'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 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 of mastication.
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 cosey 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, 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 I 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 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 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.'