version 1.0, 12/00
“Good Heaven!” said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. “I was bred in this place. I was a boy here.”
“Your lip is trembling,” said the Ghost. “And what is that upon your cheek.”
Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where he would.
“You recollect the way.” inquired the Spirit.
“Remember it.” cried Scrooge with fervour; “I could walk it blindfold.”
“Strange to have forgotten it for so many years.” observed the Ghost. “Let us go on.”
They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree.
“These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.”
The jocund travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge knew and named them every one.
“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”
Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.
The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.
“Why, it's Ali Baba.” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It's dear old honest Ali Baba. Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy. And Valentine,” said Scrooge,” and his wild brother, Orson; there they go. And what's his name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don't you see him. And the Sultan's Groom turned upside down by the Genii; there he is upon his head. Serve him right. I'm glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess.”
“There's the Parrot.” cried Scrooge. “Green body and yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the top of his head; there he is. Poor Robin Crusoe, he called him, when he came home again after sailing round the island. “Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin Crusoe.” The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn't. It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running for his life to the little creek. Halloa. Hoop. Hallo.”
Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor boy.” and cried again.
“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it's too late now.”
“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.
“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that's all.”
The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas.”
Scrooge's former self grew larger at the words, and the room became a little darker and more dirty. The panels shrunk, the windows cracked; fragments of plaster fell out of the ceiling, and the naked laths were shown instead; but how all this was brought about, Scrooge knew no more than you do. He only knew that it was quite correct; that everything had happened so; that there he was, alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays.
He was not reading now, but walking up and down despairingly. Scrooge looked at the Ghost, and with a mournful shaking of his head, glanced anxiously towards the door.
It opened; and a little girl, much younger than the boy, came darting in, and putting her arms about his neck, and often kissing him, addressed him as her “Dear, dear brother.”
“I have come to bring you home, dear brother.” said the child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh. “To bring you home, home, home.”
“Home, little Fan.” returned the boy.
“Yes.” said the child, brimful of glee. “Home, for good and all. Home, for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home's like Heaven. He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you. And you're to be a man.” said the child, opening her eyes, ”and are never to come back here; but first, we're to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.”
“You are quite a woman, little Fan.” exclaimed the boy.
She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to go, accompanied her.
“Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,” said the Ghost. “But she had a large heart.”
“So she had,” cried Scrooge. “You're right. I will not gainsay it, Spirit. God forbid.”
“She died a woman,” said the Ghost, ”and had, as I think, children.”
“One child,” Scrooge returned.
“True,” said the Ghost. “Your nephew.”
Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, “Yes.”