3: The Second of the Three Spirits
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!
There never was
such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there
ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and
flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of
universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and
mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for
the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said
with great delight (surveying one small atom of a
bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at
last. Yet every one had had enough, and the
youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in
sage and onion to the eyebrows. But now, the
plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs.
Cratchit left the room alone -- too nervous to
bear witnesses -- to take the pudding up and
bring it in.
should not be done enough? Suppose it should
break in turning out? Suppose somebody should
have got over the wall of the back-yard, and
stolen it, while they were merry with the goose
-- a supposition at which the two young Cratchits
became livid? All sorts of horrors were supposed.
Hallo! A great
deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper.
A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A
smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook's
next door to each other, with a laundress's next
door to that. That was the pudding. In half a
minute Mrs. Cratchit entered -- flushed, but
smiling proudly -- with the pudding, like a
speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing
in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and
bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
Oh, a wonderful
pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that
he regarded it as the greatest success achieved
by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs.
Cratchit said that now the weight was off her
mind, she would confess she had had her doubts
about the quantity of flour. Everybody had
something to say about it, but nobody said or
thought it was at all a small pudding for a large
family. It would have been flat heresy to do so.
Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a
At last the
dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the
hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound
in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect,
apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a
shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all
the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in
what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a
one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family
display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup
without a handle.
These held the
hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as
golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it
out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on
the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob
Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless
Which all the
us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of
He sat very
close to his father's side upon his little stool.
Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if
he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his
side, and dreaded that he might be taken from
said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt
before,"tell me if Tiny Tim will live."
"I see a
vacant seat," replied the Ghost, "in
the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an
owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows
remain unaltered by the Future, the child will
no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind
Spirit. Say he will be spared."
shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none
other of my race," returned the Ghost,
"will find him here. What then? If he be
like to die, he had better do it, and decrease
the surplus population."
his head to hear his own words quoted by the
Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and
said the Ghost, "if man you be in heart, not
adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have
discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is.
Will you decide what men shall live, what men
shall die? It may be, that in the sight of
Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to
live than millions like this poor man's
before the Ghost's rebuke, and trembling cast his
eyes upon the ground. But he raised them
speedily, on hearing his own name.
Scrooge!" said Bob; "I'll give you Mr.
Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!"
Founder of the Feast indeed!" cried Mrs.
Cratchit, reddening. "I wish I had him here.
I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon,
and I hope he'd have a good appetite for
dear," said Bob, "the children.
be Christmas Day, I am sure," said she,
"on which one drinks the health of such an
odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr.
Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it
better than you do, poor fellow."
dear," was Bob's mild answer,
drink his health for your sake and the
Day's," said Mrs. Cratchit, "not for
his. Long life to him. A merry Christmas and a
happy new year! -- he'll be very merry and very
happy, I have no doubt!"
drank the toast after her. It was the first of
their proceedings which had no heartiness. Tiny
Tim drank it last of all, but he didn't care
twopence for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the
family. The mention of his name cast a dark
shadow on the party, which was not dispelled for
full five minutes.
After it had
passed away, they were ten times merrier than
before, from the mere relief of Scrooge the
Baleful being done with. Bob Cratchit told them
how he had a situation in his eye for Master
Peter, which would bring in, if obtained, full
five-and-sixpence weekly. The two young Cratchits
laughed tremendously at the idea of Peter's being
a man of business; and Peter himself looked
thoughtfully at the fire from between his
collars, as if he were deliberating what
particular investments he should favour when he
came into the receipt of that bewildering income.
Martha, who was a poor apprentice at a
milliner's, then told them what kind of work she
had to do, and how many hours she worked at a
stretch, and how she meant to lie abed to-morrow
morning for a good long rest; to-morrow being a
holiday she passed at home. All this time the
chestnuts and the jug went round and round; and
by-and-bye they had a song, about a lost child
travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a
plaintive little voice, and sang it very well
nothing of high mark in this. They were not a
handsome family; they were not well dressed;
their shoes were far from being water-proof;
their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have
known, and very likely did, the inside of a
pawnbroker's. But, they were happy, grateful,
pleased with one another, and contented with the
time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet
in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit's torch
at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and
especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.
By this time it
was getting dark, and snowing pretty heavily; and
as Scrooge and the Spirit went along the streets,
the brightness of the roaring fires in kitchens,
parlours, and all sorts of rooms, was wonderful.
Here, the flickering of the blaze showed
preparations for a cosy dinner, with hot plates
baking through and through before the fire, and
deep red curtains, ready to be drawn to shut out
cold and darkness. There all the children of the
house were running out into the snow to meet
their married sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles,
aunts, and be the first to greet them. Here,
again, were shadows on the window-blind of guests
assembling; and there a group of handsome girls,
all hooded and fur-booted, and all chattering at
once, tripped lightly off to some near
neighbour's house; where, woe upon the single man
who saw them enter -- artful witches, well they
knew it -- in a glow.
