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CHRISTMAS STORIES



BY

CHARLES DICKENS



NEW YORK

LOVELL, CORYELL & COMPANY

5 AND 7 East Sixteenth Street



A CHRISTMAS CAROL.



marley's ghost.

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt
whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed
by the clerg}'man, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief
mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good
upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind ! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own
knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.
I might have been inclined, myself, to regard, a coffin-nail as
the deadest piece of ironmonger}^ in the trade. But the wis-
dom of our ancestors is in the simile j and my unhallowed
hands shall not disturb it, or the Countrv's done for. You
will therefore permit me to repeat, emphaticalh^ that Marley
was as dead as a door-nail.

vScrooge knew he was dead ? Of course he did. How
could it be othervvdse ? 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 leg-
atee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge
was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was
an excellent man of business on the ven,^ day of the funeral,
and solemnized it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the
point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was



8 A CHRISTxMAS CAROL.

dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing won-
derful can come of the story 1 am going to relate. If we were
not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the
play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his
taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own
ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gen-
tleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot — say
Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance — literally to astonish his
sons weak mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name. There it
£<ood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door : Scrooge
and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.
Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge,
and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names. It
was all the same to him.

Oh ! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone,
Scrooge ! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching,
covetous, old sinner ! Hard and sharp as flint, from which
no steel had ever struck out generous fire ; secret, and self-con-
tained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze
his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek,
stiffened his gait ; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue ; and
spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was
on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He car-
ried his own low temperature always about with him ; he iced
his office in the dog-days ; and didn't thaw it one degree at
Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge.
No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No
wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more
intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.
Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest
rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advan-
tage 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 glad-
some looks, " My dear Scrooge, how are you .'' When v.'iU
you come to see me ? " No beggars implored him to bestow
a trifle, no children asked liim what it was o'clock, no man or
woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and
such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men's dogs ap-
peared to know him ; and when they saw him coming on,
would tug their owners into doorways and up courts ; and



A CHRISTMAS CAROL. o

then would wag their tails as though they said, " No eye at ai,
is better than an evil eye, dark master ! "

But what did Scrooge care ! It was the very thing he
liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life,
warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what
the knowing ones call "nuts" to Scrooge.

Once upon a time — of all the good days in the year, on
Christmas Eve — old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house.
It was cold, bleak, biting weather : foggy withal : and he
could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up
and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamp-
ing their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. The
city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark al-
ready — it had not been light all day — and candles were flar-
ing in the windows of the neighboring offices, like ruddy
smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring
in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that
although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite
were mere phantoms. To see the ding}- cloud come drooping
down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Na-
ture lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he
might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell
beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a
very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller
that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for
Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room ; and so surely as
the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it
would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk
put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the
candle ; in which efTort, not being a man of a strong imagina-
tion, he failed.

" A merry Christmas, uncle ! God save you ! " cried a
cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who
came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he
had of his approach.

" Bah ! " said Scrooge, " Humbug ! "

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog
and frost, this nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow \
his face was ruddy and handsome ; his eyes sparkled, and
his breath smoked again.

" Christmas a humbug, uncle ! " said Scrooge's nephew,
" You don't mean that, I am sure ? "



lo A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

" I do," said Scrooge. " Merry Christmas ! What right
have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry ?
You're poor enough."

"Come, then," returned the nephew gayly. "What right
have you to be dismal 1 What reason have you to be morose "i
You're rich enough."

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of
the moment, said " Bah ! " again ; and followed it up with
" Humbug."

" Don't be cross, uncle ! " said the nephew.

" What else can I be," returned the uncle, " when I live
in such a world of fools as this ? Merry Christmas ! Out
upon Merry Chrismas! What's Christmas time to you but a
time for paying bills without money ; a time for finding
yourself a year older, but not an hour richer ; a time for
balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a
round dozen of months presented dead against you .? If I
could work my will," said Scrooge, indignantly, "every idiot
who goes about with ' Merry Christmas ' on his lips, should be
boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly
through his heart. He should ! "

" Uncle ! " pleaded the nephew.

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

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

" Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge. " Much
good may it do you ! Much good it has ever done you ! "

" There are many things from which I might have derived
good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the
nephew. "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have
always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round —
apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin
if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good
time ; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time ; the only
time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men
and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts
freely, and to think of people belov/ them as if they really
were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of
creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle,
though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket,
I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good ;
and I say, God bless it ! "



A CHRISTMAS CAROL. 1 1

The clerk in the tank involuntarily applauded. Becoming
immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire,
and extinguished the last frail spark for ever.

