Excerpt from A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens
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: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing
up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their
feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just
gone three, but it was quite dark already-it had not been light all day-and
candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy
smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink
and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the
narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud
come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that
Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.
The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his
eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was
copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so
very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it,
for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk
came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for
them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to
warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong
imagination, he failed.
"A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice. It was
the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was
the first intimation he had of his approach.
"Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"
He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this
nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and
handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
"Christmas a humbug, uncle!" said Scrooge's nephew. "You don't mean
that, I am sure?"
"I do," said Scrooge. "Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry?
What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough."
"Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be
dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."
Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said,
"Bah!" again; and followed it up with "Humbug."
"Don't be cross, uncle!" said the nephew.
"What else can I be," returned the uncle, "when I live in such a world of
fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas
time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding
yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books
and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented
dead against you? If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "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
"Uncle!" pleaded the nephew.
"Nephew!" returned the uncle sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way,
and let me keep it in mine."
"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you don't keep it."
"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge. "Much good may it do you!
Much good it has ever done you!"
"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I
have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "Christmas among the
rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has
come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if
anything belonging to it can be apart from that-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 to think of people below them 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 that it has done
me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"