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Chapter 3 The Ghost of Christmas Now

Scrooge woke up and sat up in bed. He heard the church clock. Yes, it was time for the second ghost. It was one o'clock. He wanted to see the ghost when it arrived. He didn't want it to come up behind him. But there wasn't a ghost in the room.

He waited. Five minutes ... Ten minutes . . . Then, from his bed, he saw a red light in the next room.What was it?

He got up and put on his shoes. Then he went to the door. When he opened the door, somebody or something called him by his name.

He looked into the room. It was his room, but very different. The walls had green holly on them. There was a big fire, and on the floor was lovely Christmas food a Christmas goose, fruit, cakes, bottles of wine.

' Come in,' said the ghost.' Come in! Look! Here I am!'

Scrooge went into the room and stood in front of the ghost. This was not the hard Scrooge from the past. He could not look the ghost in the eye. He looked at the floor.

' I am the Ghost of Christmas Now,' said the ghost.' Look at me!'

Scrooge looked. He saw a fat, merry person in a long green coat. It had no shoes on its feet but it had holly on its head in its long brown hair.

' I'm different from everybody in your life,' said the ghost.

' Oh yes,' said Scrooge.' Ghost, take me with you. Last night I went with the other ghost and I learned a lesson. Tonight you can teach me and I will learn.'

' Give me your hand.'

The Christmas goose, fruit, cakes and bottles of wine weren't there now. The room and the fire weren't there. Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Now were in a city street.

It was Christmas morning. There was snow in the road in front of the houses. The sky was grey, but the people were happy. They were outside their houses in the snow. They shouted merrily and threw snowballs. They laughed when a snowball hit them.

Then the people stopped playing in the snow and listened to the church clock. Time for church! Everybody went inside, but they were quickly out in the street again in their best clothes, with happy faces.

These people couldn't see Scrooge and the ghost. Scrooge and the ghost walked a long way through the streets to the house of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's clerk.

Inside the house was Mrs Cratchit, in her best clothes. She made dinner, and Belinda, her daughter, helped her. Peter Cratchit, her son, watched some food on the fire and two smaller Cratchits, a boy and a girl, danced round and round the table.

'Where's your father?' asked Mrs Cratchit. 'And where's your brother, Tiny Tim ?'

Tiny Tim was the youngest child. He was very small for his age.

'And where's Martha ?' asked Mrs Cratchit.' She wasn't as late as this last Christmas.'

' Here I am, Mother,' said a girl. She came in through the door.

'Here's Martha, Mother!' cried the two young Cratchits.

' Martha, you're very late!' said Mrs Cratchit. She smiled at her oldest daughter and took her hat and coat.

' We had to do a lot of work in the shop last night,' answered the girl,'and we had to finish it this morning.'



' Well, all right.You're here now!' said Mrs Cratchit.' Sit down by the fire and get warm.'

The two young Cratchits ran and played.' Father's coming!' called one of them. ' Stand behind the door, Martha, so Father can't see you!'

So Martha stood behind the door. Then Bob Cratchit, her father, came in. His clothes were old but very clean. Bob had Tiny Tim on his back. Tiny Tim could not walk without help.

'Where's our Martha?' said Bob Cratchit. He looked round the room.

' She isn't coming,' said Mrs Cratchit.

'She isn't coming!' said Bob Cratchit. 'She isn't coming on Christmas Day ?'

Martha could not stay behind the door now. She didn't want him to be unhappy, not for a minute. So she ran to him and put her arms round him.

The two young Cratchits took Tiny Tim away. They watched the dinner on the kitchen fire.

' How was Tiny Tim in church ?' asked Mrs Cratchit.

' He was very good,' said Bob.' I think that he's a little stronger.'

Tiny Tim's brother and sister helped Tiny Tim to his little i hair by the fire. Bob Cratchit put some fruit in the wine and made a wonderful Christmas drink. He put it down by the fire.

When the dinner was ready, Bob Cratchit put Tiny Tim in his little chair near him at the table. Then Mrs Cratchit brought in the goose, and the family watched with open eyes.The family ate it - all of it.

Bob Cratchit said,' That's the best goose in the world!' Everybody said, 'Yes! It's the best goose in the world.' It was really not a very big goose. But nobody said that and nobody thought it. The Cratchits had very little money and for them the goose was wonderful.

After dinner the family sat round the fire and enjoyed Bob Cratchit's drink, the hot wine with fruit in it.

Bob Cratchit stood up and said,' Let's drink to a merry Christmas to us all. Merry Christmas!'

And everybody said,'A Merry Christmas to us all!' ' Merry Christmas!' said Tiny Tim.

