18DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 14

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 14)

 

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 in deep furrows by

the heavy wheels of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed

and re-crossed 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 a 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 Onions, shining in

the fatness of their growth like 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, squat 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 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 bakers’ 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 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 our 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 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.

Charles Dickens

17DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 13

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 13)

 

STAVE III:  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

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 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.

 

Charles Dickens

16DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 12

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 12)

 

“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 pillaged by the young brigands

most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to be 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 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.

Charles Dickens

15DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 11

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 11)

 

“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.

 

“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. 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.

 

Charles Dickens

14DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 10

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 10)

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more

dances, 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.

 

“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 ’em 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 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.

Charles Dickens

13DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 9

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 9)

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

  1. 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 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!”

 

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 battled 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 shoes 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 ’em up in their places–four, five, six–barred

’em and pinned ’em–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 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

  1. 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.

Charles Dickens

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

11DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 7

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 7)

 

STAVE II:  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 or 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 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

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, and presented 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 had warned

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 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!”

 

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 a 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!”

Charles Dickens

10DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 6

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 6)

 

“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 to-morrow,

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 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.

 

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.

Charles Dickens

09DEC2021 – Quote of the Day – A Christmas Carol – Part 5

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

by Charles Dickens

(OCF editing – Part 5)

 

“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.”

 

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!”

 

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, 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, 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.

 

Charles Dickens