Where to find the original work without all the murder….
I have endeavored in this ghostly little book to raise the ghost of an idea which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their house pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.
And I have endeavored to plant the seed of a dark and ghoulish mystery within that ghost story in hopes of putting my readers decidedly out of sorts around the holidays. May they rest in pleasant dreams.
Their faithful Friend and Servant, D.J.
- EBENEZER SCROOGE, a grasping, covetous old man, the surviving partner of the firm of Scrooge and Marley.
- JACK THE RIPPER, a serial killer on the loose in London.
- BOB CRATCHIT, clerk to Ebenezer Scrooge.
- Mrs. CRATCHIT, wife of Bob Cratchit.
- PETER, BELINDA, AND MARTHA, children of the preceding.
- TINY TIM, a cripple, youngest son of Bob Cratchit.
- Mr. & Mrs. FEZZIWIG, a kind-hearted, jovial old merchant and his worthy partner.
- FRED, Scrooge’s nephew.
- GHOST OF JACOB MARLEY, a spectre of Scrooge’s former partner in business.
- GHOST OF CLARY HENSIL, a spectre of a prostitute.
- GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST, a phantom showing things past.
- GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT, a spirit of a kind, generous, and hearty nature.
- GHOST OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME, an apparition showing the shadows of things which yet may happen.
- MATTIE POLCHRISTY, a friend of Clary Hensil
- PERRY, BARMY BILL, and KAREN, orphans
- FAN, the sister of Scrooge.
- DICK WILKINS, a fellow apprentice of Scrooge’s.
- BELLE, a comely matron, an old sweetheart of Scrooge’s.
- Mr. TOPPER, a bachelor.
- JOE, a marine-store dealer and receiver of stolen goods.
- CAROLINE, wife of one of Scrooge’s debtors.
- Mrs. DILBER, a laundress.
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 solemnized it with an undoubted bargain.
The mention of being “cut up” brings me to another point.
Marley wasn’t the only one who was dead. The past fortnight, two prostitutes had been discovered in a similar, though more gruesome, condition in the vicinity, the Whitechapel district. And previous to that, some weeks before, two others had been found in a similar state. “The Ripper,” he was called, this anonymous reaper of souls, this ghoulish dealer of death who hacked his victims to bits in a bloody mess. He—or indeed perhaps she—even extracted organs from the hapless victims and had only just sent a sample to the police with a cheery little note taunting them. The constables were always in the streets these nights, suspicious of every sort they encountered on the streets, no matter how genteel or, indeed, how coarse.
Like Marley, the prostitutes left few mourners and suffered quiet funerals, though generally better attended than the businessman’s. And like him, they left no doubt as to their permanent absence of life.
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, or a narrow street among the bawdy houses—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 grindstone. 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 dog days, 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? We should have a chat about this Ripper fellow, I should think.’ No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no streetwalker flashed a bare shoulder in hopes of sharing a warm bed, 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 neighboring 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. A constable passed along the street and was stopped to answer—as they inevitably were in these days—if the Ripper had been caught yet, was known to the police, or was a danger to honest folk, which he was not.
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.
“And to you as well, Bob Cratchit!” 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.
“And Merry Christmas to you, Fred,” the clerk rejoined cheerily.
“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”
“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 gutted by the Ripper, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”
“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew. “Don’t invoke that murderer at this time of year!”
“Nephew!” returned the uncle, sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, he’ll keep it in his, and let me keep it in mine.”
“Uncle!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “Keep it then! 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!”
Bob Cratchit 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, and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation!” Scrooge said, then turned to his nephew. “You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir,” he observed. “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 humor 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 Bob 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 their credentials, which identified him as Lonnie Shoals and his cohort as Albert Semmelweis.
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, Mr. Shoals?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge of Mr. Semmelweis. “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 vigor, then?” said Scrooge again to Mr. Shoals.
“Both very busy, sir.”
“And there remain the bawdy houses to take in wayward maids? Or the very streets themselves to ply their trade?”
