As we have considered the monocle, the lorgnette, and the pince nez, I suppose we should get around to plain old everyday eyeglasses.  Spectacles, you might say.  Cheaters, as once they were known.

     As someone who has worn glasses for, oh, a good twenty years (I know 1963 was a while back, but there must have been twenty GOOD years in all that) I am shocked and grieved, but hardly surprised, to see the role played by glasses-wearers in postcards of the comic variety.  They are generally a) old, n)unattractive, and/or c) slow on the uptake.

     Maybe it’s all been a plot by the makers of contact lenses, but glasses belong to the irate wife, the irritable parents, and the bystander with mouth hanging open at what the hero with free-range eyes is doing in the cartoon.

     In fact, it is only the exceptional postcard which even lets someone wearing glasses deliver the punchline.  (And here, for example, it’s based on someone not understanding an expression used by someone else.)

     The person with glasses who gives us the worldly wisdom is sadder and only mildly wiser, the sort of person things happen to.

     Maybe we associate glasses, as we discussed while studying the pince nez, with people in authority, and it’s more fun to see the dignity of someone wearing glasses under attack.

     Schoolteachers are certainly a symbol of authority, and they frequently have a pair of glasses with which to look down that autocratic nose.

     Mom or Dad, being both figures of authority AND older than our protagonist, are obviously key candidates for glasses in a cartoon.

     I was curious, at first, about why so many people with glasses (besides sunglasses) seem to turn up at the beach.  I suspect it’s because older people in bathing suits are supposed to be funny from the outset, so why not slap spectacles on them while you’re at it?

     There’s a lot going on in this postcard, for example, but making the straight man small, balding, and bespectacled at least provides a good reaction shot (if you can tear your eyes away from that remarkable bikini.)

     You hardly ever find a person wearing glasses who is the clever wise guy in a postcard.  And, after all, in this one he’s pushed his glasses back on his forehead, perhaps to help show he’s not one of those slow-brained dubs you see in the other cards.

Screen Scrooges: Another Chance for Ebenezer

     Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly.

     “Hear me!” cried the Ghost.  “My time is nearly gone.”

     “I will,” said Scrooge.  “But don’t be hard upon me!  Don’t be flowery, Jacob!  Pray!”

     “How is it that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may not tell.  I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day.”

     It was not an agreeable idea.  Scrooge shivered, and wiped the perspiration from his brow.

     “That is no little part of my penance,” pursued the Ghost.  “I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate.  A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.”

“You were always a good friend to me,” said Scrooge.  “Thank’ee!”

     “You will be haunted,” resumed the Ghost, “By three spirits.”

     Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost’s had done.

     “Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?” he demanded, in a faltering tone.

     “It is.”

     “I—I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.

     “Without their visits,” said the Ghost, “you cannot hope to shun the path I tread.  Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls one.”

     “Couldn’t I take ‘em all at once and have it over, Jacob?”  hinted Scrooge.

     “Expect the second on the next night at the same hour.  The third upon the next night, when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate.  Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!”

     When it had said these words, the spectre took its wrapper from the table, and bound it round its head, as before.  Scrooge knew this, by the smart sound its teeth made, when the jaws were brought together by the bandage.  He ventured to raise his eyes again, and found his supernatural visitor confronting him in an erect position, with its chain wound over and about its arm.

     We run into a couple of problems here.  One is mere interpretation: Screen Scrooges who bother with the line “Don’t be hard upon me” use it as if Marley were in a position to pass judgement, whereas Dickens’s Scrooge was just asking Marley not to sermonize.  And that line about “look that, for your own sake, you remember” is almost always taken as an order to look out the window at the spectacle discussed in the next section.

     The other is a matter of timing.  Each ghost to come is going to give Scrooge roughly a day’s worth of visions, but how can you show all that onscreen?  Some filmmakers leave the line alone, and assume you know you’re not getting a 74-hour movie.  Others squeeze all the ghosts into one night, which would be all right if it didn’t make a dope out of Scrooge who, waking up at the end, asks what day it is and is thrilled he hasn’t missed Christmas.  One or two compromise versions have Marley simply state the time of the first ghost’s arrival, and let things move on from there.


     “Hear me!” Marley cries to Sim II.  “I will, I will!” says Scrooge, taking no time for the objections so loved in other versions.  He is then merely told to expect the ghosts just as Dickens wrote it.

     Stewart looks extremely uncomfortable at the thought of an invisible Marley sitting next to him.  The three ghosts are scheduled much as in the text.  Then Marley tightens his chinstrap, to Scrooge’s obvious revulsion


     Owen is told “My time grows short.”  “If you must go, Jacob, don’t let me keep you.”  Marley explains how sitting invisible in the counting house has been no light part of the penance; Scrooge mops his brow.  Marley tells Scrooge there is one chance; having heard it, Scrooge says he’d rather not.  Marley starts moving backward.  “Jacob, don’t leave me yet!” Scrooge pleads, “Jacob!”  Scrooge is told to expect the first ghost “when the clock tolls one, the second on the stroke of two, the third on the last vibration of three.”  Scrooge inquires whether he can’t take ‘em all at once, but Marley is now turning to the window.

     Marley tells Rathbone that he has come to warn Scrooge that there is still a chance.  Scrooge smiles and even chuckles a bit at this, but his face falls when he hears about the ghosts.  Je is told to expect the first when the bell tolls once, the second when the bell tolls twice, and the third when the bell tolls thrrrrrrrrice.  Marley now backs away almost smiling.

     Haddrick is told the first ghost will come tomorrow when the bell tolls one, the second at the stroke of two, and the third at three of the clock.

     Finney is caught u[p in Marley’s chain and taken for a ride among the wandering spirits; he thows up his hands in horror.  When he takes his hands down, he is in his own room.  Realizing it was all a dream, he reaches out to relight his candle.  But when he gets there, the candle is lit, and Marley sits next to it, saying, “It’s not a dream, Ebenezer.”  “For pity’s sake, leave me alone!”  “It was for pity’s sake I came here.”  Scrooge is told there is  just the tiniest chance of escaping Marley’s fate.  (Marley is clearly convinced Scrooge will NOT escape.)  Scrooge is to expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one, the second at two o’clock, and the third—Marley has to stop a moment and count—when the bell tolls three.

     Matthau is informed he still has time to repent.  “How?”  “Tonight, you will be haunted by three ghosts.”  He is told to expect the first when the bell tolls one.

     McDuck’s Marley is brief and to the point.  “Tonight, you will be haunted by three spirits.”  He holds up two fingers.  “Listen to ‘em.  Do what they say.  Or your chains will be heavier than mine!”