But, if you had
judged from the numbers of people on their way to
friendly gatherings, you might have thought that
no one was at home to give them welcome when they
got there, instead of every house expecting
company, and piling up its fires half-chimney
high. Blessings on it, how the Ghost exulted. How
it bared its breadth of breast, and opened its
capacious palm, and floated on, outpouring, with
a generous hand, its bright and harmless mirth on
everything within its reach. The very
lamplighter, who ran on before dotting the dusky
street with specks of light, and who was dressed
to spend the evening somewhere, laughed out
loudly as the Spirit passed, though little kenned
the lamplighter that he had any company but
without a word of warning from the Ghost, they
stood upon a bleak and desert moor, where
monstrous masses of rude stone were cast about,
as though it were the burial-place of giants; and
water spread itself wheresoever it listed -- or
would have done so, but for the frost that held
it prisoner; and nothing grew but moss and coarse
rank grass. Down in the west the setting sun had
left a streak of fiery red, which glared upon the
desolation for an instant, like a sullen eye, and
frowning lower, lower, lower yet, was lost in the
thick gloom of darkest night.
place is this?" asked Scrooge.
where Miners live, who labour in the bowels of
the earth," returned the Spirit. "But
they know me. See."
A light shone
from the window of a hut, and swiftly they
advanced towards it. Passing through the wall of
mud and stone, they found a cheerful company
assembled round a glowing fire. An old, old man
and woman, with their children and their
children's children, and another generation
beyond that, all decked out gaily in their
holiday attire. The old man, in a voice that
seldom rose above the howling of the wind upon
the barren waste, was singing them a Christmas
song -- it had been a very old song when he was a
boy -- and from time to time they all joined in
the chorus. So surely as they raised their
voices, the old man got quite blithe and loud;
and so surely as they stopped, his vigour sank
The Spirit did
not tarry here, but bade Scrooge hold his robe,
and passing on above the moor, sped -- whither.
Not to sea? To sea. To Scrooge's horror, looking
back, he saw the last of the land, a frightful
range of rocks, behind them; and his ears were
deafened by the thundering of water, as it rolled
and roared, and raged among the dreadful caverns
it had worn, and fiercely tried to undermine the
Built upon a
dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so
from shore, on which the waters chafed and
dashed, the wild year through, there stood a
solitary lighthouse. Great heaps of sea-weed
clung to its base, and storm-birds -- born of the
wind one might suppose, as sea-weed of the water
-- rose and fell about it, like the waves they
But even here,
two men who watched the light had made a fire,
that through the loophole in the thick stone wall
shed out a ray of brightness on the awful sea.
Joining their calloused hands over the rough
table at which they sat, they wished each other
Merry Christmas in their can of grog; and one of
them: the elder, too, with his face all damaged
and scarred with hard weather, as the figure-head
of an old ship might be: struck up a sturdy song
that was like a Gale in itself.
Again the Ghost
sped on, above the black and heaving sea -- on,
on -- until, being far away, as he told Scrooge,
from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They
stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the
look-out in the bow, the officers who had the
watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several
stations; but every man among them hummed a
Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or
spoke below his breath to his companion of some
bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes
belonging to it. And every man on board, waking
or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word
for another on that day than on any day in the
year; and had shared to some extent in its
festivities; and had remembered those he cared
for at a distance, and had known that they
delighted to remember him.
It was a great
surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the
moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn
thing it was to move on through the lonely
darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were
secrets as profound as Death: it was a great
surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear
a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to
Scrooge to recognise it as his own nephew's and
to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room,
with the Spirit standing smiling by his side, and
looking at that same nephew with approving
ha!" laughed Scrooge's nephew. "Ha, ha,
If you should
happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man
more blest in a laugh than Scrooge's nephew, all
I can say is, I should like to know him too.
Introduce him to me, and I'll cultivate his
It is a fair,
even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that
while there is infection in disease and sorrow,
there is nothing in the world so irresistibly
contagious as laughter and good-humour. When
Scrooge's nephew laughed in this way: holding his
sides, rolling his head, and twisting his face
into the most extravagant contortions: Scrooge's
niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he.
And their assembled friends being not a bit
behindhand, roared out lustily.
Ha, ha, ha, ha!"
that Christmas was a humbug, as I live!"
cried Scrooge's nephew. "He believed it
shame for him, Fred." said Scrooge's niece,
indignantly. Bless those women; they never do
anything by halves. They are always in earnest.
