'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 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 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 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 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 primeest 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 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!