Dickens A Christmas Carol, free english readers
Charles Dickens was born in 1812
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D. Education Projects Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol Introduction
—Charles Dickens was born in 1812. He was thirty-one years old and already a very successful novelist when A Christmas Carol first appeared in 1843. By that time he had already written the Pickwick Papers (1836-37) and the novels Oliver Twist (1838), Nicholas Nickleby (1839) and The Old Curiosity Shop (1841). But it had not been easy for Dickens to become the best-selling writer in English in his time. — Charles was the son of a clerk in a government office. His father spent too much, and like Mr Micawber in Dickens’s David Copperfield written in 1849, he was sent to prison because he owed money and could not pay it back. Caroline’s husband in Chapter Four in this book is afraid of being sent to prison for owing money to a man without mercy. Sending a man to prison until he had paid the money he owed seems very silly to us today, but it was the law in Dickens’s time. Perhaps Dickens’s books helped to show the foolishness as well as the unkindness of such treatment, since Dickens could make his readers not only weep but laugh at foolishness. The result, for Charles Dickens himself, of his father’s imprisonment was very bad. He was twelve years old when his father went to prison, and Charles himself had to go to work. It was very unpleasant work, and the pay and conditions were very bad. For us, Dickens’s early troubles have meant stories by a writer who really knew poor people and the difficulty of their lives. He understood them, and his books probably did more than anything else to make life better for them. After this book was printed and ready to be sold in time for Christmas 1843, the writer had a short Christmas holiday and enjoyed himself like Scrooge at Fred’s party in the last chapter of this book. The book, in a red and gold hard cover, price five shillings (twenty-five pence), was a great success. By Christmas Eve the bookshops had sold six thousand copies, and orders were coming in from all parts of the country. Lord Jeffrey wrote to Dickens: Blessings on your kind heart… you can be sure you have done more good by this little book, caused more kind feelings, and made more people give freely to help the poor and suffering than all the words in churches. Unfortunately the price of five shillings was high for a book of the kind at that time, but the cost of printing and adding coloured drawings was high too, so the amount Dickens himself received was not great. — Christmas in London in 1843 London in 1843 was a rather dirty town. The crowded houses were heated by coal fires (like Scrooge’s office), and the smoke, mixed with low cloud, made fogs far worse than they are today. At the same time, if there was no fog and the smoke could rise, cold weather brought cleaner air – there were no cars, trucks or oil-fired engines – and snow was white and clean. Before Christmas and on Christmas Day, people sang ‘carols, joyful songs with words like: God rest you merry, gentlemen … or: Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, Please put a penny in the old man’s hat It was a time for giving. People gave presents to their children, and money and other help to the poor. Such help was needed because people had not yet learnt to make the care of the poor, the sick and the unfortunate a public duty. You have an example in this book of two gentlemen trying to get money from Scrooge, saying: «Many thousands are cold and have no food, and many have no home to go to.» Those who had enough money had a big family dinner after coming home from church. A Christmas dinner is described in this book: goose (or turkey for those with more money) with vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding.
Chapter1 Marley’s ghost
—The names on the door of the office were SCROOGE AND MARLEY. Marley was dead. He died seven years ago. Scrooge never painted out Marley’s name. There it was, years afterwards, on the office door: SCROOGE AND MARLEY. The business was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people did not know the business called Scrooge «Scrooge», and sometimes they called him «Marley», but he answered to both names. He didn’t mind what he was called. He was a hard man with money, hard as stone. He was a secret man, friendless and alone. The coldness inside him froze his old face. His eyes were red. His thin 1ips were blue. You could see cold in his way of walking. He carried this coldness with him always, wherever he went. It made his office cold in the summer, and at Christmas time it was even colder. No one ever stopped Scrooge in the street to say, «My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come and see me?» No poor people asked him for a penny. No children asked him, «What time is it?» No man or woman had ever asked him to tell them the way to a place. Even the blind men’s dogs seemed to know him and, when they saw him coming, they pulled their owners back into the doorway. But Scrooge did not care. He liked it. He liked walking through the crowd and making all men keep their distance from him. —
It was Christmas Eve, the twenty-fourth of December, the evening before Christmas Day. Old Scrooge was busy in his office. It was very cold: Scrooge could hear the people outside in the street beating their hands together to warm them. There was a thick fog: it was only three o’clock but it was quite dark already. It had not been light all day. Candles were burning in the windows of, the offices near his. The fog came pouring in – even through the keyhole. The fog was so thick that you could hardly see the houses on the other side of the street. The door of Scrooge’s office was open so that he could watch his clerk. The clerk worked in a very small room on the other side of the passage. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was even smaller. He could not add coal to it because Scrooge kept the coal box in his room. «Merry Christmas, uncle, and God bless you!» cried a happy voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew Fred. «Bah!» said Scrooge. «Humbug!» Scrooge’s nephew had been walking quickly in the cold air. His face was bright, his eyes shone, and you could see his breath in the cold air. —
