Scrooge was suddenly back in bed. He was shaking. Was it from the cold or was it from something else? He tried to hide under the bedclothes. He heard the wind blowing outside and then he heard someone calling his name.
"Scrooge! Ebenezer Scrooge!"
Scrooge sat up and put on his glasses. The curtains around his bed opened slowly. A bright light filled the room. There was a table near the fireplace covered with food. A big man wearing a green robe was sitting at the table and smiling at him.
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present, Ebenezer. Get up and come to me."
Scrooge walked over to the happy man's table. He was angry with these ghosts now. They had nothing to show him but pain, but he knew that he was supposed to learn something from their visits, so he wanted to be finished with them as quickly as possible.
"I know you have a lot to show me. I have a lot to learn. Let us begin."
"Ebenezer, do you believe that I don't know how you really feel? But if you wish to hurry, let us go. Hold onto my robe."
Scrooge did as the ghost said, and immediately they were outside. It was daytime and the streets were filled with people laughing and clearing the snow away from their front doors.
For the first time in his life, Scrooge saw that these people were truly happy. The ghost was smiling at everyone he passed even though they couldn't see him.
"Do you remember what you said, Ebenezer? You would make everyone work on Christmas Day and twice as hard. Do you see now how much you would take away from these people?"
Scrooge's heart sank when he heard his own words repeated to him. The ghost and Scrooge walked through the streets of London to an area where the houses were much smaller than Scrooge's. They stopped at one which looked poorer than the rest.
"How can people live like this?"
"Well, they don't get paid enough at their jobs to have better houses. Come, let's look inside."
They passed through the door without anyone seeing them. Scrooge was surprised to see that it was Bob Cratchit's house.
"Look, this is my clerk's house, Bob Cratchit's!"
Just then Bob came into the house with a small boy sitting on his shoulders. It was his youngest son, Tiny Tim. One of Tiny Tim's legs was thin and weak. He had to walk with the help of a crutch when his father couldn't carry him. But the boy looked very happy.
"We're here! We're here!"
Bob Cratchit put his son down.
"Mother, that was the best walk ever! You should have seen all the people! Everyone was so happy!"
"Don't get too tired, Tim. Today is a special day."
The Cratchits' children ran around the house as their mother prepared Christmas dinner. The other children were very careful with Tiny Tim, and he did his best to play with his
brothers and sister even though his leg hurt him. Scrooge could not stop looking at Tiny Tim.
"Look at that poor boy, Ghost."
"He will not live much longer if they don't find the money to pay for a doctor."
"What are you saying? You mean, the boy will die?"
It was the first time the ghost did not smile.
The Cratchits sat down to eat. Bob Cratchit did not make enough money to buy a turkey big enough to feed the whole family. They only had a very small turkey, some fresh bread and some soup. But nobody seemed to mind. Before they began, Bob said,
"Let us give thanks for the food we have, and let us thank the man who helped us buy it, Mr Scrooge."
"Mr Scrooge?! That man never cared about anyone! He never gives you a pay rise, he makes you work late, he's mean and unkind ..."
"Please, dear, it's Christmas."
The family was sad when they heard Scrooge's name. Tiny Tim helped to break the silence.
"Merry Christmas to everyone!"
Scrooge looked at the boy with tears in his eyes.
Chapter 7: Scrooge's Nephew
It was night-time and the wind blew the snow off the roofs of the houses. But Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present could not feel the cold. As they were walking, they saw a light. And the very next moment, as if by magic, they were inside Fred's house. It was after dinner and the candles were glowing. A group of friends was sitting around a long table eating Christmas pudding. Fred was talking.
"And then he said Christmas was humbug! And he actually believes it!"
Fred's wife, a young girl with bright blonde hair, red cheeks and intelligent blue eyes, looked at him.
"That's the sad part, Fred. He feels no goodness in his heart. He has all that money and he doesn't share it with anyone."
There were another two young women, with the same colour hair as Fred's wife, sitting at the table. They were her sisters. They knew Scrooge and they all felt the same way about him. But Fred felt sorry for his uncle.
"I think he's unhappy because he doesn't know how to share anything with anyone. Every Christmas, I invite him here, and every Christmas he says no. But one year, he may change his mind, so I will keep inviting him."
The friends soon forgot about Scrooge. They played music and sang songs, and then they began to play games. Scrooge watched joyfully as they enjoyed themselves. He even laughed when they did, but no one could hear him. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Present spoke.
"It is time for us to leave."
"Just one more game. They're about to start a new one."
Scrooge felt like a child again. The ghost let him watch this last game. It was a game called Yes-No. Fred walked around acting like some kind of angry animal and the others asked him questions about who he was. The only answers he could give were "yes" or "no".
"Does it live in London?"
"Does it live in the zoo?"
"Does it walk through the streets?"
"Is it a hungry dog?"
One of the guests became excited.
"I know! I know! It's your Uncle Scrooge!"
They all began laughing because that was the right answer. Only Scrooge's nephew stopped laughing long enough to speak once more.
"Well, Uncle Ebenezer, wherever you are, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"
The ghost took Scrooge by the arm and took him outside again. Scrooge was thinking about the fun everybody had at Fred's party. He felt so happy. He didn't see that the ghost was no longer next to him. The church bells were ringing.
"What time is it? Is it night-time already?"
There was a figure coming towards him. It wore a long black robe with a hood which hid its face. Nothing else could be seen underneath that robe apart from the creature's long thin fingers. Scrooge's legs began to shake.
"Wh... wh... who are you?"
The creature did not speak. It just pointed and Scrooge felt himself moving. This was the Ghost of Christmas Future, and Scrooge suddenly felt really afraid.