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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 hinted his disapprobation of a flirtation carrying on between the gentleman from Minster 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 Honourable 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 honour 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 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 divil of any alehouse there was there at all; and Miss Pauline said it was because 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?'