«Do you say that Christmas is a humbug, uncle?» he said. «You don’t mean that, do you?» «Yes, I do,» said Scrooge. «Merry Christmas! Bah! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re too poor to be merry. «Oh!» said the nephew, laughing. «What right have you to be so solemn and sad? You are rich enough.» Scrooge had no better answer ready, so he said «Bah!» again and followed it with «Hum-bug!» «Don’t be angry,» said the nephew. «What else can I be,» said the uncle, «when I live in a world of fools such as this? Merry Christmas! What is Christmas time to you except a time for spending more money than you have, a time for finding yourself a year older but not an hour richer, a time for finding that you have less money than you had at Christmas a year ago? I think,» said Scrooge angrily, «that every fool who goes about saying ‘Merry Christmas!’ should be boiled with his own Christmas dinner!» «Uncle!» said the nephew. «Nephew!» said the uncle. «Spend Christmas in your own way, and let me spend it in mine.» «Spend it?» said Fred. «But you don’t spend it!» «What good has it ever done you?» «It has done me a great deal of good,» said the nephew. — «Christmas is a good time, a kind, forgiving, pleasant time. It’s the only time in the year when men and women seem to open their shut-up hearts freely. And therefore, uncle, although it has never put any gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that Christmas has done me good and will do me good, and I say ‘God bless it!'» «Humbug!» said Scrooge. «Don’t be angry, uncle. Come and have dinner with us tomorrow.» «Certainly not!» said Scrooge. «Good afternoon!» «But I don’t want anything from you. Why can’t we be friends?» «Good afternoon!» said Scrooge. «I am sorry you won’t join us. We have never had any quarrel. At least, I have never quarrelled. But because it’s Christmas, I have tried again to be a friend, and I will still keep my Christmas kind feelings. So ‘A merry Christmas!’ uncle.» «Good afternoon!» said Scrooge. «And a happy New Year!» «Good afternoon!» said Scrooge. Fred stopped at the door to say «Merry Christmas!» to the clerk, who, although he was so cold, answered warmly, «Merry Christmas to you, sir!» «There’s another fellow!» said Scrooge, who had heard what he said. «My clerk, with less than a pound a week and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas! He must be mad!» — As the clerk opened the door to let Scrooge’s nephew out, he let in two other people. They were well-dressed gentlemen and stood with their hats off in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands. «Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe?» said one of the gentlemen, looking at the list. «Am I speaking to Mr Scrooge or to Mr Marley?» «Mr Marley is dead,» answered Scrooge. «He died seven years ago this very night.» «Oh! At this happy season of the year, Mr Scrooge,» said the gentleman, taking up his pen, we usually try to do something for the poor. They are suffering greatly at this present time. Many thousands are cold and have no food, and many have no home to go to.» «Are there no prisons?» asked Scrooge. «There are plenty of prisons,» said the gentleman, putting down his pen. «Are there no workhouses for the poor?» «There are,» said the gentleman. «I wish that so many were not needed.» «I was afraid from what you said that something had happened to stop the prisons and workhouses doing their usual work,» said Scrooge. «I am glad to hear that there are still prisons and workhouses.» — «Prisons and workhouses can’t really make people merry at Christmas time,» said the gentle-man. «A few of us are asking people to give money to buy some food and drink for the poor. How much will you give us?» «Nothing!» said Scrooge. «I don’t make merry myself at Christmas time, and I won’t give money to make lazy people merry. Good afternoon, gentlemen!» Seeing that they were wasting their time, the gentlemen went out of the room. The fog became thicker. The darkness became darker. The cold became colder. At last the hour for shutting up the office arrived. Scrooge got down from his chair. The clerk put out his candle and put on his hat. «You’ll want to be at home all day tomorrow, I suppose?» said Scrooge. «Yes, sir, if you don’t mind.» «I do mind,» said Scrooge. «It is not fair or just. If I were to pay you fifteen pence less for that wasted day, you would think that I was being unjust to you. The clerk smiled. «And yet,» said Scrooge, «you don’t think it unjust to me when I have to pay you for a day on which you do not work.» «It’s only once a year,» said the clerk. «That is not a good reason for stealing fifteen pence from my pocket every twenty-fifth of December,» said Scrooge. «But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here early the next morning.» Scrooge went out, and the clerk shut up the office and ran home to Camden Town as fast as he could, to play with his children. — Scrooge had dinner in a cheap eating-house and then went home. He had rooms in a house which had once been Marley’s. They were dark and uncomfortable rooms in an old house in a dark courtyard. All the rest of the rooms in the house were offices. No one lived there except Scrooge. He unlocked the door, went in and lit a candle, then went upstairs to his rooms. Before he shut his heavy door he walked through his rooms to see that everything was all right. He went into the sitting-room, the bedroom, the storeroom. Everything was all right. There was nobody under the table, nobody under the bed. There was a small fire burning in the fire-place. He shut the door of his rooms and locked it, then went and sat down by the fire. There was a noise down below as if some person was pulling a heavy chain. The noise came up the stairs straight towards his door. «It’s humbug!» said Scrooge. «I won’t believe it «. Something came through the heavy door and came into the room. The dying fire sprang up the fireplace. — It was Marley – Marley dressed as he had always dressed when he was alive. The chain was wound round him – a chain loaded with money-boxes, keys, locks, boxes of account books, business papers and money bags. Scrooge, as he looked at him, could see through his body. He could see the two buttons on the back of Marley’s coat. «Well?» said Scrooge in his cold voice, «what do you want?» «A lot!» Yes, it was Marley’s voice. «Who are you?» Scrooge wanted to know. «Ask me who I was!» «Who were you, then?» said Scrooge. «In life I was Jacob Marley. You don’t believe in me,» said the ghost. «No,» said Scrooge, «I do not.» «You don’t believe your eyes. «No,» said Scrooge, «I do not. I don’t always trust my eyes. You may be the result of something I have eaten – some cheese, or some meat which was not well cooked. Humbug, I tell you, humbug!» At this the ghost gave a fearful cry and shook its chain with a frightening noise. Then it took off the cloth which was tied round its head, and its mouth, fell open like the mouth of a dead man. Scrooge fell on his knees and held his hands in front of his face. «Why!» he cried. «Why have you