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本周熱門小說

a christmas carol(聖誕讚歌)

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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL

      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.                  


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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL

                   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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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?'
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
     `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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up to-morrow's pudding in his
garret, while his lean wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef.
     Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting  cold. If the good
Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit's nose with a touch of such
weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he
would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose,
gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs,
stooped down at Scrooge's keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol:
but at the first sound of                               
     `God bless you, merry gentleman! May nothing you dismay!'
     Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled
in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.
     At length the hour of shutting up the counting- house arrived. With an
ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to
the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and
put on his hat.                                         
     `You'll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?' said Scrooge.
     `If quite convenient, sir.'                        
     `It's not convenient,' said Scrooge, `and it's not fair. If I was to stop
half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?'
     The clerk smiled faintly.                          
     `And yet,' said Scrooge, `you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a
day's wages for no work.'                               
     The clerk observed that it was only once a year.   
     `A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of
December!' said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. `But I
suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next
morning.'                                               
     The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a
growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long
ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no
great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill,  at the end of a lane of boys,
twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to
Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman's-buff.
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
     Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern;
and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening
with his banker's-book, went home to bed. He lived in chambers which
had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of
rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little
business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there
when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses,
and forgotten the way out again. It was old enough now, and dreary
enough, for nobody lived in it but Scrooge, the other rooms being all let
out as offices. The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its
every stone, was fain to grope with his hands. The fog and frost so hung
about the black old gateway  of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius
of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold.
     Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all  particular about the
knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact, that
Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that
place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called fancy about him as
any man in the city of London, even including -- which is a bold word --
the corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it also be borne in mind that
Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Marley, since his last mention
of his seven years' dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man
explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in
the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any
intermediate process of change -- not a knocker, but Marley's face.
     Marley's face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects
in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a
dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley
used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead.
The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the
eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid
colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and
beyond its control, rather than a part or 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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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-
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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.                      
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     `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.'                                    
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
     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!'                           
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     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,
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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,
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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
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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.            
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
     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.                                      

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         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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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, andpresented
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 hadwarned 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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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.'                             
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
     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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
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
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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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
like Heaven. He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to
bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home;
and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you. And
you're to be a man.' said the child, opening her eyes,' and are never to
come back here; but first, we're to be together all the Christmas long, and
have the merriest time in all the world.'              
     `You are quite a woman, little Fan.' exclaimed the boy.
     She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but
being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then
she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he,
nothing loth to go, accompanied her.                   
     A terrible voice in the hall cried.' Bring down Master Scrooge's box,
there.' and in the hall appeared the schoolmaster himself, who glared on
Master Scrooge with a ferocious condescension, and threw him into a
dreadful state of mind by shaking hands with him. He then conveyed him
and his sister into the veriest old well of a shivering best-parlour that ever
was seen, where the maps upon the wall, and the celestial and terrestrial
globes in the windows, were waxy with cold. Here he produced a decanter
of curiously light wine, and a block of curiously heavy cake, and
administered instalments of those dainties to the young people: at the same
time, sending out a meagre servant to offer a glass of something to the
postboy, who answered that he thanked the gentleman, but if it was the
same tap as he had tasted before, he had rather not. Master Scrooge's trunk
being by this time tied on to the top of the chaise, the children bade the
schoolmaster good-bye right willingly; and getting into it, drove gaily
down the garden-sweep: the quick wheels dashing the hoar-frost and snow
from off the dark leaves of the evergreens like spray. 
     `Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,' said
the Ghost. `But she had a large heart.'                
     `So she had,' cried Scrooge. `You're right. I will not gainsay it, Spirit.
God forbid.'                                           
     `She died a woman,' said the Ghost,' and had, as I think, children.'
     `One child,' Scrooge returned.                    
     `True,' said the Ghost. `Your nephew.'            
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     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. `Was I apprenticed here.'
