A CHRISTMAS CAROL
By Charles Dickens
I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book,
To raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my
Readers out of humour with themselves, with each other,
With the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses
Pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant,
Stave 1: Marley’s Ghost
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt
Whatever about that. The register of his burial was
Signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker,
And the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And
Scrooge’s name was good upon `Change, for anything he
Chose to put his hand to.
Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my
Own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about
A door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to
coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery
In the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors
Is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands
Shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You
Will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that
Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did.
How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were
Partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge
Was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole
Assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and
Sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully
Cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent
Man of business on the very day of the funeral,
And solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.
The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to
The point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley
Was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or
Nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going
To relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that
Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there
Would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a
Stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts,
Than there would be in any other middle-aged
Gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy
Spot – say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance –
Literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.
Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name.
There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse
Door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as
Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the
Business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley,
But he answered to both names. It was all the
Same to him.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-
Stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping,
Scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and
Sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out
Generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary
As an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features,
Nipped his pointed nose, 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 dogdays; and
Didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
External heat and cold had little influence on
Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather
Chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he,
No falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no
Pelting rain less open to entreaty.