picturesque appearance of one of those high and pointed arches,
which that eminent antiquary, Mr. Horseley Curties, describes as "a
Gothic window of the Saxon order;"—and then the ivy clustered
so thickly and so beautifully on the other side, that they went round to
look at that;—and then their proximity deprived it of half its effect, and
so they walked across to a little knoll, a hundred yards off, and, in
crossing a small ravine, they came to what in Ireland they call "a bad
step," and Charles had to carry his cousin over it;—and then, when they
had to come back, she would not give him the trouble again for the
world, so they followed a better but more circuitous route, and there
were hedges and ditches in the way, and stiles to get over, and gates
to get through; so that an hour or more had elapsed before they were
able to rejoin the party.
"Lassy me!" said Miss Julia Simpkinson, "how long you have been gone!"
And so they had. The remark was a very just as well as a very
natural one. They were gone a long while, and a nice cosey chat they
had; and what do you think it was all about, my dear miss?
"Oh, lassy me! love, no doubt, and the moon, and eyes, and
Stay; stay, my sweet young lady; do not let the fervour of your
feelings run away with you! I do not pretend to say, indeed, that
one or more of these pretty subjects might not have been introduced;
but the most important and leading topic of the conference
was—Lieutenant Seaforth's breeches.
"Caroline," said Charles, "I have had some very odd dreams since
have been at Tappington."
"Dreams, have you?" smiled the young lady, arching her taper neck
like a swan in pluming. "Dreams, have you?"
"Ay, dreams,—or dream, perhaps, I should say; for, though
repeated, it was still the same. And what do you imagine was its subject?"
"It is impossible for me to divine," said the tongue; "I have not
the least difficulty in guessing," said the eye, as plainly as ever eye spoke.
"I dreamt of—your great grandfather!"
There was a change in the glance—"My great grandfather?"
"Yes, the old Sir Giles, or Sir John, you told me about the
other day: he walked into my bedroom in his short cloak of murrey-coloured
velvet, his long rapier, and his Ralegh-looking hat and feather, just
as this picture represents him; but with one exception."
"And what was that?"
"Why, his lower extremities, which were visible,
were—those of a skeleton."
"Well, after taking a turn or two about the room, and looking
round him with a wistful air, he came to the bed's foot, stared at me in a
manner impossible to describe,—and then he—he laid hold of my
pantaloons, whipped his long bony legs into them in a twinkling, and,
strutting up to the glass, seemed to view himself in it with great
complacency. I tried to speak, but in vain. The effort, however, seemed
to excite his attention; for, wheeling about, he showed me the
grimmest-looking death's head you can well imagine, and with an
indescribable grin strutted out of the room."
"Absurd, Charles! How can you talk such nonsense?"
"But, Caroline,—the breeches are really gone!"
On the following morning, contrary to his usual
custom, Seaforth was the first person in the breakfast-parlour. As no one else
was present, he did precisely what nine young men out of ten so situated
would have done; he walked up to the mantelpiece, established himself
upon the rug, and subducting his coat-tails one under each arm,
turned towards the fire that portion of the human frame which it is
considered equally indecorous to present to a friend or an enemy. A
serious, not to say anxious, expression was visible upon his good-humoured
countenance, and his mouth was fast buttoning itself up for
an incipient whistle, when little Flo, a tiny spaniel of the Blenheim
breed,—the pet object of Miss Julia Simpkinson's affections,—bounced
out from beneath a sofa, and began to bark at—his pantaloons.
They were cleverly "built," of a light grey mixture, a broad
stripe of the most vivid scarlet traversing each seam in a perpendicular direction
from hip to ancle,—in short, the regimental costume of the Royal
Bombay Fencibles. The animal, educated in the country, had never
seen such a pair of breeches in her life—Omne ignotum pro magnifico!
