Readers Theater "A Christmas Carol"


Uploaded by HooverPresLib on 06.12.2011

Transcript:
Good evening and welcome to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum. My name is Tom
Schwartz, I'm the Director. And tonight you're invited to sit back, relax, andenjoy a great
holiday favorite, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."
Charles Dickens actually created this piece for readers theater, which is what you'll
hear tonight. Readers theater has very few props. It's not acting per se, but it's just
using the voice in order to create a sense of the character.
Given this holiday season is a time for family and friends to reconnect to old memories and
create new ones. We know that Christmas Past is a great tradition in this town, and we
hope that this will become a new addition to that.
We also know that this is a time to think of others less fortunate. And we provide a
box out front for collecting can goods for those in need. There will be opportunities
for those of you coming tomorrow for other actvities that will bring an end to this weekend
of celebration.
so, if you'll turn off your cell phones, we'd appreciate that. And we'd also like to welcome
you afterwards, if you'd like to meet the cast and enjoy some treats we have some in
the reading room. Those of you who don't plan to do that, the Library will be closing around
8 o'clock.
So please, sit back, welcome, thank you for coming, and enjoy.
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.
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.
Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name however. There it yet 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 at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping,
scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!
External heat and cold had little influence on him. No warmth could warm, no cold could
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 his
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 foggy weather. And the city clocks
had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already.
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!"
"Bah! Humbug!"
"Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don't mean that, I am sure?
I do. 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 had my will 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.
"Oh Nephew! Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."
"Keep it! But you don't keep it."
"Let me leave it alone, then. "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. "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 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, 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-travelers 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!"
"Let me hear another sound from you Bob Cratchitt, and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your
situation! Nephew, you're quite a powerful speaker, sir," I wonder you don't go into
Parliament."
"Don't be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow."
"Good afternoon,"
"I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. But 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! And A Happy New Year!
"Good afternoon!"
His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding. The clerk, in letting
Scroges's newpew 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. Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr.
Marley?"
"Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years. "He died seven years ago, this very night."
"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge, 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 necessities; hundreds
of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
"Are there no prisons?"
"Plenty of prisons. But under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer
of mind or body to the unauthentic multitude, 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!"
"You wish to remain anonymous?"
"I wish to be left alone, 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 prisons and the work houses--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, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted
from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly
snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.
"You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?" said Scrooge.
"If quite convenient, sir."
"It is not convenient,and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd
think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?"
"Yes sir."
"And yet, you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work."
"It's only once a year, sir."
"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December! But I suppose
you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning."
The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl.
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. The building
was old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but Scrooge, the other
rooms being all let out as offices.
Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the
door of hsi house, except that it was very large. Also 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. And yet , 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, with 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.
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 said "Pooh, pooh!" and closed the door 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, walked across
the hall, and up the stairs; slowly too: trimming his candle as he went.
Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for its being very dark. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge
liked that. But before he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms
to see that all was all 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 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 very low fire to take his gruel.
As he threw his head bak 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.
[Bell ringing]
Soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.
[Bells ringing]
And that was succeeded by a clanking noise.
[Clanking noise]
Deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the
wine-merchant's cellar.
[Clanking noise]
He heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming
straight towards the door.
[Clanking noise]
It came on through the heavy door, and a spectre 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!"
The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots.
His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat,
could see the two buttons on his coat behind.
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 noticed the very
texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, he was still incredulous.
"How now! What do you want with me?"
"Much!"
"Who are you?"
"Ask me who I was."
"Who were you then?"
"In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley. You don't believe in me."
"I don't,"
"What evidence would you have of my reality beyond your senses?"
"Because, a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats.
You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment
of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"
Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any
means waggish then. The truth is, he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his
own attention, and keeping down his horror.
But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its
head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!
"Mercy! Oh dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me? Why do spirits walk the earth,
and why do they come to me?"
"It is required of every man,that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen,
and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to
do so after death.
"I cannont tell you all. A very little more is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot
stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house--mark
me!--in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our
money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!"
"But you were always a good man of business."
"Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance,
and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water
in the ocean of my business! Hear me! My time is nearly gone."
"I will. But don't be hard upon me! Don't be flowery, Jacob! Pray!"
"I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my
fate."
"You were always a good friend to me," said Scrooge. "Thank'ee!"
"You will be haunted by Three Spirits."
"Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob? I--I think I'd rather not,"
[Marley's ghost moans]
"Without their visits, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first to-morrow,
when the bell tolls One."
"Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when
the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for
your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!"
