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Posts tagged ‘Jacob Marley’

A Christmas Carol by Dickens 6.

“Let the charwoman alone to be the first!” cried she who
had entered first. “Let the laundress alone to be the second;
and let the undertaker’s man alone to be the third. Look
here, old Joe, here’s a chance! If we haven’t all three met
here without meaning it!”

“You couldn’t have met in a better place,” said old Joe,
removing his pipe from his mouth. “Come into the parlour.
You were made free of it long ago, you know; and the other
two an’t strangers. Stop till I shut the door of the shop.
Ah! How it skreeks! There an’t such a rusty bit of metal
in the place as its own hinges, I believe; and I’m sure there’s
no such old bones here, as mine. Ha, ha! We’re all suitable
to our calling, we’re well matched. Come into the
parlour. Come into the parlour.”

The parlour was the space behind the screen of rags. The
old man raked the fire together with an old stair-rod, and
having trimmed his smoky lamp (for it was night), with the
stem of his pipe, put it in his mouth again.

While he did this, the woman who had already spoken
threw her bundle on the floor, and sat down in a flaunting
manner on a stool; crossing her elbows on her knees, and
looking with a bold defiance at the other two.

“What odds then! What odds, Mrs. Dilber?” said the
woman. “Every person has a right to take care of themselves.
He always did.”

“That’s true, indeed!” said the laundress. “No man
more so.”

“Why then, don’t stand staring as if you was afraid,
woman; who’s the wiser? We’re not going to pick holes in
each other’s coats, I suppose?”

“No, indeed!” said Mrs. Dilber and the man together.
“We should hope not.”

“Very well, then!” cried the woman. “That’s enough.
Who’s the worse for the loss of a few things like these?
Not a dead man, I suppose.”

“No, indeed,” said Mrs. Dilber, laughing.

“If he wanted to keep ‘em after he was dead, a wicked old
screw,” pursued the woman, “why wasn’t he natural in his
lifetime? If he had been, he’d have had somebody to look
after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying
gasping out his last there, alone by himself.”

“It’s the truest word that ever was spoke,” said Mrs.
Dilber. “It’s a judgment on him.”

“I wish it was a little heavier judgment,” replied the
woman; “and it should have been, you may depend upon it,
if I could have laid my hands on anything else. Open that
bundle, old Joe, and let me know the value of it. Speak out
plain. I’m not afraid to be the first, nor afraid for them to
see it. We know pretty well that we were helping ourselves,
before we met here, I believe. It’s no sin. Open the bundle,
Joe.”

But the gallantry of her friends would not allow of this;
and the man in faded black, mounting the breach first,
produced his plunder. It was not extensive. A seal or two,
a pencil-case, a pair of sleeve-buttons, and a brooch of no
great value, were all. They were severally examined and
appraised by old Joe, who chalked the sums he was disposed
to give for each, upon the wall, and added them up into a
total when he found there was nothing more to come.

“That’s your account,” said Joe, “and I wouldn’t give
another sixpence, if I was to be boiled for not doing it.
Who’s next?”

Mrs. Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, a little wearing
apparel, two old-fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of
sugar-tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the wall
in the same manner.

“I always give too much to ladies. It’s a weakness of mine,
and that’s the way I ruin myself,” said old Joe. “That’s
your account. If you asked me for another penny, and made
it an open question, I’d repent of being so liberal and knock
off half-a-crown.”

“And now undo my bundle, Joe,” said the first woman.

Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience
of opening it, and having unfastened a great many knots,
dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.

“What do you call this?” said Joe. “Bed-curtains!”

“Ah!” returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward
on her crossed arms. “Bed-curtains!”

“You don’t mean to say you took ‘em down, rings and
all, with him lying there?” said Joe.

“Yes I do,” replied the woman. “Why not?”

“You were born to make your fortune,” said Joe, “and
you’ll certainly do it.”

“I certainly shan’t hold my hand, when I can get anything
in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as He
was, I promise you, Joe,” returned the woman coolly. “Don’t
drop that oil upon the blankets, now.”

“His blankets?” asked Joe.

“Whose else’s do you think?” replied the woman. “He
isn’t likely to take cold without ‘em, I dare say.”

“I hope he didn’t die of anything catching? Eh?” said
old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.

“Don’t you be afraid of that,” returned the woman. “I
an’t so fond of his company that I’d loiter about him for
such things, if he did. Ah! you may look through that
shirt till your eyes ache; but you won’t find a hole in it, nor
a threadbare place. It’s the best he had, and a fine one too.
They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.”

“What do you call wasting of it?” asked old Joe.

“Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,” replied
the woman with a laugh. “Somebody was fool enough to
do it, but I took it off again. If calico an’t good enough for
such a purpose, it isn’t good enough for anything. It’s quite
as becoming to the body. He can’t look uglier than he did
in that one.”

Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat
grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by
the old man’s lamp, he viewed them with a detestation and
disgust, which could hardly have been greater, though they
had been obscene demons, marketing the corpse itself.

“Ha, ha!” laughed the same woman, when old Joe,
producing a flannel bag with money in it, told out their
several gains upon the ground. “This is the end of it, you
see! He frightened every one away from him when he was
alive, to profit us when he was dead! Ha, ha, ha!”

“Spirit!” said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. “I
see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own.
My life tends that way, now. Merciful Heaven, what is
this!”

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now
he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which,
beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up,
which, though it was dumb, announced itself in awful
language.

The room was very dark, too dark to be observed with
any accuracy, though Scrooge glanced round it in obedience
to a secret impulse, anxious to know what kind of room it
was. A pale light, rising in the outer air, fell straight upon
the bed; and on it, plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept,
uncared for, was the body of this man.

Scrooge glanced towards the Phantom. Its steady hand
was pointed to the head. The cover was so carelessly adjusted
that the slightest raising of it, the motion of a finger upon
Scrooge’s part, would have disclosed the face. He thought
of it, felt how easy it would be to do, and longed to do it;
but had no more power to withdraw the veil than to dismiss
the spectre at his side.

Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar
here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy
command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved,
revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair
to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is
not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released;
it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the
hand WAS open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm,
and tender; and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike!
And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow
the world with life immortal!

No voice pronounced these words in Scrooge’s ears, and
yet he heard them when he looked upon the bed. He
thought, if this man could be raised up now, what would be
his foremost thoughts? Avarice, hard-dealing, griping cares?
They have brought him to a rich end, truly!

