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  • 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 thinkas 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 tooat 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.

  • 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 heartscontent. 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 jestlaughing heartily if it went

  • right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterersshops were still half open,

  • and the fruitererswere 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 shopkeepersbenevolence 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, squab 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 bakersshops. 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.