A CHRISTMAS CAROL (IN PROSE BEING, A Ghost Story of Christmas)
by Charles Dickens
(OCF editing – Part 8)
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
“Good Heaven!” said Scrooge, clasping his hands together,
as he looked about him. “I was bred in this place. I was
a boy here!”
The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch,
though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still
present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious
of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected
with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares
long, long, forgotten!
“Your lip is trembling,” said the Ghost. “And what is
that upon your cheek?”
Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice,
that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him
where he would.
“You recollect the way?” inquired the Spirit.
“Remember it!” cried Scrooge with fervour; “I could
walk it blindfold.”
“Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!” observed
the Ghost. “Let us go on.”
They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every
gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared
in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river.
Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them
with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in
country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys
were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the
broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air
laughed to hear it!
“These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said
the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.”
The jocund travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge
knew and named them every one. Why was he rejoiced beyond
all bounds to see them! Why did his cold eye glisten, and
his heart leap up as they went past! Why was he filled
with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry
Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads and bye-ways, for
their several homes! What was merry Christmas to Scrooge?
Out upon merry Christmas! What good had it ever done
“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A
solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”
Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.
They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and
soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little
weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell
hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken
fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls
were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their
gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables;
and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass.
Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for
entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open
doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished,
cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a
chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow
with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too
much to eat.
They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a
door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and
disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by
lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely
boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down
upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he
used to be.
Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle
from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the
half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among
the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle
swinging of an empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in
the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a softening
influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.
The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his
younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in
foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at:
stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and
leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.
“Why, it’s Ali Baba!” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It’s
dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas
time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone,
he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And
Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there
they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his
drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him!
And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii;
there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I’m glad of it.
What business had he to be married to the Princess!”
To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature
on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between
laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited
face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in
the city, indeed.
“There’s the Parrot!” cried Scrooge. “Green body and
yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the
top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called
him, when he came home again after sailing round the
island. ‘Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin
Crusoe?’ The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t.
It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running
for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Halloo!”
Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his
usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor
boy!” and cried again.
“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his
pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his
cuff: “but it’s too late now.”
“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.
“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy
singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should
like to have given him something: that’s all.”
The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand:
saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas!”