Marley was dead to begin with. There is no doubt that Marley was dead.
Ebenezer Scrooge and Marley were partners. Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! He was hard and sharp as a flint, secret and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
"Christmas? Bah, Humbug! If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."
Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's clerk at the counting house, worked in a dismal little cell.
Bob was paid a poor man's salary, while trying to raise several children, one being little Tiny Tim, who was gravely ill.
"You'll want the whole day tomorrow, I suppose Mr. Cratchit?"
"If it's quite convenient, sir."
"It's NOT convenient, and it's not fair. If I was to stop half a crown for it, you'd think yourself ill used. And yet you don't think ME ill-used, when I pay for a day's wages for no work."
"It is just once a year sir."
"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every 25th of December. But, I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier the next morning."
Now it is a fact that there is nothing at all particular about the Scrooge's knocker on the door, except that it was very large. Yet, when Scrooge looked at it, it was not a knocker, but Marley's face! As Scrooge looked fixedly at this, it was a knocker again.
Looking cautiously about, Scrooge entered his dark dismal home. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.
But, before he shut his heavy door, he checked every room to see all was right. Quite satisfied, he locked himself in, and put on his dressing gown and nightcap.
As Scrooge sat down by his low fire to drink his gruel, he noticed a bell overhead begin to swing. Soon it rang loudly, as so did every bell in the house.
Soon, Scrooge heard a much louder noise on the floors below; then coming up the stairs, then coming straight towards his door.
"It's humbug still! I won't believe it!"
His color changed, though when it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Marley's ghost!
Scrooge could not believe his eyes. "Come then, who are you?!"
"In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley."
"Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?"
"It is required of every man, that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death."
"What is this great chain you wear?"
"I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link...yard by yard. It's a strange and wondrous chain you wear Scrooge. It was just as long and heavy seven years ago."
"Humbug! Speak comfort to me friend!"
"I have none to give. I come to you with the smallest chance that you may escape my fate. You will be haunted by three spirits. Without their visit, you cannot hope to escape the path I did."
"Look to see me no more. Remember what has passed between us."
As Marley predicted, at the stroke of One, the first spirit appeared.
"Are you the spirit whose coming was foretold to me?"
"Who and what are you?"
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."
"No. Your past. Take heed! Rise and walk with me!"
The darkness had fallen. Scrooge was now conscious of a thousand odors, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, hopes, and joys and cares long, long forgotten.
"These are but shadows of things that happened. They can neither hear nor see you."
The Spirit took Scrooge to his old school. Here, Scrooge saw himself as a young boy, lonely and forgotten by his family. Scrooge sat down beside him and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.
"Let us see another Christmas!"
The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door and asked Scrooge if he knew it.
"Knew it?! I was apprenticed here!" They went in and Scrooge cried in excitement, "Why, it's old Fezziwig! He's alive again!"
"Yo Ho, my boys! No more work tonight!"
There was never a Christmas party like at old Fezziwigs.
"Is she too familiar?" as the Ghost pointed to a sweet young girl. It was Belle. The girl Scrooge was to marry.
"Why didn't you marry her?"
"I never knew the reason."
"Then let us have a look."
With that, a new scene emerged, a young girl with tears in her eyes.
"Another idle has replaced me. A golden one. I see that all too clearly now so I release you with a full heart, for the love of him you once were. May you be happy in the life you have chosen."
"No more! Show me no more! Why do you insist on torturing me?"
"I told you, these are but shadows of the past. Though they are what they are, do not blame me."
With that, the spirit vanished, leaving Scrooge exhausted in his bed.
2:00 am - a strange voice called to Scrooge, "Come in! And know me better man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present! Look Upon Me!"
The ghost rose.
"Touch my robe."
With that, the ghost transported Scrooge to the home of Bob Cratchit.
"And how did Tiny Tim behave in church?"
"As good as gold and better. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day who made lame beggars walk and blind men see."
Such a bustle ensued! The Cratchit family enjoyed their meager feast and when all was done Bob proposed a toast, "Merry Christmas to all, God bless us!"
"God Bless us, everyone!" Tiny Tim echoed.
As the ghost's torch burned out, Scrooge kept his eyes on Tiny Tim until the last.
By this time it was getting late and snowing heavily. Scrooge noticed the ghost growing older.
"Are spirit's lives so short?"
"My life upon this globe is very brief. It ends at the stroke of midnight."
"But what of my next spirit?"
"Go forth man, and know HIM better!"
With that, the spirit vanished.
Lifting his eyes, Scrooge beheld a Phantom, draped and hooded, like a mist on the ground, coming towards him.
"Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But I know your purpose is to do me good. The night is waning fast and it is precious time to me I know. Lead on Spirit, lead on."
The ghost first lead Scrooge to a knot of businessmen Scrooge knew very well. They spoke of a funeral, but didn't mention who it was for. Scrooge advanced to listen to their conversation, which was cruel and showed no mercy for the man who died.
Next, the Phantom brought Scrooge to an obscure part of town, full of crime, filth and misery. Far in a back alley den, Scrooge witnessed a gray-haired rascal buying and selling wares from vagabonds who stole personal items from a dead man.
"Spirit! This is a frightful place! Let me see some tenderness connected with this death, or I will be forever haunted by that dark chamber."
The Spirit brought him to the house of poor Bob Cratchit. Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Cratchits were as still as statues.
Ah, poor Tiny Tim!
"This color hurts my eyes," said Mrs. Cratchit. "I wouldn't want to show tired eyes to your father for anything in the world. It must be near his time. I have known him to walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed. But he was light to carry and his father loved him so that he was no trouble, no trouble."
Poor Bob came home and broke down upon being greeted by his family, "However and whenever we part from one another, I am sure we shall never forget Tiny Tim or this first parting among us."
"Oh, NOT Tiny Tim!" Spectre, something informs me that our parting is at hand. Tell me, who was the man who lay dying?"
The spirit did not say anything, but pointed his long bony finger.
Scrooge followed him to a churchyard, overrun by grass and weeds. The spirit stood among the graves and pointed down to one.
"Before I draw nearer to that stone, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of things that will be or the shadows of things that may be only?"
The ghost still pointed.
"A man can change his ways. Is this not so?"
The spirit was immovable as ever.
Trembling, Scrooge crept towards the stone and following his finger read upon the stone "Ebeneezer Scrooge".
"No spirit! No! Spirit! Hear me! I am not the man that I was. I have changed. Why show me this is I am past all hope? Good spirit, I will not shut out the lessons the spirits have taught me. Tell me I may sponge away the writing from that stone!"
Scrooge collapsed crying onto his bedpost. Yes! The bed was his own!
"I will live in the Past, Present, and Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. O Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas-time be praised! I say this on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!"
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. It was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be be truly said of all of us!
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, "God Bless Us, Every One!"