Stage 2 (Apprentice): A Christmas Carol, chapter 1

Author: Charles Dickens

Retold by Molly Hoang

Chapter 1: Marley’s ghost

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole(1) executor(2), his sole administrator(3), his sole friend, and sole mourner(4).

There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be  understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to tell.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm(5) was known as Scrooge and Marley.

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted(6), hard-hearted, greedy old sinner(7), Scrooge! The cold within him froze his old features. Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, “My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?” But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked.

Once upon a time, on Christmas Eve, old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house.

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a sudden cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who had just come in.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug! 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(8). “What right have you to be sad? What reason have you to be angry? You’re rich enough.”

“Bah!Humbug.”

“I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute(9), but 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.

Later in the evening, the town mayor came to ask Scrooge for some money to give to the poor children, so they could have a warm Christmas. The old stingy man refused to give one shilling(10).

At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived. Scrooge walked out with a growl.

Scrooge took his dinner in his usual tavern; and having read all the newspapers, went home to bed.  The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, had to grope with his hands.

Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing special 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; also that Scrooge had as little of imagination about him as any man in the city of London. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, not a knocker, but Marley’s face. Its livid(11) colour, made it horrible.

As Scrooge looked fixedly at the face, it was a knocker again.

Scoorge was certainly surprised and rather scared, but he put his hand upon the key , turned it, walked in, and lighted his candle. He hung up his coat, marched up the stairs to his own room and closed himself in.

As he threw himself onto the bed, he glanced at a bell in the corner. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, he saw this bell begin to swing. 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 stopped as they had begun, together. They were followed by a clanking noise, as if someone was dragging a heavy chains. The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

“It’s humbug still!” said Scrooge. “I won’t believe it.”

His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes.01

The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots. He had to wear a long chain. His body was transparent(12).

“What do you want with me?”

“Much!”—Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.

“Who are you?”

“In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.” The ghost sat down on the opposite side of the fireplace.

“Man of the world, you don’t believe in me,” observed the Ghost.

“I do,” said Scrooge.“I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad and travel far and wide after death. It is doomed to wander through the world—oh, woe is me!—and witness what it cannot share!”

“You are chained,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “ You will wear one, too.”

“Jacob,” he said, imploringly(13). “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”

“I have none to give.”

“Seven years dead,” mused Scrooge. “And travelling all the time!”

“The whole time,” said the Ghost. “No rest, no peace. Always torture of remorse(14).”

“But you were always a good man of business, 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,  and benevolence(15), were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! Hear me!” cried the Ghost. “My time is nearly gone.”

“I will,” said Scrooge. “But don’t be hard upon me! Pray!”

“I am here tonight to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. You will be haunted,” resumed the Ghost, “by Three Spirits.Without their visits,” said the Ghost, “you cannot hope to escape my path. Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls One. Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has stopped ringing.”

At this, the ghost suddenly vanished out of sight.

—————————————————————

+GLOSSARY

1/sole(adj): only

2/executor(n): person responsible for following through with an assigned task

3/administrator(n): person responsible for running a business

4/mourner(n): person who cries (mourns) at a funeral

5/firm(n): a business organization

6/tight-fisted(adj): miserly, not willing to spend or give much money

7/sinner(n):person who behaves wrongly, immorally

8/gaily(adv)- gay(adj): (old English) merrily, happily

9/resolute(adj): purposeful, determined, unwavering

10/shilling(n): former British monetary unit, =1/20 pound

11/livid(adj): dark bluish grey, looking angry

12/transparent(adj): allowing light to pass through, see-through

13/imploringly(adv)-implore(v): beg

14/remorse(n): deep regret, guilt, sadness for a wrong, immoral action, decision

15/benevolence(n): generosity, kindness

 

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