“MY First – but don’t suppose,” he said,
“I’m setting you a riddle –
Is – if your Victim be in bed,
Don’t touch the curtains at his head,
But take them in the middle,
“And wave them slowly in and out,
While drawing them asunder;
And in a minute’s time, no doubt,
He’ll raise his head and look about
With eyes of wrath and wonder.
“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.”