[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Richard Armitage as Ben Scrooge, Danielle Denby-Ashe as Peggy Cratchit, Aidan Turner as Ben’s nephew Frankilin Durin, Ken Stott as the late Jacob Marley, Cate Blanchett as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and others as noted.]
Authors Introduction Note / Wattpad Description: My fan fic “A Christmas Carol Reimagined” ) [(1) story cover logo left] is the tale of a miserly middle aged man—a friend to no one–who is scared into realizing the folly of his ways when he is visited by three ghosts (past, present, and future). He then vows to be compassionate toward his fellow man and through his good deeds, he redeems himself—and he comes to know the meaning of love.
And as an homage to Dickens classic tale “A Christmas Carol” you will recognize some of the basic plot premises and a quote here and there. But there is a twist in that my story is a new telling, blending in British actor Richard Armitage’s character friends in “North & South” and “The Hobbit” trilogy of films. So anything can happen.
Author’s Recap from the previous chapter: We are introduced to a young middle Ebenezer “Ben” Scrooge behaving miserly and curmudgeonly, despite his mere thirty eight years. The only one who can seem to stand him at his cotton mill or in town, is his stalwart Executive Assistant Miss Peggy Cratchit. She is a gentle woman forced into gainful employment in order to support her aging parents, Ben Scrooge’s nephew from his late sister, Frankilin Durin is brash and cheerful—and earning a good wage as an attorney, due to the schooling and university he attended unto the patronage of his Uncle Scrooge. Ben Scrooge is a lonely and friendless man. But the ghost of his late partner Jacob Marley visits him on Christmas Eve to grant Ben one last chance to mend his ways—by learning the lessons of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future. And now Ben Scrooge must wait for the ghosts to come, in order to learn his fate.
“A Christmas Carol Reimagined”, Ch. 02: The Ghost of Christmas Past
Waiting is something that Ben Scrooge has never been good at. Yet, the ghost of his late Mill partner, Jacob Marley, bade him to wait for three more ghosts to come upon each morning hour on Christmas Eve. In his fatigued sleepiness, Ben thinks that his bed chamber will be quite crowded with ghosts by the end of the early morning hours of Christmas Day.
And yet, Ben thinks that Jacob was so insistent—not a quality he remembered in his partner of more than fifteen years, after Ben had finished at university and had a short apprenticeship with Old Mr. Fezziwig at this very mill. Jacob had bought the mill when Mr. Fezziwig had retired–and he kept Ben on. Ben was not quite sure why he was kept on—nor why he stayed. But he was glad that he did. And then he rose quickly to become the master of the mill, then partner, and now sole owner when Jacob Marley died not even a twelve months past last January.
And so, Ben waits. The second hand seems to trudge around the dial. Yet it is only fifteen minutes he must wait. Fifteen years and fifteen minutes. Ben wonders at the significance of that. He has a keen mind—not put to much use with the drudgery of the Mill. But his mill turns a good profit every year, so that is something. And then the clock chimes for one o’clock. In Ben’s distracted musings, he has lost track of the time.
Ben Scrooge stands and looks around [(2) right] —ready to meet the next ghost, or so he tells himself, when he does not think himself run mad for talking with ghosts. Yet he is clearly surprised at the vision that awaits him as the clock chimes one o’clock in the morning of Christmas Day, December 25.
Ben: “Are all of you apparitions going to start out like a small ball of fire?” He chides the ethereal glow. Silence is the response. “Come now speak up and say your piece. If I am to get any rest at all, I must nap between your comings and goings.”
He then hears a tinkling laughter in jest as the ghost rises to its full height. And though, Ben expected this ghost to also be of a masculine variety, he finds that it is not—most decidedly not. For before him is a beautiful golden haired goddess of a ghostly woman.
Ghost of Christmas Past: Quirking up a mirthful eye brow, she asks. “Not what you were expecting?” She lifts her arms away from her sides—and she twirls. showing her flowing dress and cape the colors of ivory pearls billowing in an unfelt breeze [(3) right].
Ben: “Most definitely not!” He smiles charmingly at her. It has been some time since he felt the desire to be charming. And he wonders if he is achieving it.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “You are.”
Ben: “I am what?” He asks in a confused tone.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Almost charming.”
Ben: “Oh.” He blanches. If she can read his thoughts, that would give her power over him—something he cannot allow.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “It is not for you to allow or to disallow.”
Ben jerks his head up in alarm.
Ben: “Get out of my mind.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “I will … when the clock strikes two.” She smiles. “Come, Benjamin.”
She holds out her hand to him. It is a familiar gesture, as one does with a small child they want to keep close and safe from harm. Ben places his hand in hers and he is instantly transported to the manor home of his childhood. He sees a younger childlike version of himself running in the snow in long pants and playing with his three years older sister Fanny. He was home on a school break from his first year at Eton—a mere boy of eight.
