«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 ...»
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 for anything
he chose to put his hand to. Old 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, his sole mourner.
Scrooge never painted out old Marley's name, however. There it yet 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. He answered to both names. It was all the same to him.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, was Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, 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 life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blindmen's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!" But what did Scrooge care!
1 Once upon a time - of all the good days in the year, upon a Christmas Eve - old Scrooge sat busy in his counting house. It was cold, bleak, biting, foggy weather, and the city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already. The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open 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 the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of 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 the first intimation Scrooge had of his approach.
"Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!" "Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don't mean that, I am sure."
"I do. Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in `em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I had my will, every idiot who goes about with `Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!" "Uncle!"
"Keep it! But you don't keep it."
"Let me leave it alone, then. 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 not profited, I dare say: 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 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-travellers 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.
"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 tomorrow."
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.
"Why did you get married?" "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 coming now?" "Good Afternoon."
"I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?" "Good Afternoon."
"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!" "And A Happy New Year!" "Good afternoon!" 4 His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding. The clerk, 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. He died seven years ago, this very night."
"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?" "Plenty of prisons. But under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the unoffending multitude, 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 for?" "Nothing!" "You wish to be anonymous?" 5 "I wish to be left alone. 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 prisons and the work-houses - 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, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge, dismounting from his stool, 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 tomorrow, I suppose?" "If quite convenient, Sir."
"It's not convenient, and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself mightily ill used, I'll be bound?" "Yes, Sir."
"And yet you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wage for no work."
"It's only once a year, Sir."
"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!
But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning!" 6 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, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmaseve, and then ran home as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman's-buff.
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'sbook, 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. The building was old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices.
Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door of this house, except that it was very large. Also, 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.
And yet Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change: not a knocker, but Marley's face.
Marley's face. With a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but it looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up upon its ghostly forehead.
As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again. He said "Pooh, pooh!" and closed the door with a bang.
The sound resounded through the house like thunder. Every room above, and every cask in the wine-merchant's cellars below, appeared to have a separate peal of echoes of its own. Scrooge was not a man to be frightened by echoes. He
fastened the door, and walked across the hall, and up the stairs. Slowly too:
trimming his candle as he went.
Sitting-room, bed-room, lumber-room. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (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 against the wall.
Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat, put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his night-cap; and sat down before the very low fire to take his gruel.
As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing.
Soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house. This was succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant's cellar. Then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door. It came on through the heavy door, and a spectre passed into the room before his eyes. And upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, "I know him! Marley's ghost!" 9 The same face: the very same. Marley in his pig-tail, usual waistcoat, tights, and boots. His body was transparent: so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.
Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.
No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and noticed the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin; he was still incredulous.
"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?" "In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley."
"Can you - can you sit down?" "I can."
"Do it then"
"You don't believe in me."
"I don't" "What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?" "I don't know."
"Why do you doubt your senses?" "Because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!" Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his horror. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear in-doors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!
"Mercy! Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me? Why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?" "It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among 11 his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. I cannot tell you all I would. A very little more is permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house - mark me! - in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!" "Seven years dead. And traveling all the time? You travel fast?" "On the wings of the wind."
"You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years."