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
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 ware-house
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, shrivelled
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
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 blindmen'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
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,
``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
``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
``Come, then,'' returned the
nephew gaily. ``What right have
you to be dismal? what reason
have you to be morose? You're
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
``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
``Let me leave it alone, then,''
said Scrooge. ``Much good may
it do you! Much good it has ever
``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
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
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 to-morrow.''
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
``But why?'' cried Scrooge's
``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 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
``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,
``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 greeting 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
``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
``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
``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
``Are there no prisons?'' asked
``Plenty of prisons,'' said
the gentleman, laying down the
``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?''
``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
``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
``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 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 slily
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 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 might 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
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
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
``You'll want all day tomorrow,
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
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
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 have 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
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-year's
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 upon 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 of its own expression.
As Scrooge looked fixedly at
this phenomenon, it was a knocker
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, bed-room, 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 has 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-guard, 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 night-cap;
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, Pharaoh's
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
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
``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
``In life I was your partner,
``Can you -- can you sit down?''
asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully
``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
``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
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
``I do,'' replied the Ghost.
``You are not looking at it,''
``But I see it,'' said the Ghost,
``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 in-doors, its lower jaw
dropped down upon its breast!
Scrooge fell upon his knees,
and clasped his hands before
``Mercy!'' he said. ``Dreadful
apparition, why do you trouble
``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
``It is required of every man,''
the 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
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
``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 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 opportunities
misused! Yet such was I! Oh!
such was I!''
``But you were always a good
man of business, Jacob,'' faultered
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
``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
Scrooge was very much dismayed
to hear the spectre going on
at this rate, and began to quake
``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,
``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.
``I -- I think I'd rather not,''
``Without their visits,'' said
the Ghost, ``you cannot hope
to shun the path I tread. Expect
the first to-morrow, when the
bell tolls One.''
``Couldn't I take 'em all at
once, and have it over, Jacob?''
``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
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.
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
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
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
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.