“It is unfortunately, so, of course.” Mr. Semmelweis cast down his eyes.
“Oh! I’m very glad to hear it,” said Scrooge. “I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course.”
“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned Mr. Shoals, “a few of us are endeavoring 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.”
Mr. Semmelweis would have liked to have added that their charity might get some fallen woman off the street, but Scrooge was likely to make an ugly joke about how easy that was—if only for a little while. And so he merely said, “What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?” Mr. Shoals was the more unwarrantedly credulous of the two.
“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—excepting the brothels, of course—and they cost enough in tax; 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 resumed his labors 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 laborers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and streetwalkers were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in solitude, its overflowings 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 tomorrow’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 counting-house 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 tomorrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.
“If quite convenient, sir,” said Bob Cratchit.
“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.”
Bob 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 greatcoat 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 Cratchit, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no greatcoat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honor 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. The streets were nearly deserted, with most respectable types a-home with family for the evening before Christmas. A handful of fellows carefully navigating on the cobblestones gave Scrooge a tinge of envy—if he had let his clerk go earlier, how much more sensible and businesslike must these men’s employers be?
Scrooge turned down a dim side street in an effort to duck the chill wind and the clatter of hooves behind him as a carriage approached. It was barely an alleyway, but one to which he was accustomed, for he used it to short-cut his way home on just such occasions despite its meanness and unkempt nature, for it was a den of purveyors of the more sordid pleasures of life, including opium and the flesh. A painted woman appeared in a doorway at that moment, who had a hungry look as if she might tempt a few coppers from old Scrooge’s purse. But Scrooge turned away down an even narrower passage less familiar to him.
A light in a doorway illuminated two figures here: another prostitute and a man in a heavy coat. “Push off!” she said to him. The woman was hard-looking, as so many on the street were, but her eyes were plaintive and searching rather than wanton and in that moment when the light from her hovel lit up her full face, she was pretty.
“A moment, sir!” she said directly to Scrooge. “Could you ‘elp me send this bloke on ‘is way?” she said rather desperately.
But the man pushed her into the domicile with a grunt, his tall hat tipping to the side as he did. Scrooge averted his eyes from the scene; this was no streetwalker and client but a streetwalker and her pimp, “Come to extract his portion of her receipts, I suppose,” Scrooge said to himself, “as any employer might.” The last Scrooge saw as the pair were swallowed up by the dingy cellar flat was the man’s good-make boot shuffling across the cobblestones—common, but a somewhat finer sort than those Scrooge wore. And then the door closed with a thud followed by a crack that might have been a hand across a delicate cheek and a cry that might have been a plaintive “Help.”
Scrooge stood in the street a moment, looking back at the dark door. And then he walked on.
Scrooge 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.
He put his hand upon the key he had relinquished, turned it sturdily, walked in, lighted his candle, and closed the door 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 of the prostitute in the street and the man manhandling her 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 fireguard, 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 the street girl came like the ancient Prophet’s rod, and swallowed up the whole.
“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 than 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 color 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 and fell again, as if to cry out at the sight of Marley’s Ghost. And following fast upon Marley’s ghostly heels: the wan and slight figure of the prostitute from the alley. Again the fire leaped up, throwing a spark into the room that scattered tiny red embers that blackened and died.
The same faces: 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 cashboxes, 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.
But the harlot with her tousled hair tied with a frayed ribbon, came with her arms open, as was her torso. Indeed, her breast and belly had been split by some awful cleaver and spread to reveal the wet innards of her guts. She, who sold her own flesh in life, was wound about with chains as well, but these were hung with meat and sausages, kidneys and livers—like a butcher’s shop. Transparent as she was, yet she seemed to drip with ghostly blood.
Though Scrooge looked the phantoms through and through, and saw them standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of their death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about Marley’s 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.
“Help!”—the prostitute’s cry.
“Who are you?”
“Ask us who we were,” came from Marley.
