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.

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