Waitrose Law returns with the second instalment of her legal profession festive fable (part one is here)
After the spirit departed, Scrooge lay wakeful in the chilly darkness of his bed but, as the frightful vision faded, his breathing slowed, and a sonorous snoring filled the room. He awoke again with a start as Big Ben chimed on the hour of one.
For one wild, elated moment, Scrooge thought the night’s misadventure had been nothing more than a terrible dream, but then, with a quailing heart, he spied a thin crack of light coming in through the doorway. The crack widened by degrees and a thin figure slipped into the room. The unearthly visitor was a young, pale-faced man, clad in a dark suit and carrying a sheaf of papers, whose face and being gave out a pure, white light.
“Who are you? Are you the spirit whose coming I was warned of?” Scrooge asked.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.” The ghost’s voice was low, soft and gentle, and Scrooge took heart from it. “You’re not nearly so terrible a spirit as I was expecting,” he said.
“Thanks. I was Runner-Up Barrister Hottie of the Year in 2014. The things those two made me do…Sorry, where was I? Yes. So, off we go, into your past. Come, take my hand and walk with me.”
The ghost took Scrooge’s hand and led him through the streets of London, past Whitehall and down the Strand towards the Temple, where they stopped outside a great stone-fronted building. Sounds of music and merriment came from within and a host of twinkling lights glowed in the windows. “Do you recognise this place?” the spirit asked Scrooge.
“Why, it’s old Fezziwig’s chambers!” cried Scrooge. “I haven’t been here since…” His voice faltered and his face fell, but the ghost beckoned him to follow it, and they slipped into the building.
Inside, the walls were hung with tinsel, candles glowed in alcoves and the strains of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ filled the air. The most eminent counsel and the lowliest clerk were united in festive celebration; glasses clinked and champagne flowed.
Scrooge and his ghostly companion passed into the next room, where couples danced gaily together. The spirit led Scrooge to a young woman wearing the black suit and white shirt of a barrister, who stood in the corner of the room talking animatedly to a handsome man. His hair flopped luxuriantly over his forehead and he touched the woman’s arm and leaned close to her as she spoke. On seeing the young woman’s face, Scrooge paled. “Spirit, take me away from this place!” he exclaimed.
“Recognise her? Why, I would know her face if ’twere in a thousand! We were to be married. Dear Spirit, I pray, please let us see a different memory!”
“Very well. Let us visit another Christmas.”
The room dissolved around Scrooge and he found himself in a quiet, cold room, where the same young woman sat with a different man. A much less handsome companion than she had enjoyed at old Fezziwig’s party, he was very tall and rather bald. They were arguing; he angrily, she resignedly.
“It’s no good. I believe in justice, truth and holding the state to account, but all you’re interested in is making cutbacks. We’ve been living on Boots meal deals for months now,” she said.
“But Britain has the most expensive legal aid system in the world! You fat cats have had your noses in the trough for far too long!”
“Oh, everyone knows those figures are highly misleading. Rupert shares my passion for human rights and doesn’t mix his metaphors.”
Scrooge put a hand to his cheek and found it wet with tears. “Spirit!” he cried, “Remove me from this place! Take me home. Why do you delight to torture me?”
“One memory more!” exclaimed the Ghost.
“No more!” begged Scrooge. “No more, I don’t wish to see it. Show me no more!”
But the relentless Ghost took hold of his arms to prevent him escaping and the scene before them changed again; they were now in the Ministry. Scrooge saw his younger self consumed with bitterness, proposing ever more outlandish schemes for cutting legal aid spending, deaf to the warnings of those who prophesied that it would cause terrible injustice. But for all his efforts, Belle and Rupert prospered in their love, while Scrooge became ever more crabbed and embittered.
“Spirit!” said Scrooge, “Show me no more. I cannot bear it!”
The Ghost regarded him with a queer look of compassion in its eyes and nodded. The scene dissolved before him once more; Scrooge was conscious of an irresistible sleepiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to stumble to bed, before he sank into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The third instalment of WaitroseLaw’s festive fable will be published later this week. Part one is here.