The scarlet streak, inflamed as it was by the reflection of the fire,
seemed to act on Flora's nerves as the same colour does on those of
bulls and turkeys, she advanced at the pas de charge; and her vociferation,
like her amazement, was unbounded. A sound kick from the
disgusted officer changed its character, and induced a retreat at the
very moment when the mistress of the pugnacious quadruped entered
to the rescue.
"Lassy me! Flo! what is the matter?" cried the
sympathising lady, with a scrutinizing glance levelled at the gentleman.
It might as well have lighted on a feather-bed.—His
air of imperturbable unconsciousness defied examination; and as he would not,
and Flora could not, expound, that injured individual was compelled to
pocket up her wrongs. Others of the household soon dropped in, and
clustered round the board dedicated to the most sociable of meals; the
urn was paraded "hissing hot," and the cups which "cheer, but not
inebriate," steamed redolent of hyson and pekoe; muffins and marmalade,
newspapers and Finnon haddies, left little room for observation on
the character of Charles's warlike "turn-out." At length a look from
Caroline, followed by a smile that nearly ripened to a titter, caused him
to turn abruptly and address his neighbour. It was Miss Simpkinson,
who, deeply engaged in sipping her tea and turning over her album,
seemed, like a female Chrononotonthologos, "immersed in congibundity
of cogitation." An interrogatory on the subject of her studies drew
from her the confession that she was at that moment employed in putting
the finishing touches to a poem inspired by the romantic shades of
Bolsover. The entreaties of the company were of course urgent. Mr.
Peters, who "liked verses," was especially persevering, and Sappho at
length compliant. After a preparatory hem! and a glance at the mirror
to ascertain that her look was sufficiently sentimental, the poetess
"There is a calm, a holy feeling,
Vulgar minds can never know,
O'er the bosom softly stealing,—
Chasten'd grief, delicious woe!
Oh! how sweet at eve regaining
Yon lone tower's sequester'd shade—
Sadly mute and uncomplaining——"
—Yow!—yeough!—yeough!—yow!—yow! yelled a hapless
sufferer from beneath the table.—It was an unlucky hour for quadrupeds; and
if "every dog will have his day," he could not have selected a more
unpropitious one than this. Mrs. Ogleton, too, had a pet,—a favourite
pug,—whose squab figure, black muzzle, and tortuosity of tail, that
curled like a head of celery in a salad-bowl, bespoke his Dutch
extraction. Yow! yow! yow! continued the brute,—a chorus in which Flo
instantly joined. Sooth to say, pug had more reason to express his
dissatisfaction than was given him by the muse of Simpkinson; the
other only barked for company. Scarcely had the poetess got through
her first stanza, when Tom Ingoldsby, in the enthusiasm of the moment,
became so lost to the material world, that, in his abstraction, he unwarily
laid his hand on the cock of the urn. Quivering with emotion, he
gave it such an unlucky twist, that the full stream of its scalding contents
descended on the gingerbread hide of the unlucky Cupid. The
confusion was complete; the whole economy of the table disarranged;
the company broke up in most admired disorder; and "vulgar minds
will never know" anything more of Miss Simpkinson's ode till they
peruse it in some forthcoming annual.
Seaforth profited by the confusion to take the delinquent
who had caused this "stramash" by the arm, and to lead him to the lawn,
where he had a word or two for his private ear. The conference between
the young gentlemen was neither brief in its duration, nor unimportant
in its result. The subject was what the lawyers call tripartite,
embracing the information that Charles Seaforth was over head and
ears in love with Tom Ingoldsby's sister; secondly, that the lady had
referred him to "papa" for his sanction; thirdly and lastly, his
nightly visitations and consequent bereavement. At the two first
items Tom smiled auspiciously; at the last he burst out into an
"Steal your breeches? Miss Bailey over again, by Jove!"
shouted Ingoldsby. "But a gentleman, you say, and Sir Giles too—I am
not sure, Charles, whether I ought not to call you out for aspersing the
honour of the family!"