When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, that looking out of bed, he could scarcely distinguish
the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber. Until suddenly the church
tolled, clock tolled a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy one.
[chime]
Light flashed up in the room upon the instant. And the curtains of his bed were drawn aside
by, a strange figure--like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed
through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from
the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions. Its hair, which hung about its
neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in
it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its
hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with
summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there
sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible.
"Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?"
"I am!"
"Who, and what are you?"
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."
"Long Past?"
"No. Your past. The things that you will see with me are shadows of the things that have
been. They have no consciousnes of us. Rise! and walk with me!"
It would have been in vain for Scrooge to plead that the weather and the hour were not
adapted to pedestrian purposes; that bed was warm, and the thermometer a long way below
freezing; that he was clad but lightly in his slippers, dressing-gown, and nightcap.
The grasp, though gentle as a woman's hand, was not to be resisted. He rose: but finding
that the Spirit made towards the window, clasped his robe in supplication.
"I am a mortal, and liable to fall."
"Bear but a touch of my hand there, and you shall be upheld in more than this!"
As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood on the busy thoroughfares
of the city. It was made plain enough by the dressing of the shops that here too it was
Christmas time.
The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.
"Know it! I Was apprenticed here!"
They went in. At sight of an old man in a Welsh wig, sitting behind such a high desk,
that if he had been two inches taller he must have knocked his head against the
ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement:
"Why, it's old Fezziwig! Oh bless his heart; it's Fezziwig alive again!"
Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour
of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat; laughing all over
himself, from his shoes to the organ of benevolence; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich,
fat, jovial voice:
"Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!"
A living -a moving picture of Scrooge's former self, a young man came briskly in accompanied
by his fellow 'pprentice.
"Dick Wilkins, to be sure! My old fellow 'pprentice. Bless me, yes. There he is. Oh he was very
much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick! Dear, dear!"
"Yo ho, my boys! No more work tonight. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Let's have
the shutters up, before a man can say Jack Robinson! Clear away my lads and let's have
lots of room here!"
Clear away. There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared
away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed
off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was
swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse
was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon
a winter's night.
In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra
of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial
smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers
whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In
came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother's particular
friend, the milkman.
In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some
awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they
all went, twenty couples at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the
middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple
always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as
they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them! When this result
was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, "Well
done!" and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided
for that purpose.
There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there
was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of
Cold Boiled, and there were mince pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the
evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler struck up "Sir Roger de Coverley."
Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top
couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty
pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and
had no notion of walking.
When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took
their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person
individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas. When everybody
had retired but the two 'prentices, they did the same to them; and thus the cheerful voices
died away, and the lads were left to their beds; which were under a
counter in the back-shop.
"A small matter," said the Ghost, "to make these silly folks so full of gratitude."
He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so
much that he deserves this praise?"
"It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service
light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and
looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em
up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."
"What is the matter?"
"Nothing particular."
"Something, I think?"
"No. No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That's all."
"My time grows short. Quick!"
This was not addressed to Scrooge, or to any one whom he could see, but it produced an
immediate effect. For again he saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime of life.
He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl in a black dress: in whose
eyes there were tears.
"It matters little to you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can comfort
you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve."
"What Idol has displaced you?"
"A golden one. "You fear the world too much. Ihave seen your aspirations fall off one by
one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?"
"What then? Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you. Have
I ever sought release from our engaement?"
"In words. No. Never."
"In what, then?"
"In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope
as its great end.If you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe
that you would choose a dowerless girl? Or choosing her do I not know that your repentance
and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the
love of him you once were."
"Spirit! Remove me from this place!"
"I told you these were shadows of the things that have been. That they are what they are,
do not blame me!"
"Remove me! I cannot bear it! Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!"
As he struggled with the spirit, he was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible
drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to
bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.
Scrooge awoke in his bedroom. , there was no doubt about that. But it, and his own adjoinng
sitting room into which he shuffled in his slippers attracted by a great light there
had undergone a surpising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living
green, that it looked a perfect grove. The leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected
back the light, as if many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty
blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that petrification of a hearth had never known
in Scrooge's time, or Marley's, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped upon
the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, 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
great bowls of punch. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a Giant, glorious to see;
who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and who raised it high, to
shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping around the door.
"Come in! Come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present."
"Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!"
"Never. I don't think I have. I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?"
"More than eighteen hundred,"
"A tremendous family to provide for! Spirit, 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. The room and its contents all vanished instantly
and they stood in the city streets upon a snowy Christmas morning. Scrooge and the ghost
passed on invisible stright to Scrooge's clerk's and on the threshhold of the door, the spirit
smiled and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinkilings of his torch.
Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown,
brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and
she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons;
while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting
the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob's private property, confirmed upon his
son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly
attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks.
And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the
baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious
thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master
Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked
him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid
to be let out and peeled.
"And how did little Tim behave?"
"As good as gold, and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and
thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home,
that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be
pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind
men see."
Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that
Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.
His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another
word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool beside the fire; and while
Bob, turning up his cuffs--as if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby--compounded
some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round and round and put it
on the hob to simmer; Master Peter, and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch
the goose, which when they soon returned in high procession.
Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot;
Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce;
Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny
corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves,
and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest
they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes
were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs.
Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when
she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight
arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, beat on the table with
the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose
cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal
admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the
whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small
atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had
enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to
the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room
alone--too nervous to bear witnesses--to take the pudding up and bring in.
Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should
break in turning out!
Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day!
That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook's next
door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that! That was the pudding! In half
a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered--flushed, but smiling proudly--with the pudding,
like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited
brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
"Oh, a wonderful pudding!" He regarded it as the greatest success achieved by
Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind,
she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something
to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large
family. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.
At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire
made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges
were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit
family drew around the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle; and at Bob Cratchit's
elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.
These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done;
and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered
and cracked noisily.
"A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!"
"God bless us every one!"
"God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
He sat very close to his father's side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little
hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and
dreaded that he might be taken from him.
"Mr. Scrooge! I give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!"
"The Founder of the Feast indeed! I wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind
to feed upon, and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it."
"My dear, the children! Christmas Day."
"It should be Christmas Day, I am sure, on which one drinks the health of such an odious,
stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge. You know he is, Robert! Nobody knows it better
than you do, poor fellow!"
"My dear, Christmas Day."
"I'll drink his health for your sake and the Day's, not for his. Long life to him! A merry
Christmas and a happy new year! He'll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!"
The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their proceedings which had
no heartiness in it. Tiny Tim drank last of all, but he didn't care twopence for it. Scrooge
was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party,
which was not dispelled for full five minutes.
After it had passed away, they were ten times merrier than before, from the mere relief
of Scrooge the Baleful being done with. At this time the chestnuts and the jug went round
and round; and bye they had a song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from
Tiny Tim, who had a plaintive little voice, and sang it very well indeed.
There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not
well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty;
and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker's. But, they
were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they
faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit's torch at parting,
Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.
It was a great surprise to Scrooge as this scene vanished. To hear a hearty laugh.
It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognise it as his own nephew's and to
find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling
by his side, and looking at that same nephew.
It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in
disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter
and good-humour. When Scrooge's nephew laughed, Scrooge's niece, by marriage,
laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, laughed
out lustily.
"He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live! He believed it too!"
"More shame for him, Fred!"
She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-looking, capital face;
a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed--as no doubt it was; all kinds of good
little dots about her chin, that melted into one another when she laughed; and the sunniest
pair of eyes you ever saw in any little creature's head. Altogether she was what you would have
called provoking, you know; but satisfactory, too. Oh, perfectly satisfactory.
"He's a comical old fellow, that's the truth: and not so pleasant as he might be. However,
his offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him."
Who suffers by his ill whims! Himself, always. Here, he takes it into his head to dislike
us, and he won't come and dine with us. What's the consequence? He don't lose much of a dinner."
"Oh! Indeed, I think he loses a very fine dinner."
Everybody else said the same, and they must be allowed to have been competent judges,
because they had just had dinner; and, with the dessert upon the table, were clustered
round the fire, by lamplight.
After tea, they had some music. For they were a musical family, and knew what they were
about, when they sung a Glee or Catch, I can assure you.
But they didn't devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at forfeits;
for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty
Founder was a child himself.
There was a new game> It was a game called Yes and No, where Scrooge's nephew
had to think of something, and the rest must find out what; he only answering to their
questions yes or no, as the case was. The fire of questioning to which he was exposed,
elicited from him that he was thinking of an animal, a live animal, rather a disagreeable
animal, a savage animal, an animal that growled and grunted sometimes, and talked sometimes,
and lived in London, and walked about the streets, and wasn't made a show of, and wasn't
led by anybody, and didn't live in a menagerie, and was never killed in a market, and was
not a horse, or a cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear. At
every new question that was put to him, this nephew burst into a fresh roar of laughter;
and was so inexpressibly tickled, that he was obliged to get up off the sofa and stamp!
