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SCROOGE AND MARLEY.
BY CHARLES DICKENS.
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.
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.
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, his sole mourner.
Scrooge never painted out old Marley's name, however. There it yet 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. He answered to both names. It was all the same to him.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, was Scrooge! a squeezing, wreuching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! External heat and cold had little influence on him. No warmth could warm, no cold could 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, upon a Christmas eve-old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting, foggy weather; and the city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already.
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 Scrooge had of his approach.
“ Bab!” said Scrooge; “humbug !”
“Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don't mean that, I am sure ?”
“ I do. 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, and 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 had my will, 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 !”
66 Uncle !”
“ Nephew, keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."
Keep it! But you don't keep it.” “ Let me leave it alone, then. 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, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come roundapart from the veneration due to its sacred 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-travellers 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.
“Let me bear 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 ? ” “ 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 tban 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?"
“I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?'
" Good afternoon." “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!” “ And A Happy New Year ! ” " Good afternoon!” His nephew left the room without an angry word, notvithstanding The clerk, in letting Scrooge's nephew ont, 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.
He died seven years ago, this very night.”
“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 ?”
“Plenty of prisons. But under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the unoffending multitude, 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?”
“You wish to be anonymous ?”
“ I wish to be left alone. 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 prisons and the workhouses —they cost enough-and those who are badly off must
“Many can't go there; and many would rather die.”
“ If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge, dismounting from his stool, 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 ?” “If quite convenient, sir.”
“It's not convenient, and it's not fair. If I was to stop half a crown for it, you'd think yourself mightily ill-used, I'll be bound?”
· Yes, sir.” “And yet you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work.”
5 It's only once a year, sir.
“ A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December! 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, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas eve, and then ran home 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