Christmas: A Carol Betwixt (A Christmas Carol Part Two)


Ever since I was a child, I have loved Charles Dickens’ story – A Christmas Carol. The passing of years has done nothing to diminish my love of this story. It was with that story in mind that I wrote this one; a tale that ensues alongside the original. I call it Christmas: A Carol Betwixt. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did when writing it.


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4. Abandoning her tree, the witch swooped down on her broomstick heading for them.

Its disposition softening some more, the ghost sat upon a broken headstone. “Who are you?” it asked.
“I am Mr Hartwell and this is my colleague, Mr Fosdyke.” Mr Hartwell replied. “We run a charity, helping the poor and destitute, at Christmastime, offering them a respite from the hardships of winter.”
“Yes,” said Mr Fosdyke, “our only regret is that it cannot be more.”
“MORE!” the ghost bellowed, rattling its chains, padlocks and portfolio boxes as vehemently as before. “That is why I am here, like this,” it howled, “because I wanted MORE!”
“More?” the gentlemen timorously asked.
“Yes,” it replied, “more money to stash away for a day that would never arrive, when I might spend it!” Motioning for them to come closer, it said, “Look at these chains, I forged them in life; inch by inch and yard by yard. They are a terrible weight, holding me down, tethering me for eternity to this mortal domain. Lifting one of the chains, it said, “See these attached boxes?” The gentlemen nodded. “They are packed full of money that I saved while in the company of Scrooge, without care or consideration for anyone I might hurt in the process. What good is it now?” it asked. “None, I tell you. Are there pockets in a shroud? No, there are not. Money is useless in the afterlife. These portfolio boxes are a terrible burden, tethering me ignominiously to this mortal coil. Will I never escape it?” it asked dolefully. Lowering its head, speaking slowly, lowly, it uttered, “That, gentlemen, is why I am here, at this graveyard, on the anniversary of my death.”
“It is?” Mr Fosdyke curiously asked.
“Of course,” the ghost replied. “Because of my sins, my life deeds, the harm that I caused while of the living, I am tethered to this earth, this mortal domain, for all eternity. Moreover,” it said, raising its head, gazing hard at them, “I am impelled to return to this graveyard each year, on the anniversary of my death. If only I was able to undo that which I have done, if only...” With that, the ghost lowered its head, shamed by its deeds.
Raising a hand (despite the fact that the ghost was unable to see it), Mr Hartwell said, “Perhaps, there is a way.”
Raising slowly its head, the ghost said, “A way?”
“A way?” Mr Fosdyke incredulously asked his colleague.
Having secured the ghost’s attention, Mr Hartwell said, “From the moment Mr Scrooge told us about you, a short while ago, I have been thinking...”
“You have?” the ghost said warily.
“Yes,” Mr Hartwell replied. “I have been thinking about what you might do, to undo the harm, the hurt you caused to those less fortunate than yourself, if you were alive today, that is. And, to a point, you are.”
“And?” the ghost asked, urging him to tell it some more.
“You must go visit your partner, Mr Scrooge,” Mr Hartwell explained. “And you must tell him about your miserable existence, since that fateful day, when you died. Warn him that he is facing the same fate – perhaps even worse – when he dies. When you have done this, and set him on a path to redemption, I truly believe it will set you also on that path.”
“What you say has a ring of truth to it,” the ghost answered thoughtfully. “I have considered this course of action for many a year, since my death. I will visit Scrooge this very night. However, as for it bringing about my redemption,” it said, rattling its chains and portfolio boxes, angry and frustrated, “I think not.”
“You don’t?” Mr Hartwell asked, confused by his tack.
“No,” the ghost dejectedly answered. “I had my chance, for redemption, while of the living.” Pounding a ghostly hand into the other, it said, “I will be damned, though, if Scrooge suffers the same fate. Rest assured, sirs, I will do all I can to convince him to change his despicable ways.” Pointing upwards, he said, “That is, if the wily old witch allows me.”
“Witch?” Mr Hartwell asked, worried about her.
“Witch?” Mr Fosdyke asked, shaking all over with fright.
Pointing to the high tree under which the gentlemen had first spotted it, the ghost said, “Yes, the witch that worries me while I am walking abroad, far and wide, for all eternity.”
“Worries you?” Mr Fosdyke asked.
“As in controls,” the ghost answered.
“For all eternity?” said Mr Hartwell.
“Apart from this night, the anniversary of my death,” the ghost explained, “she controls all that I do, my every moment. It is the punishment I have to endure, and for all eternity, for the despicable life I crafted while in the company of Scrooge. ” Pointing to the top of the tree, it said, “Look, she has heard us.”
Gazing up into the tree, Mr Hartwell and Mr Fosdyke saw someone, a witch, sitting atop it. Moreover, before they had a chance to say anything, the witch, abandoning the tree, swooped down on her broomstick towards them.
Landing adjacent the ghost and the startled gentlemen, the thin, pasty faced individual, with bloodshot red eyes, dismounted her broomstick. After settling her flowing black hair, that had a hint of green to it, the witch smartened her coat and hat (these too were black in colour). Suspiciously eyeballing the gentlemen, she croaked, “What have we here, then?”
