'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 I Seaforth; I see what you mean: on my honour, 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 endeavour to spell out the Linnaan 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 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.