A Christmas Carol Advent Calendar
This is not a piece of original writing but an abridgement of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol which I originally made when I worked in a school library. The idea was to have a short (around 150 words) except from A Christmas Carol in an advent calendar for every school day in September. A few years after making that, I added the few more days needed to get it up to full length, designed the images seen below and posted it on Facebook.
Marley Was Dead
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. As dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years and Scrooge was his sole friend. So 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.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features - he carried his own low temperature always about with him and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas. 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?” But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked...
Once upon a time—of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve— old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house.
“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!”
“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? What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money?”
“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 by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely. 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! Come! Dine with us to-morrow.”
“Good afternoon,” said Scrooge…
By letting Scrooge’s nephew out, Scrooge’s clerk 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.
“At this festive season of the year,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is desirable that we should make some provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. We are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “It’s not my business.”
Seeing that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew.
Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened…
The hour of shutting up had arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and his clerk instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.
“You’ll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.
“If quite convenient, sir.”
“It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not fair. Why should I pay a day’s wages for no work?”
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. “Be here all the earlier next morning.”
The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl. The clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat) ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman’s-buff...
The Haunted House
Scrooge went home to bed. He put on his dressing-gown and slippers and sat down before the low fire to take his gruel.
His glance happened to rest upon a disused bell that hung in the room. It was with great astonishment 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. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.
Then he heard the noise much louder, coming up the stairs, coming straight towards his door. 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...”
“How now!” said Scrooge. “What do you want with me?”
“Much!”—Marley’s voice, no doubt about it. He raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair.
“It is required of every man,” the Ghost said, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide. I wear this chain I forged in life: I made it link by link, and yard by yard. You wear a chain very like it, as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago and you have laboured on it since.”
Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, but he could see nothing.
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business."
“Jacob,” he said, imploringly. “Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”
“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied..."
The Three Spirits
“Hear me!” cried the Ghost. “My time is nearly gone. You will be haunted by Three Spirits.”
“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 to-morrow, when the bell tolls One. 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, for your own sake, remember what has passed between us!”
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.
The spectre floated out upon the bleak, dark night.
Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.
The air was filled with phantoms...
The hour bell sounded, with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy One.
Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn aside and Scrooge found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor.
“Who are you?” Scrooge demanded.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past. Rise! and walk with me!”
As the words were spoken Scrooge found they stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand. The city had entirely vanished
“Good Heaven!” said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. “I was bred in this place. I was a boy here!” He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten!
“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...
A Lonely Childhood
They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate and tree. Some ponies were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs.
Scrooge knew every one. Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads for their homes? What was merry Christmas to Scrooge? What good had it ever done him?
“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there.”
Scrooge said he knew. And he sobbed.
They went into a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of desks. At one, 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…
The Ghost waved its hand saying, “Let us see another Christmas!”
Scrooge’s former self grew larger at the words. He was not reading now, but walking up and down despairingly. Scrooge glanced anxiously towards the door. It opened; and a little girl, came darting in, and addressed him as her “Dear, dear brother.”
“I have come to bring you home,” said the child. “Home, for good and all. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should. We’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.”
“She had a large heart!” said the Ghost. “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…”
Although they had but that moment left the school behind them, 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 alive again! Bless his heart!”
There were dances, and there was cake, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up.
“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”
“Small!” echoed Scrooge, heated by the remark. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy. The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
He felt the Spirit’s glance, and stopped.
“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.
“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge. “I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all….”
A Lost Love
“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”
Again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now. He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl: in whose eyes there were tears, which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost.
“It matters little,” she said, softly. “To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me. A golden one. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”
She left him, and they parted.
“Spirit!” said Scrooge, “show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?”
“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! Haunt me no longer!”
He was conscious of being exhausted, and, further, of being in his own bedroom.
He had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep…
The Bell struck One, and no shape appeared. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. At last, Scrooge got up and shuffled to the door.
A strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter.
The room had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were hung with living green from every part of which, bright berries glistened. Crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light like little mirrors; and a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, great joints of meat, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. Upon this, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see.
“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present...”
The room vanished and they stood outside on Christmas morning. The spirit led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s house. Bob was in high spirits; for he had been Tim’s horse all the way from church.
“How did Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.
“As good as gold,” said Bob, “He said he hoped people saw him in 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.”
After dinner, the family drew round the hearth.
“A Merry Christmas to us all. God bless us!” said Bob, which they all echoed.
“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, last of all.
Bob held Tim’s withered hand, as if he dreaded that he might be taken from him.
“Spirit,” said Scrooge. “Tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”
“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “And a crutch without an owner. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die...”
A Cratchit Christmas
“I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge,” said Bob. “The Founder of the Feast!”
“The Founder of the Feast indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening. “I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’s, 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!”
The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their proceedings which had no heartiness.
Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party, which was not dispelled for full five minutes. After it had passed away, they were ten times merrier than before, from the mere relief of Scrooge the Baleful being done with.