"Laugh as you will, Tom,—be as incredulous as you please. One
fact is incontestible,—the breeches are gone! Look here—I am reduced
to my regimentals; and if these go, to-morrow I must borrow of you!"
Rochefoucault says, there in something in the misfortunes of
our very best friends that does not displease us; certainly we can, most of us,
laugh at their petty inconveniences, till called upon to supply them.
Tom composed his features on the instant, and replied with more
gravity, as well as with an expression, which, if my Lord Mayor had
been within hearing, might have cost him five shillings.
"There is something very queer in this, after all. The
clothes, you say, have positively disappeared. Somebody is playing you a
trick, and, ten to one, your servant has a hand in it. By the way, I heard
something yesterday of his kicking up a bobbery in the kitchen, and
seeing a ghost, or something of that kind, himself. Depend upon it,
Barney is in the plot!"
It struck the lieutenant at once that the usually buoyant spirits
of his attendant had of late been materially sobered down, his loquacity
obviously circumscribed, and that he, the said lieutenant, had actually
rung his bell three several times that very morning before he could
procure his attendance. Mr. Maguire was forthwith summoned, and
underwent a close examination. The "bobbery" was easily explained.
Mr. Oliver Dobbs had hinted his disapprobation of a flirtation carrying
on between the gentleman from Munster and the lady from the Rue
St. Honoré. Mademoiselle boxed Mr. Maguire's ears, and Mr. Maguire
pulled Mademoiselle upon his knee, and the lady did not cry
Mon Dieu! And Mr. Oliver Dobbs said it was very wrong; and Mrs.
Botherby said it was scandalous, and what ought not to be done in any
moral kitchen; and Mr. Maguire had got hold of the Honourable Augustus
Sucklethumbkin's powder-flask, and had put large pinches of the
best double Dartford into Mr. Dobbs' tobacco-box; and Mr. Dobbs'
pipe had exploded and set fire to Mrs. Botherby's Sunday cap, and Mr.
Maguire had put it out with the slop-basin, "barring the wig;" and
then they were all so "cantankerous," that Barney had gone to take
a walk in the garden; and then—then Mr. Barney had seen a ghost!
"A what? you blockhead!" asked Tom Ingoldsby.
"Sure then, and it's meself will tell your honour the rights
of it," said the ghost-seer. "Meself and Miss Pauline, sir—or Miss Pauline
and meself, for the ladies comes first any how,—we got tired of the
hobstroppylous skrimmaging among the ould servants, that didn't know
a joke when they seen one; and we went out to look at the Comet,—that's
the Rory-Bory-alehouse, they calls him in this country,—and we
walked upon the lawn, and divel of any alehouse there was there at
all; and Miss Pauline said it was becase of the shrubbery maybe, and
why wouldn't we see it better beyonst the trees? and so we went to
the trees, but sorrow a Comet did meself see there, barring a big ghost
instead of it."
"A ghost? And what sort of a ghost, Barney?"
"Och, then, divel a lie I'll tell your honour. A tall ould
gentleman he was, all in white, with a shovel on his shoulder, and a big torch
in his fist,—though what he wanted with that it's meself can't tell, for
his eyes were like gig-lamps, let alone the moon and the Comet, which
wasn't there at all; and 'Barney,' says he to me,—'cause why he knew
me,—'Barney,' says he, 'what is it you're doing with the colleen
there, Barney?' Divel a word did I say. Miss Pauline screeched, and
cried murther in French, and ran off with herself; and of coorse meself
was in a mighty hurry after the lady, and had no time to stop palavering
with him any way; so I dispersed at once, and the ghost vanished
in a flame of fire!"
Mr. Maguire's account was received with avowed incredulity by
both gentlemen; but Barney stuck to his text with unflinching pertinacity.
A reference to Mademoiselle was suggested, but abandoned, as neither
party had a taste for delicate investigations.
