Stave 2 - The First of the Three Spirits
The First of the Three Spirits
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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. He was endeavouring to
pierce the darkness with his ferret eyes, when the chimes of a
neighbouring church struck the four quarters. So he listened
for the hour.
To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from
six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to
twelve; then stopped. Twelve. It was past two when he
went to bed. The clock was wrong. An icicle must have
got into the works. Twelve.
He touched the spring of his repeater, to correct this most
preposterous clock. Its rapid little pulse beat twelve:
`Why, it isn't possible,' said Scrooge, `that I can have
slept through a whole day and far into another night. It
isn't possible that anything has happened to the sun, and
this is twelve at noon.'
The idea being an alarming one, he scrambled out of bed,
and groped his way to the window. He was obliged to rub
the frost off with the sleeve of his dressing-gown before he
could see anything; and could see very little then. All he
could make out was, that it was still very foggy and extremely
cold, and that there was no noise of people running to and fro,
and making a great stir, as there unquestionably would have been
if night had beaten off bright day, and taken possession of the
world. This was a great relief, because "Three days after sight
of this First of Exchange pay to Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge on his
order," and so forth, would have become a mere United States
security if there were no days to count by.
Scrooge went to bed again, and thought, and thought, and thought
it over and over, and could make nothing of it. The more he
thought, the more perplexed he was; and, the more he endeavoured
not to think, the more he thought.
Marley's Ghost bothered him exceedingly. Every time he resolved
within himself, after mature inquiry, that it was all a dream, his
mind flew back again, like a strong spring released, to its first
position, and presented the same problem to be worked all through,
"Was it a dream or not?"
Scrooge lay in this state until the chime had gone three-quarters
more, when he remembered, on a sudden, that the Ghost had warned
him of a visitation when the bell tolled one. He resolved to lie
awake until the hour was passed; and, considering that he could
no more go to sleep than go to heaven, this was, perhaps, the
wisest resolution in his power.
The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he
must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock.
At length it broke upon his listening ear.
`A quarter past,' said Scrooge, counting.
`Half past,' said Scrooge.
`A quarter to it,' said Scrooge.
`The hour itself,' said Scrooge triumphantly, `and nothing else!'
He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a
deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE. Light flashed up in the room
upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.
The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a
hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his
back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains
of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a
half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the
unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now
to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.
It was 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. The arms were
very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold
were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately
formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic
of the purest white, and round its waist was bound
a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. 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; and which was
doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a
great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.
Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing
steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt
sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another,
and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so
the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a
thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs,
now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a
body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible
in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the
very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and
clear as ever.
`Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to
me?' asked Scrooge.
The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if
instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
`Who, and what are you?' Scrooge demanded.
`I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.'
`Long Past?' inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish
`No. Your past.'
Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if
anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire
to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered.
`What!' exclaimed the Ghost, `would you so soon put out,
with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough
that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and
force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon
Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend
or any knowledge of having wilfully bonneted the Spirit at
any period of his life. He then made bold to inquire what
business brought him there.
`Your welfare,' said the Ghost.
Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not
help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been
more conducive to that end. The Spirit must have heard
him thinking, for it said immediately:
`Your reclamation, then. Take heed.'
It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him
gently by the arm.
`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; and that he had a cold upon him at
that time. 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 mortal,' Scrooge remonstrated, `and liable to fall.'
`Bear but a touch of my hand there,' said the Spirit,
laying it upon his heart, `and you shall be upheld in more
As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall,
and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either
hand. The city had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it
was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished
with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon
`Good Heaven!' said Scrooge, clasping his hands together,
as he looked about him. `I was bred in this place. I was
a boy here.'
The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch,
though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still
present to the old man's sense of feeling. He was conscious
of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected
with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares
long, long, forgotten.
`Your lip is trembling,' said the Ghost. `and what is
that upon your cheek?'
Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice,
that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him
where he would.
`You recollect the way?' inquired the Spirit.
`Remember it!' cried Scrooge with fervour; `I could
walk it blindfold.'
`Strange to have forgotten it for so many years,' observed
the Ghost. `Let us go on.'
They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every
gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared
in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river.
Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them
with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in
country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys
were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the
broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air
laughed to hear it.
`These are but shadows of the things that have been,' said
the Ghost. `They have no consciousness of us.'
