He felt that he was restored to consciousness in the nick of time, for the especial purpose of holding a conference with the Second Messenger dispatched to him
through Jacob Marley's intervention.
There sat a Spirit, glorious to see:, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.
"Come in!" exclaimed the Ghost. "Come in, and know me better, man."
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit's eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me."
The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.
"Spirit," said Scrooge submissively, "conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now.
To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it."
"Touch my robe."
Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.
But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces.
And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops.
The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for she stood with Scrooge beside her in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from her torch.
And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, she shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly.
For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day.
And so it was. God love it, so it was.
In time the bells ceased...
"Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?" asked Scrooge.
"There is. My own."
"Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?" asked Scrooge.
"To any kindly given. To a poor one most."
Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich.
She left her blessing, and taught Scrooge her precepts.
The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment.
"Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask," said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, "but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts.
The Spirit's sorrowful reply. "Look here."
From the foldings of her robe,she brought forth two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at her feet, and clung upon the outside of her garment.
"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.
The two children were yellow, meagre, ragged in their humility. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This child is Ignorance. This child is Want.
Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this child, for on her brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out her hand towards the city.
"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.
"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words.
"Are there no workhouses?"
The bell struck twelve.
...And the Spirit departed, leaving Scrooge to ponder his Christmas thoughts...