Fiction: After A Christmas Carol

I’ve had people ask me so many times over the years about Mr. Scrooge.

“Bob, what happened to Mr. Scrooge? Why, he’s a changed man, he is!”

“What dirt did you find on the old man, eh Bob? You’ve really got him in a pinch, don’t ya?”

“What is he up to anyway, what’s his angle, Bob?”

“I can’t believe this is the same Ebeneezer Scrooge! What happened to him?”

So many ways to ask the same question about Mr. Scrooge!

I don’t blame them, really. I mean, for as long as I’d been his clerk he’d never changed one smidgen in the direction of charity and goodwill towards his fellow man, much less his employee. I’ve encountered everything from wonder to cynicism and it is all understandable. How amazed do you think those closest to him were? It was as if he had been resurrected from the dead by the Lord Himself!

Mr. Scroogewas assailed with such questions all the time, whether well-meaning or cynical it didn’t matter, he’d give a quiet laugh and a pleasant smile and tell them simply, “I’ve found out what matters in life, and though I spurned it or ignored it early on, I’ve found it not a second too late!” Indeed, he’d let them react however they wished and held no offense if they doubted. Many a time, I’d catch Mr. Scrooge quietly praying for souls that had been as he, or even less-so, praying that they, “With urgency, see the Light and Gift of Life that is before them, and not squander it as I did in my former life.” Bless him.

But what happened to Mr. Scrooge? How did he live his life afterward? Did he die?

Well he did die, eventually. We all do. But he passed on a Christmas Day, no less, many years after his transformation. But to those closest to him, who were there when he passed on: my dear wife, Abigail, our Tim (who was not so tiny anymore) and the rest of our children, not to mention his nephew, Fred and his kind wife, Laura, and a few close business and charity associates – it was not a time for sorrow. Mr. Scrooge had transformed so much that he embodied the Spirit of Christmas in everything he did, in every day and in every way. Though we miss him, and shed tears at his moment of passing, we were encouraged that he had moved on from this plane of existence into a Glory that was much better than the fate he escaped.

Ah, now I’ve gone and slipped up a bit, haven’t I?

How did I know about the fate he escaped, you’re wondering? You see, on Christmas Eve, before he passed, Mr. Scrooge finally let his secret out. If it hadn’t have been such a radical transformation in Mr. Scrooge, I don’t think any of us that was there would’ve believed the old man! But I get ahead of myself, that’s for another time.

Many Christmases ago, that first Christmas when Mr. Scrooge had me fearing for my job and thinking he had gone mad. The very same day that he raised my salary and made me his partner, he made good on his word from the start. The counting house had never been warmer before that day, both in merriment and by the generous fire Mr. Scrooge had ordered me to stoke up first thing before we got to work. And work that day, and since, was not a burden to carry on.

In the morning we discussed my position and duties as we rifled through his ledgers, cancelling debts of the poor who’d had the misfortune of doing business with Mr. Scrooge before that day, as well as generously rewrote the debts of larger sums who, before that day, had agreed to interest that was as close to usury as the law would allow. In a few hours time, it felt as if we’d gotten days of work done! In the afternoon, we gathered close to the coal fire and shared a lunch. As we ate, we talked of Tim, Tiny Tim. I told him more of his ailment, but the look on his face told me that he was listening to something that he already knew, yet he was so sincere in the listening. He assured me not to worry about Tim as he patted my hand and said, with eyes brimming with tears, that he was truly sorry for ignoring our plight for so long by his indifference toward the life of his clerk. He swore that Tim would get the best care that Mr. Scrooge could afford and that we would see our Tim grow up to be a strong lad.

There was something about the way Mr. Scrooge spoke and looked a fellow in the eye, such conviction, that we’d have believed anything he said.

A little later we drank together from a hot bowl of Smoking Bishop, just as Mr. Scrooge had said we would. Mr. Scrooge, aged as he was, had never looked younger to me. He had the look of a man relieved of the heaviest burden a soul could possibly bear. His eyes caught mine and we both smiled. There was a pleasantness in his eyes, yet the urgency and gravity of a man carefully tending a fire in the midst of a snowstorm, lest it be quenched. And then in a flash, he was up again, pacing before me and sipping his drink.

“I’m so full of ideas that I don’t know what to do with myself, Bob!” Scrooge said as he came to a halt and stared into the fire.

“Well, Mr. Scrooge, what do you want to do?”

It was as if his brain was a cauldron, piping hot and bubbling with all the possibilities. Just then, a man came in to the counting house.