     They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh  wig, sitting
behind such a high desk, that if he had been two inches taller he must have
knocked his head against the ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement:
     `Why, it's old Fezziwig. Bless his heart; it's Fezziwig alive again.'
     Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which
pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious
waistcoat; laughed all over himself, from his shows 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 then -- 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
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                                          A CHRISTMAS CAROL
wonderful agility. `Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here.
Hilli-ho, Dick. Chirrup, Ebenezer.'                    
     Clear away. There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or
couldn't have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a
minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public
life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were
trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug,
and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see
upon a winter's night.                                 
     In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk,
and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came
Mrs Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss
Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose
hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the
business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the
cook, with her brother's particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy
from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from
his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one,
who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all
came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some
awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and
everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round
and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and
round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always
turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon
as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them.
When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to
stop the dance, cried out,' Well done.' and the fiddler plunged his hot face
into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But scorning rest,
upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no
dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home,  exhausted, on
a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or
perish.                                                
     There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances,
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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.
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     `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.   
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     `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.
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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
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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
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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.                

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      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
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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
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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
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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 in vain.                                       
     For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were
jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and
now and then exchanging a facetious snowball -- better-natured missile far
than many a wordy jest -- laughing heartily if it went right and not less
heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers' shops were still half open, and
the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-
bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old
gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their
apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed
Spanish 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
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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 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
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so it was. God love it, so it was.                     
     In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there
was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their
cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the
pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.     
     `Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch.'
asked Scrooge.                                         
     `There is. My own.'                               
     `Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day.'  asked Scrooge.
     `To any kindly given. To a poor one most.'        
     `Why to a poor one most.' asked Scrooge.          
     `Because it needs it most.'                       
     `Spirit,' said Scrooge, after a moment's thought,' I wonder you, of all
the beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these
people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment.'         
     `I.' cried the Spirit.                            
     `You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day,
often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,' said Scrooge.
`Wouldn't you.'                                        
     `I.' cried the Spirit.                            
     `You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day.' said Scrooge.
`And it comes to the same thing.'                      
     `I seek.' exclaimed the Spirit.                   
     `Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least
in that of your family,' said Scrooge.                 
     `There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned the Spirit,' who lay
claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred,
envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all
out kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge
their doings on themselves, not us.'                   
     Scrooge promised that he would; and they went on, invisible, as they
had been before, into the suburbs of the town. It was a remarkable quality
of the Ghost (which Scrooge had observed at the baker's), that
notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any
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place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as gracefully
and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he could have done in
any lofty hall.                                        
     And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this
power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his
sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge's clerk's; for
there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the
threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit's
dwelling with the sprinkling of his torch. Think of that. Bob had but
fifteen bob a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of
his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his
four-roomed house.                                     
     Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in a
twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a
goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda
Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master
Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the
corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob's private property, conferred
upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find
himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the
fashionable Parks. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came
tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelt the 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.                                            
     `What has ever got your precious father then.' said Mrs  Cratchit.
`And your brother, Tiny Tim. And Martha warn't as late last Christmas
Day by half-an-hour.'                                  
      `Here's Martha, mother.' said a girl, appearing as she spoke.
     `Here's Martha, mother.' cried the two young Cratchits. `Hurrah.
There's such a goose, Martha.'                         
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     `Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are.'  said Mrs
Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet
for her with officious zeal.                           
     `We'd a deal of work to finish up last night,' replied the girl,' and had to
clear away this morning, mother.'                      
     `Well. Never mind so long as you are come,' said Mrs Cratchit. `Sit ye
down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye.'
     `No, no. There's father coming,' cried the two young Cratchits, who
were everywhere at once. `Hide, Martha, hide.'         
     So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least
three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him;
and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and
Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and
had his limbs supported by an iron frame.              
     `Why, where's our Martha.' cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.
     `Not coming,' said Mrs Cratchit.                  
     `Not coming.' said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits;
for he had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church, and had come
home rampant. `Not coming upon Christmas Day.'         
     Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so
she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his
arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off
into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.
