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Charles Dickens > A Christmas Carol > Stave 4 - The Last of the Spirits

A Christmas Carol

Stave 4 - The Last of the Spirits

The Last of the Spirits

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

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed
its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible
save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been
difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it
from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside
him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a
solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither
spoke nor moved.

`I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To
Come,' said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its

`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 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 pauses 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 you 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!'

The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him.
Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him
up, he thought, and carried him along.

They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather
seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them of its
own act. But there they were, in the heart of it; on
'Change, amongst the merchants; who hurried up and down,
and chinked the money in their pockets, and conversed in
groups, and looked at their watches, and trifled thoughtfully
with their great gold seals; and so forth, as Scrooge had
seen them often.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men.
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

`When did he die?' inquired another.

`Last night, I believe.'

`Why, what was the matter with him?' asked a third,
taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box.
`I thought he'd never die.'

`God knows,' said the first, with a yawn.

`What has he done with his money?' asked a red-faced
gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his
nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.

`I haven't heard,' said the man with the large chin,
yawning again. `Left it to his company, perhaps. He hasn't
left it to me. That's all I know.'

This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.

`It's likely to be a very cheap funeral,' said the same
speaker; `for upon my life I don't know of anybody to go
to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?'

`I don't mind going if a lunch is provided,' observed the
gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. `But I must
be fed, if I make one!'

Another laugh.

`Well, I am the most disinterested among you, after all,'
said the first speaker, `for I never wear black gloves, and I
never eat lunch. But I'll offer to go, if anybody else will.
When I come to think of it, I'm not at all sure that I wasn't
his most particular friend; for we used to stop and speak
whenever we met. Bye, bye.'

Speakers and listeners strolled away, and mixed with
other groups. Scrooge knew the men, and looked towards the
Spirit for an explanation.

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 aye
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're not a skater, I

`No. No. Something else to think of. Good morning!'

Not another word. That was their meeting, their
conversation, and their parting.

Scrooge was at first inclined to be surprised that the
Spirit should attach importance to conversations apparently so
trivial; but feeling assured that they must have some hidden
purpose, he set himself to consider what it was likely to be.
They could scarcely be supposed to have any bearing on the
death of Jacob, his old partner, for that was Past, and this
Ghost's province was the Future. Nor could he think of any
one immediately connected with himself, to whom he could
apply them. But nothing doubting that to whomsoever they
applied they had some latent moral for his own improvement,
he resolved to treasure up every word he heard,
and everything he saw; and especially to observe the
shadow of himself when it appeared. For he had an expectation
that the conduct of his future self would give him
the clue he missed, and would render the solution of these
riddles easy.

He looked about in that very place for his own image; but
another man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the
clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he
saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured
in through the Porch. It gave him little surprise, however;
for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and
thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried
out in this.

Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its
outstretched hand. When he roused himself from his
thoughtful quest, he fancied from the turn of the hand, and
its situation in reference to himself, that the Unseen Eyes
were looking at him keenly. It made him shudder, and feel
very cold.

They left the busy scene, and went into an obscure part
of the town, where Scrooge had never penetrated before,
although he recognised its situation, and its bad repute. The
ways were foul and narrow; the shops and houses wretched;
the people half-naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. Alleys and
archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of
smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the
whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery.

Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a low-browed,
beetling shop, below a pent-house roof, where iron, old rags,
bottles, bones, and greasy offal, were bought. Upon the floor
within, were piled up heaps of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges,
files, scales, weights, and refuse iron of all kinds. Secrets
that few would like to scrutinise were bred and hidden in
mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted fat, and
sepulchres of bones. Sitting in among the wares he dealt in, by a
charcoal stove, made of old bricks, was a grey-haired rascal,
nearly seventy years of age; who had screened himself from the
cold air without, by a frousy curtaining of miscellaneous
tatters, hung upon a line; and smoked his pipe in all the luxury
of calm retirement.

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,
similarly laden, came in too; and she was closely followed by
a man in faded black, who was no less startled by the sight
of them, than they had been upon the recognition of each
other. After a short period of blank astonishment, in which
the old man with the pipe had joined them, they all three
burst into a laugh.

`Let the charwoman alone to be the first!' cried she who
had entered first. `Let the laundress alone to be the second;
and let the undertaker's man alone to be the third! Look
here, old Joe, here's a chance. If we haven't all three met
here without meaning it.'

`You couldn't have met in a better place,' said old Joe,
removing his pipe from his mouth. `Come into the parlour.
You were made free of it long ago, you know; and the other
two an't strangers. Stop till I shut the door of the shop.
Ah! How it skreeks. There an't such a rusty bit of metal
in the place as its own hinges, I believe; and I'm sure there's
no such old bones here, as mine. Ha, ha! We're all suitable
to our calling, we're well matched. Come into the
parlour. Come into the parlour.'

