Text of A Christmas Carol by Dickens

A Ghost Story of Christmas

by Charles Dickens

First published on December 19, 1843 with illustrations by John Leech.


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.

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.

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.

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
a stagger.

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
Christmas Past.

“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.

“Am I?”

“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
not.”

“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
once were.”

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
value.

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?”

“Guess!”

“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
made nervous.

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
obeyed.

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
the Spirit.

“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?”
asked Scrooge.

“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
enjoyment.”

“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
peeled.

“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
spoke.

“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,
hide!”

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
round.

“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
men see.”

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.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should
break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got
over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they
were merry with the goose–a supposition at which the two
young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were
supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of
the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the
cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next
door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that!
That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit
entered–flushed, but smiling proudly–with the pudding,
like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half
of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with
Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly
too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by
Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that
now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had
had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had
something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it
was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have
been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed
to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the
hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the
jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges
were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the
fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in
what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and
at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass.
Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as
golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with
beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and
cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

“A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”

Which all the family re-echoed.

“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little
stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he
loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and
dreaded that he might be taken from him.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt
before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor
chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully
preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future,
the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he
will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none
other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here.
What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and
decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by
the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not
adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered
What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what
men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the
sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live
than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear
the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life
among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

Scrooge bent before the Ghost’s rebuke, and trembling cast
his eyes upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on
hearing his own name.

“Mr. Scrooge!” said Bob; “I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge, the
Founder of the Feast!”

“The Founder of the Feast indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit,
reddening. “I wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece
of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he’d have a good
appetite for it.”

“My dear,” said Bob, “the children! Christmas Day.”

“It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,” said she, “on
which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard,
unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge. You know he is, Robert!
Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow!”

“My dear,” was Bob’s mild answer, “Christmas Day.”

“I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’s,” said
Mrs. Cratchit, “not for his. Long life to him! A merry
Christmas and a happy new year! He’ll be very merry and
very happy, I have no doubt!”

The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of
their proceedings which had no heartiness. Tiny Tim drank
it last of all, but he didn’t care twopence for it. Scrooge
was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast
a dark shadow on the party, which was not dispelled for full
five minutes.

After it had passed away, they were ten times merrier than
before, from the mere relief of Scrooge the Baleful being done
with. Bob Cratchit told them how he had a situation in his
eye for Master Peter, which would bring in, if obtained, full
five-and-sixpence weekly. The two young Cratchits laughed
tremendously at the idea of Peter’s being a man of business;
and Peter himself looked thoughtfully at the fire from
between his collars, as if he were deliberating what particular
investments he should favour when he came into the receipt
of that bewildering income. Martha, who was a poor
apprentice at a milliner’s, then told them what kind of work
she had to do, and how many hours she worked at a stretch,
and how she meant to lie abed to-morrow morning for a
good long rest; to-morrow being a holiday she passed at
home. Also how she had seen a countess and a lord some
days before, and how the lord “was much about as tall as
Peter;” at which Peter pulled up his collars so high that you
couldn’t have seen his head if you had been there. All this
time the chestnuts and the jug went round and round; and
by-and-bye they had a song, about a lost child travelling in
the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a plaintive little voice,
and sang it very well indeed.

There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not
a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes
were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty;
and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside
of a pawnbroker’s. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased
with one another, and contented with the time; and when
they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings
of the Spirit’s torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon
them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

By this time it was getting dark, and snowing pretty
heavily; and as Scrooge and the Spirit went along the streets,
the brightness of the roaring fires in kitchens, parlours, and
all sorts of rooms, was wonderful. Here, the flickering of
the blaze showed preparations for a cosy dinner, with hot
plates baking through and through before the fire, and deep
red curtains, ready to be drawn to shut out cold and darkness.
There all the children of the house were running out
into the snow to meet their married sisters, brothers, cousins,
uncles, aunts, and be the first to greet them. Here, again,
were shadows on the window-blind of guests assembling; and
there a group of handsome girls, all hooded and fur-booted,
and all chattering at once, tripped lightly off to some near
neighbour’s house; where, woe upon the single man who saw
them enter–artful witches, well they knew it–in a glow!

