Chapter the 7th
Scrooge stared at the curtains in surprise, and even maybe just a bit of awe. He didn't want to remove his hand from them for fear they might fade away. But, they certainly felt real.
As he touched the bed curtains, he became aware of other sensations. The firm bed beneath him, the cold of the room. The creaking of the floor as he shifted his weight. The sunlight streaming in his window, and then, the bells. The bells that rang out loud, clear, and joyous. He'd never believed that anything could sound so glorious!
But then he couldn't remember a time when he'd been this glad to be alive either.
"I-I'm back. I'm home." he murmured. "I'm alive!" And he fell to his knees and thanked God, the spirits, and of course, Jacob Marley. "Oh, my friend may the Lord forgive you all your trespasses for what you have done for me. I will keep the lessons the spirits taught close. The shadows of what was to become can be dispelled. They will be dispelled! I know it!"
He leaped to his feet, and found himself possesed of an energy he'd not had since he was a boy. "I don't know what to do! I don't even know what day it is! What month! How long have I been among the spirits?" He rushed to the window and threw it open.
The cold of the outside was brisk, and refreshing, quite unlike the cold in his room. It made him close his eyes and take a deep breath. No doubt his appreciation for it would fade once he'd recovered from his adventure, but for now, he loved the winter's chill.
Oh! Someone was coming! They could tell him what he needed to know. "You! Boy!" he shouted down, with none of his characteristic growling. He was still in too good a mood. Amazing what a second lease on life can do for a man. "What's today?" He realized later of course that he must have seemed like a fool, or a loony.
"Eh?" the boy stopped, looked around, and finally spotted Ebeneezer in the window.
"What's today my fine fellow?"
The boy blinked. Had the old man gone soft in the head that he did not know? "Today is Christmas day sir!"
Scrooge nearly squealed with glee. Yes! "Christmas day? Then I haven't missed it! The spirits did it all in one night! Of course they did, they can do anything!" An idea began to glimmer in his mind, and it made him grin mischievously.
Rrrrright. The boy looked up at Scrooge appraisingly. Well if he was crazy, or just very drunk, at least he seemed a pleasant lunatic.
"Do you know the poulterers up the street?"
"Do you know if they've sold the prize turkey in the window?"
"What the one as big as I am? No sir it's still there!"
Excellent! What an intelligent lad! It was a pleasure to talk to him. "Go and buy it! Come back with it and I'll give you a shilling! Come back in less than half an hour, and, and I'll give you half a crown!"
Part of him balked at the frivolous spending, but he squashed it. He could, upon reflection, afford it. Afford it many times over to be honest. He began to laugh as he dressed. "I'll send it to Bob's house. But he shant know who it's from." he chuckled. He rather liked the idea of being nice, but sneaky.
Dressed in his finest, he stepped out into the cold morning. And right on time, as the boy was returning with a rather distrustful and disgruntled looking poulterer. He gave the boy a crown. Really, when he thought about it, it must have taken some clever talk to convince the man of what Scrooge had said.
"Good Lord!" he exclaimed as he beheld the bird up close. "That's a turkey? He could never have stood on those legs, he'd have snapped them off! You can't carry that all the way to Camden Town."
The man agreed whole heartedly.
"You must have a cab!" He laughed as he said it, and laughed even as he paid for the bird, the cab, and the boy. He was still picturing the shocked and bewildered faces of Bob and his family.
Both the boy and the poulterer didn't seem too put out by his behavior. They shouldn't, after all they were getting money out of the deal. For the most part they merely shrugged to themselves and thought "Eh, it's Christmas." They might have been more surprised had they known just who it was they were dealing with.
When they were gone, Scrooge didn't know quite what to do with himself so he decided just to take a walk, and see what happened. He had never just walked for the sake of walking, nor did he tend to look around when he walked. Today he did. He was seeing everything for the first time, and even, hesitantly, experimentally, wished passers by a merry Christmas. And found himself warmed when they said it back.
And then, there before him he saw the charity workers who had come into his office the day before. He swallowed, fearing what they might say. Or maybe they would just glower at him. That had never bothered him before. But he was the new and improved Scrooge. The old Scrooge might have avoided them...well no the old Scrooge would not have cared, and might nearly have run them over on his way to work. The new Scrooge didn't do that. No, he strode right up to them.
"Oh! Good day to you sirs. I hope you did well in your endeavors yesterday. You're both very kind."
