Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, It’s midnight, children dear,
Duck! Here comes another year!
As the end of another year approaches, what happens to you? Are you instilled with the remaining fervor of the holiday spirit? Are you complacent observing the folly of others making resolutions? Are you depressed pondering things undone? Charles Dickens offers an old tale, written in the nineteenth century and set in Italy – The Chimes. If you are a fan of “The Christmas Carol,” you will note the similarity in tone, and enjoy the possibilities of the ending.
The Chimes was one of five in a series of Dickens’ Christmas stories. Appropriate for New Year’s Eve, the moral of the story focuses on the choices we make and their consequences. Like “A Christmas Carol,” a ghost guides the way.
The story opens with the chiming of church bells. After Toby, a messenger, delivers a letter to Lord Bowley and and receives the response – to imprison the man mentioned in the letter, he accidentally bumps into a man carrying a little girl. An apologetic exchange follows, during which Toby discovers this to be the very man to be imprisoned. Toby invites the two home for the night, but he continues to be disillusioned.
He finds his daughter, Meg, seated by the fire drying her eyes about her apparently aborted marriage plans. When reading his paper, he comes across the account of a woman, driven from her home by poverty and misfortune, who has killed her child and herself. He falls asleep convinced of “the inherent vileness of his class.”
The Goblins of the Chimes appear and spirit the sleeping man to the bell tower. His dream takes him on a journey to the future, revealing the dire consequences if he continues to believe there is no purpose for his life or the lives of those around him. In the end, Meg wakes Toby from the dream. It’s New Year’s Day. Neighbors enter with greetings and congratulations and a happy party ends the story.
You can read this short tale as you ponder your own resolutions, while waiting for the clock to chime twelve tonight. Keep your spirits up…