Ebenezer Scrooge Hears about a Man Called "Old Scratch"

Ebenezer Scrooge Hears about a Man Called

When Ebenezer Scrooge meets the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,” he encounters a phantom who points but doesn’t speak.  

Even when Scrooge asks a direct question, the Spirit gives him no verbal answer:

'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 he is getting used to the company of ghosts by this time—it being the fourth one he’s encountered on this Christmas Eve—Scrooge is very unsettled about the Ghost of Christmas Future:

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 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 your 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!'

Where does the Spirit lead Scrooge?  To overhear a conversation businessmen are having about someone who has just died.  They are not using very respectful language about the dead man and haven’t identified him by name.

Then Scrooge sees two other men, both of whom he recognizes.  Maybe their conversation will shed light on the person who has died.  But all Scrooge gleans, from these two men, is a total lack of interest that the dead man (whom they call “Old Scratch”) is no longer with them.

Arthur Rackman created this image for a 1915 edition of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (printed in Britain and published by J.B. Lippincott Company Philadelphia and New York).  It illustrates the following part of the text which appears early in Stave Four, “The Last of the Spirits.”

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 last, hey?'

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

'Seasonable for Christmas-time. You are 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.

It is not-yet time for Scrooge to learn the identity of the dead man.  That will come a bit later, in a very dramatic way.

Original Release: Dec 08, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Nov 11, 2016

Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Project Gutenberg.


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