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|A Christmas Carol||Charles Dickens|
Stave 1: Marley's Ghost
|Page 11 of 12||
`You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,' Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though with humility and deference.
`Slow!' the Ghost repeated.
`Seven years dead,' mused Scrooge. `And travelling all the time!'
`The whole time,' said the Ghost. `No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.'
`You travel fast?' said Scrooge.
`On the wings of the wind,' replied the Ghost.
`You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years,' said Scrooge.
The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.
`Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,' cried the phantom, `not to know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!'
`But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,' faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
`Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. `Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'
It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.
`At this time of the rolling year,' the spectre said `I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!'
Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly.
`Hear me!' cried the Ghost. `My time is nearly gone.'
`I will,' said Scrooge. `But don't be hard upon me! Don't be flowery, Jacob! Pray!' `How it is that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may not tell. I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day.'
It was not an agreeable idea. Scrooge shivered, and wiped the perspiration from his brow.
`That is no light part of my penance,' pursued the Ghost. `I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.'
`You were always a good friend to me,' said Scrooge. `Thank 'ee!'
`You will be haunted,' resumed the Ghost, `by Three Spirits.'
Scrooge's countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost's had done.
`Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?' he demanded, in a faltering voice.
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|A Christmas Carol
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