preface i have endeavoured in this ghostly littlebook, to raise the ghost of an idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour withthemselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. may it haunt their houses pleasantly, andno one wish to lay it. their faithful friend and servant, c.d.december, 1843. 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 bythe clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker,
and the chief mourner. scrooge signed it: and scrooge's name wasgood upon 'change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.old marley was as dead as a door-nail. mind! i don't mean to say that i know, of my ownknowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. i might have been inclined, myself, toregard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. but the wisdom of our ancestors is in thesimile; 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 soleadministrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, andsole mourner. and even scrooge was not so dreadfully cutup by the sad event, but that he was an
excellent man of business on the very dayof the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain. the mention of marley's funeral brings meback to the point i started from. there is no doubt that marley was dead. this must be distinctly understood, ornothing wonderful can come of the story i am going to relate. if we were not perfectly convinced thathamlet's father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable inhis taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than
there would be in any other middle-agedgentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot--say saint paul's churchyardfor instance-- literally to astonish his son's weak mind. scrooge never painted out old marley'sname. there it stood, years afterwards, above thewarehouse door: scrooge and marley. the firm was known as scrooge and marley. sometimes people new to the business calledscrooge 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 thegrind-stone, scrooge! a squeezing,
wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching,covetous, old sinner! hard and sharp as flint, from which nosteel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary asan oyster. the cold within him froze his old features,nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyesred, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. a frosty rime was on his head, and on hiseyebrows, and his wiry chin. he carried his own low temperature alwaysabout with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree atchristmas.
external heat and cold had little influenceon scrooge. no warmth could warm, no wintry weatherchill him. no wind that blew was bitterer than he, nofalling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open toentreaty. foul weather didn't know where to have him. the heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, andsleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect.they often "came down" handsomely, and scrooge never did. nobody ever stopped him in the street tosay, with gladsome looks, "my dear scrooge,
how are you?when will you come to see me?" no beggars implored him to bestow a trifle,no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his lifeinquired the way to such and such a place, of scrooge. even the blind men's dogs appeared to knowhim; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and upcourts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "no eye at all is betterthan an evil eye, dark master!" but what did scrooge care!it was the very thing he liked. to edge his way along the crowded paths oflife, warning all human sympathy to keep
its distance, was what the knowing onescall "nuts" to scrooge. once upon a time--of all the good days inthe year, on christmas eve--old scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. it was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggywithal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down,beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavementstones to warm them. the city clocks had only just gone three,but it was quite dark already-- it had not been light all day--and candles wereflaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon thepalpable brown air.
the fog came pouring in at every chink andkeyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest,the houses opposite were mere phantoms. to see the dingy cloud come drooping down,obscuring everything, one might have thought that nature lived hard by, and wasbrewing on a large scale. the door of scrooge's counting-house wasopen that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond,a sort of tank, was copying letters. scrooge had a very small fire, but theclerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. but he couldn't replenish it, for scroogekept the coal-box in his own room; and so
surely as the clerk came in with theshovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. wherefore the clerk put on his whitecomforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man ofa strong imagination, he failed. "a merry christmas, uncle! god save you!" cried a cheerful voice.it was the voice of scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was thefirst intimation he had of his approach. "bah!" said scrooge, "humbug!" he had so heated himself with rapid walkingin the fog and frost, this nephew of
scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; hisface was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. "christmas a humbug, uncle!" said scrooge'snephew. "you don't mean that, i am sure?""i do," said scrooge. "merry christmas! what right have you to be merry?what reason have you to be merry? you're poor enough.""come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "what right have you to be dismal? what reason have you to be morose?you're rich enough."
scrooge having no better answer ready onthe spur of the moment, said, "bah!" again; and followed it up with "humbug." "don't be cross, uncle!" said the nephew."what else can i be," returned the uncle, "when i live in such a world of fools asthis? merry christmas! out upon merry christmas! what's christmas time to you but a time forpaying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not anhour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through
a round dozen of months presented deadagainst you? if i could work my will," said scroogeindignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'merry christmas' on his lips, shouldbe boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. he should!""uncle!" pleaded the nephew. "nephew!" returned the uncle sternly, "keepchristmas 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," saidscrooge.
