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.
stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked
Scrooge if he knew it.
it!" said Scrooge. "Was I apprenticed
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
old Fezziwig! Bless his heart; it's 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:
there! Ebenezer! Dick!"
former self, now grown a young man, came briskly
in, accompanied by his fellow-prentice.
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.
"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."
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
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."
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
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 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.
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!
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
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
matter," said the Ghost, "to make these
silly folks so full of gratitude."
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,
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?"
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.
the matter?" asked the Ghost.
in particular," said Scrooge.
I think?" the Ghost insisted.
said Scrooge, "No. I should like to be able
to say a word or two to my clerk just now! That's
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.
grows short," observed the Spirit.
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
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.
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."
has displaced you?" he rejoined.
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!"
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?"
then?" he retorted. "Even if I have
grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed
She shook her
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
"I was a
boy," he said impatiently.
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."
ever sought release?"
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,
He seemed to
yield to the justice of this supposition, in
spite of himself. But he said with a
struggle," You think not?"
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
-- 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.
said Scrooge, "show me no more! Conduct me
home. Why do you delight to torture me?"
shadow more!" exclaimed the Ghost.
more!" cried Scrooge! "No more, I don't
wish to see it! Show me no more!"
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
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.
said the husband, turning to his wife with a
smile, "I saw an old friend of yours this
I? Tut, don't I know," she added in the same
breath, laughing as he laughed. "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
said Scrooge in a broken voice, "remove me
from this place."
you these were shadows of the things that have
been," said the Ghost. "That they are
what they are, do not blame me!"
me!" Scrooge exclaimed, "I cannot bear
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.
Take me back. Haunt me no longer!"
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.
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.
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