Episode 008 Transcript
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, as abridged by The Rev. Gilbert J. Horn (12/24/17)
BOB CRATCHIT [bumper]: It’s recording? Hello, this is Robert, no—Bob Cratchit and you are listening to the eighth installment of the Point of Learning podcast. What?
VOICEOVER (Peter Horn): On today's show:
EBENEZER SCROOGE: Merry Christmas! Out upon a Merry Christmas! If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with a "Merry Christmas" on his lips would be boiled in his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart! He should!
VOICEOVER: The December edition of Point of Learning is a holiday special, but one that follows this first season’s theme of strong influences on me as I began to think about what and how and why we learn. I grew up listening to my father read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The late Gilbert Horn was a Presbyterian minister who for thirty years performed his own abridged version of the classic tale for the congregations he served in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Colorado. For me as a very young child, Dad's distinctive vocal characterizations gave this story flesh and bone. Through his voice, it leapt from the page into my imagination every Christmas Eve. I was amazed, delighted, and a little scared, all at once. It’s not hard to draw a line from these childhood experiences to my career as an English teacher. I don’t know of any way I more surely internalized the power of story.
Inspired by a visit to a free school for poor children in Manchester England, Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in just over a month in the fall of 1843. Published on the 19th of December, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve. Recognizing the story’s immense popularity, Dickens himself was the first to do dramatic readings of it, earning rave reviews in New York City as well as throughout England. I began reading A Christmas Carol in Westfield, New Jersey in 1998, the first December after my father’s death, and I am honored to continue the tradition. Full credits at the end, but what follows is the 20th annual performance, recorded live at First Baptist Church on December 16th, 2017, of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
[O Come, All Ye Faithful 02:36]
[STAVE 1—SCROOGE begins at 05:13]
NARRATOR: 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 dead as a doornail. Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did! How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnized it with an undoubted bargain. Scrooge never painted out old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterward, above the warehouse door: Scrooge & 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, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays, and didn’t thaw it out one degree at Christmas. Once upon a time—of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve—old Scrooge sat busy in his counting house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already—it had not been light all day—and the door of Scrooge’s counting house was open that he might keep an eye on his clerk, 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 a single coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal box in his own room. So the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle, in which effort, not being a man of strong imagination, he failed.
NEPHEW: A Merry Christmas, Uncle! God save you!--
NARRATOR: —cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew.
NARRATOR: —said Scrooge.
NEPHEW: Christmas a humbug, Uncle? You don’t mean that, I’m sure!
SCROOGE: I do! Merry Christmas … What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough!
NEPHEW: Come then, Uncle. What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough!
NARRATOR: Scrooge, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said--
NARRATOR: —again, and followed it up with
NEPHEW: Don’t be cross, Uncle!
SCROOGE: What else can I be, when I live in a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas … Out upon a merry Christmas! What’s Christmas to you but a time for paying bills without money, for finding yourself a year older but not an hour richer. If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!
SCROOGE: Nephew, keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.
NEPHEW: Keep it? But you don’t keep it.
SCROOGE: Let me leave it alone then. Much good may it do you! Much good has it ever done you!
NEPHEW: There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas, when it has come around, 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 open their hearts freely, and think of other people as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, Uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good, and will do me good, and I say, “God bless it!”
NARRATOR: The clerk in the corner involuntarily applauded. Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, extinguishing the last frail spark forever.
SCROOGE: Let me hear another word from you, and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation! You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir,
NARRATOR: —he added, turning to his nephew.
SCROOGE: I wonder you don’t go into Parliament.
NEPHEW: Don’t be angry, Uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow.
NARRATOR: Scrooge said that he would see him—yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of that expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.
NEPHEW: But why? Why?
SCROOGE: Why did you get married?
NEPHEW: Because I feel in love.
SCROOGE: Because you fell in love!--
NARRATOR: —growled Scrooge, as if that were the only thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas.
SCROOGE: Good afternoon!
