10DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 6

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (IN PROSE BEING, A Ghost Story of Christmas)

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 6)

 

“At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said,

“I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of

fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never

raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise

Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to

which its light would have conducted me!”

 

Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the

spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake

exceedingly.

 

“Hear me!” cried the Ghost. “My time is nearly

gone.”

 

“I will,” said Scrooge. “But don’t be hard upon

me! Don’t be flowery, Jacob! Pray!”

 

“How it is that I appear before you in a shape that

you can see, I may not tell. I have sat invisible

beside you many and many a day.”

 

It was not an agreeable idea. Scrooge shivered,

and wiped the perspiration from his brow.

 

“That is no light part of my penance,” pursued

the Ghost. “I am here to-night to warn you, that you

have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A

chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.”

 

“You were always a good friend to me,” said

Scrooge. “Thank’ee!”

 

“You will be haunted,” resumed the Ghost, “by

Three Spirits.”

 

Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the

Ghost’s had done.

 

“Is that the chance and hope you mentioned,

Jacob?” he demanded, in a faltering voice.

 

“It is.”

 

“I–I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.

 

“Without their visits,” said the Ghost, “you cannot

hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first to-morrow,

when the bell tolls One.”

 

“Couldn’t I take ’em all at once, and have it over,

Jacob?” hinted Scrooge.

 

“Expect the second on the next night at the same

hour. The third upon the next night when the last

stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see

me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you

remember what has passed between us!”

 

When it had said these words, the spectre took its

wrapper from the table, and bound it round its head,

as before. Scrooge knew this, by the smart sound its

teeth made, when the jaws were brought together

by the bandage. He ventured to raise his eyes again,

and found his supernatural visitor confronting him

in an erect attitude, with its chain wound over and

about its arm.

 

The apparition walked backward from him; and at

every step it took, the window raised itself a little,

so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open.

 

It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did.

When they were within two paces of each other,

Marley’s Ghost held up its hand, warning him to

come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.

 

Not so much in obedience, as in surprise and fear:

for on the raising of the hand, he became sensible

of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of

lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and

self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment,

joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the

bleak, dark night.

 

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his

curiosity. He looked out.

 

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither

and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they

went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s

Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments)

were linked together; none were free. Many had

been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He

had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white

waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to

its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist

a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below,

upon a door-step. The misery with them all was,

clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in

human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

 

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist

enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and

their spirit voices faded together; and the night became

as it had been when he walked home.

 

Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door

by which the Ghost had entered. It was double-locked,

as he had locked it with his own hands, and

the bolts were undisturbed. He tried to say “Humbug!”

but stopped at the first syllable. And being,

from the emotion he had undergone, or the fatigues

of the day, or his glimpse of the Invisible World, or

the dull conversation of the Ghost, or the lateness of

the hour, much in need of repose; went straight to

bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the

instant.

Charles Dickens

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