"much good may it do you! much good it has ever done you!""there are many things from which i might have derived good, by which i have notprofited, i dare say," returned the nephew. "christmas among the rest. but i am sure i have always thought ofchristmas time, when it has come round-- apart from the veneration due to its sacredname and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that--as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasanttime; the only time i know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and womenseem 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 neverput a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, i believe that it has done me good, andwill do me good; and i say, god bless it!" the clerk in the tank involuntarilyapplauded. becoming immediately sensible of theimpropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever. "let me hear another sound from you," saidscrooge, "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!" growledscrooge, as if that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a merrychristmas. "good afternoon!" "nay, uncle, but you never came to see mebefore that happened. why give it as a reason for not comingnow?" "good afternoon," said scrooge. "i want nothing from you; i ask nothing ofyou; 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 ihave been a party. but i have made the trial in homage tochristmas, 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 angryword, notwithstanding. he stopped at the outer door to bestow thegreetings of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was warmer than scrooge;for he returned them cordially. "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 nephewout, had let two other people in. they were portly gentlemen, pleasant tobehold, 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 oneof the gentlemen, referring to his list. "have i the pleasure of addressing mr.scrooge, or mr. marley?" "mr. marley has been dead these sevenyears," scrooge replied.
"he died seven years ago, this very night." "we have no doubt his liberality is wellrepresented by his surviving partner," said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.it certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. at the ominous word "liberality," scroogefrowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back. "at this festive season of the year, mr.scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirablethat we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffergreatly at the present time.
many thousands are in want of commonnecessaries; 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 icould say they were not." "the treadmill and the poor law are in fullvigour, then?" said scrooge. "both very busy, sir."
"oh! i was afraid, from what you said atfirst, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said scrooge."i'm very glad to hear it." "under the impression that they scarcelyfurnish christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "afew of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor some meat and drink, andmeans 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 for?""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 andi can't afford to make idle people merry. i help to support the establishments i havementioned--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 thegentleman.
"it's not my business," scrooge returned. "it's enough for a man to understand hisown business, and not to interfere with other people's.mine occupies me constantly. good afternoon, gentlemen!" seeing clearly that it would be useless topursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. scrooge resumed his labours with animproved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him. meanwhile the fog and darkness thickenedso, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to gobefore horses in carriages, and conduct
them on their way. the ancient tower of a church, whose gruffold 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 werechattering in its frozen head up there. the cold became intense. in the main street, at the corner of thecourt, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire ina brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their
hands and winking their eyes before theblaze in rapture. the water-plug being left in solitude, itsoverflowings sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice. the brightness of the shops where hollysprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale faces ruddyas they passed. poulterers' and grocers' trades became asplendid joke: a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believethat such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do. the lord mayor, in the stronghold of themighty mansion house, gave orders to his
fifty cooks and butlers to keep christmasas a lord mayor's household should; and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the previous monday forbeing drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up to-morrow's pudding inhis 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 nippedthe evil spirit's nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using hisfamiliar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose.
the owner of one scant young nose, gnawedand mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at scrooge'skeyhole 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 energyof action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and evenmore congenial frost. at length the hour of shutting up thecounting-house arrived. with an ill-will scrooge dismounted fromhis stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the tank, whoinstantly snuffed his candle out, and put
on his hat. "you'll want all day to-morrow, i suppose?"said scrooge. "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'dthink yourself ill-used, i'll be bound?" the clerk smiled faintly. "and yet," said scrooge, "you don't thinkme 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 pocketevery twenty-fifth of december!" said scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to thechin. "but i suppose you must have the whole day. be here all the earlier next morning."the clerk promised that he would; and scrooge walked out with a growl. the office was closed in a twinkling, andthe clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for heboasted no great-coat), went down a slide on cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its beingchristmas eve, and then ran home to camden
town as hard as he could pelt, to play atblindman's-buff. scrooge took his melancholy dinner in hisusual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the restof the evening with his banker's-book, went home to bed. he lived in chambers which had oncebelonged to his deceased partner. they were a gloomy suite of rooms, in alowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that onecould 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, whoknew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands. the fog and frost so hung about the blackold gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the genius of the weather sat inmournful meditation on the threshold. now, it is a fact, that there was nothingat all particular about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large. it is also a fact, that scrooge had seenit, night and morning, during his whole
residence in that place; also that scroogehad as little of what is called fancy about him as any man in the city of london, even including--which is a bold word--thecorporation, aldermen, and livery. let it also be borne in mind that scroogehad 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 hecan, how it happened that scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in theknocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change--not aknocker, but marley's face. marley's face.
it was not in impenetrable shadow as theother objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobsterin a dark cellar. it was not angry or ferocious, but lookedat scrooge as marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostlyforehead. the hair was curiously stirred, as if bybreath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectlymotionless. that, and its livid colour, made ithorrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control,rather than a part of its own expression. as scrooge looked fixedly at thisphenomenon, it was a knocker again.
to say that he was not startled, or thathis blood was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it had been a strangerfrom infancy, would be untrue. but he put his hand upon the key he hadrelinquished, 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 halfexpected to be terrified with the sight of marley's pigtail sticking out into thehall. but there was nothing on the back of thedoor, except the screws and nuts that held the knocker on, so he said "pooh, pooh!"and closed it with a bang.
