Ebenezer Scrooge is a miser. Owner of a successful countinghouse, he will have in his bleak office only the smallest fire in the most bitter weather. For his clerk, Bob Cratchit, he allows an even smaller fire. The weather seldom matters to Scrooge, who is always cold within, never warm—even on Christmas Eve. As the time approaches for closing the office on Christmas Eve, Scrooge’s nephew stops in to wish him a merry Christmas. Scrooge only sneers, for he abhors sentiment and thinks only of one thing—money. To him, Christmas is a time when people spend more money than they should and find themselves a year older and no richer.
Grudgingly, Scrooge allows Cratchit to have Christmas Day off; that is the one concession to the holiday that he makes, but he warns Cratchit to be at work earlier the day after Christmas. Scrooge leaves his office and goes home to his rooms in a building in which he is the only tenant. They were the rooms of Scrooge’s partner, Jacob Marley, dead for seven years. As he approaches his door, he sees Marley’s face in the knocker. It is a horrible sight. Marley is looking at Scrooge with his eyes motionless, his ghostly spectacles on his ghostly forehead. As Scrooge watches, the knocker resumes its usual form. Shaken by this vision, Scrooge enters the hall and lights a candle; then he looks behind the door, half expecting to see Marley’s pigtail sticking out into the hall. Satisfied, he double-locks the door. He prepares for bed and sits for a time before the dying fire. Suddenly an unused bell hanging in the room begins to ring, as does every bell in the house.
Then from below comes the sound of heavy chains clanking. The cellar door flies open, and someone mounts the stairs. Marley’s ghost walks through Scrooge’s door—Marley, dressed as always, but with a heavy chain of cash boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses around his middle.
Marley’s ghost sits down to talk to the frightened and bewildered Scrooge. Forcing Scrooge to admit that he believes what he sees is real, Marley explains that in life he never did any good for humankind and so in death he is condemned to constant traveling with no rest and no relief from the torture of remorse. The ghost says that Scrooge still has a chance to save himself from Marley’s fate. Scrooge will be visited by three spirits who will show him the way to change. The first spirit will appear the next day at the stroke of one. The next will arrive on the second night and the last on the third. Dragging his chain, the ghost disappears.
After Marley’s ghost vanishes, Scrooge goes to bed, and in spite of his nervousness, he falls asleep instantly. When he awakens, it is still dark. The clock strikes twelve. He waits for the stroke of one. As the sound of the bell...
(The entire section is 1146 words.)