Christmas Carol Misunderstanding Part 5
THE MISUNDERSTANDING — Looks like rain,” returned Mr. Goodfellow.”
“Should I hail a cab?” asked Mr. Grimes.
“No. The walk will do us good but if you’re paying…” Mr. Goodfellow trailed off.
The two walked the few blocks to Scrooges office and giggling like school girls as to what they’d do with Scrooge’s firm when they had taken over. They arrived at Scrooges office and quibbled over who would open the door saying, “Allow me. No, allow me.” Grimes eventually opened the door and ushered Goodfellow in.
“Good morning Mr. Cratchit,” greeted Mr. Goodfellow. I hate to be the bearer of sad tidings but I’m afraid that we won’t be needing your boy here any longer. He can finish the day.”
Just then the two turned toward Scrooge’s office and what was their surprise when they saw Scrooge and his solicitor at Scrooge’s desk. You should have seen the looks on their faces!
“Come in gentlemen!” said Scrooge in a surly voice.
The pair entered Scrooge’s office with eyes wide open. Scrooge was the last person they expected to encounter this day.
“Won’t you sit down? Please meet my solicitor, Mr. Abercrombie.”
“Uh, Scrooge old man. Let’s not be hasty and jump to conclusions, “ stammered Goodfellow.
“Yes, let’s not have a misunderstanding,” Grimes injected.
“Oh, I don’t think there’s been any misunderstanding at all,” growled Scrooge. “I think you’re intentions were quite clear.”
“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Abercromby, “I am taking Mr. Scrooge’s case and I assure you that the ramifications to will not be pleasant for you when we find that Mr. Scrooge is perfectly within his faculties. You have damaged Mr. Scrooge’s good name and reputation and I will see that this damage is restored and restitution is made to the fullest extent of the law!”
“Scrooge, dear fellow! Surely you can understand that we are only looking out for your best interest. “Yes. No harm was done,” pleaded Mr. Grimes.
“No harm was done!” Scrooge exploded. “You weren’t the ones hauled away in a police wagon. You weren’t the ones interrogated and put into a cell! You aren’t the ones who the whole City of London now thinks is mad! I know your game. Have me committed and you, being the second highest stockholder, “you” become the company. There was a time I would have admired your ambition but that time is past. Now gentlemen, until I have my day in court, I suggest that you stay clear of my path. I haven’t completely forgotten my ill will or how to use it. Good day gentlemen!”
Grimes and Goodfellow very nearly tripped over themselves in their haste to leave Scrooge’s office.
“You were brilliant, Sir!” said Bob as the door slammed shut.
“I let my anger get the best of me,” said Scrooge. “And Master Peter, pay no attention to those two fools! Your place is here.”
“Thank you ever so much, Sir,” Peter said politely.
“Well Abercrombie,” said Scrooge, “We have our work cut out for us. I can think of plenty of folk who’d testify against me but few who’d testify in my behalf.”
“That’s not so, Sir,” said Bob. “There are plenty of good and reputable people who would be more than willing to testify on your behalf, Mr. Scrooge.”
“Let’s hope so Bob. Let’s hope so.”
And now dear reader, Scrooge did have his work cut out for him. The Dog Days of August soon gave way to Autumn and its cool winds painted the trees with its palette of reds and orange. One cold day in December Scrooge was at his solicitor’s office.
“Scrooge old man, we’ve built a very good case but there’s one piece of the puzzle missing. What happened last Christmas to change you? This is what the court will want to know. This is the crux of my entire case.”
Scrooge had been asked this question many times over the past year and he had always given some excuse to evade the answer. He knew that when he admitted that he’d seen Marley’s ghost and the other ghost sent by Marley, he’d been carted off to Bedlam and they’d throw away the key. Yet it was true and Scrooge knew it but it was a secret that he’d have to carry to his grave. Now the question had to be answered but how? Perhaps he could blame a medical condition. After all, he was nursing a cold. But what could it be? A seizure! That was it! A seizure!
“Have you ever heard of someone’s life flashing before their eyes?” Scrooge asked.
“Oh yes. A relative of mine was badly injured in a railroad accident. He said that he saw his life in its entirety up to that moment before his eyes.”
“I was ill last Christmas Eve and when I went to bed I think I may have had a seizure. I saw my entire life just as your relative did. I saw how my life affected those around me. I was ashamed of myself and vowed to turn my life around. I don’t suppose that would stand up in court.”
“But that explains it all!” Mr. Abercrombie exclaimed. “Why haven’t you told me this before?”
“I’ve already been in the nut house once. I didn’t want to go again.”
“But Scrooge. There’s the answer! I’ll need to interview Dr. Slocum. Surely he can substantiate such cases as part of the medical record. Such things are not unheard of. There’s a case in the Bible. Paul says a man was in the 3rd Heaven and he doesn’t know whether the man was in his body or not. Surely there’s no better witness than the Bible!”
“I’d say we’re skating on thin ice with that,” said Scrooge. “I’d think the court would want solid evidence.”
“Let’s hope the court doesn’t go that direction but if they do, we need to have every facet covered. We’ve got a week before your hearing. I don’t want to appear overconfident but I think we have this case won. I’ve already spoken to Lord Bentley on your behalf and unless Grimes and Goodfellow can pull a rabbit out of the hat, I think it’s smooth sailing. Is there anyone else that you can think of that will vouch for your character?”
“Can’t think of anyone else,” said Scrooge. “Dash it all! I had hoped to spend a lovely Christmas Eve with my family. Caroline’s baby is due any day now and I’m using the time I could be spending with my family preparing my defense!”
“Go home old man. Trust me when I tell you that we’re not as bad off as you may think,”
Scrooge unlocked his door and caught the scent of roast turkey. As he entered his suite, there was Mrs. Dilber putting last minute touches on Scrooge’s table.
“Ah, Merry Christmas to ya’ Mr. Scrooge. In keeping with the season. Your supper is ready, Sir”
“And a Merry Christmas to you, Mrs. Dilber. Won’t you please join me?”
“There ain’t enough fer two, Sir. I will take a cup of tea if you please.”
“That would be fine. But first, I have a little something for you,” said Scrooge as he opened his closet door.
He pulled a box wrapped in brown paper and presented to Mrs. Dilber.
“Oh no, Sir. You really shouldn’t,” She said as she nervously unwrapped the paper producing a fancy bonnet.
“Oh, Mr. Scrooge! This is too nice, Sir!”
“That’s for you to wear to church. I saw it and it looked just like you. Merry Christmas!”
“Oh, but Mr. Scrooge, you shouldn’t have!”
“Well, I’d look mighty silly wearing it to church! And if you’ll look in the box you’ll find your Christmas bonus. You’ve been a great help to me both here and at the office.”
“Oh, thank you, Sir. You’re much too generous! Mister Scrooge, are you worried ‘bout tomorrow?”
“With friends like you behind me Mrs. Dilber, what do I have to worry about? I do admit that I do have a few misgivings. Things will work out in due course. This is what I have to keep telling myself.”
The two sat and talked for over an hour. Scrooge ate his supper and Mrs. Dilber drank her tea. Scrooge was pleased when he realized that behind her common language, there was a great deal of wisdom in her words. She was very devoted to him and vocalized several times what she’d like to do to Grimes and Goodfellow. Oh yes, she did! Then there was a long pause as the two sank into a pensive moment.
“Mr. Scrooge,” said Mrs. Dilber with a sly grin. “Do you know Mr. Glass’s sister? She’s quite the lady if you don’t mind me saying so. She’s a widow don’t ya’ know. I was in the store and she asked how you were doing. I think she might fancy you!”
“Oh, come now Mrs. Dilber. Playing the matchmaker are you?” Scrooge smiled. “How silly. I’m too old for such!”
Scrooge put his tea to his mouth but stopped short. His gaze was distant as though looking back through the pages of time. The fire from the hearth reflected in his eyes.
“I had it once you know. Love that is. She was so beautiful. She was young and full of life,” he said in not much more than a whisper. I had the Midas touch in those days. Everything I touched turned to gold. There were stocks and bonds to trade. I could do no wrong. There was money to be made from the poor and people to send off to debtors prison. O wretched man that I was! Greed consumed me. Soon the things that mattered most mattered least. I received the praises of men and grew proud and haughty. Belle broke our engagement telling me that I would dismiss it as an unprofitable dream. She was right you know. I would show her! I would show her how much she’d lost as I grew richer. She would beg me back! She would crawl back to me and I would throw the rubbish out! But she didn’t. She turned that leaf to a new chapter. She found someone who would love her as I should have. His name was Tut. A nickname I suppose. She gave him many children and they were happy. They were very happy.”
“Oh, Mr. Scrooge. Don’t take on so. ‘Ear now. It’s time for me to be going. Christmas Eve tomorrow and there’s more to do than I can think about. And you need your rest. Merry Christmas Sir, in keepin’ with the season, I’m sure.”
Scrooge went to bed and soon drifted off to sleep. Perhaps it was the mention of Belle earlier that evening that spawned a dream. Scrooge found himself at Fezziwig’s warehouse on Christmas Eve. Again the fiddler assailed his instrument and the dancers strode about the floor. But where was Belle?. She wasn’t there.
“Come and dance, Ebenezer!” called Dick Wilkins.
Scrooge fell in line for the reel and kept looking about the room.
“Where is Belle?” Scrooge asked.
“Haven’t seen her,” Dick returned.
Scrooge danced and laughed but kept his eye on the door. Each time someone appeared in the doorway, Scrooge’s heart would leap but she never came. He knew where she would have been. He had seen her in the vision from the Ghost of Christmas past. He held her, talked to her, and even kissed her under the watchful eye of old Fezziwig. Oh yes, Fezziwig had caught Scrooge stealing a kiss and raked his finger in shame. Then he gave a sly wink to Ebenezer. Scrooge looked in the direction of the counter where the kiss had taken place but still no Belle. Scrooge found himself dancing with the youngest Fezziwig daughter. She was only ten or eleven years old and quite pleased with herself to have the attention of this handsome young man. She squealed and giggled as they reeled the set. The reel was over and the partners honored each other. Then Fezziwig called out.
“Ebenezer! Favor us with a song!”
“No false modesty my boy. Sing, God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen.”
Scrooge cleared his throat.
“ God rest ye, merry Gentlemen,
May nothing you dismay…”
“Not a bad voice,” Scrooge thought to himself.
Upon its completion, Scrooge received a round of applause. He bowed slightly at the waist.
“Has anyone seen Belle?” he asked
“Perhaps you ran her off,” Dick Wilkins replied.
“Perhaps you ran her off,” said the party revelers in unison. “Perhaps you ran her off. Perhaps you ran her off. Perhaps you ran her off.” The dream slipped away.
Scrooge awoke. His heart was heavy. He lay for a long while musing over the dream. It was just a silly dream and meant nothing. Yet it affected him deeply.
“Amazing how an action on the spur of the moment can cause a lifetime of regrets,” Scrooge mumbled to himself
The dawn was breaking and he arose to the bells of the nearby church clock.
“Ah, Christmas Eve!” he smiled and with that he put the whole idea of the dream and his court date out of his mind.
He busied himself with the task of getting dressed. After all, it would be a busy day. He would provide a Christmas lunch at the office and present Bob Cratchit and Master Peter with their Christmas bonus.