     `And how did little Tim behave. asked Mrs Cratchit, when she had
rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his
heart's content.                                       
     `As good as gold,' said Bob,' and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful,
sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard.
He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church,
because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember
upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.'
     Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more
when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.
     His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny
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Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to
his stool before the fire; and while Bob, turning up his cuffs -- as if, poor
fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby -- compounded
some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round and
round and put it on the hob to simmer; Master Peter, and the two
ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon
returned in high procession.                           
     Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of
all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of
course -- and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs
Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot;
Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda
sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took
Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits
set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard
upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should
shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes
were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as
Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to
plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush
of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board,
and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table
with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah. 
     There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever
was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness,
were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and
mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as
Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone
upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last. Yet every one had had enough,
and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to
the eyebrows. But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs
Cratchit left the room alone -- too nervous to bear witnesses -- to take the
pudding up and bring it in.                            
     Suppose it should not be done enough. Suppose it should break in
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turning out. Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-
yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose -- a supposition
at which the two young Cratchits became livid. All sorts of horrors were
supposed.                                              
     Hallo. A great deal of steam. The pudding was out of the copper. A
smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house
and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to
that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered --
flushed, but smiling proudly -- with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-
ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy,
and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.   
     Oh, a wonderful pudding. Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he
regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their
marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she
would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour.
Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it
was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat
heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.
     At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept,
and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and
considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a
shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew
round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one;
and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass. Two
tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.          
     These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden
goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while
the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob
proposed:                                              
     `A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.'
     Which all the family re-echoed.                   
     `God bless us every one.' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
     He sat very close to his father's side upon his little stool. Bob held his
withered little hand in his, as if he loved the  child, and wished to keep
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him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.
     `Spirit,' said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, `tell me
if Tiny Tim will live.'                                
     `I see a vacant seat,' replied the Ghost, `in the poor chimney-corner,
and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows
remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.'   
     `No, no,' said Scrooge. `Oh, no, kind Spirit. say he will be spared.'
     `If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my
race,' returned the Ghost, `will find him here. What then. If he be like to
die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'
     Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and
was overcome with penitence and grief. `Man,' said the Ghost, `if man you
be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have
discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men
shall live, what men shall die. It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you
are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's
child. Oh God. to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much
life among his hungry brothers in the dust.'           
     Scrooge bent before the Ghost's rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes
upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own name.
     `Mr Scrooge.' said Bob; `I'll give you Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the
Feast.'                                                
     `The Founder of the Feast indeed.' cried Mrs Cratchit, reddening. `I
wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I
hope he'd have a good appetite for it.'                
     `My dear,' said Bob, `the children. Christmas Day.'
     `It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,' said she, `on which one drinks
the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr Scrooge.
You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow.'
     `My dear,' was Bob's mild answer, `Christmas Day.'
     `I'll drink his health for your sake and the Day's,' said Mrs Cratchit,
`not for his. Long life to him. A merry Christmas and a happy new year.
He'll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt.'  
     The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their
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proceedings which had no heartiness. Tiny Tim drank it last of all, but he
didn't care twopence for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The
mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party, which was not
dispelled for full five minutes.                       
     After it had passed away, they were ten times merrier than before,
from the mere relief of Scrooge the Baleful being done with. Bob Cratchit
told them how he had a situation in his eye for Master Peter, which would
bring in, if obtained, full five-and-sixpence weekly. The two young
Cratchits laughed tremendously at the idea of Peter's being a man of
business; and Peter himself looked thoughtfully at the fire from between
his collars, as if he were deliberating what particular investments he
should favour when he came into the receipt of that bewildering income.
Martha, who was a poor apprentice at a milliner's, then told them what
kind of work she had to do, and how many hours she worked at a stretch,
and how she meant to lie abed to-morrow morning for a good long rest; to-
morrow being a holiday she passed at home. Also how she had seen a
countess and a lord some days before, and how the lord was much about
as tall as Peter;' at which Peter pulled up his collars so high that you
couldn't have seen his head if you had been there. All this time the
chestnuts and the jug went round and round; and by-and-bye they had a
song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a
plaintive little voice, and sang it very well indeed.  
