The First of the Three Spirits

When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark that he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque[1] walls of his chamber, until suddenly the church clock tolled a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE.

Light flashed, 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, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand. But the strangest thing about it was that from the crown of its head there was a bright clear jet of light by which all this was visible.

“Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?”

“I am!”

“Who and what are you?”

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long past?”

“No. Your past.”

The grasp, though gentle as a woman’s hand, was not to be resisted. He rose; but finding that the Spirit moved towards the window, Scrooge grabbed his robe and fell to his knees.

“I am a mortal,[2] and likely will fall.”

“Let me touch my hand there,” said the Spirit, laying it upon his heart, “and you shall be upheld in more than this!”

As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road with fields on either side. The city had entirely vanished. Not a hint of it was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

“Good Heaven!” said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. “I was a boy here!”

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand smells floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten!

“Your lip is trembling,” said the Ghost. “And what is that upon your cheek?”

Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where he would.

Discuss

What was on Scrooge’s cheek? Why?

“Do you remember the way?” inquired the Spirit.

“Remember it!” cried Scrooge; “I could walk it blindfold.”

“Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!” observed the Ghost. “Let us go on.”

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognizing every gate, and post, and tree until a little town appeared in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river. Some small horses now were coming towards them with boys upon their backs, who called to others that they passed. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it! They were leaving school for the jolly holidays. Scrooge wanted to wave to them.

“These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.”

Scrooge knew and named them every one. Why was he so happy to see them? Why did his cold eye glisten, and his heart leap up as they went past? Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry Christmas, as they parted for their several homes? What was merry Christmas to Scrooge? What good had it ever done to him?

“The school is not quite empty,” said the Ghost. “A solitary[3] child, neglected[4] by his friends, is left there still.”

Scrooge said he knew it. And he cried. “Poor boy!” and cried again.

Stop and check

Who was the boy left alone at school during Christmas?

“I wish,” Scrooge started to say, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff, “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand, saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas!”

Scrooge’s former self grew larger at the words, and the room became a little darker and more dirty. There he was, alone again. A little girl, much younger than the boy, came running in, and putting her arms around his neck, and often kissing him, addressed him as her “Dear, dear brother.”

“I have come to bring you home, dear brother!” said the child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh. “To bring you home, home, home!”

“Home, little Fan?” returned the boy.

“Yes!” said the child, full of happiness. “Home, for good and all. Home, for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said, yes, you should; and sent me to bring you. And you’re never to come back here. But first, we’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.”

At that moment, Scrooge and the Ghost left the school behind them. They were now in the busy streets of a city. It was Christmas time again; but it was evening, and the streets were lit up. The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.

“Know it! I was apprenticed[5] here!”

They went in. At the sight of an old gentleman, Scrooge cried in great excitement: “Why, it’s old Fezziwig! Bless his heart, it’s Fezziwig, alive again!”

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands, laughed all over himself, and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jolly voice: “Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!”

A living and moving picture of Scrooge’s former self, a young man, came quickly in, accompanied by his co-worker.

“Dick Wilkins, to be sure!” said Scrooge to the Ghost. “My old co-worker, yes. There he is.”

“Yo ho, my boys!” said Fezziwig. “No more work tonight. Christmas eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Let’s close the shop before a man can say Jack Robinson! Clear away, my lads, and let’s have lots of room here!”

It was done in a minute.

In came a fiddler[6] with a book of music. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast[7] substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin the baker. In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend the milkman. In they all came one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow.

There were dances, and there were games, and more dances and much food.

When the clock struck eleven, this house party broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and, shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas.

“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.[8] He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money — three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?”

“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former self — “it isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to make us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome;[9] a pleasure or a toil.[10] The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

He felt the Spirit’s glance and stopped.

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.

“Something, I think?”

“No, no. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.”

Stop and check

Who was Mr. Fezziwig?

  • Scrooge’s father
  • Scrooge’s son
  • Scrooge’s former boss
  • Scrooge’s co-worker

Discuss

What do you think Scrooge wanted to say to his clerk?

“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”

This was not addressed to Scrooge, or to any one whom he could see, but it produced an immediate effect. For again he saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime of life. He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl in a black dress, in whose eyes there were tears.

“It matters little,” she said softly to Scrooge’s former self. “To you, very little. Another idol[11] has displaced me; and if it can comfort you in time to come, then there is no reason for me to feel bad.”

“What Idol has displaced you?”

“A golden one. You fear the world too much. I have seen your more honorable goals fall off one by one, until the master passion, Gain, has taken over. Have I not?”

“What then? Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you. Have I ever sought release from our engagement?”

“In words, no, never. But in a changed nature. If you were free today, tomorrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a poor girl? If you did choose her, then I know your regret would surely follow. I know that, and I release you. And I release you with a full heart, for the love of him you once were.”

Discuss

The young girl releases Scrooge from their engagement. What does that mean? Why does she do that?

“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 take it! Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”

As he struggled with the Spirit, he was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness;[12] and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to bed before he sank into a heavy sleep.ing


  1. solid so that you cannot see through it
  2. human and not able to live forever
  3. one and only one; alone
  4. not care for, not paid attention to
  5. an apprentice studies a job with a master, often without pay
  6. a person who plays a fiddle, which is like a small violin
  7. very large and enormous; giant
  8. a feeling of being grateful to someone because they have given you something or have done something for you
  9. creating or being a problem for others
  10. difficult or exhausting work
  11. something that you worship or admire very much
  12. sleepiness

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A Christmas Carol by Timothy Krause is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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