Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

Month: December 2017 (Page 1 of 3)

What didn’t work this year?

It’s easy to get focused on “What didn’t work?” You can get discouraged.

How many of you tried Nanowrimo? did you succeed in writing your book?

What got in the way?

How are we going to eliminate that this year?

Was it lack of planning? That’s the most common cause of failure to write a book. Writer’s Block is really just that you don’t know what to write. If you’ve pre-planned effectively, you won’t get writer’s block. Seriously! I have MANY blog articles on planning! Start reading them, because I’ve written several times how to write a novel, step by step!

Was it doubt? Doubt that you can? Listen, pre-planning is your lifeline! If you can preplan your book and get it written, then stop doubting! Once you do 50 or 60 story sparks, I guarantee you have it in you to finish that book! Doubt no more!

Was it Fear it’s not going to be good? Your first novel or screenplay is NEVER good! you are never good at anything. Name a professional writer, and I’ll guarantee the first thing they wrote was terrible. Name an athlete, and I’ guarantee the first time they tried skiing or whatever it was they were horrible at it.

You get better. Every time you write, you will get better.

I guarantee you have more than one book idea. Here’s what you’re going to do in 2018 – you’re going to make several books in Scrivener or in WriteWay, and you’re going to write in one or another of them every day. Get the “Don’t Break the Chain” calendar from the Writer’s Digest shop. It’s a free download. you just print it out, hang it in your writers space. Make an X over every day you write. The first day you miss, you break the chain.

We’re going to aim for 365 days of writing this year, one day at a time. If you can write 1600 words a day, I guarantee you’ll finish not one but SIX novels this year, with time for revision and re-edit!

That’s something I’m sure that will get the attention of a writing agent or publisher – you’ve got six novels in the can. It tells them you can meet deadlines, don’t need your hand held, and have enough written that if everything sells even a medium amount, you’re making up for it in sheer volume!

Was 2017 a good year? If so, 2018 is going to be better. Was 2017 a terrible year for you? Then 2018 is a new beginning.

Ready? here we go…

Book Review–Your Best Year Ever

2017-11-28 16.13.09Michael Hyatt sent out a few copies of his new book to several people for review – I’m one of them. I suspect it was because I did a review of his “Get Noticed” book previously.

If you don’t know how to read a Michael Hyatt book, let me briefly tell you. This is an important habit to get into with every book that teaches something.

Buy yourself some colored pens, and a small ruler. Every time you highlight something, make sure it’s in a different color. Probably just throw the yellow pen away, because they gunk up quicker than the other colors.

I do this with every Michael Hyatt book, because you’re highlighting sometimes entire paragraphs. Breaking it up into different colors keeps it from fading into the background noise.

Okay, now let’s get into the book.

I’m really recommending this book to people. Quite simply, this book will change your life. I recently told a bunch of people I know about it, and I saw right away that only two people got it out of the whole group. They understood, and were ready. The others were ready to have exactly the same results they’ve always had.

The book goes from analyzing what’s not working in your life, and then gives copious strategies for dealing with it. It’s not a “If you’re a purple personality, then you need flowers and aromatherapy” kind of book. It’s a step one, step two, step three, step four, fidget with step four to make sure it works for you, step 5, etc.

He does go into what the book is not – it’s not talking about the law of attraction. The law of attraction states that if you’re constantly thinking about poverty, you will be poor. If you think rich thoughts, you will be rich.

That’s not a law, that’s a theory, and it doesn’t work. trust me, EVERYONE who lives in poverty is thinking about riches, because they’re desperate to get out of that situation. Yet, unless you count picking pennies up from the sidewalk, they’re certainly not attracting wealth to yourself.

What the book does encourage is a change of mindset and expectations. Your reality expands to fulfill your expectations. Try this. Think to yourself tomorrow, “Today is going to suck.” I guarantee that will come true. You won’t be wrong. You won’t see the moments of advantage, because you’re so focused on the mindset there isn’t any.

But if you think, “Today has the capacity for greatness”, you might be wrong. And you’ll be poised to take advantage of every possible advantage at the moment it happens, because you’re anticipating it, and ready to act.

There are ten major areas in everyone’s life, such as physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, etc. Michael’s plan is that you have to build up every part of your life equally. Where you’re weak on something, that’s the baggage that drags you down. And if you’re concentrating on building up one area of your life, why not build them all up at once?

When you decide, “This is it – 2018 is my breakout year. I’m going to write that book or movie, I’m going to take a chance, I’m going to edit it and write a query letter and get an agent, and I’m going to be signed this year!”, this book is for you.

Case in point – Michael Hyatt mentions that when you’re focused on “Everything goes wrong in my life”, you never try for the big break. You never try for the job you’re not qualified for. But when you’re focused on success, you’ll take that chance. You’ll collect a lot of rejections. But you may surprise yourself, and be hired! I know that’s true, because I know several people who tried for jobs they weren’t qualified for and were hired anyway because they impressed the interviewer. And most job interviewers know that it’s those people that aren’t qualified who turn the company upside down, increase productivity and profit, etc.

So, first thing this year, as soon as the book is available to the public, buy it. Go buy it now before publication! Take the chance, take the plunge NOW. This is about to be your best year ever.

The book will take you through the process of analyzing the past year – what worked, what didn’t? The “what didn’t” part either has to be corrected or dropped. It also gives insight into regret – what it is, what it’s function is.

Then you need to go through what the plans you want to accomplish is, the “Why” for it, and what the first step is. The book will work on you about the fact that if you can see every step of the way, your dream may not be big enough. It will slowly guide you into an action plan, activation triggers, how to get there. The amazing thing about the fiction writing business is that there’s so much material helping people on how to get from “Page one” to “published” – and so few people try!

This year, you’re all trying.

The book will show you how to keep focused, on plan, how to persevere, how to keep on when the going gets rough. The words “intentional choices” needs to be a part of your vocabulary!

This book will change your life. It works best when you do it with someone, to make sure they keep you focused. Buy this book right now (I don’t get any money for saying this), and be ready.

This is going to be my best year ever. Make it yours too.

A Christmas Carol Pt. 5

By Charles Dickens

Stave 5: The End of It

Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room
was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his
own, to make amends in!

‘I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!’ Scrooge repeated,
as he scrambled out of bed. ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within
me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised
for this. I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!’

He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his
broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing
violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with
tears.

‘They are not torn down!’ cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains
in his arms, ‘they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here – I
am here – the shadows of the things that would have been, may be
dispelled. They will be! I know they will.’

His hands were busy with his garments all this time; turning them
inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying
them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.

‘I don’t know what to do!’ cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the
same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his
stockings. ‘I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am
as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry
Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo
here! Whoop! Hallo!’

He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there:
perfectly winded.

‘There’s the saucepan that the gruel was in!’ cried Scrooge, starting off
again, and frisking round the fireplace. ‘There’s the door, by which
the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered. There’s the corner where the

Ghost of Christmas Present, sat. There’s the window where I saw the
wandering Spirits. It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha
ha!’

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it
was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long,
long line of brilliant laughs.

‘I don’t know what day of the month it is,’ said Scrooge. ‘I don’t know
how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m
quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby. Hallo!
Whoop! Hallo here!’

He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the
lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong,
bell! Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!
Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog,
no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to
dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells.

Oh, glorious. Glorious!

‘What’s to-day?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday
clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.

‘Eh?’ returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

‘What’s to-day, my fine fellow?’ said Scrooge.

‘To-day?’ replied the boy. ‘Why, Christmas Day.’

‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The
Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like.
Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!’

‘Hallo!’ returned the boy.

‘Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the
corner?’ Scrooge inquired.

‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.

‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know
whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there –
Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?’

‘What, the one as big as me?’ returned the boy.

‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him.
Yes, my buck.’

‘It’s hanging there now,’ replied the boy.

‘Is it?’ said Scrooge. ‘Go and buy it.’

‘Walk-er!’ exclaimed the boy.

‘No, no,’ said Scrooge, ‘I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell them
to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it.
Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with
him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown.’

The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand at a
trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.

‘I’ll send it to Bon Cratchit’s!’ whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands,
and splitting with a laugh. ‘He shan’t know who sends it. It’s twice
the size of Tiny Tim. Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending it
to Bob’s will be!’

The hand in which he wrote the address was not a steady one, but
write it he did, somehow, and went down-stairs to open the street
door, ready for the coming of the poulterer’s man. As he stood there,
waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.

‘I shall love it, as long as I live!’ cried Scrooge, patting it with his
hand. ‘I scarcely ever looked at it before. What an honest expression
it has in its face. It’s a wonderful knocker. – Here’s the Turkey.
Hallo! Whoop! How are you? Merry Christmas!’

It was a Turkey! He never could have stood upon his legs, that bird.
He would have snapped them short off in a minute, like sticks of
sealing-wax.

‘Why, it’s impossible to carry that to Camden Town,’ said Scrooge.
‘You must have a cab.’

The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he
paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab,
and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only to be
exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his
chair again, and chuckled till he cried.

Shaving was not an easy task, for his hand continued to shake very
much; and shaving requires attention, even when you don’t dance
while you are at it. But if he had cut the end of his nose off, he would
have put a piece of sticking-plaister over it, and been quite satisfied.
He dressed himself all in his best, and at last got out into the streets.
The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with
the Ghost of Christmas Present; and walking with his hands behind
him, Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. He looked so
irresistibly pleasant, in a word, that three or four good-humoured
fellows said, ‘Good morning, sir. A merry Christmas to you.’ And
Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the blithe sounds he had ever
heard, those were the blithest in his ears.

He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the
portly gentleman, who had walked into his counting-house the day
before, and said, ‘Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe.’ It sent a pang
across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him
when they met; but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he
took it.

‘My dear sir,’ said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old
gentleman by both his hands. ‘How do you do. I hope you succeeded
yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir!’

‘Mr Scrooge?’

‘Yes,’ said Scrooge. ‘That is my name, and I fear it may not be
pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the
goodness’ – here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

‘Lord bless me!’ cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken
away. ‘My dear Mr Scrooge, are you serious?’

‘If you please,’ said Scrooge. ‘Not a farthing less. A great many back-
payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that
favour?’

‘My dear sir,’ said the other, shaking hands with him. ‘I don’t know
what to say to such munificence.’

‘Don’t say anything please,’ retorted Scrooge. ‘Come and see me. Will
you come and see me?’

‘I will!’ cried the old gentleman. And it was clear he meant to do it.

‘Thank you,’ said Scrooge. ‘I am much obliged to you. I thank you
fifty times. Bless you!’

He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the
people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and
questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and
up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him
pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk – that anything –
could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his
steps towards his nephew’s house.

He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up
and knock. But he made a dash, and did it:

‘Is your master at home, my dear?’ said Scrooge to the girl. Nice girl.
Very.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Where is he, my love?’ said Scrooge.

‘He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with mistress. I’ll show you up-
stairs, if you please.’

‘Thank you. He knows me,’ said Scrooge, with his hand already on
the dining-room lock. ‘I’ll go in here, my dear.’

He turned it gently, and sidled his face in, round the door. They were
looking at the table (which was spread out in great array); for these
young housekeepers are always nervous on such points, and like to
see that everything is right.

‘Fred!’ said Scrooge.

Dear heart alive, how his niece by marriage started. Scrooge had
forgotten, for the moment, about her sitting in the corner with the
footstool, or he wouldn’t have done it, on any account.

‘Why bless my soul!’ cried Fred,’ who’s that?’

‘It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in,
Fred?’

Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home
in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just the
same. So did Topper when he came. So did the plump sister when
she came. So did every one when they came. Wonderful party,
wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!

But he was early at the office next morning. Oh he was early there. If
he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That
was the thing he had set his heart upon.

And he did it; yes, he did. The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter
past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his
time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him
come into the Tank.

His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was
on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to
overtake nine o’clock.

‘Hallo,’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could
feign it. ‘What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?’

‘I’m very sorry, sir,’ said Bob. ‘I am behind my time.’

‘You are?’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, if
you please.’

‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It
shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’

‘Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,’ said Scrooge, ‘I am not going to
stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,’ he continued,
leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that
he staggered back into the Tank again; ‘and therefore I am about to
raise your salary.’

Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a
momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and
calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

‘A merry Christmas, Bob,’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that
could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier
Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a
year. I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling
family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a
Christmas bowl of smoking Bishop, Bob. Make up the fires, and buy
another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more;
and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became
as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good
old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the
good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but
he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to
know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which
some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and
knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it
quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have
the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that
was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total
Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him,
that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed
the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as
Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

The End

A Christmas Carol Pt. 4

By Charles Dickens

Stave 4: The Last Of The Spirits

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came,
Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which
this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head,
its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched
hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from
the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was
surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that
its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no
more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said
Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed downward with its hand.

‘You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not
happened, but will happen in the time before us,’ Scrooge pursued. ‘Is
that so, Spirit?’

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its
folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer
he received.

Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared
the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he
found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The
Spirit pauses a moment, as observing his condition, and giving him
time to recover.

But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him with a vague
uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud there were
ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched
his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one
great heap of black.

‘Ghost of the Future!’ he exclaimed, ‘I fear you more than any spectre I
have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I
hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear
you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to
me?’

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.
‘Lead on,’ said Scrooge. ‘Lead on. The night is waning fast, and it is
precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit.’

The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Scrooge
followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought,
and carried him along.

They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to
spring up about them, and encompass them of its own act. But there
they were, in the heart of it; on Change, amongst the merchants; who
hurried up and down, and chinked the money in their pockets, and
conversed in groups, and looked at their watches, and trifled
thoughtfully with their great gold seals; and so forth, as Scrooge had
seen them often.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men. Observing
that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their
talk.

‘No,’ said a great fat man with a monstrous chin,’ I don’t know much
about it, either way. I only know he’s dead.’

‘When did he die?’ inquired another.

‘Last night, I believe.’

‘Why, what was the matter with him?’ asked a third, taking a vast
quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box. ‘I thought he’d never
die.’

‘God knows,’ said the first, with a yawn.

‘What has he done with his money?’ asked a red-faced gentleman with
a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the
gills of a turkey-cock.

‘I haven’t heard,’ said the man with the large chin, yawning again.
‘Left it to his company, perhaps. He hasn’t left it to me. That’s all I
know.’

This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.

‘It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,’ said the same speaker; ‘for upon
my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a
party and volunteer?’

‘I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,’ observed the gentleman
with the excrescence on his nose. ‘But I must be fed, if I make one.’
Another laugh.

‘Well, I am the most disinterested among you, after all,’ said the first
speaker,’ for I never wear black gloves, and I never eat lunch. But I’ll
offer to go, if anybody else will. When I come to think of it, I’m not at
all sure that I wasn’t his most particular friend; for we used to stop
and speak whenever we met. Bye, bye.’

Speakers and listeners strolled away, and mixed with other groups.
Scrooge knew the men, and looked towards the Spirit for an
explanation.

The Phantom glided on into a street. Its finger pointed to two persons
meeting. Scrooge listened again, thinking that the explanation might
lie here.

He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of aye business:
very wealthy, and of great importance. He had made a point always of
standing well in their esteem: in a business point of view, that is;
strictly in a business point of view.

‘How are you?’ said one.

‘How are you?’ returned the other.

‘Well!’ said the first. ‘Old Scratch has got his own at last, hey.’

‘So I am told,’ returned the second. ‘Cold, isn’t it.’

‘Seasonable for Christmas time. You’re not a skater, I suppose?’

‘No. No. Something else to think of. Good morning.’

Not another word. That was their meeting, their conversation, and
their parting.

Scrooge was at first inclined to be surprised that the Spirit should
attach importance to conversations apparently so trivial; but feeling
assured that they must have some hidden purpose, he set himself to
consider what it was likely to be. They could scarcely be supposed to
have any bearing on the death of Jacob, his old partner, for that was
Past, and this Ghost’s province was the Future. Nor could he think of
any one immediately connected with himself, to whom he could apply
them. But nothing doubting that to whomsoever they applied they had
some latent moral for his own improvement, he resolved to treasure
up every word he heard, and everything he saw; and especially to
observe the shadow of himself when it appeared. For he had an
expectation that the conduct of his future self would give him the clue
he missed, and would render the solution of these riddles easy.

He looked about in that very place for his own image; but another
man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the clock pointed to
his usual time of day for being there, he saw no likeness of himself
among the multitudes that poured in through the Porch. It gave him
little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a
change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his new-born
resolutions carried out in this.

Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched
hand. When he roused himself from his thoughtful quest, he fancied
from the turn of the hand, and its situation in reference to himself,
that the Unseen Eyes were looking at him keenly. It made him
shudder, and feel very cold.

They left the busy scene, and went into an obscure part of the town,
where Scrooge had never penetrated before, although he recognised its
situation, and its bad repute. The ways were foul and narrow; the
shops and houses wretched; the people half-naked, drunken,
slipshod, ugly. Alleys and archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged
their offenses of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets;
and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery.
Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a low-browed, beetling
shop, below a pent-house roof, where iron, old rags, bottles, bones,
and greasy offal, were bought. Upon the floor within, were piled up
heaps of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges, files, scales, weights, and
refuse iron of all kinds. Secrets that few would like to scrutinise were
bred and hidden in mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted
fat, and sepulchres of bones. Sitting in among the wares he dealt in,
by a charcoal stove, made of old bricks, was a grey-haired rascal,
nearly seventy years of age; who had screened himself from the cold
air without, by a frowsy curtaining of miscellaneous tatters, hung
upon a line; and smoked his pipe in all the luxury of calm retirement.
Scrooge and the Phantom came into the presence of this man, just as
a woman with a heavy bundle slunk into the shop. But she had
scarcely entered, when another woman, similarly laden, came in too;
and she was closely followed by a man in faded black, who was no less
startled by the sight of them, than they had been upon the recognition
of each other. After a short period of blank astonishment, in which the
old man with the pipe had joined them, they all three burst into a
laugh.

‘Let the charwoman alone to be the first!’ cried she who had entered
first. ‘Let the laundress alone to be the second; and let the
undertaker’s man alone to be the third. Look here, old Joe, here’s a
chance. If we haven’t all three met here without meaning it!’

‘You couldn’t have met in a better place,’ said old Joe, removing his
pipe from his mouth. ‘Come into the parlour. You were made free of it
long ago, you know; and the other two an’t strangers. Stop till I shut
the door of the shop. Ah. How it skreeks. There an’t such a rusty bit of
metal in the place as its own hinges, I believe; and I’m sure there’s no
such old bones here, as mine. Ha, ha! We’re all suitable to our calling,
we’re well matched. Come into the parlour. Come into the parlour.’

The parlour was the space behind the screen of rags. The old man
raked the fire together with an old stair-rod, and having trimmed his
smoky lamp (for it was night), with the stem of his pipe, put it in his
mouth again.

While he did this, the woman who had already spoken threw her
bundle on the floor, and sat down in a flaunting manner on a stool;
crossing her elbows on her knees, and looking with a bold defiance at
the other two.

‘What odds then. What odds, Mrs Dilber.’ said the woman. ‘Every
person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did.’

‘That’s true, indeed,’ said the laundress. ‘No man more so.’

‘Why then, don’t stand staring as if you was afraid, woman; who’s the
wiser? We’re not going to pick holes in each other’s coats, I suppose?’

‘No, indeed,’ said Mrs Dilber and the man together. ‘We should hope
not.’

‘Very well, then!’ cried the woman. ‘That’s enough. Who’s the worse for
the loss of a few things like these? Not a dead man, I suppose.’

‘No, indeed,’ said Mrs Dilber, laughing.

‘If he wanted to keep them after he was dead, a wicked old screw,’
pursued the woman, ‘why wasn’t he natural in his lifetime? If he had
been, he’d have had somebody to look after him when he was struck

with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by
himself.’

‘It’s the truest word that ever was spoke,’ said Mrs Dilber. ‘It’s a
judgment on him.’

‘I wish it was a little heavier judgment,’ replied the woman; ‘and it
should have been, you may depend upon it, if I could have laid my
hands on anything else. Open that bundle, old Joe, and let me know
the value of it. Speak out plain. I’m not afraid to be the first, nor afraid
for them to see it. We know pretty well that we were helping ourselves,
before we met here, I believe. It’s no sin. Open the bundle, Joe.’

But the gallantry of her friends would not allow of this; and the man
in faded black, mounting the breach first, produced his plunder. It
was not extensive. A seal or two, a pencil-case, a pair of sleeve-
buttons, and a brooch of no great value, were all. They were severally
examined and appraised by old Joe, who chalked the sums he was
disposed to give for each upon the wall, and added them up into a
total when he found there was nothing more to come.

‘That’s your account,’ said Joe, ‘and I wouldn’t give another sixpence,
if I was to be boiled for not doing it. Who’s next?’

Mrs Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, a little wearing apparel, two
old-fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a few boots.
Her account was stated on the wall in the same manner.

‘I always give too much to ladies. It’s a weakness of mine, and that’s
the way I ruin myself,’ said old Joe. ‘That’s your account. If you asked
me for another penny, and made it an open question, I’d repent of
being so liberal and knock off half-a-crown.’

‘And now undo my bundle, Joe,’ said the first woman.

Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience of opening it,
and having unfastened a great many knots, dragged out a large and
heavy roll of some dark stuff.

‘What do you call this?’ said Joe. ‘Bed-curtains?’

‘Ah!’ returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her
crossed arms. ‘Bed-curtains.’

‘You don’t mean to say you took them down, rings and all, with him
lying there?’ said Joe.

‘Yes I do,’ replied the woman. ‘Why not?’

‘You were born to make your fortune,’ said Joe,’ and you’ll certainly do
it.’

‘I certainly shan’t hold my hand, when I can get anything in it by
reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as he was, I promise you,
Joe,’ returned the woman coolly. ‘Don’t drop that oil upon the
blankets, now.’

‘His blankets?’ asked Joe.

‘Whose else’s do you think?’ replied the woman. ‘He isn’t likely to take
cold without them, I dare say.’

‘I hope he didn’t die of any thing catching. Eh?’ said old Joe, stopping
in his work, and looking up.

‘Don’t you be afraid of that,’ returned the woman. ‘I an’t so fond of his
company that I’d loiter about him for such things, if he did. Ah. you
may look through that shirt till your eyes ache; but you won’t find a
hole in it, nor a threadbare place. It’s the best he had, and a fine one
too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.’

‘What do you call wasting of it?’ asked old Joe.

‘Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,’ replied the woman with
a laugh. ‘Somebody was fool enough to do it, but I took it off again. If
calico an’t good enough for such a purpose, it isn’t good enough for
anything. It’s quite as becoming to the body. He can’t look uglier than
he did in that one.’

Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat grouped about
their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by the old man’s lamp, he
viewed them with a detestation and disgust, which could hardly have
been greater, though they demons, marketing the corpse itself.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed the same woman, when old Joe, producing a flannel
bag with money in it, told out their several gains upon the ground.
‘This is the end of it, you see. He frightened every one away from him
when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead. Ha, ha, ha!’

‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. ‘I see, I see. The
case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way,
now. Merciful Heaven, what is this?’

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost
touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged
sheet, there lay a something covered up, which, though it was dumb,
announced itself in awful language.

The room was very dark, too dark to be observed with any accuracy,
though Scrooge glanced round it in obedience to a secret impulse,
anxious to know what kind of room it was. A pale light, rising in the
outer air, fell straight upon the bed; and on it, plundered and bereft,
unwatched, unwept, uncared for, was the body of this man.

Scrooge glanced towards the Phantom. Its steady hand was pointed to
the head. The cover was so carelessly adjusted that the slightest
raising of it, the motion of a finger upon Scrooge’s part, would have
disclosed the face. He thought of it, felt how easy it would be to do,
and longed to do it; but had no more power to withdraw the veil than
to dismiss the spectre at his side.

Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress
it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy
dominion. But of the loved, revered, and honoured head, thou canst
not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious.
It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is
not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open,
generous, and true; the heart brave, warm, and tender; and the pulse
a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike. And see his good deeds springing
from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!