They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; and their clothes were scanty. 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…
Christmas At Fred’s
“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.
It was a great surprise to Scrooge, to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side, and looking at that his nephew with approving affability!
Their assembled friends, 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. His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it. However, his offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him.”
“I have no patience with him,” observed Scrooge’s niece.
“Oh, I have!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “I am sorry for him; I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried…”
“After tea, they all played, and so did Scrooge; for wholly forgetting that his voice made no sound in their ears, he sometimes came out with his guess quite loud, and very often guessed quite right, too.
The Ghost was greatly pleased to find him in this mood, and he begged like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed. But this the Spirit said could not be done.
“Here is a new game,” said Scrooge. “One half hour, Spirit, only one!”
It was a Game called Yes and No. The brisk fire of questioning to which Fred was exposed, elicited that he was thinking a rather disagreeable animal, that growled and grunted, and talked sometimes, and lived in London, and was not a horse, a cow, a cat, or a bear. At last the plump sister cried out: “I know what it is, Fred! It’s your Uncle Scro-o-o-o-oge!”
“He has given us plenty of merriment, I am sure,” said Fred, “and it would be ungrateful not to drink his health. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man, whatever he is!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “He wouldn’t take it from me, but may he have it, nevertheless. Uncle Scrooge…!”
A Long Night
Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their hope; by poverty, and it was rich.
It was a long night, and while Scrooge remained outwardly unaltered, the Ghost grew older. Scrooge looking at the Spirit as they stood together in an open place, noticed that its hair was grey.
“Are spirits’ lives so short?” asked Scrooge.
“My life upon this globe, is very brief,” replied the Ghost. “It ends to-night.”
“To-night!” cried Scrooge.
“To-night at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing near.”
The bell struck twelve and Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased, 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...
“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?” said Scrooge.
Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him.
“I fear you more than any spectre I have seen,” he said. “Will you not speak to me?”
It gave him no reply but stopped beside one little knot of business men. Scrooge listened.
“I don’t know much about it. I only know he’s dead,” said a man.
“What has he done with his money?” asked another.
“I haven’t heard,” said the first man. “He hasn’t left it to me. That’s all I know.”
This was received with a laugh.
“It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,” said the same speaker; “and I don’t know of
anybody who’d go to it.”
“Spirit!” said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. “I see: the case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way, now. Merciful Heaven...”
The Quiet House
They entered poor Bob Cratchit’s house; the dwelling Scrooge had visited before.
Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Cratchits were as still as statues in one corner.
“You went to-day, then, Robert?” said Mrs Cratchit.
“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 child!” cried Bob.
He broke down all at once. He couldn’t help it.
He left the room, and went upstairs into the room above, which was lighted cheerfully, and hung with Christmas. There was a chair set close beside the child. Poor Bob sat down, and when he had thought a little, he kissed the little face and went down again.
“I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim—shall we?” he said to his family.
“Never, father!” cried they all...
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come went on and Scrooge accompanied it until they reached an iron gate. He paused to look round before entering.
A churchyard. The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one.
“Before I draw nearer,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”
The Spirit was immovable as ever.
Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went and read upon the stone of the grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.
“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. I will not shut out the lessons that the Spirits teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost...
Running to the window, Scrooge opened it, and put out his head. Golden sunlight; fresh air; merry bells. Glorious!
“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, to a boy in Sunday clothes.
“Why, Christmas Day,” replied the boy.
“I haven’t missed it!” said Scrooge to himself. “Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street? Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?”
“The one as big as me?” returned the boy. “It’s hanging there now.”
“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it. Come back in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”
The boy was off like a shot.
“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He sha’n’t know who sent it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim!”
He walked about the streets, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk—that anything—could give him so much happiness...
A Late Payment
He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the gentleman who had walked into his counting-house the day before. It sent a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met; but he knew what path lay before him, and he took it.
“My dear sir,” said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands. “A merry Christmas to you, sir! Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness”—here Scrooge whispered in his ear.
“Lord bless me!” cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. “Are you serious?”
“If you please,” said Scrooge. “Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you.”
“My dear sir,” said the other, shaking hands with him. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Thank’ee,” said Scrooge. “I am much obliged to you. I thank you fifty times. Bless you…!”
A Warm Welcome
In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house. He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it: “Is your master at home, my dear?” said Scrooge to the girl.
“He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with mistress. I’ll show you up-stairs, if you please.”
“Thank’ee. He knows me,” said Scrooge. “I’ll go in here, my dear.”
He turned it gently, and sidled his face in, round the door.
“Fred!” said Scrooge.
“Why bless my soul!” cried Fred, “who’s that?”
“It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”
Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness…!
The End Of It
Scrooge was early at the office next morning. The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time.
“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.”
“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore I am about to raise your salary! A merry Christmas, Bob! A merrier Christmas than I have given you, for many a year!”
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and 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, and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!