Charles Dickens

"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 God.

`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.