"I'll tell you what, Seaforth," said Ingoldsby, after
Barney had received his dismissal; "that there is a trick here, is evident; and
Barney's vision may possibly be a part of it. Whether he is most knave
or fool, you best know. At all events, I will sit up with you to-night,
and see if I can convert my ancestor into a visiting acquaintance.
Meanwhile your finger on your lip!"
"'Twas now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and graves give up their dead."
Gladly would I grace my tale with decent horror, and therefore
I do beseech the "gentle reader" to believe, that if all the succedanea to
this mysterious narrative are not in strict keeping, he will ascribe it only
to the disgraceful innovations of modern degeneracy upon the sober and
dignified habits of our ancestors. I can introduce him, it is true, into
an old and high-roofed chamber, its walls covered on three sides with
black oak wainscoting, adorned with carvings of fruit and flowers long
anterior to those of Grinling Gibbons; the fourth side is clothed with
a curious remnant of dingy tapestry, once elucidatory of some Scriptural
history, but of which not even Mrs. Botherby could determine.
Mr. Simpkinson, who had examined it carefully, inclined to
believe the principal figure to be either Bathsheba or Daniel in the
lions' den; while Tom Ingoldsby decided in favour of the King of Bashan.
All, however, was conjecture; tradition being silent on the subject. A
lofty arched portal led into, and a little arched portal led out of, this
apartment; they were opposite each other, and both possessed the
security of massy bolts on the interior. The bedstead, too, was not one
of yesterday; but manifestly coeval with days ere Seddons was,
and when a good four-post "article" was deemed worthy of being a royal
bequest. The bed itself, with all the appurtenances of paillasse, mattresses,
&c. was of far later date, and looked most incongruously comfortable;
the casements, too, with their little diamond-shaped panes
and iron binding, had given way to the modern heterodoxy of the
sash-window. Nor was this all that conspired to ruin the costume, and
render the room a meet haunt for such "mixed spirits" only as could
condescend to don at the same time an Elizabethan doublet and Bond-street
inexpressibles. With their green morocco slippers on a modern
fender in front of a disgracefully modern grate, sat two young gentlemen,
clad in "shawl-pattern" dressing-gowns and black silk stocks,
much at variance with the high cane-backed chairs which supported
them. A bunch of abomination, called a cigar, reeked in the left-hand
corner of the mouth of one, and in the right-hand corner of the mouth
of the other;—an arrangement happily adapted for the escape of the
noxious fumes up the chimney, without that unmerciful "funking"
each other, which a less scientific disposition would have induced. A
small pembroke table filled up the intervening space between them,
sustaining, at each extremity, an elbow and glass of toddy; and thus in
"lonely pensive contemplation" were the two worthies occupied, when
the "iron tongue of midnight had tolled twelve."
"Ghost-time's come!" said Ingoldsby, taking from his waistcoat
pocket a watch like a gold half-crown, and consulting it as though he
suspected the turret-clock over the stables of mendacity.
"Hush!" said Charles; "did I not hear a footstep?"
There was a pause: there was a footstep—it sounded
distinctly—it reached the door—it hesitated, stopped, and—passed on.
Tom darted across the room, threw open the door, and became
aware of Mrs. Botherby toddling to her chamber at the other end of the gallery,
after dosing one of the housemaids with an approved julep from
the Countess of Kent's "Choice Manual."
"Good night, sir!" said Mrs. Botherby.
"Go to the d—l!" said the disappointed ghost-hunter.
A hour—two—rolled on, and still no spectral visitation,
nor did aught intervene to make night hideous; and when the turret-clock
sounded at length the hour of three, Ingoldsby, whose patience and grog
were alike exhausted, sprang from his chair, saying,
"This is all infernal nonsense, my good fellow. Deuce of
any ghost shall we see to-night; it's long past the canonical hours. I'm off to
bed; and as to your breeches, I'll ensure them for twenty-four hours
at least, at the price of the buckram."
"Certainly. Oh! thankye; to be sure!" stammered Charles,
rousing himself from a reverie, which had degenerated into an absolute snooze.
