There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more
dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there
was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece
of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer.
But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast
and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! The sort
of man who knew his business better than you or I could
have told it him!) struck up “Sir Roger de Coverley.” Then
old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top
couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them;
three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were
not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no
notion of walking.
But if they had been twice as many–ah, four times–old
Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would
Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner
in every sense of the term. If that’s not high praise, tell me
higher, and I’ll use it. A positive light appeared to issue
from Fezziwig’s calves. They shone in every part of the
dance like moons. You couldn’t have predicted, at any given
time, what would have become of them next. And when old
Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance;
advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and
curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to
your place; Fezziwig “cut”–cut so deftly, that he appeared
to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without
When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up.
Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side
of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually
as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas.
When everybody had retired but the two ‘prentices, they did
the same to them; and thus the cheerful voices died away,
and the lads were left to their beds; which were under a
counter in the back-shop.
During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a
man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene,
and with his former self. He corroborated everything,
remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent
the strangest agitation. It was not until now, when the
bright faces of his former self and Dick were turned from
them, that he remembered the Ghost, and became conscious
that it was looking full upon him, while the light upon its
head burnt very clear.
“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly
folks so full of gratitude.”
“Small!” echoed Scrooge.
The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices,
who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig:
and when he had done so, said,
“Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of
your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so
much that he deserves this praise?”
“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and
speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self.
“It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy
or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a
pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and
looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is
impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness
he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
He felt the Spirit’s glance, and stopped.
“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.
“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.
“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.
“No,” said Scrooge, “No. I should like to be able to say
a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.”
His former self turned down the lamps as he gave utterance
to the wish; and Scrooge and the Ghost again stood side by
side in the open air.
“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”
This was not addressed to Scrooge, or to any one whom he
could see, but it produced an immediate effect. For again
Scrooge saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime
of life. His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later
years; but it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice.
There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which
showed the passion that had taken root, and where the
shadow of the growing tree would fall.
He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young
girl in a mourning-dress: in whose eyes there were tears,
which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost of
“It matters little,” she said, softly. “To you, very little.
Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort
you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have
no just cause to grieve.”
“What Idol has displaced you?” he rejoined.
“A golden one.”
“This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” he said.
“There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and
there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity
as the pursuit of wealth!”
“You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently.
“All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being
beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your
nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion,
Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?”
“What then?” he retorted. “Even if I have grown so
much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.”
She shook her head.
“Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were
both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could
improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You
are changed. When it was made, you were another man.”
“I was a boy,” he said impatiently.
“Your own feeling tells you that you were not what you
are,” she returned. “I am. That which promised happiness
when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that
we are two. How often and how keenly I have thought of
this, I will not say. It is enough that I have thought of it,
and can release you.”
“Have I ever sought release?”
“In words. No. Never.”
“In what, then?”
“In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another
atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In
everything that made my love of any worth or value in your
sight. If this had never been between us,” said the girl,
looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; “tell me,
would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!”
He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in
spite of himself. But he said with a struggle, “You think
“I would gladly think otherwise if I could,” she answered,
“Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this,
I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you
were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe
that you would choose a dowerless girl–you who, in your
very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or,
choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your
one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your
repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I
release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you
He was about to speak; but with her head turned from
him, she resumed.
“You may–the memory of what is past half makes me
hope you will–have pain in this. A very, very brief time,
and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an
unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you
awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”
She left him, and they parted.
“Spirit!” said Scrooge, “show me no more! Conduct
me home. Why do you delight to torture me?”
“One shadow more!” exclaimed the Ghost.
“No more!” cried Scrooge. “No more. I don’t wish to
see it. Show me no more!”
But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms,
and forced him to observe what happened next.
They were in another scene and place; a room, not very
large or handsome, but full of comfort. Near to the winter
fire sat a beautiful young girl, so like that last that Scrooge
believed it was the same, until he saw her, now a comely
matron, sitting opposite her daughter. The noise in this
room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more children
there, than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count;
and, unlike the celebrated herd in the poem, they were not
forty children conducting themselves like one, but every
child was conducting itself like forty. The consequences
were uproarious beyond belief; but no one seemed to care;
on the contrary, the mother and daughter laughed heartily,
and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to
mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands
most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to be one of
them! Though I never could have been so rude, no, no! I
wouldn’t for the wealth of all the world have crushed that
braided hair, and torn it down; and for the precious little
shoe, I wouldn’t have plucked it off, God bless my soul! to
save my life. As to measuring her waist in sport, as they
did, bold young brood, I couldn’t have done it; I should
have expected my arm to have grown round it for a punishment,
and never come straight again. And yet I should
have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have
questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have
looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never
raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of
which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should
have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest licence
of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its
But now a knocking at the door was heard, and such a
rush immediately ensued that she with laughing face and
plundered dress was borne towards it the centre of a flushed
and boisterous group, just in time to greet the father, who
came home attended by a man laden with Christmas toys
and presents. Then the shouting and the struggling, and
the onslaught that was made on the defenceless porter!
