The Specter Of Tappington
Scary Books: Humorous Ghost Stories
COMPILED BY RICHARD BARHAM
"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 confoundedly odd, and I can't make it out at all. Why, Barney,
where are they?--and where the d----l are you?"
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
"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 honor 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 of
all in a gentleman's wardrobe was still wanting.
"Where can they be?" asked the master, with a strong accent on the
"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, still
he looked as if he did not quite 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."
"May be so," was the cautious reply.
"I thought, of course, it was a dream; but then--where the d----l are
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
"Ah! then, the ladies!" chimed in Mr. Maguire, though the observation
was not addressed to him; "and will it be Miss Caroline or Miss Fanny,
that's stole your honor'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 doorcase 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
"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 offenses. 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 blood-stain 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 parlor, one, an old and favored 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 revelers sought their
The one allotted to the stranger occupied the first floor of the
eastern angle of the building, and had once been the favorite 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
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-colored 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 itself
a title which the very elements joined with human valor 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. Rumors, 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 heard her grandfather say, that when the
"strange 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 favor 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 favorite 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 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 Honorable 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
Frances. "What is become of our ramble to the rocks before breakfast?"
"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
"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-humored 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 agremens: 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 meantime, "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,"
apostrophized 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 depurating 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 labors 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 claning of ye!"--for
well had he learned in the hall 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?"
They were nowhere to be found!
* * * * *
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
"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 yo' be very wet?"
"You had better take Tom's cab," quoth the squire.
But this proposition was at once over-ruled; Mrs. Ogleton had already
nailed the cab, a vehicle of all others the best adapted for a snug
"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 traveling 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 favor of
the gamekeeper and a cigar. "There was 'no fun' in looking at old
houses!" Mrs. Simpkinson preferred a short sejour 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, Mrs. Peters?"
"Yes, miss, a French one; we have got one at Ramsgate; he teaches the
Miss Joneses to parley-voo 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 Mill'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 on 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 it yet hung upon his honored 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 were 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." supposed the central tower "had once been the
county jail." 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 tell 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 pot of honey----"
"Lassy me! how nice!" said Miss Julia. Mr. Peters licked his lips.
"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 the rats came under the
forest laws--a minor species of venison? 'Rats and mice, and such small
deer,' eh?--Shakespeare, 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 its feathers and----"
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
"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 Ferrers----"
"I've heard of him," broke in the incorrigible Peters; "he was hanged at
the Old Bailey in a silk rope for shooting Dr. 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
scavant, 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 afflarus 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, has described in his
Ancient Records, 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 cosy chat they had; and
what do you think it was all about, my dear miss?
"O lassy me! love, no doubt, and the moon, and eyes, and nightingales,
Stay, stay, my sweet young lady; do not let the fervor 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
"Caroline," said Charles, "I have had some very odd dreams since I have
been at Tappington."
"Dreams, have you?" smiled the young lady, arching her taper neck like a
swan in pluming. "Dreams, have you?"
"Ah, 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
"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-colored velvet,
his long rapier, and his Raleigh-looking hat and feather, just as the
picture represents him; but with one exception."
"And what was that?"
"Why, his lower extremities, which were visible, were those of a
"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 parlor. 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-humored 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 ankle--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 color 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 sympathizing lady, with
a scrutinizing glance leveled 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
Finnan 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 neighbor. It was Miss Simpkinson, who, deeply engaged in
sipping her tea and turning over her album, seemed, like a female
Chrononotonthologos, "immersed in cogibundity 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 began:--
"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 favorite 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 in 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 times Tom smiled
suspiciously--at the last he burst out into an absolute "guffaw."
"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 honor of
"Laugh as you will, Tom--be as incredulous as you please. One fact is
incontestable--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 is something in the misfortunes of our very
best friends that does not displease us; assuredly 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 expletive, 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 had 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
It now 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. Honore.
Mademoiselle had boxed Mr. Maguire's ears, and Mr. Maguire had pulled
Mademoiselle upon his knee, and the lady had not cried 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 Honorable Augustus Sucklethumbkin's
powder-flask, and had put large pinches of the best Double Dartford into
Mr. Dobbs's tobacco-box; and Mr. Dobbs's 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 honor the rights of it," said
the ghost-seer. "Meself and Miss Pauline, sir--or Miss Pauline and
meself, for the ladies comes first anyhow--we got tired of the
hobstroppylous scrimmaging 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 rorybory-alehouse, they calls him in this country--and we walked
upon the lawn--and divil of any alehouse there was there at all; and
Miss Pauline said it was bekase of the shrubbery maybe, and why wouldn't
we see it better beyonst the tree? 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, divil a lie I'll tell your honor. A tall ould gentleman he
was, all in white, with a shovel on the shoulder of him, 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?'--Divil a word did I say. Miss Pauline screeched, and
cried murther in French, and ran off with herself; and of course 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 in 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 favor 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 each possessed the
security of massy bolts on its 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 palliasse, mattresses,
etc., 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 of the weed would have induced. A small pembroke
table filled up the intervening space between them, sustaining, at each
extremity, an elbow and a glass of toddy--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.
An 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 hour. I'm off to bed; and
as to your breeches, I'll insure them for the next twenty-four hours at
least, at the price of the buckram."
"Certainly.--Oh! thank'ee--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 natura, and adorned the person of their lawful
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 following 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 scarified epidermis. The door opened, and exhibited Mr. Barney
"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 honor."
"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 divil a ha'p'orth of breeches is there to the fore at
all:--I'm bothered entirely!"
"Hark'ee! 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
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 honor'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
honor," 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 honor'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 without a
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 here with impunity; recollect there is such a thing as a
treadmill, 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 meantime 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 honor, 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--But hush! here
are the girls and my father. I will carry off the females, and leave you
a 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 endeavor to spell out the Linnaean 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. To-night 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 to 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, half grub.
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 downstairs, 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 directly upon
his pale and troubled features, Tom marked, almost with dismay, the
fixed and rayless appearance of his eyes:
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 thickest laurustinus drew forth
a gardener's spade, shouldering which he proceeded with great 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 moment with
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 side 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--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 strata of a Christmas pie; and after having been well aired by
Mrs. Botherby, became once again effective.
The family, the ladies especially, laughed; the Peterses laughed; the
Simpkinsons 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 Scavans, 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--was
highly spoken of, and narrowly escaped obtaining a Bridgewater prize.
Miss Simpkinson and her sister acted as brides-maids on the occasion;
the former wrote an epithalamium, and the latter cried "Lassy me!" at
the clergyman's wig. Some years have since rolled on; the union has been
crowned with two or three tidy little off-shoots from the family tree,
of whom Master Neddy is "grandpapa's darling," and Mary Anne mamma's
particular "Sock." I shall only add, 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."