come to trouble me?» — «Now,» said the ghost, «do you believe in me or not?» «I do,» said Scrooge, «I do! But why must the spirits of the dead walk the earth, and why does one come to me?» «Every man,» answered the ghost, «should in his lifetime walk among his fellow men. He should share their sorrows and their joys. But a man does not do this in life, then his spirit must wander through the world after his death and see the sorrows and joys it can no longer share.” Again the ghost gave a cry and shook chain. «You are chained!» said Scrooge, shaking with fear «Tell me why.» «I am wearing the chain that I made during my life,» replied the ghost. «I made every part of it, and bound it on myself. Do you want to know the weight and length of the chain that you yourself have? It was as heavy and as long as one seven Christmas Eves ago, and you have made it heavier and longer since.» «Don’t tell me any more. Say something to make me less afraid.» «There is nothing to say,» the ghost replied «I can’t rest. I can’t stay here. I must go. In life my spirit never walked outside the office – never left business and money-making – but now, there are many fearful journeys I must make.» «Seven years dead!» thought Scrooge, travelling all the time!» — «The whole time,» said the ghost. «No rest. No peace. It is at this time of the year that I suffer most. Why did I walk through the crowds of my fellow men with my eyes turned down? Were there no poor homes to which I could have taken help? … Hear me!» «I will,» said Scrooge, «I will! But don’t be hard on me.» «I have sat beside you unseen day after day.» This was not a pleasant thought for Scrooge. «I am here tonight,» continued the ghost, «to warn you. You still have a chance.» «You were always a good friend to me,» said Scrooge. «I thank you.» «You will be visited,» said the ghost, «by three spirits. Expect the first one tomorrow when the church bell sounds one o’clock. Expect the second on the next night at the same time, and the third on the next night when the bell has sounded midnight. You won’t see me any more, but remember what I have said.» The ghost took the cloth from the table and tied it round its head. Then it walked backwards from Scrooge. At every step it took, the window opened a little. When the ghost reached it, it was wide open. Scrooge heard in the outside air cries of sorrow and weeping. The ghost listened for a moment, and then added its own unhappy sounds and disappeared out into the night. — Scrooge followed to the window and looked out. The air was full of ghosts, wandering this way and that, and weeping as they went. Every one of them wore a chain like Marley’s chain some of them had been men Scrooge knew in their lives, and all were weeping because they wanted so badly to help their fellow men and women, and had lost the power to do so. The ghosts disappeared into the fog, and the voices were silent. The night became as it had been when Scrooge walked home. He closed the window. He tried the door. It was locked as he had locked it. He tried to say «Humbug!» but stopped. Then, without taking off his clothes, he threw himself on his bed and fell asleep. —
The first of the three spirits—
When Scrooge awoke, it was dark. Looking from his bed, he could hardly see the window: it was as dark as the walls of the room. He listened. Then he heard the church bell sound twelve. But it was past two when he went to bed: the clock must be wrong. Perhaps the works of the clock were frozen. Twelve! «It isn’t possible!» said Scrooge. «I can’t have slept through a whole day and far into another night. This must be twelve midday.» He got out of bed, went to the window and looked out. All he could see was that it was still very foggy and very cold, and there was no sound of people moving about the streets as there would be at midday. Scrooge went to bed again. He thought about what had happened. He was thinking, «Was it all a dream?» Then he heard the clock – ding-dong. «A quarter past twelve,» said Scrooge. Then later he heard ding-dong again. «Half past twelve,» said Scrooge. Again -ding-dong. «A quarter to one,» said Scrooge. … «A quarter to one!» And he remembered that Marley’s ghost had warned him to expect a visit at one o’clock. Ding-dong. «One o’clock,» said Scrooge, «and nothing has happened.» But just as he spoke, a light came into the room. He sat up – and found himself face to face with an unearthly visitor. — It was a strange figure, like a child – and yet not quite like a child, in some ways like an old man, an old man who had become no bigger than a child. The hair, hanging down on its neck, was white as if with age, and yet the face was young. It was dressed in pure white. It held a branch of holly in its hand, but there were summer flowers on the dress. The strangest thing of all was that from the top of its head there came a bright clear light. But the spirit held under its arm a large cap as if that were used to put down over the light and hide it, or put it out. «Marley said that a Spirit would visit me. Are you the spirit?» asked Scrooge. «I am.» The voice was soft and gentle. «Who and what are you?» asked Scrooge. «I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.» «Long past?» asked Scrooge. «No. Your past.» Perhaps Scrooge could not have told anybody why he had a wish to see the spirit in its cap. «Do put on your cap,» he said. «What?» said the spirit. «Do you want so quickly to put out the light I give? Is it not enough that your evil nature made this cap, and you have forced me through many years to wear it low on my head. … Come, walk with me!»
—The spirit put out a strong hand and took Scrooge by the arm. It led him towards the window. «If I go out there,» said Scrooge, «I’ll fall!» The spirit laid its hand on Scrooge’s heart. «This,» it said, «will hold you up.» — They passed through the wall and stood on an open country road with fields on each side of it. The city had disappeared. The darkness and the fog had gone. It was a clear cold winter day with snow on the ground. Scrooge looked around. «This,» he said, «this is the place where I was born. I was a boy here.» «You remember the way?» asked the spirit. «Remember it?» cried Scrooge. «I could walk it with my eyes shut!» «It is strange that you have forgotten it for so many years,» said the spirit. «Let’s go on.» They walked along the road. Scrooge knew every gate, every post, every tree. Then a little town was seen in the distance with its bridge, its church and the slow-flowing river. He saw some boys riding horses towards him and calling to other boys. They were very happy and shouted to each other so that the broad fields were full of merry music and the air laughed to hear it. «These are only