"Good night, my boy. Bolt the door behind me;
and defy the Pope, the Devil, and the Pretender!"
Seaforth followed his friend's advice, and the next morning
came down to breakfast dressed in the habiliments of the preceding day.
The charm was broken, the demon defeated; the light greys with the
red stripe down the seams were yet in rerum naturâ, and adorned
the person of their lawful proprietor.
Tom felicitated himself and his partner of the watch
on the result of their vigilance; but there is a rustic adage, which warns us against
self-gratulation before we are quite "out of the wood."—Seaforth was
yet within its verge.
A rap at Tom Ingoldsby's door the next morning
startled him as he was shaving: he cut his chin.
"Come in, and be d—d to you!" said the martyr, pressing
his thumb on the wounded epidermis. The door opened and exhibited Mr. Barney
Maguire. "Well, Barney, what is it?" quoth the sufferer, adopting
the vernacular of his visitant.
"The Master, sir——"
"Well, what does he want?"
"The loanst of a breeches, plase your honour."
"Why, you don't mean to tell me —— By Heaven, this
is too good!" shouted Tom, bursting into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. "Why,
Barney, you don't mean to say the ghost has got them again?"
Mr. Maguire did not respond to the young squire's
risibility; the cast of his countenance was decidedly serious.
"Faith, then, it's gone they are, sure enough. Hasn't meself
been looking over the bed, and under the bed, and in the bed, for the
matter of that, and divel a ha'p'orth of breeches is there to the fore
at all: I'm bothered entirely!"
"Harkye! Mr. Barney," said Tom, incautiously removing his
thumb, and letting a crimson stream "incarnadine the multitudinous"
lather that plastered his throat,—"this may be all very well with
your master, but you don't humbug me, sir: tell me instantly what
have you done with the clothes?"
This abrupt transition from "lively to severe" certainly took
Maguire by surprise, and he seemed for an instant as much disconcerted
as it is possible to disconcert an Irish gentleman's gentleman.
"Me? is it meself, then, that's the ghost to your honour's
thinking?" said he, after a moment's pause, and with a slight shade of indignation
in his tones; "is it I would stale the master's things,—and
what would I do with them?"
"That you best know: what your purpose is I can't guess, for I
don't think you mean to 'stale' them, as you call it; but that you are
concerned in their disappearance, I am satisfied. Confound this
blood!—give me a towel, Barney."
Maguire acquitted himself of the commission. "As I've a sowl,
your honour," said he solemnly, "little it is meself knows of the matter;
and after what I seen——"
"What you've seen? Why, what have you seen? Barney,
I don't want to inquire into your flirtations; but don't suppose you can palm
off your saucer eyes and gig-lamps upon me!"
"Then, as sure as your honour's standing there, I saw him; and
why wouldn't I, when Miss Pauline was to the fore as well as meself,
"Get along with your nonsense,—leave the room, sir!"
"But the master?" said Barney imploringly; "and the
breeches?—sure he'll be catching cowld!"
"Take that, rascal!" replied Ingoldsby, throwing a pair of
pantaloons at, rather than to, him; "but don't suppose, sir, you shall carry
on your tricks with impunity; recollect there is such a thing as a
tread-mill, and that my father is a county magistrate."
Barney's eye flashed fire,—he stood erect and
was about to speak; but, mastering himself, not without an effort, he took up the
garment, and left the room as perpendicular as a Quaker.
"Ingoldsby," said Charles Seaforth, after breakfast,
"this is now past a joke; to-day is the last of my stay, for, notwithstanding the
ties which detain me, common decency obliges me to visit home after
so long an absence. I shall come to an immediate explanation with
your father on the subject nearest my heart, and depart while I have
a change of dress left. On his answer will my return depend; in the
mean time tell me candidly,—I ask it in all seriousness and as a
friend,—am I not a dupe to your well-known propensity to hoaxing?
have you not a hand in——"
"No, by Heaven! Seaforth; I see what you mean: on my honour,
I am as much mystified as yourself; and if your servant——"
"Not he: if there be a trick, he at least is not privy to it."