He lay, in the dark empty house, with not a man, a
woman, or a child, to say that he was kind to me in this
or that, and for the memory of one kind word I will be
kind to him. A cat was tearing at the door, and there was
a sound of gnawing rats beneath the hearth-stone. What
they wanted in the room of death, and why they were so
restless and disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to think.

“Spirit!” he said, “this is a fearful place. In leaving it,
I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us go!”

Still the Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the
head.

“I understand you,” Scrooge returned, “and I would do
it, if I could. But I have not the power, Spirit. I have
not the power.”

Again it seemed to look upon him.

“If there is any person in the town, who feels emotion
caused by this man’s death,” said Scrooge quite agonised,
“show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you!”

The Phantom spread its dark robe before him for a
moment, like a wing; and withdrawing it, revealed a room
by daylight, where a mother and her children were.

She was expecting some one, and with anxious eagerness;
for she walked up and down the room; started at every
sound; looked out from the window; glanced at the clock;
tried, but in vain, to work with her needle; and could hardly
bear the voices of the children in their play.

At length the long-expected knock was heard. She hurried
to the door, and met her husband; a man whose face was
careworn and depressed, though he was young. There was
a remarkable expression in it now; a kind of serious delight
of which he felt ashamed, and which he struggled to repress.

He sat down to the dinner that had been hoarding for
him by the fire; and when she asked him faintly what news
(which was not until after a long silence), he appeared
embarrassed how to answer.

“Is it good?” she said, “or bad?”–to help him.

“Bad,” he answered.

“We are quite ruined?”

“No. There is hope yet, Caroline.”

“If he relents,” she said, amazed, “there is! Nothing is
past hope, if such a miracle has happened.”

“He is past relenting,” said her husband. “He is dead.”

She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke
truth; but she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she
said so, with clasped hands. She prayed forgiveness the next
moment, and was sorry; but the first was the emotion of
her heart.

“What the half-drunken woman whom I told you of last
night, said to me, when I tried to see him and obtain a
week’s delay; and what I thought was a mere excuse to avoid
me; turns out to have been quite true. He was not only
very ill, but dying, then.”

“To whom will our debt be transferred?”

“I don’t know. But before that time we shall be ready
with the money; and even though we were not, it would be
a bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a creditor in his
successor. We may sleep to-night with light hearts, Caroline!”

Yes. Soften it as they would, their hearts were lighter.
The children’s faces, hushed and clustered round to hear what
they so little understood, were brighter; and it was a happier
house for this man’s death! The only emotion that the
Ghost could show him, caused by the event, was one of
pleasure.

“Let me see some tenderness connected with a death,” said
Scrooge; “or that dark chamber, Spirit, which we left just
now, will be for ever present to me.”

The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar
to his feet; and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and
there to find himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They
entered poor Bob Cratchit’s house; the dwelling he had
visited before; and found the mother and the children seated
round the fire.

Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Cratchits were as
still as statues in one corner, and sat looking up at Peter,
who had a book before him. The mother and her daughters
were engaged in sewing. But surely they were very quiet!

“‘And He took a child, and set him in the midst of
them.’”

Where had Scrooge heard those words? He had not
dreamed them. The boy must have read them out, as he
and the Spirit crossed the threshold. Why did he not
go on?

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her
hand up to her face.

“The colour hurts my eyes,” she said.

The colour? Ah, poor Tiny Tim!

“They’re better now again,” said Cratchit’s wife. “It
makes them weak by candle-light; and I wouldn’t show weak
eyes to your father when he comes home, for the world. It
must be near his time.”

“Past it rather,” Peter answered, shutting up his book.
“But I think he has walked a little slower than he used,
these few last evenings, mother.”

They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a
steady, cheerful voice, that only faltered once:

“I have known him walk with–I have known him walk
with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed.”

“And so have I,” cried Peter. “Often.”

“And so have I,” exclaimed another. So had all.

“But he was very light to carry,” she resumed, intent upon
her work, “and his father loved him so, that it was no
trouble: no trouble. And there is your father at the door!”

She hurried out to meet him; and little Bob in his comforter
–he had need of it, poor fellow–came in. His tea
was ready for him on the hob, and they all tried who should
help him to it most. Then the two young Cratchits got
upon his knees and laid, each child a little cheek, against
his face, as if they said, “Don’t mind it, father. Don’t be
grieved!”

Bob was very cheerful with them, and spoke pleasantly to
all the family. He looked at the work upon the table, and
praised the industry and speed of Mrs. Cratchit and the girls.
They would be done long before Sunday, he said.

“Sunday! You went to-day, then, Robert?” said his
wife.

“Yes, my dear,” returned Bob. “I wish you could have
gone. It would have done you good to see how green a
place it is. But you’ll see it often. I promised him that I
would walk there on a Sunday. My little, little child!”
cried Bob. “My little child!”

He broke down all at once. He couldn’t help it. If he
could have helped it, he and his child would have been farther
apart perhaps than they were.

He left the room, and went up-stairs into the room above,
which was lighted cheerfully, and hung with Christmas.
There was a chair set close beside the child, and there were
signs of some one having been there, lately. Poor Bob sat
down in it, and when he had thought a little and composed
himself, he kissed the little face. He was reconciled to what
had happened, and went down again quite happy.

They drew about the fire, and talked; the girls and mother
working still. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness
of Mr. Scrooge’s nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but
once, and who, meeting him in the street that day, and seeing
that he looked a little–”just a little down you know,” said
Bob, inquired what had happened to distress him. “On
which,” said Bob, “for he is the pleasantest-spoken gentleman
you ever heard, I told him. ‘I am heartily sorry for it, Mr.
Cratchit,’ he said, ‘and heartily sorry for your good wife.’
By the bye, how he ever knew that, I don’t know.”

“Knew what, my dear?”

“Why, that you were a good wife,” replied Bob.

“Everybody knows that!” said Peter.

“Very well observed, my boy!” cried Bob. “I hope they
do. ‘Heartily sorry,’ he said, ‘for your good wife. If I
can be of service to you in any way,’ he said, giving me
his card, ‘that’s where I live. Pray come to me.’ Now, it
wasn’t,” cried Bob, “for the sake of anything he might be
able to do for us, so much as for his kind way, that this was
quite delightful. It really seemed as if he had known our
Tiny Tim, and felt with us.”

