Tiny Tim and The Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge
The sequel to A Christmas Carol
Prologue: What Went Before
Stave 1 Scrooge is Dead
Stave 2 The Return
Stave 3 The Ghost
Stave 4 The Last Haunting
Stave 5 A New Christmas Spirit
Christmas Carol Music
What Went Before
Christmas time, London
The sign above the warehouse door was weatherworn and faded, but could still be easily read—Scrooge & Marley & Cratchit. The ‘& Cratchit’ could be seen to be an addition to the original sign because of the clarity of letters and the way they were crowded on a descending angle in the small space left over after the name ‘Marley’.
In the beginning, the offices had been those of Ebenezer Scrooge and his business partner, Jacob Marley. Cratchit was added to the sign some seven years after Marley’s death, but the original sign was never repainted nor was Marley’s name deleted. The firm was now known as Scrooge & Marley & Cratchit. This did make for some confusion to those new to the business who called Cratchit “Cratchit,” or sometimes “Marley” or “Scrooge,” but being a good and humble man, Cratchit answered to all three so as not to embarrass.
Bob Cratchit had been a clerk to both Scrooge and Marley (before Marley passed from the mortal) and had become a junior partner with Scrooge in the firm fourteen years ago. Now, just seven days before Christmas, he is a full partner with Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, following Scrooge’s death.
STAVE 1 Scrooge is Dead
Yes! Old Scrooge is DEAD, to begin with. I swear to it or I wouldn't be telling you of it right now. Old Scrooge is dead as a mackerel. Understand, I’m not telling you I know anything about why a mackerel is most always described as deceased, but when they make their appearance on my dinner plate, this has always been their physical condition. So, my statement, “Dead as a mackerel!” stands. This, I pray, you accept as true so something wonderful can come of the story you are about to hear.
Tiny Tim Cratchit, Bob Cratchit’s lame little son, and old Scrooge had been inseparable. Ever since that time when Scrooge had befriended his clerk’s little boy when he had almost died, they were never far apart. Scrooge, in fact, was like a second father to Tim, close after his beloved real father, Bob. You could even say that Tim owed his sturdy, healthy body and life to this man, Scrooge, who, at one time, had been a self-centred “hand at the grindstone Scrooge.” Oh, yes! He had been “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner, hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire.”
But late in his years, Scrooge had experienced a miraculous change in his attitude about life and had become the most thoughtful, kind, caring, giving, generous, and loving benefactor “as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”
But now after a long life, here he lay, the candles at both ends of his coffin flickering, agitated by the wind blowing through the cracks in the windows. His casket was plain in keeping with one step above pauper — this had been Scrooge’s wish when he had made his own arrangements for his funeral some time ago. “Nothing fancy, mind, just anything will do,” he had told the undertaker at the time.
Here then was Scrooge, his white hair glistening on his head and brow above a timeworn face of cavernous folds. In repose, Scrooge had a peaceful, unconcerned look that might well be said to be angelic. His hands were folded upon his chest, and from the doorway of the room, he had the appearance that he was merely asleep or praying before Morpheus overtook him.
As yet, no one had come to visit Scrooge, but this was because the undertaker had two customers that very afternoon and one casket for them both. Scrooge, having passed later than the first and second in line, had to wait until a casket could be found for him. After all, it was first-come, first-served.
Now, through the frosted pane of the undertaker’s front window, a face appeared — unmistakably, Bob Cratchit. After gazing for a time as though he were in deep thought, Cratchit disappeared and presently the front door agonised on its hinges followed by the sound of footsteps coming down the hall to where Ebenezer lay. Cratchit stopped in the doorway almost as if he expected the man in the casket across the room to bid him enter. Then, after a few more moments of hesitation, he walked slowly over to the side of Scrooge’s bier and gazed thoughtfully down at him.
Immediately, warm memories of Scrooge flooded Cratchit’s mind as he looked into Scrooge’s gentle face and remembered back to when Tiny Tim would hobble on his one little crutch through the snows of winter to Scrooge’s waiting arms, and later on when Tiny Tim was no longer crippled, the old man watching him slide on the ice at Cornhill, shouting encouragement, and clapping his hands in delight at the sight of it.
