The Second of the Three Spirits

Awaking, Scrooge found himself in his bedroom. There was no doubt about that. He shuffled in his slippers to his sitting room, attracted by a great light there. It had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living plants that it looked like a perfect forest. The leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if many little mirrors had been scattered there; and a mighty fire went roaring up the chimney. Heaped upon the floor to form a kind of throne were turkeys, geese, great pieces of meat, pigs, long wreaths of sausages, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense cakes, and great bowls of punch. There a glorious Giant sat with a glowing torch. The Giant raised the torch high to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

“Come in, come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present.”

“Spirit, take me where you will. I went last night because I had to, and I learned a lesson which is working now. Tonight, if you have ought to teach me, let me profit by it.”

“Touch my robe!”

Scrooge did as he was told, and held it tightly. The room and its contents all vanished[1] instantly, and they stood in the city streets upon a snowy Christmas morning. Scrooge and the Ghost passed on, invisible, straight to the four-roomed house of Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit.

Cratchit’s wife laid the table cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that they had smelled the goose.

“What has ever got your precious father then?” said Mrs. Cratchit. “And your brother Tiny Tim! And Martha wasn’t this late last Christmas day!”

“Here’s Martha, mother!” said a girl, appearing as she spoke.

“Here’s Martha, mother!” cried the two young Cratchits. “Hurrah! There’s such a goose, Martha!”

“Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!” said Mrs. Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times.

“We had a great deal of work to finish up last night,” replied the girl.

“Well! Never mind so long as you are here,” said Mrs. Cratchit. “Sit by the fire, my dear, and warm up!”

“No! Father is coming,” cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. “Hide, Martha!”

So Martha hid herself, and in came Bob, the father, with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he carried a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!

“Why, where’s our Martha?” cried Bob Cratchit, looking around.

“Not coming,” said Mrs. Cratchit.

“Not coming!” said Bob, suddenly sad,”not coming upon Christmas day!”

Martha didn’t like to see him disappointed, even if it were only in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms.

“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.

“As good as gold,” said Bob.

Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigor; Miss Belinda sweetened up the applesauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth[2] swept, and the fire made up. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth and Bob made a toast —

“A Merry Christmas to us all. God bless us!” Which all the family re-echoed. “God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

Tiny Tim sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his weak little hand in his. He loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side; he dreaded that he might be taken from him.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see an empty seat,” replied the Ghost, “and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”[3]

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he is going to die, then he should, and decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit. He felt regret and grief.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if you have a heart, stop saying those things until you understand better the great resources of the world and where they are. Who are you to decide who shall live and who shall die? To others, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.”

Scrooge lowered his eyes to look at the ground. But he raised them speedily when he heard his name.

“To Mr. Scrooge,” said Bob, “the Founder of the Feast!”

“The Founder of the Feast indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening. “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.”

“My dear,” said Bob, “the children! Christmas day.”

“It should be Christmas day,” said she, “on which one drinks to the health of such a hateful, stingy,[4] hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge. You know he is, Robert! Nobody knows it better than you do!”

“My dear,” was Bob’s mild answer, “Christmas day.”

“I’ll drink to his health for your sake,” said Mrs. Cratchit, “not for his. Long life to him! A merry Christmas and a happy New Year! He’ll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!”

Stop and check

Who is Bob Cratchit?

  • Scrooge’s nephew
  • Scrooge’s uncle
  • Scrooge’s clerk
  • Scrooge’s business partner

Discuss

Describe the Cratchit family in your own words.

In a blink of an eye, the scene changed, and Scrooge was surprised to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognize it as his own nephew’s, and to find himself now in a bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side, and looking at that same nephew.

When Scrooge’s nephew laughed, Scrooge’s niece by marriage laughed as heartily as he. And so did all their friends at the party.

“He said that Christmas was a humbug!” cried Scrooge’s nephew. “He believed it, too!”

“More shame for him, Fred!” said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly.[5]

“He’s a comical old fellow,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “that’s the truth; and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offenses carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him. Who suffers by his ill whims?[6] Himself, always. Here he takes it into his head to dislike us, and he won’t come and dine with us. What’s the consequence?”

After tea they had some music. But they didn’t devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played games; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.

“Here is a new game,” said Scrooge, watching carefully.

It was a game called Yes and No, where Scrooge’s nephew had to think of something, and the rest must find out what; he could only answer yes or no. From the questioning, the others learned from Fred that he was thinking of an animal, a live animal, rather a disagreeable animal, a savage animal, an animal that growled and grunted sometimes, and talked sometimes, and lived in London, and walked about the streets, and wasn’t made a show of, and wasn’t led by anybody, and didn’t live in a zoo, and was never killed in a market, and was not a horse, or a mule, or a cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear. At every new question put to him, this nephew burst into a fresh roar of laughter; and was so tickled,[7] that he was obliged to jump off the sofa. At last one sister cried out:

“I have found it out! I know what it is, Fred! I know what it is!”

“What is it?” cried Fred.

Discuss

What do you think was her response?

“It’s your uncle Scro-o-o-o-oge!”

The whole scene disappeared in the breath of the last word spoken by his nephew; and Scrooge and the Spirit were again upon their travels.

“Are spirits’ lives so short?” asked Scrooge.

“My life upon this globe, is very brief,” replied the Ghost. “It ends tonight.”

“Tonight!” cried Scrooge.

“Look here.”

From the folds of its robe, the Ghost brought two children; sad, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet and clung to the outside of its garment. They were a poor boy and girl.

Scrooge started back, shocked. He tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be part of an enormous lie.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Humanity’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware[8] of them both and everyone like them, but most of all beware of this boy, for he will lead you to Doom,[9] unless he is changed.”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost and saw it no more. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and, lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming like a mist along the ground towards him.


  1. disappeared
  2. fireplace
  3. to not harm someone or something
  4. cheap, unwilling to spend money
  5. with anger because of an unfair situation or someone’s unfair behavior
  6. a sudden feeling that you must have or must do something
  7. amused, made happy
  8. be careful, be alert
  9. a bad event, usually death, destruction, or complete failure, that will happen in the future and cannot be avoided

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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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