The jocund travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge
knew and named them every one. Why was he rejoiced beyond
all bounds to see them? Why did his cold eye glisten, and
his heart leap up as they went past? Why was he filled
with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry
Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads and bye-ways, for
their several homes? What was merry Christmas to Scrooge?
Out upon merry Christmas! What good had it ever done
`The school is not quite deserted,' said the Ghost. `A
solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.'
Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.
They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and
soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little
weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell
hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken
fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls
were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their
gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables;
and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass.
Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for
entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open
doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished,
cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a
chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow
with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too
much to eat.
They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a
door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and
disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by
lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely
boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down
upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he
used to be.
Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle
from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the
half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among
the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle
swinging of an empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in
the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a softening
influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.
The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his
younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in
foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at:
stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and
leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.
`Why, it's Ali Baba.' Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. `It's
dear old honest Ali Baba. Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas
time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone,
he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy. And
Valentine,' said Scrooge, `and his wild brother, Orson; there
they go. And what's his name, who was put down in his
drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don't you see him.
And the Sultan's Groom turned upside down by the Genii;
there he is upon his head. Serve him right! I'm glad of it.
What business had he to be married to the Princess?'
To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature
on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between
laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited
face would have been a surprise to his business friends in
the city, indeed.
`There's the Parrot!' cried Scrooge. `Green body and
yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the
top of his head; there he is. Poor Robin Crusoe, he called
him, when he came home again after sailing round the
island. "Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin
Crusoe." The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn't.
It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running
for his life to the little creek. Halloa! Hoop! Hallo!'
Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his
usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, `Poor
boy!' and cried again.
`I wish,' Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his
pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his
cuff: `but it's too late now.'
`What is the matter?' asked the Spirit.
`Nothing,' said Scrooge. `Nothing. There was a boy
singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should
like to have given him something: that's all.'
The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand:
saying as it did so, `Let us see another Christmas.'
Scrooge's former self grew larger at the words, and the
room became a little darker and more dirty. The panels shrunk,
the windows cracked; fragments of plaster fell out of the
ceiling, and the naked laths were shown instead; but how
all this was brought about, Scrooge knew no more than you
do. He only knew that it was quite correct; that everything
had happened so; that there he was, alone again, when all
the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays.
He was not reading now, but walking up and down
Scrooge looked at the Ghost, and with a mournful
shaking of his head, glanced anxiously towards the door.
It opened; and a little girl, much younger than the boy,
came darting in, and putting her arms about his neck, and
often kissing him, addressed him as her `Dear, dear
`I have come to bring you home, dear brother!' said the
child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh.
`To bring you home, home, home!'
`Home, little Fan?' returned the boy.
`Yes,' said the child, brimful of glee. `Home, for good
and all! Home, for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder
than he used to be, that home's like Heaven. He spoke so
gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that
I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come
home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach
to bring you. And you're to be a man!' said the child,
opening her eyes, `and are never to come back here; but
first, we're to be together all the Christmas long, and have
the merriest time in all the world!'
`You are quite a woman, little Fan!' exclaimed the boy.
She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his
head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on
tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her
childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to
go, accompanied her.
A terrible voice in the hall cried. `Bring down Master
Scrooge's box, there!' and in the hall appeared the schoolmaster
himself, who glared on Master Scrooge with a ferocious
condescension, and threw him into a dreadful state of mind
by shaking hands with him. He then conveyed him and his
sister into the veriest old well of a shivering best-parlour that
ever was seen, where the maps upon the wall, and the celestial
and terrestrial globes in the windows, were waxy with cold.
Here he produced a decanter of curiously light wine, and a
block of curiously heavy cake, and administered installments
of those dainties to the young people: at the same time,
sending out a meagre servant to offer a glass of something
to the postboy, who answered that he thanked the gentleman,
but if it was the same tap as he had tasted before, he had
rather not. Master Scrooge's trunk being by this time tied
on to the top of the chaise, the children bade the schoolmaster
good-bye right willingly; and getting into it, drove
gaily down the garden-sweep: the quick wheels dashing the
hoar-frost and snow from off the dark leaves of the evergreens
`Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have
withered,' said the Ghost. `But she had a large heart.'
`So she had,' cried Scrooge. `You're right. I will not
gainsay it, Spirit. God forbid.'
`She died a woman,' said the Ghost, `and had, as I think,
`One child,' Scrooge returned.
