[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, James Nesbitt as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Meridith Baxter as Clara Lady Trenton, and Tom Conti as Lord Edward Trenton, 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: Ben Scrooge received a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past who showed him some of the people who were are are now his closest friends and family—yet he remains distant from them—his Administrative Assistant Peggy Cratchit who seemingly inexplicably has a tendre for him, his nephew Frankilin who wants to reconnect with his uncle as his only living blood relative, and of his past love who found happiness with her husband and children, yet she fondly named her youngest son Ben for Benjamin in honor of her lost love Ben Scrooge. Now Ben Scrooge awaits … the future.
“A Christmas Carol Reimagined”, Ch. 04: The Ghost of Christmas Future
Ben Scrooge looks up and rather than finding himself sitting next to his cozy hearth, he is standing in a grove of trees and flowering shrubs surrounded by hillsides. Considering Ben is a city boy born and bred, such verdant landscapes are personally unknown to him. He notices some yellow roses on a wall of hedges and he plucks one, bringing it to his nose to sniff its delicate fragrance [(2) below].
Ben realizes that he knows this scent, but he cannot quite place it. Had it been his late mother’s fragrance? No, no, he does not think so. And her death was so long ago, he cannot even remember the type of scent that she favored. But the yellow rose is definitely a lady’s scent. Yet he does not remember his late sister Fanny wearing it either. And those are the only two women of any significance in his life that he knows. He thinks again, then solemnly remembers. No, it was not Clara’s scent—her favorite scent was lavender. So whose favorite scent could it be?
Then his reverie is interrupted as Ben sees an old man with a strange pointy hat walking toward him from a far distance [(3) below]. The man’s garment is unusual in that it seems to be a long robe, grey in color, and rather sack like, whilst he carries a long stick of some sort—not at all the beautiful garment of the Ghost of Christmas Past. And Ben realizes that the future—or more likely, the Ghost of Christmas Future is coming to meet him. And when Ben blinks , he feels that this ghost reached him more quickly than any man could.
And somehow, the notion of the future—well, the Ghost of the Future—walking toward him seems essentially backwards, in time. So Ben begins to walk forward toward the grey man until they stop in the middle of a clearing in the grove of trees.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Eager, are you? To meet your future?” My old eyes narrow at this young upstart of a man before me. This task of instilling a conscience and sense of morality and ethics in those whom had none—or those whom had become disacquainted with their humanity—is tedious business.
Ben: “Not particularly—nor usually. I am a rational man, not given to such wayward meanderings of mind as I have experienced this night. But as you are the last Ghost I am to meet this night, we should perhaps get on with it.” I reply wearily.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “The cheek of the boy!” I stomp around and a flock of birds flutter their agreement with me, before a few of them come to rest on my hat and shoulders.
Ben: “Are you alright with those birds being so close?” I ask in concern, for I am not familiar with any birds—or other animals for that matter. My father would never allow us to have a pet, so I never developed the habit nor need for such a thing. Though the city has birds, they seem to be relegated to tall building ledges, or parks that I never go to. Then I notice that some rabbits begin to creep out toward the old man—and now I am really uncertain what this ghost is all about.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “They are my friends, as I am their friend.” I smile beadily at him. “You are Ebenezer Scrooge, are you not?” I begin our formal interaction—ascertaining that I have the correct Ebenezer Scrooge.
Ben: “I am, Ghost.” I look at him quizzically. “Would you not know whom you are to … haunt?” And I sense his agitation, by virtue of him pivoting his walking stick on its end back and forth. “And upon further consideration, should you be speaking at all? With the future being unknown and unwritten, how is there formal thought about it, let alone a discussion?”
The Ghost’s face reddens, his eyes darken, and the rage bubbling under the surface is truly terrifying. And in a brief moment, my mind glimpses my father’s image—perhaps because he used to rage at us, my sister Fanny and I, taking out his grief for our mother’s death on us, their children.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Silence!” I yell and pound my staff into ground which causes a ripple in time—with a suitable flash of bright lights for effect. I deplore the young people of this century needing to see everything with their own eyes, and needing magician’s tricks on top of them.
Ben Scrooge is nearly knocked off of his feet with the shockwave ripple, and he blinks his eyes several times to bring them into focus now that the bright lights have faded.
Ben: “What was that?”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Merely a scintilla of my power. For I know the future—a future, your future—for I have just come from it. And if you wish to avoid its dark depths, then you must follow me. For if you do not change your ways, Ebenezer Scrooge, you will bring the future into vivid reality—to your peril, and others.”
Ben: “Very well.” I agree cautiously.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Touch my staff!” I thrust my walking staff toward him and he hesitantly touches it.
