05DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 1

(A little change of pace for the Christmas season.  I’m going to run the Christmas Carol story in sections in the Quote of the Day posts.  –  photog)

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (IN PROSE BEING, A Ghost Story of Christmas)

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 1)

 

STAVE I:  MARLEY’S GHOST

 

MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt

whatever about that. The register of his burial was

signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker,

and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and

Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he

chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a

door-nail.

 

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my

own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about

a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to

regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery

in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors

is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands

shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You

will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that

Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

 

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did.

How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were

partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge

was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole

assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and

sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully

cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent

man of business on the very day of the funeral,

and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

 

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to

the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley

was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or

nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going

to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that

Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there

would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a

stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts,

than there would be in any other middle-aged

gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy

spot–say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance–

literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.

 

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name.

There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse

door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as

Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the

business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley,

but he answered to both names. It was all the

same to him.

 

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone,

Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping,

clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint,

from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire;

secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The

cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed

nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his

eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his

grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his

eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low

temperature always about with him; he iced his office in

the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

 

External heat and cold had little influence on

Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather

chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he,

no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no

pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t

know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and

snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage

over him in only one respect. They often “came down”

handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

 

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with

gladsome looks, “My dear Scrooge, how are you?

When will you come to see me?” No beggars implored

him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him

what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all

his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of

Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to

know him; and when they saw him coming on, would

tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and

then would wag their tails as though they said, “No

eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

 

But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing

he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths

of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance,

was what the knowing ones call “nuts” to Scrooge.

 

Once upon a time–of all the good days in the year,

on Christmas Eve–old Scrooge sat busy in his

counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy

withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside,

go wheezing up and down, beating their hands

upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the

pavement stones to warm them. The city clocks had

only just gone three, but it was quite dark already–

it had not been light all day–and candles were flaring

in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like

ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog

came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was

so dense without, that although the court was of the

narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms.

To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring

everything, one might have thought that Nature

lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

 

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open

that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a

dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying

letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s

fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one

coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept

the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the

clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted

that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore

the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to

warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being

a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

Charles Dickens

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