Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: A Radio Drama

I’m directing Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a radio drama. The script appears below. I wrote this adaptation when I learned the Dickens’ would perform (read) A Christmas Carol around the holidays for paying audiences (it wasn’t always a movie). It makes sense if you remember it was 1843.

Visit the dedicated blog at A Christmas Carol: A Radio Drama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870. A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens

Adapted by

Joseph Valentinetti


Act One

[[Carolers can be heard singing Deck The Halls from off stage. Actors enter from read and come down the aisle carrying wrapped presents, chattering with each other, nodding and smiling to the audience as they pass.

They are followed by the carolers still singing.]]

(Actors arrange the presents by the tree and fireplace.

There is a fan and streamers in the fireplace to simulate a fire.

The host actor and the first Dickens take their place at the podium. It is on the fireplace riser. There is a light on the podium directed at the readers face.  The others arrange themselves to attentively listen.

The carolers fade out their singing and join the actors to listen.)

The host actor: (Actor turn your light on)

Good evening friends, guests, ladies and gentlemen. I welcome you to my humble home. I have for you tonight a great delight. The latest writing of my good and dear friends, Charles Dickens: a work called A Christmas Carol.

I know we are all anxious for this so without further delay then, let us get to this evenings pleasure. Ladies and gentlemen, Charles Dickens.

(host actor leaves the riser (podium) and joins the others.

 

(Chapter 1

Stave 1
Scrooge in the Counting House.)

 

First Charles Dickens: (Actor be sure your light is on).

 

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. But permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. 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.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say,  ‘My dear Scrooge, how are you?   But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked.

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 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 door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, Cratchit, who in a dismal little cell beyond 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 him to seek employment elsewhere.

Cratchet tried to warm himself at the candle; But, 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.

‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’

This nephew of Scrooge’s was all a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome.

‘Christmas a humbug, uncle! 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 enough.’

‘Come, then, What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.’

Scrooge having no better answer ready ‘Bah! Humbug!’

‘Don’t be cross, uncle.’ said the nephew.

‘What else can I be,’ returned the uncle, ‘when I live in such a world of fools as this? 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. ”

‘Uncle!’ pleaded the nephew.

‘Nephew!’ returned the uncle, sternly, ‘keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.’

‘But you don’t keep it.’

‘Let me leave it alone, then,’ said Scrooge.

‘There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited,’ returned the nephew. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, 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 to open their shut-up hearts freely. And uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket I say, God bless it!’

“You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir,’ Scrooge said. ‘I wonder you don’t go into Parliament.’

‘Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow.’

‘Why did you get married?’ said Scrooge.

‘Because I fell in love.’

‘Because you fell in love!’ growled Scrooge, as if marriage 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 coming now?’

‘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. But I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!’

‘Good afternoon.’ said Scrooge.

‘And A Happy New Year!’

‘Good afternoon!’ said Scrooge.

His nephew wished the clerk, Cratchet, well as he left the room.

‘There’s another fellow,’ muttered Scrooge. ‘My clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas. Upon my word!’

The clerk, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in.

‘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. ‘Seven years ago, this very night.’

‘We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,’ said the gentleman.

It certainly was, for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word liberality, Scrooge frowned, and shook his head

‘At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,’ ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute.

‘Are there no prisons?’ asked Scrooge. And the Union workhouses. Are they still in operation? ‘The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’ said Scrooge.

‘All are, sir.’

Scrooge said sarcastically. ‘I’m very glad to hear it.’

They scarcely furnish Christian cheer. What shall I put you down for?’

‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’

‘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.’ Scrooge smiled at his improved opinion of himself.

Meanwhile outside his dingy establishment 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.

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 who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.

‘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? And yet,’ said Scrooge, ‘you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.’

The clerk smiled faintly. “It’s only once a year, Sir.”

‘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 office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk went down a slide on Cornhill and ran home to Camden Town, to the joy of his wife and children.

(Actor, turn off your light)

[[Music Direction. (Plan each of these interludes to last 60 seconds). Cratchit is going home to the bosom of his happy family. The music should be joyous fading to Scrooge going home to a dark and lonely house.]]

 

(Actor: Turn on your light.