The scaling him with chairs for ladders to dive into his
pockets, despoil him of brown-paper parcels, hold on tight
by his cravat, hug him round his neck, pommel his back,
and kick his legs in irrepressible affection! The shouts of
wonder and delight with which the development of every
package was received! The terrible announcement that the
baby had been taken in the act of putting a doll’s frying-pan
into his mouth, and was more than suspected of having
swallowed a fictitious turkey, glued on a wooden platter!
The immense relief of finding this a false alarm! The joy,
and gratitude, and ecstasy! They are all indescribable alike.
It is enough that by degrees the children and their emotions
got out of the parlour, and by one stair at a time, up to the
top of the house; where they went to bed, and so subsided.
And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever,
when the master of the house, having his daughter leaning
fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his
own fireside; and when he thought that such another
creature, quite as graceful and as full of promise, might
have called him father, and been a spring-time in the
haggard winter of his life, his sight grew very dim indeed.
“Belle,” said the husband, turning to his wife with a
smile, “I saw an old friend of yours this afternoon.”
“Who was it?”
“How can I? Tut, don’t I know?” she added in the
same breath, laughing as he laughed. “Mr. Scrooge.”
“Mr. Scrooge it was. I passed his office window; and as
it was not shut up, and he had a candle inside, I could
scarcely help seeing him. His partner lies upon the point
of death, I hear; and there he sat alone. Quite alone in
the world, I do believe.”
“Spirit!” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “remove me
from this place.”
“I told you these were shadows of the things that have
been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do
not blame me!”
“Remove me!” Scrooge exclaimed, “I cannot bear it!”
He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon
him with a face, in which in some strange way there were
fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.
“Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”
In the struggle, if that can be called a struggle in which
the Ghost with no visible resistance on its own part was
undisturbed by any effort of its adversary, Scrooge observed
that its light was burning high and bright; and dimly
connecting that with its influence over him, he seized the
extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down
upon its head.
The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher
covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down
with all his force, he could not hide the light: which streamed
from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground.
He was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an
irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own
bedroom. He gave the cap a parting squeeze, in which his hand
relaxed; and had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank
into a heavy sleep.
STAVE III: THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS
AWAKING in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and
sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had
no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the
stroke of One. He felt that he was restored to consciousness
in the right nick of time, for the especial purpose of holding
a conference with the second messenger despatched to him
through Jacob Marley’s intervention. But finding that he
turned uncomfortably cold when he began to wonder which
of his curtains this new spectre would draw back, he put
them every one aside with his own hands; and lying down
again, established a sharp look-out all round the bed. For
he wished to challenge the Spirit on the moment of its
appearance, and did not wish to be taken by surprise, and
Gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort, who plume themselves
on being acquainted with a move or two, and being usually
equal to the time-of-day, express the wide range of their
capacity for adventure by observing that they are good for
anything from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter; between which
opposite extremes, no doubt, there lies a tolerably wide and
comprehensive range of subjects. Without venturing for
Scrooge quite as hardily as this, I don’t mind calling on you
to believe that he was ready for a good broad field of
strange appearances, and that nothing between a baby and
rhinoceros would have astonished him very much.
Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by
any means prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the
Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a
violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter
of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay
upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy
light, which streamed upon it when the clock proclaimed the
hour; and which, being only light, was more alarming than
a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it
meant, or would be at; and was sometimes apprehensive
that he might be at that very moment an interesting case of
spontaneous combustion, without having the consolation of
knowing it. At last, however, he began to think–as you or
I would have thought at first; for it is always the person not
in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done
in it, and would unquestionably have done it too–at last, I
say, he began to think that the source and secret of this
ghostly light might be in the adjoining room, from whence,
on further tracing it, it seemed to shine. This idea taking
full possession of his mind, he got up softly and shuffled in
his slippers to the door.
The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange
voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He
It was his own room. There was no doubt about that.
But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls
and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a
perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming
berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and
ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had
been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring
up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had
never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and
many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form
a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn,
great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages,
mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts,
cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears,
immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that
made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy
state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to
see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s
horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge,
as he came peeping round the door.
“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in! and know
me better, man!”
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this
Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and
though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like
to meet them.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit.
“Look upon me!”
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple
green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment
hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was
bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any
artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the
garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other
covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining
icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its
genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice,
its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded
round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword
was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.
“You have never seen the like of me before!” exclaimed
“Never,” Scrooge made answer to it.
“Have never walked forth with the younger members of
my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers
born in these later years?” pursued the Phantom.
“I don’t think I have,” said Scrooge. “I am afraid I have
not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?”
“More than eighteen hundred,” said the Ghost.
“A tremendous family to provide for!” muttered Scrooge.
The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.
“Spirit,” said Scrooge submissively, “conduct me where
you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt
a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have aught
to teach me, let me profit by it.”
“Touch my robe!”
Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.
Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game,
poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings,
fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly. So did the room,
the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood
in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the
weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk and
not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the
pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of
their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see
it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting
into artificial little snow-storms.