The parlour was the space behind the screen of rags. The
old man raked the fire together with an old stair-rod, and
having trimmed his smoky lamp (for it was night), with the
stem of his pipe, put it in his mouth again.

While he did this, the woman who had already spoken
threw her bundle on the floor, and sat down in a flaunting
manner on a stool; crossing her elbows on her knees, and
looking with a bold defiance at the other two.

`What odds then? What odds, Mrs Dilber?' said the
woman. `Every person has a right to take care of themselves.
He always did.'

`That's true, indeed,' said the laundress. `No man
more so.'

`Why then, don't stand staring as if you was afraid,
woman; who's the wiser? We're not going to pick holes in
each other's coats, I suppose!'

`No, indeed!' said Mrs Dilber and the man together.
`We should hope not.'

`Very well, then!' cried the woman. `That's enough.
Who's the worse for the loss of a few things like these?
Not a dead man, I suppose!'

`No, indeed,' said Mrs Dilber, laughing.

`If he wanted to keep them after he was dead, a wicked old
screw,' pursued the woman, `why wasn't he natural 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 there, alone by himself.'

`It's the truest word that ever was spoke,' said Mrs
Dilber. `It's a judgment on him!'

`I wish it was a little heavier judgment,' replied the
woman; `and it should have been, you may depend upon it,
if I could have laid my hands on anything else. 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! We know pretty well that we were helping ourselves,
before we met here, I believe. It's no sin. Open the bundle,

But the gallantry of her friends would not allow of this;
and the man in faded black, mounting the breach first,
produced his plunder. It was not extensive. A seal or two,
a pencil-case, a pair of sleeve-buttons, and a brooch of no
great value, were all. They were severally examined and
appraised by old Joe, who chalked the sums he was disposed
to give for each, upon the wall, and added them up into a
total when he found there was nothing more to come.

`That's your account,' said Joe, `and I wouldn't give
another sixpence, if I was to be boiled for not doing it.
Who's next?'

Mrs Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, a little wearing
apparel, two old-fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of
sugar-tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the wall
in the same manner.

`I always give too much to ladies. It's a weakness of mine,
and that's the way I ruin myself,' said old Joe. `That's
your account. If you asked me for another penny, and made
it an open question, I'd repent of being so liberal and knock
off half-a-crown.'

`And now undo my bundle, Joe,' said the first woman.

Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience
of opening it, and having unfastened a great many knots,
dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.

`What do you call this?' said Joe. `Bed-curtains?'

`Ah!' returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward
on her crossed arms. `Bed-curtains!'

`You don't mean to say you took them down, rings and
all, with him lying there?' said Joe.

`Yes I do,' replied the woman. `Why not?'

`You were born to make your fortune,' said Joe, `and
you'll certainly do it!'

`I certainly shan't hold my hand, when I can get anything
in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as he
was, I promise you, Joe,' returned the woman coolly. `Don't
drop that oil upon the blankets, now.'

`His blankets?' asked Joe.

`Whose else's do you think?' replied the woman. `He
isn't likely to take cold without them, I dare say.'

`I hope he didn't die of any thing catching! Eh?' said
old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.

`Don't you be afraid of that,' returned the woman. `I
an't so fond of his company that I'd loiter about him for
such things, if he did. 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, if it hadn't been for me.'

`What do you call wasting of it?' asked old Joe.

`Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,' replied
the woman with a laugh. `Somebody was fool enough to
do it, but I took it off again. If calico an't good enough for
such a purpose, it isn't good enough for anything. It's quite
as becoming to the body. He can't look uglier than he did
in that one.'

Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat
grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by
the old man's lamp, he viewed them with a detestation and
disgust, which could hardly have been greater, though the
demons, marketing the corpse itself.

`Ha, ha!' laughed the same woman, when old Joe,
producing a flannel bag with money in it, told out their
several gains upon the ground. `This is the end of it, you
see. He frightened every one away from him when he was
alive, to profit us when he was dead! Ha, ha, ha!'

`Spirit,' said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. `I
see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own.
My life tends that way, now. Merciful Heaven, what is

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now
he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which,
beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up,
which, though it was dumb, announced itself in awful

The room was very dark, too dark to be observed with
any accuracy, though Scrooge glanced round it in obedience
to a secret impulse, anxious to know what kind of room it
was. A pale light, rising in the outer air, fell straight upon
the bed; and on it, plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept,
uncared for, was the body of this man.

