"Port-wine, he says, when rich and sound, Warms his old bones like nectar: And as the inns, where it is found, Are his especial hunting-ground, We call him the INN-SPECTRE."
I bore it--bore it like a man - This agonizing witticism! And nothing could be sweeter than My temper, till the Ghost began Some most provoking criticism.
"Cooks need not be indulged in waste; Yet still you'd better teach them Dishes should have SOME SORT of taste. Pray, why are all the cruets placed Where nobody can reach them?
"That man of yours will never earn His living as a waiter! Is that queer THING supposed to burn? (It's far too dismal a concern To call a Moderator).
"The duck was tender, but the peas Were very much too old: And just remember, if you please, The NEXT time you have toasted cheese, Don't let them send it cold.
"You'd find the bread improved, I think, By getting better flour: And have you anything to drink That looks a LITTLE less like ink, And isn't QUITE so sour?"
Then, peering round with curious eyes, He muttered "Goodness gracious!" And so went on to criticise - "Your room's an inconvenient size: It's neither snug nor spacious.
"That narrow window, I expect, Serves but to let the dusk in--" "But please," said I, "to recollect 'Twas fashioned by an architect Who pinned his faith on Ruskin!"
"I don't care who he was, Sir, or On whom he pinned his faith! Constructed by whatever law, So poor a job I never saw, As I'm a living Wraith!
"What a re-markable cigar! How much are they a dozen?" I growled "No matter what they are! You're getting as familiar As if you were my cousin!
"Now that's a thing _I_ WILL NOT STAND, And so I tell you flat." "Aha," said he, "we're getting grand!" (Taking a bottle in his hand) "I'll soon arrange for THAT!"
And here he took a careful aim, And gaily cried "Here goes!" I tried to dodge it as it came, But somehow caught it, all the same, Exactly on my nose.
And I remember nothing more That I can clearly fix, Till I was sitting on the floor, Repeating "Two and five are four, But FIVE AND TWO are six."
What really passed I never learned, Nor guessed: I only know That, when at last my sense returned, The lamp, neglected, dimly burned - The fire was getting low -
Through driving mists I seemed to see A Thing that smirked and smiled: And found that he was giving me A lesson in Biography, As if I were a child.
CANTO IV--Hys Nouryture
"Oh, when I was a little Ghost, A merry time had we! Each seated on his favourite post, We chumped and chawed the buttered toast They gave us for our tea."
"That story is in print!" I cried. "Don't say it's not, because It's known as well as Bradshaw's Guide!" (The Ghost uneasily replied He hardly thought it was).
"It's not in Nursery Rhymes? And yet I almost think it is - 'Three little Ghosteses' were set 'On posteses,' you know, and ate Their 'buttered toasteses.'
"I have the book; so if you doubt it--" I turned to search the shelf. "Don't stir!" he cried. "We'll do without it: I now remember all about it; I wrote the thing myself.
"It came out in a 'Monthly,' or At least my agent said it did: Some literary swell, who saw It, thought it seemed adapted for The Magazine he edited.
"My father was a Brownie, Sir; My mother was a Fairy. The notion had occurred to her, The children would be happier, If they were taught to vary.
"The notion soon became a craze; And, when it once began, she Brought us all out in different ways - One was a Pixy, two were Fays, Another was a Banshee;
"The Fetch and Kelpie went to school And gave a lot of trouble; Next came a Poltergeist and Ghoul, And then two Trolls (which broke the rule), A Goblin, and a Double -
"(If that's a snuff-box on the shelf," He added with a yawn, "I'll take a pinch)--next came an Elf, And then a Phantom (that's myself), And last, a Leprechaun.
"One day, some Spectres chanced to call, Dressed in the usual white: I stood and watched them in the hall, And couldn't make them out at all, They seemed so strange a sight.