“I’m sure he’s a good soul!” said Mrs. Cratchit.

“You would be surer of it, my dear,” returned Bob, “if
you saw and spoke to him. I shouldn’t be at all surprised–
mark what I say!–if he got Peter a better situation.”

“Only hear that, Peter,” said Mrs. Cratchit.

“And then,” cried one of the girls, “Peter will be keeping
company with some one, and setting up for himself.”

“Get along with you!” retorted Peter, grinning.

“It’s just as likely as not,” said Bob, “one of these days;
though there’s plenty of time for that, my dear. But however
and whenever we part from one another, I am sure we
shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim–shall we–or this
first parting that there was among us?”

“Never, father!” cried they all.

“And I know,” said Bob, “I know, my dears, that when
we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he
was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among
ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.”

“No, never, father!” they all cried again.

“I am very happy,” said little Bob, “I am very happy!”

Mrs. Cratchit kissed him, his daughters kissed him, the
two young Cratchits kissed him, and Peter and himself shook
hands. Spirit of Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from
God!

“Spectre,” said Scrooge, “something informs me that our
parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not
how. Tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead?”

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as
before–though at a different time, he thought: indeed, there
seemed no order in these latter visions, save that they were
in the Future–into the resorts of business men, but showed
him not himself. Indeed, the Spirit did not stay for anything,
but went straight on, as to the end just now desired,
until besought by Scrooge to tarry for a moment.

“This court,” said Scrooge, “through which we hurry now,
is where my place of occupation is, and has been for a length
of time. I see the house. Let me behold what I shall be,
in days to come!”

The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.

“The house is yonder,” Scrooge exclaimed. “Why do you
point away?”

The inexorable finger underwent no change.

Scrooge hastened to the window of his office, and looked
in. It was an office still, but not his. The furniture was
not the same, and the figure in the chair was not himself.
The Phantom pointed as before.

He joined it once again, and wondering why and whither
he had gone, accompanied it until they reached an iron gate.
He paused to look round before entering.

A churchyard. Here, then; the wretched man whose name
he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a
worthy place. Walled in by houses; overrun by grass and
weeds, the growth of vegetation’s death, not life; choked up
with too much burying; fat with repleted appetite. A
worthy place!

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to
One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was
exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new
meaning in its solemn shape.

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,”
said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the
shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of
things that May be, only?”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which
it stood.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if
persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the
courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is
thus with what you show me!”

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and
following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected
grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.

“Am I that man who lay upon the bed?” he cried, upon
his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no!”

The finger still was there.

“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me!
I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must
have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I
am past all hope!”

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

“Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he
fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me, and pities
me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you
have shown me, by an altered life!”

The kind hand trembled.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it
all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the
Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I
will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I
may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to
free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it.
The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate
reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress.
It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

STAVE V: THE END OF IT

YES! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own,
the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time
before him was his own, to make amends in!

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!”
Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits
of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley!
Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say
it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”

He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions,
that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his
call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the
Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.

“They are not torn down,” cried Scrooge, folding one of
his bed-curtains in his arms, “they are not torn down, rings
and all. They are here–I am here–the shadows of the
things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will
be. I know they will!”

His hands were busy with his garments all this time;
turning them inside out, putting them on upside down,
tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every
kind of extravagance.

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and
crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of
himself with his stockings. “I am as light as a feather, I
am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I
am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to
everybody! A happy New Year to all the world. Hallo
here! Whoop! Hallo!”

He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing
there: perfectly winded.

“There’s the saucepan that the gruel was in!” cried
Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fireplace.
“There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley
entered! There’s the corner where the Ghost of Christmas
Present, sat! There’s the window where I saw the wandering
Spirits! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened.
Ha ha ha!”

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so
many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh.
The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!

“I don’t know what day of the month it is!” said
Scrooge. “I don’t know how long I’ve been among the
Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never
mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop!
Hallo here!”

He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing
out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang,
hammer; ding, dong, bell. Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang,
clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his
head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold;
cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight;
Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious!
Glorious!

“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a
boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look
about him.

“EH?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.

“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, CHRISTMAS DAY.”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I
haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night.
They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of
course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!”

“Hallo!” returned the boy.

“Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one,
at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.

“I should hope I did,” replied the lad.

“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy!
Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that
was hanging up there?–Not the little prize Turkey: the
big one?”

“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.

“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It’s a pleasure
to talk to him. Yes, my buck!”

“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.

“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.”

“Walk-ER!” exclaimed the boy.

“No, no,” said Scrooge, “I am in earnest. Go and buy
it, and tell ‘em to bring it here, that I may give them the
direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and
I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than
five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”

The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady
hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.

“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!” whispered Scrooge,
rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He sha’n’t
know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe
Miller never made such a joke as sending it to Bob’s
will be!”

The hand in which he wrote the address was not a steady
one, but write it he did, somehow, and went down-stairs to
open the street door, ready for the coming of the poulterer’s
man. As he stood there, waiting his arrival, the knocker
caught his eye.

“I shall love it, as long as I live!” cried Scrooge, patting
it with his hand. “I scarcely ever looked at it before.
What an honest expression it has in its face! It’s a
wonderful knocker!–Here’s the Turkey! Hallo! Whoop!
How are you! Merry Christmas!”

It was a Turkey! He never could have stood upon his
legs, that bird. He would have snapped ‘em short off in a
minute, like sticks of sealing-wax.

“Why, it’s impossible to carry that to Camden Town,”
said Scrooge. “You must have a cab.”

The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with
which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which
he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed
the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle
with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and
chuckled till he cried.

Shaving was not an easy task, for his hand continued to
shake very much; and shaving requires attention, even when
you don’t dance while you are at it. But if he had cut the
end of his nose off, he would have put a piece of
sticking-plaister over it, and been quite satisfied.

He dressed himself “all in his best,” and at last got out
into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth,
as he had seen them with the Ghost of Christmas Present;
and walking with his hands behind him, Scrooge regarded
every one with a delighted smile. He looked so irresistibly
pleasant, in a word, that three or four good-humoured fellows
said, “Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!”
And Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the blithe
sounds he had ever heard, those were the blithest in his ears.

