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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 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 fife 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, darkmaster!"
But what did Scrooge care!
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, bitMg foggy weather and the city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already.
The door of Scrooge's countinghouse was open that he might keel) his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal litde 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 a 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 buta time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a yearolder, and not an hour ri cher; a time for balanci ing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented deadagainst you? If I had my will, every idiot who goes about with 'MerryChristmas,' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, andburied with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
"Nephew! Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it mine."
"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, bywhich I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I amsure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred origin, if anything belong' ingto it can be apart from that as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitab1e, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of theyear, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-uphearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really werefellow-travellcrs to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound onother 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.
"But why?" cried Scrooge's nephew. "Why
"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?"
"I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?"
"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!"