the shadows of things that have been,» said the spirit. «They don’t see us.» The happy travellers came on, and as they came Scrooge knew and named every one. He heard them say «Merry Christmas» to each other as they separated at the crossroads and went each to his own home. «They have come from the school, but it is not quite empty,» said the spirit. «There is one child there, a child who has no friends. He is left there still when all the others have gone.» Yes,» said Scrooge. «I know it.» And he wept. — They went along a well-remembered lane and came to a large red house. It was empty: the rich man who had built it had lost his money. The gates had fallen, and the windows were broken. They went into the empty hall and across it to a door at the back of the house. There they saw a long ugly room with desks and seats in it, and at one of the desks a boy sat reading. Scrooge sat down next to the boy and wept to see his poor forgotten self as once he used to be. He seemed to see into the boy’s mind the things that he was reading. «Oh, it’s Ali Baba!» cried Scrooge. «Dear old Ali Baba! Yes, I know. One Christmas time, when this child was left here all alone, Ali Baba came to him in his story book. Ah, yes, and the Giant in the Pot! Um-m-m! And Robinson Crusoe with his Man Friday running for his life along the shore. Poor boy!» said Scrooge, and then he put his hand in his pocket. «Oh!» he said «- but it’s too late now.» «What’s the matter?» asked the spirit. «Nothing,» said Scrooge, «nothing. – But there was a boy singing a Christmas carol at my door last night. I wish I had given him something, but it’s too late now. The spirit smiled and waved his hand. «Let’s see another Christmas.» — The room became darker, and there he was, alone again when all the other boys had gone home to their happy holidays. He was not reading now but walking sadly up and down. Then the door opened, and a little girl, much younger than the boy, came in. She put her arms round his neck. Then she kissed him and said, «Dear, dear brother. I have come to bring you home.» «Home, little Fan?» said the boy. «Yes,» said the child happily, «home for always, home for ever and ever. Father is much kinder than he used to be. He spoke gently to me one night when I was going to bed, and I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home. He said ‘Yes’ and he has sent me in a carriage to bring you. We’ll be all together this Christmas and have the happiest time in all the world.» «You are quite a woman, little Fan,» said the boy. She laughed and tried to touch his head, but she was too little, so she laughed again. «Dear little Fan!» said Scrooge. «She was so little, not very strong.» «So little,» said the spirit, «but she had a big heart. She died when she was a young woman and had, I think, children.» «One child,» said Scrooge. «True,» said the spirit. «Your nephew Fred.» «Yes,» said Scrooge. — They had left the school. Scrooge looked round. They were now in a busy street of the city. The spirit stopped at the door of a big store-house. «Do you know this place?» it asked. «Know it?» said Scrooge. «Yes! I first began work here!» They went in. There was an old gentleman sitting behind a high desk. «It’s old Fezziwig, bless his heart! It’s Fezziwig alive again!» Old Fezziwig put down his pen and looked up at the clock, which showed the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands and then laughed and called out in a fat merry voice, «Ho there! Ebenezer! Dick!» Scrooge’s former self, now a young man, came in, and with him was his fellow clerk. «Dick Wilkins!» said Scrooge to the spirit. «Dear me, yes, there he is! He was a great friend. Poor Dick! Dear, dear!» «Come, my boys,» said Fezziwig. «No more work tonight! It’s Christmas Eve. Let’s shut up the office, clear away the desks and chairs and make ready for the party.» — Everything that could be moved was pushed to one side. The lamps were turned up and more coal was put on the fire. A fiddler came in with his fiddle. Mrs Fezziwig came in with the three Miss Fezziwigs, smiling and lovable, and behind the Miss Fezziwigs came the young men who were in love with them. Then in came all the young men and women who worked in the store-house. The fiddler played, and the dancing began. There was cake and meat and wine. At last the dancing came to an end. The clock struck eleven, and the party was over. Mr and Mrs Fezziwig stood one on each side of the door, shaking hands with everybody as they went out, and wishing each of them a merry Christmas. During the whole of this time, Scrooge had been very excited. His heart and soul were there with his former self. He remembered everything and enjoyed everything. It was only now, when the party was over, that he remembered the spirit and saw that it was looking at him. The light on its head burned very clear. «It was a small thing,» said the spirit, «to make those unimportant people so happy and thankful.» «A small thing!» said Scrooge. The spirit wanted him to listen to the two young men. They were talking about Fezziwig and saying what a fine man he was. «Was he so wonderful?» asked the spirit. «He spent a few pounds of money – that was all.» «It was more than that,» said Scrooge. «He had the power to make us happy or unhappy, to make our work light or heavy, a pleasure or a sorrow. His power lay in words and looks – in things so small that it isn’t possible to add and count them up. The happiness he gave was quite as great as if it had cost thousands of pounds.» He felt the spirit looking at him, and stopped. «What’s the matter?» asked the spirit. «I would like to say a word or two to my friend, Dick Wilkins.» But one of the young men turned down the lamps, and Scrooge and the spirit stood side by side in the open air. «My time grows short,» said the spirit. «Quick!» — Again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now, a grown man. There was a restless look in his eye which showed that the love of gold had already become his master. He was not alone but sat by the side of a young girl. There were tears in her eyes. “No” she said softly. «Another love has taken my place in your heart. I hope it may make you happy in the future, as I would have tried to do.» «What love?» he asked. «The love of gold. You are changed: you are not the same man that you were when first we met.» He was going to speak, but her head was turned away from him. She said, «I set you free. May you be happy in the life that you have chosen.» And she left him. «Spirit,» cried Scrooge, «don’t show me any more! Take me home!» But the spirit held him and forced him to see what happened next. — They were in another place, a room not very large, but beautiful. Near the fire