NEPHEW: Nay, Uncle, but you never came to see me before that happened. Why give it as a reason for not coming now?
SCROOGE: Good afternoon.
NEPHEW: I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you. Why cannot we be friends?
SCROOGE: Good afternoon.
NEPHEW: I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. We have never had any quarrel to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humor to the last. So a Merry Christmas, Uncle!
SCROOGE: Good afternoon!
NEPHEW: And a Happy New Year!
SCROOGE: GOOD AFTERNOON!!!
NARRATOR: His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greetings of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned them cordially.
SCROOGE: There’s another fellow, my clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife, and a family, talking about a merry Christmas—I’ll retire to Bedlam!
NARRATOR: This lunatic, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him. Referring to his list, one of the gentlemen spoke.
SOLICITOR: Scrooge & Marley’s, I believe. Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge or Mr. Marley?
SCROOGE: Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years. He died seven years ago this very night.
SOLICITOR: We have no doubt his generosity is well represented by his surviving partner--
NARRATOR: —said the gentleman, presenting his credentials. It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word generosity, Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.
SOLICITOR: 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, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessities; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.
SCROOGE: Are there no prisons?
SOLICITOR: Plenty of prisons …
SCROOGE: And the union workhouses? Are they still in operation?
SOLICITOR: They are. Still, I wish I could say they were not.
SCROOGE: The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then?
SOLICITOR: Both very busy, sir.
SCROOGE: Oh, I was afraid from what you said at first that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.
SOLICITOR: Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude, a few of us are endeavoring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?
SOLICITOR: You wish to be anonymous?
SCROOGE: I wish to be left alone! Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.
SOLICITOR: Many can’t go there; and many would rather die!
SCROOGE: If they would rather they, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population! It’s not my business. It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen.
[O Come, O Come, Emmanuel 17:45]
[STAVE 2—MARLEY begins at 20:04]
NARRATOR: At length, the hour of shutting up the counting house arrived, and with an ill will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and said to his clerk--
SCROOGE: You'll want all day, tomorrow, I suppose.
CRATCHIT: If quite convenient, sir.
SCROOGE: It's not convenient! It's a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every 25th of December--
NARRATOR: --he exclaimed, buttoning his great-coat to the chin.
SCROOGE: But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier the next morning.
NARRATOR: The clerk promised he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl, leaving his clerk to scurry off through the snow, with his white comforter flying out behind him (since he boasted no great-coat).
Scrooge took his usual melancholy dinner at 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. Now it is a fact that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called "fancy" about him as any man in the City of London. Let it also be borne in mind, that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Marley since his last mention of his seven-years' dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change, not a knocker--but Marley's face!
Marley's face. (It had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.) It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look--with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. But as Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again. Scrooge, his blood conscious of a terrible sensation, turned his key sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle. He did pause before he shut the door, looking cautiously behind it, as if he half expected to see Marley's pigtail sticking out into the hall. But there was nothing but the screws and nuts that held the knocker on, so up Scrooge went to his rooms.
Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. But before he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa, nobody under the bed, nobody in the closet, nobody in his nightshirt, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall. Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom.
NARRATOR: --said Scrooge; and walked across the room. After several turns, he sat down again. As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing! It swung so softly at first that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house. That might have lasted 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 over the casks in the wine-merchant's cellar. The cellar door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below, then coming up the stairs, then coming straight towards his door.
SCROOGE: It's humbug still! I won't believe it.
NARRATOR: His color changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door and passed into the room before his eyes. The same face--the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights, and boots. The chain he drew was clasped about the middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail, and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses made of steel. His body was transparent, so that Scrooge could see the two buttons on his waistcoat behind. He had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he never believed it till now.
SCROOGE: How now!--
NARRATOR: --said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever.
SCROOGE: What do you want with me?
NARRATOR: It was Marley's voice, no doubt about it.
SCROOGE: Who are you?
MARLEY: Ask me who I was.
SCROOGE: Who were you then?
