Excerpt: Jacob T. Marley

To tell the whole of Marley’s life would be of little value. It took many years for pride to manifest its impact. Indeed, he was at first, after the crucial event, just as he had always been, with far more good than bad in him. But as time went by, the leaves of his deceit began to show. For the next several years, he tried to dress it, conspiring within himself to keep it behind his garden wall. With a practiced behavior, he used the words and actions born of his heart and fostered by his pure nature as a younger man to build a façade of character that covered an increasingly empty soul. As the bootblack covers scuffs, so he polished and repolished his image while sharpening his skills. However the cuts and damages of ill care of the leather could not forever be hidden. In his development, he eventually cast aside the dye and began to nurture what one might think of as the last bit of integrity he possessed—-to be who he was.

By the time Jacob was a man, there was never any doubt of his purity. Indeed, no one would debate the complete and total lack of it. He had placed his bushel so firmly and completely upon his light that most would attest the flame was out, the candle melted and sold for its wax, and the darkness a permanent attribute of the hill of Jacob Marley.

Marley forged his path into his financial profession in an ordinary way, apprenticing through all the ordinary roles. What was not ordinary was his skill in the position. Not that he could count better, for how many ways are there to count? A stack of twenty shillings is a pound to any man, no matter how proficient. Jacob’s unique trait was in knowing what could be done with those shillings. Where any of his peers could turn a pound into a half crown more, Marley found a way to make it two. He finessed the principles of compounding both his money and his sin as he used this knowledge to build contracts that would stand firm against legal challenge while exacting from his customers more than they had anticipated. The spoken word, to Jacob Marley, was irrelevant. Contract was law, and whatever words needed to be said to get to contract were appropriate if they served that end. While some would call it lying, to Marley, it was simply business. Words would pass from existence in time, whereas contracts would last—in this truth he based his only doctrine, and all his means served this end.

He eventually gained his own clients and, quite to the dismay of his mentor, opened his own countinghouse. He had gained some level of prominence. He lived in London, the only place to do business. He accumulated enough wealth to purchase a home, a rarity. He had found the ideal space, a house built by a Dutch merchant one hundred years prior. Unlike the other homes on this street, it was set back, allowing for a courtyard in front, and assuring Jacob of his privacy from the throngs of the dull and dirty on London’s streets. He retained three rooms for himself; the others were let out to businesses, assuring Jacob he would not be bothered by neighbors.

The stair in the entryway was grand. Not that Jacob ever intended to entertain, but occasionally he would meet with a business associate in the parlor, and his ability to negotiate began when the gentleman would gaze in awe at the wide, sweeping staircase and wonder to himself what sort of man of business was successful enough to wander this kind of house.

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