“Who were you then?” said Scrooge, raising his voice. “You’re particular, for shades.” He was going to say “to a shade,” but substituted this, as more appropriate.
“In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”
“And I was Clary Hensil, a penniless girl who turned to whoring.” Her voice was hollow and high and common. And she drew out the final word low and mean, like a prison sentence.
“Whoring,” echoed Marley’s shade.
“Can you— Can you sit down?” asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at them.
“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. The girl spirit stood behind, however, half-turned toward the fire, but looking aside at her host.
“You don’t believe in me,” observed the Ghost of Marley.
“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?”
“Why do you doubt your eyes, deary?” asked the female phantom accusingly.
“Because,” said Scrooge, “any little thing affects the senses. 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, what ever 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 voices disturbed the very marrow in his bones.
“Oh, that I had a bit of beef in life!” lamented the Ghost of Clary Hensil. “I sold meself for porridge and a glass o’ beer!”
To sit, staring at those fixed glazed eyes that once were Marley’s in silence for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him. There was something very awful, too, in the spectres’ being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own.
Scrooge could not feel it himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the ghosts sat perfectly motionless, their hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapor 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 of Marley.
“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 spirits raised a frightful cry, and shook their chains 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 that had been Marley, 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 apparitions, why do you trouble me?”
“Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost of Marley, “do you believe in me or not?”
“Believe!” demanded the phantom harlot.
“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 manly Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, 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!”
“And it is required,” his companion spoke, “that each person hold a common dignity. And them that falls short must haunt the world—ay, me blackened soul!—and see the dignity that can be had by the lowest person of the street, if only one should reach out and pluck it!”
Again the spectres raised a cry, and shook their chain and wrung their shadowy hands.
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“We wear the chains we forged in life,” replied the Ghost of Marley. “We made them link by link, and yard by yard; I girded mine 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 of Clary Hensil, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself?”
Marley spoke: “It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored 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. He looked up at Marley’s ghost and then at the prostitute and waved her a way a little. And she wafted like ash from the fire to a dark corner.
“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 traveling 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 was joined immediately by the female. They clanked their chains 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 manly phantom, “not to know that ages of incessant labor 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 of Marley, wringing its hands again.
“Business!” cried the Ghost of Clary Hensil.
“Mankind was my business.”
“And mine!” echoed the female.
“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!”
“And why did you?” cried the woman shade. “How did your boots tread the ground so near the penniless waifs and others crying out for an act of kindness? So near to me? But instead of heeding a plaintive cry, you turned away and let a poor girl abandoned to the fleshpots be caught up and cut up and butchered like a hog at the hand of a murderer!”
Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectres going on at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly. “Murder?”
“Murder!” And the she-spectre shook its chained and wailed angrily.
“Hear me!” cried the Ghost of Marley. “Out 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.
“As I am doomed to do so now!” the Ghost of Clary Hensil enjoined.
“That is no light part of my penance,” pursued the Ghost of Marley. “I am here tonight 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. The Ghost of Clary Hensil laughed.
“Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?” he demanded, in a faltering voice.
“I— I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.
“Without their visits,” said the Ghost, “you cannot hope to shun the path we 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.
And at that, the whore shade laughed hideously.”You’ll witness heinous crimes, deary. The ground will soak with blood and mush with gore. You’ll take them one by one or die of shock!”
The Ghost of Marley stood forward. “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!”
“And keep a fair eye, gov’nor, for the knife what done me in, and the hand what gripped it, and the arm what swung it, and the body what carried it round London. Avenge me, sir, and right your own callous wrong for me and all the gutter folk you never gave a tinker’s dam for!”
As the harlot spectre said these words, the Ghost of Marley 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 visitors confronting him together, with their chains wound over and about their left arms like heavy overcoats.
The apparitions walked backward from him; and, at every step they took, the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectres reached it, it was wide open.
They 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.
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 spectres, 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 filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like his ghostly visitors; 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 doorstep. 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 ghosts 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 ghosts, or the lateness of the hour, much in need of repose; went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.