"Oh oh oh! I have found it out! I know what it is, Fred! I know what it is!"
"What is it?"
"It's your Uncle Scro-o-o-o-oge!"
Which it certainly was. Admiration was the sentiment, though some objected that the reply
to "Is it a bear?" ought to have been "Yes!"
Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart, that he would have
pledged the unconscious company in an inaudible speech. But the whole scene
passed off in the breath of the last word spoken by his nephew; and he and the Spirit
were again upon their travels.
Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy
end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands,
and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater
hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouses, hospital, and jail, in misery's every
refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door, and
barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.
Suddenly, as they stood together in an open place, the bell struck twelve.
[12 chimes]
Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it no more. As the last stroke ceased
to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes,
beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards
him.
THE Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon
his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to
scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and
left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither
spoke nor moved.
"I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come? Ghost of the Future! I fear you
more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and
as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to hear you company,
and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?"
It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.
"Lead on! Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead
on, Spirit!"
They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to spring up about
them. But there they were, in the heart of it. The Spirit stopped beside one little knot
of business men. Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge advanced to listen
to their talk.
"No, I don't know much about it, either way. I only know he's dead."
"When did he die?"
"Last night, I believe."
"Why, what was the matter with him? I thought he'd never die."
"God knows."
"What has he done with his money?"
"I haven't heard. Company, perhaps. He, he hasn't left it to me. That's all I know. Bye
bye."
Scrooge was at first inclined to be surprised that the Spirit should attach importance to
conversations apparently so trivial; but feeling assured that they must have some hidden purpose,
he set himself to consider what it was likely to be. They could scarcely be supposed to
have any bearing on the death of Jacob, his old partner, for that was Past, and this Ghost's
province was the Future.
He looked about in that very place for his own image; but another man stood in his accustomed
corner, and though the clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he saw
no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured in through the Porch. It gave
him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and
thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried out in this.
They left this busy scene, and went into an obscure part of the town, to a low shop where
iron, old rags, bottles, bones, and greasy offal, were bought. A grey-haired rascal,
of great age sat smoking his pipe.
Scrooge and the Phantom came into the presence of this man, just as a woman with a heavy
bundle slunk into the shop. But she had scarcely entered, when another woman,
similarly laden, came in too; and she was closely followed by a man in faded black.
After a short period of blank astonishment, in which the old man with the pipe had joined
them, they all three burst into a laugh.
"Let the charwoman alone to be the first! Let the laundress alone to be the second;
and let the undertaker's man alone to be the third. Look here, old Joe, here's a chance!
If we haven't all three met here without meaning it!"
"You couldn't have met in a better place. What have you got to sell?"
"Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did."
"Who's the worse for the loss of a few things like these? Not a dead man, I suppose."
"No, indeed! If he wanted to keep 'em after he was dead, a wicked old screw, why wasn't
he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he'd have had somebody to look
after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone
by himself."
"It's the truest word that ever was spoke. It's a judgment on him."
"I wish it was a little heavier judgment. And it should have been, you may depend upon
it, if I could have laid my hands on anything else. Open that bundle, old Joe, and let me
know the value of it. Speak out plain. I'm not afraid to be the first, nor afraid for
them to see it.
Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience of opening the bundle, and dragged
out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.
"What do you call this? Bed-curtains!"
"Ah! Bed-curtains! Don't drop that oil upon the blankets, now."
"His blankets?" asked Joe.
"Whose else's do you think? It likely to take cold without 'em, I dare say. Ah! you may
look through that shirt till your eyes ache; but you won't find a hole in it, nor
a threadbare place. It's the best he had, and a fine one too. They'd have wasted it
by dressing him up in it, if it hadn't been for me."
Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror.
"Spirit! I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way,
now. Merciful Heaven, what is this!"
The scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed. A pale light,
rising in the outer air, fell straight upon the bed; and on it, unwatched, unwept, uncared
for, was the body of this plundered unknown man.
"Spirit! Let me see some tenderness connected with a death, or this dark chamber will be
for ever present to me."
The Ghost conducted him to poor Bob Cratchit's house; the dwelling he had visited before;
and found the mother and the children seated by the fire.
Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Cratchits were as still as statues in one corner, and
sat looking up at Peter, who had a book before him. The mother and her daughters
were engaged in needlework. But surely they were very quiet!
"'And He took a child, and set him in the midst of them.'"
Where had Scrooge heard those words? He had not dreamed them. The boy must have read them
out, as he and the Spirit crossed the threshold. Why did he not go on?