But, if you had judged from the numbers of people on
their way to friendly gatherings, you might have thought
that no one was at home to give them welcome when they
got there, instead of every house expecting company, and
piling up its fires half-chimney high. Blessings on it, how
the Ghost exulted! How it bared its breadth of breast, and
opened its capacious palm, and floated on, outpouring, with
a generous hand, its bright and harmless mirth on everything
within its reach! The very lamplighter, who ran on before,
dotting the dusky street with specks of light, and who was
dressed to spend the evening somewhere, laughed out loudly
as the Spirit passed, though little kenned the lamplighter
that he had any company but Christmas!

And now, without a word of warning from the Ghost, they
stood upon a bleak and desert moor, where monstrous masses
of rude stone were cast about, as though it were the burial-place
of giants; and water spread itself wheresoever it listed,
or would have done so, but for the frost that held it prisoner;
and nothing grew but moss and furze, and coarse rank grass.
Down in the west the setting sun had left a streak of fiery
red, which glared upon the desolation for an instant, like a
sullen eye, and frowning lower, lower, lower yet, was lost in
the thick gloom of darkest night.

“What place is this?” asked Scrooge.

“A place where Miners live, who labour in the bowels of
the earth,” returned the Spirit. “But they know me. See!”

A light shone from the window of a hut, and swiftly they
advanced towards it. Passing through the wall of mud and
stone, they found a cheerful company assembled round a
glowing fire. An old, old man and woman, with their
children and their children’s children, and another generation
beyond that, all decked out gaily in their holiday attire.
The old man, in a voice that seldom rose above the howling
of the wind upon the barren waste, was singing them a
Christmas song–it had been a very old song when he was a
boy–and from time to time they all joined in the chorus.
So surely as they raised their voices, the old man got quite
blithe and loud; and so surely as they stopped, his vigour
sank again.

The Spirit did not tarry here, but bade Scrooge hold his
robe, and passing on above the moor, sped–whither? Not
to sea? To sea. To Scrooge’s horror, looking back, he saw
the last of the land, a frightful range of rocks, behind them;
and his ears were deafened by the thundering of water, as it
rolled and roared, and raged among the dreadful caverns it
had worn, and fiercely tried to undermine the earth.

Built upon a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league
or so from shore, on which the waters chafed and dashed,
the wild year through, there stood a solitary lighthouse.
Great heaps of sea-weed clung to its base, and storm-birds
–born of the wind one might suppose, as sea-weed of the
water–rose and fell about it, like the waves they skimmed.

But even here, two men who watched the light had made
a fire, that through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed
out a ray of brightness on the awful sea. Joining their
horny hands over the rough table at which they sat, they
wished each other Merry Christmas in their can of grog; and
one of them: the elder, too, with his face all damaged and
scarred with hard weather, as the figure-head of an old ship
might be: struck up a sturdy song that was like a Gale in
itself.

Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea
–on, on–until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any
shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman
at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who
had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations;
but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or
had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his
companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward
hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or
sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another
on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared
to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those
he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted
to remember him.

It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the
moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it
was to move on through the lonely darkness over an unknown
abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death: it
was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear
a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge
to recognise it as his own nephew’s and to find himself in a
bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling
by his side, and looking at that same nephew with approving
affability!

“Ha, ha!” laughed Scrooge’s nephew. “Ha, ha, ha!”

If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a
man more blest in a laugh than Scrooge’s nephew, all I can
say is, I should like to know him too. Introduce him to me,
and I’ll cultivate his acquaintance.

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that
while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing
in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and
good-humour. When Scrooge’s nephew laughed in this way: holding
his sides, rolling his head, and twisting his face into the
most extravagant contortions: Scrooge’s niece, by marriage,
laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being
not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily.

“Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha!”

“He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live!” cried
Scrooge’s nephew. “He believed it too!”

“More shame for him, Fred!” said Scrooge’s niece,
indignantly. Bless those women; they never do anything by
halves. They are always in earnest.

She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled,
surprised-looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that
seemed made to be kissed–as no doubt it was; all kinds of
good little dots about her chin, that melted into one another
when she laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever
saw in any little creature’s head. Altogether she was what
you would have called provoking, you know; but satisfactory, too.
Oh, perfectly satisfactory.

“He’s a comical old fellow,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “that’s
the truth: and not so pleasant as he might be. However,
his offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing
to say against him.”

“I’m sure he is very rich, Fred,” hinted Scrooge’s niece.
“At least you always tell me so.”

“What of that, my dear!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “His
wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it.
He don’t make himself comfortable with it. He hasn’t the
satisfaction of thinking–ha, ha, ha!–that he is ever going
to benefit US with it.”