     Scott smiles spasmodically, dubiously, when he learns Marley has, as part of his penance, procured him a chance.  The ghosts will appear “tonight, when the bell tolls one.”  Scrooge asks if he could take ‘em all at once.  “Expect the second at the stroke of two’ the third, more mercurial, shall appear in his own good time.”


     Hicks is informed, “You will be visited by three spirits.  Without their visits you cannot hope to shun the path I tread.  You shall behold visions of a Christmas past, a Christmas Present, and a Christmas Yet To Come.  Expect the first when the clock strikes midnight.”

     Marley takes his leave after telling Sim I “Expect the first when the bell tolls one.”

     March is dismayed at the prospect of the visits.  “Three more spirits?  Oh no1  I’d rather not, Jacob!”  “If you let them help you, you may yet shun the path I tread.”  He is given no timetable.

     Magoo is told to expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one.  “Couldn’t I take ‘em all at once, and have it over, Jacob?”  Marley wails in reply, and sails out the window.

     Caine is informed, “You will be haunted by three ghosts.”  “I’ve already had enough of that.”  “Expect the first tonight when the bell tolls one.”  “Can’t I have ‘em all at once, and get it over with?”  “When the bell tolls one!”

     Curry is unmoved by a glimpse of the wandering spirits, refuses to believe Marley’s visit can do him any good, and declines any visits from ghosts.  “I like chains!  No ghosts!”  “Expect the first when the bell tolls one!” cries Marley, vanishing in a curl of flame and smoke.

Looking Glasses

     Whilst checking through my inventory for postcards showing monocles, I observed that there have been several ways of holding lenses up to one’s face.  Ordinary glasses or spectacles spread the burden between ears and nose, while the monocle is held in place with the muscles of the face.  But there have been other alternatives.

     The lorgnette allows you to hold the lenses up with a handle.  This device came about somewhere around 1700, and got its name from another word, though experts disagree whether it comes from a word for peeking at someone sideways, for squinting, or for using a ship’s telescope.  It seems to have been intended primarily for women, who were not supposed to wear spectacles in public.  A nice lorgnette was the answer.  It quickly became a device of the upper classes, either for opera going or just for peering at fellow creatures on whom one was going to pass judgement.

     And so the lorgnette became a sign that the bearer was rich and probably snooty.  This is possibly the single most popular image of a lorgnette in the history of postcards.

     The pince-nez, or pinch nose, style has its own space in cultural history.  It may be the oldest type of eyeglasses, and is also the hardest to hold in place.  It served both men and women, and may have been related to the social trends which felt it was rather antisocial for anyone to wear glasses when out in public.  These could be removed when you didn’t especially need them to see where you were going, and be donned for close work.

     They became associated with people who did a lot of reading: university students, say.

     This also meant people who went to school for a long time might wear a pince-nez.  Doctors were frequently shown wearing them.

     Even in the operating room.  (That string, often a silk ribbon, hanging from one end was to make sure they didn’t go too far when falling off the face…kind of a good idea when doing surgery.)

     A pince nez could be removed and waved around in the hand while speaking to a patient, for dramatic impact, or used to tap a report on the desk.

     Anyone with authority, like a doctor or lawyer, was associated with the pince nez.  It became another accessory of the moneyed classes, of those in authority.

     The master of the household wore them.

     A schoolteacher was a candidate both through authority AND heavy reading.

     Dear old dad’s pince nez gave him that same air of authority.

     Even if all he was in charge of was the driving.

     And of course when you want a bit of philosophy to make your life run more smoothly, it sounds better if that comes from someone with a pince nez.  Shows he’s a man of vision.

Screen Scrooges: Sufferings of the Late Mr. Marley

     “It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.  It is doomed to wander through the world-ah, woe is me!-and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”

     Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.

     “You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling.  “Tell me why?”

     “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost, “I made it link by link, and yard by yard’ I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.  Is its pattern strange to YOU?”

     Scrooge trembled more and more.

     “Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the chain you bear yourself?  It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christas Eves ago.  You have laboured on it, since.  It is a ponderous chain!”

     Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in expectation fo finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable, but he could see nothing.

    “Jacob,” he said, imploringly, “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more.  Speak comfort to me, Jacob.”

     “I have none to give,” the Ghost replied.  “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men.  Nor can I tell you what I would.  A very little more is all permitted to me.  I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere.  My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house—mark me!—in life my spirit never moved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole;; and weary journeys lie before me!”

     It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets.  Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees.

     “You must have been very slow about it, Jacob, Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though with humility and deference.

     “Slow!” the Ghost repeated.

     “Seven years dead,” used Scrooge.  “And traveling all the time?”

     “The whole time,” said the Ghost.  “No rest, no peace.  Incessant torture of remorse.”

     “You travel fast?” said Scrooge.

     “On the wings of the wind,” replied the Ghost.

     “You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years,” said Scrooge.

     The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.”

     “Oh!  Captive-bound and doubled—ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed.  But to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness.  Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity missed!  And such was I!  Oh!  Such was I!”

     “But you were always a good man of business, Jacon,” faultered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

     :Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.  “Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

     It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were the cause of al this unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

     “At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said, “I suffer most.  Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?  Were there no poo houses to which its light would have conducted ME!”

     The movies, still in a hurry to get to the GOOD ghosts, cut most of this away.  Everyone pretty much likes “I wear the chain I forged in life” and “Business!  Mankind was my business!”, though there seems to be an irresistible urge to touch these speeches up to clarify what Dickens SHOULD have meant by them.  Otherwise, a brief allusion to the sufferings of this ghost, for the purposes of terrifying Scrooge, is all that is left pf the rest.

     Hicks’s Marley gets only as far as “I have none to give” before saying he is here to warn Scrooge, to save him, if possible.  “From what?”  “From such a fate as mine: to wander through the world.”  “But you were always a good man of business.”  Marley can then explain, “Mankind should have been my business, as it should be yours.”

     Owen watches warily though Marley’s recitation, and grows a bit hangdog by the end.  Marley is apparently rendered deadpan by his suffering; he does get to explain how hard he has been travelling these seven years.

     Sim I’s Marley now seems to be in thorough agony, and is perhaps a bit mad as well’ all his dialogue comes in face-twisting moans.  Sim grovels very low before him, trying to hide behind the collar of his dressing gown now and then; he says Marley has his sympathy.  The section about Marley’s travels is omitted.

     Marcj’s Marley summarizes the various speeches about his travels at the start, and is told by Scrooge, “You wear a chain.  Why?”  “I wear the chain I forged in life; a chain of useless things.”  Marley recalls some of the villainies he perpetrated, and goes on, “If you died tonight Ebenezer, you would wear such a chain, only longer, stronger.”  Marley staggers a bit under the weight of the fetters.  “What can I do, Jacob?  Speak comfort to me!”  Marley replies that he has none to give, and goes on a little more about raveling: why did he always have his eyes on the ground and his mind on the account books?  He drags p part of his chain, which includes the account book itself.  He opens it to point out the “thousands” of injustices committed by the fir of Scrooge and Marley.