there was a lovely young girl, and opposite her sat her mother. The mother was the woman Scrooge had loved and lost, now older. There was a great noise in the room. There were a lot of children, all enjoying themselves noisily. The mother and daughter seemed to be enjoying the noise and fun. Then the door opened and the father came in, carrying Christmas presents. There were shouts of delight as each present was opened. At last the children went up the stairs to the top of the house to go to bed. The man sat down by the fire with his daughter and her mother. «Well,» 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? I don’t know.» And then she added, «It wasn’t Mr Scrooge?» «Yes,» he said, «it was Mr Scrooge. I passed his office window. There was a candle burning inside, and I saw him. Mr Marley is dying, I hear, and there Scrooge sat alone, quite alone in the world.» «Spirit,» cried Scrooge in a broken voice, «take me home!» «I told you,» said the spirit, «that these are the shadows of things that have been. They are what you have made them.» «Leave me! Take me home!» Scrooge seized the spirit’s cap and pulled it down over its head. The light still came from under it to light up the floor. Scrooge was back in his own bedroom. He threw himself on his bed and fell into a deep sleep. —
The second of the three spirits—
Scrooge awoke and sat up in bed. He had woken just in time, for, as he sat up, he heard the church clock sound One. He looked round. He wanted to see the spirit the moment it appeared. He didn’t want to be taken by surprise. There was no spirit to be seen. He waited. Five minutes … Ten minutes … Then, as he lay on his bed, he saw a red light coming from the next room. He got up, put on his shoes and went to the door to find out what it was. The moment Scrooge’s hand touched the door, a strange voice called him by his name. He looked into the room. It was his own room, but greatly changed. The walls were covered with green holly. There was a big fire burning there, and on the floor was every kind of Christmas food – fat birds ready for cooking, fruit, cakes, bottles of wine, sweets – everything. «Come in,» said the spirit, «come in! You must get to know me better.» Scrooge went into the room and stood in front of the spirit. He was not the unfeeling, hard Scrooge he had been in the past but, although 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, «the spirit of this present Christmas. Look at me!» Scrooge looked. He saw a fat and merry-looking person, dressed in a long green coat. It had no shoes on its feet. There was a crown made of holly on its head, with ice set in it to make it shine. It had long brown hair hanging free on its neck. «You’ve never seen anyone like me before,» said the spirit. «Never,» said Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Present stood up. «Spirit,» said Scrooge, «lead me where you wish. Last night I was forced to go, but I learnt a lesson which is helping me now. Tonight if you have anything to teach me, let me learn it.» «Give me your hand.» — The fat birds, ready for cooking, the fruit and cakes and sweets and wine, all disappeared. So did the room with its bright fire. They were standing in a city street. It was Christmas morning. The people were digging away the snow from the road in front of their houses. The sky was grey, but there was cheerfulness everywhere. The people digging the snow were full of joy, calling out to each other, and now and then throwing snowballs at each other, and laughing when they were hit themselves. The church bells began to ring and the people came crowding through the streets in their best clothes and with happy faces. Scrooge and the spirit travelled, unseen by anyone, to the outer part of the town and came to the house of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s clerk. Inside the house, Mrs Cratchit, dressed in her best clothes, Which she kept carefully from year to year, was laying the cloth on the table, helped by Belinda, her daughter. Peter Cratchit, her son, was watching some potatoes boiling in a pot, and two smaller’ Cratchits, a boy and a girl, were dancing round and round the table. «Where’s your father?» said Mrs Cratchit, «and your brother, Tiny Tim?» Tiny Tim was their youngest child, who was very small really tiny. «And where’s Martha? She wasn’t so late last Christmas.» «Here I am, mother,» said a girl, appearing as she spoke. «Here’s Martha.» «Here’s Martha, mother!» cried the two young Cratchits. «My dear, how late you are!» said Mrs Cratchit, kissing her eldest daughter and taking off her hat and coat. «We had a great deal of work to finish in the shop last night,» answered the girl, «and we had to clear things away this morning.» «Well, never mind. We’re glad you’re here,» said Mrs Cratchit. «Sit down by the fire and warm yourself.» «Father’s coming!» called the two young Cratchits, who were still running about everywhere. «Hide, Martha, hide, and give him a surprise!» So Martha hid herself. Then Bob Cratchit, her father, came in. His clothes were brushed and mended to look their best. He was carrying Tiny Tim on his back. Tiny Tim’s little legs were supported by bits of iron, because he could not walk without them. «Where’s our Martha?» said Bob Cratchit, looking round. «Not coming,» said Mrs Cratchit. «Not coming!» said Bob Cratchit. «Not coming on Christmas Day?» Martha did not like to see him hurt, even for a moment, so she came running out and threw herself into his arms, while the two young Cratchits took Tiny Tim away to look at the dinner cooking on the kitchen fire. «How did Tiny Tim behave in church?» «He was very good,» said Bob Cratchit. «I think he seems to be growing a little stronger.» Tiny Tim’s brother and sister helped Tiny Tim to his little seat beside the fire, while Bob Cratchit mixed wine and fruit to make some wonderful drink which he set down by the fire to warm. — When the dinner was ready, Bob Cratchit put Tiny Tim in his little chair at the corner of the table near him. Then Mrs Cratchit brought in the goose, a wonderful bird, perfectly cooked. The family ate it up, leaving a very small amount of meat on the last bone. Then came the great moment. Mrs Cratchit brought in the Christmas pudding – round, brown, full of fruit, with a little piece of holly on the top. Bob Cratchit said, «That’s the best pudding you have ever made!» And all the family agreed. It was really not a very big pudding, but nobody said that – or even thought it: Mrs Cratchit had made very little money work wonders, but nobody spoke about the cost. After dinner, the cloth was taken off the table. The family sat round the fire and enjoyed the hot drink that Bob Cratchit had prepared. Then Bob Cratchit