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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL

by Charles Dickens

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.

Stave 1: 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 dogdays; 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 tomorrow.'

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 returned
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 overflowing 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 gentlemen!
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 you 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 a 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-guards,
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, Pharaohs' 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 tomorrow,
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 2: 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 on 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 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 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! Hallo!'

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 installments
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 battle 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. `I was 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 them up in their places--four, five, six--barred
them and pinned them--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 couples 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 them 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 in 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 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 3: 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 recrossed 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,
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 baker' shops. The sight of these poor revellers
appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with

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