We are instantly transported to what is, or what was the Scrooge and Marley enterprise of Marlborough Mills. The buildings are empty of people and machines. Ben sees the broken sign swinging forlornly on the large entry gates.
Ben: “This cannot be my mill! We are a thriving business.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Were … a thriving business. It has been closed these past ten years after the long workers strike and union riots caused several cotton mills to go under. And the riot at your mill was the worst of them, breaking every window, destroying the machinery, and almost burning the place down.”
Ben notices the evidence of this as they walk through one of the main loom buildings.
Ben: “But, I treated my workers as well as any other mill owner.” I whine a bit.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “As well as … I ask you. It is not an endorsement! You and many of the other mill owners set the wage rates so low for workers at all of the mills—not taking into account years of service and skilled experience on the workers’ part–such that workers had to form a union and strike to earn a living wage.” I state contemptuously.
Ben: “But …”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “NO! Not only did industry fail, but the workers were not able to find skilled mill work in this area and had to move away—often spiraling further into poverty and death. You had 300 workers at your mill—whole families worked for you—and now not even a quarter of them are alive. Let that be on your conscience—if you have a shred of decency!” I glower.
Ben: “Three quarters of my workforce are dead? That is inconceivable!” My mouth gapes open in astonishment.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Yes. And that is not all. The Boucher widow and her six children whom you took in were among those who died.”
Ben: “But were there not workhouses they and others could go to for sustenance?” I ask, grasping for anything not to face the truth.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?” [(3b)] Ben grimaces at me throwing his own words into his face. “They employ or imprison only a few, the rest die—because they have nowhere to go, no one who will shelter them, no one who will aid them.”
Ben: “I see.” I nod my head slowly. Our society favors the wealthy at the expense of the poor and struggling to make ends meet. Then I have a horrible thought. “But what of Miss Cratchit and her family? She worked at the mill. If it closed, then she would have been out of work.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “What of the Cratchits? Do not pretend to care for their fate.” I sneer disdainfully at him.
Ben: “Take me to her! I must see her!” I feel an urgency to know what happened to her that I cannot explain.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Are you certain that you want to know?”
Ben: “Take me!” I touch his walking staff and we are transported to the Cratchit’s home in Crampton. Or what was their home. I stride from room to room. They are empty—not even Miss Cratchit’s family piano remains. “No one must live here any more. But where is she?” Then I notice the ghost looking up the stairs and I dash up them.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Take care that you do not disturb her rest.” I intone as I follow him.
Ben: “Rest? What rest?” The rooms are all empty. I cannot find her anywhere.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: Then I explain. “After the mill closed and you barricaded yourself in your manor for a time, Miss Cratchit was unable to find other employment. Her parents were ailing, her options few. And her wealthy aunt and cousin were traveling abroad for a year–so there was no one to whom she could turn to for help.”
Ben: “But surely, her aunt would have left provision for her in her absence, in case some problem arose?”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Miss Peggy Cratchit’s pride never let her reveal to her aunt or her cousin the desperation of their situation. There was no provision made for she and her parents. Though your nephew as your principle heir–after the debts were cleared through an auction of the mill and manor, and he received little–he did allow her to live in the Crampton house rent free. Though she did not reveal her pecuniary circumstances to him either. So bit by bit, Miss Crachit sold off her family’s possessions—including their heirloom piano–to pay for food and coals for heat.”
Ben: “They were destitute … because of me!”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Yes. After her parents died last month, she had to sell their wedding rings—the only things that they had held onto—in order to pay the undertaker to see them decently buried in the unmarked graveyard for the indigent.”
Ben: “But what happened to Peggy? Where is she?” I ask frantically, hoping that she might yet be alive.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “You have not opened that door at the end of the hallway.” I point to it with my staff.
I turn in the direction the the ghost is pointing to. And I dread what I will find. Somehow, I do not care anymore about my own fate, what happened to me. But I do care about Peggy’s fate. I walk slowly to the door and open it. And there lying on the bed that her parents had died in, is Peggy.
Ben: “Is she dead?” I ask in a fearful whisper.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Not yet, but soon.”
I rush to her side. Peggy looks so deathly pale, yet with flushed skin here and there. She always looked a little wan, but I thought that was just her ethereal beauty [(4) below]. I realize now that she was probably forgoing food so that her ill parents could eat more. I drop to my knees by her bedside and clasp her hand in mine.
Ben: “Peggy! Peggy!” I cry out, in whispered tones. “I am here, it is Ebenezer, Ben.” She says nothing. In truth, Peggy is barely breathing.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “She may not be able to hear you anymore. They say hearing is the last sense to go when you are dying. But I have never died, so I cannot say for certain that is correct.”
Ben: “Do not toss off your ghoulish ghostly sarcasm at a time like this. She is dying.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Yes. And there is nothing now that you can do to stop it.”