He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he
beheld the portly gentleman, who had walked into his
counting-house the day before, and said, “Scrooge and Marley’s, I
believe?” It sent a pang across his heart to think how this
old gentleman would look upon him when they met; but he
knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it.

“My dear sir,” said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and
taking the old gentleman by both his hands. “How do you
do? I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of
you. A merry Christmas to you, sir!”

“Mr. Scrooge?”

“Yes,” said Scrooge. “That is my name, and I fear it
may not be pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon.
And will you have the goodness”–here Scrooge whispered in
his ear.

“Lord bless me!” cried the gentleman, as if his breath
were taken away. “My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?”

“If you please,” said Scrooge. “Not a farthing less. A
great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you.
Will you do me that favour?”

“My dear sir,” said the other, shaking hands with him.
“I don’t know what to say to such munifi–”

“Don’t say anything, please,” retorted Scrooge. “Come
and see me. Will you come and see me?”

“I will!” cried the old gentleman. And it was clear he
meant to do it.

“Thank’ee,” said Scrooge. “I am much obliged to you.
I thank you fifty times. Bless you!”

He went to church, and walked about the streets, and
watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children
on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into
the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found
that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never
dreamed that any walk–that anything–could give him so
much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps
towards his nephew’s house.

He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the
courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and
did it:

“Is your master at home, my dear?” said Scrooge to the
girl. Nice girl! Very.

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is he, my love?” said Scrooge.

“He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with mistress. I’ll
show you up-stairs, if you please.”

“Thank’ee. He knows me,” said Scrooge, with his hand
already on the dining-room lock. “I’ll go in here, my dear.”

He turned it gently, and sidled his face in, round the door.
They were looking at the table (which was spread out in
great array); for these young housekeepers are always nervous
on such points, and like to see that everything is right.

“Fred!” said Scrooge.

Dear heart alive, how his niece by marriage started!
Scrooge had forgotten, for the moment, about her sitting
in the corner with the footstool, or he wouldn’t have done
it, on any account.

“Why bless my soul!” cried Fred, “who’s that?”

“It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner.
Will you let me in, Fred?”

Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off.
He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier.
His niece looked just the same. So did Topper when he
came. So did the plump sister when she came. So did
every one when they came. Wonderful party, wonderful
games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!

But he was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was
early there. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob
Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his
heart upon.

And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No
Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen
minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his
door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.

His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter
too. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his
pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.

“Hallo!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as
near as he could feign it. “What do you mean by coming
here at this time of day?”

“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind my time.”

“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are.
Step this way, sir, if you please.”

“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from
the Tank. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather
merry yesterday, sir.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I
am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And
therefore,” he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving
Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into
the Tank again; “and therefore I am about to raise your
salary!”

Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He
had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it,
holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help
and a strait-waistcoat.

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness
that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the
back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I
have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and
endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss
your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of
smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another
coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and
infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was
a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a
master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or
any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old
world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him,
but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was
wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this
globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill
of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these
would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they
should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in
less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was
quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon
the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was
always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas
well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that
be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim
observed, God bless Us, Every One!
redistribution.

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A Christmas Carol by Dickens 3.

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his
curiosity. He looked out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither
and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they
went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s
Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments)
were linked together; none were free. Many had
been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He
had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white
waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to
its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist
a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below,
upon a door-step. The misery with them all was,
clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in
human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist
enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and
their spirit voices faded together; and the night became
as it had been when he walked home.

Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door
by which the Ghost had entered. It was double-locked,
as he had locked it with his own hands, and
the bolts were undisturbed. He tried to say “Humbug!”
but stopped at the first syllable. And being,
from the emotion he had undergone, or the fatigues
of the day, or his glimpse of the Invisible World, or
the dull conversation of the Ghost, or the lateness of
the hour, much in need of repose; went straight to
bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the
instant.

STAVE II: THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS

WHEN Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, that looking out of bed,
he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from
the opaque walls of his chamber. He was endeavouring to
pierce the darkness with his ferret eyes, when the chimes of a
neighbouring church struck the four quarters. So he listened
for the hour.

To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from
six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to
twelve; then stopped. Twelve! It was past two when he
went to bed. The clock was wrong. An icicle must have
got into the works. Twelve!

He touched the spring of his repeater, to correct this most
preposterous clock. Its rapid little pulse beat twelve:
and stopped.

“Why, it isn’t possible,” said Scrooge, “that I can have
slept through a whole day and far into another night. It
isn’t possible that anything has happened to the sun, and
this is twelve at noon!”

The idea being an alarming one, he scrambled out of bed,
and groped his way to the window. He was obliged to rub
the frost off with the sleeve of his dressing-gown before he
could see anything; and could see very little then. All he
could make out was, that it was still very foggy and extremely
cold, and that there was no noise of people running to and fro,
and making a great stir, as there unquestionably would have been
if night had beaten off bright day, and taken possession of the
world. This was a great relief, because “three days after sight
of this First of Exchange pay to Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge or his
order,” and so forth, would have become a mere United States’
security if there were no days to count by.

Scrooge went to bed again, and thought, and thought, and thought
it over and over and over, and could make nothing of it. The more he
thought, the more perplexed he was; and the more he endeavoured
not to think, the more he thought.

Marley’s Ghost bothered him exceedingly. Every time he resolved
within himself, after mature inquiry, that it was all a dream, his
mind flew back again, like a strong spring released, to its first
position, and presented the same problem to be worked all through,
“Was it a dream or not?”

Scrooge lay in this state until the chime had gone three quarters
more, when he remembered, on a sudden, that the Ghost had warned
him of a visitation when the bell tolled one. He resolved to lie
awake until the hour was passed; and, considering that he could
no more go to sleep than go to Heaven, this was perhaps the
wisest resolution in his power.

The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he
must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock.
At length it broke upon his listening ear.

“Ding, dong!”

“A quarter past,” said Scrooge, counting.

“Ding, dong!”

“Half-past!” said Scrooge.

“Ding, dong!”

“A quarter to it,” said Scrooge.

“Ding, dong!”

“The hour itself,” said Scrooge, triumphantly, “and nothing else!”

He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a
deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE. Light flashed up in the room
upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a
hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his
back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains
of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a
half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the
unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now
to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.