No voice pronounced these words in Scrooge’s ears, and yet he heard
them when he looked upon the bed. He thought, if this man could be
raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts. Avarice, hard-
dealing, griping cares. They have brought him to a rich end, truly.
He lay, in the dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a child,
to say that he was kind to me in this or that, and for the memory of
one kind word I will be kind to him. A cat was tearing at the door, and
there was a sound of gnawing rats beneath the hearth-stone. What
they wanted in the room of death, and why they were so restless and
disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to think.

‘Spirit,.’ he said, ‘this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave
its lesson, trust me. Let us go.’

Still the Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the head.

‘I understand you,’ Scrooge returned, ‘and I would do it, if I could. But
I have not the power, Spirit. I have not the power.’

Again it seemed to look upon him.

‘If there is any person in the town, who feels emotion caused by this
man’s death,’ said Scrooge quite agonised, ‘show that person to me,
Spirit, I beseech you.’

The Phantom spread its dark robe before him for a moment, like a
wing; and withdrawing it, revealed a room by daylight, where a mother
and her children were.

She was expecting some one, and with anxious eagerness; for she
walked up and down the room; started at every sound; looked out
from the window; glanced at the clock; tried, but in vain, to work with
her needle; and could hardly bear the voices of the children in their
play.

At length the long-expected knock was heard. She hurried to the door,
and met her husband; a man whose face was careworn and
depressed, though he was young. There was a remarkable expression
in it now; a kind of serious delight of which he felt ashamed, and
which he struggled to repress.

He sat down to the dinner that had been boarding for him by the fire;
and when she asked him faintly what news (which was not until after
a long silence), he appeared embarrassed how to answer.

‘Is it good.’ she said, ‘or bad?’ – to help him.

‘Bad,’ he answered.

‘We are quite ruined.’

‘No. There is hope yet, Caroline.’

‘If he relents,’ she said, amazed, ‘there is. Nothing is past hope, if such
a miracle has happened.’

‘He is past relenting,’ said her husband. ‘He is dead.’

She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke truth; but she
was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she said so, with clasped
hands. She prayed forgiveness the next moment, and was sorry; but
the first was the emotion of her heart.

‘What the half-drunken woman whom I told you of last night, said to
me, when I tried to see him and obtain a week’s delay; and what I
thought was a mere excuse to avoid me; turns out to have been quite
true. He was not only very ill, but dying, then.’

‘To whom will our debt be transferred?’

‘I don’t know. But before that time we shall be ready with the money;
and even though we were not, it would be a bad fortune indeed to find
so merciless a creditor in his successor. We may sleep to-night with
light hearts, Caroline.’

Yes. Soften it as they would, their hearts were lighter. The children’s
faces hushed, and clustered round to hear what they so little
understood, were brighter; and it was a happier house for this man’s
death. The only emotion that the Ghost could show him, caused by
the event, was one of pleasure.

‘Let me see some tenderness connected with a death,’ said Scrooge; ‘or
that dark chamber, Spirit, which we left just now, will be for ever
present to me.’

The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar to his feet;
and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and there to find himself,
but nowhere was he to be seen. They entered poor Bob Cratchit’s
house; the dwelling he had visited before; and found the mother and
the children seated round the fire.

Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Cratchits were as still as statues in
one corner, and sat looking up at Peter, who had a book before him.
The mother and her daughters were engaged in sewing. But surely
they were very quiet.

‘And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them.’

Where had Scrooge heard those words? He had not dreamed them.
The boy must have read them out, as he and the Spirit crossed the
threshold. Why did he not go on?

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her hand up to her
face.

‘The colour hurts my eyes,’ she said.

The colour? Ah, poor Tiny Tim.

‘They’re better now again,’ said Cratchit’s wife. ‘It makes them weak by
candle-light; and I wouldn’t show weak eyes to your father when he
comes home, for the world. It must be near his time.’

‘Past it rather,’ Peter answered, shutting up his book. ‘But I think he’s
walked a little slower than he used, these few last evenings, mother.’

They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a steady, cheerful
voice, that only faltered once:

‘I have known him walk with – I have known him walk with Tiny Tim
upon his shoulder, very fast indeed.’

‘And so have I,’ cried Peter. ‘Often.’

‘And so have I,’ exclaimed another. So had all.

‘But he was very light to carry,’ she resumed, intent upon her work,
‘and his father loved him so, that it was no trouble – no trouble. And
there is your father at the door!’

She hurried out to meet him; and little Bob in his comforter – he had
need of it, poor fellow – came in. His tea was ready for him on the
hob, and they all tried who should help him to it most. Then the two
young Cratchits got upon his knees and laid, each child a little cheek,
against his face, as if they said, ‘Don’t mind it, father. Don’t be
grieved.’

Bob was very cheerful with them, and spoke pleasantly to all the
family. He looked at the work upon the table, and praised the industry
and speed of Mrs Cratchit and the girls. They would be done long
before Sunday, he said.

‘Sunday. You went to-day, then, Robert?’ said his wife.

‘Yes, my dear,’ returned Bob. ‘I wish you could have gone. It would
have done you good to see how green a place it is. But you’ll see it
often. I promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday. My little,
little child!’ cried Bob. ‘My little child!’

He broke down all at once. He couldn’t help it. If he could have helped
it, he and his child would have been farther apart perhaps than they
were.

He left the room, and went up-stairs into the room above, which was
lighted cheerfully, and hung with Christmas. There was a chair set
close beside the child, and there were signs of some one having been
there, lately. Poor Bob sat down in it, and when he had thought a little
and composed himself, he kissed the little face. He was reconciled to
what had happened, and went down again quite happy.

They drew about the fire, and talked; the girls and mother working
still. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness of Mr Scrooge’s
nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but once, and who, meeting him
in the street that day, and seeing that he looked a little – just a little
down you know,’ said Bob, inquired what had happened to distress
him. ‘On which,’ said Bob, ‘for he is the pleasantest-spoken gentleman
you ever heard, I told him. ‘I am heartily sorry for it, Mr Cratchit,’ he
said, ‘and heartily sorry for your good wife.’ By the bye, how he ever
knew that, I don’t know.’

‘Knew what, my dear?’

‘Why, that you were a good wife,’ replied Bob.

‘Everybody knows that,’ said Peter.

‘Very well observed, my boy!’ cried Bob. ‘I hope they do. ‘Heartily
sorry,’ he said, ‘for your good wife. If I can be of service to you in any
way,’ he said, giving me his card, ‘that’s where I live. Pray come to me.’
Now, it wasn’t,’ cried Bob,’ for the sake of anything he might be able to
do for us, so much as for his kind way, that this was quite delightful.
It really seemed as if he had known our Tiny Tim, and felt with us.’

‘I’m sure he’s a good soul,’ said Mrs Cratchit.

‘You would be surer of it, my dear,’ returned Bob, ‘if you saw and
spoke to him. I shouldn’t be at all surprised mark what I say, if he got
Peter a better situation.’

‘Only hear that, Peter,’ said Mrs Cratchit.

‘And then,’ cried one of the girls, ‘Peter will be keeping company with
some one, and setting up for himself.’

‘Get along with you!’ retorted Peter, grinning.

‘It’s just as likely as not,’ said Bob, ‘one of these days; though there’s
plenty of time for that, my dear. But however and when ever we part
from one another, I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim
– shall we – or this first parting that there was among us.’

‘Never, father!’ cried they all.

‘And I know,’ said Bob, ‘I know, my dears, that when we recollect how
patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child; we
shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in
doing it.’

‘No, never, father!’ they all cried again.

‘I am very happy,’ said little Bob, ‘I am very happy!’

Mrs Cratchit kissed him, his daughters kissed him, the two young
Cratchits kissed him, and Peter and himself shook hands. Spirit of
Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from God.

‘Spectre,’ said Scrooge, ‘something informs me that our parting
moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not how. Tell me what man
that was whom we saw lying dead.’

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as before –
though at a different time, he thought: indeed, there seemed no order
in these latter visions, save that they were in the Future – into the
resorts of business men, but showed him not himself. Indeed, the
Spirit did not stay for anything, but went straight on, as to the end
just now desired, until besought by Scrooge to tarry for a moment.

‘This courts,’ said Scrooge, ‘through which we hurry now, is where my
place of occupation is, and has been for a length of time. I see the
house. Let me behold what I shall be, in days to come.’

The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.

‘The house is yonder,’ Scrooge exclaimed. ‘Why do you point away?’

The inexorable finger underwent no change.

Scrooge hastened to the window of his office, and looked in. It was an
office still, but not his. The furniture was not the same, and the figure
in the chair was not himself. The Phantom pointed as before.

He joined it once again, and wondering why and whither he had gone,
accompanied it until they reached an iron gate. He paused to look
round before entering.

A churchyard. Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had now
to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a worthy place. Walled in
by houses; overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation’s
death, not life; choked up with too much burying; fat with repleted
appetite. A worthy place!

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He
advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had
been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.

‘Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,’ said Scrooge,
‘answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that
Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?’

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

‘Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered
in, they must lead,’ said Scrooge. ‘But if the courses be departed from,
the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.’

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the
finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name,

EBENEZER SCROOGE.

‘Am I that man who lay upon the bed?’ he cried, upon his knees.
The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

‘No, Spirit! Oh no, no!’

The finger still was there.

‘Spirit!’ he cried, tight clutching at its robe, ‘hear me. I am not the
man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this
intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?’

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

‘Good Spirit,’ he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it:
‘Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet
may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.’

The kind hand trembled.

‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I
will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all
Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they
teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!’

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but
he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet,
repulsed him.

Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate aye reversed, he
saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk,
collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

A Christmas Carol Pt 3

By Charles Dickens

Stave 3: The Second Of The Three Spirits

Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in
bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told
that the bell was again upon the stroke of One. He felt that he was
restored to consciousness in the right nick of time, for the especial
purpose of holding a conference with the second messenger
dispatched to him through Jacob Marley’s intervention. But, finding
that he turned uncomfortably cold when he began to wonder which of
his curtains this new spectre would draw back, he put them every one
aside with his own hands, and lying down again, established a sharp
look-out all round the bed. For, he wished to challenge the Spirit on
the moment of its appearance, and did not wish to be taken by
surprise, and made nervous.

Gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort, who plume themselves on being
acquainted with a move or two, and being usually equal to the timeof-
day, express the wide range of their capacity for adventure by
observing that they are good for anything from pitch-and-toss to
manslaughter; between which opposite extremes, no doubt, there lies
a tolerably wide and comprehensive range of subjects. Without
venturing for Scrooge quite as hardily as this, I don’t mind calling on
you to believe that he was ready for a good broad field of strange
appearances, and that nothing between a baby and rhinoceros would
have astonished him very much.

Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means
prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One,
and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling.

Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing
came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a
blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clock
proclaimed the hour; and which, being only light, was more alarming
than a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant,
or would be at; and was sometimes apprehensive that he might be at
that very moment an interesting case of spontaneous combustion,
without having the consolation of knowing it. At last, however, he
began to think – as you or I would have thought at first; for it is
always the person not in the predicament who knows what ought to
have been done in it, and would unquestionably have done it too – at
last, I say, he began to think that the source and secret of this ghostly
light might be in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing
it, it seemed to shine. This idea taking full possession of his mind, he
got up softly and shuffled in his slippers to the door.

The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called
him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had
undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so
hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part
of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly,
mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors
had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up
the chimney, as that dull petrifaction of a hearth had never known in
Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season
gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys,
geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long
wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters,
red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious
pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that
made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon
this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see:, who bore a glowing
torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to
shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in, and know me better, man.’
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was
not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were
clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me.’

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or
mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the
figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be
warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the
ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no
other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining
icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face,
its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained
demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique
scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten
up with rust.

‘You have never seen the like of me before!’ exclaimed the Spirit.

‘Never,’ Scrooge made answer to it.

‘Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family;
meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later
years?’ pursued the Phantom.

‘I don’t think I have,’ said Scrooge. ‘I am afraid I have not. Have you
had many brothers, Spirit?’