     Rathbone listens as Marley reveals that he must wander the earth and witness what he cannot share, but might have shared and turned to happiness.  “I wear the chain of selfishness I forged in life.”  He explains how he forged it link by link and yard by yard, and makes mention of the length and weight of Scrooge’s own chain.  Scrooge asks for words of comfort, and is told these come from other regions.

     Magoo’s Marley is brief and, shall we say, businesslike.  There is time only for the inquiry about fetters, and the wailing for one captive-bound and double-ironed.    They don’t even make time for “You were always a good man of business”.  Marley hurries right along to the reason he’s here.

     Haddrick’s Marley keeps fading in and out; Scrooge spends time fiddling with his snuffbox.  Though they skipped gravy and the grave, they do keep a lot of this section.  This Marley must wear chains “as proof of my foolishness”.  And he adds “If only you could realize that Christmas spirit is an opportunity to make the chain lighter.  I didn’t, and look!”  From this we work our way back to “You were always a good man of business” and the rest.

     Sim II, like Haddrick, angles the scene so we are watching Scrooge THROUGH the ghost of Marley.  His Marley continues to speak without any movement of jaw or lips; being dead, ne needn’t observe such niceties, and, anyhow, his jaw dropped too far open when he removed the chinstrap.  He wears the chain he bore in life, and Scrooge tells him he was always a good man of business.  He is one of the few Marleys to mention the Blessed Star from the text, though he omits the rest of the line.

     Finney demands, “Why do you walk the earth?  Why do you come to persecute me?  And what is this great chain you wear?”  Marley really relishes explaining the chain, adding, “And I can never be rid of it any more than you will ever be rid of yours.”  When he notes that comfort comes from other regions, and is conveyed by other messengers to other kinds of men, he raises his hands to block his view of Scrooge.  On being told that he was always a good man of business, he replies, “Mankind should be our business, Ebenezer, but we seldom attend to it, as you shall see.”

     Matthau’s Marley commands “Look at me!  Condemned to walk the  earth in death because I wasted my life!”  “Wasted?  How, dear old Marley?”  “I helped myself to money instead of helping my neighbor (sob) and so I wear this chain of greed and heartlessness I forged in life.”  There follows a song—“I Wear a Chain”—during which we flash back to scenes of the young Scrooge and Marley gleefully evicting people, collecting money from the poor (presumably widows and orphans), and so forth.  He warns Scrooge about the chain, and is told, “But business is business.”  Marley cries, “Mankind should have been my business!”

     McDuck is treated to a brief version of the “good man of business” section, Marley complaining that in life “I robbed the widows and swindled the poor.”  “And all in the same day,” notes an admiring Scrooge, “Oh, you had class, Jacob.”  Marleys agrees but then remembers why he’s here.  “I was wrong!  And so, as punishment, I’m forced to carry these heavy chains through eternity.  Maybe even longer!  No hope!  I’m doomed!  Doomed!  And the same thing will happen to you, Ebenezer Scrooge!”

     Scott’s Marley explains his mission, his lips starting to tremble.  A wail of anguish breaks from him.  When Scrooge is told about his own chain, he complains that he sees no chains.  “Mine,” says Marley, “Were invisible until the day of my death.”  We jump from “I have none to give” to “You were always a good man of business.”  Scrooge seems not to be applying Marley’s woeful words to himself; he simply says he is sorry for Marley, and asks if there is anything he can do for his old partner.

     Caine’s Marley Brothers, Jacob and Robert, break into the song “Narley and Marley”, a number which regrets a life of exploitation compounding the agonies of the poor and homeless.  Chains leap up around Scrooge to show him his own peril; the strongboxes sing along.  Both ghosts seem exuberant at the outset, but their anguish deepens as the song rolls along.

     Curry’s Marley says he is here to warn Scrooge; Scrooge demands to know the meaning of “all this hardware”.  Marley explains that he wears the chain he forged in life, and points to individual links, recalling what he did to earn them.  A green spark leaps from his finger to each ink he indicates.  When told he wears such a chain, Scrooge complains that he sees no such chain.  “I can,” intones Marley.  Marley then proceeds to the section about it being required of every man that his spirit walk abroad.  He mentions the woman and child Scrooge spurned earlier.  Scrooge snarls “It’s not my business.”  “Mankind is our business,” Marley informs him.

     Stewart’s Marley is weary beneath the weight of iron and remorse; it causes pain, apparently, for hi even to talk about it.  He describes his WN chain as ponderous, and tells Scrooge that Scrooge’s chain is worse.  Scrooge, looking around for a chain and seeing none, seems to reproach Marley for making joes.  At one point, Scrooge even breaks into a speech of marley’s with, “Jacob, I don’t understand why you’re suffering.  All your life you were a good man of business.”  “That’s why I am suffering.  The suffering I caused others is being repaid.”  Scrooge is adamant: “Jacob, it was business!”  Marley points out that mankind is our business, and begins to speak of the common good.  Scrooge grins.  He’s heard this sort of thing before, and even Marley isn’t going to sell it to him.

FUSS FUSS FUSS #7: The Late Great Fashion Plate

     For once in this story, Dickens is fairly specific about a character’s looks.  He can afford to be: this character is going to disappear after this chapter and not come back (until the publication of sequels involving him, but those come from other regions.)  Most screen Marleys make at least a token attempt to follow Dickens’s specifications.  Whether or not he uses it, Marley almost always wears a chinstrap, and most are well-dressed in the style of a previous generation, with high collars, occasionally alarming neckcloths (see Rathbone’s Marley, who also seems to be wearing his chinstrap almost as a bonnet) and, in the case of Stewart’s Marley, highly polished boots.  The spectacles are less consistent, while only Magoo’s Marley, who seems to have left his false teeth at home, has an obvious ponytail.  (It’s hard to tell if Finney’s Marley has a pigtail or if that’s a rat disappearing into his hair.)  Oddly, only Goofy, as McDuck’s Marley, is clearly wearing the tights mentioned by the author.

     The color of Marley’s clothes is hard to determine, since a lot of these ghosts are transparent.  Some are dressed all in white, to represent ghostliness as well as to provide a contrast to Scrooge’s darkness.  Curry’s Marley, though, is a full-color portrait of a late nineteenth-century robber baron, complete with handlebar mustache.  This mustache, like his hair, changes color throughout the show.  He is grey in the portrait in Scrooge’s office, but during the scene in Scrooge’s quarters, grey is the one color his hair is not, black or green in the fireplace tiles, red when he pops into full view.

