3: The Second of the Three Spirits
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.
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.
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.
moment Scrooge's hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him
by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.
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.
in.' exclaimed the Ghost. `Come in. and know me better, man.'
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.
am the Ghost of Christmas Present,' said the Spirit. `Look upon
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.
have never seen the like of me before.' exclaimed the Spirit.
Scrooge made answer to it.
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.
don't think I have,' said Scrooge. `I am afraid I have not. Have
you had many brothers, Spirit.'
than eighteen hundred,' said the Ghost.
tremendous family to provide for.' muttered Scrooge.
Ghost of Christmas Present rose.
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.'
did as he was told, and held it fast.
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
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 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
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 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, squab 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch.'
is. My own.'
it apply to any kind of dinner on this day.' asked Scrooge.
any kindly given. To a poor one most.'
to a poor one most.' asked Scrooge.
it needs it most.'
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.'
cried the Spirit.
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.
cried the Spirit.
seek to close these places on the Seventh Day.' said Scrooge. `And
it comes to the same thing.'
seek.' exclaimed the Spirit.
me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in
that of your family,' said Scrooge.
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 out kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember
that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.'
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.
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.
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 e 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.
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.'
Martha, mother.' said a girl, appearing as she spoke.
Martha, mother.' cried the two young Cratchits. `Hurrah. There's
such a goose, Martha.'
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.
a deal of work to finish up last night,' replied the girl,' and
had to clear away this morning, mother.'
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. There's father coming,' cried the two young Cratchits, who were
everywhere at once. `Hide, Martha, hide.'
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
where's our Martha.' cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.
coming,' said Mrs Cratchit.
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.'
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.
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
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.'
voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when
he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.
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.
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
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.'
all the family re-echoed.
bless us every one.' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
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
said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, `tell me
if Tiny Tim will live.'
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,' said Scrooge. `Oh, no, kind Spirit. say he will be spared.'
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.'
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.'
bent before the Ghost's rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon
the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own name.
Scrooge.' said Bob; `I'll give you Mr Scrooge, the Founder of 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.'
dear,' said Bob, `the children. Christmas Day.'
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.'
dear,' was Bob's mild answer, `Christmas Day.'
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
place is this.' asked Scrooge.
place where Miners live, who labour in the bowels of the earth,'
returned the Spirit. `But they know me. See.'
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
ha.' laughed Scrooge's nephew. `Ha, ha, ha.'
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.
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.'
said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live.' cried Scrooge's nephew.
`He believed it too.'
shame for him, Fred.' said Scrooge's niece, indignantly. Bless those
women; they never do anything by halves. They are always in earnest.
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,
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.'
sure he is very rich, Fred,' hinted Scrooge's niece. `At least you
always tell me so.'
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.'
have no patience with him,' observed Scrooge's niece. Scrooge's
niece's sisters, and all the other ladies, expressed the same opinion.
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.'
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.
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.'
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.
go on, Fred,' said Scrooge's niece, clapping her hands. `He never
finishes what he begins to say. He is such a ridiculous fellow.'
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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
is a new game,' said Scrooge. `One half hour, Spirit, only one.'
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:
have found it out. I know what it is, Fred. I know what it is.'
is it.' cried Fred.
your Uncle Scrooge.'
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.
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
Uncle Scrooge.' they cried.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
spirits' lives so short.' asked Scrooge.
life upon this globe, is very brief,' replied the Ghost. `It ends
at midnight. Hark. The time is drawing near.'
chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment.
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.'
might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,' was the Spirit's
sorrowful reply. `Look here.'
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.
Man. look here. Look, look, down here.' exclaimed the Ghost.
were a boy and a 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
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.
are they yours.' Scrooge could say no more.
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
abide the end.'
they no refuge or resource.' cried Scrooge.
there no prisons.' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last
time with his own words. `Are there no workhouses.' The bell struck
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.