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
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 honour of its being Christmas Eve,
and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play 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 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 the 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 was 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
livery. Let it also be borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on
Marley, 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 angry 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; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly
motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed
to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part or its own
As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again.
To say that he was not startled, or that his blood was not conscious of a terrible
sensation to which it had been a stranger from infancy, would be untrue. But he
put his hand upon the key he had relinquished, turned it sturdily, walked in, and
lighted his candle.
He did pause, with a moment's irresolution, before he shut the door; and he did
look cautiously behind it 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 cellars below, appeared to have a separate peal of echoes
of its own. Scrooge was not a man to be frightened by echoes. He fastened the door,
and walked across the hall, and up the stairs; slowly too: trimming his candle as
You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six up a good old flight of stairs,
or through a bad young Act of Parliament; 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
Sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room. All as they should be. Nobody under the table,
nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the
little saucepan of gruel (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 fire-guards,
old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing-stand on three legs, and a poker.
Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself
in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat;
put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the
fire to take his gruel.
It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a bitter night. He was obliged
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 fireplace 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, Pharaohs' daughters; Queens
of Sheba, Angelic messengers descending through the air on clouds like feather-beds,
Abrahams, Belshazzars, Apostles putting 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 fragments of his thoughts, there would have been a copy of old
Marley's head on every one. `Humbug!' 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, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise,
deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in
the wine merchant's cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in
haunted houses were described as dragging chains.
The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much
louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards
his door. `It's humbug still!' said Scrooge. `I won't believe it.'
His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy
door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame
leaped up, as though it cried `I know him; Marley's Ghost!' and fell again.
The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights
and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts,
and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was
long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it
closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought
in steel. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking
through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.
Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed
it until now.
No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and
through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of
its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about
its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous,
and fought against his senses. `How now!' said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever.
`What do you want with me?' `Much!' -- Marley's voice, no doubt about it. `Who are
you?' `Ask me who I was.' `Who were you then?' said Scrooge, raising his voice.
`You're particular, for a shade.' He was going to say `to a shade,' but substituted
this, as more appropriate. `In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.' `Can you
-- can you sit down?' asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at him. `I can.' `Do it,
Scrooge asked the question, because he didn't know whether a ghost so transparent
might find himself in a condition to take a chair; and felt that in the event of
its being impossible, it might involve the necessity of an embarrassing explanation.
But the ghost sat down on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he were quite
used to it. `You don't believe in me,' observed the Ghost. `I don't.' said Scrooge.
`What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?' `I don't
know,' said Scrooge. `Why do you doubt your senses?' `Because,' said Scrooge, `a
little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You
may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment
of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever
Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his
heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a
means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre's
voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.
To sit, staring at those fixed glazed eyes, in silence for a moment, would play,
Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him. There was something very awful, too, in the
spectre's being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own. Scrooge could not
feel it himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the Ghost sat perfectly
motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot
vapour from an oven. `You see this toothpick?' said Scrooge, returning quickly to
the charge, for the reason just assigned; and wishing, though it were only for a
second, to divert the vision's stony gaze from himself. `I do,' replied the Ghost.
`You are not looking at it,' said Scrooge. `But I see it,' said the Ghost, `notwithstanding.'
`Well!' returned Scrooge, `I have but to swallow this, and be for the rest of my
days persecuted by a legion of goblins, all of my own creation. Humbug, I tell you!
At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal
and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from
falling in a swoon. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking
off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower
jaw dropped down upon its breast!
Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face. `Mercy!'
he said. `Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?' `Man of the worldly mind!'
replied the Ghost, `do you believe in me or not?' `I do,' said Scrooge. `I must.
But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?' `It is required
of every man,' the Ghost returned, `that the spirit within him should walk abroad
among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth
in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the
world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared
on earth, and turned to happiness!'
Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.
`You are fettered,' said Scrooge, trembling. `Tell me why?' `I wear the chain I
forged in life,' replied the Ghost. `I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I
girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern
strange to you?'