"If there be a trick? why, Charles, do you think——"
"I know not what to think, Tom. As surely as you are a
living man, so surely did that spectral anatomy visit my room again last night,
grin in my face, and walk away with my trousers; nor was I able to
spring from my bed, or break the chain which seemed to bind me to my pillow."
"Seaforth," said Ingoldsby, after a short pause, "I will—
ut hush! here are the girls and my father. I will carry off the females, and
leave you clear field with the Governor: carry your point with him,
and we will talk about your breeches afterwards."
Tom's diversion was successful: he carried off the ladies en masse
to look at a remarkable specimen of the class Dodecandria Monogynia,
which they could not find; while Seaforth marched boldly up to the
encounter, and carried "the Governor's" outworks by a coup de main.
I shall not stop to describe the progress of the attack; suffice it that it
was as successful as could have been wished, and that Seaforth was
referred back again to the lady. The happy lover was off at a tangent;
the botanical party was soon overtaken; and the arm of Caroline,
whom a vain endeavour to spell out the Linnæan name of a daffy-down-dilly
had detained a little in the rear of the others, was soon
firmly locked in his own.
"What was the world to them,
Its noise, its nonsense, and its 'breeches' all?"
Seaforth was in the seventh heaven; he retired to his room
that night as happy as if no such thing as a goblin had ever been heard of,
and personal chattels were as well fenced in by law as real property.
Not so Tom Ingoldsby: the mystery—for mystery there evidently was,—had
not only piqued his curiosity, but ruffled his temper. The watch
of the previous night had been unsuccessful, probably because it was
undisguised. Tonight he would "ensconce himself,"—not indeed "behind
the arras,"—for the little that remained was, as we have seen, nailed to
the wall,—but in a small closet which opened from one corner of the
room, and, by leaving the door ajar, would give its occupant a view of
all that might pass in the apartment. Here did the young ghost-hunter
take up a position, with a good stout sapling under his arm, a
full half-hour before Seaforth retired for the night. Not even his
friend did he let into his confidence, fully determined that if his plan
did not succeed, the failure should be attributed to himself alone.
At the usual hour of separation for the night, Tom saw,
from his concealment, the lieutenant enter his room; and, after taking a few
turns in it, with an expression so joyous as to betoken that his thoughts
were mainly occupied by his approaching happiness, proceed slowly to
disrobe himself. The coat, the waistcoat, the black silk stock, were
gradually discarded; the green morocco slippers were kicked off, and
then—ay, and then—his countenance grew grave; it seemed to occur
to him all at once that this was his last stake,—nay, that the very
breeches he had on were not his own,—that to-morrow morning was
his last, and that if he lost them——A glance showed that
his mind was made up; he replaced the single button he had just subducted,
and threw himself upon the bed in a state of transition, half chrysalis,
Wearily did Tom Ingoldsby watch the sleeper by the flickering
light of the night-lamp, till the clock, striking one, induced him to
increase the narrow opening which he had left for the purpose of observation.
The motion, slight as it was, seemed to attract Charles's attention;
for he raised himself suddenly to a sitting posture, listened for
a moment, and then stood upright upon the floor. Ingoldsby was on
the point of discovering himself, when, the light flashing full upon his
friend's countenance, he perceived that, though his eyes were open,
"their sense was shut,"—that he was yet under the influence of sleep.
Seaforth advanced slowly to the toilet, lit his candle at the lamp that
stood on it, then, going back to the bed's foot, appeared to search
eagerly for something which he could not find. For a few moments
he seemed restless and uneasy, walking round the apartment and
examining the chairs, till, coming fully in front of a large swing-glass
that flanked the dressing-table, he paused, as if contemplating
his figure in it. He now returned towards the bed, put on his slippers,
and, with cautious and stealthy steps, proceeded towards the
little arched doorway that opened on the private staircase.
