Stave 4: The Last of the Spirits - A Christmas Carol

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The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came,
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 hand.

‘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 pauses 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 of black.

‘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 to me?’

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before
them.

‘Lead on,’ said Scrooge. ‘Lead on. The night
is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on,
Spirit!’

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 dead.’

‘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!’

Another laugh.

‘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 aye
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 last, hey?’

‘So I am told,’ returned the second. ‘Cold,
isn’t it?’

‘Seasonable for Christmas time. You’re not a skater,
I suppose?’

‘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 riddles easy.

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 very cold.

They left the busy scene, and went into an obscure part of the
town, where Scrooge had never penetrated before, although he
recognised its situation, and its bad repute. The ways were foul
and narrow; the shops and houses wretched; the people
half–naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. Alleys and archways,
like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of smell, and
dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter
reeked with crime, with filth, and misery.

Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a
low–browed, beetling shop, below a pent–house roof,
where iron, old rags, bottles, bones, and greasy offal, were
bought. Upon the floor within, were piled up heaps of rusty keys,
nails, chains, hinges, files, scales, weights, and refuse iron of
all kinds. Secrets that few would like to scrutinise were bred and
hidden in mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted fat, and
sepulchres of bones. Sitting in among the wares he dealt in, by a
charcoal stove, made of old bricks, was a grey–haired rascal,
nearly seventy years of age; who had screened himself from the cold
air without, by a frousy curtaining of miscellaneous tatters, hung
upon a line; and smoked his pipe in all the luxury of calm
retirement.

Scrooge and the Phantom came into the presence of this man, just
as a woman with a heavy bundle slunk into the shop. But she had
scarcely entered, when another woman, similarly laden, came in too;
and she was closely followed by a man in faded black, who was no
less startled by the sight of them, than they had been upon the
recognition of each other. After a short period of blank
astonishment, in which the old man with the pipe had joined them,
they all three burst into a laugh.

‘Let the charwoman alone to be the first!’ cried she
who had entered first. ‘Let the laundress alone to be the
second; and let the undertaker’s man alone to be the third!
Look here, old Joe, here’s a chance. If we haven’t all
three met here without meaning it.’

‘You couldn’t have met in a better place,’
said old Joe, removing his pipe from his mouth. ‘Come into
the parlour. You were made free of it long ago, you know; and the
other two an’t strangers. Stop till I shut the door of the
shop. Ah! How it skreeks. There an’t such a rusty bit of
metal in the place as its own hinges, I believe; and I’m sure
there’s no such old bones here, as mine. Ha, ha! We’re
all suitable to our calling, we’re well matched. Come into
the parlour. Come into the parlour.’

The parlour was the space behind the screen of rags. The old man
raked the fire together with an old stair–rod, and having
trimmed his smoky lamp (for it was night), with the stem of his
pipe, put it in his mouth again.

While he did this, the woman who had already spoken threw her
bundle on the floor, and sat down in a flaunting manner on a stool;
crossing her elbows on her knees, and looking with a bold defiance
at the other two.

‘What odds then? What odds, Mrs Dilber?’ said the
woman. ‘Every person has a right to take care of themselves.
He always did.’

‘That’s true, indeed,’ said the laundress.
‘No man more so.’

‘Why then, don’t stand staring as if you was afraid,
woman; who’s the wiser? We’re not going to pick holes
in each other’s coats, I suppose!’

‘No, indeed!’ said Mrs Dilber and the man together.
‘We should hope not.’

‘Very well, then!’ cried the woman.
‘That’s enough. Who’s the worse for the loss of a
few things like these? Not a dead man, I suppose!’

‘No, indeed,’ said Mrs Dilber, laughing.

‘If he wanted to keep them after he was dead, a wicked old
screw,’ pursued the woman, ‘why wasn’t he natural
in his lifetime? If he had been, he’d have had somebody to
look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying
gasping out his last there, alone by himself.’

‘It’s the truest word that ever was spoke,’
said Mrs Dilber. ‘It’s a judgment on him!’

‘I wish it was a little heavier judgment,’ replied
the woman; ‘and it should have been, you may depend upon it,
if I could have laid my hands on anything else. Open that bundle,
old Joe, and let me know the value of it. Speak out plain.
I’m not afraid to be the first, nor afraid for them to see
it! We know pretty well that we were helping ourselves, before we
met here, I believe. It’s no sin. Open the bundle,
Joe.’