“I have no patience with him,” observed Scrooge’s niece.
Scrooge’s niece’s sisters, and all the other ladies, expressed
the same opinion.

“Oh, I have!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “I am sorry for
him; I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers
by his ill whims! Himself, always. Here, he takes it into
his head to dislike us, and he won’t come and dine with us.
What’s the consequence? He don’t lose much of a dinner.”

“Indeed, I think he loses a very good dinner,” interrupted
Scrooge’s niece. Everybody else said the same, and they
must be allowed to have been competent judges, because
they had just had dinner; and, with the dessert upon the
table, were clustered round the fire, by lamplight.

“Well! I’m very glad to hear it,” said Scrooge’s nephew,
“because I haven’t great faith in these young housekeepers.
What do you say, Topper?”

Topper had clearly got his eye upon one of Scrooge’s niece’s
sisters, for he answered that a bachelor was a wretched outcast,
who had no right to express an opinion on the subject.
Whereat Scrooge’s niece’s sister–the plump one with the lace
tucker: not the one with the roses–blushed.

“Do go on, Fred,” said Scrooge’s niece, clapping her hands.
“He never finishes what he begins to say! He is such a
ridiculous fellow!”

Scrooge’s nephew revelled in another laugh, and as it was
impossible to keep the infection off; though the plump sister
tried hard to do it with aromatic vinegar; his example was
unanimously followed.

“I was only going to say,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “that
the consequence of his taking a dislike to us, and not making
merry with us, is, as I think, that he loses some pleasant
moments, which could do him no harm. I am sure he loses
pleasanter companions than he can find in his own thoughts,
either in his mouldy old office, or his dusty chambers. I
mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he
likes it or not, for I pity him. He may rail at Christmas
till he dies, but he can’t help thinking better of it–I defy
him–if he finds me going there, in good temper, year after
year, and saying Uncle Scrooge, how are you? If it only
puts him in the vein to leave his poor clerk fifty pounds,
that’s something; and I think I shook him yesterday.”

It was their turn to laugh now at the notion of his shaking
Scrooge. But being thoroughly good-natured, and not much
caring what they laughed at, so that they laughed at any
rate, he encouraged them in their merriment, and passed the
bottle joyously.

After tea, they had some music. For they were a musical
family, and knew what they were about, when they sung a
Glee or Catch, I can assure you: especially Topper, who
could growl away in the bass like a good one, and never
swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the face
over it. Scrooge’s niece played well upon the harp; and
played among other tunes a simple little air (a mere nothing:
you might learn to whistle it in two minutes), which had
been familiar to the child who fetched Scrooge from the
boarding-school, as he had been reminded by the Ghost of
Christmas Past. When this strain of music sounded, all the
things that Ghost had shown him, came upon his mind; he
softened more and more; and thought that if he could have
listened to it often, years ago, he might have cultivated the
kindnesses of life for his own happiness with his own hands,
without resorting to the sexton’s spade that buried Jacob
Marley.

But they didn’t devote the whole evening to music. After
a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children
sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its
mighty Founder was a child himself. Stop! There was first
a game at blind-man’s buff. Of course there was. And I
no more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he
had eyes in his boots. My opinion is, that it was a done
thing between him and Scrooge’s nephew; and that the
Ghost of Christmas Present knew it. The way he went after
that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the
credulity of human nature. Knocking down the fire-irons,
tumbling over the chairs, bumping against the piano,
smothering himself among the curtains, wherever she went,
there went he! He always knew where the plump sister was.
He wouldn’t catch anybody else. If you had fallen up
against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he would
have made a feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would
have been an affront to your understanding, and would instantly
have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister.
She often cried out that it wasn’t fair; and it really was not.
But when at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her
silken rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got
her into a corner whence there was no escape; then his
conduct was the most execrable. For his pretending not to
know her; his pretending that it was necessary to touch her
head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by
pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain
about her neck; was vile, monstrous! No doubt she told
him her opinion of it, when, another blind-man being in
office, they were so very confidential together, behind the
curtains.

