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,
Stave I: Marley's Ghost
Stave II: The First of the Three Spirits
Stave III: The Second of the Three Spirits
Stave IV: The Last of the Spirits
Stave V: The End of It
STAVE I: MARLEY'S GHOST
MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt
whatever about that. The register of his burial was
signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker,
and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and
Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he
chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a
Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my
own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about
a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to
regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery
in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors
is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands
shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You
will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that
Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did.
How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were
partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge
was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole
assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and
sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully
cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent
man of business on the very day of the funeral,
and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.
The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to
the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley
was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or
nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going
to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that
Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there
would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a
stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts,
than there would be in any other middle-aged
gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy
spot--say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance--
literally to astonish his son's weak mind.
Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name.
There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse
door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as
Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the
business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley,
but he answered to both names. It was all the
same to him.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone,
Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping,
clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint,
from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire;
secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The
cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed
nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his
eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his
grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his
eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low
temperature always about with him; he iced his office in
the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.
with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
"Uncle!" pleaded the nephew.
"Nephew!" returned the uncle sternly, "keep Christmas
in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."
"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you
don't keep it."
"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge. "Much
good may it do you! Much good it has ever done
"There are many things from which I might have
derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare
say," returned the nephew. "Christmas among the
rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas
time, when it has come round--apart from the
veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything
belonging to it can be apart from that--as a
good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant
time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar
of the year, when men and women seem by one consent
to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think
of people below them as if they really were
fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race
of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore,
uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or
silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me
good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"
The clerk in the Tank involuntarily applauded.
Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety,
he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark
"Let me hear another sound from you," said
Scrooge, "and you'll keep your Christmas by losing
your situation! You're quite a powerful speaker,
sir," he added, turning to his nephew. "I wonder you
don't go into Parliament."
"Don't be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us to-morrow."
Scrooge said that he would see him--yes, indeed he
did. He went the whole length of the expression,
and said that he would see him in that extremity first.
"But why?" cried Scrooge's nephew. "Why?"
"Why did you get married?" said Scrooge.
"Because I fell in love."
"Because you fell in love!" growled Scrooge, as if
that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous
than a merry Christmas. "Good afternoon!"
"Nay, uncle, but you never came to see me before
that happened. Why give it as a reason for not
"Good afternoon," said Scrooge.
"I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you;
why cannot we be friends?"
"Good afternoon," said Scrooge.
"I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so
resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I
have been a party. But I have made the trial in
homage to Christmas, and I'll keep my Christmas
humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!"
"Good afternoon!" said Scrooge.
"And A Happy New Year!"
"Good afternoon!" said Scrooge.
His nephew left the room without an angry word,
notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to
bestow the greetings of the season on the clerk, who,
cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned
"There's another fellow," muttered Scrooge; who
overheard him: "my clerk, with fifteen shillings a
week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry
Christmas. I'll retire to Bedlam."
This lunatic, in letting Scrooge's nephew out, had
let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen,
pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off,
in Scrooge's office. They had books and papers in
their hands, and bowed to him.
"Scrooge and Marley's, I believe," said one of the
gentlemen, referring to his list. "Have I the pleasure
of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"
"Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,"
Scrooge replied. "He died seven years ago, this very
"We have no doubt his liberality is well represented
by his surviving partner," said the gentleman, presenting
It certainly was; for they had been two kindred
spirits. At the ominous word "liberality," Scrooge
frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials
"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,"
said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than
usually desirable that we should make some slight
provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer
greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in
want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands
are in want of common comforts, sir."
"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.
"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down
the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge.
"Are they still in operation?"
"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish
I could say they were not."
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour,
then?" said Scrooge.
"Both very busy, sir."
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first,
that something had occurred to stop them in their
useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to
"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish
Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,"
returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring
to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink,
and means of warmth. We choose this time, because
it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt,
and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down
"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.
"You wish to be anonymous?"
"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you
ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.
I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't
afford to make idle people merry. I help to support
the establishments I have mentioned--they cost
enough; and those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had
better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
Besides--excuse me--I don't know that."
"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.
"It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's
enough for a man to understand his own business, and
not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies
me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!"
Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue
their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed
his labours with an improved opinion of himself,
and in a more facetious temper than was usual
Meanwhile the 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 slily 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 overflowings 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.
Foggier yet, and colder. Piercing, searching, biting
cold. If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped
the Evil Spirit's nose with a touch of such weather
as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then
indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The
owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled
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
"God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!"
Scrooge seized 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 counting-house
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 hat.
"You'll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?" said
"If quite convenient, sir."
"It's not 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 bound?"
The clerk smiled faintly.
"And yet," said Scrooge, "you don't think me ill-used,
when I pay a day's wages for no work."
The clerk observed that it was only once a year.
"A poor 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
The clerk 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
Scrooge took 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 offices.
The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew
its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands.
The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway
of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of
the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the
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