MARLEY: In life, I was your partner, Jacob Marley.
SCROOGE: Can you--can you sit down?
MARLEY: I can.
SCROOGE: Do it, then.
MARLEY: You don't believe in me.
SCROOGE: I don't.
MARLEY: What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?
SCROOGE: I don't know.
MARLEY: Why do you doubt your senses?
SCROOGE: Because a little thing upsets them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whoever you are!
NARRATOR: Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is that he tried to be smart as a means of distracting his own attention and keeping down his terror. For the specter's voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones. But Scrooge said--
SCROOGE: Humbug, I tell you. Humbug!
NARRATOR: At this the spirit raised such a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair to save himself from fainting. But when the phantom took off the bandage around its head and its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast, Scrooge fell upon his knees and clasped his hands before his face.
SCROOGE: Mercy! Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?
MARLEY: Man of the worldly mind, do you believe in me or not?
SCROOGE: I do. I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?
MARLEY: It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide. If that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so in death. It is doomed to wander through the world and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness. I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it, link by link, and yard by yard. I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?
NARRATOR: Scrooge trembled more and more.
MARLEY: Or would you know 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 labored on it since. It is a ponderous chain!
SCROOGE: Jacob. Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!
MARLEY: I have none to give you, Ebenezer Scrooge. I have been traveling thus these seven years--no rest, no peace, incessant torture of remorse; now knowing that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh, such was I!
SCROOGE: But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.
MARLEY: Business! Humanity 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 of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! At this time of the rolling year, I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of my fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor stable? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me? I am here tonight to warn you that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.
SCROOGE: You were always a good friend to me. Thank 'e!
MARLEY: You will be haunted by three spirits.
NARRATOR: Scrooge's countenance fell almost as low as the ghost's had done.
SCROOGE: Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?
MARLEY: It is.
SCROOGE: I--I think I'd rather not.
MARLEY: Without their visits, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one.
SCROOGE: Couldn't I take 'em all at once and have it over, Jacob?
MARLEY: Expect the second on the next night at the same hour and the third upon the next; and for your own sake, remember what passed between us.
NARRATOR: Scrooge looked up, and the specter vanished into a night screaming with phantoms, many like it, many known to him. He tried to say--
NARRATOR: --but stopped at the first syllable. Being much in need of repose, he went straight to bed without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.
[Carol of the Bells 32:39]
[STAVE 3—CHRISTMAS PAST begins at 33:50]
CLOCK: Ding dong!
SCROOGE: A quarter past--
NARRATOR: --said Scrooge, counting.
CLOCK: Ding dong!
SCROOGE: Half past.
CLOCK: Ding dong!
SCROOGE: A quarter to it.
CLOCK: Ding dong!
SCROOGE: The hour itself--and nothing else!
NARRATOR: He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn, and Scrooge found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them.
SCROOGE: Are you the spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?
GHOST: I am.
SCROOGE: Who, and what are you?
GHOST: I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.
SCROOGE: Long past?
GHOST: No. Your past. Rise, walk with me!
NARRATOR: The spirit made toward the window.
SCROOGE: I am a mortal, and liable to fall.
GHOST: Bear but a touch of my hand there, and you shall be upheld in more than this!
NARRATOR: As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and Scrooge found himself in the place where he grew up. He recognized every gate, post, and tree; the little market-town in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river. And the school he attended, not quite deserted; a solitary child neglected by his friends was left there still. And Scrooge wept to see his poor, forgotten self as he used to be.
SCROOGE: I wish ...--
NARRATOR: --Scrooge muttered, putting his hand back in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff.
SCROOGE: But it's too late now.
GHOST: What's the matter?--
NARRATOR: --asked the spirit.
SCROOGE: Nothing. Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas carol at my door late night. I should like to have given him something, that's all.
NARRATOR: The ghost smiled thoughtfully and waved his hand:
GHOST: Let's see another Christmas!
NARRATOR: They stopped at a certain warehouse door, and the ghost asked Scrooge if he knew it.