When Scrooge awoke, it was yet an inky darkness that opened to him. He shook the nightmares from his mind and looked upon the clock. It was half past four in the wee hours and all honest men were still a-bed—in proper bedclothes. But for Scrooge there would be no more rest this night. He went to the window and opened it. The cold morning air was invigorating. All the fear and foolishness of the night went, and reason reasserted itself firmly in his mind. He put on his shoes and coat, and went down into the street.
The streets were nearly deserted but not entirely, and fresh snow lightly covered everything. Now and again, workmen and drunkards polishing off the night wished one another a Merry Christmas, but none did to Scrooge, and it suited him. He thought he might stop in at the usual shop to get a piece of cold meat and bread for his breakfast, but he knew nothing such as that would be open at that quiet hour.
And so instead, Scrooge turned down a side street and let his mind wander for a moment as to where to get a bit of food on Christmas morning when he took a sudden turn again down a narrow alley for no reason.
No reason at all.
But there, in the street outside a cellar flat, stood a policeman, looking in the door. Beyond him was a woman huddled in a ragged shawl, also looking in. The constable turned to look at Scrooge, still some distance away, with a blank and bloodless face. Slowly, he raised his whistle to his lips and blew a hard blast, his gaze drifting away from Scrooge to nothing at all.
The cry brought out a storm of activity, with faces peeking out of windows all around and people creeping out of doorways. The constable rushed away, down the street in search of others like him, shouting and blowing his whistle.
“Murder!” was his cry.
Scrooge came to the door—the very door, he now realized, he had passed the evening before and where the prostitute had been manhandled into the flat—and peered in. In the dim illumination filtering in from gaslights on the street, Scrooge could just make out the form of a woman lying on the bed—or, I should say—the remains of a woman. The carcass, so it should be called, was blood red all over and shiny wet. The neck was deeply slashed, the eyes bulging, and the torso cleaved open from throat to groin. One bare breast was revealed by her torn dress. Her abdomen was spread and pieces, it appeared, had been removed. Blood was everywhere: on a chair, on the wall, on a picture smashed on the floor, on the rough plank floor itself….
Ebenezer Scrooge shook with horror. The blood drained from his face and fingers and feet where he stood in the cold street. It was, without doubt, the corpse of Clary Hensil, whom he had seen in that very doorway the evening before and whom had visited him in ghostly form that night. The woman who had accompanied the constable, he saw now, stood in equal shock, unable to speak, unable to move. Someone in the gathering crowd whispered, “The Ripper has struck.” And another, “What was her name?”
“Clary Hensil,” Scrooge said in a strained voice. “—I believe she was called.”
“Yes. Yes! Ohh!” cried the woman Scrooge had seen at the doorway first with the constable. “Oh, Clary, luv!” It was the first words she had spoken, and she turned away and buried her face in her hands.
Suddenly, the street was amass with policemen. They muscled the small group of onlookers out of the way and shouted at them to be off. Then they went to work trampling the crime scene and calling on one another not to disturb it before the man with the camera could be summoned.
On Christmas morning.
Scrooge stumbled back away, having said nothing of the man in the heavy coat and modest boots and tall hat from the evening before. He staggered down the street, sick at his stomach, and suddenly heard a man behind him retching in the gutter. He composed himself and walked away slowly, his fingers tingling, and warmed them as best he could under his arms.
Visions of the night before spun round in his head. Had he imagined it all? Were his nightmares the product of a half-remembered newspaper article on the Ripper murders and the chance encounter with the victim and a man who might—and only might—have actually been the Ripper?
His guts had gone cold as death now, and there was nothing for it. Scrooge went home again. He found some cold meat and a scrap of bread he had left over and took it to his bed chamber on a plate. But he set it aside and took off his coat and clothes and crawled into bed in his dressing gown and nightcap. A church struck five o’clock in the morning, and Scrooge went straight to sleep.