“Did Dickens have it right?” I inquired, stabbing at the air with a glob of preserves on my knife for emphasis.
My companion looked up at me from across the table. “Beg pardon? Did he have what right?”
“The Ghosts, of course. Past, Present, Future, all that. They hardly seem the sort we’ve encountered – was he being fanciful? Or are there such higher forms of spirits?”
“Let’s just say that Mr. Dickens had a way with words and leave it at that.”
Undeterred, I forged ahead. “No, I mean it: are there spirits like the ones he described? His seem almost a force unto themselves, hardly the type to have had previous mortal lives.”
That one took hold and my companion eyed me with some minor annoyance.
“No, or at least not in my experience. What the man told of in his overly-sentimental bit of tripe were akin to angels or heavenly servants than true ghosts – that is, the spirits of human dead. I wouldn’t trust Dickens for honest reporting; it’s likely there was more absinthe to them than ectoplasm.”
I thought I had already experienced much in my young life, but coming across someone who actually did not care for A Christmas Carol was a startling revelation to me – especially over breakfast.
Glutton for punishment that I am, I pressed on.
“Than we are only to credit Jacob Marley then?”
“Yes, actually,” admitted my companion. “That is a fairly good fictional representation of a true spirit, which you should well know by now. The amount of chains was a bit much, but the suffering appearance and the wailing – not to mention the warning of post-death punishment – are all within reason.”
I smiled. “Then God bless us everyone, Dickens isn’t a complete waste.”
“No, in fact, as a sleeping draught I find him very effective.”
Well, very little can drain me of the Christmas spirit, but my companion gave it the old college try. I sat quietly for a moment or three, rallying my forces and aligning my final salvo.
“If you had to say,” I asked carefully, “whether or not a man like Scrooge could ever do enough in life to save him from the yawning pits of Hell in the afterlife, how might you opine?”
Incredibly enough, I was met with eyes not shooting daggers, but with an odd wistfulness that belied the early part of the conversation.
“There your writer does impart some small, valuable nuggets of wisdom,” came the reply in even tones. “The lesson of Ebenezer Scrooge is that we may indeed atone for much before the grave, and help to insure an eternal rest with the Creator after.”
Satisfied that we had come full circle and that Charles Dickens’ legacy remained intact, I returned to my breakfast with gusto.
“Merry Christmas,” I whispered around bites of biscuit.
“Might I suggest,” offered my companion just then, “that you also pose the same question to our guest?”
“Yes, the one standing right there at your elbow. Go on, ask him.”
“Oh, come now! I haven’t finished my breakfast!”
All content (c)Jim Beard 2013.