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|A Christmas Carol||Charles Dickens|
Stave 5: The End of It
|Page 4 of 5||
`Thank you. He knows me,' said Scrooge, with his hand already on the dining-room lock. `I'll go in here, my dear.'
He turned it gently, and sidled his face in, round the door. They were looking at the table (which was spread out in great array); for these young housekeepers are always nervous on such points, and like to see that everything is right.
`Fred.' said Scrooge.
Dear heart alive, how his niece by marriage started. Scrooge had forgotten, for the moment, about her sitting in the corner with the footstool, or he wouldn't have done it, on any account.
`Why bless my soul.' cried Fred,' who's that.'
`It's I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred.'
Let him in. It is a mercy he didn't shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just the same. So did Topper when he came. So did the plump sister when she came. So did every one when they came. Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, wonderful happiness.
But he was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late. That was the thing he had set his heart upon.
And he did it; yes, he did. The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.
His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o'clock.
`Hallo.' growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. `What do you mean by coming here at this time of day.'
`I am very sorry, sir,' said Bob. `I am behind my time.'
`You are.' repeated Scrooge. `Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.'
`It's only once a year, sir,' pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. `It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.'
`Now, I'll tell you what, my friend,' said Scrooge,' I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,' he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again;' and therefore I am about to raise your salary.'
Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.
`A merry Christmas, Bob,' said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. `A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year. I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob. Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit.'
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|A Christmas Carol
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