Second Charles Dickens

Chapter 2 Marley’s Ghost)

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 a gloomy old house.

Up the rickety stairs Scrooge went, not caring a button for the darkness. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. Sitting-room, bed-room, all as they should be.

Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in. Thus secured against surprise, put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire.

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 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 and yet the face of Marley, seven years dead, came like the ancient Prophet’s rod, and swallowed up the whole.

‘Humbug!’ said Scrooge; and walked across the room.

The servants call bells rang though servants no longer were employed. They rang out loudly.

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. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

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, a spirit came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes.

Scrooge   did not believe it even now. He looked the phantom through and through.

‘How now.’ said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. ‘What do you want with me?’

‘Much.’ It was Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.

‘Who are you?’

‘Ask me who I was.’

‘Who were you then?’ said Scrooge.

‘In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.’

‘Can you-can you sit down?’ asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at him.

‘I can.’

‘Do it, then.’

‘You don’t believe in me,’ observed the Ghost.

‘I don’t,’ said Scrooge.

‘What evidence do you need beyond that of your senses?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Scrooge.

‘Why do you doubt your senses?’

‘Because,’ said Scrooge, ‘a little thing affects them. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!’

The spectre’s voice shook the very marrow in his bones.

‘You see this toothpick.’ asked Scrooge.

‘I do,’ replied the Ghost.

‘You are not looking at it,’ said Scrooge.

‘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.

Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face. ‘Mercy!’ he said. ‘Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?’

‘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 to me?   ‘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 of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is this 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!’

‘But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered 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  in the ocean of what I should cared about!’

It held up its chain at arm’s length and flung it heavily upon the ground again. ‘Hear me!’ cried the Ghost. ‘My time is nearly gone.’

‘I will,’ said Scrooge. ‘But don’t be hard upon me,  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, Ebenezer.’

‘You were always a good friend to me,’ said Scrooge.

‘You will be haunted,’ resumed the Ghost, ‘by Three Spirits.’

Scrooge’s countenance fell.

‘Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?’ he demanded, in a faltering voice.

‘It is.’

‘I-I think I’d rather not,’ said Scrooge.

‘Without their visits,’ said the Ghost, ‘you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first when the bell tolls One.’

‘Couldn’t I take them all at once, and have it over, Jacob?’ hinted Scrooge.

‘Expect the second on the next same hour. The third upon a later stroke. For your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!’

Marley vanished through the window and Scrooge, looking out, saw the night filled with spirits he had never seen before

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 much in need of repose; went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.

(Actor, turn off your light)

[[Music Direction. The night is full of spirits now visible to Scrooge. Eerie sounds that end abruptly with the striking of the clock. The clock struck with a deep, dull, hollow tone. -BONG! BONG! BONG!]]

 

 

 

The Third Charles Dickens. (Actor. Turn on your light)

(THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS)

The clock woke Scrooge. Marley’s Ghost had bothered him exceedingly. ‘Was it a dream or not? ‘ The clock struck with a deep, dull, hollow tone. The curtains of his bed flew open, drawn aside by a hand. Scrooge found himself face to face with an unearthly visitor.

It was a strange figure. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin.

‘Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked Scrooge.

‘I am.’

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

‘Who, and what are you?’ Scrooge demanded.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’

‘Long Past?’ inquired Scrooge.

‘No. Your past.’

It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm.

‘Rise! and walk with me!’

The spirits grasp, though gentle as a woman’s hand, was not to be resisted.

‘I am mortal,’ Scrooge pled.

‘Bear but a touch of my hand there,’ said the Spirit, laying it upon his heart, ‘and you shall be upheld in more than this!’

As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand

‘Good Heaven!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. ‘I was bred in this place. I was a boy here!’

‘Your lip is trembling,’ said the Ghost. ‘And what is that upon your cheek?’

Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where he would.

‘You recollect the way?’ inquired the Spirit.

‘Remember it!’ cried Scrooge with fervour; ‘ I could walk it blindfolded.’

‘These are but shadows of the things that have been,’ said the Ghost. ‘They have no consciousness of us. The school is not quite deserted,’ said the Ghost. ‘A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.’

Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

They went and entered the building, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be. Every sight fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a softening influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window.

‘Why, it’s Ali Baba!’ Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. ‘It’s dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his would have been a surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.

Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, ‘Poor boy.’ and cried again.

‘I wish,’ Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: ‘but it’s too late now.’

‘What is the matter?’ asked the Spirit.

‘Nothing,’ said Scrooge.

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, ‘Let us see another Christmas!’

The door opened; and a little girl, much younger than the boy, came darting in, and putting her arms about his neck, and often kissing him, addressed him as her ‘Dear, dear brother.’

‘I have come to bring you home, dear brother!’ said the child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh. ‘To bring you home, home, home!’

‘Home, little Fan?’ returned the boy.

‘Yes!’ said the child, brimful of glee. ‘Home, for good and all. Home, for ever and ever. And we’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.’

‘You are quite a woman, little Fan!’ exclaimed the boy.

‘Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,’ said the Ghost. ‘But she had a large heart.’

‘So she had,’ cried Scrooge. ‘You’re right, Spirit.!’

‘She died a woman,’ said the Ghost, ‘and had, as I think, children.’

‘One child,’ Scrooge returned.

‘True,’ said the Ghost. ‘Your nephew.’

Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, ‘Yes.’

They were now in the busy thoroughfares of a city. The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.

‘Know it!’ said Scrooge. ‘Was I apprenticed here?’

‘Why, it’s old Fezziwig! Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again!’

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and called out in a jovial voice:

‘Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!’

Scrooge’s former self, now grown a young man, came briskly in, accompanied by his fellow-prentice.

‘Dick 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. Dear, dear.’

‘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!’

In came a fiddler with a music-book. In came Mrs Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly.

There were dances and more dances, and there was cake, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer

During 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.

‘A small matter,’ said the Ghost, ‘to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.’

‘Small!’ echoed Scrooge.

‘Why! Is it not?’

‘It isn’t that,’ said Scrooge, Fitzwigg 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. The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.’

‘My time grows short,’ observed the Spirit. ‘Quick!’

This produced an immediate effect. For again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime of life.

He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl.

‘It matters little, very little. Another idol has displaced me.’

‘What Idol has displaced you?’ he rejoined.

‘Gold and silver and wealth.’

‘This is the even-handed dealing of the world.’ he said. ‘There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty.’

She answered, gently.  ‘You fear the world too much,’. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Wealth, engrosses you.?’

‘What then?’ he retorted. ‘Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.   ‘Am I?’

‘You were another man, then.’

‘I was a boy,’ he said impatiently.

‘You are changed in nature; an altered spirit.’

He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in spite of himself.

She left him, and they parted.

‘Spirit!’ said Scrooge, ‘show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?’ Spirit!’ said Scrooge in a broken voice, ‘remove me from this place.’

‘I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,’ said the Ghost. ‘That they are what they are, do not blame me!’

‘Remove me!’ Scrooge exclaimed, ‘I cannot bear it!’

‘Leave me! Take me back! Haunt me no longer!’

Scrooge was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

(Actor. Turn off your light).

[[Music Direction. Scrooge is intimidated and longs for release from his torment. He falls into a heavy sleep. He is then awakened by joyful noise.]]

 

 

The fourth Charles Dickens. (Actor turn on your light)

(Chapter 4

Stave 4

THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS)

In his room 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 giant Ghost. ‘Come in! and know me better, man. I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’

Scrooge hung his head before this Spirit

‘You have never seen the like of me before!’ exclaimed the Spirit.

‘Never,’ Scrooge said.

‘Touch my robe!’

Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.

Soon they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning.

‘Is there a peculiar magic in what you sprinkle from your torch?’ asked Scrooge.

‘There is. My own.’

‘Would it apply to any kind of event on this day?’ asked Scrooge.

‘To any kindly given. To a poor one most.’

‘Why to a poor one most?’ asked Scrooge.

‘Because it needs it most.’

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling with the sprinkling of his torch. Think of that. Bob had but fifteen bob a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house.

Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes.

‘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.

‘Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are,’ kissing her a dozen times. ‘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 and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!

Bob Cratchit, looking round. ‘Why, where’s our Martha?’ he cried.

‘Not coming,’ said Mrs Cratchit.

‘Not coming! Not coming upon Christmas Day!’

Martha didn’t like to see him disappointed, so she came out prematurely and ran into his arms.

