Innovation was dead: to begin with. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. And what of Class? He was a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching, covetous old sinner, and even the heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often came down handsomely, and Class never did.
The door of Class’s counting house was open that he might keep an eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal cell little beyond, a sort of think-tank, was working on superyacht designs. “A Merry Christmas, Class!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of a superyacht owner. “Bah!” said Class. “Humbug. If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding.”
“Don’t be angry,” said the owner. “Come! Dine with us tomorrow.” Class made it quite clear that he wouldn’t. “But why?” cried the owner.
“Why did you decide to build a superyacht?” said Class.
“Because I fell in love with yachting.”
“Because you fell in love!” growled Class, as if it were the only thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas. “Good afternoon!”
Class took his dinner in his usual melancholy tavern, and went home to bed. Now, let it be borne in mind that Class had not bestowed one thought on Innovation for many years, and then let any man explain how it happened that Class, having his key in the lock of his front door, saw in the knocker, not a knocker but Innovation’s face. And so it came, shortly after, that Innovation stood before Class as a phantom.
“You will be haunted,” said the phantom, “by three spirits. Without their countenance you cannot hope to shun the path you tread.” Class went straight to bed, and was asleep within an instant. When he awoke, a figure fluctuated before him.
The Ghost of Christmas Past led Class on a journey through his formative years, before handing over to the Ghost of Christmas Present. But it was the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come who led Class through mysterious, dark and lonely streets to a figure of a man, dead and neglected.
“If there is any person in the town, who feels emotion caused by this man's death,” said Class quite agonised, “show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you!” But there was none.
Class asked to know who the dead figure was, and within an instant he and the Spirit were standing in a churchyard. The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one. “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Class, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?” Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood. “Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Class. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”
The Spirit was immovable as ever. Class crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name. “Good Spirit,” Class pursued, “assure me I may yet change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!” Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed and dwindled down into a bedpost.
Yes! The bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the time before him was his own, to makes amends in! “I will live in the past, the present and the future!” Class said as he scrambled out of bed. “The spirits of all three shall strive within me. Oh Innovation! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this!”
Class was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them. His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him. He had no intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!