The Last of the Spirits

The Phantom slowly, gravely,[1] silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom[2] and mystery.

It was shrouded[3] in a deep black garment, which concealed[4] its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come? Ghost of the Future! 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 go with you 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! Lead on! The night is waning[5] fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”

They were in the heart of the city. The Spirit stopped beside one little group of businessmen. 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? I thought he’d never die.”

“Who knows?” said the first, with a yawn.

“What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced gentleman.

“I haven’t heard,” said the man with the large chin. “To his company, perhaps. He hasn’t left it to me. That’s all I know. ”

They all laughed.

“It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,” said the same speaker,  “for upon my life I don’t know of anybody who would go to it.”

“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” observed another gentleman. “But I must be fed.”

They all laughed again.

Scrooge was at first surprised that the Spirit should attach importance to conversation apparently so un-important, but feeling assured that it must have some hidden purpose, he set himself to consider what it was likely to be. It could hardly  be thought to have any importance to the death of Jacob, his old partner, for that was Past, and this Ghost’s specialty was the Future.

They left this busy scene, and went into a hidden part of the town, to a shop where iron, old rags, bottles, bones, and greasy parts of an animal were bought. A gray-haired rascal[6] of great age sat smoking his pipe.

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 came in with bundles, too; and she was closely followed by a man in faded black. They all three burst into a laugh.

“Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did!” said one woman. “Who’s the worse for the loss of a few things like these? Not a dead man, I suppose.”

“No, indeed, ma’am.”

“If he wanted to keep ’em after he was dead, why wasn’t he normal 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 breath there, alone by himself.”

“It’s the truest word that ever was spoken; it’s a judgment on him.”

“I wish it was a little heavier judgment. 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.”

Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience of opening the bundle, and dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.

“What do you call this? Bed curtains!”

“Ah! Bed curtains! Don’t drop that oil upon the blankets, now.”

“His blankets?”

“Whose else’s do you think? He isn’t likely to be cold without them now. 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 by dressing him up in it, if it hadn’t been for me.”

Stop and check

What is Scrooge seeing?

  • Three poor people are selling all that they own because they don’t need it.
  • Three rich people are selling a few extra things because they don’t need them.
  • Three servants are selling things for a man who is their employer.
  • Three people are selling things they stole from a man after he died.

Stop and check

What do these three people think of the man who died?

  • They thought he was an unhappy and mean man who didn’t deserve the nice things that he had.
  • They respected the man a great deal, and they wanted to sell his things in order to give the money to poor people.
  • They didn’t know the man who died; they simply took the things of a stranger.
  • Although they were sad to see the man die, they were happy to inherit his property.

Although Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror, he was frightened more when the scene changed. Now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up. The room was very dark. A pale light fell straight upon the bed; and on it, robbed and empty, unwatched, uncared for, was the body of this man.

“Spirit, let me see some tenderness connected with a death, or this dark chamber, Spirit, will be forever present to me.”

The Ghost conducted him to poor Bob Cratchit’s house — the home 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 was reading from a book before him. The mother laid her work upon the table and put her hand up to her face.

“The color hurts my eyes,” she said. “It makes them weak by candle light; and I wouldn’t show weak eyes to your father when he comes home, not for the world. It must be near his time.”

“Past it,” Peter answered, shutting up his book. “But these few last evenings, I think he has walked a little slower than he used to, Mother.”

“I have known him to 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, 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 Bob in his scarf came in. His tea was ready for him, and then the two young Cratchits got upon his knees and each child laid a little cheek against his face, as if they said, “Don’t think about it, father. Don’t be sad!”

Bob was very cheerful with them and spoke pleasantly to all the family.

“You went today, then, Robert?”

“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! 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.

Discuss

What are they talking about? Where had Bob gone today? What does “broke down” mean?

“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 who died.”

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him to a dismal,[7] wretched[8] churchyard. The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one.

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of the things that may be only?”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave[9] by which it stood.

“People’s actions will predict their consequences, which will surely happen. But if people change their actions, then the consequences will change. Say this is true.”

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 we know is now dead? No, Spirit! O no, no! Spirit! hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the same man I was, not after these visits from three spirits. Why show me this if I am past all hope? Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life.”

For the first time, the kind hand hesitated.

“I will honor 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. O, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

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

Yes, and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the time before him was his own, to make amends[10] in! He stopped when he heard bells ringing. Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist, no night; clear, bright, stirring, golden day.

“What’s today?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy on the street.

“Today! Why, Christmas day.”

“It’s Christmas day! I haven’t missed it. Hurrah, my fine fellow!”

“Hurrah!”

“Do you know the poulterer’s,[11] in the next street but one, at the corner? Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize turkey that was hanging up there? Not the little prize turkey — the big one?”

“What, the one as big as me? It’s hanging there now.”

“Is it? Go and buy it.”

“What?!” exclaimed the boy.

“No, no, I am serious. Go and buy it, and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes, and I’ll give you half a crown!”

The boy was off like a shot.

“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s! He shall not know who sends it.

The hand in which he wrote the address was not a steady one; but write it he did, somehow, and went downstairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the poulterer’s man.

Discuss

How many nights have passed since the beginning of the story?

Scrooge dressed himself all in his best and at last got out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with the Ghost of Christmas Present; and, walking with his hands behind him, Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. He looked so irresistibly pleasant, in a word, that three or four good-humored fellows said, “Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!”

In the afternoon, he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house. He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it.

“Why, bless my soul!” cried Fred. “Who’s that?”

“It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”

Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He felt at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just the same. So did everyone when they came. And there was a wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity,[12] won-der-ful happiness!

But he was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his heart upon.

And he did it. The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. Bob was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time.

“Hello!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could fake it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?”

“I am very sorry, sir. I am behind my time.”

“You are? Yes. I think you are. Step this way, if you please.”

“It’s only once a year, sir. It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend. I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” Scrooge continued, leaping from his stool. “And therefore  …”

Discuss

In your opinion, what does Bob expect to happen?

“I am going to raise your salary!”

Bob trembled.[13]

“A Merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an honesty that could not be mistaken. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and try to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over warm drink, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy more coal before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him; but his own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further exchanges with Spirits, and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!


  1. seriously
  2. the feeling of having no hope; darkness
  3. covered by robes
  4. hid
  5. diminishing, fading
  6. a dishonest person
  7. making you feel unhappy and without hope or enthusiasm
  8. very unpleasant, or in very bad condition
  9. the place where a dead body is buried in a deep hole in the ground
  10. make amends means to try to make a situation better after you have done something wrong
  11. a person who sells poultry, such as chickens, turkeys and geese
  12. a feeling of togetherness with everyone in friendly agreement
  13. shaking, usually because you are nervous, afraid, or excited

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

A Christmas Carol by Timothy Krause is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book