The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her hand up to her face.
"The colour hurts my eyes," she said.
The colour? Ah, poor Tiny Tim!
"They're better now. It makes them weak by candle-light; and I wouldn't show weak
eyes to your father when he comes home, for the world. It must be near his time."
"Past it rather. But I think he has walked a little slower than he used, these few last
evenings, mother."
"I have known him walk with--I have known him walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder,
very fast indeed."
"And so have I, often. But he was very light to carry. Father loved him so, that it was
no trouble: no trouble. And there's father at the door!"
She hurried out to meet him; and little Bob in his comforter --he had need of it, poor
fellow--came in. His tea was ready for him on the hob, and they all tried who should
help him to it most. Then the two young Cratchits got upon his knee and laid, each child a little
cheek, against his face, as if they said, "Don't mind it, father. Don't be grieved!"
Bob was very cheerful with them, and spoke pleasantly to all the family. He looked at
the work upon the table, and praised the industry and speed of Mrs. Cratchit and the girls.
They would be done long before Sunday, he said.
"Sunday! You went to-day, then, Robert?"
"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 him that I would walk there on a
Sunday. My little, little child!"
"Spectre, something informs me that our parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not
how. Tell me what man that was with the covered face whom we saw lying dead?"
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, to a dismal, wretched churchyard.
The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One.
"Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point, answer me one question. Are these
the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"
Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead.
"But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what
you show me!"
The Spirit was immovable as ever.
Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon
the stone of the neglected grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.
"Am I that man who lay upon the bed? No, Spirit! Oh no, no! Spirit! Hear me! I am not the man
I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this,
if I am past all hope! Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you
have shown me, by an altered life! I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep
it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of
all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh,
tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"
Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in
the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.
YES! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and
happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!
He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever
heard. Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; no
night; clear, bright, stirring, golden day!
"What's to-day!"
"Today? Why, this is CHRISTMAS DAY."
"Ooo It's Christmas Day! I haven't missed it. Hallo, my fine fellow! Do you know the
Poulterer's, in the next street but one, at the corner?"
"I should hope I did."
"Oh! An intelligent boy! A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they've sold the prize
Turkey that was hanging up there?--Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?"
"What, the the one as big as me?"
"What a delightful boy! It's a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!"
"It's hanging there now."
"Is it? Go and buy it."
"Walk-ER!"
"Oh No, no, I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell 'em to bring it here, that I may
give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I'll give you
a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I'll give you half-a-crown!
"I'll send it to Bob Cratchit's! He sha'n't know who sends it. It's twice the size of
Tiny Tim."
The hand in which he wrote the address was not a steady one, but write it he did, somehow,
and went down-stairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the poulterer's man.
It was a Turkey! He never could have stood upon his legs, that bird. He would have snapped
'em short off in a minute, like sticks of sealing-wax.
Scrooge dressed himself "all in his best," and at last got out into the streets. The
people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with the Ghost of Christmas
Present; and walking with his hands behind him, Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted
smile. He looked so irresistibly pleasant, in a word, that three or four good-humoured
fellows said, "Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!" And Scrooge said often
afterwards, that of all the blithe sounds he had ever heard, these were the blithest
in his ears.
In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew's house. He passed the door a dozen
times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and
did it.
"Is your master at home, my dear?"
"Yes, sir."
"Where is he, my love?"
"He's in the dining-room, sir, with the mistress."
"He knows me. I'll go in here, my dear."
"Fred!"
"Why bless my soul!"
"who's that?"
"It's I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?"
Let him in! It is a mercy he didn't shake his arm off. He was home in five minutes.
Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just the same. So did Topper when he
came. So did the plump sister when she came. So did every one when they came. Wonderful
party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!
But he was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only be
there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his
heart upon.
And he did it! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. Bob was full eighteen
minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might
see him come into the Tank.
Bob's hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was on his stool in
a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o'clock.
"Hallo! What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?"
"I am very sorry, sir. I am behind my time."
"You are? Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please."
"It's only once a year, sir. It shall not be repeated. I was making rather
merry yesterday, sir."
"Now, I'll tell you what, my friend, I am not going to stand this sort of thing any
longer. And therefore, and therefore I am about to raise your salary! A merry Christmas,
Bob! Ha ha ha! A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I
have given you, for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your
struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas
bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy a second coal-scuttle before you dot
another i, Bob Cratchit! Ha ha ha!"
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim,
who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a
master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town,
or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him,
but his own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him.
It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed
the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed,
God bless Us, Every One!
[Applause]