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
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 value.
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.' `Guess.' `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.
Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits
Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in bed to
get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was
again upon the stroke of One. He felt that he was restored to consciousness in the
right nick of time, for the especial purpose of holding a conference with the second
messenger despatched to him through Jacob Marley's intervention. But, finding that
he turned uncomfortably cold when he began to wonder which of his curtains this
new spectre would draw back, he put them every one aside with his own hands, and
lying down again, established a sharp look-out all round the bed. For, he wished
to challenge the Spirit on the moment of its appearance, and did not wish to be
taken by surprise, and made nervous.
Gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort, who plume themselves on being acquainted
with a move or two, and being usually equal to the time-of-day, express the wide
range of their capacity for adventure by observing that they are good for anything
from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter; between which opposite extremes, no doubt,
there lies a tolerably wide and comprehensive range of subjects. Without venturing
for Scrooge quite as hardily as this, I don't mind calling on you to believe that
he was ready for a good broad field of strange appearances, and that nothing between
a baby and rhinoceros would have astonished him very much.
Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for
nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he
was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter
of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very
core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clock
proclaimed the hour; and which, being only light, was more alarming than a dozen
ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant, or would be at; and was sometimes
apprehensive that he might be at that very moment an interesting case of spontaneous
combustion, without having the consolation of knowing it. At last, however, he began
to think -- as you or I would have thought at first; for it is always the person
not in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done in it, and would unquestionably
have done it too -- at last, I say, he began to think that the source and secret
of this ghostly light might be in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing
it, it seemed to shine. This idea taking full possession of his mind, he got up
softly and shuffled in his slippers to the door.
The moment Scrooge's hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his
name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.
It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising
transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked
a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The
crisp 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 dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge's
time, or Marley's, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor,
to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, 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 seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with
their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious
to see:, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it
up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door. `Come
in.' exclaimed the Ghost. `Come in. and know me better, man.'