‘More than eighteen hundred,’ said the Ghost.

‘A tremendous family to provide for,’ muttered Scrooge.

The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.

‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge submissively, ‘conduct me where you will. I went
forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working
now. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.’

‘Touch my robe.’

Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.

Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn,
meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all
vanished instantly. So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour
of night, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning,
where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk
and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the
pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their
houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come
plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little
snow-storms.

The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker,
contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and
with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been
ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and wagons;
furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times
where the great streets branched off, and made intricate channels,
hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was
gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist,
half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in shower
of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one
consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts’
content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town,
and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest
summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to
diffuse in vain.

For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial
and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now
and then exchanging a facetious snowball – better-natured missile
far than many a wordy jest – laughing heartily if it went right and not
less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers’ shops were still half
open, and the fruiterers’ were radiant in their glory. There were great,
round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of
jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the
street in their apoplectic opulence. There were pears and apples, clustered high in
blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the
shopkeepers’ benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that
people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of
filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks
among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through
withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting
off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great
compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and
beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner.
The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a
bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared
to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went
gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless
excitement.

The Grocers’! oh the Grocers’! Nearly closed, with perhaps two
shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was
not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry
sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that
the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even
that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose,
or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so
extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the
other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with
molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and
subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or
that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-
decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its
Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager
in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each
other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their
purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them,
and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour
possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that
the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind
might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and
for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.

But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel,
and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes,
and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from
scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable
people, carrying their dinners to the bakers’ shops. The sight of these
poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood
with Scrooge beside him in a baker’s doorway, and taking off the
covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners
from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or
twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who
had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it,
and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a
shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was. God love it, so it
was.

In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there
was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of
their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker’s oven;
where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.

‘Is there a peculiar 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.’

It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Scrooge had observed at the baker’s), that
notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to
any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as
gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he
could have done in any lofty hall.

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off
this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature,
and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge’s
clerk’s; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his
robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped
to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling with the sprinkling of his torch. Think
of that. Bob had but fifteen bob a-week himself; he pocketed on
Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost
of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house.

Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a
twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a
goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda
Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master
Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and
getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob’s private
property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into
his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to
show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now two smaller
Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the
baker’s they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and
basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young
Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to
the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him)
blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at
the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.

‘What has ever got your precious father then?’ said Mrs Cratchit. ‘And
your brother, Tiny Tim; And Martha warn’t as late last Christmas Day
by half-an-hour.’

‘Here’s Martha, mother,’ said a girl, appearing as she spoke.
‘Here’s Martha, mother!’ cried the two young Cratchits. ‘Hurrah!
There’s such a goose, Martha!’

‘Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!’ said Mrs
Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and
bonnet for her with officious zeal.

‘We’d a deal of work to finish up last night,’ replied the girl, ‘and had
to clear away this morning, mother.’

‘Well. Never mind so long as you are come,’ said Mrs Cratchit. ‘Sit ye
down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye.’

‘No, no. There’s father coming,’ cried the two young Cratchits, who
were everywhere at once. ‘Hide, Martha, hide!’

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least
three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before
him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look
seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he
bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame.

‘Why, where’s our Martha?’ cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.

‘Not coming,’ said Mrs Cratchit.

‘Not coming!’ said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits;
for he had been Tim’s blood horse all the way from church, and had
come home rampant. ‘Not coming upon Christmas Day?’

Martha didn’t like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so
she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into
his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore
him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing
in the copper.

‘And how did little Tim behave?’ asked Mrs Cratchit, when she had
rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his
heart’s content.

‘As good as gold,’ said Bob, ‘and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful
sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever
heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in
the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to
them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars
walk, and blind men see.’

Bob’s voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more
when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.

His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny
Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and
sister to his stool before the fire; and while Bob, turning up his cuffs –
as if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby –
compounded some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and
stirred it round and round and put it on the hob to simmer; Master
Peter, and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose,
with which they soon returned in high procession.

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest
of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a
matter of course – and in truth it was something very like it in that
house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little
saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with
incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha
dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner
at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not
forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts,
crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose
before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on,
and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs
Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge
it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of
stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board,
and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the
table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever
was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and
cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by
apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the
whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight
(surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it
all at last. Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits
in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows. But
now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the
room alone – too nervous to bear witnesses – to take the pudding up
and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough? Suppose it should break in
turning out? Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the
back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose – a
supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid? All sorts
of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A
smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-
house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s
next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit
entered – flushed, but smiling proudly – with the pudding, like a
speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-
quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck
into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he
regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since
their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her
mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity
of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or
thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have
been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at
such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth
swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted,
and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table,
and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family
drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning
half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of
glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden
goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks,
while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then
Bob proposed:

‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.’

Which all the family re-echoed.

‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his
withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep
him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before,’tell me
if Tiny Tim will live.’

‘I see a vacant seat,’ replied the Ghost, ‘in the poor chimney-corner,
and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows
remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.’

‘No, no,’ said Scrooge. ‘Oh, no, kind Spirit. Say he will be spared.’
‘If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my
race,’ returned the Ghost, ‘will find him here. What then? If he be like
to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit,
and was overcome with penitence and grief.

‘Man,’ said the Ghost, ‘if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear
that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and
Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It
may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less
fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! To hear the
Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry
brothers in the dust.’

Scrooge bent before the Ghost’s rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes
upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own
name.

‘Mr Scrooge!’ said Bob; ‘I’ll give you Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the
Feast!’

‘The Founder of the Feast indeed!’ cried Mrs Cratchit, reddening. ‘I
wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon,
and I hope he’d have a good appetite for it.’

‘My dear,’ said Bob, ‘the children. Christmas Day.’

‘It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,’ said she, ‘on which one
drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as
Mr Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you
do, poor fellow.’

‘My dear,’ was Bob’s mild answer, ‘Christmas Day.’

‘I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’s,’ said Mrs Cratchit,
‘not for his. Long life to him. A merry Christmas and a happy new
year! – he’ll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!’

The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their
proceedings which had no heartiness. Tiny Tim drank it last of all, but
he didn’t care twopence for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The
mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party, which was not
dispelled for full five minutes.

After it had passed away, they were ten times merrier than before,
from the mere relief of Scrooge the Baleful being done with. Bob
Cratchit told them how he had a situation in his eye for Master Peter,
which would bring in, if obtained, full five-and-sixpence weekly. The
two young Cratchits laughed tremendously at the idea of Peter’s being
a man of business; and Peter himself looked thoughtfully at the fire
from between his collars, as if he were deliberating what particular
investments he should favour when he came into the receipt of that
bewildering income. Martha, who was a poor apprentice at a
milliner’s, then told them what kind of work she had to do, and how
many hours she worked at a stretch, and how she meant to lie abed
to-morrow morning for a good long rest; to-morrow being a holiday
she passed at home. Also how she had seen a countess and a lord
some days before, and how the lord was much about as tall as Peter;
at which Peter pulled up his collars so high that you couldn’t have
seen his head if you had been there. All this time the chestnuts and
the jug went round and round; and by-and-bye they had a song,
about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a
plaintive little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome
family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being
water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known,
and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But, they were
happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the
time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright
sprinklings of the Spirit’s torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon
them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

By this time it was getting dark, and snowing pretty heavily; and as
Scrooge and the Spirit went along the streets, the brightness of the
roaring fires in kitchens, parlours, and all sorts of rooms, was
wonderful. Here, the flickering of the blaze showed preparations for a
cosy dinner, with hot plates baking through and through before the
fire, and deep red curtains, ready to be drawn to shut out cold and
darkness. There all the children of the house were running out into
the snow to meet their married sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles,
aunts, and be the first to greet them. Here, again, were shadows on
the window-blind of guests assembling; and there a group of
handsome girls, all hooded and fur-booted, and all chattering at once,
tripped lightly off to some near neighbour’s house; where, woe upon
the single man who saw them enter – artful witches, well they knew
it – in a glow.

But, if you had judged from the numbers of people on their way to
friendly gatherings, you might have thought that no one was at home
to give them welcome when they got there, instead of every house
expecting company, and piling up its fires half-chimney high.

Blessings on it, how the Ghost exulted. How it bared its breadth of
breast, and opened its capacious palm, and floated on, outpouring,
with a generous hand, its bright and harmless mirth on everything
within its reach. The very lamplighter, who ran on before dotting the
dusky street with specks of light, and who was dressed to spend the
evening somewhere, laughed out loudly as the Spirit passed, though
little kenned the lamplighter that he had any company but Christmas.
And now, without a word of warning from the Ghost, they stood upon
a bleak and desert moor, where monstrous masses of rude stone were
cast about, as though it were the burial-place of giants; and water
spread itself wheresoever it listed – or would have done so, but for
the frost that held it prisoner; and nothing grew but moss and furze,
and coarse rank grass. Down in the west the setting sun had left a
streak of fiery red, which glared upon the desolation for an instant,
like a sullen eye, and frowning lower, lower, lower yet, was lost in the
thick gloom of darkest night.

‘What place is this?’ asked Scrooge.

‘A place where Miners live, who labour in the bowels of the earth,’
returned the Spirit. ‘But they know me. See.’

A light shone from the window of a hut, and swiftly they advanced
towards it. Passing through the wall of mud and stone, they found a
cheerful company assembled round a glowing fire. An old, old man
and woman, with their children and their children’s children, and
another generation beyond that, all decked out gaily in their holiday
attire. The old man, in a voice that seldom rose above the howling of
the wind upon the barren waste, was singing them a Christmas song
– it had been a very old song when he was a boy – and from time to
time they all joined in the chorus. So surely as they raised their
voices, the old man got quite blithe and loud; and so surely as they
stopped, his vigour sank again.

The Spirit did not tarry here, but bade Scrooge hold his robe, and
passing on above the moor, sped – whither. Not to sea? To sea. To
Scrooge’s horror, looking back, he saw the last of the land, a frightful
range of rocks, behind them; and his ears were deafened by the
thundering of water, as it rolled and roared, and raged among the
dreadful caverns it had worn, and fiercely tried to undermine the
earth.

Built upon a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so from
shore, on which the waters chafed and dashed, the wild year through,
there stood a solitary lighthouse. Great heaps of sea-weed clung to its
base, and storm-birds – born of the wind one might suppose, as sea-
weed of the water – rose and fell about it, like the waves they
skimmed.

But even here, two men who watched the light had made a fire, that
through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed out a ray of
brightness on the awful sea. Joining their horny hands over the rough
table at which they sat, they wished each other Merry Christmas in
their can of grog; and one of them: the elder, too, with his face all
damaged and scarred with hard weather, as the figure-head of an old
ship might be: struck up a sturdy song that was like a Gale in itself.
Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea – on, on –
until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted
on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out
in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in
their several stations; but every man among them hummed a
Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his
breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with
homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or
sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day
than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its
festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and
had known that they delighted to remember him.

It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the moaning of
the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through
the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were
secrets as profound as Death: it was a great surprise to Scrooge, while
thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise
to Scrooge to recognise it as his own nephew’s and to find himself in a
bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his
side, and looking at that same nephew with approving affability.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Scrooge’s nephew. ‘Ha, ha, ha!’

If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more
blest in a laugh than Scrooge’s nephew, all I can say is, I should like
to know him too. Introduce him to me, and I’ll cultivate his
acquaintance.

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there
is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so
irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour. When Scrooge’s
nephew laughed in this way: holding his sides, rolling his head, and
twisting his face into the most extravagant contortions: Scrooge’s
niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled
friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily.

‘Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha!’

‘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. Bless
those women; they never do anything by halves. They are always in
earnest.

She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-
looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be
kissed – as no doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about her
chin, that melted into one another when she laughed; and the
sunniest pair of eyes you ever saw in any little creature’s head.
Altogether she was what you would have called provoking, you know;
but satisfactory, too. Oh perfectly satisfactory!

‘He’s a comical old fellow,’ said Scrooge’s nephew, ‘that’s the truth:
and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offenses carry their
own punishment, and 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.’

