“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”
“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”
“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”
“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? ‘If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population’.”
Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.
“Man — ” said the Ghost, ” — if man you be in heart, not adamant — forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is.”
“Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that, in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh, God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”
(Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol.)
I believe that last quote to be one of the finest things Dickens ever wrote.
All photographs by William Gedney, taken in Kentucky in 1964. Special thanks to the fantastic Selvedge Yard, right here on the wordpress, for making me aware of this set’s existence.