He swore he would never get tired of that shocked look. "Mr. Scrooge?"
"That is my name." he confirmed. "And I know it may not be a pleasant one to your hearing. But I wish to make amends. I wonder if you would be so kind as to put me down for..." And then he leaned forward and whispered in the man's ear. No sense declaring how much money he could afford to the whole city.
"My, my dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?"
"Completely. A great many back payments are included in that number, I assure you."
"Well, I don't know what to say-"
"Don't, don't say anything." Scrooge cut him off. "Come to my offices tomorrow and I'll make the arrangements. Will you come to see me?"
"I will indeed sir. And Thank you."
"No thank you sir." Scrooge doffed his hat, and was on his way.
To his nephew's house, it turned out.
He walked past it five times before he worked up the courage to knock on the door. But finally he did it. It was much like someone leaping into a pool of cold water, where you just have to do it quickly or not at all. A rather bewildered looking maid answered his knock.
"Uhm, yes Sir?"
Scrooge removed his had. "Good afternoon my dear. Is your master at home?"
"He's upstairs with his guests. Shall I announce-"
"Oh, no that's alright." he interrupted her. He figured it'd be harder to deny him if he was already inside. "He knows me, and I know the way. Pardon me." He sidled past her and went up the stairs, while she stared after him in confusion.
He peeped around the door into the room where Fred was even now, regaling his guests with the tale of how Scrooge had called Christmas a humbug.
"And I think I shook him yester-bless my soul! Who's that?"
Scrooge looked embarrassed, but wondered if the guests would think that he and his nephew had staged this whole thing. "It's I. Your Uncle Scrooge. I've come to dinner. Will you let me in Fred?"
Not only did Fred let him in, he nearly shook Scrooge's arm off in his zeal to welcome him. The guests, did indeed believe that Ebeneezer and his nephew had planned this whole thing, and nothing they said could shake that belief. It became a private joke between the two of them, which served to strengthen the bond.
The next morning, Scrooge's newfound sense of humor reared it's head once more. He came in early to the office, hoping that Bob would be late. Bob was a good man, but even he could be waylaid by drink.
And sure enough, Bob was a whole 18 minutes behind when he came in. The poor man must have run the whole way, and seemed to have removed his scarf on the way, as it was already off when he entered.
He leaped onto his stool and began writing as fast as he could to catch up.
"Well, well, well." Scrooge said, scowling. "How nice of you to finally join me Mr. Cratchitt."
Bob gulped. "Uh, I'm sorry sir, I am, er, behind my time."
"You are?" he gasped in mock amazement. "Oh yes I believe you are. Step into my office if you please." Who knew it would be so hard for Ebeneezer Scrooge to scowl?
His clerk made his way reluctantly into the office, averting his gaze and stammering apologies.
"I'm sorry sir, it won't happen again. I was making rather merry last night and I-"
"Enough. I will tell you, that I will not stand for this sort of thing. Is that clear?"
"I-it's only once a year-"
"And therefore," he interrupted, rising abruptly, "And therefore, I am about to raise your salary!"
Bob cringed reflexively and almost started begging not to be fired, when the words sunk in. "Sir?"
Scrooge could stand it no longer and burst out laughing. "Merry Christmas Bob. A merrier Christmas than I have ever wished you. I will raise your salary."
Bob was looking at him like he'd gone insane or something. And to be honest, Scrooge could not be sure he had not. But it was a happy harmless insane.
"And I will endeavor to help you and your struggling family. Now make up the fires, and as long as you're up, buy another coal scuttle won't you?"
Scrooge did assist Bob's family. And with the funds he provided, Tiny Tim was made better than ever. Scrooge knew that there were those who laughed, or thought it strange, the sudden change in him. But he didn't mind. He laughed and thought it just as strange. But it was a good kind of strange.
"Wow." Death grinned, leaning back against the wall next to Jacob. "I gotta hand it to you Jake, you guys picked a winner this time. And how."
"Thank you." Jacob smiled, watching Scrooge. "I'm just glad I could help."
"Yeah." she smiled wider, and pointed to his chain, which was fading away. "You did help. Maybe it took a while, but you finally got the point. Ready to go?"
Jacob looked around at all the other ghosts who finally had shed their chains. "My dear I think we've all been ready for quite some time. Lead on Mac Duff."
"It's lay on Mac duff actually." she teased.