‘What of that, my dear?’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘His wealth is of no
use to him. He don’t do any good with it. He don’t make himself
comfortable with it. He hasn’t the satisfaction of thinking – ha, ha,
ha! – that he is ever going to benefit us with it.’

‘I have no patience with him,’ observed Scrooge’s niece. Scrooge’s
niece’s sisters, and all the other ladies, expressed the same opinion.

‘Oh, I have,’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘I am sorry for him; I couldn’t be
angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims? 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? He don’t lose much
of a dinner.’

‘Indeed, I think he loses a very good dinner,’ interrupted Scrooge’s
niece. Everybody else said the same, and they must be allowed to have
been competent judges, because they had just had dinner; and, with
the dessert upon the table, were clustered round the fire, by
lamplight.

‘Well. I’m very glad to hear it,’ said Scrooge’s nephew, ‘because I
haven’t great faith in these young housekeepers. What do you say,
Topper?’

Topper had clearly got his eye upon one of Scrooge’s niece’s sisters, for
he answered that a bachelor was a wretched outcast, who had no
right to express an opinion on the subject. Whereat Scrooge’s niece’s
sister – the plump one with the lace tucker: not the one with the
roses – blushed.

‘Do go on, Fred,’ said Scrooge’s niece, clapping her hands. ‘He never
finishes what he begins to say. He is such a ridiculous fellow.’

Scrooge’s nephew revelled in another laugh, and as it was impossible
to keep the infection off; though the plump sister tried hard to do it
with aromatic vinegar; his example was unanimously followed.

‘I was only going to say,’ said Scrooge’s nephew,’ that the consequence
of his taking a dislike to us, and not making merry with us, is, as I
think, that he loses some pleasant moments, which could do him no
harm. I amsure he loses pleasanter companions than he can find in
his own thoughts, either in his mouldy old office, or his dusty
chambers. I mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he
likes it or not, for I pity him. He may rail at Christmas till he dies, but
he can’t help thinking better of it – I defy him – if he finds me going
there, in good temper, year after year, and saying Uncle Scrooge, how
are you. If it only puts him in the vein to leave his poor clerk fifty
pounds, that’s something; and I think I shook him yesterday.’

It was their turn to laugh now at the notion of his shaking Scrooge.
But being thoroughly good-natured, and not much caring what they
laughed at, so that they laughed at any rate, he encouraged them in
their merriment, and passed the bottle joyously.

After tea they had some music. For they were a musical family, and
knew what they were about, when they sung a Glee or Catch, I can
assure you: especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a
good one, and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in
the face over it. Scrooge’s niece played well upon the harp; and played
among other tunes a simple little air (a mere nothing: you might learn
to whistle it in two minutes), which had been familiar to the child who
fetched Scrooge from the boarding-school, as he had been reminded
by the Ghost of Christmas Past. When this strain of music sounded,
all the things that Ghost had shown him, came upon his mind; he
softened more and more; and thought that if he could have listened to
it often, years ago, he might have cultivated the kindnesses of life for
his own happiness with his own hands, without resorting to the
sexton’s spade that buried Jacob Marley.

But they didn’t devote the whole evening to music. After a while they
played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never
better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child
himself. Stop.

Scrooge’s niece was not one of the blind-man’s buff party, but was
made comfortable with a large chair and a footstool, in a snug corner,
where the Ghost and Scrooge were close behind her. But she joined in
the forfeits, and loved her love to admiration with all the letters of the
alphabet. Likewise at the game of How, When, and Where, she was
very great, and to the secret joy of Scrooge’s nephew, beat her sisters
hollow: though they were sharp girls too, as could have told you.
There might have been twenty people there, young and old, but they
all played, and so did Scrooge, for, wholly forgetting the interest he
had in what was going on, that his voice made no sound in their ears,
he sometimes came out with his guess quite loud, and very often
guessed quite right, too; for the sharpest needle, best Whitechapel,
warranted not to cut in the eye, was not sharper than Scrooge; blunt
as he took it in his head to be.

The Ghost was greatly pleased to find him in this mood, and looked
upon him with such favour, that he begged like a boy to be allowed to
stay until the guests departed. But this the Spirit said could not be
done.

‘Here’s a new game,’ said Scrooge. ‘One half hour, Spirit, only one.’

It was a Game called Yes and No, where Scrooge’s nephew had to think of something, and the rest must find out what; he only
answering to their questions yes or no, as the case was. The brisk fire
of questioning to which he was exposed, elicited from him that he was
thinking of an animal, a live animal, rather a disagreeable animal, a
savage animal, an animal that growled and grunted sometimes, and
talked sometimes, and lived in London, and walked about the streets,
and wasn’t made a show of, and wasn’t led by anybody, and didn’t live
in a menagerie, and was never killed in a market, and was not a
horse, or an ass, or a cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a
cat, or a bear. At every fresh question that was put to him, this
nephew burst into a fresh roar of laughter; and was so inexpressibly
tickled, that he was obliged to get up off the sofa and stamp. At last
the plump sister, falling into a similar state, 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 Scrooge!’

Which it certainly was. Admiration was the universal sentiment,
though some objected that the reply to ‘Is it a bear?’ ought to have
been ‘Yes,’ inasmuch as an answer in the negative was sufficient to
have diverted their thoughts from Mr Scrooge, supposing they had
ever had any tendency that way.

‘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 mulled
wine ready to our hand at the moment; 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. ‘He wouldn’t take it from me, but may
he have it, nevertheless. Uncle Scrooge!’

Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart,
that he would have pledged the unconscious company in return, and
thanked them in an inaudible speech, if the Ghost had given him
time. But the whole scene passed off in the breath of the last word
spoken by his nephew; and he and the Spirit were again upon their
travels.

Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but
always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they
were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by
struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by
poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery’s
every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made
fast the door and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught
Scrooge his precepts.

It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts
of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed

into the space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that
while Scrooge remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost
grew older, clearly older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never
spoke of it, until they left a children’s Twelfth Night party, when,
looking at the Spirit as they stood together in an open place, he
noticed that its hair was grey.

‘Are spirits’ lives so short?’ asked Scrooge.

‘My life upon this globe, is very brief,’ replied the Ghost. ‘It ends to-
night.’

‘To-night!’ cried Scrooge.

‘To-night at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing near.’

The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that
moment.

‘Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said Scrooge, looking
intently at the Spirit’s robe, ‘but I see something strange, and not
belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a
claw?’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was the Spirit’s
sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched,
abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and
clung upon the outside of its garment.

‘Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!’ exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish;
but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have
filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a
stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted
them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat
enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no
degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the
mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and
dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this
way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked
themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous
magnitude.

‘Spirit, are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they
cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This
girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all
beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom,
unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for
your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’

‘Have they no refuge or resource?’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons?’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time
with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?’

The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last
stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob
Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and
hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

A Christmas Carol Pt. 2

By Charles Dickens

Stave 2: The First Of The Three Spirits

When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, that looking out of bed, he could
scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of
his chamber. He was endeavouring to pierce the darkness with his
ferret eyes, when the chimes of a neighbouring church struck the four
quarters. So he listened for the hour.

To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven,
and from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve; then stopped.
Twelve. It was past two when he went to bed. The clock was wrong. An
icicle must have got into the works. Twelve.

He touched the spring of his repeater, to correct this most
preposterous clock. Its rapid little pulse beat twelve: and stopped.

‘Why, it isn’t possible,’ said Scrooge, ‘that I can have slept through a
whole day and far into another night. It isn’t possible that anything
has happened to the sun, and this is twelve at noon.’

The idea being an alarming one, he scrambled out of bed, and groped
his way to the window. He was obliged to rub the frost off with the
sleeve of his dressing-gown before he could see anything; and could
see very little then. All he could make out was, that it was still very
foggy and extremely cold, and that there was no noise of people
running to and fro, and making a great stir, as there unquestionably
would have been if night had beaten off bright day, and taken
possession of the world. This was a great relief, because ‘three days
after sight of this First of Exchange pay to Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge or his
order,’ and so forth, would have become a mere United States’ security
if there were no days to count by.

Scrooge went to bed again, and thought, and thought, and thought it
over and over and over, and could make nothing of it. The more he
thought, the more perplexed he was; and the more he endeavored not
to think, the more he thought. Marley’s Ghost bothered him
exceedingly. Every time he resolved within himself, after mature
inquiry, that it was all a dream, his mind flew back again, like a
strong spring released, to its first position, and presented the same
problem to be worked all through, ‘Was it a dream or not?’
Scrooge lay in this state until the chimes had gone three quarters
more, when he remembered, on a sudden, that the Ghost had warned
him of a visitation when the bell tolled one. He resolved to lie awake
until the hour was past; and, considering that he could no more go to
sleep than go to Heaven, this was perhaps the wisest resolution in his
power.

The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he
must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock. At
length it broke upon his listening ear.

‘Ding, dong!’

‘A quarter past,’ said Scrooge, counting.

‘Ding dong!’

‘Half past!’ said Scrooge.

‘Ding dong!’

‘A quarter to it,’ said Scrooge.

‘Ding dong!’

‘The hour itself,’ said Scrooge, triumphantly,
‘and nothing else!’

He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep,
dull, hollow, melancholy One. Light flashed up in the room upon the
instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not
the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to
which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn
aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found
himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close
to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.
It was a strange figure – like a child: yet not so like a child as like an
old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him
the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished
to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down
its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle
in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very
long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of
uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were,
like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white,
and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which
was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in
singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed
with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from
the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which
all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using,
in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now
held under its arm.

Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing
steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt sparkled and
glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one
instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its
distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now
with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head
without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible
in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder
of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.

‘Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked
Scrooge.

‘I am.’

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so
close beside him, it were at a distance.

‘Who, and what are you?’ Scrooge demanded.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’

‘Long Past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.

‘No. Your past.’

Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could
have asked him; but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his
cap; and begged him to be covered.

‘What!’ exclaimed the Ghost, ‘Would you so soon put out, with worldly
hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those
whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of
years to wear it low upon my brow!’

Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend or any knowledge
of having willfully bonneted the Spirit at any period of his life. He then
made bold to inquire what business brought him there.

‘Your welfare,’ said the Ghost.

Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help thinking
that a night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that
end. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately:
‘Your reclamation, then. Take heed.’

It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the
arm.

‘Rise. And walk with me.’

It would have been in vain for Scrooge to plead that the weather and
the hour were not adapted to pedestrian purposes; that bed was
warm, and the thermometer a long way below freezing; that he was
clad but lightly in his slippers, dressing-gown, and nightcap; and that
he had a cold upon him at that time. The grasp, though gentle as a
woman’s hand, was not to be resisted. He rose: but finding that the
Spirit made towards the window, clasped his robe in supplication.

‘I am mortal,’ Scrooge remonstrated, ‘and liable to fall.’

‘Bear but a touch of my hand there,’ said the Spirit, laying it upon his
heart, ‘and you shall be upheld in more than this.’

As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood
upon an open country road, with fields on either hand. The city had
entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The darkness and
the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with
snow upon the ground.

‘Good Heaven!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked
about him. ‘I was bred in this place. I was a boy here.’

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been
light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man’s sense
of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air,
each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys,
and cares long, long, forgotten.

‘Your lip is trembling,’ said the Ghost. ‘And what is that upon your
cheek?’

Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a
pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where he would.

‘You recollect the way?’ inquired the Spirit.

‘Remember it!’ cried Scrooge with fervour – ‘I could walk it blindfold.’

‘Strange to have forgotten it for so many years,’ observed the Ghost.
‘Let us go on.’

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate, and post,
and tree; until a little market-town appeared in the distance, with its
bridge, its church, and winding river. Some shaggy ponies now were
seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs, who called to
other boys in country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys
were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields
were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it.

‘These are but shadows of the things that have been,’ said the Ghost.
‘They have no consciousness of us.’

The jocund travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge knew and
named them every one. Why was he rejoiced beyond all bounds to see
them. Why did his cold eye glisten, and his heart leap up as they went
past? Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each
other Merry Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads and-bye ways,
for their several homes? What was merry Christmas to Scrooge? Out
upon merry Christmas! What good had it ever done to him?

