4: The Last of the Spirits
ha!" laughed the same woman, when old Joe,
producing a flannel bag with money in it, told
out their several gains upon the ground.
"This is the end of it, you see. He
frightened every one away from him when he was
alive, to profit us when he was dead. Ha, ha,
said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot.
"I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man
might be my own. My life tends that way, now.
Merciful Heaven, what is this?"
He recoiled in
terror, for the scene had changed, and now he
almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on
which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a
something covered up, which, though it was dumb,
announced itself in awful language.
The room was
very dark, too dark to be observed with any
accuracy, though Scrooge glanced round it in
obedience to a secret impulse, anxious to know
what kind of room it was. A pale light, rising in
the outer air, fell straight upon the bed; and on
it, plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept,
uncared for, was the body of this man.
towards the Phantom. Its steady hand was pointed
to the head. The cover was so carelessly adjusted
that the slightest raising of it, the motion of a
finger upon Scrooge's part, would have disclosed
the face. He thought of it, felt how easy it
would be to do, and longed to do it; but had no
more power to withdraw the veil than to dismiss
the spectre at his side. He thought, if this man
could be raised up now, what would be his
foremost thoughts. Avarice, hard-dealing, griping
cares. They have brought him to a rich end,
He lay, in the
dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a
child, to say that he was kind to me in this or
that, and for the memory of one kind word I will
be kind to him. A cat was tearing at the door,
and there was a sound of gnawing rats beneath the
hearth-stone. What they wanted in the room of
death, and why they were so restless and
disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to think.
he said, "this is a fearful place. In
leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust
me. Let us go."
Still the Ghost
pointed with an unmoved finger to the head.
understand you," Scrooge returned, "and
I would do it, if I could. But I have not the
power, Spirit. I have not the power."
Again it seemed
to look upon him.
is any person in the town, who feels emotion
caused by this man's death," said Scrooge
quite agonised, "show that person to me,
Spirit, I beseech you."
spread its dark robe before him for a moment,
like a wing; and withdrawing it, revealed a room
by daylight, where a mother and her children
expecting some one, and with anxious eagerness;
for she walked up and down the room; started at
every sound; looked out from the window; glanced
at the clock; tried, but in vain, to work with
her needle; and could hardly bear the voices of
the children in their play.
At length the
long-expected knock was heard. She hurried to the
door, and met her husband; a man whose face was
careworn and depressed, though he was young.
There was a remarkable expression in it now; a
kind of serious delight of which he felt ashamed,
and which he struggled to repress.
He sat down to
the dinner that had been boarding for him by the
fire; and when she asked him faintly what news
(which was not until after a long silence), he
appeared embarrassed how to answer.
good," she said, "or bad?" -- to
is hope yet, Caroline."
relents," she said, amazed, "there is.
Nothing is past hope, if such a miracle has
past relenting," said her husband. "He
She was a mild
and patient creature if her face spoke truth; but
she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she
said so, with clasped hands. She prayed
forgiveness the next moment, and was sorry; but
the first was the emotion of her heart.
half-drunken woman whom I told you of last night,
said to me, when I tried to see him and obtain a
week's delay; and what I thought was a mere
excuse to avoid me; turns out to have been quite
true. He was not only very ill, but dying,
will our debt be transferred?"
know. But before that time we shall be ready with
the money; and even though we were not, it would
be a bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a
creditor in his successor. We may sleep to-night
with light hearts, Caroline."
Yes. Soften it
as they would, their hearts were lighter. The
children's faces hushed, and clustered round to
hear what they so little understood, were
brighter; and it was a happier house for this
man's death. The only emotion that the Ghost
could show him, caused by the event, was one of
see some tenderness connected with a death,"
said Scrooge; "or that dark chamber, Spirit,
which we left just now, will be for ever present
conducted him through several streets familiar to
his feet; and as they went along, Scrooge looked
here and there to find himself, but nowhere was
he to be seen. They entered poor Bob Cratchit's
house; the dwelling he had visited before; and
found the mother and the children seated round
quiet. The noisy little Cratchits were as still
as statues in one corner, and sat looking up at
Peter, who had a book before him. The mother and
her daughters were engaged in sewing. But surely
they were very quiet.
took a child, and set him in the midst of
Scrooge heard those words? He had not dreamed
them. The boy must have read them out, as he and
the Spirit crossed the threshold. Why did he not
The mother laid
her work upon the table, and put her hand up to
colour hurts my eyes," she said.
The colour? Ah,
poor Tiny Tim.
better now again," said Cratchit's wife.
"It makes them weak by candle-light; and I
wouldn't show weak eyes to your father when he
comes home, for the world. It must be near his
rather," Peter answered, shutting up his
book. "But I think he's walked a little
slower than he used, these few last evenings,
They were very
quiet again. At last she said, and in a steady,
cheerful voice, that only faltered once:
known him walk with -- I have known him walk with
Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast
have I," cried Peter. "Often."
have I," exclaimed another. So had all.
was very light to carry," she resumed,
intent upon her work, "and his father loved
him so, that it was no trouble -- no trouble. And
there is your father at the door!"
