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Phantasmagoria Canto I (The Trystyng )

 ONE winter night, at half-past nine,
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.
There was a strangeness in the room, And Something white and wavy Was standing near me in the gloom - I took it for the carpet-broom Left by that careless slavey.
But presently the Thing began 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!" "I've caught a cold," the Thing replies, "Out there upon the landing.
" I turned to look in some surprise, And there, before my very eyes, A little Ghost was standing! He trembled when he caught my eye, 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!" He said "I'd gladly tell you how, 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.
"And as to being in a fright, 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.
" "No plea," said I, "can well excuse Such cowardice in you: For Ghosts can visit when they choose, Whereas we Humans ca'n't refuse To grant the interview.
" He said "A flutter of alarm 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.
"Houses are classed, I beg to state, According to the number Of Ghosts that they accommodate: (The Tenant merely counts as WEIGHT, With Coals and other lumber).
"This is a 'one-ghost' house, and you When you arrived last summer, May have remarked a Spectre who Was doing all that Ghosts can do To welcome the new-comer.
"In Villas this is always done - However cheaply rented: For, though of course there's less of fun When there is only room for one, Ghosts have to be contented.
"That Spectre left you on the Third - 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.
"A Spectre has first choice, by right, 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.
"The Spectres said the place was low, 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.
" "No doubt," said I, "they settled who Was fittest to be sent Yet still to choose a brat like you, To haunt a man of forty-two, Was no great compliment!" "I'm not so young, Sir," he replied, "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: "But I have never taken yet A strict domestic part, And in my flurry I forget The Five Good Rules of Etiquette We have to know by heart.
" My sympathies were warming fast Towards the little fellow: He was so utterly aghast At having found a Man at last, And looked so scared and yellow.
"At least," I said, "I'm glad to find 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: "Though, certainly, you don't appear 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.
" "Thanks! You shall hear them by and by.
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.
"ONE slice! And may I ask you for Another drop of gravy?" I sat and looked at him in awe, For certainly I never saw A thing so white and wavy.
And still he seemed to grow more white, More vapoury, and wavier - Seen in the dim and flickering light, As he proceeded to recite His "Maxims of Behaviour.

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