SCROOGE: Know it? I was apprenticed here!
NARRATOR: They went in. At the sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh wig, sitting behind such a high desk that, if had been two inches taller, he must have knocked his head against the ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement--
SCROOGE: Why it's old Fezziwig! Bless his heart, it's Fezziwig alive again!
NARRATOR: Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven, and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice--
FEZZIWIG: Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!
NARRATOR: Scrooge's former self, now grown a young man, came briskly in, accompanied by his fellow apprentice.
SCROOGE: Dick Wilkins to be sure. Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick! Dear, dear.
FEZZIWIG: Yo ho, my boys! No more work tonight. Christmas Eve, Dick! Christmas, Ebenezer! Let's have the shutters up before a man can say "Jack Robinson"!
NARRATOR: Shutters up! There was no chore they wouldn't have undertaken with old Fezziwig looking on. Every moveable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore. The floor was swept and watered, the lamps trimmed, fuel heaped on the fire, and the warehouse was as snug and bright a ballroom as you would desire on a winter's night. When the clock struck eleven, the domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door. Shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, they wished every one a Merry Christmas. During the whole of this time, Scrooge acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. It was not until now, with the bright faces turned from them, that he remembered the ghost.
GHOST: A small matter--
NARRATOR: --said the ghost--
GHOST: --to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.
NARRATOR: Scrooge was indignant.
GHOST: Why, is it not? He spent but a few pounds of your mortal money. Is that so much that he deserves praise?
SCROOGE: It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy, to make our service a pleasure or a toil. The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.
GHOST: What's the matter?
NARRATOR: --asked the ghost.
SCROOGE: Nothing particular.
GHOST: Something, I think.
SCROOGE: No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That's all.
NARRATOR: Suddenly, Scrooge was not alone but sat by the side of a fair young girl, who spoke through her tears.
BELLE: It matters little to you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.
YOUNG SCROOGE: What idol has displaced you?
BELLE: A golden one.
NARRATOR: Scrooge heard himself reply--
YOUNG SCROOGE: This is the even-handed dealing of the world! There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty, and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!
BELLE: You fear the world too much Ebenezer. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. May you be happy in the life you have chosen. Good-bye, Ebenezer.
SCROOGE: Spirit! Show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me? Leave me. Take me back. Haunt me no longer!
NARRATOR: Scrooge was suddenly conscious of being exhausted and, furthermore, of being back in his own room, and barely had time to reel into bed before he sank into a heavy sleep.
[It Came Upon the Midnight Clear 41:03]
[STAVE 4—CHRISTMAS PRESENT begins at 44:33]
NARRATOR: Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough [snort] snore, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of one. Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing. Consequently, when the bell struck one, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. At last, however, he began to think how curious it was that, at the stroke of one, his bed had been bathed in a blaze of ruddy light, which came from the adjoining room. He got up softly and shuffled in his slippers to the door. The moment Scrooge's hand was upon the lock, a strange voice called him by name, and bade him enter.
GHOST: Come in! Come in, and know me better, man!
NARRATOR: Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before the spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the spirit's eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
GHOST: I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before.
NARRATOR: The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.
SCROOGE: Spirit, conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.
GHOST: Touch my robe!
NARRATOR: Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast. The spirit led him straight to Scrooge's clerk's, stopping to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinklings of his torch.
MRS. CRATCHIT: What has ever got your precious father, then?--
NARRATOR: --said Mrs. Cratchit.
MRS. CRATCHIT: And your brother, Tiny Tim? And Martha warn't as late last Christmas Day by half an hour!
MARTHA: Here's Martha, mother!--
NARRATOR: --said a girl, appearing as she spoke.
CHILDREN: Here's Martha, mother!--
NARRATOR: --cried the two young Cratchits.
CHILDREN: Hurrah! There's such a goose, Martha!
MRS. CRATCHIT: Why bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!--
NARRATOR: --said Mrs. Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet with officious zeal.
