19DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 15

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 15)

 

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

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!”

 

“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 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 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.

Charles Dickens