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
“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.
“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
“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
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.