But the gallantry of her friends would not allow of this; and
the man in faded black, mounting the breach first, produced his
plunder. It was not extensive. A seal or two, a pencil–case,
a pair of sleeve–buttons, and a brooch of no great value,
were all. They were severally examined and appraised by old Joe,
who chalked the sums he was disposed to give for each, upon the
wall, and added them up into a total when he found there was
nothing more to come.

‘That’s your account,’ said Joe, ‘and I
wouldn’t give another sixpence, if I was to be boiled for not
doing it. Who’s next?’

Mrs Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, a little wearing
apparel, two old–fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of
sugar–tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the
wall in the same manner.

‘I always give too much to ladies. It’s a weakness
of mine, and that’s the way I ruin myself,’ said old
Joe. ‘That’s your account. If you asked me for another
penny, and made it an open question, I’d repent of being so
liberal and knock off half–a–crown.’

‘And now undo my bundle, Joe,’ said the first
woman.

Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience of
opening it, and having unfastened a great many knots, dragged out a
large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.

‘What do you call this?’ said Joe.
‘Bed–curtains?’

‘Ah!’ returned the woman, laughing and leaning
forward on her crossed arms. ‘Bed–curtains!’

‘You don’t mean to say you took them down, rings and
all, with him lying there?’ said Joe.

‘Yes I do,’ replied the woman. ‘Why
not?’

‘You were born to make your fortune,’ said Joe,
‘and you’ll certainly do it!’

‘I certainly shan’t hold my hand, when I can get
anything in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as he
was, I promise you, Joe,’ returned the woman coolly.
‘Don’t drop that oil upon the blankets, now.’

‘His blankets?’ asked Joe.

‘Whose else’s do you think?’ replied the
woman. ‘He isn’t likely to take cold without them, I
dare say.’

‘I hope he didn’t die of any thing catching!
Eh?’ said old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.

‘Don’t you be afraid of that,’ returned the
woman. ‘I an’t so fond of his company that I’d
loiter about him for such things, if he did. Ah! you may look
through that shirt till your eyes ache; but you won’t find a
hole in it, nor a threadbare place. It’s the best he had, and
a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t
been for me.’

‘What do you call wasting of it?’ asked old Joe.

‘Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,’
replied the woman with a laugh. ‘Somebody was fool enough to
do it, but I took it off again. If calico an’t good enough
for such a purpose, it isn’t good enough for anything.
It’s quite as becoming to the body. He can’t look
uglier than he did in that one.’

Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat grouped
about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by the old
man’s lamp, he viewed them with a detestation and disgust,
which could hardly have been greater, though the demons, marketing
the corpse itself.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed the same woman, when old Joe,
producing a flannel bag with money in it, told out their several
gains upon the ground. ‘This is the end of it, you see. He
frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us
when he was dead! Ha, ha, ha!’

‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge, shuddering from head to
foot. ‘I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my
own. My life tends that way, now. Merciful Heaven, what is
this?’

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he
almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a
ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up, which, though it
was dumb, announced itself in awful language.

The room was very dark, too dark to be observed with any
accuracy, though Scrooge glanced round it in obedience to a secret
impulse, anxious to know what kind of room it was. A pale light,
rising in the outer air, fell straight upon the bed; and on it,
plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for, was the body
of this man.

Scrooge glanced towards the Phantom. Its steady hand was pointed
to the head. The cover was so carelessly adjusted that the
slightest raising of it, the motion of a finger upon
Scrooge’s part, would have disclosed the face. He thought of
it, felt how easy it would be to do, and longed to do it; but had
no more power to withdraw the veil than to dismiss the spectre at
his side.

Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here,
and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for
this is thy dominion. But of the loved, revered, and honoured head,
thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one
feature odious. It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down
when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but
that the hand was open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm,
and tender; and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike!
And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world
with life immortal.

No voice pronounced these words in Scrooge’s ears, and yet
he heard them when he looked upon the bed. He thought, if this man
could be raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts?
Avarice, hard–dealing, griping cares. They have brought him
to a rich end, truly.

He lay, in the dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a
child, to say that he was kind to me in this or that, and for the
memory of one kind word I will be kind to him. A cat was tearing at
the door, and there was a sound of gnawing rats beneath the
hearth–stone. What they wanted in the room of death, and why
they were so restless and disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to
think.

‘Spirit,’ he said, ‘this is a fearful place.
In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us
go.’

Still the Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the head.

‘I understand you,’ Scrooge returned, ‘and I
would do it, if I could. But I have not the power, Spirit. I have
not the power.’

Again it seemed to look upon him.

‘If there is any person in the town, who feels emotion
caused by this man’s death,’ said Scrooge quite
agonised, ‘show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech
you.’