Ben: “Peggy, I am so sorry. I did not realize. I was so wrong—in many ways. But in the most important way, I did not see you for the wonderful person that you are—taking care of your parents so faithfully, giving them your true devotion and caring.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Love. She gave them her love.”
Ben: “Peggy I wish things would have happened differently for you, for us. I would take you in my arms …” As I take her in my arms now. “… and I would love and cherish you all of our life together.” I tenderly kiss Peggy upon her lips [(5) below].
And then miraculously, Peggy’s eyes flutter open. They are a pale crystalline blue. I had never noticed that before. She looks up into my eyes and she seems to really see me.
Peggy: “Ben. Ben. You came back for me. I knew you would. I am coming to you now. And I will love you always.”
And Peggy’s eyes flutter closed once more, and forever.
Ben: “Peggy.” I sigh in a whisper of sorrow as tears fall down my cheeks. Then I remember the Helstone rose. And I take it out of my vest pocket and place it in her hands that I lay over her chest as she lies in repose. Her loveliness and her future lost in death, because of me.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “She did not have to die so young. If you had taken a greater interest in her circumstances at the outset—and if you had collaborated with your workers on appropriate compensation based on skills and experience that might have averted the strike—you might have prevented needless suffering by her and the others.”
Ben: “Might have? Is that all the assurance you can give me, Ghost”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “A might have still has possibilities—and that is more than you have at this moment in this future.”
Ben: I ponder this, my eyes still drawn to Peggy. “And my nephew Frankilin?” I am almost afraid to hear his answer.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Oh he is fine! Never better!” Ben’s heart feels gladness at that. “But he never had his greatest wish fulfilled, and that was to know his Uncle Ebenezer.” I study this man before me. “You do not ask about yourself.”
Ben: “What is there to ask? I have destroyed everything and everyone whom I hold dear through my indifference and neglect.” I gaze over at Peggy’s still form again. “Whatever happened to me, I deserved.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “True. Yet old Jacob Marley did not want you to suffer his fate in the fiery pits of hell.”
Ben: “Jacob was a good friend. Is there really such a place as hell?”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Oh yes—and a nasty place it is.”
Ben: “So what happened to me? I died, I presume.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “You did, a month after the strikers’ last of the three riots. The mill had closed and you were walking back from town after having a meal at the pub as you usually did most evenings. You were targeted by thieves who noticed you were always alone.”
Ben: “Yes. I am always alone.” I mutter.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “They attacked you for your money and your pocket watch. And when you resisted, they hit you over the head. You died. And to cover up the evidence, they dumped your body into the river. It was never found. Some stories said that you had left town in shame, others that you had come to a nefarious end—which you did.”
Ben: “So my body is somewhere down stream, lying unmarked and unremembered.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Well, what there was left of it. And not knowing about what happened to you, is what so affected Peggy Cratchit. She waited for you as long as she could, hoping that you would come back to her.”
Ben: “Yet I had never been hers, nor she mine.” The ghost raises his eyebrow. “But I will change that—if you but let me try to change for Peggy’s sake and for my workers’, and for my nephew’s sake.” I look to him pleadingly.
Ghost of Christmas Future: “You might not succeed in all of your attempts to change from the results of your indifference and neglect. But that you want to try is a good sign. However, I can promise you nothing.”
Ben: “All I want is a chance to change. If I have that chance, I will make everything right. I have to make it right.”
Ghost of Christmas Future: “Hmmmm.” I grumble. I have seen many a sorry case in my … sojourns. And Ben Scrooge’s case is among the worst. “Very well, I will send you back.”
Then the Ghost of Christmas Future stamps his walking staff upon the ground, creating another shockwave and lightburst. And Ben Scrooge is deposited back in his bed chamber, fast asleep, sitting up in his hearthside chair.
To be continued with Chapter 5 End (to be published Christmas Day, December 25, 2016)
References for Ch. 4 of “A Christmas Carol Reimagined”, December 21, 2016 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1018)
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) Ben- Scrooge is Richard Armitage as John Thornton smelling yellow rose of Helstone inN&S2004 Aug2216-viaRAFrance
3) The image of the Ghost of Christmas Future walking toward Ben Scrooge is Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey found at https://greenwalledtower.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/gandalf-walking3.jpg
3b) “Are there no work houses? Are there no prisons?” is a direct quote from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.
4) Peggy Cratchit lying down is Daniela Denby-Ashe in North&South2004-EP1-0066Dec2213
5) John Thornton is portrayed by Richard Armitage and Margaret Hale is portrayed by Daniela Denby-Ashe in the BBC’s 2004 drama North & South found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/ns4-336.jpg
Something About Love, previous Ch. 03 link: