A CHRISTMAS CAROL (IN PROSE BEING, A Ghost Story of Christmas)
by Charles Dickens
(OCF editing – Part 19)
STAVE IV: THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS
THE Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When
it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in
the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to
scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed
its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible
save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been
difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it
from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside
him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a
solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither
spoke nor moved.
“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To
Come?” said Scrooge.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its
“You are about to show me shadows of the things that
have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,”
Scrooge pursued. “Is that so, Spirit?”
The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an
instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head.
That was the only answer he received.
Although well used to ghostly company by this time,
Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled
beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when
he prepared to follow it. The Spirit paused a moment, as
observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.
But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him
with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the
dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon
him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost,
could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap
“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more
than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose
is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another
man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company,
and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak
It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight
“Lead on!” said Scrooge. “Lead on! The night is
waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead
The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him.
Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him
up, he thought, and carried him along.
They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather
seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them of its
own act. But there they were, in the heart of it; on
‘Change, amongst the merchants; who hurried up and down,
and chinked the money in their pockets, and conversed in
groups, and looked at their watches, and trifled thoughtfully
with their great gold seals; and so forth, as Scrooge had
seen them often.
The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men.
Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge
advanced to listen to their talk.
“No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I
don’t know much about it, either way. I only know he’s
“When did he die?” inquired another.
“Last night, I believe.”
“Why, what was the matter with him?” asked a third,
taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box.
“I thought he’d never die.”
“God knows,” said the first, with a yawn.
“What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced
gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his
nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.
“I haven’t heard,” said the man with the large chin,
yawning again. “Left it to his company, perhaps. He hasn’t
left it to me. That’s all I know.”
This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.
“It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,” said the same
speaker; “for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go
to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?”
“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” observed the
gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. “But I must
be fed, if I make one.”
“Well, I am the most disinterested among you, after all,”
said the first speaker, “for I never wear black gloves, and I
never eat lunch. But I’ll offer to go, if anybody else will.
When I come to think of it, I’m not at all sure that I wasn’t
his most particular friend; for we used to stop and speak
whenever we met. Bye, bye!”
Speakers and listeners strolled away, and mixed with
other groups. Scrooge knew the men, and looked towards the
Spirit for an explanation.
The Phantom glided on into a street. Its finger pointed
to two persons meeting. Scrooge listened again, thinking
that the explanation might lie here.
He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of business:
very wealthy, and of great importance. He had made a point
always of standing well in their esteem: in a business point
of view, that is; strictly in a business point of view.
“How are you?” said one.
“How are you?” returned the other.
“Well!” said the first. “Old Scratch has got his own at
“So I am told,” returned the second. “Cold, isn’t it?”
“Seasonable for Christmas time. You’re not a skater, I
“No. No. Something else to think of. Good morning!”
Not another word. That was their meeting, their
conversation, and their parting.
Scrooge was at first inclined to be surprised that the
Spirit should attach importance to conversations apparently so
trivial; but feeling assured that they must have some hidden
purpose, he set himself to consider what it was likely to be.
They could scarcely be supposed to have any bearing on the
death of Jacob, his old partner, for that was Past, and this
Ghost’s province was the Future. Nor could he think of any
one immediately connected with himself, to whom he could
apply them. But nothing doubting that to whomsoever they
applied they had some latent moral for his own improvement,
he resolved to treasure up every word he heard,
and everything he saw; and especially to observe the
shadow of himself when it appeared. For he had an expectation
that the conduct of his future self would give him
the clue he missed, and would render the solution of these
He looked about in that very place for his own image; but
another man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the
clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he
saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured
in through the Porch. It gave him little surprise, however;
for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and
thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried
out in this.
Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its
outstretched hand. When he roused himself from his
thoughtful quest, he fancied from the turn of the hand, and
its situation in reference to himself, that the Unseen Eyes
were looking at him keenly. It made him shudder, and feel