The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows
blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow
upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground;
which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by
the heavy wheels of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed
and re-crossed each other hundreds of times where the great
streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to trace
in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy,
and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist,
half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended
in a shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great
Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away
to their dear hearts’ content. There was nothing very cheerful
in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of
cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest
summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.
For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops
were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another
from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious
snowball–better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest–
laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it
went wrong. The poulterers’ shops were still half open, and the
fruiterers’ were radiant in their glory. There were great, round,
pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats
of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out
into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were
ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in
the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking
from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went
by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were
pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there
were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence
to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might
water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy
and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among
the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered
leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squat and swarthy, setting
off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great
compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and
beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after
dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among
these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and
stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was
something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and
round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.
The Grocers’! oh, the Grocers’! nearly closed, with perhaps
two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such
glimpses! It was not alone that the scales descending on the
counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller
parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled
up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended
scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even
that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so
extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight,
the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and
spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on
feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs
were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in
modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that
everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but
the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful
promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other
at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left
their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to
fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in
the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people
were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which
they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own,
worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws
to peck at if they chose.
But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and
chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in
their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the
same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and
nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners
to the bakers’ shops. The sight of these poor revellers
appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with
Scrooge beside him in a baker’s doorway, and taking off the
covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their
dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind
of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words
between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he
shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good
humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame
to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love
it, so it was!
In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and
yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners
and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of
wet above each baker’s oven; where the pavement smoked as
if its stones were cooking too.
“Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from
your torch?” asked Scrooge.
“There is. My own.”
“Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?”
“To any kindly given. To a poor one most.”
“Why to a poor one most?” asked Scrooge.
“Because it needs it most.”
“Spirit,” said Scrooge, after a moment’s thought, “I wonder
you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us, should
desire to cramp these people’s opportunities of innocent
“I!” cried the Spirit.
“You would deprive them of their means of dining every
seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said
to dine at all,” said Scrooge. “Wouldn’t you?”
“I!” cried the Spirit.
“You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day?” said
Scrooge. “And it comes to the same thing.”
“I seek!” exclaimed the Spirit.
“Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your
name, or at least in that of your family,” said Scrooge.
“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit,
“who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion,
pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness
in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and
kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge
their doings on themselves, not us.”
Scrooge promised that he would; and they went on,
invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of the
town. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which
Scrooge had observed at the baker’s), that notwithstanding
his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place
with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as
gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible
he could have done in any lofty hall.
And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in
showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind,
generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor
men, that led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s; for there he
went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and
on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped
to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling with the sprinkling of his
torch. Think of that! Bob had but fifteen “Bob” a-week
himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his
Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present
blessed his four-roomed house!
Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out
but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons,
which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and
she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of
her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter
Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and
getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob’s private
property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the
day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly
attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks.
And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing
in, screaming that outside the baker’s they had smelt the
goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious
thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced
about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the
skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked
him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up,
knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and
“What has ever got your precious father then?” said Mrs.
Cratchit. “And your brother, Tiny Tim! And Martha
warn’t as late last Christmas Day by half-an-hour?”
“Here’s Martha, mother!” said a girl, appearing as she
“Here’s Martha, mother!” cried the two young Cratchits.
“Hurrah! There’s such a goose, Martha!”
“Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!”
said Mrs. Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off
her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.
“We’d a deal of work to finish up last night,” replied the
girl, “and had to clear away this morning, mother!”
“Well! Never mind so long as you are come,” said Mrs.
Cratchit. “Sit ye down before the fire, my dear, and have
a warm, Lord bless ye!”
“No, no! There’s father coming,” cried the two young
Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. “Hide, Martha,
So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father,
with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe,
hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned
up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his
shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and
had his limbs supported by an iron frame!
“Why, where’s our Martha?” cried Bob Cratchit, looking
“Not coming,” said Mrs. Cratchit.
“Not coming!” said Bob, with a sudden declension in his
high spirits; for he had been Tim’s blood horse all the way
from church, and had come home rampant. “Not coming
upon Christmas Day!”
Martha didn’t like to see him disappointed, if it were only
in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet
door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits
hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house,
that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.
“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit,
when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had
hugged his daughter to his heart’s content.
“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he
gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the
strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home,
that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he
was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember
upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind
Bob’s voice was tremulous when he told them this, and
trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing
strong and hearty.
His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back
came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by
his brother and sister to his stool before the fire; and while
Bob, turning up his cuffs–as if, poor fellow, they were
capable of being made more shabby–compounded some hot
mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round
and round and put it on the hob to simmer; Master Peter,
and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the
goose, with which they soon returned in high procession.
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose
the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a
black swan was a matter of course–and in truth it was
something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made
the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot;
Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour;
Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted
the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny
corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for
everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard
upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest
they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be
helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was
said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs.
Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared
to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the
long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of
delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim,
excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with
the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe
there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and
flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal
admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes,
it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as
Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small
atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at
last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest
Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to
the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss
Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone–too nervous to
bear witnesses–to take the pudding up and bring it in.