“I am Mr Hartwell and this is my colleague, Mr Fosdyke,” Mr Hartwell informed her.
“We run a small charity, helping souls at Christmastime,” Mr Fosdyke told her.
Raising her broomstick threateningly, the witch said, “Souls? What business do you, men of apparently good fortune, have with souls?”
 “We supply them with a few morsels of food, to tide them over the festive season,” Mr Hartwell explained.
“Yes,” said Mr Fosdyke, “we do. And if there is enough money left in the kitty, when we have done that, we offer them a dram of port to ward off the cold.”
Realising they were not after souls, the control of them, like she was, the witch softened her grip on the broomstick.
Seeing this, Mr Hartwell said, “Will you release the ghost of Mr Marley, if only for a short while, this night, so he can visit his former partner, Mr Scrooge?”
“So as to warn Scrooge not to end up like him?” the witch rasped, her eyes narrowing with contempt that he had suggested such a thing.
“Yes, exactly,” Mr Hartwell replied, believing he had secured her confidence.
Her eyes narrowing some more, the witch said, “You want to deny me, or one of my own, the control of his soul, when he loses it, at death?”
“Yes,” Mr Hartwell innocently admitted.
Her eyes narrowing even further, the witch croaked, “What’s in it for me, then, apart from losing control of his soul, that is?”
“The knowledge that you have done something worthwhile, to save it,” Mr Fosdyke foolishly admitted.
Raising her broomstick, the witch, her thin pointy fingers caressing it fondly, said, “Away with you, silly man.” Suddenly, a stream of razor sharp light exploded from out of her broomstick. Hurtling towards Mr Fosdyke, the explosion of light, finding its mark, knocked him hard to the ground.
 Helping him up, Mr Hartwell asked if he was okay.
“Yes, at least I think so,” he answered, breathing out smoke. “I have an awful pain in the chest, though.”
“Take is easy, old friend,” Mr Hartwell whispered. “Let me do the talking from here on.”
Embracing the thought, in fact wishing he had never set eyes on the witch, Mr Fosdyke agreed to do as his colleague suggested.
Choosing his words carefully, Mr Hartwell said, “Perhaps, witch, you might have a suggestion, an idea, as to how we might proceed regarding this matter?”
Laughing, cackling out loud, the witch said, “You are in the wrong business, helping people. Speaking like that – so diplomatically – you should have chosen politics as a career.”
“Then it’s agreed?” Mr Hartwell optimistically asked her.
Raising her broomstick, the witch said, “I will tell you when that is so, if it is so.”
“Oh,” he glumly replied
The gentlemen waited and waited, then waited some more for the witch to resume speaking. When she finally began speaking, she said, “I will release the ghost of old Marley, this night.”
“You will?” Mr Hartwell asked, hardly believing their luck.
“Yes,” she answered. “Moreover, I will dispatch three Spirits to help him; Christmas Past, Present and Future, on condition...”
“On condition?” Mr Fosdyke enquired. “On condition of what?”
Staring cold and hard at him, she said, “On condition that you are able to find – and return to this graveyard with – the people you are searching for.”
“The people we are searching for, is that all?” Mr Fosdyke asked, relieved that was all that it was.
“How do you know who we are searching for?” Mr Hartwell asked, thinking there was more to her offer other than kindness.
Swapping her broomstick from one hand to the other, the witch, glowering hard at him, said, “I have my ways of knowing such things... If you fail to return to this graveyard with the people you seek, you will forfeit your souls by way of recompense.”
“I say, steady on!” Mr Fosdyke gasped, shocked by her daring. “Our souls are not commodities to be gambled with!” he insisted.
“We agree to your terms, witch.”Mr Hartwell said to her.
“We do?” his colleague asked nervously.
Sniggering impishly, the witch, addressing Marley’s ghost, said, “Go; go and rehabilitate Scrooge, if you are able to, that is – go!” After securing its jaw with the length of cloth bandage it had loosened earlier, the ghost set off into the night sky on its noble mission. Returning her attention to the gentlemen, the witch said, “There, it is done.” Pointing a thin, pointy finger to each man in turn, she said, “Remember, you must return here, to this graveyard before the first rays of light on the morrow. Mounting her broomstick, she said, “I will be waiting up there, atop my high tree. If you do not return before daybreak, your souls will be mine to do with as I please.” With that, she flew away from them, towards the high tree.
Later, with the graveyard far behind them, the gentlemen searched for a Hansom cab. “I say,” said Mr Fosdyke. “Do you think that witch was all there?”
“I fear she was more there than we could ever imagine,” Mr Hartwell cryptically replied. “Look,” he said, pointing along the street, “there is a cab!”
Stepping into the street, Mr Fosdyke waved down the cab. “My man,” he called out, “we are in urgent need of your services!”
Pulling hard on the reins, the Hansom cab driver (he was an incredibly ugly individual), quelling his horses, steered his cab to a stop. “Yessirs,” he said, speaking bad English, “what can I be doin’ for yous gentlemen on this cold Christmas Eve?”
Answering him, Mr Fosdyke said, “Take us to Pimlico, my man, for we have urgent business there.”

CONTD

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