MRS. CRATCHIT: Sit ye down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless 'e!
CHILDREN: No, no! There's father coming!--
NARRATOR: --cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once.
CHILDREN: Hide, Martha, hide!
NARRATOR: So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter, exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame.
CRATCHIT: Why where's our Martha?
NARRATOR: --cried Bob Cratchit, looking around.
MRS. CRATCHIT: Not coming.
NARRATOR: --said Mrs. Cratchit.
CRATCHIT: Not coming?
NARRATOR: --said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim's bloodhorse all the way from church, and had come home rampant.
CRATCHIT: Not coming on Christmas Day?
NARRATOR: Martha did not like to see him disappointed; it were only a joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, where the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the washhouse, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.
MRS. CRATCHIT: And how did Tiny Tim behave?--
NARRATOR: --asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had railed Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's content.
CRATCHIT: As gold as Gold, and better. [Tremulous:] 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 it was, made lame beggars walk and blind men see.
NARRATOR: Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. There never was such a goose! Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness were the themes of universal admiration. When dinner was done, all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth to taste the festive drink which had simmered there all day. At Bob'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 as well as golden goblets would have done, and Bob served it out with beaming looks.
CRATCHIT: A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!
NARRATOR: --which all the family re-echoed.
TINY TIM: God bless us, every one!--
NARRATOR: --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, as if he loved the child and wished to keep him by his side, dreading that he might be taken from him.
NARRATOR: --said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before--
SCROOGE: --tell me if Tiny Tim will live.
GHOST: I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner. If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, the child will die.
SCROOGE: No, no! Oh no, kind spirit, say he will be spared!
GHOST: If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, none other of my race will find him here. What then? "If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!"
NARRATOR: Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.
NARRATOR: --said the Ghost--
GHOST: --if man you be in heart, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered what the surplus is, and where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that in the sight of Heaven you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God! to hear the insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too-much-life among his hungry brothers in the dust!
NARRATOR: 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. It was Bob Cratchit's voice.
CRATCHIT: Mr. Scrooge! I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast.
NARRATOR: His wife was livid.
MRS. CRATCHIT: The founder of the feast indeed! 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!
CRATCHIT: My dear, Christmas Day.
MRS. CRATCHIT: I'll drink his health for your sake and the day's, not for his. Long life to him. A merry and very happy Christmas. He'll be very merry and happy, I have no doubt!
NARRATOR: It was a long night, if it were only a night, because the Christmas holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of the time Scrooge and his guide spent together. Turning to the ghost, Scrooge asked--
SCROOGE: Are spirits' lives so short?
GHOST: My life upon this globe is very brief. It ends tonight.
NARRATOR: Scrooge nodded, but still looked quizzically at the spectral form.
SCROOGE: Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask, but I see something strange and not belonging to you protruding from your skirts.
NARRATOR: From the foldings of its robe, the ghost brought two children: wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet and clung upon the outside of its garment.
GHOST: O man, look here! Look, look down here!
NARRATOR: They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility.
SCROOGE: Spirit, are they yours?
GHOST: They are humanity's! This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want.
SCROOGE: Have they no refuge or resource?
GHOST: "Are there no prisons?"--
NARRATOR: --said the ghost, turning on Scrooge for the last time with his own words--
GHOST: "Are there no workhouses?"
NARRATOR: The bell struck twelve.
[Angels We Have Heard on High 55:40]
[STAVE 5--CHRISTMAS YET TO COME & CHRISTMAS DAY begins at 57:54]
NARRATOR: Scrooge looked about him and beheld a solemn phantom, draped and hooded, coming like a mist along the ground towards him. 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.
SCROOGE: Am I in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?
NARRATOR: The spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.
SCROOGE: You are to show me the shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us. Is that so, Spirit?
NARRATOR: The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.
SCROOGE: Ghost of the future! I fear you more than any specter I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear your company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?
NARRATOR: It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.
SCROOGE: Lead on! Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!
NARRATOR: The phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along. The spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men. Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk.
