hen Scrooge awoke, it
was so dark, that looking out of bed, he could
scarcely distinguish the transparent window from
the opaque walls of his chamber. He was
endeavouring to pierce the darkness with his
ferret eyes, when the chimes of a neighbouring
church struck the four quarters. So he listened
for the hour.
To his great
astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to
seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up
to twelve; then stopped. Twelve. It was past two
when he went to bed. The clock was wrong. An
icicle must have got into the works. Twelve.
isn't possible," said Scrooge, "that I
can have slept through a whole day and far into
another night. It isn't possible that anything
has happened to the sun, and this is twelve at
The idea being
an alarming one, he scrambled out of bed, and
groped his way to the window. He was obliged to
rub the frost off with the sleeve of his
dressing-gown before he could see anything; and
could see very little then. All he could make out
was, that it was still very foggy and extremely
cold, and that there was no noise of people
running to and fro, and making a great stir, as
there unquestionably would have been if night had
beaten off bright day, and taken possession of
Scrooge went to
bed again, and thought, and thought, and thought
it over and over and over, and could make nothing
of it. The more he thought, the more perplexed he
was; and the more he endeavored not to think, the
more he thought. Marley's Ghost bothered him
exceedingly. Every time he resolved within
himself, after mature inquiry, that it was all a
dream, his mind flew back again, like a strong
spring released, to its first position, and
presented the same problem to be worked all
through, "Was it a dream or not?"
Scrooge lay in
this state until the chimes had gone three
quarters more, when he remembered, on a sudden,
that the Ghost had warned him of a visitation
when the bell tolled one. He resolved to lie
awake until the hour was past; and, considering
that he could no more go to sleep than go to
Heaven, this was perhaps the wisest resolution in
The quarter was
so long, that he was more than once convinced he
must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and
missed the clock. At length it broke upon his
past," said Scrooge, counting.
past!" said Scrooge.
to it," said Scrooge.
itself," said Scrooge, triumphantly,
"and nothing else!"
He spoke before
the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a
deep, dull, hollow, melancholy One. Light flashed
up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains
of his bed were drawn.
The curtains of
his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand.
Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at
his back, but those to which his face was
addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn
aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a
half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to
face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as
close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing
in the spirit at your elbow.
It was a
strange figure -- like a child: yet not so like a
child as like an old man, viewed through some
supernatural medium, which gave him the
appearance of having receded from the view, and
being diminished to a child's proportions. Its
hair, which hung about its neck and down its
back, was white as if with age; and yet the face
had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom
was on the skin. The arms were very long and
muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were
of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most
delicately formed, were, like those upper
members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest
white, and round its waist was bound a lustrous
belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a
branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in
singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had
its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the
strangest thing about it was, that from the crown
of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of
light, by which all this was visible; and which
was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its
duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap,
which it now held under its arm.
the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to
me?" asked Scrooge.
The voice was
soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of
being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
what are you?" Scrooge demanded.
"I am the
Ghost of Christmas Past."
Past?" inquired Scrooge: observant of its
Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if
anybody could have asked him; but he had a
special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and
begged him to be covered.
exclaimed the Ghost, "Would you so soon put
out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it
not enough that you are one of those whose
passions made this cap, and force me through
whole trains of years to wear it low upon my
reverently disclaimed all intention to offend or
any knowledge of having willfully bonneted the
Spirit at any period of his life. He then made
bold to inquire what business brought him there.
welfare," said the Ghost.
expressed himself much obliged, but could not
help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would
have been more conducive to that end. The Spirit
must have heard him thinking, for it said
reclamation, then. Take heed."
It put out its
strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently
by the arm.
walk with me."
It would have
been in vain for Scrooge to plead that the
weather and the hour were not adapted to
pedestrian purposes; that bed was warm, and the
thermometer a long way below freezing; that he
was clad but lightly in his slippers,
dressing-gown, and nightcap; and that he had a
cold upon him at that time. The grasp, though
gentle as a woman's hand, was not to be resisted.
He rose: but finding that the Spirit made towards
the window, clasped his robe in supplication.
mortal," Scrooge remonstrated, "and
liable to fall."
a touch of my hand there," said the Spirit,
laying it upon his heart, "and you shall be
upheld in more than this."
As the words
were spoken, they passed through the wall, and
stood upon an open country road, with fields on
either hand. The city had entirely vanished. Not
a vestige of it was to be seen. The darkness and
the mist had vanished with it, for it was a
clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the
Heaven!" said Scrooge, clasping his hands
together, as he looked about him. "I was
bred in this place. I was a boy here."
gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though
it had been light and instantaneous, appeared
still present to the old man's sense of feeling.
He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in
the air, each one connected with a thousand
thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long,
is trembling," said the Ghost. "And
what is that upon your cheek?"
muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice,
that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to
lead him where he would.
recollect the way?" inquired the Spirit.
it!" cried Scrooge with fervour -- "I
could walk it blindfold."
to have forgotten it for so many years,"
observed the Ghost. "Let us go on."
along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate,
and post, and tree; until a little market-town
appeared in the distance, with its bridge, its
church, and winding river. Some shaggy ponies now
were seen trotting towards them with boys upon
their backs, who called to other boys in country
gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys
were in great spirits, and shouted to each other,
until the broad fields were so full of merry
music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it.
but shadows of the things that have been,"
said the Ghost. "They have no consciousness
travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge
knew and named them every one. Why was he
rejoiced beyond all bounds to see them. Why did
his cold eye glisten, and his heart leap up as
they went past? Why was he filled with gladness
when he heard them give each other Merry
Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads and-bye
ways, for their several homes? What was merry
Christmas to Scrooge? Out upon merry Christmas!
