15DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 11

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 11)

 

“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”

 

This was not addressed to Scrooge, or to any one whom he

could see, but it produced an immediate effect. For again

Scrooge saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime

of life. His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later

years; but it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice.

There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which

showed the passion that had taken root, and where the

shadow of the growing tree would fall.

 

He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young

girl in a mourning-dress: in whose eyes there were tears,

which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost of

Christmas Past.

 

“It matters little,” she said, softly. “To you, very little.

Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort

you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have

no just cause to grieve.”

 

“What Idol has displaced you?” he rejoined.

 

“A golden one.”

 

“This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” he said.

“There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and

there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity

as the pursuit of wealth!”

 

“You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently.

“All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being

beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your

nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion,

Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?”

 

“What then?” he retorted. “Even if I have grown so

much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.”

 

She shook her head.

 

“Am I?”

 

“Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were

both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could

improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You

are changed. When it was made, you were another man.”

 

“I was a boy,” he said impatiently.

 

“Your own feeling tells you that you were not what you

are,” she returned. “I am. That which promised happiness

when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that

we are two. How often and how keenly I have thought of

this, I will not say. It is enough that I have thought of it,

and can release you.”

 

“Have I ever sought release?”

 

“In words. No. Never.”

 

“In what, then?”

 

“In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another

atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In

everything that made my love of any worth or value in your

sight. If this had never been between us,” said the girl,

looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; “tell me,

would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!”

 

He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in

spite of himself. But he said with a struggle, “You think

not.”

 

“I would gladly think otherwise if I could,” she answered,

“Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this,

I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you

were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe

that you would choose a dowerless girl–you who, in your

very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or,

choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your

one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your

repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I

release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you

once were.”

 

He was about to speak; but with her head turned from

him, she resumed.

 

“You may–the memory of what is past half makes me

hope you will–have pain in this. A very, very brief time,

and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an

unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you

awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

 

She left him, and they parted.

 

Charles Dickens

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