FAT MAN: No--
NARRATOR: --said a great fat man with a monstrous chin--
FAT MAN: I don't know much it either way. I only know he's dead.
DEEP-THROAT: When did he die?--
NARRATOR: --inquired another.
FAT MAN: Last night, I believe.
SNUFF-HEAD: Why, what was the matter with him?--
NARRATOR: --asked a third, taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large box.
SNUFF-HEAD: I thought [sniff] he'd never die.
FAT MAN: [yawning] God knows--
NARRATOR: --said the first, with a yawn.
COCK-NOSE: What has he done with the money?--
NARRATOR: --asked a red-faced gentlemen with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.
FAT MAN: I haven't heard. Left it to his company perhaps. He hasn't left it to me, that's all I know.
NARRATOR: This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.
FAT MAN: It's likely to be a very cheap funeral, for upon my life I don't know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?
COCK-NOSE: I don't mind going if lunch is provided; but I must be fed if I make one!
NARRATOR: Another laugh. Speakers and listeners strolled away and mixed with other groups. The ghost then conducted Scrooge through several streets till they entered Bob Cratchit's house, and found the mother and the children seated round the fire. The mother laid her work upon the table and put her hand up to her face.
MRS. CRATCHIT: The color hurts my eyes--
NARRATOR: --she said. The color? Ah, poor Tiny Tim. They were very quiet again. At last she said, in a steady, cheerful voice that faltered only once:
MRS. CRATCHIT: I have known him to walk with--I have known him to walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed. He was so very light to carry, and his father loved him so, so that it was no trouble, no trouble ... And there's your father at the door! You went today, then, Robert?
CRATCHIT: Yes, my dear. I wish you could have gone. It would have done you good to see how green a place it is. I promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday ... My little, little child! My little child--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.
NARRATOR: Ill at ease, Scrooge turned from this scene to the ghost.
SCROOGE: Specter, something informs me that our parting moment is at hand. Tell me what man was that who died?
NARRATOR: The ghost conveyed him to a churchyard.
SCROOGE: Before I draw near to that stone to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will Be, or are they shadows of the things which May Be, only?
NARRATOR: Still the ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood. Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave, his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.
SCROOGE: No, Spirit! Oh no, no! Spirit, I am not the man I was. I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!
NARRATOR: In agony, Scrooge caught the ghostly hand, and tightly closed his eyes, only to find himself clutching his own bedpost. [Pause.] Yes! And the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the time before him was his own, to make amends in!
SCROOGE: I don't know what to do! I'm as light as a feather! I'm as happy as an angel, as merry as a schoolboy, as giddy as a drunken man! A Merry Christmas to everybody! A Happy New Year to all the world! I don't know what day of the month it is. I don't know how long I've been among the spirits. I don't know anything. I'm quite a baby. Never mind. I don't care. I'd rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo there!
NARRATOR: Running to the window, he opened it and put out his head. No fog, no mist--clear, bright, jovial, stirring cold, piping for the blood to dance to; golden sunlight, heavenly sky, sweet fresh air, merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious.
SCROOGE: What's today?--
NARRATOR: --cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.
YOUNG BUCK: Today? Why, it's Christmas Day!
SCROOGE: [Realizing] It's Christmas Day! I haven't missed it. The spirits have done it all in one night. Of course they have. They can do anything they like! [To Young Buck:] Hallo, my fine fellow! Do you know the poulterer's in the next street, at the corner?
YOUNG BUCK: I should hope I did!
SCROOGE: An intelligent boy! A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they've sold the prize turkey that was hanging up there? Not the little prize turkey--the big one.
YOUNG BUCK: What, the one as big as me?
SCROOGE: What a delightful boy! Yes, my buck!
YOUNG BUCK: It's hanging there now!
SCROOGE: It is? Go and buy it. Yes, go and buy it. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I'll give you half a crown!
NARRATOR: The boy was off like a shot.