Then he sees his father beckon them inside. His father Josiah Scrooge was a tall man who towered over his children. Benjamin was a little afraid of him. But their father positively doted on Fanny—and as Father Josiah Scrooge took the usual interest in his son and heir, Benjamin. However, it was their mother Grace Scrooge who was the heart of the family. And at nine and thirty, she was soon to issue forth another little Scrooge. So his father was quite pleased to expect another child—perhaps a spare to his heir, for girls cannot inherit.
Though Benjamin’s mother was also pleased about the coming baby, Benjamin sensed a concern in her look. He had never been told directly, but the servants gossiped and he learned that when she gave birth to him eight years ago, it was difficult for her. So that is why she had not had another baby until now. And the fact that she was, little Benjamin takes to be a good sign. As they all walk inside the Scrooge home—the family as it once was with four members, Ben as he is in the present, and the Ghost—the father leaves to attend to some business, and Fanny sits playing her piano.
So his mother calls Benjamin over—and Ben has a sense of foreboding, but he does not remember why. And Ben finds that not only does he follow his younger self, but then he takes his younger self’s place looking up at his mother as she caresses his face [(4 right].
Mrs. Scrooge: “You are a good boy, my Benjamin. And I am proud of you!”
Ben/Benjamin: “Thank you, Mama!” I smile. “I want to make you proud of me.”
Mrs. Scrooge: “You always will—even if you don’t think that I would be proud of you, I am. And you shall always have my love and support, my boy.”
Ben/Benjamin: “Thank you, Mama.” I smile looking up at her.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “You loved her.” The ghost states as fact rather than a questions
Ben: “She is my whole life, was my whole life—when I was a boy.” I purse my lips together and scrunch up my nose—as I did when I was a boy then, trying not to cry. “But my happiness was wrapped up in my mother and my sister. And when my mother died, my father was bereft in his grief—as was I. And my sister’s soothing piano playing was the only thing that gave him peace. And he no longer wrote for me to come home at school breaks—not even Summers. Father said that I looked too much like my mother, and that he could not bear to have me around.” I ball my hands into fists—even now, his rejections stings. “I was also grieving, but he did not care.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: Redirecting his thoughts I ask. “So what did you do all Summer at the school?”
Ben: “I read, and earned pin money and my keep by finding books in the library that the teacher scholars wanted, but were too old and infirm to look for themselves.” She looks at me as if I have more to say. Then I add. “The old professors where nice. They treated me kindly and showed me how to find meaning in seemingly disparate events.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “But you went home eventually?”
Ben: Yes. It was ten years later—after my sister Fanny begged my father to let me come home to celebrate her marriage to a country doctor whom father thought unsuitable.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Why unsuitable?”
And then their scenery changes. They are still in Ben’s father’s home, but a wedding breakfast is being held for his sister Fanny and her new husband Dr. Thomas Wyatt. Everyone is happy and celebratory. The now almost grown up Benjamin joins in the celebration.
Ben: “She looks so happy.” I remember as I see her now before me. “Thomas was a good man, and a good doctor, but not wealthy—because he treated some patients even if they could not pay. But Fanny loved him. He made her happy. I had forgotten that.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “And what of your nephew Frankilin? When did he come along?”
Ben: “In their second year of marriage. He was a fussy little fellow, but stout and strong. And Fanny after several months of convalescence seemed to rally. She and her husband had me to stay with them the Summer before my senior year at university. They were truly happy. And by then Frank as we began to call him, was crawling and walking around, becoming his own little person.” I sit in a chair and Frank holds up his arms to me and I pull him up to sit on my lap. He keeps patting my face—as if to reassure himself that I am real. And I wonder how I could have forgotten this, forgotten him, as we were then—as uncle and nephew.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “You smiled just now.” I smile.
Ben: “It was a happy time.” Then I frown. But then Fanny became pregnant again—even though her strength had not returned to her fully.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “And she died, in childbirth. And her baby daughter born toon soon also died. With your father dying soon thereafter as well.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “I do not show them to you, Benjamin. You are showing them to me.”
Ben: “What?” I look at her incredulously.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “This is your life. And these are the moments that you wished to revisit.”
Ben: “Why would I wish to revisit my mother’s and my sister’s deaths?”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Perhaps, one cannot have happiness without pain. And it is the happiness that makes the pain worth bearing.”
Ben: “Plattitudes? You give me platitudes? Forgive me Ghost, but I find your guidance–that Jacob told me to heed–to be lacking.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “As I told you before, you are directing what we see and what you remember, not I. Perhaps you needed to remember these events in their totality—not some vague and mistaken remembrance–in order to come to terms with your losses, and with your sense of guilt.”
Ben: “Guilt? What have I to be guilty of?” He asks, but he does not wish to know the answer.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “That you could not save them—your mother and your sister–to prevent their deaths.”
