'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?'
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 hereabout 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 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, 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 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 Fanny, 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 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 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.