What does Old Joe buy from the charwoman in A Christmas Carol?

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The charwoman sold Old Joe Scrooge’s bedcurtains, blankets, and the shirt he was supposed to be buried in.

When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge his future, one of the visions he produces is three people selling goods secretly to a fence named Old Joe.  (A fence is a person who buys stolen goods.)  Scrooge does not like the place, because it is a very bad neighborhood.  Yet he watches to see what he can learn.  He is shocked by what he sees.

The charwoman, the undertaker, and Mrs. Dilber all have plunder stolen from Scrooge.  He does not realize this at the time, because he is under the delusion that he is seeing someone else’s death.  He cannot acknowledge that it is his own.

The charwoman’s sale is perhaps the grisliest.  Next to the shirt Scrooge was to be buried in, she produces his bedding. 

Ah!” returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. “Bed-curtains!”

“You don’t mean to say you took ’em down, rings and all, with him lying there?” said Joe.

“Yes I do,” replied the woman. “Why not?” (Stave 4)

This means that while Scrooge was lying dead, this woman stole the shirt off his back, his blankets, and his bedcurtains (rings in all).  She clearly has no conscience.  Old Joe does not either.  He only cares that Scrooge did not die of anything contagious.

This incident highlights the fact that Scrooge literally had no one who cared about him at his bedside when he died.  The woman points this out.

“If he wanted to keep ’em after he was dead, a wicked old screw,” pursued the woman, “why wasn’t he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he’d have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by himself.” (Stave 4)

Her point is a valid one.  Scrooge pushed everyone away, so that his nephew knew he would not be welcome and his only friend was dead.  Scrooge did not sit by his bedside either.

The incident has quite an effect on Scrooge.  He is horrified that anyone could do such a thing.  However, in his heart he is a changed man, and while he feels sympathy for the dead man, it never occurs to him that it is him.  When he finds out, it is a real blow.  He is shocked at how he was treated.


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