He sat very close to his father on his little chair, and Bob Cratchit put his hand over his tiny one. He loved the child and wanted him near him. But he was afraid. The boy was very ill. ' Ghost,' said Scrooge. ' Please tell me something. Will Tiny Tim live ?'

' I can see Tiny Tim's chair,' answered the ghost.' It is near the fire. Nobody is sitting on it. These are only ghosts of the future. They are possible, only possible. But in this future, the child will die.'

' No, no!' said Scrooge. ' Oh, no, kind ghost! Say that he

will live!'

' In this future the Ghost of Future Christmases will not find him here. But is that important? You often say, "There are too many people in the world."'

Bob Cratchit stood up again, and he said, 'Mr Scrooge! Let's drink to Mr Scrooge!'

' I want to talk to Mr Scrooge,' said Mrs Cratchit.' I want to say something to him. And he won't eat a Christmas dinner when he hears it!'

' Oh no!' said Bob Cratchit.' Remember the children! This is Christmas Day.'

' And you can only drink to a cold money-lover on Christmas Day' said Mrs Cratchit. You know Mr Scrooge, Robert. Nobody knows him better than you.'

' Oh no!' said Bob.' This is Christmas Day' 'Well,' said Mrs Cratchit, 'I'll drink to him because you ask me. I hope he has a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. But I don't think he will!'

Mr Scrooge's name made the party sad, but five minutes later they were all happy again. There was work for Peter, Bob Cratchit told them, in an office near him. The two young Cratchits laughed at the idea of Peter in an office.

Martha began to talk about her work in the dressmaker's shop. She told them some stories about life in the shop.

She said,' Tomorrow I'll stay in bed all morning for a good, long sleep.'

They drank more hot drink and then they sang some songs. There was one song about a child in the snow, without his mother and father. Tiny Tim sang it beautifully.

The ghost and Scrooge -went through the dark night to the next place. They were in a light room. Scrooge heard a happy laugh. It was Fred's laugh.

' Ha, ha!' laughed Fred.' Ha, ha, ha!'

When Fred laughed loudly, his wife always laughed too. Then their friends had to laugh.

' My uncle, Ebenezer Scrooge, says " Humbug! " when you say " Merry Christmas" to him. He does it every time!'

' That's very bad,' said his wife. Fred's wife was very pretty. She had a dear little mouth and lovely big brown eyes.

' My uncle is a very funny man,' said Fred.' I mean it! He's not nice, but he's very unhappy. So I try to be kind to him.'

' He's very rich, Fred,' said his wife. 'You're always telling me

he's rich.'

' Well, that doesn't help him, my dear. He doesn't buy anything with it he lives the life of a poor man. He doesn't help people with it. He doesn't think, "Ah, I'll help that nice Fred and his pretty wife with my money! " ha-ha-ha! '

' He makes me angry' said his wife. His wife's sisters and the other women said the same.

' Oh, I'm sorry for him,' said Fred.' I couldn't be angry with him.Who's unhappy because Scrooge is hard and cold? Scrooge is. Only him.'

' What do you mean ?' asked his wife.

'He doesn't like us', said Fred. 'So he doesn't come and have dinner with us. Who loses? Scrooge loses. He loses a dinner a very good dinner. But I want to ask him for Christmas dinner again next year, because I'm sorry for him.'

Fred and his friends sat round the fire and sang. After that, they played games. Scrooge was very interested in the games and he wanted to play too.

Then they started to play a new game. It was called "Yes and No". Fred had to think of something and the others had to ask questions about it. Fred could only answer their questions with 'yes' or 'no'.

' Is it an animal ?'

'Yes.'

'A nice animal?'

'No.'

' Can you find it in London ?'

'Yes.'

' Do you see it in the streets ?'

'Yes.'

'Do people pay before they see it?'

'No.'

'Do people eat it?'

'No.'

' Is it a horse ?'

'No.'

'Is it a dog?'

'No.'

' Is it a cat ?'

'No.'

Fred answered the questions, and he laughed all the time. Everybody laughed, but Fred's wife's sister was the loudest.

' I know!' she cried.' Fred, I know the answer!'

' What is it ?' asked Fred.

' It's your Uncle Scrooge!' And it was.

' Let's drink to Uncle Scrooge!' said Fred. They took their glasses in their hands. ' Uncle Scrooge!' they cried.

'A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man!' said Fred.

Scrooge wanted to say thank you to them, but the ghost didn't give him time.

He and the ghost went to many other places. They went to other countries, to the homes of rich people and the homes of poor people, to hospitals and to prisons. And everywhere, the ghost wanted to help people.