“Oh, if there was only enough room to have a dance!” he said clapping his hands. “I’d put on a dance just like old Fezziwig once did! Next year! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll find a place and next Christmas Eve we’ll dance the night away! On, it’ll be glorious!” Scrooge danced a little jig in front of his dressing table. “Why didn’t I think of this before? It’s that Grimes and Goodfellow! Who could think of anything with those two lurking in the shadows? Yes, I’ll rent a hall and a 5 piece orchestra. I’d wager old Jacob Marley will be there in spirit. You here that Jacob? I’ll dance in your honor! Good Jacob! Bless you old Jacob wherever you are! You saved me from an awful fate. I’ll do enough good in the world for both of us! I will oh Jacob, I will!”
Scrooge stood holding his dressing table as a tear of gratitude rolled down his cheek. He looked at his reflection in the mirror.
“Look at you, you old fool. Talking to a dead man! Well, dead as to the body I suppose. He may be standing beside me for all I know.”
Scrooge opened his front door to a bright and cheery day. The sun on the fresh snow from yesterday was blinding. When he reached the High Street it was choked with carriages, wagons, pushcarts, wheelbarrows, and anything that had wheels. The sidewalks were jammed with Christmas revelers moving in and out of shops. The bakers smelled of spices and cinnamon and one could catch a whiff of roasting turkey. A hoard of children had gathered in front of the toy shop even though it was still early. Each child stood pointing and wishing that Father Christmas would bring this one or that one. Bitterly cold yet bright and sunny, Scrooge stopped to warm his hands by a brazier surrounded by what looked like the same men he’d seen the Christmas before. All were in good humor and Scrooge wished them each a Merry Christmas and shook their hands. On he pressed enjoying every sight and sound. ‘It was a Christmas concert,’ he thought. He marveled at how his bitterness had dulled his ears and blinded his eyes to this happy chaos. He tipped his hat and wished “Merry Christmas” to all who caught his eye. Then he heard his name called from behind him. It was the two portly gentlemen racing, or should I say waddling up from behind him.
“Oh, Mr. Scrooge,” said the first. “We stopped by your office last evening but we didn’t find you in. We spoke with your Mr. Cratchit and he was most generous.”
“Oh yes. Most generous,” repeated the second.
“We were on our way to your office to thank you,” said the first.
“Oh yes. Thanks are in order,” said the second.
“My dear Sirs. I’m dreadfully sorry that I couldn’t greet you myself. I do hope the sum was adequate,” said Scrooge.
“Oh yes,” said the first gentleman. “Many others have followed your example and many hundreds will be fed this year.”
“And will receive warm clothing,” said the second.
“Excellent Gentlemen!” exclaimed Scrooge. “My door is always open to you. Merry Christmas to you.”
“And a Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Scrooge!”
Scrooge felt a pride in his heart that he hadn’t felt before. The proud feeling that he had helped many. They would never know their benefactor. But in some small way he had made sure that the hungry were now fed. It made him feel good inside.
On he pressed toward his office once again taking the hubbub of the street.
“Merry Christmas!” he shouted as he entered the office. “Sorry I’m late but I simply couldn’t help myself stopping here and there. Here, I bought some roasted peanuts. Try some. They are delicious!”
“Merry Christmas I’m sure Mr. Scrooge,” Bob returned. “I have a contract for the shipping company of Finch & Company for a loan of £200. Peter checked their references and they seem like a good risk.”
Scrooge put on his spectacles and examined the document.
“All seems to be in good order,” said Scrooge. “I dare say that you two could run this office without me. Perhaps I could go fishing. Never liked fishing! Well done, well done.”
“It only requires your signature, Sir,” said Bob.
“You’ll be a rich man one day,” Scrooge told Bob as he signed the contract. “Just make sure you control the money and it doesn’t control you! Now, clear away. No more work today! Christmas Eve Bob. Christmas Eve Peter! Mrs. Dilber will be here any minute and we’ll have our Christmas feast for lunch. Peter, here’s money. Hire a cab, go home, fetch your mother and the children. And bring back Tiny Tim.!”
“Oh, he’ll be the first on in the cab,” said Master Peter. “He’s ever so much better now, Sir”
“I’m glad to hear it. Now, off with you!”
“You’ve been ever so good to us,” said Bob. “A right proper angel if you don’t mind my saying so, Sir.”
If there was one thing Scrooge knew about Bob was that Bob had a grateful heart. Bob was aware of the smallest gestures of kindness. Nothing escaped him. ‘Is a man born that way or is it learned?’ The question intrigued Scrooge.
“Tell me about your family, Bob. Were your born here?”
“Oh yes, Sir. Very near here.”
“Tell me about your parents.”
“There’s really not much to tell. My father was a seaman. He lost his leg in an accident just before I was born. It was a terrible gale. Part of the rigging broke loose and fell on his leg. He died shortly after Mrs. Cratchit and I were married. My mother was a good woman. She had a heart of gold. I never heard her say an unkind word about anyone. I’ve seen her give our last crust of bread to a perfect stranger. ‘It’ll come back to us by and by,’ she’d say. And it always did. She was a woman of strong faith. She taught us to live by the Good Book. ‘Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only,’ I heard her say all my life,” said Bob.
“I’m sure she was a good woman. It reflects in her son.”
“That’s very kind of you, Sir.”
Just then the doorbell jingled. It was Mrs. Dilber.
“‘Ear now. A little help if you please,” she said as she struggled with a basket. “There’s another Mother said that I should find a trade on dry land and not go down to the sea. on the walk.”
Bob helped with the basket and Scrooge fetched the one from outside. They set up the table and Mrs. Dilber set to work arranging it. The Cratchits arrived and Fred sent word that he thought that Caroline might be going into labor. He told them not to worry and that he’d send word if anything happened. Scrooge looked worried and wondered if he should go to Fred’s.
“You just sit right down and enjoy your lunch. There’s nothing worse than having a man around asking a lot of questions when a baby is about to arrive,” scolded Mrs. Cratchit.
“Yes, and you wouldn’t want to miss this lovely dinner,“ said Tim.
“Right your are my boy,“ said Scrooge, “Right you are. Would you say the Grace, Master Peter?”
Peter blessed the food and also asked that Mr. Scrooge would be watched over at court that afternoon. In all this happy confusion, Scrooge had almost forgotten his court appearance scheduled for that afternoon. But for a little while longer, he put it out of his mind and enjoyed his company.
“I heard a jolly good joke yesterday,” said Bob.
“Well, let’s hear it,” said Scrooge.
“It seems that a young chap walked up to an older man waiting to cross the street. ‘Do you have the time of day, Sir?’ the young chap asked. The older man said, ‘If I tell you the time, we’ll probably become engaged in a conversation. Then I’ll feel obligated to invite you to my house. Then you’ll see that I have a pretty daughter about your age. You’ll ask to see her and then you’ll probably want to get married. Well, what’s wrong with that?’ asked the younger man. The older man bellowed, ‘I don’t want my daughter to marry a man who’s too cheap to buy a watch!”
Everyone howled with laughter.
“That is a good one,” Scrooge laughed. “And on that note, it’s time for me to be off to the magistrate’s office.”
“Our prayers are with you Mr. Scrooge,” said Mrs. Cratchit.
“Indeed they are, Sir,” assured Mrs. Dilber.
Scrooge was surrounded by the Cratchit children.
“You’ve been in our prayers too, Sir,” said Tim. “You’ll be alright, Sir. I feel it in my heart.”
“And you have a good heart, my boy.”
Bob fetched Scrooge’s greatcoat and helped him into it.
“I’ll be along, Sir as soon as I get the family home and all,” said Bob.
“My good and faithful Bob,” said Scrooge placing his hand on Bob’s shoulder. “You top the list of all the people that I’ve wronged in this world, yet you’re the first on to stand up for me. God bless you Bob Cratchit.”
Scrooge cast one more glance on the scene in his office and stepped out the door.