It was a strange figure–like a child: yet not so like a
child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural
medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded
from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions.
Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was
white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in
it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were
very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold
were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately
formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic
of the purest white; and round its waist was bound
a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held
a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular
contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed
with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was,
that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear
jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was
doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a
great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.

Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing
steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt
sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another,
and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so
the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a
thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs,
now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a
body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible
in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the
very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and
clear as ever.

“Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to
me?” asked Scrooge.

“I am!”

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if
instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish
stature.

“No. Your past.”

Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if
anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire
to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered.

“What!” exclaimed the Ghost, “would you so soon put out,
with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough
that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and
force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon
my brow!”

Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend
or any knowledge of having wilfully “bonneted” the Spirit at
any period of his life. He then made bold to inquire what
business brought him there.

“Your welfare!” said the Ghost.

Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not
help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been
more conducive to that end. The Spirit must have heard
him thinking, for it said immediately:

“Your reclamation, then. Take heed!”

It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him
gently by the arm.

“Rise! and walk with me!”

It would have been in vain for Scrooge to plead that the
weather and the hour were not adapted to pedestrian purposes;
that bed was warm, and the thermometer a long way below
freezing; that he was clad but lightly in his slippers,
dressing-gown, and nightcap; and that he had a cold upon him at
that time. The grasp, though gentle as a woman’s hand,
was not to be resisted. He rose: but finding that the Spirit
made towards the window, clasped his robe in supplication.

“I am a mortal,” Scrooge remonstrated, “and liable to fall.”

“Bear but a touch of my hand there,” said the Spirit,
laying it upon his heart, “and you shall be upheld in more
than this!”

As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall,
and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either
hand. The city had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it
was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished
with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon
the ground.

“Good Heaven!” said Scrooge, clasping his hands together,
as he looked about him. “I was bred in this place. I was
a boy here!”

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch,
though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still
present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious
of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected
with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares
long, long, forgotten!

“Your lip is trembling,” said the Ghost. “And what is
that upon your cheek?”

Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice,
that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him
where he would.

“You recollect the way?” inquired the Spirit.

“Remember it!” cried Scrooge with fervour; “I could
walk it blindfold.”

“Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!” observed
the Ghost. “Let us go on.”

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every
gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared
in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river.
Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them
with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in
country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys
were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the
broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air
laughed to hear it!

“These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said
the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.”

The jocund travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge
knew and named them every one. Why was he rejoiced beyond
all bounds to see them! Why did his cold eye glisten, and
his heart leap up as they went past! Why was he filled
with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry
Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads and bye-ways, for
their several homes! What was merry Christmas to Scrooge?
Out upon merry Christmas! What good had it ever done
to him?

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A
solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”

Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and
soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little
weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell
hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken
fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls
were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their
gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables;
and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass.
Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for
entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open
doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished,
cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a
chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow
with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too
much to eat.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a
door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and
disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by
lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely
boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down
upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he
used to be.

Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle
from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the
half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among
the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle
swinging of an empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in
the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a softening
influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his
younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in
foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at:
stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and
leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.

“Why, it’s Ali Baba!” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It’s
dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas
time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone,
he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And
Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there
they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his
drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him!
And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii;
there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I’m glad of it.
What business had he to be married to the Princess!”

To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature
on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between
laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited
face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in
the city, indeed.

“There’s the Parrot!” cried Scrooge. “Green body and
yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the
top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called
him, when he came home again after sailing round the
island. ‘Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin
Crusoe?’ The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t.
It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running
for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Halloo!”

Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his
usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor
boy!” and cried again.

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his
pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his
cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy
singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should
like to have given him something: that’s all.”

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand:
saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas!”

Scrooge’s former self grew larger at the words, and the
room became a little darker and more dirty. The panels shrunk,
the windows cracked; fragments of plaster fell out of the
ceiling, and the naked laths were shown instead; but how
all this was brought about, Scrooge knew no more than you
do. He only knew that it was quite correct; that everything
had happened so; that there he was, alone again, when all
the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays.

He was not reading now, but walking up and down despairingly.
Scrooge looked at the Ghost, and with a mournful shaking of
his head, glanced anxiously towards the door.

It opened; and a little girl, much younger than the boy,
came darting in, and putting her arms about his neck, and
often kissing him, addressed him as her “Dear, dear
brother.”

“I have come to bring you home, dear brother!” said the
child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh.
“To bring you home, home, home!”

“Home, little Fan?” returned the boy.

“Yes!” said the child, brimful of glee. “Home, for good
and all. Home, for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder
than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven! He spoke so
gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that
I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come
home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach
to bring you. And you’re to be a man!” said the child,
opening her eyes, “and are never to come back here; but
first, we’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have
the merriest time in all the world.”

“You are quite a woman, little Fan!” exclaimed the boy.

She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his
head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on
tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her
childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to
go, accompanied her.

A terrible voice in the hall cried, “Bring down Master
Scrooge’s box, there!” and in the hall appeared the schoolmaster
himself, who glared on Master Scrooge with a ferocious
condescension, and threw him into a dreadful state of mind
by shaking hands with him. He then conveyed him and his
sister into the veriest old well of a shivering best-parlour that
ever was seen, where the maps upon the wall, and the celestial
and terrestrial globes in the windows, were waxy with cold.
Here he produced a decanter of curiously light wine, and a
block of curiously heavy cake, and administered instalments
of those dainties to the young people: at the same time,
sending out a meagre servant to offer a glass of “something”
to the postboy, who answered that he thanked the gentleman,
but if it was the same tap as he had tasted before, he had
rather not. Master Scrooge’s trunk being by this time tied
on to the top of the chaise, the children bade the schoolmaster
good-bye right willingly; and getting into it, drove
gaily down the garden-sweep: the quick wheels dashing the
hoar-frost and snow from off the dark leaves of the evergreens
like spray.

“Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have
withered,” said the Ghost. “But she had a large heart!”

“So she had,” cried Scrooge. “You’re right. I will not
gainsay it, Spirit. God forbid!”

“She died a woman,” said the Ghost, “and had, as I think,
children.”

“One child,” Scrooge returned.

“True,” said the Ghost. “Your nephew!”

Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly,
“Yes.”