The Phantom spread its dark robe before him for a moment, like a
wing; and withdrawing it, revealed a room by daylight, where a
mother and her children were.

She was expecting some one, and with anxious eagerness; for she
walked up and down the room; started at every sound; looked out
from the window; glanced at the clock; tried, but in vain, to work
with her needle; and could hardly bear the voices of the children
in their play.

At length the long–expected knock was heard. She hurried
to the door, and met her husband; a man whose face was careworn and
depressed, though he was young. There was a remarkable expression
in it now; a kind of serious delight of which he felt ashamed, and
which he struggled to repress.

He sat down to the dinner that had been boarding for him by the
fire; and when she asked him faintly what news (which was not until
after a long silence), he appeared embarrassed how to answer.

‘Is it good?’ she said, ‘or
bad?’—to help him.

‘Bad,’ he answered.

‘We are quite ruined!’

‘No. There is hope yet, Caroline.’

‘If he relents,’ she said, amazed, ‘there is.
Nothing is past hope, if such a miracle has happened!’

‘He is past relenting,’ said her husband. ‘He
is dead.’

She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke truth; but
she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she said so, with
clasped hands. She prayed forgiveness the next moment, and was
sorry; but the first was the emotion of her heart.

‘What the half–drunken woman whom I told you of last
night, said to me, when I tried to see him and obtain a
week’s delay; and what I thought was a mere excuse to avoid
me; turns out to have been quite true. He was not only very ill,
but dying, then.’

‘To whom will our debt be transferred?’

‘I don’t know. But before that time we shall be
ready with the money; and even though we were not, it would be a
bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a creditor in his
successor. We may sleep to–night with light hearts,
Caroline.’

Yes. Soften it as they would, their hearts were lighter. The
children’s faces, hushed and clustered round to hear what
they so little understood, were brighter; and it was a happier
house for this man’s death. The only emotion that the Ghost
could show him, caused by the event, was one of pleasure.

‘Let me see some tenderness connected with a death,’
said Scrooge, ‘or that dark chamber, Spirit, which we left
just now, will be for ever present to me.’

The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar to his
feet; and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and there to find
himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They entered poor Bob
Cratchit’s house; the dwelling he had visited before; and
found the mother and the children seated round the fire.

Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Cratchits were as still as
statues in one corner, and sat looking up at Peter, who had a book
before him. The mother and her daughters were engaged in sewing.
But surely they were very quiet.

‘And he took a child, and set him in the midst of
them.’

Where had Scrooge heard those words? He had not dreamed them.
The boy must have read them out, as he and the Spirit crossed the
threshold. Why did he not go on?

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her hand up to
her face.

‘The colour hurts my eyes,’ she said.

The colour! Ah, poor Tiny Tim.

‘They’re better now again,’ said
Cratchit’s wife. ‘It makes them weak by
candle–light; and I wouldn’t show weak eyes to your
father when he comes home, for the world. It must be near his
time.’

‘Past it rather,’ Peter answered, shutting up his
book. ‘But I think he has walked a little slower than he
used, these few last evenings, mother.’

They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a steady,
cheerful voice, that only faltered once:

‘I have known him walk with—I have known him walk
with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed.’

‘And so have I,’ cried Peter.
‘Often.’

‘And so have I,’ exclaimed another. So had all.

‘But he was very light to carry,’ she resumed,
intent upon her work, ‘and his father loved him so, that it
was no trouble: no trouble. And there is your father at the
door.’

She hurried out to meet him; and little Bob in his comforter
—he had need of it, poor fellow—came in. His tea was
ready for him on the hob, and they all tried who should help him to
it most. Then the two young Cratchits got upon his knees and laid,
each child a little cheek, against his face, as if they said,
‘Don’t mind it, father. Don’t be
grieved.’

Bob was very cheerful with them, and spoke pleasantly to all the
family. He looked at the work upon the table, and praised the
industry and speed of Mrs Cratchit and the girls. They would be
done long before Sunday, he said.

‘Sunday! You went to–day, then, Robert?’ said
his wife.

‘Yes, my dear,’ returned Bob. ‘I wish you
could have gone. It would have done you good to see how green a
place it is. But you’ll see it often. I promised him that I
would walk there on a Sunday. My little, little child.’ cried
Bob. ‘My little child.’

He broke down all at once. He couldn’t help it. If he
could have helped it, he and his child would have been farther
apart perhaps than they were.

