For this special Christmas ‘Literature Out Loud’, we’re reading an abridged version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
This is part two, read by David Cohen, check back next week for the next part!
When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, and the church clock tolled a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE.
Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn aside by a strange figure,- like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man. Its hair was white, yet the face had not a wrinkle in it. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; yet had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible
“Who and what are you?”
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past. Rise, and walk!”
It would have been in vain for Scrooge to plead that the weather and the hour were not adapted to pedestrian purposes.
“Bear but a touch of my hand there,” said the Spirit, laying it upon his heart, “and you shall be upheld!”
As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood in the busy thoroughfares of a city. It was made plain enough by the dressing of the shops that here, too, it was Christmas time. The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.
“Know it! Was I apprenticed here!”
They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh wig, sitting behind such a high desk, Scrooge cried in great excitement: “Why, it’s old Fezziwig, alive again!”
Old Fezziwig rubbed his hands and called out in a jovial voice, “Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!”
“Dick Wilkins, to be sure!” said Scrooge to the Ghost. “My old fellow-‘prentice, bless me, yes!”
“Yo ho!” said Fezziwig. “No more work to-night. Christmas eve, Dick, Ebenezer! Clear away, my lads!”
Every movable was packed off, the floor was swept, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire. In came a fiddler with a music-book. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business, the housemaid. In came the baker, the cook and the milkman.
There were dances, and there were forfeits, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer.
When the clock struck eleven this domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side the door, and, shaking hands with every person wished him or her a Merry Christmas.
“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude. He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money.”
Scrooge felt the Spirit’s glance.
“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”
Again he saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime of life. He was sat by the side of a fair young girl in a black dress, in whose eyes there were tears.
“Spirit! remove me from this place.”
“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!”
“Remove me!” Scrooge exclaimed. “I cannot bear it!”
As he struggled with the Spirit he was conscious of being exhausted. He had barely time to reel to bed before he sank into a heavy sleep.