Although they had but that moment left the school behind
them, they were now in the busy thoroughfares of a city,
where shadowy passengers passed and repassed; where shadowy
carts and coaches battled for the way, and all the strife and
tumult of a real city were. It was made plain enough, by
the dressing of the shops, that here too it was Christmas
time again; but it was evening, and the streets were
lighted up.

The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked
Scrooge if he knew it.

“Know it!” said Scrooge. “Was I apprenticed here!”

They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh
wig, sitting behind such a high desk, that if he had been two
inches taller he must have knocked his head against the
ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement:

“Why, it’s old Fezziwig! Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig
alive again!”

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the
clock, which pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his
hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat; laughed all over
himself, from his shoes to his organ of benevolence; and
called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice:

“Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!”

Scrooge’s former self, now grown a young man, came briskly
in, accompanied by his fellow-’prentice.

“Dick Wilkins, to be sure!” said Scrooge to the Ghost.
“Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached
to me, was Dick. Poor Dick! Dear, dear!”

“Yo ho, my boys!” said Fezziwig. “No more work to-night.
Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Let’s
have the shutters up,” cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap
of his hands, “before a man can say Jack Robinson!”

You wouldn’t believe how those two fellows went at it!
They charged into the street with the shutters–one, two,
three–had ‘em up in their places–four, five, six–barred
‘em and pinned ‘em–seven, eight, nine–and came back
before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

“Hilli-ho!” cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the
high desk, with wonderful agility. “Clear away, my lads,
and let’s have lots of room here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup,
Ebenezer!”

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn’t have cleared
away, or couldn’t have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking
on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if
it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was
swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon
the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and
bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter’s
night.

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the
lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty
stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial
smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and
lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they
broke. In came all the young men and women employed in
the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the
baker. In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend,
the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was
suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying
to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who
was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress.
In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly,
some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling;
in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went,
twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again
the other way; down the middle and up again; round
and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old
top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top
couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top
couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them! When
this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his
hands to stop the dance, cried out, “Well done!” and the
fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially
provided for that purpose. But scorning rest, upon his
reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no
dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home,
exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man
resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.

cc helquist 3

A Christmas Carol by Dickens 2.

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual
melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and
beguiled the rest of the evening with his
banker’s-book, went home to bed. He lived in
chambers which had once belonged to his deceased
partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a
lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so
little business to be, that one could scarcely help
fancying it must have run there when it was a young
house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses,
and forgotten the way out again. It was old enough
now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but
Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices.
The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew
its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands.
The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway
of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of
the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the
threshold.

Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all
particular about the knocker on the door, except that it
was very large. It is also a fact, that Scrooge had
seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence
in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what
is called fancy about him as any man in the city of
London, even including–which is a bold word–the
corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it also be
borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one
thought on Marley, since his last mention of his
seven years’ dead partner that afternoon. And then
let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened
that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door,
saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate
process of change–not a knocker, but Marley’s face.

Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow
as the other objects in the yard were, but had a
dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark
cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked
at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly
spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The
hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air;
and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly
motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it
horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the
face and beyond its control, rather than a part of
its own expression.

As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it
was a knocker again.

To say that he was not startled, or that his blood
was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it
had been a stranger from infancy, would be untrue.
But he put his hand upon the key he had relinquished,
turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle.

He did pause, with a moment’s irresolution, before
he shut the door; and he did look cautiously behind
it first, as if he half expected to be terrified with the
sight of Marley’s pigtail sticking out into the hall.
But there was nothing on the back of the door, except
the screws and nuts that held the knocker on, so he
said “Pooh, pooh!” and closed it with a bang.

The sound resounded through the house like thunder.
Every room above, and every cask in the wine-merchant’s
cellars below, appeared to have a separate peal
of echoes of its own. Scrooge was not a man to
be frightened by echoes. He fastened the door, and
walked across the hall, and up the stairs; slowly too:
trimming his candle as he went.

You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six
up a good old flight of stairs, or through a bad
young Act of Parliament; but I mean to say you
might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken
it broadwise, with the splinter-bar towards the wall
and the door towards the balustrades: and done it
easy. There was plenty of width for that, and room
to spare; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge
thought he saw a locomotive hearse going on before
him in the gloom. Half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of
the street wouldn’t have lighted the entry too well,
so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with
Scrooge’s dip.

Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that.
Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. But before
he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms
to see that all was right. He had just enough recollection
of the face to desire to do that.

Sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room. All as they
should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under
the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin
ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge had
a cold in his head) upon the hob. Nobody under the
bed; nobody in the closet; nobody in his dressing-gown,
which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude
against the wall. Lumber-room as usual. Old fire-guard,
old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing-stand on three
legs, and a poker.

Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked
himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his
custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off
his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and
his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take
his gruel.

It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a
bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it, and
brood over it, before he could extract the least
sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel.
The fireplace was an old one, built by some Dutch
merchant long ago, and paved all round with quaint
Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures.
There were Cains and Abels, Pharaoh’s daughters;
Queens of Sheba, Angelic messengers descending
through the air on clouds like feather-beds, Abrahams,
Belshazzars, Apostles putting off to sea in butter-boats,
hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts;
and yet that face of Marley, seven years dead, came
like the ancient Prophet’s rod, and swallowed up the
whole. If each smooth tile had been a blank at first,
with power to shape some picture on its surface from
the disjointed fragments of his thoughts, there would
have been a copy of old Marley’s head on every one.

“Humbug!” said Scrooge; and walked across the
room.

After several turns, he sat down again. As he
threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened
to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the
room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten
with a chamber in the highest story of the
building. It was with great astonishment, and with
a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he
saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in
the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it
rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute,
but it seemed an hour. The bells ceased as they had
begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking
noise, deep down below; as if some person were
dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the
wine-merchant’s cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have
heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as
dragging chains.

The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound,
and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors
below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight
towards his door.

“It’s humbug still!” said Scrooge. “I won’t believe it.”

His colour changed though, when, without a pause,
it came on through the heavy door, and passed into
the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the
dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, “I know
him; Marley’s Ghost!” and fell again.

The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail,
usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on
the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts,
and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was
clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound
about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge
observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks,
ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.
His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him,
and looking through his waistcoat, could see
the two buttons on his coat behind.

Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no
bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he
looked the phantom through and through, and saw
it standing before him; though he felt the chilling
influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very
texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head
and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before;
he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.