`True,' said the Ghost. `Your nephew.'
Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly,
Although they had but that moment left the school behind
them, they were now in the busy thoroughfares of a city,
where shadowy passengers passed and repassed; where shadowy
carts and coaches battle for the way, and all the strife and
tumult of a real city were. It was made plain enough, by
the dressing of the shops, that here too it was Christmas
time again; but it was evening, and the streets were
The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked
Scrooge if he knew it.
`Know it?' said Scrooge. `I was apprenticed here!'
They went in. At sight of an old gentleman 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! Bless his heart; it's Fezziwig
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; laughed all over
himself, from his shoes to his organ of benevolence; and
called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice:
`Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!'
Scrooge's former self, now grown a young man, came briskly
in, accompanied by his fellow-prentice.
`Dick Wilkins, to be sure!' said Scrooge to the Ghost.
`Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached
to me, was Dick. Poor Dick. Dear, dear.'
`Yo ho, my boys,' said Fezziwig. `No more work to-night!
Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let's
have the shutters up,' cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap
of his hands, `before a man can say Jack Robinson.'
You wouldn't believe how those two fellows went at it.
They charged into the street with the shutters--one, two,
three--had them up in their places--four, five, six--barred
them and pinned them--seven, eight, nine--and came back
before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.
`Hilli-ho!' cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the
high desk, with wonderful agility. `Clear away, my lads,
and let's have lots of room here. Hilli-ho, Dick. Chirrup,
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
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 came the boy from over the way, who was
suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying
to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who
was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress.
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. But scorning rest, upon his
reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no
dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home,
exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man
resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.
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 (an artful dog, mind. The sort
of man who knew his business better than you or I could
have told it him.) 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.
But if they had been twice as many--ah, four times--
old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would
Mrs Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner
in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me
higher, and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue
from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the
dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given
time, what would have become of them next. And when old
Fezziwig and Mrs Fezziwig had gone all through the dance;
advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and
curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to
your place; Fezziwig cut--cut so deftly, that he appeared
to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without
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.
During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a
man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene,
and with his former self. He corroborated everything,
remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent
the strangest agitation. It was not until now, when the
bright faces of his former self and Dick were turned from
them, that he remembered the Ghost, and became conscious
that it was looking full upon him, while the light upon its
head burnt very clear.
`A small matter,' said the Ghost, `to make these silly
folks so full of gratitude.'
`Small,' echoed Scrooge.
The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices,
who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig:
and when he had done so, said,
`Why? Is it not*******. 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,' said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and
speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self.
`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 them up: what then? The happiness
he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.'
He felt the Spirit's glance, and stopped.
`What is the matter?' asked the Ghost.
`Nothing in particular,' said Scrooge.
`Something, I think,' the Ghost insisted.
`No,' said Scrooge, `No. I should like to be able to say
a word or two to my clerk just now. That's all.'
His former self turned down the lamps as he gave utterance
to the wish; and Scrooge and the Ghost again stood side by
side in the open air.
`My time grows short,' observed the Spirit. `Quick.'
This was not addressed to Scrooge, or to any one whom he
could see, but it produced an immediate effect. For again
Scrooge saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime
of life. His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later
years; but it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice.
There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which
showed the passion that had taken root, and where the
shadow of the growing tree would fall.
He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young
girl in a mourning-dress: in whose eyes there were tears,
which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost of
`It matters little,' she said, softly. `To you, very little.
Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and 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?' he rejoined.
`A golden one.'
`This is the even-handed dealing of the world,' he said.
`There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and
there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity
as the pursuit of wealth.'
`You fear the world too much,' she answered, gently.
`All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being
beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your
nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion,
Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?'
`What then?' he retorted. `Even if I have grown so
much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.'
She shook her head.
`Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were
both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could
improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You
are changed. When it was made, you were another man.'
`I was a boy,' he said impatiently.
`Your own feeling tells you that you were not what you
are,' she returned. `I am. That which promised happiness
when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that
we are two. How often and how keenly I have thought of
this, I will not say. It is enough that I have thought of it,
and can release you.'
`Have I ever sought release?'
`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. In
everything that made my love of any worth or value in your
sight. If this had never been between us,' said the girl,
looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; `tell me,
would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no.'
