THE CONTRIBUTORS’ CLUB
No, I don’t mean Marley’s ghost. I know what I ’m talking about. It’s Scrooge’s ghost I mean. And of all the spirits that go wandering up and down this earth, on the nights approaching Christmas, I don’t believe there is one that will feel more genuine and wellearned pleasure, in the place where he used to keep his heart, than the ghost of old Scrooge of the firm of Scrooge & Marley.
For what does he see, every year as the holiday season comes round, but hundreds of people who, for the eleven months previous, have been harrowing their souls with desperate struggles after righteousness, in company with the married heroes and heroines of modern fiction, now taking down from their shelves their well-worn copies of Dickens’s Christmas Stories, and settling themselves for a solid evening’s enjoyment — before a wood-fire, we will hope—re-reading for the fourth or fifth or twentieth time the inimitable Christmas Carol ?
And what happens to every blessed one of them ?
They go through the same tension of feeling, as Scrooge, with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, sees the terrible results that must follow from his narrow, selfish, sordid life, as they did at the first reading, before they knew it would turn out all right; and they experience the same relief and joy that he did, to realize that it is n’t too late, that there is still a chance — a glorious chance to add to the happiness of every person with whom they come in contact.
And what happens next ?
Maybe they were good fellows to start with. They undoubtedly were; but there is a possibility that down in the bottom of their hearts they know that they might still be improved a trifle; perhaps they are a little more self-centred, a little less open and frank, not so thoroughly mellow and gracious, as in youth they had thought to find themselves in middle life.
But bless Scrooge’s ghost, who stands smiling and rubbing his hands at their well-tailored elbows. Does n’t he see what his own vicarious sufferings have done for them, and does n’t he glow with pleasure, or whatever answers for a glow to a ghost, when he notices that they are, every man of them, a little more genial the next day with the office-boy and the janitor and the street-car conductor, and, most notable of all, — with the uninteresting elderly maiden cousin, who has come on the annual visit that tries the patience and hospitality of every member of the household ?
And the good work does n’t stop there.
Scrooge’s ghost can see it all: how the ripples of kindly feeling keep on widening, and how his own influence is at the centre of the circle!
He knows what makes the office-boy turn a somersault, after “the boss” has gone into his sanctum, the next morning; and how the office-boy’s mother takes more pride in him than ever that noon, as she notes a certain new air of confidence and ambition in the lad. Scrooge’s ghost knows, too, why the janitor holds up his not too manly head with a little more dignity than usual; and why the street-car conductor helps off the fidgety spinster with real gallantry, after the courtly gentleman, who always does such things in a natural way, has bidden him “Goodmorning,” with a true ring of comradeship in his voice; and why the maiden cousin, realizing suddenly that she is a gracious lady and not a disappointed, cross-grained old woman, blooms with something of the radiance of unquenchable youth in her face.
Who — but Scrooge’s ghost, indeed — can tell how far all of these influences reach, and how many hearts are quickened by the impulse going out from one of these readers, sitting so cozily in his quiet study,reading the old story, with its everliving gospel ?
And how many old fogies, like myself, for instance, do you suppose there are, who re-read The Christmas Carol every December ? And how many new readers does it have ?
Scrooge’s ghost alone can answer that question, also; but I am at least certain of this,— that not one of the readers puts down the book without a little additional sense of warmth about his heart, and without, consciously or unconsciously, meeting all his neighbors the next day with a little more geniality in his voice and smile, than if he had n’t read it.
And so I aver, and I defy any one to prove to the contrary, that there won’t be a happier ghost wandering up and down this good old earth, this good old Christmas-time, than the ghost of Scrooge — Scrooge, I say, of the firm of Scrooge & Marley!