As he drew the bolt, Tom Ingoldsby emerged from his hiding-place;
but the sleep-walker heard him not: he proceeded softly down stairs,
followed at a due distance by his friend, opened the door which led
out upon the gardens, and stood at once among the thickest of the
shrubs, which there clustered round the base of a corner turret, and
screened the postern from common observation. At this moment Ingoldsby
had nearly spoiled all by making a false step: the sound
attracted Seaforth's attention, he paused and turned; and, as the
full moon shed her light direct upon his pale and troubled features,
Tom marked, almost with dismay, the fixed and rayless appearance of
"There was no speculation in those orbs
That he did glare withal,"
The perfect stillness preserved by his follower seemed to
reassure him; he turned aside, and, from the midst of a thickset laurustinus,
drew forth a gardener's spade, shouldering which he proceeded with
greater rapidity into the midst of the shrubbery. Arrived at a certain
point, where the earth seemed to have been recently disturbed, he
set himself heartily to the task of digging; till, having thrown up
several shovelfuls of mould, he stopped, flung down his tool, and very
composedly began to disencumber himself of his pantaloons.
Up to this moment Tom had watched him with a wary eye; he now
advanced cautiously, and, as his friend was busily engaged in disentangling
himself from his garment, made himself master of the spade.
Seaforth, meanwhile, had accomplished his purpose; he stood for a
"His streamers waving in the wind,"
occupied in carefully rolling up the small-clothes into as compact a
form as possible, and all heedless of the breath of heaven, which might
certainly be supposed at such a moment, and in such a plight, to "visit
his frame too roughly."
He was in the act of stooping low to deposit the
pantaloons in the grave which he had been digging for them, when Tom Ingoldsby came
close behind him, and with the flat of the spade——
The shock was effectual; never again was Lieutenant
Seaforth known to act the part of a somnambulist. One by one, his breeches,
his trousers, his pantaloons, his silk-net tights, his patent cords, and
his showy greys with the broad red stripe of the Bombay Fencibles,
were brought to light, rescued from the grave in which they had been
buried, like the straw of a Christmas pie; and, after having been well
aired by Mrs. Botherby, became once again effective.
The family, the ladies especially, laughed; Barney Maguire
cried "Botheration!" and Ma'mselle Pauline, "Mon Dieu!"
Charles Seaforth, unable to face the quizzing which awaited
him on all sides, started off two hours earlier than he had proposed: he soon
returned, however; and having, at his father-in-law's request, given up
the occupation of Rajah hunting and shooting Nabobs, led his blushing
bride to the altar.
Mr. Simpkinson from Bath did not attend the ceremony, being
engaged at the Grand Junction Meeting of Sçavans, then congregating
from all parts of the known world, in the city of Dublin. His essay,
demonstrating that the globe is a great custard, whipped into coagulation
by whirlwinds, and cooked by electricity,—a little too much
baked in the Isle of Portland, and a thought underdone about the Bog
of Allen,—is highly spoken of and, it is supposed, will obtain a
Miss Simpkinson and her sister acted as bridesmaids
on the occasion; the former wrote an epithalamium, and the latter cried
"Lassy me!" at the clergyman's wig. But as of these young ladies, of the fair
widow, Mr. Sucklethumbkin, Mrs. Peters and her P. we may have
more to say hereafter, we take our leave for the present; assuring our
pensive public that Mr. and Mrs. Seaforth are living together quite as
happily as two good-hearted, good-tempered bodies, very fond of each
other, can possibly do; and that since the day of his marriage Charles
has shown no disposition to jump out of bed, or ramble out of doors o'
nights,—though, from his entire devotion to every wish and whim of
his young wife, Tom insinuates that the fair Caroline does still
occasionally take advantage of it so far as to "slip on the Breeches."