stood up and said, «Raise your glasses. A merry Christmas to us all, my dears! God bless us!» And all the family said, «A merry Christmas to us all!» «God bless us all, every one!» said Tiny Tim, last of all. He sat very close to his father’s side on his little chair, and Bob Cratchit held his little hand in his as if he loved the child and wanted to keep him by his side, but feared that he might be taken from him. «Spirit,» said Scrooge, «tell me if Tiny Tim will live.» «I see an empty seat,» answered the ghost, «in the corner near the fire. If these shadows are not changed by the Future, the child will die.» «No, no!» said Scrooge. «Oh, no, kind spirit! Say that he will live!» «If the shadows are not changed by the Future, the Spirit of Next Christmas will not find him here. But does it matter? You have said that there are too many people in the world.» — Bob Cratchit stood up again, and he said, «Mr Scrooge! Let’s drink to the health of Mr Scrooge!» «I Wish he were here,» said Mrs Cratchit. «I’d tell him what I think of him. He wouldn’t enjoy a Christmas dinner after I’d said what I think!» «My dear,» said Bob Cratchit. «Remember the children! This is Christmas Day.» «It’s only on Christmas Day,» said Mrs Cratchit, «that one would drink to the health of such a hateful, hard, unfeeling man as Mr Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you do.» «My dear,» said Bob, «this is Christmas Day.» «Well,» said Mrs Cratchit, «I’ll drink to his health because you ask me to. May he have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year – but I don’t think he will!» Mr Scrooge’s name had cast a dark shadow on the party, but five minutes later they were all quite happy again. Bob Cratchit told them that he had found work for Peter, and the two young Cratchits laughed at the thought of Peter being a man of business. Martha, who worked at a dressmaker’s shop, told them the sort of work she had to do and how many hours she worked. She said, «Tomorrow I’ll stay in bed all the morning for a good long rest.» The pot of hot drink went round again and then they sang a few songs. There was one song about a lost child travelling in the snow. Tiny Tim with his little voice sang it very well. — The spirit moved on through the darkness Then Scrooge was surprised to hear a happy laugh. He knew it as his nephew’s laugh, and found himself in a bright room. «Ha, ha!» laughed Scrooge’s nephew “ha, ha!» When Scrooge’s nephew laughed in this way, holding his sides and rolling his head, his wife laughed too, and all their friends had to laugh. «He said that Christmas was humbug!» cried Fred. «And he believed it too!» «That’s very bad,» said the wife. Fred’s wife was very pretty. She had a dear little mouth that seemed made to be kissed and the brightest eyes you ever saw. «He’s a very funny fellow,» said Scrooge’s nephew, «and that’s the truth. He’s not as pleasant as he might be, but his unpleasantness punishes him, and I’ve nothing to say against him.» «I’m sure he’s very rich, Fred,» said the wife «At least you always tell me so.» «Well, that doesn’t help him, my dear. His money is of no use to him. He doesn’t do any good with it. He doesn’t make himself comfortable with it. He hasn’t even the pleasure of thinking ha-ha-ha! – that he’s ever going to help us with it.» «He makes me angry,» said his wife, and his wife’s sisters and all the other ladies said the same thing. «Oh, I’m sorry for him,» said Scrooge’s nephew. «I Couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers from his strange ways? He does. He decides to dislike us and he won’t come and have dinner with us, and what’s the result? He loses a dinner – a very good dinner. But I mean to give him the same chance of joining us every year, whether he likes it or not, because I’m sorry for him.» — They sat round the fire and sang, and after that they played games. Scrooge became so interested in the games that he wanted to join in them. Then they started to play a new game. It was called «Yes and No». When it was his turn, Fred had to think of something and the others had to find out what he was thinking of, and he must answer their questions with only «Yes» or «No» «Is it an animal?» «Yes.» «A living animal?» «Yes.» «A nice animal?» «No.» «Is it in London?» «Yes.» «Do you see it in the streets?» «Yes.» «Do people pay to see it?» «No.» «Is it ever killed for food?» «No.» «Is it a horse?» «No.» «Is it a donkey?» «No.» «Is it a dog?» «No.» «Is it a cat?» «No.» «Is it a bear?» «No.» As each question was put to him, the nephew laughed. At last his wife’s sister started to laugh louder than anyone, and she cried out, «‘I’ve found out! I know what it is! Fred, I know the answer!» «What is it?» asked Fred. «It’s your uncle Scrooge!» And that is just what it was. «Let’s drink to the health of uncle Scrooge!» said the nephew. They took their glasses and held them up. «Uncle Scrooge!» they cried. «A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to the old man!» said Scrooge’s nephew. — Scrooge would have thanked them all if the ghost had given him time. But suddenly he and the spirit were again on their travels. They went on and on, to other lands overseas, to the homes of the rich and the homes of the poor, to hospitals for sick people and to prisons. And everywhere they went, the spirit left its blessing. It was a long night, and as it passed, the spirit seemed to become older and older. Then, looking at the spirit as they stood together in an open space, Scrooge noticed that its hair was grey. «Are spirits’ lives so short?» he asked. «My life on this earth is very short,» replied the spirit. «It ends tonight.» «Tonight?» cried Scrooge. «Yes, tonight at midnight. Listen! The time is drawing near.» The church bells were ringing a quarter to twelve. «Forgive me if I ask,» said Scrooge, «but I see something strange hiding at your side.» The spirit brought forward two children, a boy and a girl, sick, animal-like, in the torn remains of old clothes. Their faces ought to have been young and fresh, but they were thin, and their eyes had the look of hungry beasts. They knelt down at the spirit’s feet. «Spirit,» said Scrooge, «are they yours?» «They are Man’s,» said the spirit, looking down at them. «This boy is Ignorance – he has not been taught. And this girl is Want – she has not been fed.» «Have they no one to help them, nowhere that they can go?» cried Scrooge. «Are there no prisons?» said the spirit. «Are there no workhouses?» They were the words that Scrooge himself had spoken. The bell struck twelve. Scrooge looked for the ghost but did not see it. Then he remembered what Marley had said, and, lifting his eyes, he saw a dark figure coming towards him through the fog.