What good had it ever done to him?
school is not quite deserted," said the
Ghost. "A solitary child, neglected by his
friends, is left there still."
Scrooge said he
knew it. And he sobbed.
They left the
high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and soon
approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a
little weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the
roof, and a bell hanging in it. It was a large
house, but one of broken fortunes; for the
spacious offices were little used, their walls
were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and
their gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted
in the stables; and the coach-houses and sheds
were over-run with grass. Nor was it more
retentive of its ancient state, within; for
entering the dreary hall, and glancing through
the open doors of many rooms, they found them
poorly furnished, cold, and vast. There was an
earthy savour in the air, a chilly bareness in
the place, which associated itself somehow with
too much getting up by candle-light, and not too
much to eat.
They went, the
Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at
the back of the house. It opened before them, and
disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made
barer still by lines of plain deal forms and
desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading
near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a
form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as
he used to be.
Not a latent
echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle from
the mice behind the paneling, not a drip from the
half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind,
not a sigh among the leafless boughs of one
despondent poplar, not the idle swinging of an
empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in the
fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a
softening influence, and gave a freer passage to
touched him on the arm, and pointed to his
younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a
man, in foreign garments: wonderfully real and
distinct to look at: stood outside the window,
with an ax stuck in his belt, and leading by the
bridle an ass laden with wood.
Ali Baba!" Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy.
"It's dear old honest Ali Baba. Yes, yes, I
know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary
child was left here all alone, he did come, for
the first time, just like that. Poor boy. And
Valentine," said Scrooge, "and his wild
brother, Orson; there they go. And what's his
name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at
the Gate of Damascus; don't you see him? And the
Sultan's Groom turned upside down by the Genii;
there he is upon his head. Serve him right. I'm
glad of it. What business had he to be married to
To hear Scrooge
expending all the earnestness of his nature on
such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice
between laughing and crying; and to see his
heightened and excited face; would have been a
surprise to his business friends in the city,
the Parrot." cried Scrooge. "Green body
and yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce
growing out of the top of his head; there he is!
Poor Robin Crusoe, he called him, when he came
home again after sailing round the island.
"Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been,
Robin Crusoe?" The man thought he was
dreaming, but he wasn't. It was the Parrot, you
know. There goes Friday, running for his life to
the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Hallo!"
Then, with a
rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual
character, he said, in pity for his former self,
"Poor boy!" and cried again.
wish," Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in
his pocket, and looking about him, after drying
his eyes with his cuff: "but it's too late
the matter?" asked the Spirit.
said Scrooge. "Nothing. There was a boy
singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night.
I should like to have given him something: that's
smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying
as it did so, "Let us see another
former self grew larger at the words, and the
room became a little darker and more dirty. The
panels shrunk, the windows cracked; fragments of
plaster fell out of the ceiling, and the naked
laths were shown instead; but how all this was
brought about, Scrooge knew no more than you do.
He only knew that it was quite correct; that
everything had happened so; that there he was,
alone again, when all the other boys had gone
home for the jolly holidays.
He was not
reading now, but walking up and down
despairingly. Scrooge looked at the Ghost, and
with a mournful shaking of his head, glanced
anxiously towards the door.
It opened; and
a little girl, much younger than the boy, came
darting in, and putting her arms about his neck,
and often kissing him, addressed him as her
"Dear, dear brother."
come to bring you home, dear brother!" said
the child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending
down to laugh. "To bring you home, home,
little Fan?" returned the boy.
said the child, brimful of glee. "Home, for
good and all. Home, for ever and ever. Father is
so much kinder than he used to be, that home's
like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear
night when I was going to bed, that I was not
afraid to ask him once more if you might come
home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in
a coach to bring you. And you're to be a
man!" said the child, opening her eyes,
"and are never to come back here; but first,
we're to be together all the Christmas long, and
have the merriest time in all the world."
quite a woman, little Fan!" exclaimed the
She clapped her
hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head;
but being too little, laughed again, and stood on
tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag
him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door;
and he, nothing loath to go, accompanied her.
voice in the hall cried. "Bring down Master
Scrooge's box, there!" And in the hall
appeared the schoolmaster himself, who glared on
Master Scrooge with a ferocious condescension,
and threw him into a dreadful state of mind by
shaking hands with him. He then conveyed him and
his sister into the veriest old well of a
shivering best-parlour that ever was seen, where
the maps upon the wall, and the celestial and
terrestrial globes in the windows, were waxy with
cold. Here he produced a decanter of curiously
light wine, and a block of curiously heavy cake,
and administered installments of those dainties
to the young people: at the same time, sending
out a meagre servant to offer a glass of
"something" to the postboy, who
answered that he thanked the gentleman, but if it
was the same tap as he had tasted before, he had
rather not. Master Scrooge's trunk being by this
time tied on to the top of the chaise, the
children bade the schoolmaster good-bye right
willingly; and getting into it, drove gaily down
the garden-sweep: the quick wheels dashing the
hoar-frost and snow from off the dark leaves of
the evergreens like spray.
delicate creature, whom a breath might have
withered," said the Ghost. "But she had
a large heart!"
had," cried Scrooge. "You're right.
I'll not gainsay it, Spirit. God forbid!"
a woman," said the Ghost, "and had, as
I think, children."
child," Scrooge returned.
said the Ghost. "Your nephew!"
uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly,