Christmas Day with Scrooge, Christmas Feast Final Chapter 6
Scrooge was in a somber mood as he walked the three blocks to the Magistrate’s Court. The sky had matched his mood and the clouds were gathering for another snow. Scrooge was now focused on the task that lay before him. The next two hours would determine where he would lay his head that night. Was Scrooge afraid? Now my dear friends let me tell you what. Scrooge was a businessman and he knew that no deal was for sure until the contract was signed. He’d seen good deals go bad at the last moment and bad deals go well. Nothing was sure in his mind except if you’ll excuse the phrase, death, and taxes. He had the best man for the job and that was the best he could hope for. The Magistrate’s court was a stone building that appeared as menacing as a court building should. Scrooge pushed his way through the heavy wooden doors.
“Ah, Scrooge old man,” came the voice of Mr. Abercrombie as Scrooge gazed around the cavernous foyer. His voice echoed about the marble floors and walls. “Just in time!”
“Just in time for what?” Scrooge retorted.
“Not to worry old man. It’s in the bag,” said Abercrombie.
“Nothing’s in the bag till it’s in the bag,” Scrooge responded.
“Well, unless Grimes and Goodfellow have pulled a rabbit out of a hat, I’d say it’s an open-shut case.”
Just then the courtroom doors were opened and Scrooge and Abercrombie made their way inside. Scrooge and his solicitor sat at the defendant’s table. In another minute Mr. Grimes, Mr. Goodfellow, and their solicitor entered and sat at the plaintiff’s table. They had three scruffy looking fellows with them who sat in the witness-box.
“Oh Yay, Oh Yay, Oh Yay,” called the bailiff. “All rise for the Honorable Lord Bentley. This court is now in session.”
“Be seated if you please,” said Lord Bentley. “Mr. Scrooge, no doubt you are aware that this is a hearing and you don’t have to answer any questions.”
“I should be glad to answer any questions the court has,” Scrooge said politely.
“Very well,” said His Lordship. “Please take the witness-box. Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, you have been charged with mental incompetence. Remembering that you don’t have to answer, how do you plead?”
“Not guilty, your Lordship.
“Mr. Grimes and Mr. Goodfellow, you are represented by Mr. Bartholomew Wheelright Esq. You may proceed Sir.”
“Mr. Scrooge. You are the owner of Scrooge & Marley. Am I right?”
“That is correct.”
“A year ago you changed the name to Scrooge & Cratchit. Is that so?”
“That is so.”
“Why did you change the name, Sir?”
“My partner died 8 years ago tonight. I had been 7 years without any executive help and I made my clerk, a Mr. Bob Cratchit, my partner.”
“Why did you choose Mr. Cratchit as your partner?”
“Mr. Cratchit had been with me for many years and he knows the business in and out. He is the only logical choice.”
“Wouldn’t Mr. Grimes or Mr, Goodfellow have been good choices for that position?”
“Mr. Grimes and Mr. Goodfellow have obligations of their own. I needed to move someone from within who knew the day-to-day operations of the firm.
“Then you hired his son to fill Mr. Cratchit’s position.
“That is correct.”
“Were you planning on hiring the entire family?”
“Objection!” shouted Mr. Abercrombie.
“Sustained,” called Lord Bentley. “Council, please confine your questions to the facts at hand.”
“Mr. Scrooge, let me get directly to the heart of the matter. It is reported that you were a hard-hearted businessman and on Christmas Day of last year, you seemed intent to give your fortune away. Why. Are these the actions of a sane man?”
“Objection! Mr. Wheelright is badgering the witness.”
“Let me rephrase the question. Mr. Scrooge, did you become generous with your money?”
“As generous as the next man I’d suppose.”
“Then you admit you had a change of heart. What caused such a change?”
“Council, a man has the right to change his opinions as he wishes. The law has no hold on that. Simply put, I looked at my life and realized that I didn’t own the money in my firm, it owned me. I wanted to make a change.”
“Are changes made so quickly? It is reported that on December 24th of last year you were telling all within earshot that Christmas was a humbug yet the next day you were buying turkeys, singing in the streets, and giving money to all who would take it. Now I ask you, are those the actions of a sane man?”
“I object your Lordship! Mr. Scrooge has already answered the question. Let the record show that he had a change of heart!”
“Your Lordship. I am only trying to show the court that this man suffers from an unsound mind and in such a position could bankrupt the firm and take many investors with it.”
“Mr. Scrooge. Did Mr. Grimes and Mr. Goodfellow visit your office on August 28th of this year?”
“That may have been the date.”
“Were you having a party in your office?”
“A party? I don’t think so.”
“My clients said that they visited your shop on that date and the place was overrun with children. It seems that lemonade and tarts were being served. The action seemed to revolve around a crippled boy who was in your arms. Everyone was giddy with excitement. My clients want to know if this is the way you run your business with their money. Throwing children’s parties in a respectable business? Doesn’t that sound more like a crazy man?”
“I must object your Lordship! Mr. Scrooge’s partner has a crippled son. The doctor had just diagnosed his disease. Without this diagnosis, the boy would have died. I’d hope Mr. Wheelwright’s clients aren’t so hard-hearted that they couldn’t be happy for a child who had escaped death!”
“Council,” said His Lordship. “Bear in mind that Mr. Scrooge does not have to answer your questions. He has been kind enough to participate in this hearing and I’ll not see him badgered. One more outburst like that and I’ll have you cited for contempt.”
“My apologies to the court. No more questions at this time.”
“Mr. Abercrombie, your witness.”
“Mr. Scrooge. The council for the plaintiff has said and you have admitted that you’ve had a change of heart. “How has this affected your business?”
“It has actually helped my business. Bob Cratchit fills his role and I couldn’t think of a more worthy to fill his shoes. My nephew Fred Pierce is funneling new business my way and profits have never been better.”
“By how much has your firm profited this year?”
“We’re up nearly £1400 over this time last year. This is due in large part to my partner Mr. Bob Cratchit,” said Scrooge pointing to Bob who had just walked in and seated himself.
“I’d say that was a tidy sum to be bringing in.”
“Mr. Scrooge, do you think a crazy person could raise his profits by £1400 in a year?”
“Council, finance is a high stakes game. It takes great skill and a steady hand to keep the profits up and the losses down. One must be bold and calculating in such a game. It takes great experience and knowhow to keep the winning hand. To answer your question, the old adage says it best: A fool and his money are soon parted.”
“Here, here!” came cries from the gallery.
“No more questions at this time your Lordship.”
“You may step down Mr. Scrooge and thank you for your participation. Call your next witness Mr. Wheelwright. And do be quick about it. The hour is growing late.”
“I’d like to call Mr. Thadious Goodfellow.”
“Mr. Thadious Goodfellow, please take the stand,” called the bailiff.
As Goodfellow stood up there came a loud crash that caused him to fall back into his seat. Indeed the floor shook and he looked at Mr. Grimes looked startled as well.
“Mr. Goodfellow, will you please take the stand?” asked His Lordship.
“I’m sorry Sir. The noise startled me.”
“What noise?” asked Lord Bentley.
Again there was another loud crash, even louder than the first. The two men grabbed the edge of this desk and dropped their heads as though to protect themselves from some falling object.
“That noise, your Lordship.”
“I hear no noise,” returned his Lordship straining to hear some unusual sound.
“I hear it,” stated Mr. Grimes. “It sounded like metal crashing onto the floor.”
Then came a third crash. This time the windows shook.
“Surely you can’t say that you didn’t hear that.”
“Confound it, man! Have you two been drinking?” asked Lord Bentley.
“No, sir. Not a drop sir.”
“Then Mr. Goodfellow would you be kind enough to take the stand?”
“Stand where you are!” commanded an otherworldly voice.
The pair turned to see an apparition standing in the gallery. His dress was old-fashioned. He stood there with spectacles upturned on his head. His hair was pulled into a Que and the loose hairs of his head seemed agitated as by vapors of heat. His jaw was held shut by a bandage wrapped around his head. Grimes pulled on his glasses.
“It looks like old Marley,” he stuttered.
Marley held a chain in his hand and swung the chain and hit the floor. Again there was a terrible crash.
“Your Lordship! There’s the sound. That man there with the chain. He’s hitting the floor!”
Lord Bentley looked toward and empty section of the gallery but saw nothing.
“What do you take me for? There’s no one there. Now, take the stand!”
The apparition moved to the front of the gallery.
“He’s coming this way!” shouted Mr. Grimes. “Don’t you see him?”
“What’s gotten to the two of you?” shouted his Lordship. “There’s no one there. Now. I’ll have order in this court or I’ll have you up for contempt!”
Again the specter moved silently and swiftly.
“There he is! He’s standing beside Scrooge. Scrooge! Don’t you see him?” Goodfellow shouted in a panic.
Scrooge was sure that Marley was there but couldn’t see him. He was glad that Marley was there.
“If he’s beside me, why can’t I see him?” Scrooge asked. “Tell me, is he wearing chains like the ones we hear tell that ghost wear? Maybe he’s chained to cashboxes and ledger books. Is he?”
“No!” shouted Grimes. “He has a great chain in his hands which he’s slamming onto the floor. Don’t you see it? He just slammed it past your ear!”
Grimes and Goodfellow heard the crash and shrieked but the others were aware of nothing. Scrooge whispered to Marley but barely moving his lips.
“Thank you, Jacob. Your chains are gone and I’m glad. It’s working. I will live a good life for both of us. You have helped me and I will help you. God bless you old Jacob Marley!”
“What is the meaning of this?” shouted Lord Bentley. “Goodfellow. Take the stand now!”
Suddenly Marley was beside the pair who screamed and held each other.
“You’ve earned your reward!” shouted Marley as he flung his chain out at full length and crashing it to the floor.
The chain seemed to have a mind of its own and slithered along the floor like a great snake. It circled the two and began climbing up their legs and then wrapped itself around the trembling pair. They stood screaming in terror, pulling at the chain but feeling nothing. Just then Marley produced a huge lock and proceeded to fasten the chain. In terror Grimes and Goodfellow ran screaming from the courtroom with Marley seeming to float with them and closing the lock. Lord Bentley sat pounding his gavel.
“I’ll have order in this court and I’ll have it now!” he bellowed.
The only sounds were the screams of Grimes and Goodfellow fading down the hallway then all was quiet.
“Counsel. What’s gotten into your clients?”
“I haven’t the foggiest, Sir.”
“And what have you three got to do with this case,” asked his Lordship.
“All I know governor,” said one of the men, “Is that those men told us that they’d give us a fiver each if we’d say the old man there was crazy.”
“Oh, witness tampering,” said his Lordship.
“Sir, I knew nothing of this. I was told that these men knew the defendant. That’s all I know about it, Sir,” stammered Mr. Wheelwright.
“Bailiff, take the statements of these men and swear out warrants against Mr. Grimes and Mr. Goodfellow. Mr. Scrooge, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about your adversaries for a long time. Case dismissed!”
“What did I tell you, old man,” said Mr. Abercromby. “Though I didn’t expect those two to hang themselves. They looked like they’d seen a ghost!”
“I’m sure they did,” said Scrooge. “I’m sure they did!”
“You were brilliant, Mr. Scrooge,” said Bob. I’d have been here sooner but this note came from Mr. Fred.”
Scrooge opened the note.
“Caroline’s in labor. I must go to her now!”
“Calm yourself old man. Babies come when they want to,” laughed Abercromby. “You’ll just be in the way.”
“I want to be there when my grandnephew is born,” said Scrooge, donning his greatcoat.
“I’ve got a cab waiting for you , Sir,” said Bob.
“Good man! And don’t forget Christmas dinner at Fred’s tomorrow. I want all the little Cratchits there! Merry Christmas!” shouted Scrooge as he ran from the courtroom.
As Scrooge climbed into the cab it was dark and a gentle snow was falling.
“Take me to this address and don’t spare the horse!” he shouted to the cabby.
The cab driver whipped his beast and Scrooge, cab, and the driver went flying through the streets. The driver was making hairpin turn throwing Scrooge around like popcorn in a pan. On the horse galloped and the driver made a particularly sharp turn. Scrooge felt the wheel hit the curb and there was a terrible crashing sound. He hit the floor bouncing and the cab came to a stop.
“Are you alright governor?” asked the cabby. “We broke a wheel.”
“I’ll pay for the damages only get me to my nephew’s.”
“Sorry governor. We ain’t goin’ nowhere. She’s busted but good.”
Scrooge climbed from the broken cab. The horse was frightened and restless.
“Look here governor. Me cousin Alfie drives a cab the next street over. See the lamp at the corner? Turn right there and go past the workhouse. He may be on the next block. If he comes by here, I’ll send him your way. ‘At’s the best I can do.”
Scrooge started down the dark street. It was cold as he pulled his greatcoat tighter about him.
“What ‘ave we here?” came a man’s voice from an alley.
“Looks like ‘e’s lost ‘is way,” came another.
“‘Ay governor. Got a farthing you could lend me?” came a third voice.
“Say, I could keep warm in that coat,” said a fourth man opening Scrooge’s coat.
“Here now. Let me alone!”
“Well now. Ain’t ‘e high and mighty. Don’t take no pity on the poor.”
“I don’t take pity on thieves,” Scrooge countered.
“Did you ‘ear that? Common thieves ‘e calls us. Well, now governor. That ain’t very nice!”
“Hey you there. Leave that man alone!” came the voice of the cabby from up the street.
“Come on boys. I’ll buy you a pint,” said the first.
“Are you are alright?” asked the cabby as he approached Scrooge.
“No worse for the wear,” said Scrooge. “I’d best be on my way.”
“Right at the next street,” reminded the cabby.
Scrooge made the turn and trudged through the snow as fast as his wiry legs would carry him. The street was dark except for the flicker of the occasional gas light. The snow crunched under his feet. Halfway down the block, he saw a group of men and women huddled together in the doorway of a workhouse. They were blowing into their hands trying to warm their fingers.
As Scrooge drew near the huddled mass his thoughts turned to the days when, as a boy, he spent time in the workhouse. It was a dark and dirty place and the workdays were long. He filled tins with bootblack. He passed the hours watching rats scurry in the cellar through the rotting floorboards below. An ever-present foul stench burned his nose. Through grimy windows, he caught glimpses of handsome men and elegant women climbing in and out of carriages. That was the life he dreamed of. In spite of the squalid conditions, he had a good head for numbers. That would be his ticket out and it was. He became successful and many times at the expense of others. But what of it? There was money to be made and if he didn’t make it, others would. How many people like these people had he walked past in his lifetime. How many had he left on the doorstep unnoticed and uncared for? He had been unsympathetic to the worst degree. He knew now that it nearly cost him his soul. He approached the little group and wished them Merry Christmas. One by one they returned the greeting. Through the darkness, Scrooge could see the look of apprehension on their faces. Why had this man stopped? What did he want? Scrooge reached into his coat and rummaged through his pockets. He went through his pockets and came up with nothing.
“Well, I wanted to give you a little something but it seems someone has pinched my purse,” he said. “Buy a pint indeed! Buy it with my money!”
Scrooge had been robbed and that made him angry. He didn’t even have money for the cab. Surely he could get a cab to take him to Fred’s where Fred would loan him the money till the bank opened on the 26th. Scrooge tightened his coat around himself and again addressed the group.
“I’m so sorry. I had every intention of giving you something but now I find myself without money. I would share it with you if I could.”
“I know you would, Ebenezer,” came a woman’s voice.
Did he hear correctly? Had someone addressed him by his Christian name? Who was this?
“Beg pardon?” he asked.
“”Ow ‘bout that. Old money bags here must be Father Christmas. Gonna’ be givin’ us a Christmas Present, eh?” chided a man in the group.
“Hush there Jim. Let him alone!” scolded the woman.
“I’m sorry,” said Scrooge, “But you have the advantage here. Do I know you?”
“You knew me a very long time ago,” said the woman.
Scrooge drew closer and in the flicker of the lamplight he recognized the face. It was so much older than the last time he saw it but the eyes were still the same.
“Belle!” he cried. “Is it you?”
“Yes, it is I.”
Scrooge fell to his knees and grasped her moth-eaten gloves.
“What are you doing here in this awful place?”
“My youngest daughter works here. She should be getting off work in a few minutes. I come and walk her home every night.”
“But why are you here. Where is Tut?”
“You knew his name? Tut died several years ago. His business partners swindled me out of my share of the money and left me penniless. This is the best we could do.”
“Scoundrels!” Scrooge cursed. “Tell me who they are and I’ll have them brought up on charges!”
“Now, don’t go getting yourself upset on my account,” she said softly.
Just then the door opened and out stepped a young woman.
“Mother, there’s a problem.”
“Ebenezer, this is my daughter Lydia.”
“I’ll say there’s a problem,” cam a man’s voice from behind the girl. He grabbed her and bodily jerked her back through the doorway. “She tangled a spool of thread and that’s going to cost you! I want a penny or she doesn’t leave tonight!”
Scrooge was incensed! He charged up to the man flailing his cane. The girl was wild-eyed and cowered to the floor.
“You’re not getting a farthing out of these people. You let that girl go!” he demanded.
“And just what are you going to do about it, old man?” snapped the man.
Scrooge jabbed the man in the stomach with his cane and bent him double. Then he hit him in the back of the head sending the man reeling onto the sidewalk. Scrooge reached inside the doorway and took the girl by the hand. Her mouth was agape and her eyes wild with fear. Scrooge leads her to her mother. The man sat up on the sidewalk rubbing his head.
“And she’s sacked!” he shouted.
“No, she’s not,” snapped Scrooge. “She quits! Come with me. You don’t belong here.”
“But what about our jobs?” cried Belle.
“I’ve got something much better in mind,” said Scrooge. “Mark me! You’ll never have to come back here again!”
A few yards down the block, they heard horse bells coming up from behind them.
“My cousin says that you need a cab, governor,” called the cabby pulling to a stop.
“And you must be Alfie.”
“How kind of you to remember, governor. Takes ya’ any place in the city I will.”
“I need to get to my nephew’s as quickly as possible and here’s the address.”
“But Ebenezer. We’re not dressed for visiting. We haven’t been home.”
“Mother, who is Mr. Ebenezer?”
“I’m sorry my dear. It’s been rather hectic these last few minuets. Introductions are in order. Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge is an old friend of mine. We knew each other long ago when we were both young. We spent a great deal of time together.”
“Did you fancy him?” asked the girl.
“Such a question my darling!”
“I’ll answer,” said Scrooge. “We were engaged to be married. I had two loves. My first love was the rewards of business. I fell in love with the sounds of rattling coins and the opening of cash boxes. I fell in love with throwing widows and orphans into the street. Anything of worth in my life was measured by gain. Your mother pointed that out to me. It only served to make me angry. She saw what I was too blind to see. I had grown cold and calculating. If it couldn’t turn a profit then I didn’t need it. When your mother released me from our engagement, I did in a way think it for the best. It was the only way I could think. It was the only way I had taught myself to think. A wife would be costly. Yes, Belle, I did have pain in our parting. I buried that pain in my work. I was a fool, dear Lydia. I had occasion to visit those memories a year ago. Why this is that anniversary. Can you forgive me, Belle?”
“Oh, Ebenezer. That was so long ago. Time heals all things. That seems like another life. But if you feel that you need my forgiveness, you have it. Now, where are we going?”
“To my nephew Fred’s.”
“Fred Pierce?” Belle asked.
“Why yes. How did you know?”
“Tut worked with Fred’s father. Tut was very fond of Fred. Upon his death, he left a small sum of money to Fred. That’s all I know about it.”
“So it was Tut who left the money which Fred started his business. You’ll be glad to know that Fred has been very successful. And your husband is to be thanked for his kindness. I certainly wasn’t kind to Fred. But I’ll tell you that story later. His wife Caroline is having a baby. I want to be there when he comes into the world.”
“How do you know that it’ll be a he?” Belle laughed.
“I’m counting on it! He’ll follow his uncle into the trade. I’ll make him into the most successful businessman in London!”
“Oh Ebenezer,” Belle laughed. “You know so little of such things. But Ebenezer, I can’t wear this to your nephew’s home. I look like a charwoman. All of my clothes are so worn and threadbare. I would die of humiliation. And poor Lydia. Still in her work clothes. Won’t you please take us home?”
“No time. We’re here.”
Scrooge threw open the door and Belle saw the house. It was too intimidating for the way she and Lydia were dressed. No one would receive them into a fine house like this while they were dressed in rags.
“Ebenezer, you don’t understand. We look like street urchins. Is there someplace we can wait until we can get home?”
“Stay here in the cab and let me see how things are progressing. I’ll tell the cabby to wait. Give me just a few minutes and I’ll be back,” said Scrooge as he dashed for the house.
Fred met his uncle as he entered the door.
“Uncle! You’re here! I’m so sorry that I couldn’t come, but you can see, this is a madhouse! I’m assuming that things went well since you are here. The doctor says that the baby should be here within the hour so you’re just in time”
“I’ll tell you all about it later but a most exciting thing has happened.”
Scrooge told Fred about finding Belle and her daughter. They wouldn’t come in because they were dressed in rags.
“You know, it was her husband who left you the money to start your business.”
Tears welled up in Fred’s eyes.
“They shall have a place of honor in this house, “ Fred choked out the words. “Mary!” He called to a servant girl. “We are about to have Miss Belle and her daughter as guests for this evening. Prepare the guest room with fresh water and make sure they have clean clothes to put on.
“Yes Sir,” the girl curtseyed.
“Let me handle this uncle.”
Fred dashed outside to the waiting cab.
“Miss Belle and Miss Lydia. This is an honor to have you in our home. I’m Fred Pierce and I understand that you knew my father.”
“My husband worked with your father. I knew him by reputation.”
“I have my girl preparing a room for you. You will stay here tonight and I won’t take no for an answer. I want to know all about you.”
“We could enter around back.,” Belle suggested.
“Nonsense! It is an honor to have you here. My uncle is so excited to have you here! He’s beaming like a schoolboy! Come this way.”
Fred paid the cabby and walked the women to the house.
“Mary will show you to your room and in all of this confusion, I hope to have supper shortly.”
Fred and Scrooge paced the parlor as though they would wear a hole in the carpet. The doctor could be heard barking out orders and the servants were busy bringing hot water and linens.
“Dash it all! How long does it take to have a baby?” Scrooge grumbled.
“You’ve only been here 10 minutes,” Fred laughed. “They are on their own time schedule.”
Back to pacing. Scrooge kept his eye on the mantle clock.
“Is that clock broken?” Scrooge asked.
“It’s working fine. You just have to be patient. You’d think it was your baby.”
“Well, it’s my first grandnephew. That’s got to account for something,” said Scrooge.
Then for a moment Scrooge forgot about the baby. Belle walked into the room.
“You’re a vision of loveliness, my dear,” said Scrooge taking her by the hand and leading her to a sofa.
“I’m not disturbing you pacing, am I?” She asked.
“Is it that obvious?”
“I could hear you in the next room. Don’t worry. I’m sure she’s in good hands. Let’s sit and talk. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” said Bell in a soft voice.
They had only begun to converse when suddenly there was a lot of activity at the top of the stairs.
“The baby is here!” someone shouted.
Fred suddenly fainted!
“Doctor. Mr. Fred is passed out!” said a servant girl frantically slapping his hand.
“He’ll have to wait his turn!” shouted the doctor from the upstairs bedroom. “We haven’t lost a father yet!”
Scrooge was dancing around the parlor like a man possessed.
In a moment Fred revived and felt foolish.
“You can come up now said the doctor,” after a wait that seemed like an eternity.
Fred and Scrooge dashed up the stairs and there laying by Caroline was a little squirming bundle.
“Mother and baby are doing just fine. Fred, come and meet your daughter.”
“Silly old fool,” said Scrooge. “Doesn’t know a boy from a girl!”
“She’s a girl,” said the doctor. “I’ve been delivering babies for nigh unto 40 years. I think I know a girl when I see one. And she’s a fat and healthy one too.”
The attending nurse took the baby and handed her to Fred.
“Oh no! I’ll break her!”
But Fred carefully took the baby and kissed her on the head.
“Take her uncle. She’s your family.”
“Oh no. I couldn’t. I’ve never held a baby!”
Fred slipped the bundle into Scrooges’ arms. Scrooge was as stiff as a board but began to relax. His face was glowing. He looked wide-eyed into the face of the tiny bundle which smacked it’s little lips.
“My grandniece,” he quietly said. “She’s beautiful! Why would anyone want a boy when you can have such a beautiful girl. She looks like an angel.”
“Now don’t you go spoiling her as you’ve done me,” said Caroline.
Fred knelt by her bed.
“My dear, there’s someone here you have to meet. Do you remember Uncle Ebenezer telling us about the girl he was going to marry those many years ago? The most extraordinary thing happened this evening. He found her by chance and brought her here. You must meet her.”
“That’s wonderful Fred. That’s wonderful uncle. But Fred, look at me. I’m a sight! Mary just called for supper. You go and eat and I’ll get the nurse to help me clean up. Then we’ll visit.”
“I’ll take my supper here with you.”
“Don’t be silly Fred. We have guests. I’ll doubt that I’ll eat more than two bites. You attend to our guests and I’ll get ready to receive them.”
“You always know what to do my dear. I’d be lost without you.”
Word of the new baby must have spread like wildfire. There were constant knocks at the door all through supper. Caroline’s friends were anxious to see the new baby. Even Bob and Mrs. Cratchit arrived. Scrooge told Bob the happy events of the evening.
“Now go next door and fetch Madam Ambrose. She owns the dress shop near the office. I want presents for Miss Belle and Miss Lydia. She can come here and size them up without letting them know what she’s doing. She’ll know what to do,” Scrooge ordered and that’s exactly what happened.
“Oh Mary,” called Fred. “Would you go and ask one of the girls to go to the attic and find the Christmas Decorations? In all of the excitement with the baby, I’d forgotten about Christmas. I want a right proper Christmas celebration for tomorrow.”
With everyone seated at the table and the food served, Fred asked his uncle about the court hearing that afternoon. Scrooge laughed and began to tell the tale about the extraordinary behavior of Mr. Grimes and Mr. Goodfellow in the courtroom.
“And something caught their attention in the back of the chamber,” Scrooge laughed. “They said that old Jacob Marley was in the room. Then suddenly they jumped up screaming like schoolgirls and ran from the courtroom, hands in the air and coattails flying.”
“Most extraordinary!” mused Fred. “What do you suppose got into them?”
“They did look like they’d seen a ghost. Who knows? Maybe old Marley was there.”
“I’d have paid good money to have seen that,” said Mrs. Cratchit. “The two old skinflints!”
“Oh yes, it was quite the site,” rejoined Bob. “I heard that they found them at St. Marry’s Church praying their hearts out!”
“Maybe some good will come of it,” chuckled Scrooge. “Those two could use a little religion.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there uncle,” Fred apologized.
“Nonsense my boy. You were where you needed to be, taking care of that pretty wife.”
“And you did a fine job of it if you don’t mind my saying so,” injected Mrs. Cratchit.
“Oh, I just got in the way and asked a lot of silly questions. But my goodness. Look at the time,” observed Fred. “Let’s see if that pretty wife is ready for us.”
They repaired to the parlor where there were at least two dozen friends waiting. There was Topper and many of Fred’s friends Scrooge had met last Christmas.
“My dear friends,” Fred called. “Thank you for coming. You remember my uncle Scrooge from last year. Please meet a dear friend of his, Miss Belle and her daughter Lydia. Please make them feel welcome.”
Just then the nurse appeared at the top of the stair with a little blanket.
“And now you must meet the newest member of our family. My daughter.
“What’s her name?” asked one guest.
“By Jove, we haven’t named her,” Fred laughed. “It’s been quite a busy day. We had plenty of boy names picked out but we never suspected that she’d be a girl. But, we’ll take care of that directly.
“Oh Fred, she’s beautiful!” said another guest.
The ladies all fussed over the new baby while the men pretended to care. In a moment the nurse returned her to her mother. The crowd began to leave and one by one wished Fred “Merry Christmas.”
“Now Miss Belle, you must meet my wife,” Fred said taking her by the hand and leading her up the stairs. “Caroline, please say hello to Miss Belle and Miss Lydia.”
Caroline lay smiling on fresh linens, her face washed and hair combed.
“Oh, Miss Belle. My uncle has told us so much bout you. Welcome to our home.”
“Well, your wonderful husband has kidnaped me and won’t let us leave.”
“Yes. We shall keep her here for ever, won’t we Caroline?”
“You are too kind,” said Belle. “All of you. You’ve made an old woman’s heart glad.”
“Fred has told me of your late husband’s kindness. Our home is your home and you are welcome anytime. Won’t you stay and have Christmas with us?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
“And you can help me keep her here in bed. She’s from good stock. Mark me, she’ll be up in the morning running the servants all over the house!” Fred teased.
“Well, I’ll have to. If I leave it up to you, you’ll have the carpets nailed to the ceiling and the chandelier on the floor! He’ll have the whole house turned upside down, you silly goose!”
Suddenly a prodigious snore alarmed everyone. It was the doctor. He had fallen asleep in a rocking chair in the corner of the room.
“Oh, the poor dear,” said Caroline. “He’s been here all day. Let him rest a while.”
“Yes, he’s going to want to know the baby’s name for his records,” Fred said. “How about Fred Jr.”
“Oh, you silly! What kind of name would Fred be for a girl?”
Caroline looked into the face of her new friend,
“How about Belle? She will be the belle of the ball when she’s older. Oh, Fred. She’ll probably have 20 beaux’s! Then what shall we do?”
“We shall invite them all to supper and when they see that she eats like a pig, they’ll all run out the door like our precious Grimes and Goodfellow!”
“Oh, Fred. You’s quite impossible!” chided Caroline. “What was your mother’s name, uncle?”
“Ila,” said Scrooge after a moment’s thought.
“That’s it. Ila Belle Pierce!” Fred announced. “There you have it!”
“It’s beautiful,” said Scrooge with a choke in his throat. “Now, you rest my dear. Belle and I have a lot to talk about.”
Scrooge chose the drawing-room and closed the door.
“Oh, Ebenezer. You have the most beautiful family.”
“Yes, and I didn’t appreciate them till a year ago. A year ago this very night. I hated the very mention of my nephew and called him a fool for marrying a wife. I cursed him and ran him from my office. He never gave up on me. He has a kind heart. He inherited it from his mother you know.”
“What happened to soften you toward him?”
“The most extraordinary thing happened a year ago tonight. I haven’t told anyone about it. I feel that I can trust you. You may think me crazy and call a policeman and I wouldn’t blame you! Sometimes I think that it was just a dream, a very vivid dream but it is true. It all started when I arrived home last Christmas Eve. I cast a glance at my door knocker and it underwent the most curious transformation.”
Scrooge recounted the story of Marley’s Ghost and the ghost of Christmas past. With pain, he told of revisiting young Belle when she released him from their engagement. Then he recounted seeing her as a woman with children and described Tut bringing the children presents and how Tut had seen Scrooge in his office as old Marley lay dying.
“It happened just so!” she exclaimed. “How could you know? That’s how you knew Tut’s name.”
Scrooge continued with the Ghost of Christmas Present and the ominous Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
“He took me to a cemetery and there I saw my cold and lonely tombstone. Alone and forgotten with no one to mourn my passing. Just the name of a wretched man who left no mark in the world. I begged the specter to forgive me. I told him I would change and wept bitter tears. The tears of a damned soul bound for eternal punishment. I held the ghost tightly promising to change when what to my surprise, the ghost was my bedpost. I have worked earnestly this past year to right all the wrongs I have caused. I have had to ask many for their forgiveness. You see before you a humble and repentant man. This is why I had to ask you for forgiveness. I hurt you most of all.”
“Oh Ebenezer. I’ve raised 5 children and buried a husband. I’ve made my mistakes too. Tut was a good man. We all worshiped him. Then one day I was angry with him. It was some small trespass but in my eyes it was huge. I had plenty to say about it. As he went off to work I had one last jab at him. I would teach him a lesson. Then came word that his carriage hit a dray. He was thrown from his carriage and landed under the wheels of the dray. He never felt a thing. I was heartsick and wouldn’t forgive myself. I wouldn’t be comforted. I had caused the accident by my harsh words. He went to his death thinking that I was angry with him. I begged his forgiveness a thousand times. I pleaded with God that somehow Tut would hear my pleas. Losing all the money and going to the workhouse was nothing less than I deserved.”
“Tut knows,” comforted Scrooge. “If I know anything at all, I know that our family and friends watch over us. Your pleas have not fallen on deaf ears.”
Belle broke down weeping. She felt as though a burden had lifted from her shoulders. In her heart, she knew that Scrooge was right. She knew that he was as right as anything that she knew was right.
“You’ve taken a thousand pound load from me,” she sighed. “I believe your story. It gives me comfort. I needed to hear that on Christmas Eve.”
Now dear reader. It may be of interest to know that Scrooge and Belle sat in silence for a long while. Scrooge took her hands into his and the old feelings that had for decades lain silent returned. The love of his youth came back. He felt the same now as he had felt at 21. Those feelings had leaped through the years and had taken up residence in his heart.
“Belle, I wonder if we might…”
“Shhhh!” she said pressing her finger to his lips. “Don’t say something you might regret.”
“Regret?” he asked. “I have a lifetime of regret. I relived that regret a year ago tonight. I saw not only my life but how my life affected others. I had to relive my past in full detail and I felt it from the perspective of those I injured. When the ghost showed me your life I crushed that ghost under its hat. My heart was torn! I wept bitter tears.”
Scrooge jumped to his feet.
“Hear me, Belle. I lost you once. It was no accident that the cab crashed or that I was mugged. It was no accident that I came to the door where you sat. I see the hand of Providence in this. I don’t want to see you go back the black streets of London. I don’t want to see you in poverty. Let me help. I don’t know what that you might harbor some malcontent toward me until this day. Only, at the least, let me be your friend.”
Belle stood and took his hands.
“I harbor no malcontent towards you. How could I? Everyone here tonight had a great love for you. Fred worships you and Caroline adores you. I could see it in her eyes. That could only come from a man who has a great deal of love to give. That is the true measure of a heart. You are a changed man Ebenezer. You are a good man. Any woman would want to be your friend. And now that I know where to find you, we can visit anytime. But I do have to get back to those dark streets as you call them. That’s where I live. But we can visit often.”
Scrooge’s heart sank. Though he had used the word “friend,” he was hoping for more. He was hoping that Belle had the same feelings toward him that she’d had those many years ago.
“Yes we can,” he said. “But the hour is late. We’ll spend Christmas Day together. We can talk about these things tomorrow.”
“My other children will be coming to the flat at 2:00. We were going to have a little Christmas dinner there. You know Ebenezer, I have five children and 8 grandchildren. I’ve saved a little money for the dinner.”
“I would like to meet them. I’m sure they are as wonderful as their mother. Well now, You and Miss Lydia will take the room where you changed and I will be in the upstairs room If you should need anything. Good night.”
Belle kissed Scrooge on the cheek and the two parted, she to the guest room and Scrooge to an upstairs bedroom.
He dressed in his nightgown and sat pondering the events on the edge of his bed. A screeching limb at his window pane drew his attention. It scraped along the window and began to tap. The tapping grew louder and Scrooge went to investigate. He looked out to see Bob Cratchit holding a long tree branch and attempting to tap on the second story window. Scrooge threw it open.
“Bob. What are you doing?”
“I’ve got the gifts you asked for, Sir,” shouted Bob in a loud whisper.
“I’ll meet you at the back door,” Scrooge replied.
He threw on his dressing gown and met Bob at he kitchen door. There stood Bob and Mom Ambrose.
“Oh, thank you so much for doing this for me, Madam and thank you, Bob. Come in before you freeze!”
“They should be perfect fits,” said Madam. “If there is one thing I know, it’s sizing. I have picked a dress each from my Paris line and I have each lady a day dress.”
“Bob, I believe a tree has been set up in the parlor. Would you check and see if the coast is clear and slip the presents under the tree?”
“I’ll attend to it directly, Sir. I just hope that I don’t get shot as a burglar!” said Bob.
“Now, will the little Cratchits have all that they need this Christmas Morning?” Scrooge asked.
“Oh, more than enough, thank you, Sir. You have been more than generous. Oh, and one more thing, Sir. In all the excitement I forgot to tell you. The doctor took off Tim’s braces yesterday. We’ve had a Christmas miracle! He is walking unassisted and playing with the other children. He still has a bit of a limp but time will heal that. We owe it all to you, Sir!” said Bob with a choke in his throat.
“Credit a Higher Power Bob. I am only His servant. Merry Christmas, Bob”
“And I’ll settle up with you over lunch tomorrow,” said Madam.
“You drive a hard bargain, Madam. It would be my pleasure.”
“And bring your wallet. I will be very hungry from being kept up past midnight.”
Scrooge’s room was filled with light when he awoke. The sun was dancing on the fresh snow and each flake shone like a thousand twinkling mirrors.
“Get up you old fool,” he said as his feet hit the floor. “Christmas Day Ebenezer! Shave and put on your best!”
He was humming a merry tune as he looked at himself in the mirror.
“Christmas Day, Ebenezer!” he repeated to his reflection in the mirror. “They should have put you away yesterday! Look at that crazy man with soap all over his face. Mad dog! Mad dog! Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho! And speaking of crazy, I wonder if Grimes and Goodfellow are still praying at St. Mary’s? I’ll just drop by and say BOO! Oh come now, that’s not very sporting old man. There, finished.
Scrooge wasn’t in the habit of talking to himself but this would be a wonderful Christmas Day. He found it difficult to dress because he kept dancing little jigs.
“Breakfast in 10 minutes,” came a knock and a voice through the door.
Scrooge was downstairs in a jiffy and much to his surprise, there sat Caroline.
“My dear, should you be out of bed?”
“I didn’t want to miss Christmas breakfast. The nurse will bring Ila Belle down in a moment so that she can enjoy her first Christmas,” said Caroline.
“Good Heavens, woman,” interjected Fred. “She doesn’t know if it’s Christmas or All Saints Day!”
“Nevertheless, I want her here.”
“Ah, Miss Belle, Miss Lydia,” said Scrooge rising to help them into their chairs. “I hope you rested well.”
“I had a very restful night,” returned Belle. “That is a very comfortable bed, Mr. Fred.”
“I’m glad that you liked it. As I tell my uncle, there is a place for you here anytime.”
Suddenly Scrooge’s eyes opened wide.
“There she is. My grandniece! And a merry Christmas, little one,” cooed Scrooge.
“May I hold her?” asked Lydia.
“Of course you can my dear,” said Caroline.
Lydia took the infant and looked into her face.
“Oh mother, isn’t she beautiful?” she said.
“She is at that.”
Lydia held the squirming bundle for a moment and handed her back to the nurse.
“Uncle, would you say Grace?” Fred asked. “After all, you are the patriarch of this family.”
Scrooge looked surprised.
“I’m afraid that I’m a little out of practice.”
Scrooge bowed his head and paused for a moment. A tear welled up in his eye.
“Lord, we are mighty humble this fine Christmas morning. You have blessed us beyond measure. You have given us a new life and caused us to find old friends. You have opened my eyes to see how important family is. You have given us good food and we ask your blessings on it as you have blessed us. In Christ’s name, Amen”
“Thank you, Uncle,” said Caroline with a tear in her eye.
“Not bad for an old sinner,” Scrooge whispered.
“Now Miss Belle, I want you and Miss Lydia to spend Christmas Day with us. We’re having some friends over this evening and I’d love for you to meet them.”
“Oh dear. My children are coming over to the flat at 2:00 today to spend Christmas together.”
“Then you must have them here! By all means!” said Fred.
“That is very kind of you but my heart is set on it. You do understand.”
“Of course. You will be here this evening. I insist on it.”
“Well, if you insist.”
“Good, then it’s settled.”
Shortly breakfast was finished.
“Bridget, you are a wonderful cook,” Fred complimented his help.
“Thank you very much I’m sure.”
“If I left the cooking up to this beauty, she’d burn the beans and scald the tea,” Fred teased Caroline. “I’d be skin and bones!”
“Oh Fred, you’re quite impossible!”
“Well now. Let us repair to the parlor,” Fred suggested. “I think Father Christmas was here last night. And he looked a lot like Bob Cratchit,” Fred whispered to Scrooge.
Scrooge tapped the side of his nose.
“Let’s see. Here’s a present for Caroline and one for Uncle Ebenezer. Well, what have we here? Here’s a gift for Belle and one for Lydia. I dare say, that Father Christmas is a busy fellow. And one for me. Probably a lump of coal. And what’s this? Another for Miss Belle and another for Miss Lydia.”
“Oh, Ebenezer! You shouldn’t have!” exclaimed Bell upon opening the present and seeing a beautiful frock.
“I shouldn’t have what?”
She looked at him knowingly.
“That’s a lovely frock. Father Christmas has good taste.”
“Now I ask you, Fred. Someone gets a gift from Father Christmas and I take the blame for it. Now I ask you, is that fair?”
“Don’t look at me uncle. I wouldn’t presume to have and opinion.”
“I don’t know how you did it,” said Belle.
“Oh, he’s quite a remarkable man,” Fred commented. “Uh, Father Christmas that is.”
“I’m sure they both are,” smiled Belle. “Well, thank you for whoever our benefactors are.”
“Mother, look at this!” exclaimed Lydia pulling a £5 note from the matching purse.
Scrooge looked as puzzled as anyone in the room.
“Fred!” Scrooge cried.
“Father Christmas,” said Fred tapping the side of his nose. “Please take these gifts in the spirit in which they were given, Miss Belle.”
“You two are incorrigible! But we thank you.”
Fred rang a bell and Mary appeared.
“Mary my dear, would you please serve the Sherry. I think a Christmas toast is in order. A merry Christmas to us all my dears. May we remember the day and what it stands for, the wonderful gift from Heaven.”
“And my I propose a toast,” said Scrooge. “To old friendships made new. And for Christmas miracles that have brought us all together.”
“Here, here!” called Fred.
“And now, how about some Christmas music on the pianoforte,” Fred suggested. “Caroline is the musician in the family. I’m sure I’m a bit rusty.”
Fred played and everyone sang the old familiar tunes. The servants also joined in. Everyone laughed when Fred hit a wrong note but what then? No one could sing in tune anyway!
“Oh, Ebenezer. We’re having such fun but I must be going. My children will be there at 2:00.”
“You will be back this evening?” Fred asked. “We’ll have ever so much fun! And there are rooms for you to stay the night.”
“We’ll be back. Lydia, go and see if you can hail a cab.”
“I’ll walk you to the street,” said Scrooge as he pulled on his greatcoat.
Lydia was waiving down a cab as the two made their way into the bright noon sun. It was cold and the walkway slippery.
“I wish you didn’t have to go,” said Scrooge. “You don’t know how much I’ve enjoyed your company.”
“And I’ve enjoyed yours,” Belle returned. “But I’ll be back this afternoon.”
“I’ll count the minutes.”
“Oh Ebenezer, you sound like a school boy. Thank you for everything you’ve done since we’ve been here.”
“Please don’t think the gifts are for me to show out. They are from my heart. I know that this has all been so sudden.”
“Yes, it has been sudden Ebenezer. A woman has to have time to think. Time to take things in and see how they fit together. You men, you rush into things and just as quickly, you rush back out! I am old now and hopefully wiser. I think I know what’s on your mind. Such things have to be handled delicately. You know so little about women Ebenezer. A woman wants to be courted, She wants to be told she’s pretty. She wants to be fussed over.”
“Good Heavens woman! By the time I did all that I’d be in the grave!”
“Yes, time has taken its toll. There’s nothing pretty about a head of gray hair. It used to be pretty,” she said pulling a lock of hair where she could see it. “It used to be long and flowing.”
“I remember,” said Scrooge.
For the first time, Belle looked into his eyes. “Yes, you would remember.”
“And I remember stealing a kiss from behind the counter at Fezziwig’s. I remember walking you home and talking about how one day we’d be rich. I remember how you looked in the flicker of the gaslight. I remember the perfume in your hair. I see in the woman before me the girl I once knew.”