‘And how did little Tim behave? asked Mrs Cratchit.

‘As good as gold,’ said Bob, ‘and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.’

His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken.

Such a bustle ensued. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy. Master Peter mashed the potatoes, Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. Even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!

The pudding was out of the copper. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered-flushed, but smiling proudly-with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quart of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect. Then all drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!’

Which all the family re-echoed.

‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his.

‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, ‘tell me if Tiny Tim will live.’

‘I see a vacant seat,’ replied the Ghost,’ in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.’

‘No, no,’ said Scrooge. ‘Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.’

‘If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other will find him here. What then. If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’

Scrooge bent before the Ghost’s rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own name.

‘Mr. Scrooge!’ said Bob; ‘I’ll give you Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!’

‘The Founder of the Feast indeed!’ cried Mrs Cratchit, reddening. ‘I wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he’d have a good appetite for it.’

‘My dear,’ said Bob, ‘the children! Christmas Day.’

‘It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,’ said she, ‘on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow.’

‘My dear,’ was Bob’s mild answer, ‘Christmas Day.’

‘I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’s,’ said Mrs Cratchit,’ not for his. Long life to him! A merry Christmas and a happy new year. He’ll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!’

There was nothing of high mark in this. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit’s torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

By this time it was getting dark, and snowing pretty heavily; and as Scrooge and the Spirit went along the streets, the brightness of the roaring fires in kitchens, parlours, and all sorts of rooms, was wonderful.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Scrooge’s nephew. ‘Ha, ha, ha!’

When Scrooge’s nephew laughed in this way: holding his sides, rolling his head, and twisting his face into the most extravagant contortions: Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily.

‘Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha!’

‘He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live!’ cried Scrooge’s nephew. ‘He believed it too!’

‘More shame for him, Fred!’ said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly.

‘He’s a comical old fellow,’ said Scrooge’s nephew, ‘that’s the truth: and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him.’

‘I’m sure he is very rich, Fred,’ hinted Scrooge’s niece. ‘At least you always tell me so.’

‘What of that, my dear.’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it. He don’t make himself comfortable with it.’

‘I have no patience with him,’ observed Scrooge’s niece. Scrooge’s niece’s sisters, and all the other ladies, expressed the same opinion.

‘Oh, I have!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘I am sorry for him; I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself, always.

‘Indeed, I think he loses a very good dinner,’ interrupted Scrooge’s niece.

‘Do go on, Fred,’ said Scrooge’s niece, clapping her hands.

‘I was only going to say,’ said Scrooge’s nephew, ‘that the consequence of his taking a dislike to us, and not making merry with us, is, as I think, that he loses some pleasant moments, which could do him no harm. I am sure he loses pleasanter companions than he can find in his own thoughts, either in his mouldy old office, or his dusty chambers.

Scrooge’s heart was opening. The Ghost was greatly pleased to find him in this mood, and looked upon him with such favour, that Scrooge begged like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed. But this the Spirit said could not be done.

Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end.

‘Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said Scrooge, ‘but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your robe. Is it a foot or a claw?’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.    ‘Oh, Man! look here! Look, look, down here!’ exclaimed the Ghost.

‘Spirit, are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them.

‘Have they no refuge or resource?’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons?’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?’

The bell struck twelve.

As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

 

[[Music Direction. The night is full of spirits now visible to Scrooge. Eerie sounds that end abruptly with the striking of the clock. The clock struck with a deep, dull, hollow tone. -BONG! BONG! BONG!]]

 

 

Chapter 5

Stave 5
THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS

Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand.

‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge. ‘You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,’ Scrooge pursued. ‘Is that so, Spirit?’

Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him.

‘Ghost of the Future!’ he exclaimed, ‘I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart.’

The Phantom moved away and Scrooge followed in the shadow which bore him up and carried him along.

They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to spring up about them.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men

‘No,’ said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, ‘I don’t know much about it, either way. I only know he’s dead.’

‘When did he die?’ inquired another.

‘Last night, I believe.’

A third man said, taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box. ‘I thought he’d never die.’

‘What has he done with his money?’

‘It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral.’

The Phantom glided on into a street. Its finger pointed to two persons meeting.