She was very
pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled,
surprised-looking, capital face; a ripe little
mouth, that seemed made to be kissed -- as no
doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about
her chin, that melted into one another when she
laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever
saw in any little creature's head. Altogether she
was what you would have called provoking, you
know; but satisfactory, too. Oh perfectly
comical old fellow," said Scrooge's nephew,
"that's the truth: and not so pleasant as he
might be. However, his offenses carry their own
punishment, and I have nothing to say against
he is very rich, Fred," hinted Scrooge's
niece. "At least you always tell me
that, my dear?" said Scrooge's nephew.
"His wealth is of no use to him. He don't do
any good with it. He don't make himself
comfortable with it. He hasn't the satisfaction
of thinking -- ha, ha, ha! -- that he is ever
going to benefit us with it."
"I have no
patience with him," observed Scrooge's
niece. Scrooge's niece's sisters, and all the
other ladies, expressed the same opinion.
have," said Scrooge's nephew. "I am
sorry for him; I couldn't be angry with him if I
tried. Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself,
always. Here, he takes it into his head to
dislike us, and he won't come and dine with us.
What's the consequence? He don't lose much of a
think he loses a very good dinner,"
interrupted Scrooge's niece. Everybody else said
the same, and they must be allowed to have been
competent judges, because they had just had
dinner; and, with the dessert upon the table,
were clustered round the fire, by lamplight.
very glad to hear it," said Scrooge's
nephew, "because I haven't great faith in
these young housekeepers. What do you say,
clearly got his eye upon one of Scrooge's niece's
sisters, for he answered that a bachelor was a
wretched outcast, who had no right to express an
opinion on the subject. Whereat Scrooge's niece's
sister -- the plump one with the lace tucker: not
the one with the roses -- blushed.
"Do go on,
Fred," said Scrooge's niece, clapping her
hands. "He never finishes what he begins to
say. He is such a ridiculous fellow."
nephew revelled in another laugh, and as it was
impossible to keep the infection off; though the
plump sister tried hard to do it with aromatic
vinegar; his example was unanimously followed.
only going to say," said Scrooge's
nephew," that the consequence of his taking
a dislike to us, and not making merry with us,
is, as I think, that he loses some pleasant
moments, which could do him no harm. I am sure he
loses pleasanter companions than he can find in
his own thoughts, either in his mouldy old
office, or his dusty chambers. I mean to give him
the same chance every year, whether he likes it
or not, for I pity him. He may rail at Christmas
till he dies, but he can't help thinking better
of it -- I defy him -- if he finds me going
there, in good temper, year after year, and
saying Uncle Scrooge, how are you. If it only
puts him in the vein to leave his poor clerk
fifty pounds, that's something; and I think I
shook him yesterday."
It was their
turn to laugh now at the notion of his shaking
Scrooge. But being thoroughly good-natured, and
not much caring what they laughed at, so that
they laughed at any rate, he encouraged them in
their merriment, and passed the bottle joyously.
After tea they
had some music. For they were a musical family,
and knew what they were about, when they sung a
Glee or Catch, I can assure you: especially
Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a
good one, and never swell the large veins in his
forehead, or get red in the face over it.
Scrooge's niece played well upon the harp; and
played among other tunes a simple little air (a
mere nothing: you might learn to whistle it in
two minutes), which had been familiar to the
child who fetched Scrooge from the
boarding-school, as he had been reminded by the
Ghost of Christmas Past. When this strain of
music sounded, all the things that Ghost had
shown him, came upon his mind; he softened more
and more; and thought that if he could have
listened to it often, years ago, he might have
cultivated the kindnesses of life for his own
happiness with his own hands, without resorting
to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley.
But they didn't
devote the whole evening to music. After a while
they played at forfeits; for it is good to be
children sometimes, and never better than at
Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child
himself. Stop. There was first a game at
blind-man's buff. Of course there was. And I no
more believe Topper was really blind than I
believe he had eyes in his boots. My opinion is,
that it was a done thing between him and
Scrooge's nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas
Present knew it. The way he went after that plump
sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the
credulity of human nature. Knocking down the
fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping
against the piano, smothering himself among the
curtains, wherever she went, there went he. He
always knew where the plump sister was. He
wouldn't catch anybody else. If you had fallen up
against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he
would have made a feint of endeavouring to seize
you, which would have been an affront to your
understanding, and would instantly have sidled
off in the direction of the plump sister. She
often cried out that it wasn't fair; and it
really was not. But when at last, he caught her;
when, in spite of all her silken rustlings, and
her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a
corner whence there was no escape; then his
conduct was the most execrable. For his
pretending not to know her; his pretending that
it was necessary to touch her head-dress, and
further to assure himself of her identity by
pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a
certain chain about her neck; was vile,
monstrous. No doubt she told him her opinion of
it, when, another blind-man being in office, they
were so very confidential together, behind the
was not one of the blind-man's buff party, but
was made comfortable with a large chair and a
footstool, in a snug corner, where the Ghost and
Scrooge were close behind her. But she joined in
the forfeits, and loved her love to admiration
with all the letters of the alphabet. Likewise at
the game of How, When, and Where, she was very
great, and to the secret joy of Scrooge's nephew,
beat her sisters hollow: though they were sharp
girls too, as could have told you. There might
have been twenty people there, young and old, but
they all played, and so did Scrooge, for, wholly
forgetting the interest he had in what was going
on, that his voice made no sound in their ears,
he sometimes came out with his guess quite loud,
and very often guessed quite right, too; for the
sharpest needle was not sharper than Scrooge;
blunt as he took it in his head to be.
