Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 1000 words.
It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge's time, or Marley's, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.
'Come in!' exclaimed the Ghost. 'Come in, and know me better, man.'
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit's eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
'I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,' said the Spirit. 'Look upon me.'
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.
'You have never seen the like of me before?' exclaimed the Spirit.
'Never,' Scrooge made answer to it.
'Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?' pursued the Phantom.
'I don't think I have,' said Scrooge. 'I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?'
'More than eighteen hundred,' said the Ghost.
'A tremendous family to provide for,' muttered Scrooge.
The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.
'Spirit,' said Scrooge submissively, 'conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.'
'Touch my robe.'
Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.
Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly. So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snow-storms.
[... Scrooge goes flying through the air with the Ghost and sees the people playing the snow, buying provisions for Christmas dinner, going to church in their finest clothes, church bells ringing. He then takes Scrooge to the house of Bob Cratchit. ... ]
'What has ever got your precious father then?' said Mrs Cratchit. 'And your brother, Tiny Tim. And Martha warn't as late last Christmas Day by half-an-hour.'
'Here's Martha, mother,' said a girl, appearing as she spoke.
'Here's Martha, mother!' cried the two young Cratchits. 'Hurrah! There's such a goose, Martha!'
'Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!' said Mrs Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.
'We'd a deal of work to finish up last night,' replied the girl, 'and had to clear away this morning, mother.'
'Well! Never mind so long as you are come,' said Mrs Cratchit. 'Sit ye down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye.'
'No, no. There's father coming,' cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. 'Hide, Martha, hide!'
So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame.
'Why, where's our Martha?' cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.
'Not coming,' said Mrs Cratchit.
'Not coming!' said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. 'Not coming upon Christmas Day?'
Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.
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Source: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. 1843. (Project Gutenberg).
MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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