Scrooge’s niece was not one of the blind-man’s buff party,
but was made comfortable with a large chair and a footstool,
in a snug corner, where the Ghost and Scrooge were close
behind her. But she joined in the forfeits, and loved her
love to admiration with all the letters of the alphabet.
Likewise at the game of How, When, and Where, she was
very great, and to the secret joy of Scrooge’s nephew, beat
her sisters hollow: though they were sharp girls too, as Topper
could have told you. There might have been twenty people there,
young and old, but they all played, and so did Scrooge; for
wholly forgetting in the interest he had in what was going on, that
his voice made no sound in their ears, he sometimes came out with
his guess quite loud, and very often guessed quite right, too;
for the sharpest needle, best Whitechapel, warranted not to cut
in the eye, was not sharper than Scrooge; blunt as he took it in
his head to be.

The Ghost was greatly pleased to find him in this mood,
and looked upon him with such favour, that he begged like
a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed. But
this the Spirit said could not be done.

“Here is a new game,” said Scrooge. “One half hour,
Spirit, only one!”

It was a Game called Yes and No, where Scrooge’s nephew
had to think of something, and the rest must find out what;
he only answering to their questions yes or no, as the case
was. The brisk fire of questioning to which he was exposed,
elicited from him that he was thinking of an animal, a live
animal, rather a disagreeable animal, a savage animal, an
animal that growled and grunted sometimes, and talked sometimes,
and lived in London, and walked about the streets,
and wasn’t made a show of, and wasn’t led by anybody, and
didn’t live in a menagerie, and was never killed in a market,
and was not a horse, or an ass, or a cow, or a bull, or a
tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear. At every fresh
question that was put to him, this nephew burst into a
fresh roar of laughter; and was so inexpressibly tickled, that
he was obliged to get up off the sofa and stamp. At last
the plump sister, falling into a similar state, cried out:

“I have found it out! I know what it is, Fred! I know
what it is!”

“What is it?” cried Fred.

“It’s your Uncle Scro-o-o-o-oge!”

Which it certainly was. Admiration was the universal
sentiment, though some objected that the reply to “Is it a
bear?” ought to have been “Yes;” inasmuch as an answer
in the negative was sufficient to have diverted their thoughts
from Mr. Scrooge, supposing they had ever had any tendency
that way.

“He has given us plenty of merriment, I am sure,” said
Fred, “and it would be ungrateful not to drink his health.
Here is a glass of mulled wine ready to our hand at the
moment; and I say, ‘Uncle Scrooge!’”

“Well! Uncle Scrooge!” they cried.

“A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old
man, whatever he is!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “He wouldn’t
take it from me, but may he have it, nevertheless. Uncle
Scrooge!”

Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light
of heart, that he would have pledged the unconscious
company in return, and thanked them in an inaudible speech,
if the Ghost had given him time. But the whole scene
passed off in the breath of the last word spoken by his
nephew; and he and the Spirit were again upon their travels.

Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they
visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood
beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands,
and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they
were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was
rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery’s every
refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not
made fast the door, and barred the Spirit out, he left his
blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.

It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge
had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared
to be condensed into the space of time they passed
together. It was strange, too, that while Scrooge remained
unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly
older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never spoke of
it, until they left a children’s Twelfth Night party, when,
looking at the Spirit as they stood together in an open place,
he noticed that its hair was grey.

“Are spirits’ lives so short?” asked Scrooge.

“My life upon this globe, is very brief,” replied the Ghost.
“It ends to-night.”

“To-night!” cried Scrooge.

“To-night at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing
near.”

The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at
that moment.

“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said
Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see
something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding
from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”

“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was
the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children;
wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt
down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

“Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!” exclaimed
the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling,
wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where
graceful youth should have filled their features out, and
touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled
hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and
pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat
enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No
change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any
grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has
monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to
him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but
the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie
of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon
them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for
on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye!
Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
And bide the end!”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him
for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not.
As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the
prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes,
beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like
a mist along the ground, towards him.

STAVE IV: THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS

THE Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When
it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in
the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to
scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed
its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible
save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been
difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it
from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside
him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a
solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither
spoke nor moved.

“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To
Come?” said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its
hand.

“You are about to show me shadows of the things that
have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,”
Scrooge pursued. “Is that so, Spirit?”

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an
instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head.
That was the only answer he received.

Although well used to ghostly company by this time,
Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled
beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when
he prepared to follow it. The Spirit paused a moment, as
observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.

But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him
with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the
dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon
him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost,
could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap
of black.

“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more
than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose
is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another
man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company,
and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak
to me?”

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight
before them.

“Lead on!” said Scrooge. “Lead on! The night is
waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead
on, Spirit!”

The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him.
Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him
up, he thought, and carried him along.

They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather
seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them of its
own act. But there they were, in the heart of it; on
‘Change, amongst the merchants; who hurried up and down,
and chinked the money in their pockets, and conversed in
groups, and looked at their watches, and trifled thoughtfully
with their great gold seals; and so forth, as Scrooge had
seen them often.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men.
Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge
advanced to listen to their talk.

“No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I
don’t know much about it, either way. I only know he’s
dead.”

“When did he die?” inquired another.

“Last night, I believe.”

“Why, what was the matter with him?” asked a third,
taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box.
“I thought he’d never die.”

“God knows,” said the first, with a yawn.

“What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced
gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his
nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.

“I haven’t heard,” said the man with the large chin,
yawning again. “Left it to his company, perhaps. He hasn’t
left it to me. That’s all I know.”

This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.

“It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,” said the same
speaker; “for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go
to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?”

“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” observed the
gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. “But I must
be fed, if I make one.”

Another laugh.

“Well, I am the most disinterested among you, after all,”
said the first speaker, “for I never wear black gloves, and I
never eat lunch. But I’ll offer to go, if anybody else will.
When I come to think of it, I’m not at all sure that I wasn’t
his most particular friend; for we used to stop and speak
whenever we met. Bye, bye!”

Speakers and listeners strolled away, and mixed with
other groups. Scrooge knew the men, and looked towards the
Spirit for an explanation.

The Phantom glided on into a street. Its finger pointed
to two persons meeting. Scrooge listened again, thinking
that the explanation might lie here.

He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of business:
very wealthy, and of great importance. He had made a point
always of standing well in their esteem: in a business point
of view, that is; strictly in a business point of view.

“How are you?” said one.

“How are you?” returned the other.

“Well!” said the first. “Old Scratch has got his own at
last, hey?”

“So I am told,” returned the second. “Cold, isn’t it?”

“Seasonable for Christmas time. You’re not a skater, I
suppose?”

“No. No. Something else to think of. Good morning!”

Not another word. That was their meeting, their
conversation, and their parting.

Scrooge was at first inclined to be surprised that the
Spirit should attach importance to conversations apparently so
trivial; but feeling assured that they must have some hidden
purpose, he set himself to consider what it was likely to be.
They could scarcely be supposed to have any bearing on the
death of Jacob, his old partner, for that was Past, and this
Ghost’s province was the Future. Nor could he think of any
one immediately connected with himself, to whom he could
apply them. But nothing doubting that to whomsoever they
applied they had some latent moral for his own improvement,
he resolved to treasure up every word he heard,
and everything he saw; and especially to observe the
shadow of himself when it appeared. For he had an expectation
that the conduct of his future self would give him
the clue he missed, and would render the solution of these
riddles easy.

He looked about in that very place for his own image; but
another man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the
clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he
saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured
in through the Porch. It gave him little surprise, however;
for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and
thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried
out in this.

Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its
outstretched hand. When he roused himself from his
thoughtful quest, he fancied from the turn of the hand, and
its situation in reference to himself, that the Unseen Eyes
were looking at him keenly. It made him shudder, and feel
very cold.

They left the busy scene, and went into an obscure part
of the town, where Scrooge had never penetrated before,
although he recognised its situation, and its bad repute. The
ways were foul and narrow; the shops and houses wretched;
the people half-naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. Alleys and
archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of
smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the
whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery.

Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a low-browed,
beetling shop, below a pent-house roof, where iron, old rags,
bottles, bones, and greasy offal, were bought. Upon the floor
within, were piled up heaps of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges,
files, scales, weights, and refuse iron of all kinds. Secrets
that few would like to scrutinise were bred and hidden in
mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted fat, and
sepulchres of bones. Sitting in among the wares he dealt in, by a
charcoal stove, made of old bricks, was a grey-haired rascal,
nearly seventy years of age; who had screened himself from the
cold air without, by a frousy curtaining of miscellaneous
tatters, hung upon a line; and smoked his pipe in all the luxury
of calm retirement.

Scrooge and the Phantom came into the presence of this
man, just as a woman with a heavy bundle slunk into the
shop. But she had scarcely entered, when another woman,
similarly laden, came in too; and she was closely followed by
a man in faded black, who was no less startled by the sight
of them, than they had been upon the recognition of each
other. After a short period of blank astonishment, in which
the old man with the pipe had joined them, they all three
burst into a laugh.

“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 Laoco├Ân 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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