Cratchit was brought back to the present abruptly when the front door again groaned and slow approaching footsteps could be heard on the bare floor of the hallway. They stopped just before the opening into the room and no one appeared. Cratchit waited with expectation wondering for a moment if he had imagined the whole thing. But then in the gloom a slight young man could be seen framed by the doorway. The handsome face etched in sorrow was Tiny Tim’s. He just stood there motionless in this setting of finality, his eyes fixed on the casket of his friend, Mr. Scrooge. Then, after what seemed like a compassionate amount of time for Tim to adjust to the reality of the scene, Bob Cratchit held out his hand to his son and urged him gently, “Come on, Tim. Come over here with us now.”
Tim moved slowly over to the casket and looked down into Scrooge’s peaceful face. It all seemed so unfair, so unreal, as if at any moment old Scrooge would awaken and they would be together again laughing and hugging each other as they so often did. After a few more consoling moments, Cratchit moved quietly from beside Scrooge’s coffin leaving his son alone there with his thoughts.
Tim stood there for a long while and then, in a gesture of love, placed his hand on the clasped hands of Ebenezer. Almost in an instant, he was back again as a little boy with his small hand in Scrooge’s huge hand, walking along in the snow, laughing and happy. But now all of that was gone and he knew it would never come again.
“No! It isn’t fair!” cried Tim, turning to his father sitting in a chair that had been provided for a visitor. “It isn’t fair! It isn’t fair Father!” Tim repeated with tears welling up in his eyes. With that, he abruptly bolted from the room leaving his father alone there with Scrooge.
Outside and down the street he ran, passing Christmas carollers singing, “♫ Have a Very-Very Merry-Merry Christmas ♫,” and bands of men and women with horns and drums adding their all to the Christmas celebration. Finally, Tim reached home and took his sorrow to bed.
* * *
Meanwhile, at this very same time on a busy street in London’s old market, Becky, a very determined young lady and Tiny Tim’s school sweetheart, is doing her best to sell sprigs of holly to people hurrying by, many with their faces turned down from the wind and snow. She has been standing out in the cold now for hours with only a worn-thin shawl around her shoulders to protect her from the winter and patiently looking into each passing face and asking, “A bit of holly for your Christmas?”
Becky suddenly glanced down at her tattered dress and realised she had been unsuccessful at hiding a tear she had discovered that morning as she was getting dressed. She was mortified and embarrassed. For the thousandth time she asked herself why she had fallen so far. She simply did not know. First, one thing had gone wrong in her life. Then another. And another. As well-to-do ladies and gentlemen continued to walk past, many averted their eyes and pretended not to notice her shabbiness. Some would even casually cross the road so they would not have to pass her on the pavement and speak to her. But the worst were those who, with upturned noses, would openly display their disgust and disdain with cutting remarks making it quite clear to all their feelings on the matter of her presence in their street. As she stood in the middle of the pavement, for a small moment, the hurtful voices faded as Becky slipped into another world of her own thoughts.
At one time, she had been very happy. Although it was less than a decade ago, Becky remembered it like a caress. But the young man she so deeply loved was not suitable for her rich high-society family and they demanded she forget her feelings for him. But Becky never did. She remembered the words she had often spoken to him:
“Except for the times I breathe in, I think of you only when I breathe out...”
Now, after the distance of all these years, Becky sadly wondered if she ever crossed his mind. But being brought up in a proper home and believing and living the Christian tenet of ‘Honour the authors of thy being, thy Father and thy Mother,’ Becky was finally forced to agree to her family’s wishes for an arranged marriage to a successful, but older man she did not love. So that she would not have a chance to change her mind, her family whisked her away to their summer home up north to be married and away from any temptation to rashness.
Her new husband was, at first, a good and kindly man, but poor business decisions had begun to change him. As their fortunes had dwindled, so had his affections for his young wife and new-born son, James. As the years wore on, her husband’s kindness had turned to bitterness, then to anger, and finally to rage.
“Come here, girl...” he would often say before his hand would fly. “Take your medicine as you should. I shan’t ask you twice.”
Becky often took days to recover and once it was more than a week. She couldn’t understand why there weren’t any responses from the letters sent home to her family, and her husband feigned any knowledge as to why this would be. Then, one night, Becky saw all her letters opened and read in the hands of her husband. He didn’t speak and stared at her in a silence that frightened her as never before.
“Where’s James?” he now asked casually, which was cruelly at odds with his soulless and unblinking gaze that froze her heart and pinned her to the floor where she stood.