Scrooge glanced towards the Phantom. Its steady hand
was pointed to the head. The cover was so carelessly adjusted
that the slightest raising of it, the motion of a finger upon
Scrooge's part, would have disclosed the face. He thought
of it, felt how easy it would be to do, and longed to do it;
but had no more power to withdraw the veil than to dismiss
the spectre at his side.

Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar
here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy
command: for this is thy dominion. But of the loved,
revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair
to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is
not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released;
it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the
hand was open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm,
and tender; and the pulse a man's. Strike, Shadow, strike!
And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow
the world with life immortal.

No voice pronounced these words in Scrooge's ears, and
yet he heard them when he looked upon the bed. He
thought, if this man could be raised up now, what would be
his foremost thoughts? Avarice, hard-dealing, griping cares.
They have brought him to a rich end, truly.

He lay, in the dark empty house, with not a man, a
woman, or a child, to say that he was kind to me in this
or that, and for the memory of one kind word I will be
kind to him. A cat was tearing at the door, and there was
a sound of gnawing rats beneath the hearth-stone. What
they wanted in the room of death, and why they were so
restless and disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to think.

`Spirit,' he said, `this is a fearful place. In leaving it,
I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us go.'

Still the Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the

`I understand you,' Scrooge returned, `and I would do
it, if I could. But I have not the power, Spirit. I have
not the power.'

Again it seemed to look upon him.

`If there is any person in the town, who feels emotion
caused by this man's death,' said Scrooge quite agonised,
`show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you.'

The Phantom spread its dark robe before him for a
moment, like a wing; and withdrawing it, revealed a room
by daylight, where a mother and her children were.

She was expecting some one, and with anxious eagerness;
for she walked up and down the room; started at every
sound; looked out from the window; glanced at the clock;
tried, but in vain, to work with her needle; and could hardly
bear the voices of the children in their play.

At length the long-expected knock was heard. She hurried
to the door, and met her husband; a man whose face was
careworn and depressed, though he was young. There was
a remarkable expression in it now; a kind of serious delight
of which he felt ashamed, and which he struggled to repress.

He sat down to the dinner that had been boarding for
him by the fire; and when she asked him faintly what news
(which was not until after a long silence), he appeared
embarrassed how to answer.

`Is it good?' she said, `or bad?'--to help him.

`Bad,' he answered.

`We are quite ruined!'

`No. There is hope yet, Caroline.'

`If he relents,' she said, amazed, `there is. Nothing is
past hope, if such a miracle has happened!'

`He is past relenting,' said her husband. `He is dead.'

She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke
truth; but she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she
said so, with clasped hands. She prayed forgiveness the next
moment, and was sorry; but the first was the emotion of
her heart.

`What the half-drunken woman whom I told you of last
night, said to me, when I tried to see him and obtain a
week's delay; and what I thought was a mere excuse to avoid
me; turns out to have been quite true. He was not only
very ill, but dying, then.'

`To whom will our debt be transferred?'

`I don't know. But before that time we shall be ready
with the money; and even though we were not, it would be
a bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a creditor in his
successor. We may sleep to-night with light hearts, Caroline.'

Yes. Soften it as they would, their hearts were lighter.
The children's faces, hushed and clustered round to hear what
they so little understood, were brighter; and it was a happier
house for this man's death. The only emotion that the
Ghost could show him, caused by the event, was one of

`Let me see some tenderness connected with a death,' said
Scrooge, `or that dark chamber, Spirit, which we left just
now, will be for ever present to me.'

The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar
to his feet; and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and
there to find himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They
entered poor Bob Cratchit's house; the dwelling 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 had a book before him. The mother and her daughters
were engaged in sewing. But surely they were very quiet.

`And he took a child, and set him in the midst of

Where had Scrooge heard those words? He had not
dreamed them. The boy must have read them out, as he
and the Spirit crossed the threshold. Why did he not
go on?

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her
hand up to her face.

`The colour hurts my eyes,' she said.

The colour! Ah, poor Tiny Tim.

`They're better now again,' said Cratchit's wife. `It
makes them weak by candle-light; and I wouldn't show weak
eyes to your father when he comes home, for the world. It
must be near his time.'

`Past it rather,' Peter answered, shutting up his book.
`But I think he has walked a little slower than he used,
these few last evenings, mother.'

They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a
steady, cheerful voice, that only faltered once:

`I have known him walk with--I have known him 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,' she resumed, intent upon
her work, `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 little Bob in his comforter
--he had need of it, poor fellow--came in. His tea
was ready for him on the hob, and they all tried who should
help him to it most. Then the two young Cratchits got
upon his knees and laid, each child a little cheek, against
his face, as if they said, `Don't mind it, father. Don't be

Bob was very cheerful with them, and spoke pleasantly to
all the family. He looked at the work upon the table, and
praised the industry and speed of Mrs Cratchit and the girls.
They would be done long before Sunday, he said.

