A Christmas Carol Stave 1
"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." Stave 1, pg. 59
Scrooge is such a miser that even in the coldest days of winter, he insists on saving money by burning as little coal as possible. Even on Christmas Eve his clerk, Bob Cratchit suffers through the cold because he is afraid to ask Scrooge for more coal.
As Bob Cratchit sits at his desk trying to warm himself over the candle, Scrooge's nephew, the son of his deceased sister, comes in bidding his uncle a merry Christmas. Scrooge answers with his customary, "'Bah! Humbug!'" Stave 1, pg. 60. Scrooge's nephew, a cheerful pauper, invites the old man to join him and his wife for dinner on Christmas Day, but Scrooge refuses. He doesn't believe in Christmas and tells his nephew that anyone who considers Christmas a day different from any other should be boiled in their own juices and stabbed through the heart with a stake of holly. The young man leaves in good spirits despite Scrooge's grouchiness.
As Scrooge's nephew departs, two gentlemen come in. They are collecting donations to ease the comfort of the poor at Christmas this year. Scrooge asks if there are not prisons, workhouses, and government programs in place to aid the poor. Scrooge believes that he does his part by contributing to those institutions. The collectors insist that many of the poor do not have access to that form of aid and many others are so proud that they would rather die than receive help that way. Scrooge answers with, "'If they would rather die, . . . they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'" Stave 1, pg. 63
As the cold, gray day is drawing to a close, a young boy suffering with cold and hunger begins to sing a carol at the counting house door, but Scrooge scares him away. Scrooge complains because Cratchit expects to have all of Christmas Day off of work with pay, but he agrees to it provided that Cratchit comes in even earlier than usual on the day after Christmas. Cratchit excitedly hurries home to his family.
As Scrooge is putting his key into the lock of his front door, he notices that the knocker seems to glow and he recognizes in it the shape of Marley's face. Briefly startled, he looks down again and the knocker has resumed its usual lion shape. Then, as he climbs the dark, wide staircase to his bedroom, Scrooge believes he glimpsed a locomotive hearse steaming up the stairs in front of him. This, too, he brushes off as if it is nothing significant, but before retiring to his room for the night, he looks into each room to make sure nothing has been disturbed. Once he is satisfied that all is well, he locks himself into his room, fastening both door locks, although using only one was his custom.
Scrooge sits before the fire in his dressing gown and nightcap thinking of the way that the doorknocker changed form. While he sits there thinking of the disturbing change, the old servant's bell that hasn't been used for ages begins to clang on its own. All the bells in the house seem to scream and then stop suddenly. Then Scrooge hears the sound of heavy chains being dragged up the stairs toward his room. Scrooge refuses to believe that a ghost is in his house, but then Marley walks through the double-locked door and into Scrooge's room. Marley is weighed down with chains welded of cash boxes, keys, ledgers, deeds, and steel money purses. Marley rattles his chains and cries frightfully at Scrooge before unwrapping the cloth that hinges the ghost's jaw to its head and letting his mouth gape open. Scrooge falls to his knees before the ghost to beg for mercy.
Marley's ghost explains that he has come to warn Scrooge that his burden in death will be even greater than Marley's own chain unless he changes his miserly ways. Marley is condemned to walk the earth as a spirit and watch others' joy because he did nothing but count his money during his lifetime. Although Marley had been a good businessman, he learned in death that he had missed the point of living. He tells Scrooge: "'Mankind 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!'" Stave 1, pg. 71
Marley's time is running out, so he explains to Scrooge that he has secured one last chance for Scrooge to redeem himself and avoid the same miserable fate Marley has found. Three ghosts will visit Scrooge to show him the error of his ways. Although Scrooge is reluctant to have any more ghostly visits, Marley tells him that it is the only way to save himself. Then Marley walks to the window as it opens for him. He beckons Scrooge closer, and as he stands near Marley's ghost, Scrooge hears wailing and moaning outside. Marley's voice joins the noise and then he floats out into the night. Scrooge looks out the window and sees apparitions much like Marley filling the night. Scrooge notices that they all seem to be mourning because they'd like to help the people they see, but because they are dead, the miserable shades are unable to interfere. With this realization, the specters fade into the fog, and Scrooge closes the window. He checks the locks on the door Marley walked through and sees that it is still double-locked. Then, exhausted, he crawls into bed and falls asleep instantly.