SCROOGE: I'll send it to Bob Cratchit's! He shan't know who sent it. It's twice the size of Tiny Tim!
NARRATOR: It was a turkey! He could never have stood upon his legs, that bird! Scrooge dressed himself all in his best, and got out into the streets. He regarded everyone with a delighted smile. He looked so irresistibly pleasant that three or four good-humored fellows said--
GOOD HUMOR MAN: Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you.
NARRATOR: He had not gone far, however, when coming on towards him he beheld the portly gentleman who had walked into his counting house the day before and had said--
SOLICITOR: Scrooge & Marley's, I believe?
NARRATOR: It sent a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met, but he quickened his pace and took the old gentleman by both hands.
SCROOGE: My dear sir, how do you do. I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A--merry Christmas to you?
SOLICITOR: Mr. Scrooge?
SCROOGE: Yes, that is my name, and I fear it may not be pleasant to you. Allow me to beg your pardon. And will you have the goodness--
NARRATOR: Here, scrooge whispered into his ear.
SOLICITOR: Lord bless me! My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?
SCROOGE: If you please, and not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favor?
SOLICITOR: I will!--
NARRATOR: --cried the old gentleman, and it was clear that he meant to do it. Scrooge went to church, walked about the streets, patted children on the head, questioned beggars, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk--that anything--could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon, he turned his steps toward 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.
NEPHEW: Why bless my soul! Who's that?
SCROOGE: It's I, your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?
NARRATOR: Let him in! It's a mercy he didn't shake his arm off! Scrooge was at home in five minutes. Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful happiness! [Pause.] But he was early at the office the next morning. Oh, he was early there. If only he could be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the very thing he had set his heart upon. And he did it, yes he did. The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was fully 18 minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come in. Bob's hat was off before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was on the stool in a jiffy, driving away with his pen as if he were trying to overtake 9 o'clock.
NARRATOR: --growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it.
SCROOGE: What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?
CRATCHIT: I am very sorry sir. I am behind my time.
SCROOGE: Now, I'll tell you what, my friend. I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore--
NARRATOR: --he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the wall--
SCROOGE: --and therefore I am about to raise your salary!
NARRATOR: Bob trembled. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down, holding him, and calling for a straitjacket.
SCROOGE: A merry Christmas, Bob! A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you in many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family. Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!
NARRATOR: 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, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them, for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe for the better, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter at the outset. And knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed, and that was good enough for him. And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man 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!
[Joy to the World! 01:11:58]
VOICEOVER: Marley to my Scrooge for so many years, it was William R. Mathews in 1998 who invited me to read at First Baptist, the church which has welcomed me back for two decades. Bill was then was the organist and choirmaster of First Baptist Church, as well as a colleague of mine at Westfield High School. In recent years, and in today’s performance, the tradition has continued with Michael Rosin on organ; it’s Michael’s pipe remix of Shayfer James’ "Weight of the World" that you’re hearing now, as at the top of the episode. Piano preludes are usually performed by Justin Rosin. The Westfield Concert Choir was rehearsed by its directors, John Brzozowski and Maureen Francis. Big thanks to the Choir and all other participants, this and every year, for donating their time to the performance. During the reading, Robyn Lee Horn played the part of Ebenezer’s onetime fiancée Belle. Thanks to Kevin Johnson for engineering sound for the live taping, and Ed Lara for assisting with video for the YouTube version. If you’d like to make a donation to the food pantry where we send all the proceeds for this performance, hang out for a few more seconds and I’ll provide details. Thank you for listening, subscribing, and spreading the word about this podcast, and all warmest wishes for a generous and humane 2018.
All proceeds from this reading benefit Grace’s Kitchen in Plainfield, New Jersey, which serves hungry families the last 5 days of every month, every year. If you’d like to make a contribution, mail a check made out to PLAINFIELD COMMUNITY OUTREACH and send it to Plainfield Community Outreach at 600 Cleveland Avenue Plainfield, NJ 07060. All donations are tax-deductible.