Cratchit splashed a bucket of grayish water on the ghost, and Marley melted away into the floorboards.
“You owe me one, Bob,” Scrooge said to his impoverished clerk. “Even though it seemed like he was coming after me, he was really coming to raise your taxes.”
Marley’s ghost reappeared an hour later with an ice pack over his eyes. He locked the door this time, then turned his infernal aspect upon Scrooge and said in a grave voice, “Ebenezer Scrooge, tonight you will be visited by three ghosts.”
Scrooge frowned. “Three ghosts? What exactly are you protesting — my past, my present, or my future? Your message is confusing.”
Marley tried again. “I am here tonight to warn you that you have yet a chance to escape my fate.”
“What’s so awful about your fate? You’re dead, so by my calculations you don’t even pay income tax, you freeloading corpse.”
“I pay sales tax on chain polish,” Marley said quietly, and he held up a few shiny links as evidence.
“Hah, yum-hug!” exclaimed Scrooge. Noticing Marley’s puzzled expression, he added, “I had my exclamations focus-grouped by a political consultant, and ‘Bah, humbug’ doesn’t test well with peddlers.”
Marley gritted his teeth. “Perhaps this will convince you.” He set up another cry, clanked his chains and unwrapped the bandage round his head. His lower jaw dropped down upon his chest.
Scrooge recoiled in horror. “I suppose now you’ll expect me to pay for your health care.”
Marley disappeared to rethink his strategy.
By the time the ghost returned it was nearly dawn. “Ebenezer, I beg you!” he cried. “Have you no shred of compassion to spare for the less fortunate, or have you hoarded away your mercy alongside your wealth? Can you not see that while the poor have gotten poorer, you and your fellow misers have gotten richer?”
“I’m going to stop you there,” Scrooge said, casually leafing through a money-lending chart. “We don’t call ourselves misers anymore. We prefer the term ‘joy-creators.’ And what you and your fellow ghosts are asking for is a radical redistribution of Christmas spirit.”
On Christmas morning, Marley was too discouraged to materialize. He hailed a carriage from the graveyard to Scrooge’s office.
“So, how were the other ghosts’ visits?” Marley asked after making cautious small talk about the weather. “Did they show you how a paltry sacrifice on your part would make an immeasurable difference in the lives of the less fortunate?”