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| Home | Reading Room A Christmas Carol


by Charles Dickens

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Stave 2:

The First of the Three Spirits

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: and


`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

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.

`I am.'

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

my brow.'

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

than this.'

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

the ground.

`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

to him.

`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

despairingly. 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 brother.'

`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 instalments

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

like spray.

`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

lighted up.

The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked

Scrooge if he knew it.

`Know it.' said Scrooge. `Was I 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

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; laughed all over

himself, from his shows 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 then -- 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 couple 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

a stagger.

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

Christmas Past.

`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.

`Am I.'

`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 not.'

`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

once were.'

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.



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