Chapter 3: The Ghost of Christmas Present
The bell struck One on the second night, yet no shape appeared. Scrooge trembled violently. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came, except for a sudden, inexplicable stream of golden light. At last, he began to think that the source of this ghostly light might be in the adjoining(1) room. So, he got up softly, and opened the door. It was his own room, but it had changed. The walls and ceiling were hung with mistletoe and other Christmas decorations. On the floor were turkeys, geese, sausages, pies, puddings, cakes. Upon a chair there sat a jolly Giant with a glowing torch(2), from whence the light had come.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”
The ghost was clothed in one simple deep green dress. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its happy face, its sparkling eye, its cheery voice, and its joyful air.
The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.
“Spirit,” said Scrooge, “take me where you will.”
“Touch my dress!”
Scrooge did as he was told.
Everything in the room vanished instantly, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, surrounded by people doing their shopping. Scrooge and the ghost passed through many joyful shops, filled with smiling shopkeepers and customers. On some shops and houses, the ghost stopped and sprinkled handfuls of glittering dust.
“Is there a unique flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?” asked Scrooge.
“There is. My own.”
“Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?” asked Scrooge.
“To any kindly given. To a poor one most.”
“Why to a poor one most?” asked Scrooge.
“Because it needs it most.”
The ghost then went straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s little house. Outside the door, it smiled and blessed Bob Cratchit’s house with the sprinklings of its torch. Think of that! Bob had but fifteen shillings a week himself and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house!
Inside the house, something big was happening.
“Here’s Martha, mother!” cried a girl, appearing as she spoke.
“Why, my dear, how late you are!” said Mrs. Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times.
“We had a deal of work to finish up last night,” replied the girl.
“Well! never mind so long as you are here,” said Mrs. Cratchit.
“No, no! There’s father coming,” cried the two young Cratchits “Hide, Martha, hide!”
So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Poor Tiny Tim, he could not walk, and had to use a little crutch(3).
“Why, where’s our Martha?” cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.
“Not coming,” said Mrs. Cratchit.
“Not coming upon Christmas-day!”
Martha didn’t like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so she came out from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms.
“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit when Bob had hugged his daughter Martha to his heart’s content.
“Somehow, he is getting very thoughtful. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple(4), and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas-day who made lame(5) beggars walk and blind men see.”
Bob’s voice trembled(6) when he told them this. His wife squeezed his hand, and he smiled at her. Then, they all started to make dinner. After a while the dishes were set on.There never was such a goose. Its flavour, size and cheapness, were admired. It was enough for the whole family. Everyone was full and happy. But then came something even more delightful – the pudding! The children were absolutely delighted, and everyone thought the pudding was the most wonderful thing.
At last dinner was over. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, and Bob said:
“A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”
“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim.
He sat very close to his father’s side, upon his little chair. Bob held his withered(7) little hand in his, as if he wished to keep him by his side, and was afraid that he might be taken from him.
“Spirit,” said Scrooge, blurry-eyed, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”
“I see an empty seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner. The child will die. The parents do not have enough money to keep him alive.”
“Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”
“What then? If he is too ill to live, he had better die, and decrease the population.”
Scrooge hung his head to hear his own mean word, and was overcome with grief. He then attentively listened to the family as they began discussing about other things, like Martha’s tiresome and low-paid work at a hatmaker’s, or how Bob was looking for a place for Peter, his eldest son, who was no older than thirteen. They were far from being a picture-perfect family; they were not well dressed; their clothes were scanty(8). But Scrooge could see that they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another. He felt a pang of pain thinking about the great loss that was going to befall(9) them.
And now, without a word of warning from the Ghost, the scene vanished, and they reappeared in a bright, dry, clean room. Scrooge suddenly heard a hearty laugh. He recognized it as his own nephew’s.
“Ha, ha!” laughed Scrooge’s nephew.
Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he, and their friends laughed too.
“He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live!” cried Scrooge’s nephew. “He believed it, too!”
“More shame for him, Fred!” said Scrooge’s niece indignantly(10).
“He’s not so pleasant as he might be. However, I have nothing to say against him.”
“I’m sure he is very rich, Fred,” hinted Scrooge’s niece. “At least, you always tell me so.”
“His wealth is of no use to him. He doesn’t do any good with it. He doesn’t make himself comfortable with it. I am sorry for him; I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill thoughts? Himself always. Here he takes it into his head to dislike us, and he won’t come and dine with us. What’s the consequence(11)? He loses a merry dinner and some pleasant moments and companions. I mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not, for I pity him, and more so the people around him, like that young clerk for example. He won’t give the poor fellow and his ill child enought to live on.” Scoorge’s nephew said, shaking his head. The others also shook their heads, and drank some tea.
After tea they had some music, and then a very interesting game called Yes and No, where Scrooge’s nephew had to think of something, and the rest must find out what by asking Yes and No questions. After a dozen questions, they gathered that he was thinking of an animal, a live animal, not a likeable animal, an animal that growled sometimes, and talked sometimes, and lived in London, and walked about the streets, and was never killed in a market, and was not a horse, or a cow, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear. At every question that was put to him, this nephew burst into a fresh roar of laughter. At last his sister cried out:
“I have found it out! I know what it is, Fred! I know what it is!”
“What is it?” cried Fred.
“It’s your uncle Scro-o-o-o-oge!”
Which it certainly was. Everyone laughed heartily.
“He has given us plenty of merriment, I am sure,” said Fred, “and it would be ungrateful not to drink his health. Here is a glass of wine ready, and I say, ‘Uncle Scrooge!'”
“Well! Uncle Scrooge!” they cried.
“A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to the old man, whatever he is!” said Scrooge’s nephew.
Here, the Spirit told Scrooge to hold his clothes again, and they continued upon their travels, passing many houses. Upon all of these, the Spirit sprinkled his magic dust. After a while, Scrooge asked:
“Are spirits’ lives short?” asked Scrooge.
“My life ends to-night at midnight. The time is drawing near.”
They landed on a stretch of land.
“Forgive me, but I see something strange under from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”
“It might be a claw, for it has no flesh(12),” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”
From the foldings of its dress it brought two children; wretched, hideous, miserable, ragged, scowling(13) and wolfish. They were a boy and a girl, frightfully defaced(14) as if by the devil himself.
“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both!”
“Have they no place to go? Will anyone take pity and help them?” cried Scrooge.
“Why should they need charity? Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on Scrooge for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”
The bell struck Twelve.
1/adjoining(Adj): next to or joined with
2/torch(n): a portable source of light
3/crutch: an instrument which aids cripples in walking
4/cripple(n): a person who cannot walk
5/lame(adj): unable to walk/usseless
6/tremble(v): shake from strong emotions (fear, anxiety, anger,….)
8/scanty(Adj): not enough, small in quantity
9/befall(v): (of something bad) happen to someone
10/indignant(adj): showing anger or annoyance at something unfair
11/consequence: the (usually negative) results
12/flesh(n): a mixture of muscle and fat found between the skin and bones
13/scowling(Adj): always frowning in a bad-tempered way
14/deface(v): disfigure, spoil