     There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome
family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-
proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very
likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker's. But, they were happy, grateful,
pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they
faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit's torch
at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim,
until the last.                                        
     By this time it was getting dark, and snowing pretty heavily; and as
Scrooge and the Spirit went along the streets, the brightness of the roaring
fires in kitchens, parlours, and all sorts of rooms, was wonderful. Here, the
flickering of the blaze showed preparations for a cosy dinner, with hot
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plates baking through and through before the fire, and deep red curtains,
ready to be drawn to shut out cold and darkness. There all the children of
the house were running out into the snow to meet their married sisters,
brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, and be the first to greet them. Here, again,
were shadows on the window-blind of guests assembling; and there a
group of handsome girls, all hooded and fur-booted, and all chattering at
once, tripped lightly off to some near neighbour's house; where, woe upon
the single man who saw them enter -- artful witches, well they knew it --
in a glow.                                             
     But, if you had judged from the numbers of people on their way to
friendly gatherings, you might have thought that no one was at home to
give them welcome when they got there, instead of every house expecting
company, and piling up its fires half-chimney high. Blessings on it, how
the Ghost exulted. How it bared its breadth of breast, and opened its
capacious palm, and floated on, outpouring, with a generous hand, its
bright and harmless mirth on everything within its reach. The very
lamplighter, who ran on before, dotting the dusky street with specks of
light, and who was dressed to spend the evening somewhere, laughed out
loudly as the Spirit passed, though little kenned the lamplighter that he had
any company but Christmas.                             
     And now, without a word of warning from the Ghost, they stood upon
a bleak and desert moor, where monstrous masses of rude stone were cast
about, as though it were the burial-place of giants; and water spread itself
wheresoever it listed, or would have done so, but for the frost that held it
prisoner; and nothing grew but moss and furze, and coarse rank grass.
Down in the west the setting sun had left a streak of fiery red, which
glared upon the desolation for an instant, like a sullen eye, and frowning
lower, lower, lower yet, was lost in the thick gloom of darkest night.
     `What place is this.' asked Scrooge.              
     `A place where Miners live, who labour in the bowels of the earth,'
returned the Spirit. `But they know me. See.'          
     Alight 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
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woman, with their children and their children's children, and another
generation beyond that, all decked out gaily in their holiday attire. The old
man, in a voice that seldom rose above the howling of the wind upon the
barren waste, was singing them a  Christmas song -- it had been a very
old song when he was a boy -- and from time to time they all joined in the
chorus. So surely as they raised their voices, the old man got quite blithe
and loud; and so surely as they stopped, his vigour sank again.
     The Spirit did not tarry here, but bade Scrooge hold his robe, and
passing on above the moor, sped -- whither. Not to sea. To sea. To
Scrooge's horror, looking back, he saw the last of the land, a frightful
range of rocks, behind them; and his ears were deafened by the thundering
of water, as it rolled and roared, and raged among the dreadful caverns it
had worn, and fiercely tried to undermine the earth.   
     Built upon a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so from
shore, on which the waters chafed and dashed, the wild year through, there
stood a solitary lighthouse. Great heaps of sea-weed clung to its base, and
storm-birds -- born of the wind one might suppose, as sea-weed of the
water -- rose and fell about it, like the waves they skimmed.
     But even here, two men who watched the light had made a fire, that
through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed out a ray of brightness on
the awful sea. Joining their horny hands over the rough table at which they
sat, they wished each other Merry Christmas in their can of grog; and one
of them: the elder, too, with his face all damaged and scarred with hard
weather, as the figure-head of an old ship might be: struck up a sturdy
song that was like a Gale in itself.                   
     Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea -- on, on --
until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a
ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the
bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several
stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a
Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some
bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every
man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for
another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some
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extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a
distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him.
