Reader: You may want to start at the beginning or at least get some background
The Second of the Three Spirits
Awaking in the with the tensing of his gut, and sitting up in bed to get alert to any sound or sight out of sort, Cratchit had no need to seek the time, he knew.. He felt that he awoken by his very consciousness , for the especial purpose of holding a conference with the second messenger dispatched to him through Jacob Marley's intervention. He waited, tensed. He drew back the bed curtains, not so much to save the coming spectra time and effort, more so to withdraw the element of surprise and to prevent soiling himself yet again. His resolve was to challenge the spirit and there he fortified himself behind his pillow and waited.
Cratchit, having been through the coals as to the appearance of the first two apparitions steeled himself for this visit. There can be nothing that will surprise or set fear into my soul. I am prepared. Bring it on and I shall settle matters here and now. That being said, Cratchit having witnessed all manner of supernatural oddity this night, was quite prepared to what the other world would visit upon him now. Bring it on indeed.
Tis one thing to anticipate and tis another when what expected is not expected. The clock struck one and nothing happened. Moments to minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. In this time, Cratchit lay in wait, upon his bed, which glowed in light from no source and which, being only light, was more alarming than Marley's strap on apparatus or the first ghost's magnificent member. He was powerless to make out what it meant, or how to extinguish it's glow. Perhaps I am incinerating at this instant and can't even comprehend. At last, however, he began to think -- as you or I would have thought or may be considering; for it is always such for others to say what they would of done, could of done, should of done - and so Cratchit made the first move, considering the source of light, must be the other room. Perhaps the spirit hadn't the power to enter Cratchits bed chamber, perhaps it can't walk through walls or past the locks. It must be the other room, and Cratchit slipped from beneath his comfort and slinked toward the door.
The moment Cratchit's hand was on the knob, a strange voice called him by his name, and commanded him enter. He obeyed. Unclasping the locks and cracking the door.
He was still within his home. But it no longer looked of his furnishings nor design, much less his taste in décor. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, it appeared some forest or glen or even a jungle room. Every part bright red berries of the holly, crisp pine scent of the woods. The leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, like glistening stars, brilliantly twinkling, and such a roaring fire in the hearth Cratchit thought only that the coal man must have been daft and made a delivery without payment. There on tables spread with fine linens was food to boggle the senses. All forms of prepared and cooked fowl. There were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, and briskets and ribs and slabs of sirloins, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. Lounging amidst this largess, on an overstuffed couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see:, who carried a glowing purse, in shape not unlike a man's billfold, only more massive, and he held it up, high up, to shed its light on Cratchit, as he came peeping round the door.
"Come in!" exclaimed the Ghost. "Come in, and know me better, man."
Cratchit slid through the crack of the door he opened, as if not to disturb the room's ambiance by his lowly presence, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the feisty Cratchit he had been; waiting in anticipation for challenge he was displaced. The Spirit's eyes were clear and kind. Cratchit was put aside his game, disarmed of any power, he did not like to meet this endeavor, and he hung his head in his particular way.
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me, man"
With the command the ghost removed it's dark eye coverings, that were spectacles whose frames were gold but lenses black. It flicked it's head in pose, and cast what appeared as a permanent sneer on it's face, it's very kingly aura demanded Cratchit to comply.
Cratchit reverently did so. Nodding in awe. It was clothed in a white one piece attire, that had both the pants and shirt attached, with a high collar upturned to it's ears. There was a cape like ensemble over its shoulders. That too, white, but with golden trim and gold satin inseam. The written symbols of the pound, the dollar, the yen, the rubble, the mark, the franc, all, embroidered in flashing lights and gold lame; all bordered with white fur. The cape hung loosely on the figure, yet the pants and shirt clung like they were painted on. It's chest was bared, an assortment of gold chains, amulets, hung around it's neck open to the flaunt such excess, its very masculinity. Its feet, observable beneath the flare of the trousers, were shod in the finest exotic velvet leather, blue with a heel and pointed toe, and trimmed those too with gold leaf inlay. Its black pompadour, pampered with powders of luminescence, a shimmering ebony sheared mane, trimmed to perfection to cover it's ears and hang to the neck, a lock, perfectly coiffed to hang over it's forehead as an exclamation to heavy lidded eyes. It's genial face, no blotch or blemish, no nose hair askew, its sparkling blue, blazing eyes without crow's feet wrinkle, its open hand, its deep husky voice, it's flashing, brilliantly capped teeth, its unconstrained demeanor, (although a lip curled up menacingly) it had a seductive, joyful air. Girded round its middle was an golden scabbard; but no sword was in it, a larger than necessary belt buckle, holding back a the stomach that had not missed a meal, as to impress Cratchit like no other before it, there was only one.
"You have never seen the like of me before!" exclaimed the Spirit.
"Never," Cratchit made answer to it.
"Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young, forever young) my elder brothers born in these later years?" pursued the Phantom.
