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  • PREFACE

  • I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which

  • shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the

  • season, or with me.

  • May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

  • Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D. December, 1843.

  • STAVE I: MARLEY'S GHOST

  • MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

  • The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker,

  • and the chief mourner.

  • Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to

  • put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

  • Mind!

  • I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead

  • about a door-nail.

  • I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece

  • of ironmongery in the trade.

  • But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not

  • disturb it, or the Country's done for.

  • You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a

  • door-nail. Scrooge knew he was dead?

  • Of course he did.

  • How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't

  • know how many years.

  • Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole

  • residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner.

  • And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an

  • excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an

  • undoubted bargain.

  • The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from.

  • There is no doubt that Marley was dead.

  • This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I

  • am going to relate.

  • If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began,

  • there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an

  • easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than

  • there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in

  • a breezy spot--say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance-- literally to astonish his

  • son's weak mind.

  • Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name.

  • There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley.

  • The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.

  • Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but

  • he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.

  • Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing,

  • wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!

  • Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire;

  • secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

  • The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his

  • cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out

  • shrewdly in his grating voice.

  • A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin.

  • He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the

  • dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.

  • External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge.

  • No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him.

  • No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its

  • purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.

  • Foul weather didn't know where to have him.

  • The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over

  • him in only one respect. They often "came down" handsomely, and

  • Scrooge never did.

  • Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrooge,

  • how are you? When will you come to see me?"

  • No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock,

  • no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place,

  • of Scrooge.

  • Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would

  • tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as

  • though they said, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!"

  • But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked.

  • To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep

  • its distance, was what the knowing ones call "nuts" to Scrooge.

  • Once upon a time--of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve--old Scrooge sat

  • busy in his counting-house.

  • It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the

  • court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and

  • stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them.

  • The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already-- it had not

  • been light all day--and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring

  • offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air.

  • The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that

  • although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms.

  • To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have

  • thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

  • The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his

  • clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters.

  • Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that

  • it looked like one coal.

  • But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so

  • surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would

  • be necessary for them to part.

  • Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the

  • candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

  • "A merry Christmas, uncle!

  • God save you!" cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who

  • came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

  • "Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"

  • He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of

  • Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes

  • sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

  • "Christmas a humbug, uncle!" said Scrooge's nephew.

  • "You don't mean that, I am sure?" "I do," said Scrooge.

  • "Merry Christmas!

  • What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry?

  • You're poor enough." "Come, then," returned the nephew gaily.

  • "What right have you to be dismal?

  • What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."

  • Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, "Bah!" again;

  • and followed it up with "Humbug."

  • "Don't be cross, uncle!" said the nephew. "What else can I be," returned the uncle,

  • "when I live in such a world of fools as this?

  • Merry Christmas!

  • Out upon merry Christmas!

  • What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for

  • finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your

  • books and having every item in 'em through

  • a round dozen of months presented dead against you?

  • If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about

  • with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried

  • with a stake of holly through his heart.

  • He should!" "Uncle!" pleaded the nephew.

  • "Nephew!" returned the uncle sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep

  • it in mine."

  • "Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you don't keep it."

  • "Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge.

  • "Much good may it do you!

  • Much good it has ever done you!" "There are many things from which I might

  • have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew.

  • "Christmas among the rest.

  • But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round--

  • apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to

  • it can be apart from that--as a good time;

  • a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long

  • calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up

  • hearts freely, and to think of people below

  • them as if they really were fellow- passengers to the grave, and not another

  • race of creatures bound on other journeys.

  • And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket,

  • I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

  • The clerk in the Tank involuntarily applauded.

  • Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and

  • extinguished the last frail spark for ever.

  • "Let me hear another sound from you," said Scrooge, "and you'll keep your Christmas by

  • losing your situation! You're quite a powerful speaker, sir," he

  • added, turning to his nephew.

  • "I wonder you don't go into Parliament." "Don't be angry, uncle.

  • Come! Dine with us to-morrow."

  • Scrooge said that he would see him--yes, indeed he did.

  • He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that

  • extremity first.

  • "But why?" cried Scrooge's nephew. "Why?"

  • "Why did you get married?" said Scrooge. "Because I fell in love."

  • "Because you fell in love!" growled Scrooge, as if that were the only one thing

  • in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas.

  • "Good afternoon!"

  • "Nay, uncle, but you never came to see me before that happened.

  • Why give it as a reason for not coming now?"

  • "Good afternoon," said Scrooge.

  • "I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?"

  • "Good afternoon," said Scrooge. "I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you

  • so resolute.

  • We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party.

  • But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I'll keep my Christmas

  • humour to the last.

  • So A Merry Christmas, uncle!" "Good afternoon!" said Scrooge.

  • "And A Happy New Year!" "Good afternoon!" said Scrooge.

  • His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding.

  • He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greetings of the season on the clerk, who,

  • cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned them cordially.

  • "There's another fellow," muttered Scrooge; who overheard him: "my clerk, with fifteen

  • shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas.

  • I'll retire to Bedlam."

  • This lunatic, in letting Scrooge's nephew out, had let two other people in.

  • They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off,

  • in Scrooge's office.

  • They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

  • "Scrooge and Marley's, I believe," said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list.

  • "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"

  • "Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years," Scrooge replied.

  • "He died seven years ago, this very night."

  • "We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner," said

  • the gentleman, presenting his credentials. It certainly was; for they had been two

  • kindred spirits.

  • At the ominous word "liberality," Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the

  • credentials back.

  • "At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a

  • pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision

  • for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.

  • Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in

  • want of common comforts, sir."

  • "Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge. "Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman,

  • laying down the pen again. "And the Union workhouses?" demanded

  • Scrooge.

  • "Are they still in operation?" "They are.

  • Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

  • "The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.

  • "Both very busy, sir."

  • "Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop

  • them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."

  • "Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to

  • the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund

  • to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.

  • We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt,

  • and Abundance rejoices.

  • What shall I put you down for?" "Nothing!"

  • Scrooge replied. "You wish to be anonymous?"

  • "I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge.

  • "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.

  • I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry.

  • I help to support the establishments I have mentioned--they cost enough; and those who

  • are badly off must go there." "Many can't go there; and many would rather

  • die."

  • "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the

  • surplus population. Besides--excuse me--I don't know that."

  • "But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

  • "It's not my business," Scrooge returned.

  • "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with

  • other people's. Mine occupies me constantly.

  • Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

  • Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew.

  • Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more

  • facetious temper than was usual with him.

  • Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring

  • links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct

  • them on their way.

  • The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at

  • Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and

  • quarters in the clouds, with tremulous