     Dickens is not so terribly definite about the chain, which is merely long and heavy and made of office supplies.  Screen Marleys have chains which vary in all these particulars, from Haddrick’s Marley, who wears a thin band of itrong links with keys and one strongbox, to Scott’s Marley, who has trouble walking for all this dead ironmongery; the chain is barely visible under all the strongboxes.  McDuck’s Marley boasts a modest chain, on which hang one ledger, one strongbox, and one piggy bank, which Scrooge shakes to find out if there’s anything inside.  One or two Marleys wear the chain as a belt, but most are wound up in the links, which are fastened behind their backs with padlocks.  Sim II’s Marley carries loops and loops of chain.

     Most Marleys appear to be at least as old as Scrooge.  Matthau and Sim I also show us the young Marley; in both he seems to be a contemporary of his partner.  Caine’s Marley Brothers are to be seen later, in the scene of Fozziwig’s Party, where they are called “lads”, though one sports a thick mustache.  They seem to be about Scrooge’s age in that scene, but are visibly much older than he when they appear as ghosts.  The torments of the damned are probably not conducive to a youthful complexion.

Plant Thou No Roses

            Meredith sat up and cursed.  When WOULD he remember to push back the lid of the casket first?

            Once the obstruction had been pushed aside, he stretched his arms and sighed.  This was, of course, only his second day in the tomb.  There would be time to work out the details.

            Last night’s brief inspection indicated his instructions had been followed to the letter.  Most intimidating suit, imposing silk tie (no mirror, of course, so this inventory had taken extra time), contents of his pockets just as they were when he strode through the office….

He checked his Rolex, which had been entombed with him even though Cousin Alice had lusted after it.  Past midnight: it was safe to climb out and check his new home more thoroughly.  No sunlight could penetrate this far anyhow.  Meredith just wanted to keep quiet.  If he did too much during the day, some passerby might hear the pop of a champagne cork and wonder.

            Last night, he had merely checked the placement of the furniture and the contents of wine cellar.  His hungers and thirsts would be different now: he knew that.  Most life extension programs involved a change of diet.  But he had found to his pleasure that he could still enjoy a glass of champagne and a couple of chocolate truffles, simply to salute his new life after death.

It had taken him months to plan this sanctuary, but years to achieve his goal.  For beings so omnipresent on cable, vampires were reclusive and not very cooperative.  Fortunately, money remained a good lubricant.

Meredith considered the mountain of boxes: yesterday he had just nudged them a little, verifying they were full.  The earphones sat with the sound system, but there should be plenty of music and television on the discs packed away.  (No cable or Internet here: such things were traceable.)  Books, thousand-piece jigsaws, magazines: amusements to keep him occupied as he sat back in his favorite chair.

He switched on the lamp as he passed, more for the familiar glow than that he needed it, with his newfound nightsight.  A vampire needn’t spend ALL his waking time on the prowl for delectable prey.  Especially not once he had established his army of undead slaves, who could do the hunting for him, commute and all.  (Damn city planners: they never put unhallowed ground in a really convenient location.)

            Pity he had to start with his Becky, his airheaded niece.  Biddable she was, but she had trouble getting through the Junior Jumble.  Nice torso—he knew just which of her dresses he would order her to be entombed in so he’d have something to look at when she wasn’t out luring men to this lonely place.  She had obviously insisted on following his will down to every last particular.  AND she had gotten the vintages right on the wines.  True, not to give her too much credit, he HAD written it all out for her, just as he had directed her to make sure there were no Bibles mixed among the books, nor Father Brown nor Reverend Randolph stories among the mysteries.  But for someone whose MBA he had bought to read the wine labels (lips moving the whole time, no doubt) and not make mistakes: well, perhaps he could name her Assistant Imperial Supervisor of the slaves or something.

            His chair looked inviting.  He walked past it to the tall, stainless steel refrigerator.  A nice bit of Gouda, a glass of wine, and something to read would serve to pass the time.  Meredith had decided not to try venturing outside for a few days: there had been too many reporters at the funeral, all abuzz about the crazy rich man and his eccentric burial.  A few of them would serve in his army.  He had amused himself during the funeral thinking through a few things :serve” would cover.

Having selected  the right wine to accompany this Gouda, he set them down on the end table and turned again to the stack of boxes.  The topmost said “Magazines”.  He nodded.  Another nice thing about the life of an undead: he would have time to catch up on all his New Yorkers.

The lid tore away from the box at a touch: he’d have to watch this new strength when he turned pages.  Ah, these would do nicely.  Feeling with one hand for his mechanical pencil, he used the other to take up first half dozen magazines.

These tumbled to the floor as he leapt back in pain.  Skin peeled back from his fingers, releasing steam.  His dimming eyes searched the floor for a clue.  Search-a-Word, Trivia Masters, Maze Quest….

His chest heaved with the collapse of his lungs and heart.  She should have thought of this.  HE should have thought of this.

CROSSword puzzles!

Cute Overdose

     Now, in nature, children and small animals are not necessarily the best of friends.  It depends a lot on that first encounter.  Are they going to be in competition or cahoots? 

     Sometimes likes repel, after all.

     But the world of postcards and the world of what we consider reality both see that what we have are two types of small creature which are difficult to control, hard to train, and given to impulsive action.  So they can become fast friends, in a bond which is no less deep for being impulsive.  Postcards display all the facets of the polished gem of camaraderie.

     A friend is aware when you get hungry, and will jump in to help out.

     Even if that means giving up part of their own food supply.

     It’s share and share alike among buddies.

     You can count on it.

     A friend will give you advice on personal care.

     A friend will be in sympathy with your mood when you are worried, sad, or feeling neglected.

     Your friend and you form a team, united against mysterious powers over which you have no control.

     A friend has your back in times of need, always standing with you when the rest of the world has doubts.

     In short, a friend will give you reasons to get up in the morning.

Screen Scrooges: Jacob Marley

     After several turns, he sat down again.  As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in this room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building.  It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing.  It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.

     This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour.  The bells ceased as they had begun, together.  They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant’s cellar.  Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

      The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below, then coming up the stars; then coming straight towards his door.

     “It’s humbug still!” said Scrooge.  “I won’t believe it.”

     His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes.  Upon its coming up, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried “I know him!  Marley’s Ghost!” and fell again.

     The same face, the very same.  Marley in his pig-tail, usual waistcoat, tights, and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pig-tail, and his coat-skirts, and the haor upon his head.  The chain he bore was clasped about his middle.  It was long, and wound about him like a tail, and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.  His body was transparent: so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

     Scrooge had often heard it said the Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

     No, nor did he believe it even now.  Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes, and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.

     “How now!” said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever, “What do you want with me?”

     “Much!”—Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.

     “Who are you?”

     “Ask me who I was.”

     “Who WERE you, then?” said Scrooge, raising his voice.  “You’re particular—for a shade.”  He was going to say “to a shade”, but substituted this, as more appropriate.

     “In life, I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”

     “Can you—can you sit down?” asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at him.

     “I can.”

     “Do it then.”

     Scrooge asked the question, because he didn’t know whether a ghost so transparent might find himself able to take a chair; and felt that in the event of its being impossible, ot might involve the necessity of an embarrassing explanation.  But the Ghost sat down on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he were quite used to it.

     “You don’t believe in me,” remarked the Ghost.

     “I don’t,” said Scrooge.

     “What evidence would you have of my reality, beyond that of your senses?”

     “I don’t know,” said Scrooge.

     “Why do you doubt your senses?”

     “Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them.  A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat.  You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.  There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

     Scrooge weas not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then.  The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror, for the spectre’s voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.

     To sit, staring at these fixed, glazed eyes, in silence for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him.  There was something very awful, too, in the spectre’s being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own.  Scrooge could not feel it himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the Ghost sat perfectly motioness, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated by the hot vapour from an oven.

     “You see this toothpick?” said Scrooge, returning quickly to the charge, for the reason just assigned, and wishing, though it were only for a moment, to diovert the vision’s stony gaze from himself.

     “I do,” replied the Ghost.

     “You are not looking at it,” said Scrooge.

     “But I see it,” said the Ghost, “nonetheless.”

     “Well!: returned Scrooge, “I have but to swallow this, and be for the rest of my days persecuted by a legion of goblins, all of my own creation.  Humbug, I tell you—humbug!”

     At this, the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chains with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon.  But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round his head, as if it were too warm to wear in-doors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast.

  Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.

     “Mercy!” he said.  “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”

     “Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do you believe in me or not?”

     “I do,” said Scrooge.  “I must.  But why do spirits walk the world, and why do they come to me?”

     Look at that atmosphere.  Look at the timing.  Look at the way Dickens builds up Marley’s menace.  And look quick, because you won’t see much of it on screen.  As far as filmmakers are concerned, except for removing the head bandage customary for a Victorian corpse, Marley doesn’t do much for them but talk.  They frequently take away even his main ghostly power—walking through the door—because making bolts slide back by themselves is more dramatic.  They like the chinstrap, Scrooge’s discussion of indigestion (especially that line about more of gravy than of grave)and they keep Marley’s cry—sometimes anger, sometimes despair—right after that, but they really want to get on with this so we can see more active ghosts.

    To save you the trouble of checking these things on the Interwebs: “particular to a shade” was a phrase meaning someone was extremely particular; Dickens makes Scrooge one of those miserable sinners who indulges in puns.  In ancient days, when love was believed to reside in the heart and intellect in the brain, compassion as considered a function of the bowels, so that Marley, when living, was accused of having none of that quality, and Dickens is again making a little joke.  Some filmmakers get his and some can’t be bothered.  Oh, and that chinstrap was meant to hold the lower jaw up so the dead person did not lie open-mouthed through the viewing and funeral; there is, eerily, a deathbed sketch of Dickens himself, who is wearing just such a chinstrap.

     Hicks is troubled, suspicious, as a bell starts to ring.  The sound grows louder, more violent; his face becomes one of solid fear.  He runs to the window, to look below and see if someone is ringing his doorbell.  His bedroom door swings open, and a voice intones, “Look well, Ebenezer Scrooge, for only you can see me.”  (There’s no one else in the room except, of course, those of us in the audience.)  From the moment his name is pronounced, Scrooge believes implicitly.  He needs no further convincing, so the rest of this passage is omitted.

     When Owen looks at the swinging bell-pull, it stops.  “Humbug!”  It begins again, and the sound is joined by that of a church bell, and some alarm bells, outside.  Mystified, Scrooge looks around; the sound stops short.  Booming steps approach, and Marley steps through the door.  He is well-dressed but transparent, with a face like that of a bad-tempered cat.  Scrooge trembles.  They discuss Marley’s existence; Scrooge does not mention gravy and the grave.  When Scrooge refuses to believe, Marley cries out in despair.  Scrooge orders him to be quiet, and runs to the window to call the nghtwatch.  Marley seems offended; he made this visit for Scrooge’s benefit.  When the watchmen arrive, there is, of course, no ghost to be seen; the head watchman suggests that Scrooge has been indulging in other spirits.  The three old soaks then suggest they wouldn’t mind a sip of what Scrooge was enjoying.  Scrooge orders them out; as soon as they have left, Marley reappears.  Scrooge now believes, but is more angry than frightened.

     At another moan of “Scrooge!”, Sim I lets his spoon drop into his bowl.  Odd noises move him to clean his ears with his little fingers.  Now he is sure he hears a bell, but the bells in his room are not moving.  He glares several times with suspicion at the clock.  When the ringing stops, he shrinks into his chair and reaches for his spoon.  The sound of footsteps turns his face into a mask of “Not more!”  The door bangs open; he leaps to his feet.  A well-dressed man materializes.  Marley’s head tips to one side as if he was hanged.  His eyes roll up.  When he delivers the line “Much!”, Scrooge laughs and replies, “In that case, CAN you sit down?”  Marley does, shifting some of the noisiest chains in the business.  This is the only version which includes the toothpick sequence (and nicely done, at that.)  Marley is fairly dignified until he wails at Scrooge’s continued disbelief.  Scrooge goes to pieces at once.  Marley delivers his next lines as if in great pain.

     March hears a whirl of sound: music and bells.  He clutches his head.  Marley fades through the door, dressed in garments of the Regency era, and moving like a sleepwalker.  Turning slowly, he spots Scrooge: the sights seems to render him speechless.  “I won’t believe it,” Scrooge growls, “He’s been dead these seven years.  What do you want with me?”  “Much.”  “You a humbug or are you….”  “Ask me who I was.”  “Who were you, then?  You’re particular, for a ghost.”  “In life, I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”  “No doubt a bad dream, brought on by something disagreeable I dined on.”  Scrooge moves on to the speech about gravy and the grave.  Marley demands, “I am nothing to you?”  “Nothing at all.  Often heard it said in your lifetime you had no bowels, and now I see it’s true.  But that isn’t proof enough.”  Marley moans softly, in anguish; he has escaped torment to try to rescue someone else and is not believed.  He sits and  solidifies in a chair, settling one hand on Scrooge’s wrist.  “Look at me, Ebenezer.”  This for some reason horrifies Scrooge, who cries “Mercy, dreadful being!” and so forth.

     Rathbone watches a handbell rise from the mantel by itself and ring once.  Scrooge is mildly surprised, and simply mutters, “Ah, humbug!”  The sound of chains makes him turn.  “No,” says he, “I won’t believe it.  It’s humbug.”  He looks a bit more troubled when Marley walks through the door.  The speeches are reduced to a minimum.  “Jacob Marley!  What do you want with me?”  “You don’t believe in me.”  “I do I do I do!”

     Blaming sour gruel for Marley’s face in the fire, Magoo sets off for bed.  His candle blows out.  He figures he forgot to lock the cellar door.  Hearing footsteps and chains, he speculates “Rats?”  You can tell from his face he does not believe this.  “What nonsense is this?”  Marley walks through the door and calls his name.  “Don’t you believe in knocking?”  “Would you have unbolted the door to let me in, Ebenezer?”  “That door WAS bolted,” Scrooge recalls.  They progress through the discussion of whether Marley exists, though here Scrooge blames all his hallucinations on that crummy gruel.  Marley’s fists are clenched during the wail of anger.

     Haddrick’s bell is a handbell, which rises into the air and rings by itself..  Scrooge trembles, but when the sound stops, says, “It’s humbug still.  I won’t believe it.”  There is a sound of footsteps and chains, and Marley simply appears in the room, a huge skull surrounded by flames atop a white nightgown.  A hot wind may be involved.  If the living Marley looked like this (Scrooge recognizes him at once), the firm must have had not trouble collecting its accounts receivable.

     In Sim II, three bells on the wall ring briefly; the sound of wailing and the clank of chains reach Scrooge from outside.  His candle flickers.  Marley steps through the door, head tipped back, eyes staring, his lower teeth exposed; an infernal atmosphere makes his clothes rise.  He wavers a bit left and right.  The discussion of his existence is greatly abbreviated, but does include the gravy and the grave.  When Marley undoes his chinstrap, his mouth drops a lot farther than possible for the living.  Scrooge cowers at the sight.  This lower jaw does not move when Marley speaks again.

     As Finney investigates a draft, a cobwebbed bell begins to ring.  Two bells next to it join in; the sound grows louder and louder.  Scrooge backs away from the spectacle, and a church bell joins in, followed by other bells outdoors.  He covers his ears, and the sound shuts off.  Footsteps approach, accompanied by a sound of dragging chains.  His candle goes out, and he rushes to lock the door.  At a call of “Scrooge”, he catches up a fire iron.  The bolts of the door slide back, and a pale delicate Marley strolls in,, walking as if his joints are no longer working together.  He is not transparent.  The door eases shut behind him.  When he speaks, he is hoarse.  When asked to sit, he draws up a chair and then seats himself in the empty air next to it.  Scrooge expands on the underdone beef speech, defiantly eating his gruel, and finally snapping, “That’s what you are: an old potato!”  Infuriated, Marley rises into the air, trembling, banging a pair of strongboxes from his chain together.  Scrooge drops to his knees and begs the ghost to stop.

     Matthau is asleep, dreaming bad dreams.  Hearing chains, he wakes up; when he sits up in bed, his automatic candle blinks on.  B.A.H. Humbug tells us a ghost appeared; we watch a dark, wispy shape resolve into a definite shadow, which then becomes Jacob Marley: a long-faced, hollow-eyed, big-nosed chap with a chinstrap.  He announces his name, and Scrooge snaps, “Ridiculous!  You’re nothing but a humbug!”  “See me!” shouts Marley, “How can you doubt your senses?”  Without waiting for an answer, his head expands to become nearly as tall as the bed, and wails.  Cowering, Scrooge calls “What do you want of me?”  “Much!” says Jacob Marley.

     McDuck’s Marley walks through the door and slips on Scrooge’s cane.  Scrooge is immediately convinced that this is his old partner.

     In Scott’s room, a bell covered with cobwebs rings; other bells join in.  Scrooge puts a hand to his head.  His expression at the first clank of chains and thud of feet is one of alarm and disbelief and perhaps a few other things.  His bolts slide back.  Determined not to see this, he turns his back to the door.  “It’s humbug still!  I won’t believe it!”  The door slams open and he charges up.  A short, stiff, somewhat broken Marley ambles in, looking as if he has just risen from the grave and checked his worms at the door.  He makes much of undoing his chinstrap.  Scrooge tries to laugh on “Who WERE you then?” and again on “More of gravy than the grave.”  Marley’s wail is a roar of anger.

     Caine stares when a bell on the wall rings a bit.  It rings again, more wildly; Scrooge becomes apprehensive.  His fire goes out; he breathes faster and faster in the darkness.  Up jump the chalky blue-white Marley Brothers, Jacob and Ribert, a sneering, jeering tag team of insult.  From the moment they heckle his pun on gravy and the grave, he believes in them.

     In Curry, green rays stream from beyond the door.  Debit approaches the door first, with Scrooge behind.  The bolts slide back; the key rattles and falls to the floor.  A floating, slightly bloated Marley glides into the room, apparently held to earth only by the weight of the chain and strongboxes.  Debit tries to bite him, and is terrified when those fangs touch nothing solid.  Marley’s cry in response to the gravy/grave gag is one of fury; rays of  green lightning flash around him.  Scrooge retreats until he burns his backside at the fire.  Extinguished, he implores, “Mercy!  Why do you haunt me?”

     Stewart hears one bell; others join it.  He looks to his locks, and sees them secure.  The sound of feet makes him jump.  “No.  I won’t believe it.”  Marley more or less melts through the door.  He has white hair; a strong wind seems to be blowing it back.  After he sits, Scrooge looks at his long, long chain, shakes his head, and sits down, looking away.  They exchange the dialogue Dickens provided, slightly abbreviated.  Marley is visibly offended by the discussion of indigestion.  “Moldy cheese?” he demands, “An underdone turnip?”  He may be affronted by a topical jab at British beef.  At the line about gravy and the grave, he rises, wailing.  Then he undoes his chinstrap, and his lower jaw drops so far it gets stuck.  Scrooge has to reach out and push it back up before Marley can speak again.  This apparently convinces him.

New Moon Over Your Shoulder?

     Some other time, we shall discuss the weighty question of why our ancestors had so many jokes about bathrooms and their functions and the functions of people using them in their world of postcards.  It could be because postcards were consider such a quick, informal form of communication that we could toss in a quick bathroom joke and no one would care.  Or it may be that, as the twentieth century went on, postcards became associated with vacations and leisure time, and one could have a more relaxed attitude to humor.  Or it may be, as discussed in a previous column, that people encountered outhouses more while on vacation (they were a fixture, apparently, in trailer parks before the Fifties or thereabouts).

     Or it could be that we judge our ancestors by the most accessible data, and movies and radio shows were more heavily censored than other media, and we simply have our ancestors all wrong.

    Today, however, I thought we might consider an equally controversial sociological topic which will require less research.  What is it with that crescent moon on the outhouses we see here?