The Ghost was
greatly pleased to find him in this mood, and
looked upon him with such favour, that he begged
like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests
departed. But this the Spirit said could not be
new game," said Scrooge. "One half
hour, Spirit, only one."
It was a Game
called Yes and No, where Scrooge's nephew had to
think of something, and the rest must find out
what; he only answering to their questions yes or
no, as the case was. The brisk fire of
questioning to which he was exposed, elicited
from him that he was thinking of an animal, a
live animal, rather a disagreeable animal, a
savage animal, an animal that growled and grunted
sometimes, and talked sometimes, and lived in
London, and walked about the streets, and wasn't
made a show of, and wasn't led by anybody, and
didn't live in a menagerie, and was never killed
in a market, and was not a horse, or an ass, or a
cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig,
or a cat, or a bear. At every fresh question that
was put to him, this nephew burst into a fresh
roar of laughter; and was so inexpressibly
tickled, that he was obliged to get up off the
sofa and stamp. At last the plump sister, falling
into a similar state, cried out:
found it out! I know what it is, Fred! I know
what it is!"
it?" cried Fred.
certainly was. Admiration was the universal
sentiment, though some objected that the reply to
"Is it a bear?" ought to have been
"Yes," inasmuch as an answer in the
negative was sufficient to have diverted their
thoughts from Mr Scrooge, supposing they had ever
had any tendency that way.
given us plenty of merriment, I am sure,"
said Fred, "and it would be ungrateful not
to drink his health. Here is a glass of mulled
wine ready to our hand at the moment; and I say,
" 'Uncle Scrooge!' "
Uncle Scrooge!" they cried.
Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man,
whatever he is," said Scrooge's nephew.
"He wouldn't take it from me, but may he
have it, nevertheless. Uncle Scrooge!"
had imperceptibly become so gay and light of
heart, that he would have pledged the unconscious
company in return, and thanked them in an
inaudible speech, if the Ghost had given him
time. But the whole scene passed off in the
breath of the last word spoken by his nephew; and
he and the Spirit were again upon their travels.
Much they saw,
and far they went, and many homes they visited,
but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood
beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on
foreign lands, and they were close at home; by
struggling men, and they were patient in their
greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In
almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery's every
refuge, where vain man in his little brief
authority had not made fast the door and barred
the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught
Scrooge his precepts.
It was a long
night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had
his doubts of this, because the Christmas
Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space
of time they passed together. It was strange,
too, that while Scrooge remained unaltered in his
outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly
older. Scrooge had observed this change, but
never spoke of it, until they left a children's
Twelfth Night party, when, looking at the Spirit
as they stood together in an open place, he
noticed that its hair was grey.
spirits' lives so short?" asked Scrooge.
upon this globe, is very brief," replied the
Ghost. "It ends to-night."
at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing
The chimes were
ringing the three quarters past eleven at that
me if I am not justified in what I ask,"
said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's
robe, "but I see something strange, and not
belonging to yourself, protruding from your
skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?"
be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,"
was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. "Look
foldings of its robe, it brought two children;
wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable.
They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the
outside of its garment.
look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed
They were a boy
and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling,
wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility.
Where graceful youth should have filled their
features out, and touched them with its freshest
tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of
age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled
them into shreds. Where angels might have sat
enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out
menacing. No change, no degradation, no
perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all
the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters
half so horrible and dread.
back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this
way, he tried to say they were fine children, but
the words choked themselves, rather than be
parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon
them. "And they cling to me, appealing from
their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl
is Want. Beware them both, and all of their
degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on
his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless
the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the
Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city.
"Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for
your factious purposes, and make it worse. And
abide the end."
no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.
no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him
for the last time with his own words. "Are
there no workhouses?"
The bell struck
about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the
last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the
prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up
his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and
hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground,