5 Staves of A Christmas Carol Day Three
The Second of The Three Spirits or Stave Three, begins with Scrooge waking up and without even hearing the sound of the clock, he knows it is the hour of one. The bell strikes one… and nothing happens. If you ever have done something wrong at school or at a job you may know what Scrooge was feeling. The anticipation of something you are not looking forward to, like a reprimand from a teacher or a supervisor, hangs over your head like a boulder on a piece of thread. When the blow finally comes, it is almost a relief, even if there are consequences to deal with. If you haven’t read the first two installments of this series, click here.
Nothing happened. Scrooge had pulled all the bed curtains aside so he could not be surprised again and so he could see his whole room. He was watching with the vigilance of apprehensiveness. However one thing had changed, he found that he was being bathed in light and that the light was coming from the room next to his. He got out of bed and approached the door and was about to put his hand on the knob when a voice called him by name and, “bade him enter.”
Scrooge opened the door and what he saw surprised him as nothing had before. Dickens described this room in great detail; no other words could be better than his.
(The room) had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected the light as if so many mirrors had been scattered there, and a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that…hearth and never known is Scrooge’s time. …Heaped upon the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, suckling pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels or oysters, red hot chestnuts, cherry cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth cakes and steaming bowls of punch that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.
In his story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving, describes the home of Katrina Van Tassel, Ichabod Crane’s love interest, in much the way as the transformation of Scrooge’s room, using food as the main point of interest. Dickens was an admirer of Irving and may have gotten his idea for this scene from him. The two were to meet on one of Dickens’ tours of The United States.
In the musical A Chorus Line, the character Bobby states, “I started breaking into people’s houses – oh, I didn’t steal anything – I’d just rearrange their furniture.”
The idea of going into your home and finding your furniture rearranged would be quite a shock if not a little scary. This room of Scrooge’s, we can imagine, would have been scarcely furnished, if furnished at all, as the only two rooms Dickens mentions other than the bedroom are a sitting room and a lumber room.
But the change in his room was not the only thing that awaited Scrooge.
Scrooge saw a jolly giant. He immediately notices that the eyes of this giant were clear and kind, and Scrooge did not like to meet them and hung his head. He was not allowed to do so for long as the giant demanded that Scrooge look at him. Scrooge saw The Ghost of Christmas Present. “It was clothed in one simple green robe or mantle trimmed with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure that its capricious breast was bare… Its feet … were also bare, and on its head, it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with icicles. It’s dark brown curls were long and free;… it had a genial face… and a joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard, but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust…In its hand he bore a glowing torch; in shape not unlike plenty’s horn, and the light fell upon Scrooge.”
The Spirit said to Scrooge, another of the great lines of literature, “Come in and know me a better man.”
Scrooge did so, and the ghost inquired of Scrooge if he had ever walked forth with any of his brothers. Scrooge said that he had not and inquired how many brothers the spirit had. The spirit answered, “more than 1800.”
Scrooge joked that it was quite a large family to provide for. But there was more to this phrase than that, A Christmas Carol was released in 1843 AD, The spirit was referring to the fact that it had been over 1800 years since the birth of Christ, and there was one of his brothers for every year. In earlier times, things were dated before the time of Christ, B.C. or after his death, A.D. This has changed only recently as our society has become more secular.
Scrooge here admits that he had learned a lesson the night before and was ready to have the spirit teach him so that he could profit from it. The Spirit stood and told Scrooge to touch its robe, and the whole room disappeared. Scrooge found himself standing in the streets of London on Christmas day.
The day was cold, and it had snowed. People were shoveling, shopping, and going to church, all in preparation for the celebration. The occasional argument was quickly stopped by The Ghost of Christmas Present’s torch, for a few drops of water would fall from the torch, and the argument would cease. The spirit would also use the torch to bless the meals that were carried back and forth from the bakers, the spirit told Scrooge that a poor man’s meal would receive a better blessing than one of a more prosperous home.
In those days cooking large amounts of meat could not be done in a small home. The fireplace was simply not large enough. So when one had a goose, a turkey, or a roast, The meat or fowl was sent to the bakers and would be cooked there and then brought home, where the side dishes would have been prepared.
These places where food was cooked were required to close on Sundays. Scrooge asked the Spirit why this was done as it was done in the Spirits name. Here Scrooge is referring not really to the spirit but to the Christian Church itself, which had forced these helpful places to be closed on Sundays at the time. The spirit’s answer was to the point.
‘There are some upon this earth of yours, who claim to know us, and do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doing on themselves and not us.
In the Gospels, Jesus himself makes a similar statement when he separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep had lived following Jesus’ teaching, and the goats though they thought they had, had not. Jesus sends the goats away, telling them he never knew them and taking the sheep to paradise.
We see this today when people claiming to be Christians threaten a clinic or show up to protest at a funeral. The Spirit of Christmas present would not accept their doings in his name either as, they too, are not following to the teachings of Christ.
The Spirit does not tarry on the streets long but brings Scrooge to a small house in Camden Town, the house of Scrooge’s clerk Bob Cratchit.
Dickens spent part of his childhood in Camden Town. Camden Town is 2.4 miles from the center of London and is considered a part of the city, at least one of the homes that Dickens lived in still stands and is used as a museum.
As Scrooge is drawn into the house, he sees Bob’s family, probably for the first time. The house is decorated as much as possible for the holiday and the family is dressed in their best, though this was not very well at Bob’s wages. Still, they were excitedly getting ready for Christmas dinner. Two of the smaller Cratchits had run in from the cold, declaring that they had smelled their goose at the bakers and were excited for all to be ready.
Bob’s daughter Martha arrives. She works and lives at milliners and was able to come home for the holiday. Soon Bob arrives with his son Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim is crippled and walks with a crutch. We are never told what disease the boy has however, we do know that it could be terminal. Bob had run with Tim on his shoulder from church and was red from the running. His siblings take Tim to hear the pudding cooking, and one of the most poignant of scenes from the book follows.
“And how did Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.
“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful sitting by himself so much and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.
Bob’s voice tremors at this, but he catches himself as he hears Tim’s crutch coming back.
The Cratchit’s dinner is well described in A Christmas Carol. We know that both the Goose and the pudding were small for a family of seven people, but regardless of the size the family enjoyed it and each other and therefore, the love of Christmas showed abundantly regardless of the size of the feast.
Then the family gathered around the fire and Bob poured for each of them some punch from a jug and said, “A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.”
Which all the family re-echoed.
“God bless us, everyone,” said Tiny Tim the last of all.
Bob, we learn, is holding Tim’s withered hand. He is trying to hold on to the child as long as possible.
Scrooge asks the spirit if Tiny Tim will live. The Spirit replies in a prophetic way that he sees,” A vacant seat in a poor chimney corner and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. The child will die if these shadows remain unaltered by the future.”
Scrooge begs the Spirit that this not happen. This is the time when the spirit reminds Scrooge of Scrooge’s own words and says, “If he is likely to die he had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”
Scrooge feels repentant at hearing his own words he also felt grief.
How many times have we done the same thing? Spoken harsh words that we later regretted and wished we had never uttered. There is a great lesson to learn here about our words’ power. We each can speak life or death into others lives. We must all learn to master our tongues, to listen more and to speak far less. This lesson is even more needed today, as what we write on social media can destroy lives and has destroyed and has destroyed lives, driving some to commit suicide. Our words are not just a means of communication but are also powerful tools for good and for evil.
The next moment Scrooge learns what Bob’s family thinks of him when Bob proposes a toast to his employer. His wife is furious, and his children are agitated. Scrooge is considered the ogre of the family and they have no desire to drink a toast to him. It is the one part of the celebration that holds no joy.
The Spirit does not linger but travels with Scrooge and takes him to places where miners dwell and out to sea and to a lighthouse where people are all in one way or another glad that it is Christmas and in any way they can, even if it is small, celebrate it.
The spirit took Scrooge from these strange and unfamiliar surroundings to a “gleaming room.” And in that room, Scrooge heard a sound that was quite foreign to his ears, a hearty laugh, and much to the surprise of Scrooge and the delight of the spirit, Scrooge, found himself looking at his nephew and hearing his merry laugh.
“He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live! Cried Scrooge’s nephew.” And he believed it too.”
The room was filled with the friends of Scrooge and his wife. His wife replied to her husband, “More shame on him, Fred.”
At this, Fred begins to speak of how he feels about his uncle. He states that he feels sorry for him and that he couldn’t be angry with him if he tried. He even realizes that Scrooge’s attitudes and actions only bring him to more isolation and misery. He states that the only person who suffers from Scrooge’s ill whims is himself.
He knows that Scrooge’s refusal to dine with them and to make merry with them does him little good and that if he had accepted his invitation, he would have gained pleasant moments that would do Scrooge no harm. Scrooge’s nephew was good to say that he would make the invitation every year, whether Scrooge likes it or not, hoping that Scrooge would think better of Christmas.
Here Scrooge has heard two opinions on the life he leads. One family thinks him an ogre, and his nephew pities him. Scrooge’s nephew shows not only pity for his uncle but hope also. He will go back time and time again in the hope that Scrooge will one day soften. Even though he has been refused, Fred shows true Christian love for his uncle.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he tells us that love is patient and kind and that it does not remember any wrong. These are the feelings and thoughts Scrooge’s nephew lives out for his uncle’s sake.
The spirit and Scrooge continue their journey they visit many houses of both the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick. Dickens tells us that the Spirit teaches Scrooge his precepts during these journeys. Finally, as they leave a 12th Night party (Twelfth Night being January 6th, this night commemorates the visit of the Magi to Jesus and is the end of the Christmas holiday), Scrooge notices a change has come over the spirit. As they had traveled, the spirit had begun to age and now looked old. Scrooge inquires whether a spirit’s life was quite short and the spirit replies that his life ends that very night.
This is not the only thing Scrooge sees. From beneath the aging spirit’s giant robe Scrooge finds himself looking at a foot or possibly a claw. Scrooge asks what this is, and the spirit opens his robe to reveal two emaciated children that were clinging to its garment.
Does Scrooge ask if the children belonged to the spirit?
The spirit replies that “they are man’s… and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is ignorance. This girl is want. Beware them both, and all their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is doom.”
Ignorance is not, in this case, a lack of education. It is instead a refusal to see what is before our eyes. In the first Stave Jacob Marley lamented that he never looked up to see the signs that would lead him to a place where he could help others. He was ignorant of the need and wants of others and in hoarding all he had for himself he had denied to others the help they needed. The boy is doom because in being ignorant of others, we destroy who we are.
Scrooge asks if these children have no refuge or resources.
The spirit again uses Scrooge’s own words, “are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” With this, The Ghost of Christmas Present vanishes from sight, and Scrooge is left alone as the bell in a clock strikes midnight.
The Ghost of Christmas Present again allows us to examine our lives. The question, though, that we must ask ourselves is how truly ignorant we are of what goes on around us. Are we aware of the suffering and hunger of people that live not far from our own doors? Are we aware that human trafficking still occurs in this country and that human trafficking is at its worst in the city where the Superbowl is held each year?
Are we showing the same type of love to our family, our friends, and our co-workers as Scrooge’s nephew showed Scrooge? In other words, in evaluating our lives, do we truly treat others how we would like to be treated?