"I don't think I have," said Cratchit. "I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?"
"More than eighteen hundred," said the Ghost, "all impersonators, they think they're me." The spirit half laughed at the thought, as if there could ever be a replacement for it's like.
"A tremendous family to provide for," muttered Cratchit.
The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.
"Spirit," said Cratchit submissively, "conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it."
"Touch my cape, man.."
Cratchit did as he was told, and held it fast.
The room and all it's finery, extravagance, and wanton excess dissolved. Then reassembled shadows found them both in the city streets on Christmas morning, where it was snowing and people were going about their business dealing with the element. Shoveling, scurrying, hefting bundles of goods to hunker down to warmth. It was busy in it's flow.
Although, storefront and home were a contrast to the pure white, for they were blackened and sooty from hearths and furnaces throughout London, and snow on the ground had turned to ugly grey slush, it's presentation of atmosphere was opposite it's appearance. There was a general cheerfulness in the populace. People passed each other in the street and alley, greeting each other as friends, brothers and sisters. Offers to help with packages and tasks at hand, made difficult by the environment, were given by complete strangers to complete strangers.
The poulterers' shops were still half open, but no inquiring customer was turned away for want of a bird for Christmas feast. The fruiterers' the same, as clusters of women cackled over the size and circumference of various fruits and vegetables, their magnificent healing properties if and where applied correctly. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the gonads of some magnificent steed, they too were cupped in one's hands for warmth and comfort and dancing lurid thought.
There were ruddy, brown-faced, thin appearing Indians, from the farthest reaches of the Empire, viewing the snow for the first time and not quite comprehending mittens or a muffler. There were pears and apples, piled in baskets overflowing; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers" benevolence to dangle in netted sacks to appear as sweet teats or testicles hanging for the mouth's engorging. Then there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, cracking nuts. All exotic citrus picked from foreign shores, with brilliant colors, scents and anticipated tastes .And business was brisk work for those who anticipated, with paper bags of their choice, wrapped and under their arms to hurry home.
The merchants, ahh, the merchants. With an eye to closing time and lines still at the cashier, they licked their lips in satisfaction. Twiners of paper wrapped product, bundlers bundled the feasts, were busy beyond there skills. This was Christmas, splurge, spend, it comes but once a year. People were hurrying in haste to spend all that they had, all that the government had doled to them, all the letters of credit extended to them, and then some, as if the once a year is the end of money itself.
Not a worry or a care to those that may need payment soon after, those very ones that supply the necessities in the new year, that can wait. If you wanted now, then fulfill
that urge, consider no restrain, borrow on monies of tomorrow, and when that day comes, push it to the day after.
But soon the churches chimed and called good people all, to meaning, to reflection, to fill the churches' coffers too. Flocking through the streets in their best clothes, to be envied in the latest fashion, to show what one has and another one doesn't. What, after a hard week of work, what one could afford. And at the same time there emerged from scores of alley ways, byways and side turns, many people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The baker charged a small fee, for those without a stove, to use his ovens to cook their Christmas dinner. The sight of the crowd seemed to heighten the spirit, for he stood with Cratchit beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off a scarf he had wrapped on his neck, he moped his brow and then waved it in front the bearers that passed. Those who he wafted were blissful and flushed, enabled, productive, no argument or anger from them. They felt their self image inflated. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day, can't we all get along?. And so it was. God love it, so it was.
In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.
"Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your scarf?" asked Cratchit.
"There is man. My own.Tis, the sweat of one's brow, of one's labor. "
"Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?" asked Cratchit.
"To any kindly given. To a poor one most."
"Why to a poor one most?" asked Cratchit.
"Because, man, when you provide for yourself, you are proud of yourself, and besides how do you think they can afford it."
"Spirit," said Cratchit, after a moment's thought, "I wonder you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment. After all, shouldn't we help those in need?"
"I!" cried the Spirit.
"You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all," said Cratchit. "Wouldn't you?"
"I!" cried the Spirit.
"You seek to close these very places on the Seventh Day," said Cratchit. "And it comes to the same thing. Why not dole out comfort to those poor unfortunate that have no means."
"I seek!" exclaimed the Spirit, "These people who are relying upon others, I say, make do man, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get to work. There are no hand outs in life."
"Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family," said Cratchit.
"There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, reformists, socialists, do-gooders and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, and in that end we are offended, but their deeds for others who haven't gotten off their slovenly posteriors, waiting for others to attend their wants, through inheritance, legacy, birthright, government grants, social programs, whatever, man, we are offended more so. Lazy, slovenly, behavior. When there's nothing preventing you from working, and you are slacking, man. Abominable."
And they went on, invisible, as they had been before, Cratchit mulling over welfare of those in need. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Cratchit had observed at the baker's), that notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he could have done in any lofty concert hall. Larger than life and most fulfilling. They proceeded as the king has left the building.