The story's power to touch people's hearts is undeniable and this version is offered for two reasons.
First, the original version is, for today's readers, difficult to read and understand. Its verbiage and style were entirely appropriate for the day, but now are cumbersome at best. This version is written to be more reader-friendly while holding to the soul and integrity of the original. Our story also has been abridged to some degree to make the story line a bit simpler.
Second, we take the liberty of reading between the lines of what Dickens wrote and making, we believe, the logical assumption that Scrooge's final transformation is a true spiritual rebirth. Many who have studied his life and work are convinced of his own Christianity as his work not only includes a beautifully written story about Jesus, but his other writings always told a story of redemption.
Read it to your children and your grandchildren during this Christmas time and then put it on the shelf to be taken down and re-read Christmas after Christmas. This story doesn't get old. It is, indeed, a perennial favorite.
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The Gospel According to ScroogeA "Dickens" of a tale
By John Arthur Worre
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 John Arthur Worre
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTo begin with, Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean-spirited old fellow. As a result, he had few friends and even those who could be so described had no interest in spending time with him outside of matters of business. As a young man, Scrooge had been a taller-than-average, fairly decent-looking individual. The passing of time, along with his attitude and character, had worked serious change in his appearance. Though he still moved about with an intense nervous energy, he was stooped and arthritic and was no longer what anyone would call handsome. He had become, on the exterior, the very image of what he carried in his heart. He viewed life through suspicious, jaundiced eyes that peered out from beneath bushy, tangled brows. Suiting his habit of looking down it, his nose had grown long and nearly met his chin when he set his jaw in defiance of any obstruction to his purposes. His mouth was drawn down at its corners in almost constant disapproval of the world around him. His features were pinched and lined like the skin of a dried apple. Having never married, he had no children, which suited him well. Children irritated him by their very presence. They, in turn, instinctively avoided any proximity to the unpleasant, old man. All in all, Scrooge was undesirable company.
Scrooge owned and ran a counting house and made his living by making small loans to people who tended to skirt the edges of poverty and who occasionally made actual forays into that barren and cheerless territory.
His life consisted of little else than his work. His partner, a man of similar temperament named Jacob Marley, was dead and had been in that condition for seven years. As a business associate, Marley had served Scrooge well. He was not much missed, however, since Scrooge was no longer obligated to share any profits. His money was his and his alone and that was exactly the way he wanted it.
Our story begins on a cold day in December in the city of London. The sky was its usual gray and a hint of snow was in the air. The streets were filled with people greeting one another as they went from shop to shop. Smiles and happy shouts were all around and children ran and played among the bustle. It was the day before Christmas.
Scrooge was at home getting ready for the day. For him, the approaching holiday was nothing more than a nuisance. Mrs. Cobbler, his housekeeper, was doing her best to look busy and, at the same time, attempting to avoid notice.
Mrs. Cobbler was an industrious woman of middle age and was slightly overweight. She was plump enough to show no wrinkles and her bright blue eyes missed nothing. Her hair was red, with gray beginning to show through. Her husband worked in the butcher shop near their home and her children were grown and gone. Her employment as Scrooge's housekeeper was necessary to her household income so she did her best to keep the old man happy; a task that was not, in any way, easy. Her efforts in that direction did not extend to liking him, but she tried to tolerate his foul humor as best she could. She did, however, maintain an air of independence that kept her from allowing him to abuse her out of hand.
Scrooge stumped around the room in his usual bad temper. "Bah!" he growled. "Humbug! That wretched season has arrived once more. 'Peace on earth, good will towards men;' detestable, puerile nonsense!" He peered into the mirror and tied his scarf. "There's nothing for it but to grit one's teeth and suffer through it," he mused. "It'll be over and done in good time and then a new year in which to do one's business unmolested!" he grated, a grim look of satisfaction on his pinched features. "But why must I put up with it at all?" he whined waspishly. "Who needs Christmas?" He turned and focused his unwanted attention on his housekeeper. "If I had my way," he said, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own plum pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!" He turned away dismissively and said again, "Bah! ... Humbug!"
Mrs. Cobbler stood, stiff and disapproving by the door; his coat in her hands. "And a Merry Christmas to you too, sir," she said sarcastically.
Scrooge cocked his head and squinted appraisingly in her direction, noting her tone of voice. "Mrs. Cobbler," he asked, "is your position with me of value to you?"
She forced an insincere smile. "Of course, sir."
"So you are happy with your work, then."
"Certainly, sir. Quite."
"And how much do I pay you a week?"
She brightened. It was Christmas, after all. Perhaps this was a question that might result in something nice. "Four shillings a week, sir," she said hopefully.
"'Tis forthwith lowered to two," he said coldly. Her face fell in dismay. He turned his back for her assistance with his overcoat. "Now ... if you wish to continue in my employ, watch your tongue."
Mrs. Cobbler stuck out her tongue at his back as he went out the door.
Chapter TwoAs soon as he was on the street, Scrooge scanned the crowd with sharp, beady eyes. Almost immediately, he spotted what he was looking for. Walking with the help of a cane, he nonetheless moved quickly to intercept a large moon-faced man.
"Ah, Mr. Winston, how is your business prospering?"
"Mr. Scrooge, business is poorly. But I promise you ..." Winston unconsciously put his hands together in a prayer-like gesture.
"Ah," Scrooge put in. "Promise? I believe you gave me more than a promise, sir. I will see your payment instead!" Scrooge gave Winston a stern, disapproving glare and walked away. Not much farther down the street, he encountered another person of interest to him.
"Morning, Mr. Chatsworth," he said, placing himself in the path of the tradesman and opening the book of accounts he carried with him at all times. "My ledger tells me that your loan falls due today."
Mr. Chatsworth, surprised to be confronted in public this way, stammered a bit and replied. "Yes, sir, that's right, but illness has befallen us and my dear wife has needed medicine."
"You'll need more time then?"
Chatsworth smiled, relieved. "Yes, sir, a bit of time would help."
"Tomorrow then, and that's too generous," Scrooge said tightly.
"But tomorrow's Christmas, sir." Chatsworth's smile faded to a look of confusion.
Scrooge was already walking on down the street mumbling to himself, "Christmas, indeed. As if one should take a holiday from good, common sense. Bah! What a humbug!"
Nearing his place of business, he was approached by a shabbily dressed woman with two ragamuffin children in tow. "Excuse me, Mr. Scrooge; I have a payment for you."
He looked closely at her outstretched hand and poked at the coins it held with a gnarled finger. "Seems a bit short of what's agreed."
"I would have had it all, sir, but I believed you wouldn't mind if I kept a wee bit of something extra for the orphans, sir," she said, smiling up at him. "For their Christmas dinner, sir."
"Madam, my business is finance, not charity," he said sharply. "I'll wait till the end of the day for that 'wee bit.' Someone other than myself must provide for your orphans." He turned away and said, over his shoulder, "Can you find no gainful employment for the little urchins?"
She stood looking after him in consternation. "They're just children ..." But he was off and out of hearing.
Reaching the door of his establishment, Scrooge unlocked it and went in as he did every day but Sunday and had done for as long as anyone could remember. There were accounts to examine and there was money to be made and there was no time to waste.
Scrooge's business was located at the edge of London's financial district. "Marley & Scrooge" read the small sign hanging above the otherwise nondescript door to his establishment. Scrooge fancied himself one of the city's leading businessmen, but was recognized by those involved in banking and lending as only a step or two above the status of a pawnbroker.
Over the years, working class people had come to realize that in desperate times "Marley & Scrooge" could be looked to for small loans to solve temporary financial crises. The rate of interest charged was exorbitant to the point of usury, but in desperate times, people are often drawn to desperate measures.
His office was dark and cramped. The ceiling was low, and shelves and cabinets lined the walls. Piles of papers and ledger books lay scattered all about. Scrooge's desk was set on an elevated platform to give him an aspect of authority and a good vantage point from which to keep a critical eye on his employee, Bob Cratchit. Bob was his nephew, a fact that made no difference whatsoever in the manner in which Scrooge treated him.
His nephew was a youngish fellow with an air of deference that was due to his several years of employ under his overbearing old uncle. He was taller than the average Englishman and quite thin. His hair was long and lank and usually in need of a wash. His prominent nose and receding chin combined to give him an awkward, yet somewhat endearing appearance. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down whenever he spoke or swallowed. Bob Cratchit was not exceptionally smart or brave or anything outside of being an ordinary, doing his best, sort of person.
Cratchit held his position at his uncle's establishment for three reasons; he was available; he was cheap, and he was family. If there was anyone Scrooge had ever held affection toward, it was his older sister, Fannie. During a time in his youth when his family had gone through some trouble, Fannie had been his protector till they had been separated and taken off to different places to live. When Fannie had married, Scrooge lost touch with her for a time, but he found her again after she had lost her husband to consumption. When that happened, she was then living a hand-to-mouth existence with her children. When her oldest son, Bob, was of an age to begin to earn a living, she had come to Scrooge to ask if he would give her son a place in his business. That was some fifteen years previous. Fannie was still alive but now lived a good distance away so communication with her younger brother was seldom. Bob, however, wrote to his mother often. He was a good son.
Candles were used to light each man's desktop. The shop's windows were small and so coated with grime that no usable outside light penetrated its confines. A small potbellied stove sat in the center of the office emitting just enough heat to keep the tea in the teapot on its top from freezing. Coal, as Scrooge was wont to mention, cost money.
Once inside, a few minutes passed with Scrooge grumbling and muttering as he hung his coat and hat on a hook behind the door, went to his desk and lit his candle. The door burst open and Scrooge's nephew entered hurriedly, removing his hat, coat, and scarf as he closed the door behind him.
"Late, Cratchit. You're late!" Scrooge barked.
"Just a minute or two, sir. My boy was poorly this morning."
"Do not suppose I'll be paying you for time missed then."
"Oh no, sir, not at all, sir. Very good, sir," Cratchit said quickly and hastened to his own desk. He lit his candle and headed for the stove.
"Take care with the coal, Cratchit. One or two lumps will be adequate. If you are chilled, you can put your coat back on. Coal costs money." Scrooge made that little speech every cold day. Cratchit took it to heart. Stoked at the minimum, the stove's heat could only be felt inches away. Cratchit wore his coat and scarf.
Chapter ThreeOutside, the day progressed. A group of townspeople made its way slowly down the street, stopping in front of each business to sing carols of the season. Their voices blended nicely and added to the Christmas spirit being felt all around. Smiles greeted them and mugs of hot cider were proffered in appreciation for the music. One of the carolers, a pert young woman with a saucy grin looked up at the weathered sign over the door to Scrooge's shop and said, "Well, what is this, then? We're bringing Christmas to Ebenezer Scrooge?"
"And what a waste that is," another said, edging away. "He'd be the last one to appreciate any effort of that sort. We'd be wise to get clear of the street."
With mock fear one of the women said, "I agree completely! There's no Christian spirit in that miserable, black heart! None at all!"
Another caroler, a gentleman spoke up, "Wait now. The time may just be right. Who knows how things are with him this good season."
"That the season is good, I agree. But from what I hear people say, there is no right time for that wretched old skinflint," a matronly lady replied, "and nothing good about him either."
"Everyone says the same thing," said the caroler who had first noticed where they were, "They say he's got a heart full of bitterness and gall! I wonder if he even has a heart at all."
"Just a lump of stone is what lies within that craven breast. There's no hope for that one, to be sure," the woman who had pretended fear said, pointing in through the window. "Look there. Do you see him? He's hard at work right now, probably arranging someone's foreclosure." They all laughed and moved off up the street, singing as they went.
Inside, Scrooge lifted his head, his lined features pulled into an irritated grimace. "What is that dreadful noise?"
"The carolers, sir. That's all."
"I did not request their presence. They are disturbing the peace!
Cratchit turned to face the old man. "Ah, Uncle. What is it about Christmas that offends you so?"
"Offends me?" Scrooge said, with one eye closed in a squint, "Can you offer one good reason why I should be cheerful about this waste of a working man's time?"
Cratchit brightened. "With your permission, Uncle, let me try! I have always thought of Christmas as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time. It's the time to celebrate our Savior's birth; a time to be thankful for all God's blessings!"
Scrooge, his head buried in his work, looked up for a moment. "Ah yes ... blessed you are. That's plain to see."
Cratchit answered, somewhat apologetically, "I am, though, you know. Blessed, indeed. I'm not a wealthy man, but too much money can be a burden, God's Word says. I've no strong wish for riches. I'd rather look to the Lord for my family's provision."
Scrooge answered in a wry tone. "I'd say you'd be far better off if you look to me ... eh, Nephew?"
Bob was feeling somewhat frustrated at the way the conversation was going. That they would be discussing anything outside business matters was unusual, though, and Bob did not want it to end badly. He tried an entreaty. "Can't I do anything to make this a Merry Christmas for you?"
The response was immediate and sarcastic. "No, you cannot! You can please me more by abandoning the attempt. Merry, indeed! You are a simpleton, Cratchit. What right have you to be merry? You're poor enough!"
Cratchit couldn't help himself. He said it without thinking. "What right have you to be so miserable? You're rich enough!"
That set the old curmudgeon off good and proper. "Bah, humbug! I find myself in a world of fools, Cratchit. And among them, my own nephew! Merry Christmas ... Bah! The wish of a wastrel!" He got to his feet and stepped down to where Cratchit sat at his desk. He leaned over him and continued his tirade. "What is Christmas time to you but a time for buying gifts without money, a time for finding yourself a year older and not an hour richer, a time for feeble and fruitless efforts to balance already unbalanced books!" he said, punctuating his remarks with sharp raps of his cane across the top of Cratchit's desk. "Complete and utter foolishness!"
"Uncle, Christmas makes us remember the greatest gift of all; God's gift of His Son. We celebrate the wonderful gift God has given us by giving to each other," Bob said.
"I want no gifts! Not from Him or from anyone else!" Scrooge responded testily. "I've worked for everything I have." He waved the idea away. "You keep Christmas in your way, and I'll keep it in mine."
"But that's just it," Cratchit protested. "You don't keep it at all."
"Then let me leave it alone if I wish!" Scrooge exploded. "Much good may it do you. Much good has it ever done you."
There are many things from which I may have derived good, and by which I have not profited," Bob responded. "And though Christmas has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me more than good. I say praise the God of heaven ..."
Excerpted from The Gospel According to Scrooge by John Arthur Worre Copyright © 2010 by John Arthur Worre. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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