12DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 8

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

the ground.

 

“Good Heaven!” said Scrooge, clasping his hands together,

as he looked about him. “I was bred in this place. I was

a boy here!”

 

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch,

though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still

present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious

of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected

with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares

long, long, forgotten!

 

“Your lip is trembling,” said the Ghost. “And what is

that upon your cheek?”

 

Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice,

that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him

where he would.

 

“You recollect the way?” inquired the Spirit.

 

“Remember it!” cried Scrooge with fervour; “I could

walk it blindfold.”

 

“Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!” observed

the Ghost. “Let us go on.”

 

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every

gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared

in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river.

Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them

with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in

country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys

were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the

broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air

laughed to hear it!

 

“These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said

the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.”

 

The jocund travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge

knew and named them every one. Why was he rejoiced beyond

all bounds to see them! Why did his cold eye glisten, and

his heart leap up as they went past! Why was he filled

with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry

Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads and bye-ways, for

their several homes! What was merry Christmas to Scrooge?

Out upon merry Christmas! What good had it ever done

to him?

 

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A

solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”

 

Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

 

They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and

soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little

weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell

hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken

fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls

were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their

gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables;

and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass.

Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for

entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open

doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished,

cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a

chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow

with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too

much to eat.

 

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a

door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and

disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by

lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely

boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down

upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he

used to be.

 

Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle

from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the

half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among

the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle

swinging of an empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in

the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a softening

influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.

 

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his

younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in

foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at:

stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and

leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.

 

“Why, it’s Ali Baba!” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It’s

dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas

time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone,

he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And

Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there

they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his

drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him!

And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii;

there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I’m glad of it.

What business had he to be married to the Princess!”

 

To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature

on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between

laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited

face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in

the city, indeed.

 

“There’s the Parrot!” cried Scrooge. “Green body and

yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the

top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called

him, when he came home again after sailing round the

island. ‘Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin

Crusoe?’  The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t.

It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running

for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! 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!”

Charles Dickens

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