“How now!” said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever.
“What do you want with me?”

“Much!”–Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.

“Who are you?”

“Ask me who I was.”

“Who were you then?” said Scrooge, raising his
voice. “You’re particular, for a shade.” He was going
to say “to a shade,” but substituted this, as more
appropriate.

“In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”

“Can you–can you sit down?” asked Scrooge, looking
doubtfully at him.

“I can.”

“Do it, then.”

Scrooge asked the question, because he didn’t know
whether a ghost so transparent might find himself in
a condition to take a chair; and felt that in the event
of its being impossible, it might involve the necessity
of an embarrassing explanation. But the ghost sat
down on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he
were quite used to it.

“You don’t believe in me,” observed the Ghost.

“I don’t,” said Scrooge.

“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of
your senses?”

“I don’t know,” said Scrooge.

“Why do you doubt your senses?”

“Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them.
A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may
be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of
cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of
gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking
jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means
waggish then. The truth is, that he tried to be
smart, as a means of distracting his own attention,
and keeping down his terror; for the spectre’s voice
disturbed the very marrow in his bones.

To sit, staring at those fixed glazed eyes, in silence
for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very
deuce with him. There was something very awful,
too, in the spectre’s being provided with an infernal
atmosphere of its own. Scrooge could not feel it
himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the
Ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts,
and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour
from an oven.

“You see this toothpick?” said Scrooge, returning
quickly to the charge, for the reason just assigned;
and wishing, though it were only for a second, to
divert the vision’s stony gaze from himself.

“I do,” replied the Ghost.

“You are not looking at it,” said Scrooge.

“But I see it,” said the Ghost, “notwithstanding.”

“Well!” returned Scrooge, “I have but to swallow
this, and be for the rest of my days persecuted by a
legion of goblins, all of my own creation. Humbug,
I tell you! humbug!”

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook
its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that
Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself
from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was
his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage
round its head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors,
its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!

Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands
before his face.

“Mercy!” he said. “Dreadful apparition, why do
you trouble me?”

“Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do
you believe in me or not?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “I must. But why do spirits
walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned,
“that the spirit within him should walk abroad among
his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that
spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so
after death. It is doomed to wander through the
world–oh, woe is me!–and witness what it cannot
share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to
happiness!”

Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain
and wrung its shadowy hands.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell
me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost.
“I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded
it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I
wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”

Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the
weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself?
It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven
Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since.
It is a ponderous chain!”

Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the
expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty
or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see
nothing.

“Jacob,” he said, imploringly. “Old Jacob Marley,
tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”

“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied. “It comes
from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed
by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor
can I tell you what I would. A very little more is
all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I
cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked
beyond our counting-house–mark me!–in life my
spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our
money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before
me!”

It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became
thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets.
Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now,
but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his
knees.

“You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,”
Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though
with humility and deference.

“Slow!” the Ghost repeated.

“Seven years dead,” mused Scrooge. “And travelling
all the time!”

“The whole time,” said the Ghost. “No rest, no
peace. Incessant torture of remorse.”

“You travel fast?” said Scrooge.

“On the wings of the wind,” replied the Ghost.

“You might have got over a great quantity of
ground in seven years,” said Scrooge.

The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and
clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of
the night, that the Ward would have been justified in
indicting it for a nuisance.

“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the
phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour
by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into
eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is
all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit
working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may
be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast
means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of
regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity
misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”

“But you were always a good man of business,
Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this
to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands
again. “Mankind was my business. The common
welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance,
and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings
of my trade were but a drop of water in the
comprehensive ocean of my business!”

It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were
the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it
heavily upon the ground again.

“At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said,
“I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of
fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never
raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise
Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to
which its light would have conducted me!”

Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the
spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake
exceedingly.

“Hear me!” cried the Ghost. “My time is nearly
gone.”

“I will,” said Scrooge. “But don’t be hard upon
me! Don’t be flowery, Jacob! Pray!”

“How it is that I appear before you in a shape that
you can see, I may not tell. I have sat invisible
beside you many and many a day.”

It was not an agreeable idea. Scrooge shivered,
and wiped the perspiration from his brow.

“That is no light part of my penance,” pursued
the Ghost. “I am here to-night to warn you, that you
have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A
chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.”

“You were always a good friend to me,” said
Scrooge. “Thank’ee!”

“You will be haunted,” resumed the Ghost, “by
Three Spirits.”

Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the
Ghost’s had done.

“Is that the chance and hope you mentioned,
Jacob?” he demanded, in a faltering voice.

“It is.”

“I–I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.

“Without their visits,” said the Ghost, “you cannot
hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first to-morrow,
when the bell tolls One.”

“Couldn’t I take ‘em all at once, and have it over,
Jacob?” hinted Scrooge.

“Expect the second on the next night at the same
hour. The third upon the next night when the last
stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see
me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you
remember what has passed between us!”

When it had said these words, the spectre took its
wrapper from the table, and bound it round its head,
as before. Scrooge knew this, by the smart sound its
teeth made, when the jaws were brought together
by the bandage. He ventured to raise his eyes again,
and found his supernatural visitor confronting him
in an erect attitude, with its chain wound over and
about its arm.

The apparition walked backward from him; and at
every step it took, the window raised itself a little,
so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open.

It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did.
When they were within two paces of each other,
Marley’s Ghost held up its hand, warning him to
come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.

Not so much in obedience, as in surprise and fear:
for on the raising of the hand, he became sensible
of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of
lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and
self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment,
joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the
bleak, dark night.

A_Christmas_Carol_-_Scrooge_and_Bob_Cratchit

A Christmas Carol by Dickens

PREFACE

I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book,
to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my
readers out of humour with themselves, with each other,
with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses
pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,
C. D.
December, 1843.

CONTENTS

Stave I: Marley’s Ghost
Stave II: The First of the Three Spirits
Stave III: The Second of the Three Spirits
Stave IV: The Last of the Spirits
Stave V: The End of It

STAVE I: MARLEY’S GHOST

MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt
whatever about that. The register of his burial was
signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker,
and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and
Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he
chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a
door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my
own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about
a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to
regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery
in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors
is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands
shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You
will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that
Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did.
How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were
partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge
was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole
assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and
sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully
cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent
man of business on the very day of the funeral,
and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to
the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley
was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or
nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going
to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that
Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there
would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a
stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts,
than there would be in any other middle-aged
gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy
spot–say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance–
literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name.
There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse
door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as
Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the
business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley,
but he answered to both names. It was all the
same to him.

