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THERE was once a man who did not like Christmas. His name was Scrooge, and he was a hard sour-tempered man of business, intent only on saving and making money, and caring nothing for anyone. He paid the poor, hard-working clerk in his office as little as he could possibly get the work done for, and lived on as little as possible himself, alone, in two dismal rooms. He was never merry or comfortable, or happy, and he hated other people to be so, and that was the reason why he hated Christmas, because people will be happy at Christmas, you know, if they possibly can.
Well, it was Christmas eve, a very cold and foggy one, and Mr. Scrooge, having given his poor clerk unwilling permission to spend Christmas day at home, locked up his office and went home himself in a very bad temper. After having taken some gruel as he sat over a miserable fire in his dismal room, he got into bed, and had somewonderful and disagreeable dreams, to which we will leave him, whilst we see how Tiny Tim, the son of his poor clerk, spent Christmas day.
The name of this clerk was Bob Cratchet. He had a wife and five other children beside Tim, who was a weak and delicate little cripple, gentle and patient and loving, with a sweet face of his own, which no one could help looking at.
It was Mr. Cratchet's delight to carry his little boy out on his shoulder to see the shops and the people; and to-day he had taken him to church for the first time.
"Whatever has got your precious father, and your brother Tiny Tim!" exclaimed Mrs. Cratchet, "here's dinner all ready to be dished up. I've never known him so late on Christmas day before."
"Here he is, mother!" cried Belinda, and "here he is!" cried the other children, as Mr. Cratchet came in, his long comforter hanging three feet from under his threadbare coat; for cold as it was the poor clerk had no top-coat. Tiny Tim was perched on his father's shoulder.
"And how did Tim behave?" asked Mrs. Cratchet.
"As good as gold and better," replied his father. "He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people in church, who saw he was a cripple, would be pleased to remember on Christmas day who it was who made the lame to walk."
"Bless his sweet heart!" said the mother in a trembling voice.
Dinner was waiting to be dished up. Mrs. Cratchet proudly placed a goose upon the table. Belinda brought in the apple sauce, and Peter the mashed potatoes; the other children set chairs, Tim's as usual close to his father's; and Tim was so excited that he rapped the table with his knife, and cried "Hurrah." After the goose came the pudding, all ablaze, with its sprig of holly in the middle, and was eaten to the last morsel; then apples and oranges were set upon the table, and a shovelful of chestnuts on the fire, and Mr. Cratchet served round some hot sweet stuff out of a jug as they closed round the fire, and said, "A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears, God bless us." "God bless us, every one," echoed Tiny Tim, and then they drank each other's health, and Mr. Scrooge's health, and told stories and sang songs.
Now in one of Mr. Scrooge's dreams on Christmas eve a Christmas spirit showed him his clerk's home; he saw them all, heard them drink his health, and he took special note of Tiny Tim himself.
How Mr. Scrooge spent Christmas day we do not know; but on Christmas night he had more dreams, and the spirit took him again to his clerk's poor home.
Upstairs, the father, with his face hidden in his hands, sat beside a little bed, on which lay a tiny figure, white and still. "Tiny Tim died because his father was too poor to give him what was necessary to make him well; you kept him poor," said the dream-spirit to Mr. Scrooge. The father kissed the cold, little face on the bed, and went down-stairs, where the sprays of holly still remained about the humble room; and taking his hat, went out, with a wistful glance at the little crutch in the corner as he shut the door. Mr. Scrooge saw all this, but, wonderful to relate, he woke the next morning feeling as he had never felt in his life before.
"Why, I am as light as a feather, and as happy as an angel, and as merry as a schoolboy," he said to himself. "I hope everybody had a merry Christmas, and here's a happy New Year to all the world."
Poor Bob Cratchet crept into the office a few minutes late, expecting to be scolded for it, but his master was there with his back to a good fire, and actually smiling, and he shook hands with his clerk, telling him heartily he was going to raise his salary, and asking quite affectionately after Tiny Tim! "And mind you make up a good fire in your room before you set to work, Bob," he said, as he closed his own door.
Bob could hardly believe his eyes and ears, but it was all true. Such doings as they had on New Year's day had never been seen before in the Cratchet's home, nor such a turkey as Mr. Scrooge sent them for dinner. Tiny Tim had his share too, for Tiny Tim did not die, not a bit of it. Mr. Scrooge was a second father to him from that day, he wanted for nothing, and grew up strong and hearty. Mr. Scrooge loved him, and well he might, for was it not Tiny Tim who had unconsciously, through the Christmas dream-spirit, touched his hard heart, and caused him to become a good and happy man?