The last of the three spirits—
The spirit came forwards silently. When it was near him, Scrooge went down on his knees. It was clothed in black. Its face and its shape could not be seen – only one outstretched hand. Only this hand separated it from the darkness all round it. Scrooge felt that the spirit was tall as it came beside him. It filled him with a solemn sense of fear. It neither spoke nor moved. «Are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?» asked Scrooge. The spirit did not answer, but pointed forwards with its hand. «You are going to show me the shadows of things that have not yet happened but will happen in the future,» said Scrooge. «I fear you more than any of the other spirits I have seen. But I know that you have come to do me good. I hope to live to be another man, different from what I have been. So I am ready to go with you, and with a thankful heart. Won’t you speak?» The spirit gave no reply, but its hand still pointed straight in front of them. «Lead on,» said Scrooge. They left the busy centre of the city, and the spirit brought Scrooge to a part that he had never seen before, though he knew where it was and knew it as one of the worst and poorest parts. The streets were narrow and dirty, the shops and the houses small and ugly. The narrow lanes were full of dirt and bad smells. The whole place smelt of dirt and unhappiness. They came to a shop to which the very poor brought things they wanted to sell. On the floor there were old keys, nails, chains and broken iron things of all kinds. A grey-haired man aged about seventy was sitting by a small fire in the room behind the shop. Just as Scrooge and the spirit came into the shop, a woman came in with a heavy bag, and another woman carrying a bag came in too. She was followed by a man dressed in black. He seemed surprised to see the women, and they were surprised to see each other. Then they all three laughed. «Let the cleaner-woman be first,» said the woman who had come first. «Then let the washerwoman be second, and let the undertaker’s man be third.» «Well,» said old Joe, the shopman, taking the pipe out of his mouth, «come in. I’ll shut the door of the shop. Come into the back room.» The woman who had spoken threw her bag on the floor and looked at the other two. «Well, Mrs Dilber,» she said, «every person has a right to take care of himself or herself. He always did.» «That’s true,» said the washerwoman. «No man took greater care of himself.» «Then don’t stand looking at me as if you were afraid, woman! Who can know that we have taken a few things? We’re not going to think badly of each other, I suppose?» «No, in deed!» said Mrs Dilber. «Certainly not!» «No, indeed,» said the man. «All right, then,» said the cleaner. «Who suffers for the loss of a few things like these? Not the dead man, I suppose?» «No, indeed,» said Mrs Dilber, laughing. “If he wanted to keep things after he was dead, why didn’t he have someone to look after him in his life? Why couldn’t he be like other people? If he’d been like other people and had someone to look after him when he was dying, he wouldn’t have lain there alone at the last, dying alone.» «That’s very true,» said Mrs Dilber. «It’s his punishment.» «I wish it were a bigger punishment,» said the cleaner-woman. «If I could have got anything else, I would have brought it. Open the bag, old Joe, and let me know what it’s worth. I’m not afraid for them to see what I’ve got.» But the washerwoman would not allow this and the man in black first showed what he had got: a silver pencil-case, a pocketbook, a gold pin and a few other small things. Old Joe looked, made a list, with the money for each thing, and then added it up. «There you are,» said old Joe, «and I’ll not give you another penny. Now, who’s next?» Mrs Dilber was next. She had some cloths and some clothes, two silver teaspoons and a few books. «I always give too much to ladies,» said old Joe «It’s a weakness of mine. There you are. If you ask me for another penny, I’ll make it ten pence less.» «Now see what I’ve got,» said the cleaner-woman. Joe went down on his knees and opened the bag. He pulled out a large and heavy roll of dark cloth. «What’s this?» said Joe. «Bed curtains?» «Yes,» said the woman, laughing, «bed curtains.» «You don’t mean to say you took them down, with the curtain rings and all, when he was lying there?» said Joe. «Yes, I do,» said the woman. «Why not? I don’t hold back my hand when I can get anything in it. And those are his bedclothes.» «His bedclothes?» said Joe. «Well, what do you think?» said the woman. «He wouldn’t catch cold without them, would he? And there’s his nightshirt. They would have wasted it if I hadn’t taken it off him. They put it on him to go into his grave in! Now that’s foolish! So I took it off him again. He frightened everybody away from him when he was alive, and so we gained when he was dead. Ha-ha-ha!» — «Spirit,» said Scrooge. «I see. The things that have happened to that unhappy man might happen to me. His life seems to have been rather like mine is now. … Heavens! What’s this?» He was in another place, standing by a bed with no curtains. On it lay something covered by an old piece of cloth, unwatched, unwept and uncared for, the body of a man. The spirit pointed towards the head. The cover was so carelessly thrown over it that Scrooge could have lifted it with his finger and seen the face. But he dared not do it. As he looked at the bed he thought, «The love of money has brought this man to a fearful end, truly!» There he lay, in an empty house, with not a man, a woman or child to say, «He was kind to me, and for the memory of one kind word I will be kind to him.» «Spirit,» he said, «this is a fearful place, and I have learnt its lesson. Let’s go.» Still the spirit pointed with unmoved finger to the head. «I understand you,» said Scrooge, «but I wouldn’t do it even if I could. I haven’t the power, Spirit. I haven’t the power. Again the spirit seemed to look at him. «Isn’t there any person in this town who has any feeling caused by this man’s death?» asked Scrooge. «Show me one such person, Spirit, please.» — The spirit raised its arm and they were in a room by daylight where a mother and child were sitting. She was expecting someone. She looked out of the window, then looked at the clock. At last someone came to the door. She hurried there and met her husband. Although he was young, he had a sad face. «What news?» she asked. «Is it good or bad?» «Bad,» he answered. «Then we are quite without hope?» «No, there is still hope, Caroline.» «If he has mercy,» she said, «there is still hope.» «He can’t show mercy,» said her husband. «He’s dead. As you know, I tried to see him to ask him to give us one more week to pay, but a half-drunken woman told me that he was very ill. In fact, he was dying then.» «Who, then, do we owe the money to? Who will we have to pay?» «I don’t know. But before that time we’ll be ready with the money. And even if we weren’t ready, we couldn’t find anyone more merciless than he was. We may sleep tonight with light hearts, Caroline.» — «Let me see some gentle feelings at a time of death,» said Scrooge. «Some death where there is sorrow and love.» The ghost led him along streets that Scrooge knew well. They went into Bob Cratchit’s house and found the mother and children sitting round the fire. Quiet. Very quiet. The little Cratchits were sitting in a corner, looking at Peter, who was reading to them very quietly. The mother and daughters were doing needlework, but surely they too were ‘very quiet! The mother put her work down on the table. «It must be near his time to come back,» she said. «It’s past the time,» answered Peter, shutting up the book, «but I think he walks a little slower than he used to. He often walked very fast with Tiny Tim on his back.» «Tiny Tim was very light to carry,» said the mother, «but his father loved him so much! … There’s your father at the door now. She hurried out to meet him. «You went to see Tiny Tim’s grave today, Robert?» she said. «Yes, my dear. I wish you could have gone. It would have done you good to see how green a place it is. But you’ll see it often. I promised Tiny Tim that I would walk there on a Sunday. My little, little child!» cried Bob. The girls and their mother went on with their needlework. Bob told them that he had met Scrooge’s nephew and how kind he had been. «I met him in the street, and he asked me why I was looking so sad, and I told him. ‘I am very sorry to hear that, Mr Cratchit,’ he said, ‘very sorry for your good wife. If I can help you in any way,’ he said, ‘you know where I live. Please come to me.’ It really seemed as if he knew Tiny Tim and shared our sorrow.» «I’m sure he’s a very good man,» said Mrs Cratchit. «Yes,» answered Bob, «and he’s going to try to get Peter better work to do.» — «Spirit,» said Scrooge, «I believe that the time for you to leave me is near. Tell me what man was it that we saw lying dead?» The spirit led him on. ‘They reached an iron gate, the gate of a churchyard. The spirit stood among the graves and pointed to one of them. «Answer me one question,» said Scrooge. «Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they only the shadows of the things that may be?» Still the ghost pointed downwards to the grave beside which it was standing. «Men’s actions seem to lead to certain ends,» said Scrooge, «but if the actions are changed, the ends will change. Is that not true?» The spirit did not move. Scrooge read on the stone of the grave his own name: EBENEZER SCROOGE. — «Spirit,» he cried, «hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I would have been if I hadn’t met you. Why do you show me this if I am past all hope?» The spirit made no reply, but its hand seemed to move. «I will honour Christmas in my heart. I will try to keep the meaning of it all the year. I will live in the past, the present and the future. The spirits of all three Christmases will be with me, and will not forget the lessons that they teach.» He tried to catch the hand of the spirit. He held up his own hands in a last prayer, but the spirit had disappeared, and where it had stood he saw … his bedpost. —
The end of it— Yes, the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own. The room was his own. «I will live in the past, the present and the future,» Scrooge said again as he got out of bed. «The spirits of all three will help me.» He touched the bed-curtains. «They aren’t torn down,» he thought. «They aren’t torn down with the curtain rings and all. They are here, and I am here!» He went into the sitting-room. «There’s the door by which the ghost of Marley entered,» he said, «and there’s the corner where the Spirit of Christmas Present sat, and that’s the window where I saw the wandering spirits. It’s all right! It’s all true! It all happened! Ha-ha-ha!» Really, for a man who hadn’t laughed for many years, that was a very healthy laugh, the father of a long line of future laughs. «I don’t know what day it is,» thought Scrooge. «I don’t know how long I’ve been among the spirits.» He heard the church bells ringing out, crash-clang-ding-dong and he ran to the window and opened it. There was no fog – clear, bright, golden sunlight. Sweet fresh air. Merry bells. «What’s today?» cried Scrooge, calling down to a boy who was dressed in his best clothes in the street. «Eh?» said the boy «What’s today?» said Scrooge. «Today?» answered the boy. «It’s Christmas Day of course!» «It’s Christmas Day!» said Scrooge to himself. «I haven’t missed it. The spirits have done it all in one night! Hullo, my boy! Do you know that shop in the next street where there was a big turkey hanging up? Not a small turkey – the very big turkey.» «What, the one as big as me?» answered the boy. «Yes, my boy.» said Scrooge. «It’s hanging there now,» said the boy. «Is it?» said Scrooge. «Well, go and buy it. Tell the man to bring it here and I will tell him where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you ten pence. Come back in less than five minutes, and I’ll give you twenty pence.» The boy ran off. «I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s,» Scrooge told himself. «He won’t know who sent it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim!» Then Scrooge went upstairs and put on his best clothes, and at last he went out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring out of their houses as he had seen them with the Spirit of Christmas Present.
— Walking with his hands behind him, Scrooge looked at them with a delighted smile. He looked so pleasant that three or four men said, «Good morning, sir. A merry Christmas to you!» and Scrooge often said afterwards that of all the sounds he had ever heard those were the happiest in his ears. He had not gone far when he saw one of the gentlemen who had come into his office the day before and said, «Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe.» «My dear sir,» said Scrooge, taking the old gentleman by both hands, «how do you do? I hope you got a lot of money yesterday. It was very kind of you to come to me. A merry Christmas to you, sir!» «Mr Scrooge?» «Yes,» said Scrooge, «that is my name, but I’m afraid it may not be very pleasant to you. Will you forgive me, and will you please …» Here Scrooge spoke very quietly. «Bless me!» said the gentleman. «My dear Mr Scrooge, are you serious?» «If you please,» said Scrooge, «allow me to give you that, not a penny less. And there are a great many back payments that I owe you. Come and see me and you shall have the money.» «I will!» said the old gentleman. Scrooge went to church, and afterwards walked about the streets and watched the people hurrying this way and that. — In the afternoon, Scrooge went to his nephew’s house. He passed the door several times before he felt brave enough to go in. «Is your master at home?» he said to the girl. «Yes, sir.» «Where is he, my dear?» said Scrooge. «He’s in the dining room, sir. «Thank you. He knows me. I’ll go in here,» said Scrooge. They were looking at the table, which was spread out all ready for the meal. «Fred!» said Scrooge. «Why, bless my soul!» cried Fred. «Who’s that?» «It’s your uncle Scrooge. I’ve come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?» It was a wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful happiness. — He was early at the office next morning. The clock struck nine. Bob Cratchit was not there. A quarter past nine. Still he had not come. He was eighteen minutes late. Scrooge sat there with the door wide open so that he could see him come in. «Hello,» said Scrooge in his usual voice, «why are you late?» «I’m sorry, sir,» said Bob. «I am late, but it’s only once a year, sir. I was making rather merry yesterday.» «Now, I’ll tell you what I’ll do,» said Scrooge. «I’ll raise your pay. And I’ll try to help you with your family. We must talk about that this afternoon. Put more coal on the fire. Buy another coalbox for your room, Bob Cratchit.» — Tiny Tim did not die. Scrooge was like a second father to the family. He became as good a friend and as good a master and as good a man as any in the city. And they always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well. May that be truly said of all of us! So, as Tiny Tim said, «God bless us all, every one!»