by Charles Dickens
retold by Bil Scott
I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that, and years after his passing his name had still not been removed from the sign at his former place of business.
Marley's business partner Ebenezer Scrooge was a penny-pinching miser who cared more for money than anything for else in the world. He counted each penny earned or spent and shared his wealth with no one.
Even on Christmas Eve he worked, he worked hard at taking care of his precious money. As it neared closing time some gentlemen came into the office and asked Scrooge for a donation for the poor.
"Bah! Humbug!" said the stingy old miser, and he sent them away without a penny.
It got later and later, Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's clerk, started fidgeting nervously.
"You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?" said Scrooge.
"If quite convenient, Sir."
"It's not convenient," said Scrooge, but he gruggingly agreed. Then, he left without even a "good-evening" to his clerk.
It was a long, cold walk home and Scrooge stopped for supper along the way. For him the food was too expensive and he took no joy from eating it, if fact he took no joy from life at all. Finally, he arrived home; it was the old house that once belonged to Jacob Marley. Like the sign at work, it too needed repainting and repairs, but of course, that would cost money, money that Scrooge would not spend.
As he approached the door, he thought the doorknocker's face was that of old Marley. He rubbed his eyes and looked again, only the lion's face "Bah." He said under his breath "Humbug!"
Scrooge went straight to bed, no need to light a fire or to burn a candle. He bumped the old bell beside his bed. The bell remained from better days, when it was used by Marley to call servants. Now it rang clear it the cold dark, and it did not stop, in fact others in the house joined in and the din grew. Every bell in the house was ringing!
Then they went silent, but it was not quiet. Scrooge could hear the scrapping sounds of chains coming nearer and nearer his door.
A man walked right through the door, a man, or a vision of a man. He was transparent, and bound by a long chain. Scrooge strained to make out the face; it was Marley, or more correctly Marley's ghost.
"I wear a chain I forged in life, I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will," said the ghost.
"Mark it well, your greed has made a greater chain for you!" The ghost continued, "You may yet escape my fate, you will be haunted by three spirits."
As the ghost faded back through the door he said, "Expect the first when the bell tolls one." And he vanished.
"I -- I think I'd rather not,'' said Scrooge, his voice trailing into the darkness.
"A dream, a terrible dream," he thought to himself as he fell into a fitful sleep.
When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, he listened for the hour. BONG! The clock rang clear. He could make out a small figure be the foot of the bed.
"Are you the Spirit, whose coming was foretold to me?'' asked Scrooge the child-like visitor.
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past," said the spirit in a soft voice, "your past, you must come with me."
Through the wall the spirit lead, into Scrooge's past. He saw a young boy, sitting alone in school. Scrooge knew the boy, it was himself. All of the other children had gone home for the holidays, but not the boy. Scrooge could feel the pain of being alone at Christmas.
Next, they visited an office and old Fezziwig, a man for whom Scrooge once worked. Scrooge watched as the friends got ready for a Christmas party. He remembered how happy his time with Fezziwig was. He thought of his own clerk and felt sad.
It was dark, Scrooge startled awake, he was bad in his own bed. BONG! The clock rang out loudly. The room brightened from a light under the door. Scrooge neared and opened the door cautiously.
"Come in!'' exclaimed the Ghost. "Come in. and know me better, man!, I am the Ghost of Christmas Present.''
The Ghost was dressed gaily and room was alive with festive colour. "Touch my robe, Ebenezer, we must go."
It was Christmas morning. Scrooge could see crowds of happy people singing and playing on their way to church. The Spirit blessed the passing people as they walked along.
"Why, here we are at the Cratchit's." said Scrooge to no one in particular.
Mrs. Cratchit was preparing the Christmas dinner and the children were awaiting the arrival of their father and Tiny Tim, the youngest Cratchit. Bob and Tim arrive and there were hugs and kisses enough to go around. Scrooge noticed Tim, small and frail, couldn't walk without his crutch.
After the meal the family toasted the season and Tiny Tim added, "God bless us, every one."
The scene faded from before Scrooges eyes. He was alone on the dark, foggy street. But not alone, he sensed the next spirit.
"Are… you the Spirit… of Christmas… Yet to come?" stammered Scrooge. Without a word the spirit lead Scrooge to the future. He heard some businessmen talking about a deceased colleague, and they had not one kind word to say about him. No one mourned or missed him.
Scrooge worked up the courage to ask who the dead man was. The spirit pointed to a lonely marker in a neglected part of the cemetery.
"No, no, no!" cried Scrooge as he read his name on the stone.
He closed his eyes and put his head down. He heard Bob Cratchit. The ghost had taken him to Bob's house. The Cratchit's were sad; Tiny Tim's chair was empty.
"Not Tim!" he sobbed, "No Spirit, not Tim!"
Frantically he fell to his knees and pleaded with the spirit. "Can I change what I have seen in the future? If I mend my ways now, will things be different? I will honour Christmas spirit, I will change my life, I have learned from the spirits who visited, please tell me it can be different, please, please…" he sobbed as he clutched the spirit's robe.
The material felt soft in his hand. He opened his eyes and he was back in his bedroom with the bedclothes firmly in his grasp. He was in his own bed!
Christmas morning was just beginning, he had a second chance. He ran to the window shouting for joy!
"I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel; I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. Merry Christmas!" he called from the window. "And a happy New Year!"
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. And ever afterwards 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!