“Mr. Scrooge?” It was the gentleman that Scrooge wasn’t so hospitable to on Christmas Eve, the portly fellow who had been collecting for the poor. Mr. Scrooge animatedly went and greeted him, and to my surprise the gentleman returned his greeting just as eagerly.

“You came, you came! Bless me, you came!”

“But of course, Mr. Scrooge! By the look in your eyes, I knew you were in earnest when you made your promise yesterday and as God as my witness I would not let you down!”

I had stood, at the fellow’s entrance into our counting house, and had remained standing in wonder. Mind you, I was still amazed as each moment passed with Mr. Scrooge that day. It was as if I was a clerk for a new Master. Just then, Mr. Scrooge turned to me and said, “Bob! Pour our honored guest some of our drink and come meet this gentleman properly!”

I came as instructed and we all stood about making formal introductions. Mr. Scrooge lowered his voice and informed me as to what he had planned for our guest and I must admit it made me stumble a bit. Mr. Scrooge looked almost embarrassed.

“I do not seek glory for this, Bob, but I am glad you are here to witness and assist. Because of the nature of what we are doing, I would like you to personally escort this fine gentleman back to his offices where the funds can be carefully secured. I do not want our friend here to fall victim to anyone, and two are better than one to carry it and execute the task. Besides you are much younger and more strapping than I!”

“You have my word, Mr. Scrooge, it shall be done.”

“Good, Bob! I’ve no doubt. But first, let us all stay warm by the fire and discuss how our establishment can help the poor and destitute each Christmas, and not only then, but throughout the year!”

This apparently was one of the ideas he had bubbling in his brain as he had paced the floor before Henry, our guest, had arrived. He was using his shrewd business sense for good now, to find ways to make their money go further and how our enterprise could partner with Henry’s. We were so enraptured by our conspiratory conversation and by Mr. Scrooge’s endless excitement that it was half-past the hour to close by the time we realized that night had fallen. I escorted good old Henry back to his offices with the donation and we parted ways with a hearty handshake once he had secured everything safely inside.

Though the night was colder than a couple days ago, I felt no chill, there was warmth to spare inside of me. When I reached home, I was greeted warmly by Abigail and the children. Everyone spoke excitedly, almost all at once about the visitation of a new doctor to examine our Tim. Tim excitedly showed me his new crutch and leg braces. All I could do was laugh with joy. He’s a crafty fellow, Mr. Scrooge, and as I just said, all his craftiness and cunning that he’d used for becoming so miserly and so rich, he was now using for good. And over the years, he’d teach me in word and deed, how to be as cunning as a serpent yet as gentle as a dove – all for the good of mankind. There were much tears that night, joyful tears mind you, as I then recalled all that had happened in the counting house earlier. One of the children asked why Mr. Scrooge was adamant that nobody really know about the amount of the gift to the poor and who it was from and that Henry keep it a secret too.

“Well,” says I, “Mr. Scrooge said, ‘It is not for fame of for glory that I do this and it doesn’t matter who it is from as long as the gift is given! I owe it to mankind, as do we all owe each other kindess, charity and goodwill. These things are the right things to do and to owe each other. Albeit, I’m past due on what I owe my fellow man and I intend to pay it, down to the last farthing with interest!”

Tim spoke up, “It sounded silly when I heard it, but the Priest talked about not letting a left hand know what a right hand is doing. I think that is what Mr. Scrooge is doing, he doesn’t want rewards from people, he just wants to do good.”

“Tim,” said I, “You continually surprise us all with that wise heart and mind of yours. God Bless you, son!”

We feasted on the food that Mr. Scrooge had delivered to us on Christmas Day, as well as more that had been delivered without my knowing today. We all knew it was Mr. Scrooge, though the delivery boy was adamant about the anonymity of the giver. I was so proud of my Abigail, Mr. Scrooge had, in his excitement, had delivered too many oranges and bread loaves for us to consume before they would go bad, so Abigail had the children and her visit all our neighbors to share in our good fortune!

Starting the next day through New Year’s Day, we visited all of Mr. Scrooge’s debtors, informing them of the good news – whether cancellation of debt or rewriting of their contract – and along with that, Mr. Scrooge had us pick up gifts as he saw fit for each. Sometimes it was a bottle of wine, sometimes it was food and clothing, or an accompanying doctor with all expenses paid. Here was Mr. Scrooge, doing exactly for them, all he had done for me and my family, my heart was so full I could hardly bear it! And at every visit, Mr. Scrooge sternly warned them to not tell a soul what had been done for them.

Rather,” He said, “As you have had this done to you freely, do something good for your fellow man. Do it freely, and do it cheerfully! It doesn’t matter the size, what matters is the heart in the doing. God Bless you, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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