     Outhouses, for reasons too obvious to require discussion, needed SOME sort of ventilation, so openings would be cut here and there about them for that purpose.  Or others.

     You didn’t want anything too big, I suppose, or too conveniently positioned, so one wouldn’t find oneself in the position (beg pardon) of the young lady who left her parasol on the outside of this outhouse.

     And, if nothing else, a convenient opening in the door that you could grab so the door could be opened when you were in a hurry was necessary, too.  But why a crescent moon?  The traditional story is that the crescent moon represented womanhood.  Men’s rooms had a round sun symbol cut into them.  When asked why we never see outhouses with that sun sign on them, they tell us women are most likely to want to take care of business in private.  There just weren’t as many men’s rooms.  Another possible explanation is that the story, like the outhouses, is fulla…never mind.  Most home outhouses were ungendered; it was more of a first-come, first-served thing.  This story about the moon goddess and women’s rooms is now believed by absolutely no one except those who believe every strange but true fact they get sent by email.

     Some people claim the symbol was simply traditional, and thus a handy signal to people who were in a hurry.  Others state it was never traditional to begin with, and all outhouses we see with crescent moons nowadays had those moons put in them later because we expect them.  Still, if they were never traditional, why WOULD we expect them?

     One writer who is probably on the right track says we simply got used to seeing the crescent moon in cartoons and postcards, and THAT’S how it became traditional.  He kind of slips off the rails when he points out that comic postcards of the 1930s and 1940s NEVER show crescent moons on outhouses, so obviously it’s a post-war convention.  (By the way, a couple of the postcards shown here are from the 1940s and I’m pretty sure that young lady in a hurry dates to the 1930s.)

     His suggestion, which associates the symbol with the habit of mooning people or just referring to the southern end of the body as the “moon” (also referred to on numerous postcards), is tempting.  But he points out a glitch: why a crescent moon, then, when the association of one moon with the other has to do with roundness?

     I am perfectly willing to muddy the waters (so to speak) by adding another possible explanation, which has just as much historical backing as his.  People who are sitting around just thinking about other things and not getting anything useful done are referred to as “mooning”.  I saw it started as a complaint from someone on the outside of the outhouse about what the person inside was doing all this time, and it just became a symbol of the one place people were free to sit and contemplate.  There.  Let’s see how long it takes THAT to spread across the Interwebs.

Looking Glass

            So, once upon a time, somebody came up with these discs of glass which could be used to focus the sun’s rays into a burning point.  THEN someone realized they could be used to make small things look bigger, and, over the years, loupes and telescopes and microscopes and binoculars came to be.  Somewhere at the beginning of that period, along about 1250 or thereabouts, people started making pairs of them and perching them on their noses.

     But eyesight is not a perfectly balanced system, and some people had such a wild difference between the vision in their eyes that a few of them began wearing just one lens, which could be mounted in one half of a pair of spectacles, or just set into the eye socket ahead of the eyeball.  These could be easily held in with the muscles of the face, but for those with more active lifestyles, a string or wire was extended from the lens to the wearer’s clothes, to keep the lens from hitting the ground.

     And a new comic cliché was born.

     The Interwebs informs me that the monocle, as this style of eyewear is named, was high fashion in 1805 or thereabouts, and a common joke by 1840.  Since no one can buy a monopoly on good eyesight, both rich and poor wore monocles.  But somehow, they became associated with the rich and pompous: Regency dandies, German officers, and the haughty businessman of the 1890s, whose top hat, morning coat, and monocle guaranteed the viewer something funny was going to happen soon.

     This pop culture cliché was not overlooked by our postcard cartoonists, who knew the monocle indicated a dandy, a rich sissy, a faker.  In a world where monocles were becoming rare (they experienced a revival, especially in Germany, in the 1930s, when a woman wearing a monocle was advertising that she was dangerous) this cliché lived on for years.  Charlie McCarthy, the famous dummy, always wore one.  Batman started running into a monocled villain who called himself the Penguin in the 1940s.  Eustace Tilley, the mascot of The New Yorker, actually flaunts his, as he studies a butterfly.

     Thanks to the German military monocle (the monocle apparently originated in Germany and traveled to England in the late eighteenth century), picked up by autocratic movie directors, a monocle may be assumed to be in the arsenal of any good villainous, or villainous-looking, character with an accent.  Hence, say, Colonel Klink on Hogan’s Heroes, James Bond’s Ernest Stavro Blofeld, and, on Sesame Street, The Count.   

     Monocles even come with their own set of cliches.  In a comedy, if the person wearing a monocle does not see something surprising and let the thing pop free, the director is not making full use of his medium.  (This is another one of those jokes which is POSSIBLE in day-to-day life but far more common on film.)

     Monocles ARE still available for non-Halloween costume use: a nice one with a solid gold rim sells for one or two hundred dollars.  And some people DO wear one against all comic intent.  Mr. Peanut wouldn’t look the same without his.  Lord Peter Wimsey used a serious monocle, first as a disguised high-powered magnifying glass for examining clues and second to make people think he was too silly to worry about, as Hercule Poirot used his occasionally fractured English.  A villain with a monocle (I see that Captain Picard, in his Borg form, is considered a monocle-wearer) may do a great deal of serious damage.

     Still, the monocle is still primarily used as a comic signal.  Either the wearer is ridiculous, or something ridiculous is about to happen to him.

SCREEN SCROOGES: Scrooge Settles In

     The sound resounded through the house like thunder.  Every room above, and every cask in the wine=merchant’s cellars below, appeared to have a separate a peal of echoes of its own.  Scrooge Was not a man to be frightened by echoes.  He fastened the door, and walked across the hall, and up the stairs; slowly, too: trimming his candle as he went.

     You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six up a good old flight of stairs, or through a bad young Act of Parliament, but I mean to say you might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it broadwise, with the splinter-bar toward s the wall, and the door towards the balustrades: and done it easy.  There was plenty of width for that, and room to spare;; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge thought he saw a locomotive hearse doing on before him in the gloom.  Hald a dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn’t have lighted the entry too well, so you May suppose it was pretty dark with Scrooge’s dip.

     Up Scrooge went, caring not a button for that; darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.  But before he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right.  He had just enough recollection of the face to desire to do that.

     Sitting-room, bed-room, lumber-room.  All as they should be.  Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge had a cold in his head) upon the hob.  Nobody under the bed; nobody in the closet; nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall.  Lumber-room as usual.  Old fire-guard, old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing stand on three legs, and a poker.

     Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom.  Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his night-cap; and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.