‘Well!’ said the first. ‘Old Scratch has got his own at last, hey?’

‘So I am told.’

Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched hand. The Unseen Eyes were looking at him keenly. It made him shudder, and feel very cold.

‘Spirit!’ he said, ‘this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us go!’

The Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the head of the dead man.

‘I understand you,’ Scrooge returned,.

The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar to his feet; and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and there to find himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They entered poor Bob Cratchit’s house.

Mrs. Cratchit said, ‘I have known him walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed.’

‘And so have I,’ cried Peter. ‘Often.’

‘And so have I,’ exclaimed another. So had all.

Bob was very cheerful with them.

‘Sunday! You went to-day, then, Robert?’ said his wife.

‘Yes, my dear,’ returned Bob. ‘I wish you could have gone. It would have done you good to see how green a place it is. But you’ll see it often. I promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday. My little, little child!’ cried Bob. ‘My little child!’

He left the room, and went up-stairs into the room above, which was lighted cheerfully, and hung with Christmas. There was a chair set close beside the dead, still child. Poor Bob sat down in it, and when he had thought a little and composed himself, he kissed the little face. He was reconciled to what had happened.

They drew about the fire, and talked; the girls and mother working still. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness of Mr Scrooge’s nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but once, and who, meeting him in the street that day, and seeing that he looked a little-‘just a little down you know,’ said Bob, inquired what had happened to distress him. ‘On which,’ said Bob, ‘for he is the pleasantest-spoken gentleman you ever heard. ‘I am heartily sorry for it, Mr Cratchit.’

‘And I know,’ said Bob, ‘I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.’

‘No, never, father!’ they all cried again.

‘Spectre,’ said Scrooge, ‘Who was the man we saw lying dead? This place,’ said Scrooge, ‘through which we hurry now, is where my place of occupation is, and has been for a length of time. I see the house. Let me behold what I shall be, in days to come.’

The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.

The inexorable finger underwent no change.

A churchyard. Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground.

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One.

‘Before I draw nearer,’ said Scrooge, ‘Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?’

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave.

Scrooge crept towards it and read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.

‘Am I that man who lay upon the bed?

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

‘No, Spirit! Oh no, no! I can change! I can change!’ He repeated and was once again in his bed asleep.

[[Music Direction]] Deck The Halls, softly.

 

 

(Chapter 6

Stave 6
THE END OF IT

(Actor turn on your light)

Scrooge woke filled with hope and joy.  ‘I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future! I can change!’ Scrooge declared as he scrambled out of bed. ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!’

‘I don’t know what to do!’ cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect buffoon of himself. ‘I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!’

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!

‘What’s to-day?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.

‘Eh?’ returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

‘What’s to-day, my fine fellow?’ said Scrooge.

‘To-day?’ replied the boy. ‘Why, Christmas Day.’

 

‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can.

Shaving was not an easy task, for his hand continued to shake very much; and shaving requires attention, even when you don’t dance while you are at it. But if he had cut the end of his nose off, he would have put a piece of sticking-plaister over it, and been quite satisfied.

 

He was early at the office next morning.  If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late!

Bob was a full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time.

His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.

‘Hallo!’ growled Scrooge, ‘What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?’

‘I am very sorry, sir,’ said Bob. ‘I am behind my time.’

‘You are!’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’

‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’

‘Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,’ said Scrooge, ‘I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,’ he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; ‘and therefore I am about to raise your salary!’

Bob trembled.

‘A merry Christmas, Bob!’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year!

Scrooge was better than his word. To Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well. May that be truly said of  all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

(Actor turn off your light)

[[Music Direction. We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

 

We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.

Good tidings to you,
And all of your kin,
Good tidings for Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.

We all know that Santa’s coming,
We all know that Santa’s coming,
We all know that Santa’s coming,
And soon will be here.

Good tidings to you,
And all of your kin,
Good tidings for Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.

We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.]]

Actors gather together and wait until the line ‘and soon will be here’, at the end of the third verse. Then they leave, up the aisle, chatting with each other, through the sewing room door, followed by the carolers who sing until the song is done.
The host actor:

(Actor turn on your light)

Thank you all for coming this day. Let me introduce my fellow performers (actors first then carolers).
THE END

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