Editor’s Note: This is our final installation of the classic story, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s a story most are familiar with, but few have actually read. It’s an excellent tale, and a great chance to spend some time with your children, as you retell tell this classic to them. The first four weeks will be longer, which may take a few readings to get your little ones through, but Christmas Eve will be a short and easy read, perfect for ending the day and settling the youngsters down on the most exciting night of the year.
THE END OF IT
YES! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room
was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his
own, to make amends in!
“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge
repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall
strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time
be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!”
He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that
his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been
sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.
“They are not torn down,” cried Scrooge, folding one of his bedcurtains
in his arms, “they are not torn down, rings and all. They are
here—I am here—the shadows of the things that would have been,
may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!”
His hands were busy with his garments all this time; turning
them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them,
mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.
“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in
the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his
stockings. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am
as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry
Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world. Hallo
here! Whoop! Hallo!”
He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there: perfectly winded.
“There’s the saucepan that the gruel was in!” cried Scrooge,
starting off again, and going round the fireplace. “There’s the door, by
which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered! There’s the corner where
the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat! There’s the window where I saw
the wandering Spirits! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!”
Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many
years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a
long, long line of brilliant laughs!
“I don’t know what day of the month it is!” said Scrooge. “I
don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know
anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a
baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!”
He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the
lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong,
bell. Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!
Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No
fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the
blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air;
merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!
“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in
Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
“EH?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.
“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, CHRISTMAS DAY.”
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed
it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they
like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!”
“Hallo!” returned the boy.
“Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.
“I should hope I did,” replied the lad.
“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you
know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up
there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”
“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.
“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!”
“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.
“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.”
“Walk-ER!” exclaimed the boy.
“No, no,” said Scrooge, “I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell
’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take
it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back
with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”
The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand at a
trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.
“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his
hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He sha’n’t know who sends it. It’s
twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe Miller never made such a joke as
sending it to Bob’s will be!”
The hand in which he wrote the address was not a steady one,
but write it he did, somehow, and went down-stairs to open the street
door, ready for the coming of the poulterer’s man. As he stood there,
waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.
“I shall love it, as long as I live!” cried Scrooge, patting it with
his hand. “I scarcely ever looked at it before. What an honest
expression it has in its face! It’s a wonderful knocker!—Here’s the
Turkey! Hallo! Whoop! How are you! Merry Christmas!”
It was a Turkey! He never could have stood upon his legs, that
bird. He would have snapped ’em short off in a minute, like sticks of sealing-wax.
“Why, it’s impossible to carry that to Camden Town,” said
Scrooge. “You must have a cab.”
The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which
he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the
cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only
to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in
his chair again, and chuckled till he cried.
Shaving was not an easy task, for his hand continued to shake
very much; and shaving requires attention, even when you don’t
dance while you are at it. But if he had cut the end of his nose off, he
would have put a piece of sticking-plaister over it, and been quite satisfied.
He dressed himself “all in his best,” and at last got out into the
streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen
them with the Ghost of Christmas Present; and walking with his hands
behind him, Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. He
looked so irresistibly pleasant, in a word, that three or four goodhumoured
fellows said, “Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to
you!” And Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the blithe sounds
he had ever heard, those were the blithest in his ears.
He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the
portly gentleman, who had walked into his counting-house the day
before, and said, “Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe?” It sent a pang
across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him
when they met; but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it.
“My dear sir,” said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the
old gentleman by both his hands. “How do you do? I hope you
succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir!”
“Yes,” said Scrooge. “That is my name, and I fear it may not be
pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the
goodness”—here Scrooge whispered in his ear.
“Lord bless me!” cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken
away. “My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?”
“If you please,” said Scrooge. “Not a farthing less. A great many
back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favour?”
“My dear sir,” said the other, shaking hands with him. “I don’t
know what to say to such munifi—”
“Don’t say anything, please,” retorted Scrooge. “Come and see
me. Will you come and see me?”
“I will!” cried the old gentleman. And it was clear he meant to do it.
“Thank’ee,” said Scrooge. “I am much obliged to you. I thank
you fifty times. Bless you!”
He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the
people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and
questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and
up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him
pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk—that anything—could
give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps
towards his nephew’s house.
He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to
go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it:
“Is your master at home, my dear?” said Scrooge to the girl. Nice girl! Very.
“Where is he, my love?” said Scrooge.
“He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with mistress. I’ll show you up-stairs, if you please.”
“Thank’ee. He knows me,” said Scrooge, with his hand already
on the dining-room lock. “I’ll go in here, my dear.”
He turned it gently, and sidled his face in, round the door. They
were looking at the table (which was spread out in great array); for
these young housekeepers are always nervous on such points, and like
to see that everything is right.
“Fred!” said Scrooge.
Dear heart alive, how his niece by marriage started! Scrooge had
forgotten, for the moment, about her sitting in the corner with the
footstool, or he wouldn’t have done it, on any account.
“Why bless my soul!” cried Fred, “who’s that?”
“It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”
Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at
home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just
the same. So did Topper when he came. So did the plump sister when
she came. So did every one when they came. Wonderful party,
wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!
But he was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early
there. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming
late! That was the thing he had set his heart upon.
And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A
quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind
his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.
His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He
was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were
trying to overtake nine o’clock.
“Hallo!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he
could feign it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?”
“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind my time.”
“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.”
“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the
Tank. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.”
“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not
going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he
continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the
waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; “and therefore I
am about to raise your salary!”
Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a
momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and
calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.
“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness
that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier
Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a
year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling
family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a
Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy
another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely
more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He
became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the
good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in
the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him,
but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough
to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which
some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and
knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite
as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the
malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the
Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of
him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive
possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!