     It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a bitter night.  He was obliged to sit close to it, and brood over it, before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel.  The fireplace was an old one, built by some Dutch merchant long ago, and paved all round with quaint Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures.  There were Cains and Abels; Pharoah’s daughters, Queens of Sheba, Angelic messengers descending through the air on clouds like feather-beds, Abrahams, Belshazzars, Apostles pushing off to sea in butter-boats, hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts; and yet that face of Marley, seven years dead, came like the ancient Prophet’s Rod, and swallowed up the whole.  If each smooth tile had been a blank at first, with power to shape some picture on its surface from the disjointed fragments of his thoughts, there would have been a copy of old Marley’s head in every one.

     “Humbug!” said Scrooge, and walked across the room.

     The image of Scrooge in his nightclothes, huddled over his gruel is, for some reason, one of the most constant favorite images from the tale.  (Some versions, omitting the melancholy tavern before, make this Scrooge’s whole evening meal.)  Most everything else is considered optional, though we do often see Scrooge on the stairs by candlelight.  That helps define his isolation in the building.  By the way, does anyone know what Dickens had in mind with that hearse he tosses into the description with such reckless abandon?  Does Scrooge actually see such a thing?  Is it a trick of the shadows?  Or is it another touch to emphasize Scrooge’s state of mind?  Or what?

     Hicks enters a big dark room in which nothing much can be seen, thrusting his stick ahead of him.  He moves on to the bedroom.  Apprehensive, he jumps at the sight of his dressing gown; even after he has realized what it is, he gives it a poke to make sure.  “Humbug!”  Stepping into the lumber-room (a sort of back closet to store things for which you have no particular use at the moment, but may have one day), he leaps back when a draft knocks a small box to the floor.  Taking the dressing gown, he makes sure the door is locked and then, with the gown across his knees, sits down to start in on the gruel.

     Owen enters a house once elegant; there is a broad entryway.  It also has a chandelier and decorative sculpture, but has fallen on hard times, to judge by the crates and barrels stowed around the place.  The wrought iron staircase drips with cobwebs.  He looks behind himself several times, unnerved, apparently, by the background music.  Poking up his fire, he takes some cough medicine, licking his fingers afterward.  Then he has a quick look around.

     Sim I lives in a sparse but nice-looking house, and moves up steep stairs, looking more nervous as the musical background grows spookier.  There is also a moan of “Scrooge!”  After a few shaky humbugs, he locks his door and sits down to a comfortable bit of gruel, having donned fairly nice slippers and dressing gown.

     Narch lives in a one-room flat which is warm, well-furnished, and well-lit: positively cozy.  A housemaid has turned down his sheets, set his gruel and  tea on the hob, and made sure the bedwarmer is heating by the fire.  (Scrooge owns a writing desk on which sits a stuffed raven, adding a touch of Lewis Carrol rather than Edgar Allan Poe.)  Before Scrooge enters, the maid opens the window, enjoying the song of carolers outside.  Scrooge is abrupt on coming home.  The housemaid eventually backs out of the room, starting to wish him “A merry….”  “Don’t say it!” he barks.  Later he slams the window to shut out the noise of the carolers (does nobody feel the cold?)  Time passes, shown in the dying of the fire.  Scrooge has changed into his dressing gown and nightcap, and works with pen and ledger.  A clock strikes midnight.

     Rathbone appears to warm his hands at the fire; there is no gruel in sight.  He has donned a brocaded dressing gown with great big buttons and an absurdly high nightcap./

     Magoo, sitting by the fire in nightshirt and cap, eats his gruel, and sees Marley’s face among the flames of his fire.  “I’m seeing things.  Perhaps I do need spectacles.”

     Haddrick, in nightshirt and cap, steps into his bedroom, and, hearing a chain rattle, bolts the door.  Then he sits by the fire with a candle and his bowl of gruel.

     Sim II is passed on the stairs by a ghostly hearse.  He mutters, “Hum…humbug.  Humbug.” And moves on through the blackness.  In a pointed ca[p and nightshirt (and blue socks) he settles by the fire to sup from a large bowl of gruel.  He sets this bowl down to warm his hands at the fire.

     Finney watches a ghostly hearse pass him, headed up the stairs.  The driver sweeps off a high hat and wishes Scrooge a merry Christmas.  Reaching his room, Scrooge locks his door and listens at it.  He then lights a small fire and sets the free soup he extorted from Tom Jenkins there.  When he sits to eat, a puff of smoke billows from the fireplace, accompanied by a cry of “Scrooge!”  “It’s humbug still,” Scrooge declares, leaning forward to shout up the chimney, “I’ll not believe it!”  He rises to investigate a draft from the window.

     Matthau, we are told, gets himself upstairs and goes to sleep.

     McDuck is followed up the stairs by Marley who, though invisible, casts a shadow.  Marley lifts Scrooge’s hat; Scrooge, poking behind him with his stick, tickles the ghost.  Looking back to find only a laughing shadow, Scrooge dashes up to his room.  He slams the door and Marley lands against it with a thud.  Scrooge locks the door five times and is terrified and someone knocks at it.

     Scott moves through a house filled with dark, shiny paneling and dark, heavy furniture.  He looks around his bedroom, rather walleyed, not quite believing something is wrong, and not quite not believing it.  He locks his door three times.  Later, in his dressing gown, he picks up gruel from the hob.  After a moan of “Scrooge”< Marley’s face begins to flash from this tile and then that.  “Humbug!” is Scrooge’s comment.

     Caine’s progress is narrated by Charles Dickens, outside in the snow.  “Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”  Vast impressive shadows surround Scrooge as he  mounts the stairs and looks through his rooms.  Seeing a figure in the shadows, he knocks it to the floor and strikes at it with his stick, only to find it is his best dressing gown.  Fortunately, he admits, breathlessly, that he has done it no damage.  Later, wearing it, he sits by the fire, dining on meat and bread.

     Curry starts up the stairs with Debit, who hears chains.    Later, in cap and dressing gown, Scrooge hears a call of “Ebenezer Scrooge”, locks his door three times, and listens.  “Humbug!”  Later, seated, he reads through his bankbook again, but it distracted by green rays emanating from one of the fireplace tiles.  Moving to it, he finds Marley’s face calling to him.  He slaps his bankbook over the phantom face, but it is still there when he looks again.  “Go away!  I won’t believe it!”  Debit barks; Scrooge turns and tell him to shut up.  When he looks at the tile again, it is normal, so he hits himself with the bankbook and calls himself a dunderhead.  “No such thing as spirits.”

     Stewart enters a building with an office directory lettered on the wall by the stairs.  He moves up to his rooms and locks the door.  A thumping makes him check his lumber-room; he then returns to the door and double locks it.  In his dressing gown, he sits down to some very thin gruel.  Marley’s face begins to appear in the tiles around the fireplace; the face of one Biblical character becomes Marley’s face and turns to regard Scrooge.  Scrooge belches and blames indigestion.