He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in
spite of himself. But he said with a struggle, `You think
`I would gladly think otherwise if I could,' she answered,
`Heaven knows. When I have learned a Truth like this,
I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you
were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe
that you would choose a dowerless girl--you who, in your
very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or,
choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your
one guiding principle to do so, 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
He was about to speak; but with her head turned from
him, she resumed.
`You may--the memory of what is past half makes me
hope you will--have pain in this. A very, very brief time,
and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an
unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you
awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen.'
She left him, and they parted.
`Spirit,' said Scrooge, `show me no more. Conduct
me home. Why do you delight to torture me?'
`One shadow more,' exclaimed the Ghost.
`No more!' cried Scrooge. `No more, I don't wish to
see it. Show me no more.'
But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms,
and forced him to observe what happened next.
They were in another scene and place; a room, not very
large or handsome, but full of comfort. Near to the winter
fire sat a beautiful young girl, so like that last that Scrooge
believed it was the same, until he saw her, now a comely
matron, sitting opposite her daughter. The noise in this
room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more children
there, than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count;
and, unlike the celebrated herd in the poem, they were not
forty children conducting themselves like one, but every
child was conducting itself like forty. The consequences
were uproarious beyond belief; but no one seemed to care;
on the contrary, the mother and daughter laughed heartily,
and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to
mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands
most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to one of
them! Though I never could have been so rude, no, no. I
wouldn't for the wealth of all the world have crushed that
braided hair, and torn it down; and for the precious little
shoe, I wouldn't have plucked it off, God bless my soul! to
save my life. As to measuring her waist in sport, as they
did, bold young brood, I couldn't have done it; I should
have expected my arm to have grown round it for a punishment,
and never come straight again. And yet I should
have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have
questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have
looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never
raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of
which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should
have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest licence
of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its
But now a knocking at the door was heard, and such a
rush immediately ensued that she with laughing face and
plundered dress was borne towards it the centre of a flushed
and boisterous group, just in time to greet the father, who
came home attended by a man laden with Christmas toys
and presents. Then the shouting and the struggling, and
the onslaught that was made on the defenceless porter!
The scaling him with chairs for ladders to dive into his
pockets, despoil him of brown-paper parcels, hold on tight
by his cravat, hug him round his neck, pommel his back,
and kick his legs in irrepressible affection! The shouts of
wonder and delight with which the development of every
package was received! The terrible announcement that the
baby had been taken in the act of putting a doll's frying-pan
into his mouth, and was more than suspected of having
swallowed a fictitious turkey, glued on a wooden platter!
The immense relief of finding this a false alarm! The joy,
and gratitude, and ecstasy! They are all indescribable alike.
It is enough that by degrees the children and their emotions
got out of the parlour, and by one stair at a time, up to the
top of the house; where they went to bed, and so subsided.
And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever,
when the master of the house, having his daughter leaning
fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his
own fireside; and when he thought that such another
creature, quite as graceful and as full of promise, might
have called him father, and been a spring-time in the
haggard winter of his life, his sight grew very dim indeed.
`Belle,' said the husband, turning to his wife with a
smile, `I saw an old friend of yours this afternoon.'
`Who was it?'
`How can I? Tut, don't I know,' she added in the
same breath, laughing as he laughed. `Mr Scrooge.'
`Mr Scrooge it was. I passed his office window; and as
it was not shut up, and he had a candle inside, I could
scarcely help seeing him. His partner lies upon the point
of death, I hear; and there he sat alone. Quite alone in
the world, I do believe.'
`Spirit,' said Scrooge in a broken voice, 'remove me
from this place.'
`I told you these were shadows of the things that have
been,' said the Ghost. `That they are what they are, do
not blame me.'
`Remove me,' Scrooge exclaimed, `I cannot bear it.'
He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon
him with a face, in which in some strange way there were
fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.
`Leave me! Take me back! Haunt me no longer!'
In the struggle, if that can be called a struggle in which
the Ghost with no visible resistance on its own part was
undisturbed by any effort of its adversary, Scrooge observed
that its light was burning high and bright; and dimly
connecting that with its influence over him, he seized the
extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down
upon its head.
The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher
covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down
with all his force, he could not hide the light, which streamed
from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground.
He was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an
irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own
bedroom. He gave the cap a parting squeeze, in which his hand
relaxed; and had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank
into a heavy sleep.