Cold, tired, and cross, and muddy,
I had come home, too late to dine,
And supper, with cigars and wine,
Was waiting in the study.
And Something white and wavy
Was standing near me in the gloom -
I took it for the carpet-broom
Left by that careless slavey.
To shiver and to sneeze:
On which I said "Come, come, my man!
That's a most inconsiderate plan.
Less noise there, if you please!"
"Out there upon the landing."
I turned to look in some surprise,
And there, before my very eyes,
A little Ghost was standing!
And got behind a chair.
"How came you here," I said, "and why?
I never saw a thing so shy.
Come out! Don't shiver there!"
And also tell you why;
But" (here he gave a little bow)
"You're in so bad a temper now,
You'd think it all a lie.
Allow me to remark
That Ghosts have just as good a right
In every way, to fear the light,
As Men to fear the dark."
Such cowardice in you:
For Ghosts can visit when they choose,
Whereas we Humans can't refuse
To grant the interview."
Is not unnatural, is it?
I really feared you meant some harm:
But, now I see that you are calm,
Let me explain my visit.
According to the number
Of Ghosts that they accommodate:
(The Tenant merely counts as WEIGHT,
With Coals and other lumber).
When you arrived last summer,
May have remarked a Spectre who
Was doing all that Ghosts can do
To welcome the new-comer.
However cheaply rented:
For, though of course there's less of fun
When there is only room for one,
Ghosts have to be contented.
Since then you've not been haunted:
For, as he never sent us word,
'Twas quite by accident we heard
That any one was wanted.
In filling up a vacancy;
Then Phantom, Goblin, Elf, and Sprite -
If all these fail them, they invite
The nicest Ghoul that they can see.
And that you kept bad wine:
So, as a Phantom had to go,
And I was first, of course, you know,
I couldn't well decline."
Was fittest to be sent
Yet still to choose a brat like you,
To haunt a man of forty-two,
Was no great compliment!"
"As you might think. The fact is,
In caverns by the water-side,
And other places that I've tried,
I've had a lot of practice:
A strict domestic part,
And in my flurry I forget
The Five Good Rules of Etiquette
We have to know by heart."
Towards the little fellow:
He was so utterly aghast
At having found a Man at last,
And looked so scared and yellow.
A Ghost is not a DUMB thing!
But pray sit down: you'll feel inclined
(If, like myself, you have not dined)
To take a snack of something:
A thing to offer FOOD to!
And then I shall be glad to hear -
If you will say them loud and clear -
The Rules that you allude to."
This IS a piece of luck!"
"What may I offer you?" said I.
"Well, since you ARE so kind, I'll try
A little bit of duck.
Another drop of gravy?"
I sat and looked at him in awe,
For certainly I never saw
A thing so white and wavy.
More vapoury, and wavier -
Seen in the dim and flickering light,
As he proceeded to recite
His "Maxims of Behaviour."