“That girl is dead, Ebenezer.”
“No, she’s not. Only the body grows old,” said Scrooge. “The spirit is eternal. That girl lives and she’s wonderful.”
“There you go. You’ve said everything I just mentioned and you’re not in the grave!”
“Mother, the cab,” called Lydia.
“I’ll see you this evening?” Scrooge asked. “Here’s money for the cab fare.”
Scrooge leaned forward and kissed Belle on the cheek.
“Yes. I’ll be back between 6:00 and 7:00.”
Scrooge was sad as the horse clip-clopped away in the slush on the road.
“Dinner is served, Sir,” called Mary from the front porch.
Caroline was seated at the table when Scrooge entered and sat down. Her eyes were all aglow.
“Do tell uncle. How are you getting on with Belle?”
“In what way?” Scrooge returned.
“I see the way you look at her. I think an old flame has been rekindled. Am I right?”
Scrooge tried to hide a smile but the corners of his mouth kept turning up.
“Pay her no attention,” said Fred. “These women are always playing at matchmaker!”
“Oh Fred, how you do run on. I’d say our Uncle Ebenezer still fancies her. I would even go so far as to say that there may be wedding bells in his future.”
“Time will tell,” said Scrooge. “She may have no interest in me at all. Oh my! She may have another suitor! I never thought of that! Here I am making overtures to a woman who may very well have her heart elsewhere. I never stopped to entertain such a thing. After all, I’m not the only man in London. Oh wretched man that I am. I must ask her forgiveness!”
“Somehow I don’t think that’s the case,” said Caroline. “Call it woman’s intuition.”
Scrooge spent a pleasant afternoon with his nephew and Caroline. Several times he peeked in on the baby. He asked if all they do is sleep and the nurse assured him that for the first few months that’s all they do, sleep and cry.
The sun was sinking in the west when Caroline’s sisters arrived. The plump sister had married this past year much to Topper’s dismay but there were still two others. They were, as Topper thought, skinny and Topper liked the plump sister. He had confessed that he liked a woman with a little girth. But being a confirmed bachelor, he lost out. The sisters fussed over their new niece and fought to hold her. More and more guests arrived and a reviewing line formed to see the newborn. Those who weren’t fussing over the baby were fussing over Caroline.
“What do you mean you’ve been out of bed?” asked one of the sisters.
“Honestly! I’d have gone mad if I had to lay here a moment longer. I had a baby. The doctor didn’t take out my liver!” said Caroline.
Scrooge had been answering the door when again the bell jingled. It was Belle and Lydia.
“Oh my but who are these two beautiful ladies?” Scrooge asked. “Please, by all means, do come in. Ladies and gentlemen! Let me introduce you to two of the finest ladies I know. This is Belle and her daughter Lydia. Many years ago Belle and I were engaged but being the fool that I am, I lost her. Only last night did I find her again and I want you to make her and Lydia as welcome as you have made me.”
There was a spattering of applause and several of the women took their hands and led them into the parlor.
“You look lovely my dear,” said Scrooge taking her hands.
“This is the first occasion I’ve had to fix myself up.”
“Yes. I see in the woman before me the girl I once knew. You are a vision! How was your dinner?”
“It was lovely. The children and the grandchildren were there. We had a grand time. They all want to meet you. By the time Lydia was finished you were nominated for beatification!”
“She is a dear,” said Scrooge.
He found two places on a sofa.
“Belle, I had a thought while you were gone. I may have overstepped my bounds. I don’t know but what you may be involved with someone else. If someone else has your heart, I do apologize.”
“Dear sweet Ebenezer. If there is a man in my life, I don’t know who he is. If you know, please send him ‘round. There are a number of repairs needed in the flat!”
Scrooge was relieved. They sat and talked as someone sat at the pianoforte.
Suddenly dance music filled the parlor and several couples paired off in a lively dance.
“I would be honored to dance a waltz should they play one,” said Scrooge.
“Everyone into the dining room for refreshments!” Called Fred.
“Just a moment,” Scrooge asked Belle.
When the room was empty, Scrooge rolled off the sofa onto one knee.
“Belle, I have a question I’d like to ask. Would you do the honor of being my wife?”
Belle was taken by surprise. She smiled.
“I’ll have to give the matter a little thought,” she said.
Scrooge gave a little moan.
“What’s the matter, Ebenezer?”
“I can’t get up!”
Belle pulled at his arm but couldn’t budge him. Just then Fred saw the struggle from the dining room.
“Uncle!” he cried as he rushed into the room followed by the others. “What’s the matter? Why are you on the floor?”
“I always suspected my nephew was an idiot! Can’t you tell when a man is proposing marriage to a woman?”
“Oh, happy day!”cried Fred.
“We can be happy after you get me off the floor!”
Scrooge was scooped up and sat back on the sofa.
“And what was the answer?” asked the plump sister.
“I told him that I’d have to give the matter a little thought.”
There was an audible sigh in the room mainly from the women.
“A girl can’t be too careful these days,” said Belle. “He may be a sly devil after my money! After all, I do have £5.”
“And while I think about this, I’d like something sweet. Do you have any chocolate?”
Belle was lead into the dining room with Scrooge following rubbing his knee. She was surrounded by the ladies all asking a lot of silly questions.
Following the refreshments someone suggested a game.
“Let’s play ‘Yes and No.’”
“Oh, we played that last year!” the plump sister complained.
“Well, let’s play it again,” said Fred. “Belle, you go first.”
Belle looked around the room. “I see something warm.”
“That’s easy,” said Topper. “The fireplace.”
“The tea service.”
“Is it here in this room?” asked Fred.
“Let’s see. Animal, vegetable, or mineral,” mused Topper. “Is it animal?”
Is it someone in this room?”
Just then Fred had an idea. “Is it someone who proposed marriage?”
And just what would you say to that proposal?”
“Yes Ebenezer. I’ll marry you!”
“Then someone run to the parsonage and root out the Vicar. I don’t want her to change her mind!”
Scrooge and Belle were married that very night. No one could ask for a more devoted husband and caring stepfather than Scrooge. He told Belle to spend as much money as needed to fix up his drafty old house. She made it a pleasant home where they entertained for years. Christmas was the most important holiday and the anniversary of the year. It was a second home for the Cratchits. Tiny Tim grew into a man. His prayer as Peter told it was engraved and placed over the fireplace. It gave a simple message to all who entered the house; God bless us everyone!