the sound resounded through the house likethunder. every room above, and every cask in thewine-merchant's cellars below, appeared to have a separate peal of echoes of its own. scrooge was not a man to be frightened byechoes. he fastened the door, and walked across thehall, 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; buti mean to say you might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it broadwise,
with the splinter-bar towards the wall andthe door towards the balustrades: and done it easy. there was plenty of width for that, androom to spare; which is perhaps the reason why scrooge thought he saw a locomotivehearse going on before him in the gloom. half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of the streetwouldn't have lighted the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty darkwith scrooge's dip. up scrooge went, not caring a button forthat. darkness is cheap, and scrooge liked it. but before he shut his heavy door, hewalked through his rooms to see that all
was right.he had just enough recollection of the face to desire to do that. sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room.all as they should be. nobody under the table, nobody under thesofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan ofgruel (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 againstthe wall. lumber-room as usual.
old fire-guard, old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing-stand on three legs, and a poker. quite satisfied, he closed his door, andlocked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. thus secured against surprise, he took offhis cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat downbefore the fire to take his gruel. it was a very low fire indeed; nothing onsuch a bitter night. he was obliged to sit close to it, andbrood over it, before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such ahandful of fuel.
the fireplace was an old one, built by somedutch merchant long ago, and paved all round with quaint dutch tiles, designed toillustrate the scriptures. there were cains and abels, pharaoh'sdaughters; queens of sheba, angelic messengers descending through the air onclouds like feather-beds, abrahams, belshazzars, apostles putting off to sea in butter-boats, hundreds of figures toattract his thoughts; and yet that face of marley, seven years dead, came like theancient prophet's rod, and swallowed up the whole. if each smooth tile had been a blank atfirst, with power to shape some picture on
its surface from the disjointed fragmentsof his thoughts, there would have been a copy of old marley's head on every one. "humbug!" said scrooge; and walked acrossthe room. after several turns, he sat down again. as he threw his head back in the chair, hisglance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, andcommunicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of thebuilding. it was with great astonishment, and with astrange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing.
it swung so softly in the outset that itscarcely 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 inthe wine-merchant's cellar. scrooge then remembered to have heard thatghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains. the cellar-door flew open with a boomingsound, and then he heard the noise much
louder, on the floors below; then coming upthe stairs; then coming straight towards his door. "it's humbug still!" said scrooge."i won't believe it." his colour changed though, when, without apause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. upon its coming in, the dying flame leapedup, as though it cried, "i know him; marley's ghost!" and fell again.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 hismiddle. it was long, and wound about him like atail; 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 hiscoat behind. scrooge had often heard it said that marleyhad no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.no, nor did he believe it even now. though he looked the phantom through andthrough, and saw it standing before him;
though he felt the chilling influence ofits death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had notobserved before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses."how now!" said scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. "what do you want with me?""much!"--marley's voice, no doubt about it. "who are you?""ask me who i was." "who were you then?" said scrooge, raisinghis voice. "you're particular, for a shade."he was going to say "to a shade," but
substituted this, as more appropriate. "in life i was your partner, jacob marley.""can you--can you sit down?" asked scrooge, looking doubtfully at him."i can." "do it, then." scrooge asked the question, because hedidn't know whether a ghost so transparent might find himself in a condition to take achair; and felt that in the event of its being impossible, it might involve thenecessity of an embarrassing explanation. but the ghost sat down on the opposite sideof the fireplace, as if he were quite used to it.
"you don't believe in me," observed theghost. "i don't," said scrooge."what evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?" "i don't know," said scrooge."why do you doubt your senses?" "because," said scrooge, "a little thingaffects them. a slight disorder of the stomach makes themcheats. you may be an undigested bit of beef, ablot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. there's more of gravy than of grave aboutyou, whatever you are!"
scrooge was not much in the habit ofcracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then. the truth is, that he tried to be smart, asa means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for thespectre's voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones. 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 thespectre's being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own.
scrooge could not feel it himself, but thiswas clearly the case; for though the ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, andskirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven. "you see this toothpick?" said scrooge,returning quickly to the charge, for the reason just assigned; and wishing, thoughit were only for a second, to divert the vision's stony gaze from himself. "i do," replied the ghost."you are not looking at it," said scrooge. "but i see it," said the ghost,"notwithstanding." "well!" returned scrooge, "i have but toswallow this, and be for the rest of my
days persecuted by a legion of goblins, allof my own creation. humbug, i tell you! humbug!" at this the spirit raised a frightful cry,and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that scrooge held on tightto his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. but how much greater was his horror, whenthe phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wearindoors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast! scrooge fell upon his knees, and claspedhis hands before his face.
"mercy!" he said."dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?" "man of the worldly mind!" replied theghost, "do you believe in me or not?" "i do," said scrooge."i must. but why do spirits walk the earth, and whydo they come to me?" "it is required of every man," the ghostreturned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, andtravel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned todo 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, andturned to happiness!" again the spectre raised a cry, and shookits chain and wrung its shadowy hands. "you are fettered," said scrooge,trembling. "tell me why?" "i wear 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?"scrooge trembled more and more. "or would 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 chain!" scrooge glanced about him on the floor, inthe expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathomsof iron cable: but he could see nothing. "jacob," he said, imploringly. "old jacob marley, tell me more.speak comfort to me, jacob!" "i have none to give," the ghost replied. "it comes from other regions, ebenezerscrooge, 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 cannotlinger anywhere. my spirit never walked beyond our counting-house--mark me!--in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of ourmoney-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!" it was a habit with scrooge, whenever hebecame thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets. pondering on what the ghost had said, hedid so now, but without lifting up his
eyes, or getting off his knees. "you must have been very slow about it,jacob," scrooge observed, in a business- like manner, though with humility anddeference. "slow!" the ghost repeated. "seven years dead," mused scrooge."and travelling all the time!" "the whole time," said the ghost."no rest, no peace. incessant torture of remorse." "you travel fast?" said scrooge."on the wings of the wind," replied the ghost."you might have got over a great quantity
of ground in seven years," said scrooge. the ghost, on hearing this, set up anothercry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that theward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance. "oh! 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 susceptibleis all developed. not to know that any christian spiritworking kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortallife too short for its vast means of
usefulness. not to know that no space of regret canmake amends for one life's opportunity misused!yet such was i! oh! such was i!" "but you were always a good man ofbusiness, jacob," faltered scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself."business!" cried the ghost, wringing its hands again. "mankind was my business.the common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, andbenevolence, were, all, my business.
the dealings of my trade were but a drop ofwater in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" it held up its chain at arm's length, as ifthat were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the groundagain. "at this time of the rolling year," thespectre 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 ledthe wise men to a poor abode! were there no poor homes to which its lightwould have conducted me!" scrooge was very much dismayed to hear thespectre going on at this rate, and began to
quake exceedingly. "hear me!" cried the ghost."my time is nearly gone." "i will," said scrooge."but don't be hard upon me! don't be flowery, jacob! pray!""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."that is no light part of my penance,"
pursued the ghost. "i am here to-night to warn you, that youhave yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate.a chance and hope of my procuring, ebenezer." "you were always a good friend to me," saidscrooge. "thank'ee!""you will be haunted," resumed the ghost, "by three spirits." scrooge's countenance fell almost as low asthe ghost's had done. "is that the chance and hope you mentioned,jacob?" he demanded, in a faltering voice.
"it is." "i--i think i'd rather not," said scrooge."without their visits," said the ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the path i tread.expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls one." "couldn't i take 'em all at once, and haveit over, jacob?" hinted scrooge. "expect the second on the next night at thesame hour. the third upon the next night when the laststroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. look to see me no more; and look that, foryour own sake, you remember what has passed between us!"
when it had said these words, the spectretook its wrapper from the table, and bound it round its head, as before. scrooge knew this, by the smart sound itsteeth made, when the jaws were brought together by the bandage. he ventured to raise his eyes again, andfound his supernatural visitor confronting him in an erect attitude, with its chainwound over and about its arm. the apparition walked backward from him;and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that when thespectre reached it, it was wide open. it beckoned scrooge to approach, which hedid.
when they were within two paces of eachother, marley's ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. scrooge stopped. not so much in obedience, as in surpriseand fear: for on the raising of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises inthe air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressiblysorrowful and self-accusatory. the spectre, after listening for a moment,joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak, dark night. scrooge followed to the window: desperatein his curiosity.
he looked out. the air was filled with phantoms, wanderinghither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. every one of them wore chains like marley'sghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; nonewere free. many had been personally known to scroogein their lives. he had been quite familiar with one oldghost, 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, thatthey sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever. whether these creatures faded into mist, ormist enshrouded them, he could not tell. but they and their spirit voices fadedtogether; and the night became as it had been when he walked home. scrooge closed the window, and examined thedoor by which the ghost had entered. it was double-locked, as he had locked itwith his own hands, and the bolts were undisturbed. he tried to say "humbug!" but stopped atthe first syllable.
and being, from the emotion he hadundergone, or the fatigues of the day, or his glimpse of the invisible world, or thedull conversation of the ghost, or the lateness of the hour, much in need of repose; went straight to bed, withoutundressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.