Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the
dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit's eyes were clear and kind, he
did not like to meet them. `I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,' said the Spirit.
`Look upon me.'
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle,
bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious
breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its
feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on
its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with
shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face,
its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour,
and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword
was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust. `You have never seen the
like of me before.' exclaimed the Spirit. `Never,' Scrooge made answer to it. `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,' said Scrooge. `I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers,
Spirit.' `More than eighteen hundred,' said the Ghost. `A tremendous family to provide
for.' muttered Scrooge.
The Ghost of Christmas Present rose. `Spirit,' said Scrooge submissively,' 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.
Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat,
pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly.
So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood in
the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people
made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from
the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence
it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below,
and splitting into artificial little snow-storms.
The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with
the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the
ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels
of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of
times where the great streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to
trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest
streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier
particles descended in shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain
had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts' content.
There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an
air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun
might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.
For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full
of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging
a facetious snowball -- better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest -- laughing
heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers'
shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There
were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats
of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in
their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish
Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went
by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples,
clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the
shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths
might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown,
recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings
ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy,
setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness
of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in
paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among
these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race,
appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping
round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.
The Grocers'. oh the Grocers'. nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down,
or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was not alone that the scales descending
on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so
briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or
even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or
even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white,
the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the
candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on
feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy,
or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated
boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers
were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled
up against each other at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left
their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed
hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and
his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened
their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection,
and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.
But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away
they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest
faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and
nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the baker' shops.
The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for
he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers
as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And
it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words
between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of
water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said,
it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was. God love it, so it
In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial
shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed
blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones
were cooking too. `Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch.'
asked Scrooge. `There is. My own.' `Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this
day.' asked Scrooge. `To any kindly given. To a poor one most.' `Why to a poor one
most.' asked Scrooge. `Because it needs it most.' `Spirit,' said Scrooge, after
a moment's thought,' I wonder you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us,
should desire to cramp these people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment.' `I.'
cried the Spirit. `You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh
day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,' said Scrooge.
`Wouldn't you.' `I.' cried the Spirit. `You seek to close these places on the Seventh
Day.' said Scrooge. `And it comes to the same thing.' `I seek.' exclaimed the Spirit.
`Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of
your family,' said Scrooge. `There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned
the Spirit,' who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride,
ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange
to us and all out kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge
their doings on themselves, not us.'
Scrooge promised that he would; and they went on, invisible, as they had been
before, into the suburbs of the town. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which
Scrooge had observed at the baker's), that notwithstanding his gigantic size, he
could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low
roof quite as gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he
could have done in any lofty hall.
And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power
of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with
all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge's clerk's; for there he went, and
took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the threshold of the door the
Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinkling
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.
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 honour 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 e 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 with officious zeal.
`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 before
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.
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds;
a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course -- and in truth
it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready
beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with
incredible vigour; 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.