fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran
about with flaring links, proffering their
services to go before horses in carriages, and
conduct them on their way. The ancient
tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was
always peeping slyly down at Scrooge out of a
Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and
struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with
tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth
were chattering in its frozen head up
there. The cold became intense. In
the main street at the corner of the court, some
labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had
lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a
party of ragged men and boys were gathered:
warming their hands and winking their eyes before
the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being
left in solitude, its overflowing sullenly
congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice.
The brightness of the shops where holly sprigs
and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the
windows, made pale faces ruddy as they
passed. Poulterers' and grocers' trades
became a splendid joke; a glorious pageant, with
which it was next to impossible to believe that
such dull principles as bargain and sale had
anything to do. The Lord Mayor, in the
stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave
orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep
Christmas as a Lord Mayor's household should; and
even the little tailor, whom he had fined five
shillings on the previous Monday for being drunk
and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up
to-morrow's pudding in his garret, while his lean
wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef.
and colder! Piercing, searching, biting
cold. The owner of one scant young nose,
gnawed 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 --
bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!"
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 countinghouse
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
want all day to-morrow, I suppose?" said
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
yet," said Scrooge, "you don't think me
ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no
observed that it was only once a year.
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 next
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.
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
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.
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 expression.
looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a
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.
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 he went.
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.
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
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
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. 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.
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.
humbug still!" said Scrooge. "I
won't believe it."
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
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
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.
now!" said Scrooge, caustic and cold as
ever. "What do you want with me?"
-- Marley's voice, no doubt about it.
who I was."
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
"In life I
was your partner, Jacob Marley."
-- can you sit down?" asked Scrooge,
looking doubtfully at him.
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.
believe in me," observed the Ghost.
don't." said Scrooge.
evidence would you have of my reality, beyond
that of your senses?"
know," said Scrooge.
you doubt your senses?"
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
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
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
do," replied the Ghost.
not looking at it," said Scrooge.
"But I see
it," said the Ghost,
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!
upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his
he said. "Dreadful apparition, why do
you trouble me?"
the worldly mind!" replied the Ghost,
"do you believe in me or not?"
do," said Scrooge. "I must.
But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do
they come to me?"
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
spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and
wrung its shadowy hands.
fettered," said Scrooge, trembling.
"Tell me why?"
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?"
trembled more and more.
you know," pursued the Ghost, "the
weight and length of the strong coil you bear
yourself? It was full as heavy and as long
as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have
laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous
about him on the floor, in the expectation of
finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty
fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing.
he said, imploringly. "Old Jacob
Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me,
none to give," the Ghost replied.
"It comes from other regions, Ebenezer
Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to
other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what
I would. A very little more, is all
permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot
stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit
never walked beyond our counting-house -- mark
me! -- in life my spirit never roved beyond the
narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and
weary journeys lie before me!"
It was a habit
with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to
put his hands in his breeches pockets.
Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so
now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting
off his knees.
have been very slow about it, Jacob,"
Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner,
though with humility and deference.
the Ghost repeated.
years dead," mused Scrooge. "And
travelling all the time!"
time," said the Ghost. "No rest,
no peace. Incessant torture of
travel fast?" said Scrooge.
wings of the wind," replied the Ghost.
have got over a great quantity of ground in seven
years," said Scrooge.
The Ghost, on
hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its
chain so hideously in the dead silence of the
night, that the Ward would have been justified in
indicting it for a nuisance.
captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried
the phantom, "not to know, that ages of
incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this
earth must pass into eternity before the good of
which it is susceptible is all developed.
Not to know that any Christian spirit working
kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be,
will find its mortal life too short for its vast
means of usefulness. Not to know that no
space of regret can make amends for one life's
opportunity misused! Yet such was I!
Oh! such was I!"
were always a good man of business, Jacob,"
faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to
cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.
"Mankind was my business. The common
welfare was my business; charity, mercy,
forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my
business. The dealings of my trade were but
a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my
held up its chain at arm's length, as if that
were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and
flung it heavily upon the ground again.
time of the rolling year," the spectre said
"I suffer most. Why did I walk through
crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down,
and never raise them to that blessed Star which
led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were
there no poor homes to which its light would have
very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on
at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly.
me!" cried the Ghost. "My time is
nearly gone. How it is that I appear before you
in a shape that you can see, I may not
tell. I have sat invisible beside you many
and many a day."
It was not an
agreeable idea. Scrooge shivered, and wiped
the perspiration from his brow.
no light part of my penance," pursued the
Ghost. "I am here to-night to warn
you, that you have yet a chance and hope of
escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my
always a good friend to me," said
Scrooge. "Thank `ee!"
be haunted," resumed the Ghost, "by
countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost's had
the chance and hope you mentioned,
Jacob?" he demanded, in a faltering
"I -- I
think I'd rather not," said Scrooge.
their visits," said the Ghost, "you
cannot hope to shun the path I tread.
Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls
I take `em all at once, and have it over,
Jacob?" hinted Scrooge.
the second on the next night at the same
hour. The third upon the next night when
the last stroke of twelve has ceased to
vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look
that, for your own sake, you remember what has
passed between us!"
When it had
said these words, the spectre took its wrapper
from the table, and bound it round its head, as
before. Scrooge knew this, by the smart
sound its teeth made, when the jaws were brought
together by the bandage. He ventured to
raise his eyes again, and found his supernatural
visitor confronting him in an erect attitude,
with its chain wound over and about its arm.
walked backward from him; and at every step it
took, the window raised itself a little, so that
when the spectre reached it, it was wide
open. It beckoned Scrooge to approach,
which he did. When they were within two
paces of each other, Marley's Ghost held up its
hand, warning him to come no nearer.
Not so much in
obedience, as in surprise and fear: for on the
raising of the hand, he became sensible of
confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of
lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly
sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre,
after listening for a moment, joined in the
mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak,
followed to the window: desperate in his
curiosity. He looked out.
The air was
filled with phantoms, wandering hither and
thither in restless haste, and moaning as they
went. Every one of them wore chains like
Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty
governments) were linked together; none were
free. Many had been personally known to
Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite
familiar with one old ghost, in a white
waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to
its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to
assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it
saw below, upon a door-step. The misery
with them all was, clearly, that they sought to
interfere, for good, in human matters, and had
lost the power for ever.
creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded
them, he could not tell. But they and their
spirit voices faded together; and the night
became as it had been when he walked home.
the window, and examined the door by which the
Ghost had entered. It was double-locked, as
he had locked it with his own hands, and the
bolts were undisturbed. He tried to say
"Humbug!" but stopped at the first
syllable. And being, from the emotion he
had undergone, or the fatigues of the day, or his
glimpse of the Invisible World, or the dull
conversation of the Ghost, or the lateness of the
hour, much in need of repose; went straight to
bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the