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone,
Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping,
clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint,
from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire;
secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The
cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed
nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his
eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his
grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his
eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low
temperature always about with him; he iced his office in
the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on
Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather
chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he,
no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no
pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t
know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and
snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage
over him in only one respect. They often “came down”
handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with
gladsome looks, “My dear Scrooge, how are you?
When will you come to see me?” No beggars implored
him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him
what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all
his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of
Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to
know him; and when they saw him coming on, would
tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and
then would wag their tails as though they said, “No
eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing
he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths
of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance,
was what the knowing ones call “nuts” to Scrooge.

Once upon a time–of all the good days in the year,
on Christmas Eve–old Scrooge sat busy in his
counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy
withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside,
go wheezing up and down, beating their hands
upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the
pavement stones to warm them. The city clocks had
only just gone three, but it was quite dark already–
it had not been light all day–and candles were flaring
in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like
ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog
came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was
so dense without, that although the court was of the
narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms.
To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring
everything, one might have thought that Nature
lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open
that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a
dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying
letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s
fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one
coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept
the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the
clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted
that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore
the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to
warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being
a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried
a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s
nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was
the first intimation he had of his approach.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the
fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was
all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his
eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s
nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What
right have you to be merry? What reason have you
to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What
right have you to be dismal? What reason have you
to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur
of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up
with “Humbug.”

“Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.

“What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I
live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas!
Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas
time to you but a time for paying bills without
money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but
not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books
and having every item in ‘em through a round dozen
of months presented dead against you? If I could
work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot
who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips,
should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried
with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

“Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas
in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”

“Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you
don’t keep it.”

“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much
good may it do you! Much good it has ever done
you!”

“There are many things from which I might have
derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare
say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the
rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas
time, when it has come round–apart from the
veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything
belonging to it can be apart from that–as a
good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant
time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar
of the year, when men and women seem by one consent
to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think
of people below them as if they really were
fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race
of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore,
uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or
silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me
good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

The clerk in the Tank involuntarily applauded.
Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety,
he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark
for ever.

“Let me hear another sound from you,” said
Scrooge, “and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing
your situation! You’re quite a powerful speaker,
sir,” he added, turning to his nephew. “I wonder you
don’t go into Parliament.”

“Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us to-morrow.”

Scrooge said that he would see him–yes, indeed he
did. He went the whole length of the expression,
and said that he would see him in that extremity first.

“But why?” cried Scrooge’s nephew. “Why?”

“Why did you get married?” said Scrooge.

“Because I fell in love.”

“Because you fell in love!” growled Scrooge, as if
that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous
than a merry Christmas. “Good afternoon!”

“Nay, uncle, but you never came to see me before
that happened. Why give it as a reason for not
coming now?”

“Good afternoon,” said Scrooge.

“I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you;
why cannot we be friends?”

“Good afternoon,” said Scrooge.

“I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so
resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I
have been a party. But I have made the trial in
homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas
humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!”

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge.

“And A Happy New Year!”

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge.

His nephew left the room without an angry word,
notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to
bestow the greetings of the season on the clerk, who,
cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned
them cordially.

“There’s another fellow,” muttered Scrooge; who
overheard him: “my clerk, with fifteen shillings a
week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry
Christmas. I’ll retire to Bedlam.”

This lunatic, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had
let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen,
pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off,
in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in
their hands, and bowed to him.

“Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,” said one of the
gentlemen, referring to his list. “Have I the pleasure
of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?”

“Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,”
Scrooge replied. “He died seven years ago, this very
night.”

“We have no doubt his liberality is well represented
by his surviving partner,” said the gentleman, presenting
his credentials.

It certainly was; for they had been two kindred
spirits. At the ominous word “liberality,” Scrooge
frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials
back.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,”
said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than
usually desirable that we should make some slight
provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer
greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in
want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands
are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down
the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge.
“Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish
I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour,
then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first,
that something had occurred to stop them in their
useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to
hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish
Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,”
returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring
to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink,
and means of warmth. We choose this time, because
it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt,
and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down
for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you
ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.
I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t
afford to make idle people merry. I help to support
the establishments I have mentioned–they cost
enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had
better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
Besides–excuse me–I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s
enough for a man to understand his own business, and
not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies
me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue
their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed
his labours with an improved opinion of himself,
and in a more facetious temper than was usual
with him.

Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that
people ran about with flaring links, proffering their
services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct
them on their way. The ancient tower of a church,
whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down
at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became
invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the
clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if
its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there.
The cold became intense. In the main street, at the
corner of the court, some labourers were repairing
the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier,
round which a party of ragged men and boys were
gathered: warming their hands and winking their
eyes before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug
being left in solitude, its overflowings sullenly congealed,
and turned to misanthropic ice. The brightness
of the shops where holly sprigs and berries
crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale
faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers’ and grocers’
trades became a splendid joke: a glorious pageant,
with which it was next to impossible to believe that
such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything
to do. The Lord Mayor, in the stronghold of the
mighty Mansion House, gave orders to his fifty cooks
and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor’s
household should; and even the little tailor, whom he
had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for
being drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up
to-morrow’s pudding in his garret, while his lean
wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef.

Foggier yet, and colder. Piercing, searching, biting
cold. If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped
the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather
as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then
indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The
owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled
by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs,
stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with
a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

“God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!”

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action,
that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to
the fog and even more congenial frost.

At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house
arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his
stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant
clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out,
and put on his hat.

“You’ll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?” said
Scrooge.

“If quite convenient, sir.”

“It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not
fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d
think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?”

The clerk smiled faintly.

“And yet,” said Scrooge, “you don’t think me ill-used,
when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every
twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning
his great-coat to the chin. “But I suppose you must
have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next
morning.”

The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge
walked out with a growl. The office was closed in a
twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his
white comforter dangling below his waist (for he
boasted no great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill,
at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in
honour of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home
to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play
at blindman’s-buff.

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