‘The school is not quite deserted,’ said the Ghost. ‘A solitary child,
neglected by his friends, is left there still.’

Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and soon
approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little weathercock-
surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell hanging in it. It was a
large house, but one of broken fortunes; for the spacious offices were
little used, their walls were damp and mossy, their windows broken,
and their gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables;
and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass. Nor was it
more retentive of its ancient state, within; for entering the dreary hall,
and glancing through the open doors of many rooms, they found them
poorly furnished, cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the
air, a chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow
with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too much to eat.
They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the
back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare,
melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and
desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and
Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self
as he used to be.

Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle from the mice
behind the paneling, not a drip from the half-thawed water-spout in
the dull yard behind, not a sigh among the leafless boughs of one
despondent poplar, not the idle swinging of an empty store-house
door, no, not a clicking in the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge
with a softening influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self,
intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in foreign garments:
wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window,
with an ax stuck in his belt, and leading by the bridle an ass laden
with wood.

‘Why, it’s Ali Baba!’ Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. ‘It’s dear old honest
Ali Baba. Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary
child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like
that. Poor boy. And Valentine,’ said Scrooge, ‘and his wild brother,
Orson; there they go. And what’s his name, who was put down in his
drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him? And the
Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii; there he is upon his
head. Serve him right. I’m glad of it. What business had he to be
married to the Princess.’

To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such
subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying;
and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a
surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.

‘There’s the Parrot.’ cried Scrooge. ‘Green body and yellow tail, with a
thing like a lettuce growing out of the top of his head; there he is! Poor
Robin Crusoe, he called him, when he came home again after sailing
round the island. ‘Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin
Crusoe?’ The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t. It was the
Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running for his life to the little
creek! Halloa! Hoop! Hallo!’

Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character,
he said, in pity for his former self, ‘Poor boy!’ and cried again.

‘I wish,’ Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking
about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: ‘but it’s too late now.’

‘What is the matter?’ asked the Spirit.

‘Nothing,’ said Scrooge. ‘Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas
Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something:
that’s all.’

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did
so, ‘Let us see another Christmas!’

Scrooge’s former self grew larger at the words, and the room became a
little darker and more dirty. The panels shrunk, the windows cracked;
fragments of plaster fell out of the ceiling, and the naked laths were
shown instead; but how all this was brought about, Scrooge knew no
more than you do. He only knew that it was quite correct; that
everything had happened so; that there he was, alone again, when all
the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays.

He was not reading now, but walking up and down despairingly.
Scrooge looked at the Ghost, and with a mournful shaking of his
head, glanced anxiously towards the door.

It opened; and a little girl, much younger than the boy, came darting
in, and putting her arms about his neck, and often kissing him,
addressed him as her ‘Dear, dear brother.’

‘I have come to bring you home, dear brother!’ said the child, clapping
her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh. ‘To bring you home,
home, home!’

‘Home, little Fan?’ returned the boy.

‘Yes!’ said the child, brimful of glee. ‘Home, for good and all. Home, for
ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that
home’s like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I
was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you
might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a
coach to bring you. And you’re to be a man!’ said the child, opening
her eyes, ‘and are never to come back here; but first, we’re to be
together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the
world.’

‘You are quite a woman, little Fan!’exclaimed the boy.

She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but
being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him.
Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the
door; and he, nothing loth to go, accompanied her.

A terrible voice in the hall cried. ‘Bring down Master Scrooge’s box,
there!’ And in the hall appeared the schoolmaster himself, who glared
on Master Scrooge with a ferocious condescension, and threw him into
a dreadful state of mind by shaking hands with him. He then
conveyed him and his sister into the veriest old well of a shivering
best-parlour that ever was seen, where the maps upon the wall, and
the celestial and terrestrial globes in the windows, were waxy with
cold. Here he produced a decanter of curiously light wine, and a block
of curiously heavy cake, and administered installments of those
dainties to the young people: at the same time, sending out a meagre
servant to offer a glass of ‘something’ to the postboy, who answered
that he thanked the gentleman, but if it was the same tap as he had
tasted before, he had rather not. Master Scrooge’s trunk being by this
time tied on to the top of the chaise, the children bade the
schoolmaster good-bye right willingly; and getting into it, drove gaily
down the garden-sweep: the quick wheels dashing the hoar-frost and
snow from off the dark leaves of the evergreens like spray.

‘Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,’ said
the Ghost. ‘But she had a large heart!’

‘So she had,’ cried Scrooge. ‘You’re right. I’ll not gainsay it, Spirit. God
forbid!’

‘She died a woman,’ said the Ghost, ‘and had, as I think, children.’

‘One child,’ Scrooge returned.

‘True,’ said the Ghost. ‘Your nephew!’

Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, ‘Yes.’

Although they had but that moment left the school behind them, they
were now in the busy thoroughfares of a city, where shadowy
passengers passed and repassed; where shadowy carts and coaches
battle for the way, and all the strife and tumult of a real city were. It
was made plain enough, by the dressing of the shops, that here too it
was Christmas time again; but it was evening, and the streets were
lighted up.

The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if
he knew it.

‘Know it!’ said Scrooge. ‘Was I apprenticed here?’

They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh wig, sitting
behind such a high desk, that if he had been two inches taller he
must have knocked his head against the ceiling, Scrooge cried in great
excitement:

‘Why, it’s old Fezziwig! Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again!’

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which
pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his
capacious waistcoat; laughed all over himself, from his shows to his
organ of benevolence; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat,
jovial voice:

‘Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!’

Scrooge’s former self, now grown a young man, came briskly in,
accompanied by his fellow-prentice.

‘Dick Wilkins, to be sure,’ said Scrooge to the Ghost. ‘Bless me, yes.
There he is. He was very much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick.
Dear, dear.’

‘Yo ho, my boys!’ said Fezziwig. ‘No more work to-night. Christmas
Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let’s have the shutters up,’ cried old
Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, ‘before a man can say Jack
Robinson.’

You wouldn’t believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged
into the street with the shutters – one, two, three – had them up in
their places – four, five, six – barred them and pinned then – seven,
eight, nine – and came back before you could have got to twelve,
panting like race-horses.

‘Hilli-ho!’ cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with
wonderful agility. ‘Clear away, my lads, and let’s have lots of room
here. Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer.’

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn’t have cleared away, or
couldn’t have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done
in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed
from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the
lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the
warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room,
as you would desire to see upon a winter’s night.

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk,
and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In
came Mrs Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss
Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers
whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women
employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin,
the baker. In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend, the
milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of
not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself
behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had
her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after another;
some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some
pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away
they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again
the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in
various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning
up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as
they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help
them. When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his
hands to stop the dance, cried out, ‘Well done!’ and the fiddler
plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that
purpose. But scorning rest, upon his reappearance, he instantly
began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler
had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-
new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances,
and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece
of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there
were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening
came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind!

The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could
have told it him!) 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.

When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr and
Mrs Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and
shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out,
wished him or her a Merry Christmas. When everybody had retired
but the two prentices, they did the same to them; and thus the
cheerful voices died away, and the lads were left to their beds; which
were under a counter in the back-shop.

During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his
wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self.
He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed
everything, and underwent the strangest agitation. It was not until
now, when the bright faces of his former self and Dick were turned
from them, that he remembered the Ghost, and became conscious
that it was looking full upon him, while the light upon its head burnt
very clear.

‘A small matter,’ said the Ghost, ‘to make these silly folks so full of
gratitude.’

‘Small!’ echoed Scrooge.

The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were
pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done
so, said,

‘Why! Is it not! He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money:
three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?’

‘It isn’t that,’ said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking
unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. ‘It isn’t that, Spirit.
He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service
light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in
words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is
impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he
gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.’

He felt the Spirit’s glance, and stopped.

‘What is the matter?’ asked the Ghost.

‘Nothing in particular,’ said Scrooge.

‘Something, I think?’ the Ghost insisted.

‘No,’ said Scrooge, ‘No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to
my clerk just now! That’s all.’

His former self turned down the lamps as he gave utterance to the
wish; and Scrooge and the Ghost again stood side by side in the open
air.

‘My time grows short,’ observed the Spirit. ‘Quick!’

This was not addressed to Scrooge, or to any one whom he could see,
but it produced an immediate effect. For again Scrooge saw himself.
He was older now; a man in the prime of life. His face had not the
harsh and rigid lines of later years; but it had begun to wear the signs
of care and avarice. There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the
eye, which showed the passion that had taken root, and where the
shadow of the growing tree would fall.

He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl in a
mourning-dress: in whose eyes there were tears, which sparkled in
the light that shone out of the Ghost of Christmas Past.

‘It matters little,’ she said, softly. ‘To you, very little. Another idol has
displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I
would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.’

‘What Idol has displaced you?’ he rejoined.

‘A golden one.’

‘This is the even-handed dealing of the world!’ he said. ‘There is
nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it
professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!’

‘You fear the world too much,’ she answered, gently. ‘All your other
hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its
sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by
one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?’

‘What then?’ he retorted. ‘Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.’

She shook her head.

‘Am I?’

‘Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and
content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly
fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made,
you were another man.’

‘I was a boy,’ he said impatiently.

‘Your own feeling tells you that you were not what you are,’ she
returned. ‘I am. That which promised happiness when we were one in
heart, is fraught with misery now that we are two. How often and how
keenly I have thought of this, I will not say. It is enough that I have
thought of it, and can release you.’

‘Have I ever sought release?’

‘In words? No. Never.’

‘In what, then?’

‘In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of
life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of
any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,’
said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; ‘tell me,
would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!’

He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in spite of
himself. But he said with a struggle,’ You think not?’

‘I would gladly think otherwise if I could,’ she answered, ‘Heaven
knows. When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and
irresistible it must be. But if you were free to-day, to-morrow,
yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl –
you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain:
or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one
guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and
regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart,
for the love of him you once were.’

He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she
resumed.

‘You may – the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will
– have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the
recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it
happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have
chosen.’

She left him, and they parted.

‘Spirit!’ said Scrooge, ‘show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do
you delight to torture me?’

‘One shadow more!’ exclaimed the Ghost.

‘No more!’ cried Scrooge! ‘No more, I don’t wish to see it! Show me no
more!’

But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms, and forced
him to observe what happened next.

They were in another scene and place; a room, not very large or
handsome, but full of comfort. Near to the winter fire sat a beautiful
young girl, so like that last that Scrooge believed it was the same,
until he saw her, now a comely matron, sitting opposite her daughter.

The noise in this room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more
children there, than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count;
and, unlike the celebrated herd in the poem, they were not forty
children conducting themselves like one, but every child was
conducting itself like forty. The consequences were uproarious beyond
belief; but no one seemed to care; on the contrary, the mother and
daughter laughed heartily, and enjoyed it very much; and the latter,
soon beginning to mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young
brigands most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to one of them.
Though I never could have been so rude, no, no! I wouldn’t for the
wealth of all the world have crushed that braided hair, and torn it
down; and for the precious little shoe, I wouldn’t have plucked it off,
God bless my soul! to save my life. As to measuring her waist in sport,
as they did, bold young brood, I couldn’t have done it; I should have
expected my arm to have grown round it for a punishment, and never
come straight again. And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have
touched her lips; to have questioned her, that she might have opened
them; to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never
raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would
be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should have liked, I do confess,
to have had the lightest licence of a child, and yet to have been man
enough to know its value.

But now a knocking at the door was heard, and such a rush
immediately ensued that she with laughing face and plundered dress
was borne towards it the centre of a flushed and boisterous group,
just in time to greet the father, who came home attended by a man
laden with Christmas toys and presents. Then the shouting and the
struggling, and the onslaught that was made on the defenceless
porter. The scaling him with chairs for ladders to dive into his
pockets, despoil him of brown-paper parcels, hold on tight by his
cravat, hug him round his neck, pommel his back, and kick his legs
in irrepressible affection. The shouts of wonder and delight with which
the development of every package was received. The terrible
announcement that the baby had been taken in the act of putting a
doll’s frying-pan into his mouth, and was more than suspected of
having swallowed a fictitious turkey, glued on a wooden platter. The
immense relief of finding this a false alarm. The joy, and gratitude,
and ecstasy. They are all indescribable alike. It is enough that by
degrees the children and their emotions got out of the parlour, and by
one stair at a time, up to the top of the house; where they went to bed,
and so subsided.