`Sunday! You went to-day, then, Robert?' said his

`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.'
cried Bob. `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.

He left the room, and went up-stairs into the room above,
which was lighted cheerfully, and hung with Christmas.
There was a chair set close beside the child, and there were
signs of some one having been there, lately. Poor Bob sat
down in it, and when he had thought a little and composed
himself, he kissed the little face. He was reconciled to what
had happened, and went down again quite happy.

They drew about the fire, and talked; the girls and mother
working still. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness
of Mr Scrooge's nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but
once, and who, meeting him in the street that day, and seeing
that he looked a little--`just a little down you know,' said
Bob, inquired what had happened to distress him. `On
which,' said Bob, `for he is the pleasantest-spoken gentleman
you ever heard, I told him. "I am heartily sorry for it, Mr
Cratchit," he said, "and heartily sorry for your good wife."
By the bye, how he ever knew that, I don't know.'

`Knew what, my dear?'

`Why, that you were a good wife,' replied Bob.

`Everybody knows that,' said Peter.

`Very well observed, my boy.' cried Bob. `I hope they
do. "Heartily sorry," he said, "for your good wife. If I
can be of service to you in any way," he said, giving me
his card, "that's where I live. Pray come to me." Now, it
wasn't,' cried Bob, `for the sake of anything he might be
able to do for us, so much as for his kind way, that this was
quite delightful. It really seemed as if he had known our
Tiny Tim, and felt with us.'

`I'm sure he's a good soul,' said Mrs Cratchit.

`You would be surer of it, my dear,' returned Bob, `if
you saw and spoke to him. I shouldn't be at all surprised--
mark what I say--if he got Peter a better situation.'

`Only hear that, Peter,' said Mrs Cratchit.

`And then,' cried one of the girls, `Peter will be keeping
company with some one, and setting up for himself.'

`Get along with you,' retorted Peter, grinning.

`It's just as likely as not,' said Bob, `one of these days;
though there's plenty of time for that, my dear. But however
and when ever we part from one another, I am sure we
shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim--shall we--or this
first parting that there was among us.'

`Never, father!' cried they all.

`And I know,' said Bob, `I know, my dears, that when
we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he
was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among
ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.'

`No, never, father!' they all cried again.

`I am very happy,' said little Bob, `I am very happy.'

Mrs Cratchit kissed him, his daughters kissed him, the
two young Cratchits kissed him, and Peter and himself shook
hands. Spirit of Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from

`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 whom we saw lying dead.'

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as
before--though at a different time, he thought: indeed, there
seemed no order in these latter visions, save that they were
in the Future--into the resorts of business men, but showed
him not himself. Indeed, the Spirit did not stay for anything,
but went straight on, as to the end just now desired,
until besought by Scrooge to tarry for a moment.

`This court,' said Scrooge, `through which we hurry now,
is where my place of occupation is, and has been for a length
of time. I see the house. Let me behold what I shall be,
in days to come.'

The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.

`The house is yonder,' Scrooge exclaimed. `Why do you
point away?'

The inexorable finger underwent no change.

Scrooge hastened to the window of his office, and looked
in. It was an office still, but not his. The furniture was
not the same, and the figure in the chair was not himself.
The Phantom pointed as before.

He joined it once again, and wondering why and whither
he had gone, accompanied it until they reached an iron gate.
He paused to look round before entering.

A churchyard. Here, then, the wretched man whose name
he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a
worthy place. Walled in by houses; overrun by grass and
weeds, the growth of vegetation's death, not life; choked up
with too much burying; fat with repleted appetite. A
worthy place.

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to
One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was
exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new
meaning in its solemn shape.

`Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,'
said Scrooge, `answer me one question. Are these the
shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of
things that May be, only?'

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

`Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if
persevered in, they must lead,' said Scrooge. `But if the
courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is
thus with what you show me!'

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 lay upon the bed?' he cried, upon
his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

`No, Spirit. Oh no, no!'

The finger still was there.

`Spirit!' he cried, tight clutching at its robe, `hear me.
I am not the man I was! I will not be the man I must
have been but for this intercourse! Why show me this, if I
am past all hope?'

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

`Good Spirit!' he pursued, as down upon the ground he
fell before it: `Your nature intercedes for me, and pities
me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you
have shown me, by an altered life!'

The kind hand trembled.

`I will honour 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. Oh, tell me I
may sponge away the writing on this stone!'

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to
free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it.
The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

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

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