Ben: “Of course, I could not save them! I was but still a child when my mother died. And I was certainly not a doctor when I was older when my sister Fanny died. However, my brother-in-law was a doctor, and he should have saved my sister, his wife– if he loved her so much.” Though I know that tears stream down my face, they are oddly cool and vaporize almost instantly in this hazy half wandering place we inhabit.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “No, you could not have saved them. Nor could your brother-in-law have saved his wife, your sister Fanny—whom he loved dearly to his own dying breath. Neither extending life, nor delaying death is within your purview—nor in your brother-in-law Thomas’ purview. Yet you punished your brother-in-law—and by extension, your nephew Frank—by isolating yourself from them.”
Ben: “Cease, Ghost!” I wave my hand in wishing this to end.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Soon. We have one more stop to make.”
Ben: “Then let us get it over with.” He breathes deeply in agitation.
As the misty haze around them begins to focus upon a different scene, we see a young early twenties Ben Scrooge sitting on a garden bench with a young lady whom he is in love with. He has graduated from university, but has yet to be hired on at the Mill by Mr. Fezziwig.
Clara: “Benjamin, you’re not listening to me.” I gently reprimand him. He is so burdened with is new job at the Mill. If only my Papa could see how hard Benjamin works, and what a good man he is, … if only.
Benjamin: “Oh? I am sorry, Clara. I have a lot on my mind right now.”
Clara: “And might some of it concern me?” I smile prettily at him.
Benjamin smiles. He does think Miss Clara Burlington to be very sweet. But she is a bit frivolous at times with her bonnets and ribbons. He does not envy her father for that tradesman’s bill.
Ben: “Always.” I smile back at her.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Clara is pretty and sweet. And she seems to like you. Did you marry her?”
Ben: “No!” I recoil in replying to her.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Why not? What happened?”
Ben: “Her father is what happened. I was a young man of yet to be determined prospects when Mr. Fezziwig hired me at the mill. The inheritance I received from my father—after also selling our family home—only covered my expenses for my last year at university. I had to make my way to earn my living if I wanted to care for a wife and for a family.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Did you not ask her to wait for you? Especially after Jacob Marley kept you on at the Mill when he assumed ownership.”
Ben: “I did! But her father married her off to another! As well you know, since you seem to know everything about me!” I sigh bitterly.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Remember, you are showing me these memories–not the other way around.”
Ben: “So you keep telling me.”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “Clara was your great love, Benjamin. Yet there is one thing that you do not know, and that I hesitate to tell you.”
Ben: “Why should you be hesitant now?” I shake his head.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “It is merely because our time is short, and I wish you to understand what this fully means.”
Ben: “Well, what is this?”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “She never stopped loving you, your Clara. So much so, that she named her second child, a son, after you. She called him Benjamin.”
Ben: “She did?” I ask incredulously. Perhaps Clara was not as fickle as I thought. “Was she happy?” I ask hopefully.
Ghost of Christmas Past: “She was, after she reconciled herself to having a different life without you. And she always prayed that you would find happiness, too.”
Ben: “But how could I find happiness? Without her?”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “That is the question that will lead you to your next ghostly visitor. And we have almost gone past our time. You will have but five minutes until the clock strikes two o’clock in the early morning.”
Ben: “Alright!” She begins to fade. “Hey! Where are we? How will the next ghost find me?”
Ghost of Christmas Past: “He will find you as I did, sitting in your chair by the fireplace.”
And with that, the Ghost of Christmas Past vanishes. And Ben Scrooge looks around to find himself exactly where she said he would be. Then he looks up at his mantle clock, it is five minutes until two o’clock in the morning. And so, he waits again, him wondering what he will see next in this journey through his life.
To be continued with Chapter 3
References for Ch. 2 of “A Christmas Carol Reimagined”, December 01, 2016 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1011)
1) “A Christmas Carol Reimagined” story logo cover that I/Gratiana Lovelace created, is comprised of several elements:
- a) the old drawing of Scrooge awaiting his ghosts by John Leech (for the 1843 Chapman and Hall published edition) was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Carol;
b) an image of Richard Armitage portraying John Thornton in the 2004 BBC miniseries “North & South” was my cap from Episode 1;
c) and holly clipart found at http://cliparts.co/cliparts/rcn/Gg8/rcnGg84zi.jpg
(2) Image of Ben Scrooge looking skeptical that of Richard Armitage portraying John Thornton in North &, 2004, via South, epi2, pix 215 at RAnet.
(3) The image for the Ghost of Christmas Past is Cate Blanchett as Galadriel in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films as found at ThorinOakenshieldFB Dec0513
(4) Image of Ebenezer Scrooge and his mother are John-and-Hannah-are-RichardArmitage-andSineadCusack-inN&Sepi3-035_May0814ranet-sized-clr2
(5) The image of a crying Ben Scrooge is that of Richard Armitage -inN&Sepi2-225_Aug0114ranet-sized
Something About Love, previous Ch. 01 link: