Jacob Marley was dead. In fact it was seven years ago on this day, Christmas Eve, that Marley died.
His partner Ebeneezer Scrooge never painted out Marley's name on the door of the business they shared. Scrooge saw no reason to waste money repainting the door...
Scrooge saw no reason to waste money repainting the door, or even to keep the office heated in the winter. Scrooge's clerk Bob Cratchit shivered at his desk, as he did every day.
But this day being Christmas Eve, the office had a special visitor. It was Fred, Scrooge's nephew, who stopped by to offer Christmas greetings and to invite his uncle to his annual party. To his nephew, Scrooge responded only with a bitter "Bah! Humbug!"
And that same response he gave to the two gentlemen who stopped by later, requesting holiday contributions to charity. "Many thousands of the poor and destitute are in want of common comforts, sir," said one of the men.
"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge. "Let them take in the debtors."
"So how much shall I put you down for, sir?" asked the man.
"Nothing!" said Scrooge.
"But many will die without these charitable contributions, sir" pleaded the man.
"Then let them die, and decrease the surplus population!"
Scrooge directed the men to leave. Was it not unpleasant enough that he'd granted his clerk a holiday on Christmas, provided he return to work all the earlier the following day?
When Scrooge arrived home that evening after his dinner, however, he noticed something strange. The knocker to his front door seemed to transform into the face of his old partner, the long-dead Jacob Marley. Shaking off the illusion, Scrooge stepped down his hallway by candlelight - yet this time he thought for a moment he saw a horse-drawn hearse pass into the darkness ahead. "Bah! Humbug!" said scrooge as he made his way into his room and lit a dim fire.
Yet it was not long that Scrooge was shocked by a most unusual sound. For the dis-used bell that hung above the door began inexplicably to swing; and suddenly all the bells in the house were ringing loudly.
After a moment, the bells were silent again. But it was a more terrifying sound that replaced them, for from the basement came the sounds of chains rattling and clanking up the stairs. Soon the cellar door burst open with a crash. The dying embers of the fire flared up as the figure entered the room, bound with chains and padlocks, cash-boxes, ledger books and heavy purses made of steel. Scrooge knew the figure at once: it was the ghost of his long-dead partner, Jacob Marley.
"What are you?" asked Scrooge.
"In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley" said the ghost.
"Humbug!" said Scrooge. "Surely it is some disorder of the senses that causes me to see you. An undigested bit of beef may have taken hold of me. You might be some undercooked fragment of potato!"
At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook the chain with such a dismal noise that scrooge held tight to his chair.
"Dreadful apparition!" said Scrooge. "Why do you trouble me?"
"If your spirit goes not forth in life to make happiness where it can, it is doomed to wander through the world after death, to witness alone what might have been shared. I wear the chain I forged in life. Yet the chain that you have forged for yourself was this long seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored on it since!"
"But we shared much in life, Jacob. You were always good in business."
"Mankind was my business!" bellowed the spectre. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the ocean of my business!"
Scrooge looked dismayed.
"You will be haunted by three spirits," said the ghost. "These visits may give you a chance to change your path. Expect the first when the bell tolls one."
And with that, the ghost was gone. And though still in the grip of terror, Scrooge stumbled to his bed and quickly fell into a deep sleep.
He was awakened by the sound of the clock striking the dreaded hour of one o'clock. And with that sound, the curtains of his bed were drawn aside, and the room was filled with a bright light. A strange figure, somehow like a child and like an old man, beckoned for Scrooge to follow him.
"Are you the spirit whose coming was foretold to me?" asked Scrooge.
"I am" said the figure. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past. Rise and walk with me."
The spirit then touched Scrooge's hand, and together they passed trough the wall and onto a country road that Scrooge recognized from his childhood. He turned to see the school where the young Ebeneezer had been left alone, neglected by his friends. A young girl entered and kissed the boy repeatedly. "Come home, dear brother!" she said.
The elder Scrooge felt a tear in his eye. "My sister had a large heart!", he cried, thinking of her son - the nephew whose invitation he'd declined.
The vision then transformed into a warehouse, where an old gentleman sat at a high desk.
"Why it's old Fezziwig, alive again! Bless his heart!"
"Ebeneezer! Dick!" called Fezziwig. And in response, two apprentices - one of them a stout young Scrooge - stood up from their desks.
"No more work tonight", said Fezziwig. "It's Christmas Eve! Let's clear the furniture away for the party!"
And the aged Scrooge watched as his younger self made merry in a room filled with jolly guests, laughter and music. The great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler struck up “Sir Roger de Coverley.”
Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking. But if they had been twice as many—ah, four times—old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that’s not high praise, tell me higher, and I’ll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig’s calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn’t have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig “cut”—cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.
Scrooge was moved and delighted by the vision of such merriment. But the next vision was very disturbing to him. For he saw his maturing self speak coldly with Belle, his love from long ago. Belle loved him, but his love for money had spoiled any happiness they could have together. Scrooge watched tearfully as his younger self let the hope of love slip forever from his grasp.
Scrooge cried out for the painful vision to end; but there would be one more. For he next saw Belle, now a handsome middle-aged woman, now married to another man. Her husband had seen Scrooge working in his office as news of Jacob Marley's death spread.
So close now was the pain of these memories that Scrooge begged to be released from them. But as he reached out toward the spirit, he found himself in darkness, back in his familiar room.
Again, Scrooge sank quickly into sleep, only to be awakened by the stroke of the clock. In the darkness he noticed an odd light from the next room. Fearfully, he crept to the closed door; but the moment his hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by name, and bade him enter. Scrooge obeyed.
The room Scrooge entered was his own, yet it looked very different - brightly lit and hung with green leaves of every description. Upon a glorious throne sat a jovial giant.
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present", said the spirit. And as Scrooge placed his hand on the ghost's garment, Scrooge found himself traveling with his new host quickly across the landscape. Together they witnessed the townspeople preparing for the holiday, gathering in celebration.
Scrooge arrived at a home where his clerk, Bob Cratchit, was seated at the head of the dinner table, surrounded by his wife and children. Their poverty was apparent, as was their love for one another. Across the table sat a sickly boy with a crutch by his side. This was Tiny Tim, beloved by all, and it was Tim who offered the blessing before their holiday meal: "God bless us, every one!"
"Scrooge was concerned about the child's obvious ill health. "Spirit, tell me if Tiny Tim will live."
"I see a vacant seat", replied the Ghost, "...and a crutch without an owner. If the boy does not get the treatment he needs."
Scrooge was dismayed to hear this terrible news. But it was the hearing of his own name that called his attention back.
"To Mr. Scrooge", said Bob. "A toast to Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast!"
"That odious, stingy, unfeeling man!" said Mrs. Cratchit. "I'd give him a piece of my mind if he were here!"
The spirit then took Scrooge to a similar scene in the home of Scrooge's nephew Fred. While Fred's wife expressed her resentment of Scrooge, however, Fred admitted only to feeling sorry for the old man.
The spirit then led Scrooge to other houses, and other cities, and other nations around the world, all preparing to celebrate the holiday. As the hour passed, however, Scrooge noticed that the spirit had become considerably older.
"My time on Earth is brief; it ends tonight", said the spirit. "The moment is drawing near!"
"Forgive me for asking", said Scrooge, looking to a tiny clawed hand protruding from underneath the spirit's robes. The ghost pulled his robe back to reveal a young boy and a young girl - both looking pale and deathly.
"The boy is Ignorance. The girl is Want. Beware of them!"
"Have you no sanctuary to offer them?" asked Scrooge.
"Are there no prisons?" asked the spirit, returning Scrooge's words to him.
And with that, the clock struck the hour. Once again Scrooge was back in his own home. But now a third phantom appeared before him, like a mist above the ground. This was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. It said nothing as it led Scrooge to places waiting in the future.
A group of businessmen gathered in the city, chatting about a recently deceased colleague - one for which they felt little sympathy. From there, the journey took Scrooge to a broken-down part of town, where a number of shabbily-dressed women and men discussed the valuables they'd pilfered from a nearby house - a house where the owner had died shortly before. And again, the spirit led Scrooge to a vision of a barren apartment where a man lay in the darkness. The figure was unrecognizable in the gloom, but clearly it was dead.
The spirit drew out his arm like a cloak of night, and when the darkness lifted, Scrooge could again see the Cratchits' house. But there was no celebration. The family sat quietly around a fire. But something was missing. Tiny Tim's crutch sat unused in the corner, but Tiny Tim was nowhere to be seen. Mrs. Cratchit struggled not to cry.
From that tragic scene, the spirit led Scrooge to a dismal graveyard. Within a coffin, Scrooge saw the figure who had been deceased in the barren apartment. An uneasy feeling stirred in Scrooge's stomach.
"Answer me one question," said Scrooge. "Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"
The Ghost only pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
Above the open pit stood a gravestone coldly reading: "EBENEEZER SCROOGE".
"Am I that man who lay upon the bed?" cried Scrooge, now fallen to his knees.
The spirit only pointed toward Scrooge himself, and then back to the grave.
"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me. I am not the man I was. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?"
The spirit lowered its hand.
"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!'
Scrooge then reached out for the spirit. But he found himself back in his room, now clinging to the post of his own bed.
When Scrooge realized that he was again at home and alive, he let out a cry of joyous excitement. "I am as giddy as a drunken man! A merry Christmas to everybody! And a happy new year to all the world!"
Scrooge's face was wet with joyful tears. He quickly dressed himself and ran to the window, calling out to a boy passing below.
"What's today?" asked Scrooge.
"Why, it's Christmas day!" replied the boy.
"I haven't missed it!" Scrooge cried. "My fine boy, do you know the poulterer's, around the corner?"
"Surely I do!" said the lad.
"A remarkable boy!" said Scrooge.
"And do you know that big prize turkey that hangs in the window?", asked Scrooge.
"Yes - it's still there!" said the boy."
"Is it? Go and buy it, and tell them to bring it here. Come back in five minutes, and I'll give you half-a-crown."
The boy was off like a shot.
"I'll send it to Bob Cratchit's," said Scrooge with a laugh. "He shan't know who sent it. It's twice the size of Tiny Tim."
In a moment the poulterer appeared at Scrooge's door, and Scrooge had paid for the bird and its delivery and sent the man and the boy on their way.
As Scrooge trotted down the street, he passed the two gentlemen who had requested charitable contributions the day before. Now Scrooge whispered in the ear of one of the gentlemen, who responded with an astonished gasp.
"Yes, not a farthing less!" said Scrooge. "And a merry Christmas to you, sir!"
And soon he found himself at his nephew's house, where he was welcomed inside for a delightful holiday feast.
The next morning, Scrooge waited by the door for Bob Cratchit's arrival. Nine o'clock passed, but his clerk did not arrive. Finally Cratchit stepped through the door and hurried to his desk.
"And what do you mean by coming here at this time of day?" asked Scrooge.
Cratchit trembled, pleading "I'm sorry, sir. It's only once a year. I was making rather merry on the holiday, sir."
"I'll tell you what, my friend," said Scrooge. "I'm not going to stand for this sort of thing any longer. And therefore, I am about to raise your salary."
Cratchit wondered for a momoment if Scrooge had gone completely mad.
"A merry Christmas, Bob!" said Scrooge. "I haven't given you one for many a year. I'll endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we'll discuss your affairs this very afternoon. Now let's warm up the office before you dot another i, Bob!"
Scrooge become a second father to Tiny Tim, who grew healthy and strong. And many said that he became a kind man who kept Christmas well. May that be truly said of all of us. And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!
NOTE ABOUT VERSIONS: This abridgement of the story may leave out some detail important for your song.
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