     It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the moaning of
the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through the
lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as
profound as Death: it was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged,
to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to
recognise it as his own nephew's and to find himself in a bright, dry,
gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side, and looking at
that same nephew with approving affability.            
     `Ha, ha.' laughed Scrooge's nephew. `Ha, ha, ha.'   If you should
happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more blest in a laugh than
Scrooge's nephew, all I can say is, I should like to know him too.
Introduce him to me, and I'll cultivate his acquaintance.
     It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is
infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly
contagious as laughter and good-humour. When Scrooge's nephew
laughed in this way: holding his sides, rolling his head, and twisting his
face into the most extravagant contortions: Scrooge's niece, by marriage,
laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit
behindhand, roared out lustily.                        
     `Ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha.'                         
     `He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live.' cried Scrooge's
nephew. `He believed it too.'                          
     `More shame for him, Fred.' said Scrooge's niece,  indignantly. Bless
those women; they never do anything by halves. They are always in
earnest.                                               
     She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-
looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed --
as no doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about her chin, that melted
into one another when she laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever
saw in any little creature's head. Altogether she was what you would have
called provoking, you know; but satisfactory,          
     `He's a comical old fellow,' said Scrooge's nephew,' that's the truth: and
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not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offences carry their own
punishment, and I have nothing to say against him.'    
     `I'm sure he is very rich, Fred,' hinted Scrooge's niece. `At least you
always tell me so.'                                    
     `What of that, my dear.' said Scrooge's nephew. `His wealth is of no
use to him. He don't do any good with it. He don't make himself
comfortable with it. He hasn't the satisfaction of thinking -- ha, ha, ha. --
that he is ever going to benefit us with it.'          
     `I have no patience with him,' observed Scrooge's niece. Scrooge's
niece's sisters, and all the other ladies, expressed the same opinion.
     `Oh, I have.' said Scrooge's nephew. `I am sorry for him; I couldn't be
angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims. Himself, always.
Here, he takes it into his head to dislike us, and he won't come and dine
with us. What's the consequence. He don't lose much of a dinner.'
     `Indeed, I think he loses a very good dinner,' interrupted Scrooge's
niece. Everybody else said the same, and they must be allowed to have
been competent judges, because they had just had dinner; and, with the
dessert upon the table, were clustered round the fire, by lamplight.
     `Well. I'm very glad to hear it,' said Scrooge's nephew, `because I
haven't great faith in these young housekeepers. What do you say, Topper.'
     Topper had clearly got his eye upon one of Scrooge's niece's sisters,
for he answered that a bachelor was a wretched outcast, who had no right
to express an opinion on the subject. Whereat Scrooge's niece's sister -- the
plump one with the lace tucker: not the one with the roses -- blushed.
     `Do go on, Fred,' said Scrooge's niece, clapping her hands. `He never
finishes what he begins to say. He is such a ridiculous fellow.'
     Scrooge's nephew revelled in another laugh, and as it was impossible
to keep the infection off; though the plump sister tried hard to do it with
aromatic vinegar; his example was unanimously followed.
     `I was only going to say,' said Scrooge's nephew,' that the consequence
of his taking a dislike to us, and not making merry with us, is, as I think,
that he loses some pleasant moments, which could do him no harm. I am
sure he loses pleasanter companions than he can find in his own thoughts,
either in his mouldy old office, or his dusty chambers. I mean to give him
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the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not, for I pity him. He
may rail at Christmas till he dies, but he can't help thinking better of it -- I
defy him -- if he finds me going there, in good temper, year after year, and
saying Uncle Scrooge, how are you. If it only puts him in the vein to leave
his poor clerk fifty pounds, that's something; and I think I shook him
yesterday.'                                            
     It was their turn to laugh now at the notion of his shaking Scrooge. But
being thoroughly good-natured, and not much caring what they laughed at,
so that they laughed at any rate, he encouraged them in their merriment,
and passed the bottle joyously.                        
