`Because it needs it most.'

`Spirit,' said Scrooge, after a moment's thought, `I wonder you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment.'

`I?' cried the Spirit.

`You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,' said Scrooge. `Wouldn't you?'

`I?' cried the Spirit.

`You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day,' said Scrooge. `And it comes to the same thing!'

`I seek?' exclaimed the Spirit.

`Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family,' said Scrooge.

`There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned the Spirit, `who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.'

Scrooge promised that he would; and they went on, invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of the town. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Scrooge had observed at the baker's), that notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he could have done in any lofty hall.

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge's clerk's; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinkling of his torch. Think of that. Bob had but fifteen bob a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house.

Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob's private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.

`What has ever got your precious father then?' said Mrs Cratchit. `And your brother, Tiny Tim. And Martha warn't as late last Christmas Day by half-an-hour.'

`Here's Martha, mother,' said a girl, appearing as she spoke.

`Here's Martha, mother!' cried the two young Cratchits. `Hurrah! There's such a goose, Martha!'

`Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!' said Mrs Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.

`We'd a deal of work to finish up last night,' replied the girl, `and had to clear away this morning, mother.'

`Well! Never mind so long as you are come,' said Mrs Cratchit. `Sit ye down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye.'

`No, no. There's father coming,' cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. `Hide, Martha, hide!'

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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