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of the dance. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would
become of 'em next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all
through the dance, - advance and retire, turn your partner, bow and
courtesy, cockscrew, thread the needle, and back again to your
place, - Fezziwig "cut," - cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with
his legs.

When the clock struck eleven this domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs.
Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side 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," 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 'em 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?"

"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," 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 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," she said softly to Scrooge's former self. "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. I have seen your nobler
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 engagement?"

"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," said the
Ghost. "That they are what they are, do not blame me!"

"Remove me!" Scrooge exclaimed. "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.



STAVE THREE

THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS


Scrooge awoke in his own bedroom. There was no doubt about that. But it
and his own adjoining sitting-room, into which he shuffled in his
slippers, attracted by a great light there, had undergone a surprising
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 so many little mirrors had been
scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as
that petrifaction 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, brawn, great
joints of meat, sucking pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies,
plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked
apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and 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
round 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."

"Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning
(for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?"
pursued the Phantom.

"I don't think I have, 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, straight to Scrooge's
clerk's; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped
to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinklings of his torch.
Think of that! Bob had but fifteen "Bob"[*] a week himself; he pocketed
on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost
of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house!

[* Shillings.]

Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in a
twice-turned gown, but 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, conferred upon his son and heir in honor 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.

"What has ever got your precious father, then?" said Mrs. Cratchit. "And
your brother Tiny Tim! And Martha warn't as late last Christmas day by
half an hour!"

"Here's Martha, mother!" said a girl, appearing as she spoke.

"Here's Martha, mother!" cried the two young Cratchits. "Hurrah! There's
_such_ a goose, Martha!"

"Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are?" said Mrs.
Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet
for her.

"We'd a deal of work to finish up last night," replied the girl, "and
had to clear away this morning, mother!"

"Well! Never mind so long as you are come," said Mrs. Cratchit. "Sit ye
down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye!"

"No, no! There's father coming," cried the two young Cratchits, who were
everywhere at once. "Hide, Martha, hide!"

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least
three feet of comforter, exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before
him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look
seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a
little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!

"Why, where's our Martha?" cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.

"Not coming," said Mrs. Cratchit.

"Not coming!" said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits;
for he had been Tim's blood-horse all the way from church, and had come
home rampant, - "not coming upon Christmas day!"

Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so
she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his
arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off
into the wash-house that he might hear the pudding singing in the
copper.

"And how did little Tim behave?" asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had
rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his
heart's content.

"As good as gold," said Bob, "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, with
which they soon returned in high procession.[*]

[* The goose had been cooked in the baker's oven, for economy.]

Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan)
hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigor;
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, excited by the two
young Cratchits, 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 flavor, 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 it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning
out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back yard,
and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose, - a supposition at
which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were
supposed.

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 pastry-cook'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.

O, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly, too, that 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
shovelful of chestnuts on the fire.

Then all the Cratchit family drew round 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 crackled noisily. Then Bob
proposed: -

"A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!"

Which all the family re-echoed.

"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.

Scrooge raised his head speedily, on hearing his own name.

"Mr. Scrooge!" said Bob; "I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the
Feast!"

"The Founder of the Feast, indeed!" cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening. "I
wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and
I hope he'd have a good appetite for it."

"My dear," said Bob, "the children! Christmas day."

"It should be Christmas day, I am sure," said she, "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," was Bob's mild answer, "Christmas day."

"I'll drink his health for your sake and the day's," said Mrs. Cratchit,
"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 it 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. Bob Cratchit
told them how he had a situation in his eye for Master Peter, which
would bring in, if obtained, full five and sixpence weekly. The two
young Cratchits laughed tremendously at the idea of Peter's being a man
of business; and Peter himself looked thoughtfully at the fire from
between his collars, as if he were deliberating what particular
investments he should favor when he came into the receipt of that
bewildering income. Martha, who was a poor apprentice at a milliner's,
then told them what kind of work she had to do, and how many hours she
worked at a stretch, and how she meant to lie abed to-morrow morning for
a good long rest; to-morrow being a holiday she passed at home. Also how
she had seen a countess and a lord some days before, and how the lord
"was much about as tall as Peter"; at which Peter pulled up his collars
so high that you couldn't have seen his head if you had been there. All
this time the chestnuts and the jug went round and round; and by and by
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 recognize 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-humor. 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!" cried Scrooge's
nephew. "He believed it too!"

"More shame for him, Fred!" said Scrooge's niece, indignantly. Bless
those women! they never do anything by halves. They are always in
earnest.

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, but satisfactory, too. O,
perfectly satisfactory!

"He's a comical old fellow," said Scrooge's nephew, "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."

"Indeed, I think he loses a very good dinner," interrupted Scrooge's
niece. 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.

"Well, I am very glad to hear it," said Scrooge's nephew, "because I
haven't any great faith in these young housekeepers. What do _you_ say,
Topper?"

Topper clearly had his eye on one of Scrooge's niece's sisters, for he
answered that a bachelor was a wretched outcast, who had no right to
express an opinion on the subject. Whereat Scrooge's niece's sister - the
plump one with the lace tucker, not the one with the roses - blushed.

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, - especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a good
one, and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the
face over it.

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 first a game at blind-man's-buff, though. And I no more
believe Topper was really blinded than I believe he had eyes in his
boots. Because the way in which he went after that plump sister in the
lace tucker was an outrage on the credulity of human nature. Knocking
down the fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping up against the
piano, smothering himself among the curtains, wherever she went there
went he! He always knew where the plump sister was. He wouldn't catch
anybody else. If you had fallen up against him, as some of them did, and
stood there, he would have made a feint of endeavoring to seize you,
which would have been an affront to your understanding, and would
instantly have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister.

"Here is a new game," said Scrooge. "One half-hour, Spirit, only one!"

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 an ass, 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 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. At last the plump sister cried out, -

"I have found it out! I know what it is, Fred! I know what it is!"

"What is it?" cried Fred.

"It's your uncle Scro-o-o-o-oge!"

Which it certainly was. Admiration was the universal 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 drunk to 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 alms-house, 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.

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.



STAVE FOUR

THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS


The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him,
Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the 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 bear 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; on
'Change, amongst the merchants.

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," said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, "I don't know much
about it either way. I only know he he's dead."

"When did he die?" inquired another.

"Last night, I believe."

"Why, what was the matter with him? I thought he'd never die."

"God knows," said the first, with a yawn.

"What has he done with his money?" asked a red-faced gentleman.


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