A CHRISTMAS CAROL (IN PROSE BEING, A Ghost Story of Christmas)
by Charles Dickens
(OCF editing – Part 5)
“How now!” said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever.
“What do you want with me?”
“Much!”–Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.
“Who are you?”
“Ask me who I was.”
“Who were you then?” said Scrooge, raising his
voice. “You’re particular, for a shade.” He was going
to say “to a shade,” but substituted this, as more
“In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”
“Can you–can you sit down?” asked Scrooge, looking
doubtfully at him.
“Do it, then.”
Scrooge asked the question, because he didn’t know
whether a ghost so transparent might find himself in
a condition to take a chair; and felt that in the event
of its being impossible, it might involve the necessity
of an embarrassing explanation. But the ghost sat
down on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he
were quite used to it.
“You don’t believe in me,” observed the Ghost.
“I don’t,” said Scrooge.
“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of
“I don’t know,” said Scrooge.
“Why do you doubt your senses?”
“Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them.
A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may
be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of
cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of
gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking
jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means
waggish then. The truth is, that he tried to be
smart, as a means of distracting his own attention,
and keeping down his terror; for the spectre’s voice
disturbed the very marrow in his bones.
To sit, staring at those fixed glazed eyes, in silence
for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very
deuce with him. There was something very awful,
too, in the spectre’s being provided with an infernal
atmosphere of its own. Scrooge could not feel it
himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the
Ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts,
and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour
from an oven.
“You see this toothpick?” said Scrooge, returning
quickly to the charge, for the reason just assigned;
and wishing, though it were only for a second, to
divert the vision’s stony gaze from himself.
“I do,” replied the Ghost.
“You are not looking at it,” said Scrooge.
“But I see it,” said the Ghost, “notwithstanding.”
“Well!” returned Scrooge, “I have but to swallow
this, and be for the rest of my days persecuted by a
legion of goblins, all of my own creation. Humbug,
I tell you! humbug!”
At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook
its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that
Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself
from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was
his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage
round its head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors,
its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!
Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands
before his face.
“Mercy!” he said. “Dreadful apparition, why do
you trouble me?”
“Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do
you believe in me or not?”
“I do,” said Scrooge. “I must. But why do spirits
walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”
“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned,
“that the spirit within him should walk abroad among
his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that
spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so
after death. It is doomed to wander through the
world–oh, woe is me!–and witness what it cannot
share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to
Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain
and wrung its shadowy hands.
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost.
“I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded
it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I
wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
Scrooge trembled more and more.
“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the
weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself?
It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven
Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since.
It is a ponderous chain!”
Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the
expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty
or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see
“Jacob,” he said, imploringly. “Old Jacob Marley,
tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”
“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied. “It comes
from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed
by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor
can I tell you what I would. A very little more is
all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I
cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked
beyond our counting-house–mark me!–in life my
spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our
money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before
It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became
thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets.
Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now,
but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his
“You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,”
Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though
with humility and deference.
“Slow!” the Ghost repeated.
“Seven years dead,” mused Scrooge. “And travelling
all the time!”
“The whole time,” said the Ghost. “No rest, no
peace. Incessant torture of remorse.”
“You travel fast?” said Scrooge.
“On the wings of the wind,” replied the Ghost.
“You might have got over a great quantity of
ground in seven years,” said Scrooge.
The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and
clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of
the night, that the Ward would have been justified in
indicting it for a nuisance.
“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the
phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour
by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into
eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is
all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit
working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may
be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast
means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of
regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity
misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”
“But you were always a good man of business,
Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands
again. “Mankind was my business. The common
welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance,
and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings
of my trade were but a drop of water in the
comprehensive ocean of my business!”
It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were
the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it
heavily upon the ground again.