As she realised his anger was beginning to focus on her little boy, Becky took her son and fled in the middle of the night whilst her husband was asleep. Knowing he would be quickly notified by the stable hands if she tried to have the use of a carriage or even a horse, Becky decided to walk the 11 miles to town in the downpour of the rain that had started late that evening. She felt danger pressing her from all sides and she needed to act if she were to save their lives.
Soaked to the skin by the unrelenting rain despite her attempts to keep dry, and having to carry little Jimmy, Becky staggered through the English muck and mire, bloodied by her falls on the hard stones in her path. The fierce wind forced the trees into a frenzied dance and their branches groaned and swayed violently as if imploring the furious storm to abate its wrath. Paranoia forced her to look constantly over her shoulder and angry lightning presented malevolent creatures of shadows that seemed all too real to her panicked senses.
After several miles, she was exhausted and needed to rest, but the fear of being caught drove her insanely on. Then, in a moment of lucid clarity, the realisation came to her that she and Jimmy might not make it through the night and her courage stumbled. The storm’s rage repeatedly assailed her, mocking her weakness, screaming at her that she could not win, beating her down into the hard bones of the earth.
The weight of their rain-soaked clothes dragged Becky once more to the ground. This time, she lay still, prostrate in defeat, gasping for breath. She was beaten, the storm lashing her with ridicule and accusations. “Stay down,” she heard it say to her. “There’s no one to help you!”
Becky was betrayed by her fright and saw only blackness before her. But then in the darkness, deep down, she saw there the tiniest, smallest flame of courage... and reached for it.
In a gesture of rejection of the storm’s authority over her, Becky pulled herself and then Jimmy up, forcing themselves out of the clutches of the gripping mud, and pushed unsteadily forward. Time seemed elusive and only Becky’s many pains anchored her to reality, twisting her features as she continued to slip and fall.
Then, with faltering steps, Becky and Jimmy finally staggered into town and headed to the local inn where she hoped they might find information about a coach. Unable to take much money with her, Becky quickly sold what she had for the price of a carriage ride. After that, the money was gone, and she and Jimmy were now forced to use the dangerous roads on foot, eating anything they could find along the way to keep them alive. Pilfered table scraps meant for a family’s dog were often the main fare on their menu. But Becky didn’t care anymore. She was grateful. It had kept her and Jimmy alive. There were already many days where they did not eat at all.
Weeks later, when they finally arrived at her family home seeking help and sanctuary, Becky was met with scorn and derision. Considered a scandal in her family’s high-society circles, they violently disowned her and firmly closed the door in her bruised face.
The years passed and Jimmy — this was how Becky now addressed him — grew to young boyhood. He was the delight of her life and his smiling face made the long days working to secure enough food for a meagre meal for them all worthwhile. However, Becky knew time was not on their side. Their circumstances continued to fall and the opportunities to earn enough money to eat with a roof over their heads were not plentiful. The Public Workhouse for the Destitute was not far off in their futures and might soon become her and Jimmy’s final workplace and residence as it had for so many others whose misfortune it was to have their life’s journey end at the gates of that institution.
Overcome by a rush of anxiety and helplessness, Becky quickly covered her eyes with her hand trying desperately not to cry. She feared her persistent small cough would grow serious and that she would have to eventually leave Jimmy to fend for himself. He was already a bit smaller than the other boys his age. And too thin, way too thin, his ribs showing prominently on his small frame when he took off his shirt to wash-up. His prospects would not be good. Yet Becky believed in the fundamental goodness of life and refused to give up or give in to her desperation, although it would have been so easy to do.
Through these tough years, she had become acutely acquainted with despair, and recently she had felt the weight of this invisible companion more and more often than she would like to have admitted to herself. But she also knew despair was just an emotion like any other. It was the habit of despair that ultimately condemned a soul.
Becky found she could not, would not, walk down that path willingly. She pressed her lips firmly together in renewed determination. Her son, Jimmy, needed her. She would not abandon him. And she believed God was watching. If this life was a test, something she believed was true, she would try not to fail Him, at least in that.
Becky looked down at the pitiful amount of money she had earned thus far. Even the small price of two pence on her little handmade sign hadn’t brought many ‘yes’ answers. Still, she had enough now for some food for herself and her little boy—to make it to tomorrow.
“Tomorrow will be a better day,” she whispered to herself with hopeful words and hurried to buy some food to take home where a little boy is waiting.