She hurried out
to meet him; and little Bob in his comforter --
he had need of it, poor fellow -- came in. His
tea was ready for him on the hob, and they all
tried who should help him to it most. Then the
two young Cratchits got upon his knees and laid,
each child a little cheek, against his face, as
if they said, "Don't mind it, father. Don't
Bob was very
cheerful with them, and spoke pleasantly to all
the family. He looked at the work upon the table,
and praised the industry and speed of Mrs
Cratchit and the girls. They would be done long
before Sunday, he said.
You went to-day, then, Robert?" said his
dear," returned Bob. "I wish you could
have gone. It would have done you good to see how
green a place it is. But you'll see it often. I
promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday.
My little, little child!" cried Bob.
"My little child!"
He broke down
all at once. He couldn't help it. If he could
have helped it, he and his child would have been
farther apart perhaps than they were.
He left the
room, and went up-stairs into the room above,
which was lighted cheerfully, and hung with
Christmas. There was a chair set close beside the
child, and there were signs of some one having
been there, lately. Poor Bob sat down in it, and
when he had thought a little and composed
himself, he kissed the little face. He was
reconciled to what had happened, and went down
again quite happy.
They drew about
the fire, and talked; the girls and mother
working still. Bob told them of the extraordinary
kindness of Mr Scrooge's nephew, whom he had
scarcely seen but once, and who, meeting him in
the street that day, and seeing that he looked a
little -- "just a little down you
know," said Bob, inquired what had happened
to distress him. "On which," said Bob,
"for he is the pleasantest-spoken gentleman
you ever heard, I told him. 'I am heartily sorry
for it, Mr Cratchit,' he said, 'and heartily
sorry for your good wife.' By the bye, how he
ever knew that, I don't know."
what, my dear?"
you were a good wife," replied Bob.
knows that," said Peter.
observed, my boy!" cried Bob. "I hope
they do. 'Heartily sorry,' he said, 'for your
good wife. If I can be of service to you in any
way,' he said, giving me his card, 'that's where
I live. Pray come to me.' Now, it wasn't,"
cried Bob," for the sake of anything he
might be able to do for us, so much as for his
kind way, that this was quite delightful. It
really seemed as if he had known our Tiny Tim,
and felt with us."
he's a good soul," said Mrs Cratchit.
be surer of it, my dear," returned Bob,
"if you saw and spoke to him. I shouldn't be
at all surprised, mark what I say, if he got
Peter a better situation."
that, Peter," said Mrs Cratchit.
then," cried one of the girls, "Peter
will be keeping company with some one, and
setting up for himself."
with you!" retorted Peter, grinning.
as likely as not," said Bob, "one of
these days; though there's plenty of time for
that, my dear. But however and when ever we part
from one another, I am sure we shall none of us
forget poor Tiny Tim -- shall we -- or this first
parting that there was among us."
father!" cried they all.
know," said Bob, "I know, my dears,
that when we recollect how patient and how mild
he was; although he was a little, little child;
we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and
forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it."
never, father!" they all cried again.
"I am very
happy," said little Bob, "I am very
kissed him, his daughters kissed him, the two
young Cratchits kissed him, and Peter and himself
shook hands. Spirit of Tiny Tim, thy childish
essence was from God!
said Scrooge, "something informs me that our
parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know
not how. Tell me what man that was whom we saw
The Ghost of
Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as before --
though at a different time, he thought: indeed,
there seemed no order in these latter visions,
save that they were in the Future -- into the
resorts of business men, but showed him not
himself. Indeed, the Spirit did not stay for
anything, but went straight on, as to the end
just now desired, until besought by Scrooge to
tarry for a moment.
court," said Scrooge, "through which we
hurry now, is where my place of occupation is,
and has been for a length of time. I see the
house. Let me behold what I shall be, in days to
stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.
is yonder," Scrooge exclaimed. "Why do
you point away?"
finger underwent no change.
hastened to the window of his office, and looked
in. It was an office still, but not his. The
furniture was not the same, and the figure in the
chair was not himself. The Phantom pointed as
He joined it
once again, and wondering why and whither he had
gone, accompanied it until they reached an iron
gate. He paused to look round before entering.
Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had
now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a
worthy place. Walled in by houses; overrun by
grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation's
death, not life; choked up with too much burying;
fat with repleted appetite. A worthy place!
stood among the graves, and pointed down to One.
He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was
exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he
saw new meaning in its solemn shape.
draw nearer to that stone to which you
point," said Scrooge, "answer me one
question. Are these the shadows of the things
that Will be, or are they shadows of things that
May be, only?"
Still the Ghost
pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which,
if persevered in, they must lead," said
Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed
from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with
what you show me."
The Spirit was
immovable as ever.
towards it, trembling as he went; and following
the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected
grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.
"Am I that
man who lay upon the bed?" he cried, upon
pointed from the grave to him, and back again.
Spirit! Oh no, no!"
still was there.
he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear
me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man
I must have been but for this intercourse. Why
show me this, if I am past all hope?"
For the first
time the hand appeared to shake.
Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground
he fell before it: "Your nature intercedes
for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may
change these shadows you have shown me, by an
The kind hand
honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it
all the year. I will live in the Past, the
Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three
shall strive within me. I will not shut out the
lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge
away the writing on this stone!"
In his agony,
he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free
itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and
detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed
Holding up his
hands in a last prayer to have his fate aye
reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's
hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and
dwindled down into a bedpost.