And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever, when the
master of the house, having his daughter leaning fondly on him, sat
down with her and her mother at his own fireside; and when he
thought that such another creature, quite as graceful and as full of
promise, might have called him father, and been a spring-time in the
haggard winter of his life, his sight grew very dim indeed.

‘Belle,’ said the husband, turning to his wife with a smile, ‘I saw an
old friend of yours this afternoon.’

‘Who was it?’

‘Guess!’

‘How can I? Tut, don’t I know,’ she added in the same breath,
laughing as he laughed. ‘Mr. Scrooge.’

‘Mr. Scrooge it was. I passed his office window; and as it was not shut
up, and he had a candle inside, I could scarcely help seeing him. His
partner lies upon the point of death, I hear; and there he sat alone.
Quite alone in the world, I do believe.’

‘Spirit!’ said Scrooge in a broken voice, ‘remove me from this place.’

‘I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,’ said the
Ghost. ‘That they are what they are, do not blame me!’

‘Remove me!’ Scrooge exclaimed, ‘I cannot bear it!’

He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon him with a
face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the
faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.

‘Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!’

In the struggle, if that can be called a struggle in which the Ghost
with no visible resistance on its own part was undisturbed by any
effort of its adversary, Scrooge observed that its light was burning
high and bright; and dimly connecting that with its influence over
him, he seized the extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed
it down upon its head.

The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its
whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he
could not hide the light, which streamed from under it, in an
unbroken flood upon the ground.

He was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible
drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He gave the
cap a parting squeeze, in which his hand relaxed; and had barely time
to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

A Christmas Carol Pt. 1

By Charles Dickens

Stave 1: Marley’s Ghost

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.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what
there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been
inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of
ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the
simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s
done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that
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 and sole mourner.
And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but
that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the
funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started
from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be
distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am
going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s
Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more
remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon
his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged
gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot – say Saint
Paul’s Churchyard for instance – literally to astonish his son’s weak
mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it 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, but he
answered to both names: it was all the same to him.

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a
squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old
sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck
out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an
oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed
nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his
thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty
rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He
carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his
office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth
could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was
bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no
pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to
have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could
boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often ‘came
down’ handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

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 life inquired the
way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’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, dark
master!’

But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge
his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy
to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call ‘nuts’ to Scrooge.
Once upon a time – of all the good days in the year, on Christmas
Eve – old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak,
biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court
outside go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their
breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm
them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark
already – it had not been light all day: and candles were flaring in the
windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the
palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and
keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the
narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the
dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might
have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large
scale.

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his
eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little 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 he had of his approach.

‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this
nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and
handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

‘Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean
that, I am sure.’

‘I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘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. ‘What right have you to be
dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.’

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment,
said ‘Bah!’ again; and followed it up with ‘Humbug.’

‘Don’t be cross, uncle!’ said the nephew.

‘What else can I be,’ returned the uncle, ‘when I live in such a world of
fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s
Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a
time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time
for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a
round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work
my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly, ‘every idiot who goes about with
‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding,
and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’

‘Uncle!’ pleaded the nephew.

‘Nephew!’ returned the uncle, sternly, ‘keep Christmas in your own
way, and let me keep it in mine.’

‘Keep it!’ repeated Scrooge’s nephew. ‘But you don’t keep it.’

‘Let me leave it alone, then,’ said Scrooge. ‘Much good may it do you!
Much good it has ever done you!’

‘There are many things from which I might have derived good, by
which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of
Christmas time, when it has come round – apart from the veneration
due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be
apart from that – as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable,
pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the
year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really
were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures
bound on other 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: becoming immediately
sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the
last frail spark for ever.

‘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?’ said Scrooge.

‘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?’

‘Good afternoon,’ said Scrooge.

‘I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be
friends?’

‘Good afternoon,’ said Scrooge.

‘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!’

‘Good afternoon,’ said Scrooge.

‘And A Happy New Year!’

‘Good afternoon!’ said Scrooge.

His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding. He
stopped at the outer door to bestow the greetings of the season on the
clerk, who cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned
them cordially.

‘There’s another fellow,’ muttered Scrooge; who overheard him: ‘my
clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking
about a merry Christmas. I’ll retire to Bedlam.’

This lunatic, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people
in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood,
with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in
their hands, and bowed to him.

‘Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,’ said one of the gentlemen, referring
to his list. ‘Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr.
Marley?’

‘Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,’ Scrooge replied. ‘He
died seven years ago, this very night.’

‘We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving
partner,’ said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the
ominous word ‘liberality,’ Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and
handed the credentials back.

‘At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,’ said the gentleman,
taking up a pen, ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should
make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer
greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common
necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts,
sir.’

‘Are there no prisons?’ asked Scrooge.

‘Plenty of prisons,’ said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

‘And the Union workhouses?’ demanded Scrooge. ‘Are they still in
operation?’

‘They are. Still,’ returned the gentleman, ‘I wish I could say they were
not.’

‘The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’ said
Scrooge.

‘Both very busy, sir.’

‘Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had
occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. ‘I’m very
glad to hear it.’

‘Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of
mind or body to the multitude,’ returned the gentleman, ‘a few of us
are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink
and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all
others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall
I put you down for?’

‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.

‘You wish to be anonymous?’

‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish,
gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at
Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to
support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough;
and those who are badly off must go there.’

‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and
decrease the surplus population. Besides – excuse me – I don’t
know that.’

‘But you might know it,’ observed the gentleman.

‘It’s not my business,’ Scrooge returned. ‘It’s enough for a man to
understand his own business, and not to interfere with other
people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!’
Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the
gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge returned his labours with an improved
opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual
with him.

Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about
with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in
carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a
church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slyly down at Scrooge
out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the
hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations
afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there.

The cold became intense. In the main street at the corner of the
court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a
great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys
were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the
blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in solitude, its overflowing
sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice. The brightness of
the shops where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of
the windows, made pale faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers’ and
grocers’ trades became a splendid joke; a glorious pageant, with which
it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as
bargain and sale had anything to do. The Lord Mayor, in the
stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave orders to his fifty cooks
and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor’s household should;
and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the
previous Monday for being drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets,
stirred up to-morrow’s pudding in his garret, while his lean wife and
the baby sallied out to buy the beef.

Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good
Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of
such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then
indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one
scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones
are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him
with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of –
‘God bless you, merry gentleman! May nothing you dismay!’
Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer
fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial
frost.

At length the hour of shutting up the countinghouse arrived. With an
ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the
fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his
candle out, and put on his hat.

‘You’ll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?’ said Scrooge.

‘If quite convenient, sir.’

‘It’s not convenient,’ said Scrooge, ‘and it’s not fair. If I was to stop
half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?’

The clerk smiled faintly.

‘And yet,’ said Scrooge, ‘you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a
day’s wages for no work.’

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

‘A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of
December!’ said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. ‘But I
suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next
morning.’

The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a
growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the
long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he
boasted no great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a
lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas Eve, and
then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at
blindman’s-buff.

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern;
and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the
evening with his banker’s-book, went home to bed. He lived in
chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner. They
were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard,
where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help
fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at
hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again. It
was old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but
Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices. The yard was so
dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope
with his hands. The fog and frost so hung about the black old
gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Weather
sat in mournful meditation on the threshold.

Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular 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, during his whole
residence in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called
fancy about him as any man in the city of London, even including –
which is a bold word – the corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it
also be borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on
Marley, since his last mention of his seven years’ dead partner that
afternoon. 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, without its undergoing any intermediate process of
change – not a knocker, but Marley’s face.

Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects
in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in
a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as
Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly
forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air;
and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless.

That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be
in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part or its
own expression.

As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again.
To say that he was not startled, or that his blood was not conscious of
a terrible sensation to which it had been a stranger from infancy,
would be untrue. But he put his hand upon the key he had
relinquished, turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle.

He did pause, with a moment’s irresolution, before he shut the door;
and he did look cautiously behind it first, as if he half-expected to be
terrified with the sight of Marley’s pigtail sticking out into the hall. But
there was nothing on the back of the door, except the screws and nuts
that held the knocker on, so he said ‘Pooh, pooh!’ and closed it with a
bang.

The sound resounded through the house like thunder. Every room
above, and every cask in the wine-merchant’s cellars below, appeared
to have a separate peal of echoes of its own. Scrooge was not a man
to be frightened by echoes. He fastened the door, and walked across
the hall, and up the stairs; slowly too: trimming his candle as he went.
You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six up a good old
flight of stairs, or through a bad young Act of Parliament; but I mean
to say you might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it
broadwise, with the splinter-bar towards the wall and the door
towards the balustrades: and done it easy. There was plenty of width
for that, and room to spare; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge
thought he saw a locomotive hearse going on before him in the gloom.
Half a dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn’t have lighted the
entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with
Scrooge’s dip.

Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness is cheap, and
Scrooge liked it. But before he shut his heavy door, he walked
through his rooms to see that all was right. He had just enough
recollection of the face to desire to do that.

Sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room. All as they should be. Nobody
under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate;
spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge had a
cold in his head) upon the hob. Nobody under the bed; nobody in the
closet; nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging up in a
suspicious attitude against the wall. Lumber-room as usual. Old fire-
guards, old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing-stand on three legs, and
a poker.

Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-
locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against
surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and
slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his
gruel.

It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a bitter night. He was
obliged to sit close to it, and brood over it, before he could extract the
least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel. The fireplace
was an old one, built by some Dutch merchant long ago, and paved all
round with quaint Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures.
There were Cains and Abels, Pharaohs’ daughters; Queens of Sheba,
Angelic messengers descending through the air on clouds like feather-
beds, Abrahams, Belshazzars, Apostles putting off to sea in butter-
boats, hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts – and yet that face
of Marley, seven years dead, came like the ancient Prophet’s rod, and
swallowed up the whole. If each smooth tile had been a blank at first,
with power to shape some picture on its surface from the disjointed
fragments of his thoughts, there would have been a copy of old
Marley’s head on every one.

‘Humbug!’ said Scrooge; and walked across the room.

After several turns, he sat down again. As he threw his head back in
the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that
hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten
with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great
astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he
looked, he saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in the
outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon 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 ceased as they had begun, together. They were
succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person
were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine merchant’s
cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in
haunted houses were described as dragging 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.
Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, ‘I
know him; Marley’s Ghost!’ and fell again.

The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat,
tights and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and
his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was
clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a
tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes,
keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His
body was transparent, so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking
through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.
Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had
never believed it until now.

No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom
through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt
the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very
texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which
wrapper he had not observed before: he was still incredulous, and
fought against his senses.

‘How now!’ said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. ‘What do you want
with me?’

‘Much!’ – Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.

‘Who are you?’

‘Ask me who I was.’

‘Who were you then?’ said Scrooge, raising his voice. ‘You’re
particular, for a shade.’ He was going to say ‘to a shade,’ but
substituted this, as more appropriate.

‘In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.’

‘Can you – can you sit down?’ asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at
him.

‘I can.’

‘Do it then.’

Scrooge asked the question, because he didn’t know whether a ghost
so transparent might find himself in a condition to take a chair; and
felt that in the event of its being impossible, it might involve the
necessity of an embarrassing explanation. But the ghost sat down on
the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he were quite used to it.

‘You don’t believe in me,’ observed the Ghost.

‘I don’t.’ said Scrooge.

‘What evidence would you have of my reality, beyond that of your
senses?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Scrooge.

‘Why do you doubt your senses?’

‘Because,’ said Scrooge, ‘a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of
the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of
beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an
underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you,
whatever you are!’

Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel,
in his heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is, that he tried
to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping
down his terror; for the spectre’s voice disturbed the very marrow in
his bones.

