A CHRISTMAS CAROL (IN PROSE BEING, A Ghost Story of Christmas)
by Charles Dickens
(OCF editing – Part 4)
Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual
melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and
beguiled the rest of the evening with his
banker’s-book, went home to bed. He lived in
chambers which had once belonged to his deceased
partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a
lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so
little business to be, that one could scarcely help
fancying it must have run there when it was a young
house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses,
and forgotten the way out again. It was old enough
now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but
Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices.
The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew
its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands.
The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway
of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of
the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the
Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all
particular about the knocker on the door, except that it
was very large. It is also a fact, that Scrooge had
seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence
in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what
is called fancy about him as any man in the city of
London, even including–which is a bold word–the
corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it also be
borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one
thought on Marley, since his last mention of his
seven years’ dead partner that afternoon. And then
let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened
that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door,
saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate
process of change–not a knocker, but Marley’s face.
Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow
as the other objects in the yard were, but had a
dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark
cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked
at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly
spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The
hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air;
and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly
motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it
horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the
face and beyond its control, rather than a part of
its own expression.
As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it
was a knocker again.
To say that he was not startled, or that his blood
was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it
had been a stranger from infancy, would be untrue.
But he put his hand upon the key he had relinquished,
turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle.
He did pause, with a moment’s irresolution, before
he shut the door; and he did look cautiously behind
it first, as if he half expected to be terrified with the
sight of Marley’s pigtail sticking out into the hall.
But there was nothing on the back of the door, except
the screws and nuts that held the knocker on, so he
said “Pooh, pooh!” and closed it with a bang.
The sound resounded through the house like thunder.
Every room above, and every cask in the wine-merchant’s
cellars below, appeared to have a separate peal
of echoes of its own. Scrooge was not a man to
be frightened by echoes. He fastened the door, and
walked across the hall, and up the stairs; slowly too:
trimming his candle as he went.
You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six
up a good old flight of stairs, or through a bad
young Act of Parliament; but I mean to say you
might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken
it broadwise, with the splinter-bar towards the wall
and the door towards the balustrades: and done it
easy. There was plenty of width for that, and room
to spare; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge
thought he saw a locomotive hearse going on before
him in the gloom. Half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of
the street wouldn’t have lighted the entry too well,
so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with
Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that.
Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. But before
he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms
to see that all was right. He had just enough recollection
of the face to desire to do that.
Sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room. All as they
should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under
the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin
ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge had
a cold in his head) upon the hob. Nobody under the
bed; nobody in the closet; nobody in his dressing-gown,
which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude
against the wall. Lumber-room as usual. Old fire-guard,
old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing-stand on three
legs, and a poker.
Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked
himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his
custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off
his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and
his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take
It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a
bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it, and
brood over it, before he could extract the least
sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel.
The fireplace was an old one, built by some Dutch
merchant long ago, and paved all round with quaint
Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures.
There were Cains and Abels, Pharaoh’s daughters;
Queens of Sheba, Angelic messengers descending
through the air on clouds like feather-beds, Abrahams,
Belshazzars, Apostles putting off to sea in butter-boats,
hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts;
and yet that face of Marley, seven years dead, came
like the ancient Prophet’s rod, and swallowed up the
whole. If each smooth tile had been a blank at first,
with power to shape some picture on its surface from
the disjointed fragments of his thoughts, there would
have been a copy of old Marley’s head on every one.
“Humbug!” said Scrooge; and walked across the
After several turns, he sat down again. As he
threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened
to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the
room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten
with a chamber in the highest story of the
building. It was with great astonishment, and with
a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he
saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in
the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it
rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.
This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute,
but it seemed an hour. The bells ceased as they had
begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking
noise, deep down below; as if some person were
dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the
wine-merchant’s cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have
heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as
The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound,
and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors
below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight
towards his door.
“It’s humbug still!” said Scrooge. “I won’t believe it.”
His colour changed though, when, without a pause,
it came on through the heavy door, and passed into
the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the
dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, “I know
him; Marley’s Ghost!” and fell again.
The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail,
usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on
the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts,
and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was
clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound
about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge
observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks,
ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.
His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him,
and looking through his waistcoat, could see
the two buttons on his coat behind.
Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no
bowels, but he had never believed it until now.
No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he
looked the phantom through and through, and saw
it standing before him; though he felt the chilling
influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very
texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head
and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before;
he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.