He left the room, and went up–stairs into the room above,
which was lighted cheerfully, and hung with Christmas. There was a
chair set close beside the child, and there were signs of some one
having been there, lately. Poor Bob sat down in it, and when he had
thought a little and composed himself, he kissed the little face.
He was reconciled to what had happened, and went down again quite
happy.

They drew about the fire, and talked; the girls and mother
working still. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness of Mr
Scrooge’s nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but once, and
who, meeting him in the street that day, and seeing that he looked
a little—‘just a little down you know,’ said Bob,
inquired what had happened to distress him. ‘On which,’
said Bob, ‘for he is the pleasantest–spoken gentleman
you ever heard, I told him. “I am heartily sorry for it, Mr
Cratchit,” he said, “and heartily sorry for your good
wife.” By the bye, how he ever knew that, I don’t
know.’

‘Knew what, my dear?’

‘Why, that you were a good wife,’ replied Bob.

‘Everybody knows that,’ said Peter.

‘Very well observed, my boy.’ cried Bob. ‘I
hope they do. “Heartily sorry,” he said, “for
your good wife. If I can be of service to you in any way,” he
said, giving me his card, “that’s where I live. Pray
come to me.” Now, it wasn’t,’ cried Bob,
‘for the sake of anything he might be able to do for us, so
much as for his kind way, that this was quite delightful. It really
seemed as if he had known our Tiny Tim, and felt with
us.’

‘I’m sure he’s a good soul,’ said Mrs
Cratchit.

‘You would be surer of it, my dear,’ returned Bob,
‘if you saw and spoke to him. I shouldn’t be at all
surprised— mark what I say—if he got Peter a better
situation.’

‘Only hear that, Peter,’ said Mrs Cratchit.

‘And then,’ cried one of the girls, ‘Peter
will be keeping company with some one, and setting up for
himself.’

‘Get along with you,’ retorted Peter, grinning.

‘It’s just as likely as not,’ said Bob,
‘one of these days; though there’s plenty of time for
that, my dear. But however and when ever we part from one another,
I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim—shall
we—or this first parting that there was among us.’

‘Never, father!’ cried they all.

‘And I know,’ said Bob, ‘I know, my dears,
that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he
was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among
ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.’

‘No, never, father!’ they all cried again.

‘I am very happy,’ said little Bob, ‘I am very
happy.’

Mrs Cratchit kissed him, his daughters kissed him, the two young
Cratchits kissed him, and Peter and himself shook hands. Spirit of
Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from God.

‘Spectre,’ said Scrooge, ‘something informs me
that our parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not how.
Tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead.’

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as
before—though at a different time, he thought: indeed, there
seemed no order in these latter visions, save that they were in the
Future—into the resorts of business men, but showed him not
himself. Indeed, the Spirit did not stay for anything, but went
straight on, as to the end just now desired, until besought by
Scrooge to tarry for a moment.

‘This court,’ said Scrooge, ‘through which we
hurry now, is where my place of occupation is, and has been for a
length of time. I see the house. Let me behold what I shall be, in
days to come.’

The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.

‘The house is yonder,’ Scrooge exclaimed. ‘Why
do you point away?’

The inexorable finger underwent no change.

Scrooge hastened to the window of his office, and looked in. It
was an office still, but not his. The furniture was not the same,
and the figure in the chair was not himself. The Phantom pointed as
before.

He joined it once again, and wondering why and whither he had
gone, accompanied it until they reached an iron gate. He paused to
look round before entering.

A churchyard. Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had now
to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a worthy place. Walled
in by houses; overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of
vegetation’s death, not life; choked up with too much
burying; fat with repleted appetite. A worthy place.

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He
advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had
been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn
shape.

‘Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you
point,’ said Scrooge, ‘answer me one question. Are
these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows
of things that May be, only?’

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it
stood.

‘Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to
which, if persevered in, they must lead,’ said Scrooge.
‘But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.
Say it is thus with what you show me!’

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following
the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own
name, Ebenezer Scrooge.

‘Am I that man who lay upon the bed?’ he cried, upon
his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

‘No, Spirit. Oh no, no!’

The finger still was there.

‘Spirit!’ he cried, tight clutching at its robe,
‘hear me. I am not the man I was! I will not be the man I
must have been but for this intercourse! Why show me this, if I am
past all hope?’

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

‘Good Spirit!’ he pursued, as down upon the ground
he fell before it: ‘Your nature intercedes for me, and pities
me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown
me, by an altered life!’

The kind hand trembled.

‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it
all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut
out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the
writing on this stone!’

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free
itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The
Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate aye
reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and
dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.