To sit, staring at those fixed glazed eyes, in silence for a moment,
would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him. There was
something very awful, too, in the spectre’s being provided with an
infernal atmosphere of its own. Scrooge could not feel it himself, but
this was clearly the case; for though the Ghost sat perfectly
motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by
the hot vapour from an oven.

‘You see this toothpick?’ said Scrooge, returning quickly to the
charge, for the reason just assigned; and wishing, though it were only
for a second, to divert the vision’s stony gaze from himself.

‘I do,’ replied the Ghost.

‘You are not looking at it,’ said Scrooge.

‘But I see it,’ said the Ghost, ‘notwithstanding.’

‘Well!’ returned Scrooge, ‘I have but to swallow this, and be for the rest
of my days persecuted by a legion of goblins, all of my own creation.
Humbug, I tell you! humbug!’

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such
a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair,
to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was
his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head,
as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower jaw dropped down
upon its breast!

Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.

‘Mercy!’ he said. ‘Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?’

‘Man of the worldly mind!’ replied the Ghost, ‘do you believe in me or
not?’

‘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 among his fellowmen, and travel far and
wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so
after death. It is doomed to wander through the world – oh, woe is
me! – and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on
earth, and turned to happiness!’

Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its
shadowy hands.

‘You are fettered,’ said Scrooge, trembling. ‘Tell me why?’

‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost. ‘I made it link by
link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my
own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?’

Scrooge trembled more and more.

‘Or would you know,’ pursued the Ghost, ‘the weight and length of the
strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this,
seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a
ponderous chain!’

Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding
himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he
could see nothing.

‘Jacob,’ he said, imploringly. ‘Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak
comfort to me, Jacob!’

‘I have none to give,’ the Ghost replied. ‘It comes from other regions,
Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds
of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more, is all
permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger
anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house –
mark me! – in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of
our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!’

It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put
his hands in his breeches pockets. Pondering on what the Ghost had
said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his
knees.

‘You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,’ Scrooge observed, in a
business-like manner, though with humility and deference.

‘Slow!’ the Ghost repeated.

‘Seven years dead,’ mused Scrooge. ‘And travelling all the time!’
‘The whole time,’ said the Ghost. ‘No rest, no peace. Incessant torture
of remorse.’

‘You travel fast?’ said Scrooge.

‘On the wings of the wind,’ replied the Ghost.

‘You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years,’
said Scrooge.

The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain
so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would
have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

‘Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,’ cried the phantom, ‘not to
know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this
earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible
is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly
in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short
for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret
can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I!
Oh! such was I!’

‘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,
forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of
my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my
business!’

It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were the cause of all its
unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

‘At this time of the rolling year,’ the spectre said ‘I suffer most. Why
did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down,
and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a
poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have
conducted me!’

Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on at this
rate, and began to quake exceedingly.

‘Hear me!’ cried the Ghost. ‘My time is nearly gone.’

‘I will,’ said Scrooge. ‘But don’t be hard upon me! Don’t be flowery,
Jacob! Pray!’

‘How it is that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may
not tell. I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day.’

It was not an agreeable idea. Scrooge shivered, and wiped the
perspiration from his brow.

‘That is no light part of my penance,’ pursued the Ghost. ‘I am here
to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping
my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.’

‘You were always a good friend to me,’ said Scrooge. ‘Thank ee!’

‘You will be haunted,’ resumed the Ghost, ‘by Three Spirits.’

Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost’s had done.

‘Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?’ he demanded, in
a faltering voice.

‘It is.’

‘I – I think I’d rather not,’ said Scrooge.

‘Without their visits,’ said the Ghost, ‘you cannot hope to shun the
path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one.’
‘Couldn’t I take em all at once, and have it over, Jacob?’ hinted
Scrooge.

‘Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third
upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to
vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake,
you remember what has passed between us!’

When it had said these words, the spectre took its wrapper from the
table, and bound it round its head, as before. Scrooge knew this, by
the smart sound its teeth made, when the jaws were brought together
by the bandage. He ventured to raise his eyes again, and found his
supernatural visitor confronting him in an erect attitude, with its
chain wound over and about its arm.

The apparition walked backward from him; and at every step it took,
the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it, it
was wide open. It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did.

When they were within two paces of each other, Marley’s Ghost held
up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.

Not so much in obedience, as in surprise and fear: for on the raising
of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises in the air;
incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly
sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a
moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak,
dark night.

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked
out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in
restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore
chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty
governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been
personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar
with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe
attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a
wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-
step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to
interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.
Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he
could not tell. But they and their spirit voices faded together; and the
night became as it had been when he walked home.

Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door by which the
Ghost had entered. It was double-locked, as he had locked it with his
own hands, and the bolts were undisturbed. He tried to say
‘Humbug!’ but stopped at the first syllable. And being, from the
emotion he had undergone, or the fatigues of the day, or his glimpse
of the Invisible World, or the dull conversation of the Ghost, or the
lateness of the hour, much in need of repose; went straight to bed,
without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.

The Truby Rules

“Most screenplays fail at the concept level.”

This is something I’ve been seriously thinking about lately.

There’s almost a mathematical precision to writing movies, and Truby is right about this issue.

  • You must have a hook, something that makes people want to see the movie.
  • There must be conflict.
  • The audience must care about the character, and want to see them accomplish their goal.
  • There must be opposition.
  • The Characters must change or learn something as a result of the movie.

If you miss any of the 5, you’ve got a major problem. The story will fail.

To a certain extent, novels fall into the same needs. What’s the hook? Blake Snyder was of the opinion that irony was a key component.

A man loves a princess, but she’s engaged to be married to a prince. It’s good, but it’s missing something.

So let’s make him go from serf to Pirate Captain a couple of years later.

A common serf becomes an infamous pirate captain to win the love of his life, who is engaged to be married to a prince that is plotting to kill her. He must overcome challenges and defeat champions and an army to rescue her before the evil prince’s plan succeeds.

Got enough hook in there? Yes, it’s the Princess Bride.

A boxer wants a shot at the big time.

um… not enough.

Okay, lets make him partially deaf, a common every man, and make his opponent the heavy weight champion of the world. Every scene must contrast the champ with the best equipment, the best training, and the common every man boxer in a room lit by one light bulb and a would be retired manager. And it’s a fight to win not only the title, but avoid being killed in the ring and win the love of his life.

Rocky.

A man must expose the corruption of a Southern Asian society, because people are starving to death.

It’s an admirable plot, but you’re lacking the hook, the opposition, the conflict. Put some kind of warlord in there, actively trying to stop the reporter, add a “B” story, and you’ve got a movie or a novel. It actually got filmed, bombed at the box office, and I honestly can’t recall hearing anyone say they’ve watched it more than once. “Year of living dangerously.” I’m guessing it got sold on the strength of the title.

Karl Iglesias actually in one seminar takes people through the steps of developing a hook for a story, and proves “you don’t need special training to see a hook.” He reads through several movies that were currently in production, and of them all, I think only one of them got filmed. But he was right – you could go through it and hear – “this one has a hook, this one doesn’t.”

Self Editing

Editing. The ugly word. We’d all like to think that our first draft is perfect, and that the publisher is going to instantly write us a check for a million dollars after eagerly reading our books.

I blasted out my first novel in a few months, and at first I arrogantly assumed every one of the 179,000 words was perfect. There was nothing that could be cut from my books! And arrogantly, I decided that some chapters that my wife correctly pointed out dragged on and on were so crucial to the book, that I’d rather then not be published rather than cut them. I was sure that any publisher would back down and agree.

My writing kept me focused on my books, but at one point I got restless and began working on some movie scripts. When I came back to my first novel, the first thing I did was – cut out those chapters I’d insisted were so crucial!

What do you cut out? The first thing you’ve got to do is go through your book and find anything awkward. It’s not going to get any better. You can’t keep reading because you love your book. I know you love it! You wrote it! the very first thing you have to do is highlight awkward passages and add a comment: “Awkward.” This is your to-do note telling you to fix it or cut it.

Repeated words. By now, you’ve discovered a thesaurus. I’ll bet you a stack of pancakes there’s one in your text, too. “He ran in pursuit” can be cut to… “He pursued…” or even… “he ran”. This is what we call a “Shakes your head”. Of course you shake your head no! What else do you shake to mean no?

Echoes. “He parked his car…” is echoing “parked” and “Car”. Find echoes and cut.

Superfluous words. “Just” is often a superfluous word. Find every instance of that word. I’ll bet 80% of them can be cut. I know I spent over two days hunting for – and cutting – several hundred words just by searching for “just” and cutting almost every one of them! Other words to examine – Really, So, Now, Quite and Sometimes.

Dialogue tags. You can write an entire book with “…said”. Said, Shouted, whispered. All the “–ly” words are superfluous!  Angrily, happily, etc. When you read, ‘“LEAVE ME ALONE!” Jimmy shouted angrily’, believe it or not, most readers read the dialog, the name of the character, and skip to the next line. “Leave me alone!” Jimmy shouted is explanatory of itself. You’ve got to put “said” in some kind of fashion, but to say “Expounded” is getting pretentious.

Unnecessary scenes. I literally wrote, in my first draft, one scene three times. I don’t know why. I know it was pivotal. I had to get information in there. I cut the other two. Another two scenes probably are unnecessary. I can reduce my “buying the truck” scene to a simple line of dialog already in the script! Chop that scene. “Buying the boat” can be cut in half, because the crucial dialog in there is repeated elsewhere.

Conclusion

It’s far too easy to write a book that’s 195,000 words. I do it all the time, alas. But until you get published, the 195,000 word tome is going to do nothing but get you rejected. Start editing your book, fix it, make it good, reduce the clutter.

You’ll be surprised how strong your writing gets all of a sudden!

Genre

Genre seems to be one of those things that fiction authors rarely think about. “It’s a book. I wrote it.” But learning how to write screenplays has definitely given me a different view of this.

Successful movies often are blends of two or three genres – thriller/crime, crime/horror, action/comedy, etc. This rarely works well for writing a novel.

A novel must fit certain forms. For instance, in almost every genre, you must show that the protagonist is changed at the end of the book by the events of the novel – or its a failure. In mysteries, however, you CAN’T show the protagonist changed. Why? Everyone expects the protagonist to be the same character in the next novel. Really, the mystery genre was set in place with Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Nero Wolfe. These established the genre’s form and rules. Hercule Poirot remained in book two right up until the last of the books Agatha Christie wrote essentially the same insufferable character – because that’s what the readers wanted.

In thrillers, often the antagonist remains a puppet in the hands of the secret government – This is why Star Wars is a combination of Thriller-sci fi-samurai-western. does that work for a novel? It’s difficult to pull that off in a novel because you’ve got to fit the forms and conventions of that genre of novel.

We get ideas for novels that are a flash in your mind. “That’s a good story. What if?” Sometimes its someone relating a story, and something they say unrelated to the story gives you that flash.

Once you have that, ask “what genre is this?” if it’s a genre for action, then you know, “Okay, I have to have the protagonist do some kind of spectacular thing.” If it’s a drama, there are two or three central characters that are dominant, and everything else is setting. If it’s a thriller, you’ve got to set up your paranoia.  Failing to conform to the forms of the genre will leave your reader (if you get any) disappointed and feeling cheated. and they’ll never, never buy another one of your books.

But before you get to that stage, you’ve got to get past the agent and the publisher. Your agent is going to tell you immediately, “it’s not going to get published.” And even if you convince them, they’ll do the worst thing possible and let it go to a publisher. The publisher wants a good book, If your book doesn’t fulfill the forms of that genre, they’re going to reject it, and it’s going to make them hesitate when they hear your name in the future.

You don’t want that.

Write the best book you can. And I know that’s your goal. But keep in mind that when you say, “It’s a….” people expect it to offer what they’d expect from a sci-fi novel, from a fantasy novel, from a thriller, a drama, a romance, a mystery.

Conclusion

Some overlap between genres is sometimes unavoidable. However, try to keep most of your novel within a single genre, so your agent knows how to pitch it, the publisher knows how to market it, and the stores know where to put it on the shelves.

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