" Let me hear another sound from you,'^ said Scrooge,
" and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation !
You're quite a powerful speaker, sir," he added, turing to
his nephew. " 1 wonder you don't go into Parliament,"

" Don't be angry, uncle. Come ! Dine with us to-
morrow."

Scrooge said that he would see him — yes, indeed he did.
He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he
would see him in that extremity first.

" But why "i " cried Scrooge's nephew. *' Why ? "

" Why did you get married .'' " said Scrooge.

" Because I fell in love."

" Because you fell in love ! " growled Scrooge, as if that
were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a
merry Christmas. " Good-afternoon ! "

"Nay, uncle, but you never came to see me before -that
happened. Why give it as a reason for not coming now 1 "

" Good-afternoon," said Scrooge.

" I want nothing from you ; I ask nothing of you ; why
cannot we be friends .'' "

" Good-afternoon," said Scrooge.

" I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute.
We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party.
But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I'll
keep my Christmas humor to the last. So A Merry Christ-
mas, uncle ! "

" Good-afternoon ! " said Scrooge.

'• And a Happy New Year ! "

"Good-afternoon ! " said Scrooge.

His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwith-
standing. He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greet-
ings of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was
warmer than Scrooge ; for he returned them cordially.

" There's another fellow," muttered Scrooge ; who over-
heard him : " my clerk, with fifteen shillings a-w^eek, and a
wife and family^ talking about a merry Christmas. I'll retire
to Bedlam."

This lunatic, in letting Scrooge's nephew^ out, had let two
other people in. They were portly gentleman, pleasant to
behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge's office



12 A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

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

" Scrooge and Marley's, I believe," said one of the gentle-
men, referring to his Hst. " Have I the pleasure of addressing
Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley ? "

" Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years," Scrooge
replied. " He died seven years ago, this very night."

" We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by
his surviving partner,'' said the gentleman, presenting his cre-
dentials.

It certainly was ; for they had been two kindred spirits.
At the ominous word " liberality,"Scrooge frowned, and shook
his head, and handed the credentials back.

"At this festive season of the year, Mr, Scrooge," said the
gentleman, taking up a pen, " it is more than usually desirable
that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and
destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many
thousands are in want of common necessaries ; hundreds of
thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

" Are there no prisons ? " asked Scrooge.

" Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the
pen again.

" And the Union workhouses .'' " demanded Scrooge,
" Are they still in operation ? "

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

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

"Both very busy, sir."

" Oh ! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that
something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,"
said Scrooge. " I'm very glad to hear it."

" Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian
cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentle-
man, " a few of us are endeavoring to raise a fund to buy the
Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We
choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when
Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I
put you down for ? "

" Nothing ! " Scrooge replied.

" You wish to be anonymous ? "

" I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. " Since you ask
me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer, I don't make



A CHRISTMAS CAROL. 13

merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle
people merry. I help to support the establishments I have
mentioned — they cost enough ; and those who are badly off
must go there."

" Many can't go there ; and many would rather die."

" If they would rather die," said Scrooge, " they had
better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides —
excuse me — I don't know that."

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

" It's not my business," Scrooge returned. " It's enough
for a man to understand his own business, and not to inter-
fere with other people's. IVIine occupies me constantly.
Good-afternoon, gentlemen ! "

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their
point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labors
with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious
temper than was usual with him.

Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people
ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go
before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way.
The ancient tower of a church, wdiose gruff old bell was always
peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a gothic window in the
wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in
the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth
were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became
intense. In the main street, at the corner of the court, some
laborers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great
fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys
were gathered : warming their hands and winking their eyes
before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in
solitude, its overflowings sullenly congealed, and turned to
misanthropic ice. The brightness of the shops where holly
sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows,
made pale faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers' and
grocers' trades became a splendid joke : a glorious pageant,
with which it w^as next to impossible to believe that such dull
principles as bargain and sale had anything to do. The Lord
Mayor, in the stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave
orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a
Lord Mayor's household should ; and even the little tailor,
whom he had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for
being drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up to-
morrow's pudding in his garret, while his lean wdfe and the
baby sallied out to buy the beef.



14 A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Foggier yet, and colder ! Piercing, searching, biting cold.

If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit's

nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using

his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to

lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed

and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by

dogs, stooped down at Scrooge's keyhole to regale him with a

Christmas carol : but at the first sound of

" God bless you merry gentleman !
May nothing you dismay ! "

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the
singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even
more congenial frost.

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 to-morrow, I suppose ? " said
Scrooge.

" If quite convenient, sir."

" It's not convenient," said Scrooge, " 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 .? "

The clerk smiled faintly,

" And yet," said Scrooge, " you don't think me ill-used,
when I pay a day's wages for no work."

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

" A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-
fifth of December ! " said Scrooge, buttoning his great coat
to the chin. " 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. The office was closed in a twinkling, and
the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling
below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat), went down a
slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times,
in honor of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to
Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to plav at blindman's-
buff.

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



A CHRISTMAS CAROL.



15



partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering
pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to
be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run
there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek
with other houses, and forgotten th-e way out again. It was
old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but
Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices. The yard
was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was
fain to grope with his hands. The fog and frost so hung
about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed as
if the Genius of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on
the threshold.

Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular
about the knocker on the door, except that it w^as very large.
It is also a fact, 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, even including — which is a bold word — ■
the corporation, aldermen, and liver)^ Let it also be borne
in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Mar-
ley, since his last mention of his seven-years' dead partner
that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he
can, how it happened that 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. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the
other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about
it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angr}^ or
ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look : with
ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The
hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot-air j and,
though the eyes were wade open, they v/ ere perfectly motionless.
That, and its livid color, made it horrible ; but its horror seemed
to be m spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than
a part of its own expression.

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.



1 6 A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

He did pause, with a moment's irresolution, before he shut
the door ; and he did look cautiously behind at first, as if he
half-expected to be terrified with the sight of Marley's pigtail
sticking out into the hall. But there was nothing on the back
of the door, except the screws and nuts that held the knocker
on, so he said " Pooh, pooh ! " and closed it with a bang.

The sound resounded through the house like thunder.
Every room above, and every cask in the wine-merchant's cel-
lars 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 and walked across the hall, and up the
stairs ; slowly too ; trimming his candle as he went.

You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six up a
good old flight of stairs, or through a bad young Act of Par-
liament ; but I mean to say you might have got a hearse up
that staircase, and taken it broadwise, with the splinter-bar
towards the wall and the door towards the balustrades : and
done it easy. There was plenty of width for that, and room
to spare ; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge thought
he saw a locomotive hearse going on before him in the gloom.
Half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn't have lighted
the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark
with Scrooge's dip.

Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness
is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. But before he shut his heavy
door, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right.
He had just enough recollection of the face to desire to do
that.

Sitting-room, bed-room, lumber-room. All as tliey should
be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa ; a small
fire in the grate ; spoon and basin ready ; and the little sauce-
pan of gruel (Scrooge had a cold in his head) 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 fireguard, old
shoes, tw^o 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 oif his cravat ; put on his
dressing-gown and slippers, and his night-cap ; and sat down
before the fire to take his gruel.

It was a very low fire indeed ; nothing on such a bitter



A CHRISTMAS CAROL. 17

night. He was cbliged to sit close to it, and brood over it,
before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from
such a handful of fuel. The fire-place was an old one, built
by some Dutch merchant long ago, and paved all round with
quaint Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures.
There were Cains and Abels, Pharaoh's daughters. Queens ot
Sheba, Angelic messengers descending through the air om
clouds like feather-beds, Abrahams, Belshazzars, Apostles put-
ting off to sea in butter-boats, hundreds of figures to attract his
thoughts ; and yet that face of Marley, seven years dead, came
like the ancient Prophet's rod, and swallowed up the whole.
If each smooth tile had been a blank at first, with power to
shape some picture on its surface from the disjointed frag-
ments of his thoughts, there would have been a copy of old
Marley's head on every one.

" Humbug 1 " said Scrooge ; and walked across the room.

After several turns, he sat down again. As he threw his
head back 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. It swung so softly in the outset,
that it scarcely made a sound ; but soon it rang out loudly,
and so did every bell in the house.

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it
seemed an hour. The bells ceased as they had begun, toge-
ther. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down
below ; as if some person were dragging a heav}' chain over
the casks in the wine merchant's cellar. Scrooge then remem-
bered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses v/ere de-
scribed as drao^o^insf chains.

The cellar-door flew open with aboommg sound, and then he
heard the noise much louder, on the floors below ; then com-



Online LibraryCharles DickensChristmas stories → online text (page 1 of 36)