It was a long night, and the ghost looked older and older. Its hair was now grey.

'Are ghosts' lives very short ?' Scrooge asked. ' My life in this world is very short,' answered the ghost. ' It ends tonight.'

' Tonight ?' cried Scrooge.

'Yes, tonight at midnight. Listen! It's nearly time.' It was a quarter to twelve. They could hear the church clock. ' Can I ask you something ?' said Scrooge. ' What are those strange things, next to you ?'

The ghost showed him two children, a boy and a girl. They were children but their faces weren't young. Their faces were thin and their eyes were the eyes of hungry animals. Their clothes were very old.

The two children sat down at the ghost's feet. ' Ghost,' said Scrooge, 'are they yours ?'

' They are Everybody's,' said the ghost. It looked down at the children.

' I don't understand,' said Scrooge.

' This boy could not go to school,' said the ghost.' The family was too poor it was not possible. So he learned nothing and he knows nothing. And he will always know nothing.' 'And the girl ? 'asked Scrooge.

' This girl is hungry,' said the ghost.' There is no food for her.' ' Can't somebody help them ?' cried Scrooge. ' Isn't there a place for them somewhere ?'

'Aren't there any prisons?' said the ghost. 'Aren't there any workhouses ?'

They were Scrooge's words.

It was twelve. They heard it on the church clock. Scrooge looked for the ghost but couldn't see it.

Then he remembered Marley's words and he saw a grey ghost. It came nearer and nearer to him through the fog.

Chapter 4 The Ghost of Future Christmases

The ghost was in black clothes. Scrooge couldn't see its face only one hand in the dark night. But the ghost was tall, he thought. He was afraid of it. It came near him. But it didn't speak and it didn't move.

'Are you the Ghost of Future Christmases ?' asked Scrooge.

The ghost didn't answer, but its hand moved. The answer was 'yes.'

'You're going to show me the ghosts of possible futures,' said Scrooge. 'I'm afraid of you. I'm more afraid than I was with the other two ghosts. But I know that you want to help me. I hope I'll be a different man in the future. So I'll happily go with you. Why don't you speak ?'

The ghost didn't say anything, but its hand was in front of them.

' I'll follow,' said Scrooge.

They left the busy centre of the city. The ghost took Scrooge to some poor streets. They were small and dirty, with small ugly shops and houses. It was a sad place. These streets were new to him, but he knew their names. Everybody knew their names they were the worst and poorest streets in the city.

Scrooge and the ghost came to a shop. Very poor people brought things to this shop when they wanted to sell them. A man of about seventy, with grey hair, sat by a small fire in the room behind the shop.

When Scrooge and the ghost came into the shop, two women came in too. The women had heavy bags. One of them cleaned people's houses and the other washed their clothes. Then a man in black arrived. He was an undertaker's man.

They all laughed.

' The cleaner can be first,' said the washerwoman.' Then me second and this man third.'

' Right,' said old Joe, the man with grey hair,' come inside. I'll shut the door of my shop. Come into the back room.'

The washerwoman threw her bag on the floor of the back room and looked at the other two.

' So, Mrs Dilber,' she said.' The important thing is what can I get from it ? He always asked that question.'

' That's right,' said Mrs Dilber, the cleaner.' Nobody asked that question more than him.'

' Then who will know that we took one or two things ? We

can take things.Why not?'

'Yes, why not?' said Mrs Dilber.

'Why not?' said the undertaker's man.

' He's dead. He can't use these things,' the washerwoman said.

' That's right,' said Mrs Dilber and she laughed. 'You can't use

things when you're dead.'

' No, you can't take your things with you. And you can't give them to anybody when there's nobody there. There was nobody there when he died,' said the undertaker's man.

' Oh, that's right,' said Mrs Dilber.' Of course there was nobody there. And I'm happy about that. He was never there for anybody'

' Oh, yes! Now, open the bag, old Joe,' said the washerwoman. ' These are his things. How much money can I have for them?'

Mrs Dilber wanted to be first, but in the end the undertaker's man showed old Joe his things. Old Joe looked at everything and

wrote it down.

'There you are,' he said to the undertaker's man. And he showed him the paper.' I'll give you this for it. I won't give you a penny more than that. Now, who's next ?'

The washerwoman was next. She had some clothes, but she also had some books.

' I always give too much to women,' said old Joe.' There you are. But don't ask me for another penny'

'Now look at mine,' said the cleaner. Joe opened the cleaner's bag.

' What are these ?' he said.' Bed curtains ?'

