"And here you must on no pretence Make the first observation. Wait for the Victim to commence: No Ghost of any common sense Begins a conversation.
"If he should say 'HOW CAME YOU HERE?' (The way that YOU began, Sir,) In such a case your course is clear - 'ON THE BAT'S BACK, MY LITTLE DEAR!' Is the appropriate answer.
"If after this he says no more, You'd best perhaps curtail your Exertions--go and shake the door, And then, if he begins to snore, You'll know the thing's a failure.
"By day, if he should be alone - At home or on a walk - You merely give a hollow groan, To indicate the kind of tone In which you mean to talk.
"But if you find him with his friends, The thing is rather harder. In such a case success depends On picking up some candle-ends, Or butter, in the larder.
"With this you make a kind of slide (It answers best with suet), On which you must contrive to glide, And swing yourself from side to side - One soon learns how to do it.
"The Second tells us what is right In ceremonious calls:- 'FIRST BURN A BLUE OR CRIMSON LIGHT' (A thing I quite forgot to-night), 'THEN SCRATCH THE DOOR OR WALLS.'"
I said "You'll visit HERE no more, If you attempt the Guy. I'll have no bonfires on MY floor - And, as for scratching at the door, I'd like to see you try!"
"The Third was written to protect The interests of the Victim, And tells us, as I recollect, TO TREAT HIM WITH A GRAVE RESPECT, AND NOT TO CONTRADICT HIM."
"That's plain," said I, "as Tare and Tret, To any comprehension: I only wish SOME Ghosts I've met Would not so CONSTANTLY forget The maxim that you mention!"
"Perhaps," he said, "YOU first transgressed The laws of hospitality: All Ghosts instinctively detest The Man that fails to treat his guest With proper cordiality.
"If you address a Ghost as 'Thing!' Or strike him with a hatchet, He is permitted by the King To drop all FORMAL parleying - And then you're SURE to catch it!
"The Fourth prohibits trespassing Where other Ghosts are quartered: And those convicted of the thing (Unless when pardoned by the King) Must instantly be slaughtered.
"That simply means 'be cut up small': Ghosts soon unite anew. The process scarcely hurts at all - Not more than when YOU're what you call 'Cut up' by a Review.
"The Fifth is one you may prefer That I should quote entire:- THE KING MUST BE ADDRESSED AS 'SIR.' THIS, FROM A SIMPLE COURTIER, IS ALL THE LAWS REQUIRE:
"BUT, SHOULD YOU WISH TO DO THE THING WITH OUT-AND-OUT POLITENESS, ACCOST HIM AS 'MY GOBLIN KING! AND ALWAYS USE, IN ANSWERING, THE PHRASE 'YOUR ROYAL WHITENESS!'
"I'm getting rather hoarse, I fear, After so much reciting : So, if you don't object, my dear, We'll try a glass of bitter beer - I think it looks inviting."
"And did you really walk," said I, "On such a wretched night? I always fancied Ghosts could fly - If not exactly in the sky, Yet at a fairish height."
"It's very well," said he, "for Kings To soar above the earth: But Phantoms often find that wings - Like many other pleasant things - Cost more than they are worth.
"Spectres of course are rich, and so Can buy them from the Elves: But WE prefer to keep below - They're stupid company, you know, For any but themselves:
"For, though they claim to be exempt From pride, they treat a Phantom As something quite beneath contempt - Just as no Turkey ever dreamt Of noticing a Bantam."
"They seem too proud," said I, "to go To houses such as mine. Pray, how did they contrive to know So quickly that 'the place was low,' And that I 'kept bad wine'?"
"Inspector Kobold came to you--" The little Ghost began. Here I broke in--"Inspector who? Inspecting Ghosts is something new! Explain yourself, my man!"
"His name is Kobold," said my guest: "One of the Spectre order: You'll very often see him dressed In a yellow gown, a crimson vest, And a night-cap with a border.
"He tried the Brocken business first, But caught a sort of chill ; So came to England to be nursed, And here it took the form of THIRST, Which he complains of still.