"I wondered what on earth they were, That looked all head and sack; But Mother told me not to stare, And then she twitched me by the hair, And punched me in the back.
"Since then I've often wished that I Had been a Spectre born. But what's the use?" (He heaved a sigh.) "THEY are the ghost-nobility, And look on US with scorn.
"My phantom-life was soon begun: When I was barely six, I went out with an older one - And just at first I thought it fun, And learned a lot of tricks.
"I've haunted dungeons, castles, towers - Wherever I was sent: I've often sat and howled for hours, Drenched to the skin with driving showers, Upon a battlement.
"It's quite old-fashioned now to groan When you begin to speak: This is the newest thing in tone--" And here (it chilled me to the bone) He gave an AWFUL squeak.
"Perhaps," he added, "to YOUR ear That sounds an easy thing? Try it yourself, my little dear! It took ME something like a year, With constant practising.
"And when you've learned to squeak, my man, And caught the double sob, You're pretty much where you began: Just try and gibber if you can! That's something LIKE a job!
"I'VE tried it, and can only say I'm sure you couldn't do it, e- ven if you practised night and day, Unless you have a turn that way, And natural ingenuity.
"Shakspeare I think it is who treats Of Ghosts, in days of old, Who 'gibbered in the Roman streets,' Dressed, if you recollect, in sheets - They must have found it cold.
"I've often spent ten pounds on stuff, In dressing as a Double; But, though it answers as a puff, It never has effect enough To make it worth the trouble.
"Long bills soon quenched the little thirst I had for being funny. The setting-up is always worst: Such heaps of things you want at first, One must be made of money!
"For instance, take a Haunted Tower, With skull, cross-bones, and sheet; Blue lights to burn (say) two an hour, Condensing lens of extra power, And set of chains complete:
"What with the things you have to hire - The fitting on the robe - And testing all the coloured fire - The outfit of itself would tire The patience of a Job!
"And then they're so fastidious, The Haunted-House Committee: I've often known them make a fuss Because a Ghost was French, or Russ, Or even from the City!
"Some dialects are objected to - For one, the IRISH brogue is: And then, for all you have to do, One pound a week they offer you, And find yourself in Bogies!
"Don't they consult the 'Victims,' though?" I said. "They should, by rights, Give them a chance--because, you know, The tastes of people differ so, Especially in Sprites."
The Phantom shook his head and smiled. "Consult them? Not a bit! 'Twould be a job to drive one wild, To satisfy one single child - There'd be no end to it!"
"Of course you can't leave CHILDREN free," Said I, "to pick and choose: But, in the case of men like me, I think 'Mine Host' might fairly be Allowed to state his views."
He said "It really wouldn't pay - Folk are so full of fancies. We visit for a single day, And whether then we go, or stay, Depends on circumstances.
"And, though we don't consult 'Mine Host' Before the thing's arranged, Still, if he often quits his post, Or is not a well-mannered Ghost, Then you can have him changed.
"But if the host's a man like you - I mean a man of sense; And if the house is not too new--" "Why, what has THAT," said I, "to do With Ghost's convenience?"
"A new house does not suit, you know - It's such a job to trim it: But, after twenty years or so, The wainscotings begin to go, So twenty is the limit."
"To trim" was not a phrase I could Remember having heard: "Perhaps," I said, "you'll be so good As tell me what is understood Exactly by that word?"
"It means the loosening all the doors," The Ghost replied, and laughed: "It means the drilling holes by scores In all the skirting-boards and floors, To make a thorough draught.
"You'll sometimes find that one or two Are all you really need To let the wind come whistling through - But HERE there'll be a lot to do!" I faintly gasped "Indeed!
"If I'd been rather later, I'll Be bound," I added, trying (Most unsuccessfully) to smile, "You'd have been busy all this while, Trimming and beautifying?"
"Why, no," said he; "perhaps I should Have stayed another minute - But still no Ghost, that's any good, Without an introduction would Have ventured to begin it.