     After tea. they had some music. For they were a musical family, and
knew what they were about, when they sung a Glee or Catch, I can assure
you: especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a good one,
and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the face over
it. Scrooge's niece played well upon the harp; and played among other
tunes a simple little air (a mere nothing: you might learn to whistle it in
two minutes), which had been familiar to the child who fetched Scrooge
from the boarding-school, as he had been reminded by the Ghost of
Christmas Past. When this strain of music sounded, all the things that
Ghost had shown him, came upon his mind; he softened more and more;
and thought that if he could have listened to it often, years ago, he might
have cultivated the kindnesses of life for his own happiness with his own
hands, without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley.
     But they didn't devote the whole evening to music. After a while they
played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better
than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. Stop.
There was first a game at blind-man's buff. Of course there was. And I no
more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he had eyes in his
boots. My opinion is, that it was a done thing between him and Scrooge's
nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas Present knew it. The way he
went after that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the
credulity of human nature. Knocking down the fire-irons, tumbling over
the chairs, bumping against the piano, smothering himself among the
curtains, wherever she went, there went he. He always knew where the
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plump sister was. He wouldn't catch anybody else. If you had fallen up
against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he would have made a
feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would have been an affront to
your understanding, and would instantly have sidled off in the direction of
the plump sister. She often cried out that it wasn't fair; and it really was
not. But when at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her silken
rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a corner
whence there was no escape; then his conduct was the most execrable. For
his pretending not to know her; his pretending that it was necessary to
touch her head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by
pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck;
was vile, monstrous. No doubt she told him her opinion of it, when,
another blind-man being in office, they were so very confidential together,
behind the curtains.                                   
     Scrooge's niece was not one of the blind-man's buff party, but was
made comfortable with a large chair and a footstool, in a snug corner,
where the Ghost and Scrooge were close behind her. But she joined in the
forfeits, and loved her love to admiration with all the letters of the
alphabet. Likewise at the game of How, When, and Where, she was very
great, and to the secret joy of Scrooge's nephew, beat her sisters hollow:
though they were sharp girls too, as 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.   
     The Ghost was greatly pleased to find him in this mood, and looked
upon him with such favour, that he begged like a boy to be allowed to stay
until the guests departed. But this the Spirit said could not be done.
     `Here is a new game,' said Scrooge. `One half hour, Spirit, only one.'
     It was a Game called Yes and No, where Scrooge's nephew had to
think of something, and the rest must find out what; he only answering to
their questions yes or no, as the case was. The brisk fire of questioning to
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which he was exposed, elicited from him that he was thinking of an animal,
a live animal, rather a disagreeable animal, a savage animal, an animal that
growled and grunted sometimes, and talked sometimes, and lived in
London, and walked about the streets, and wasn't made a show of, and
wasn't led by anybody, and didn't live in a menagerie, and was never killed
in a market, and was not a horse, or an ass, or a cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or
a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear. At every fresh question that was put to
him, this nephew burst into a fresh roar of laughter; and was so
inexpressibly tickled, that he was obliged to get up off the sofa and stamp.
At last the plump sister, falling into a similar state, cried out:
     `I have found it out. I know what it is, Fred. I know what it is.'
     `What is it.' cried Fred.                         
     `It's your Uncle Scrooge.'                        
     Which it certainly was. Admiration was the universal sentiment,
though some objected that the reply to `Is it a bear.' ought to have been
`Yes;' inasmuch as an answer in the negative was sufficient to have
diverted their thoughts from Mr Scrooge, supposing they had ever had any
tendency that way.                                     
     `He has given us plenty of merriment, I am sure,' said Fred,' and it
would be ungrateful not to drink his health. Here is a glass of mulled wine
ready to our hand at the moment; and I say, "Uncle Scrooge."'
     `Well. Uncle Scrooge.' they cried.                
     `A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man, whatever
he is.' said Scrooge's nephew. `He wouldn't take it from me, but may he
have it, nevertheless. Uncle Scrooge.'                 
     Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart,
that he would have pledged the unconscious company in return, and
thanked them in an inaudible speech, if the Ghost had given him time. But
the whole scene passed off in the breath of the last word spoken by his
nephew; and he and the Spirit were again upon their travels.
     Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but
always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were
cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men,
and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In
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almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery's every refuge, where vain man in
his little brief authority had not made fast the door and barred the Spirit
out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.
     It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts
of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the
space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that while Scrooge
remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly
older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never spoke of  it, until they
left a children's Twelfth Night party, when, looking at the Spirit as they
stood together in an open place, he noticed that its hair was grey.
     `Are spirits' lives so short.' asked Scrooge.     
     `My life upon this globe, is very brief,' replied the Ghost. `It ends to-
night.'                                                
     `To-night.' cried Scrooge.                        
     `To-night at midnight. Hark. The time is drawing near.'
     The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment.
     `Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,' said Scrooge, looking
intently at the Spirit's robe,' but I see something strange, and not belonging
to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw.'
     `It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,' was the Spirit's
sorrowful reply. `Look here.'                          
     From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject,
frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon
the outside of its garment.                            
     `Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.' exclaimed the Ghost.
     They were a boy and 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 and dread.
     Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way,
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he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves,
rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
     `Spirit. are they yours.' Scrooge could say no more.
     `They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. `And they
cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl
is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware
this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards
the city. `Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes,
and make it worse. And abide the end.'                 
     `Have they no refuge or resource.' cried Scrooge. 
     `Are there no prisons.' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time
with his own words. `Are there no workhouses.'  The bell struck twelve.
     Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it  not. As the last
stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob
Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and
hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

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         Stave 4:  The Last of the Spirits             
     The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came,
Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this
Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.   
     It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its
face, its form, and left nothing of it visible  save one outstretched hand.
But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night,
and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
     He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its
mysterious presence filled him with a  solemn dread. He knew no more,
for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.                
     `I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.' said
Scrooge.                                               
     The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.
     `You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not
happened, but will happen in the time before us,'  Scrooge pursued. `Is
that so, Spirit.'                                      
     The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its
folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he
received.                                              
     Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared
the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found
that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The Spirit pauses
a moment, as observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.
     But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him with a vague
uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly
eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the
utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.
     `Ghost of the Future.' he exclaimed,' I fear you more than any spectre I
have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to
live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you
company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me.'
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     It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.
     `Lead on.' said Scrooge. `Lead on. The night is waning fast, and it is
precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit.'         
     The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Scrooge
followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and
carried him along.                                     
     They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to
spring up about them, and encompass them of its own act. But there they
were, in the heart of it; on Change, amongst the merchants; who hurried
up and down, and chinked the money in their pockets, and conversed in
groups, and looked at their watches, and trifled thoughtfully with their
great gold seals; and so forth, as Scrooge had seen them often.
     The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men. Observing
that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk.
     `No,' said a great fat man with a monstrous chin,' I don't know much
about it, either way. I only know he's dead.'          
     `When did he die.' inquired another.              
     `Last night, I believe.'                          
     `Why, what was the matter with him.' asked a third, taking a vast
quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box. `I thought he'd never die.'
     `God knows,' said the first, with a yawn.         
     `What has he done with his money.' asked a red-faced gentleman with
a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of
a turkey-cock.                                         
     `I haven't heard,' said the man with the large chin,  yawning again.
`Left it to his company, perhaps. He hasn't left it to me. That's all I know.'
     This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.
     `It's likely to be a very cheap funeral,' said the same speaker;' for upon
my life I don't know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party
and volunteer.'                                        
     `I don't mind going if a lunch is provided,' observed the gentleman
with the excrescence on his nose. `But I must be fed, if I make one.'
     Another laugh.                                    
     `Well, I am the most disinterested among you, after all,'  said the first
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speaker,' for I never wear black gloves, and I never eat lunch. But I'll offer
to go, if anybody else will. When I come to think of it, I 

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