'Yes,' said the cleaner, and she laughed.'Bed curtains.'

' Did you really take them when he was on the bed?' asked Joe.

'Yes, that's right,' said Mrs Dilber. 'Why not? And those are his bedclothes.'

' His bedclothes ?' said Joe.

'Yes. And there's his night-shirt. I took it from him when he was on the bed. I wasn't afraid of him, because he was dead at the time. We were all afraid of him before he was dead but not after. Ha-ha-ha!'

' Ghost,' said Scrooge. ' I understand. This was an unhappy man with an unhappy life. My life is the same. But oh! What's this ?'

He was next to a bed with no curtains. On it was a man. The man was dead now. But before he died, nobody loved him.

The ghost showed Scrooge the head. It was dark in the room and Scrooge couldn't see the face. And he didn't want to see it!

He looked at the bed and thought, 'A love of money finished this man. Here he is, dead on his bed. And there is nobody here not a man, woman or child. Nobody thought," He was kind to me, so I will be kind to him." '

' Ghost,' he said,' this is a strange, sad place. I am learning its lesson. Let's go.'

But again the ghost showed him the head of the man on the bed.

'I understand you,' said Scrooge, 'but I don't want to see the face.'

The ghost looked at him.

Scrooge spoke again,' Is anybody in this town sad because this man is dead ?' he asked.' Show me somebody, ghost, please.'

The ghost moved its arm and they were in a room. It was daytime and a mother and child were there.

The mother looked out of the window, then looked at the clock. She waited and hoped. Then she heard a noise outside the door. She went to the door quickly and met her husband. He was young but now his face was sad.

' Well ?' she asked.' Is it good or bad ?'

' Bad,' he answered.

' Then we have no hope ?'

' No, there is some hope, Caroline.'

'He can be kind to us,' she said,'so there is hope.'

' He can't be kind to us,' said her husband. ' Not now. He's dead. You know I tried to see him. I wanted to ask him for one more week. One more week and then we can pay. But he was very ill - his cleaner told me. He died later.'

'So who do we give the money to?Who will we have to pay?' ' I don't know. But we'll have the money next week, and nobody can be worse than him. We can sleep well tonight, Caroline.' ' Ghost! I want to see a sad person. Is everybody always happy when somebody dies ?' cried Scrooge.

The ghost took him to a different street. Scrooge knew that street well. They went into Bob Cratchit's house. The mother and children were there round the fire.

It was quiet - very quiet. The little Cratchits looked at Peter. Peter read to them very quietly.

And then the mother and daughters started cooking, but they were very quiet too. The mother put some food on the table.

' He'll be here in a minute,' she said.

' I think he walks very slowly these days,' answered Peter, and he closed the book.' He often walked very fast with Tiny Tim on his back ...'

'Tiny Tim was very light,' said the mother, 'and his father loved him so much! ... There's your father at the door now.'

She ran out to him.

' Did you visit Tiny Tim's grave today, Bob ?' she asked.

'Yes, my dear. It's in a green place. But you'll see it often. We'll walk there every Sunday. I told Tiny Tim before he died. My dear little child!' cried Bob.

Then the girls and their mother went back to their cooking. Bob told them more about his visit to Tiny Tim's grave.

'I met Fred in the street. "Why are you sad?" he asked, and I told him. " I'm very sorry about that, Mr Cratchit," he said, "and very sorry for your good wife. I want to help," he said. "You know my address. Please come and see me." Fred never knew Tiny Tim, but he was unhappy too.'

' I know he's a very good man,' said Mrs Cratchit.

'Yes,' answered Bob, 'and he's going to try to get a better job for Peter.'

' Ghost,' said Scrooge,' I think you're going to leave me in a short time. Tell me one thing: Who was the dead man ?'

The ghost said nothing. But it walked, and Scrooge followed. They went to a church, and in front of the church there were some graves. The ghost stood next to one.

'Answer me one question,' said Scrooge. 'Are these really the ghosts of the future, or are you only showing me a possible future ?'

Again, the ghost did not answer. He looked down at the grave at his feet.

 

' People do things and then other things happen,' said Scrooge. 'But the same people can do different things and then different things will happen in the future. Isn't that right ? We can change the future.'

The ghost did not move. Scrooge read the name on the grave. It was EBENEZER SCROOGE.

' Ghost!' cried Scrooge.' I won't forget the lessons of the three ghosts. I'll learn from the past, from now and from the possible future. I'll be kind at Christmas. I'll be kind all year. And then my future will be different from my past! I'll change my future!'


Date: 2015-12-17; view: 761


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