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The Western news. (Stevensville, Mont.) 1890-1977, December 16, 1910, Image 9

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84036207/1910-12-16/ed-1/seq-9/

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Charles Dickens
Che famous Yulctide talc which,
with Its story of Clny Clm, has
touched millions of hearts and
wrought for human hlndllncss.
1 ARLEY was dead,
to begin with.
There is no doubt
whatever about
that. The register
of his burial was
signed by the cler
gyman, the clerk,
the undertaker and the chief mourner.
Scrooge signed it, and Scrooge's name
was good upon 'change for anything
he chose to put his hand to. Old Mar
ley was as dead as a doornail.
Mind. I don't mean to say that I
know of my own knowledge what there
is particularly dead about a doornail.
I might have been inclined myself to
regard a coffin nail as the deadest piece
of iron inongory in the trade. But the
wisdom of our ancestors is in the
simile, and my unhallowed hands shall
not disturb it or the country's done for.
You will therefore permit me to
peat emphatically that Marley was as
dead as a doornail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of
course he did. How could it be oth
erwise? Scrooge and he were part
ners for I don't know how many
years. Scrooge was his sole executor,
his sole administrator, his sole assign,
his solo residuary legatee, his sole
friend and sole mourner.
Scrooge never painted out old Mar
ley's name. There it stood years aft
erward above the warehouse door—
Scrooge & Marley. The firm was
known as Scrooge & Marley. Some
times people new to the business call -
ed Scrooge Scrooge and sometimes
Marley, but he answered to both
names. It was all the same to him.
Oh, but ho was a tight tisted hand
at the grindstone, Scrooge—a squeez
ing. wrenching, grasping, scraping,
clutching, covetous old sinner, hard
and sharp as flint, from which no
steel had ever struck out generous
fire; secret and self contained and
solitary as an oyster. The cold within
him froze his old features, nipped his
pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiff
ened his gait, made his eyes red, his
thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly
in his grating voice. A frosty rime
was on his head and on his eyebrows
and his wiry chin, lie carried his own
low temperature always about with
him. He iced his office in the dog days
and didn't thaw it one degree at
Once upon a time—of all the good
days in the year, on Christmas eve
old Scrooge sat busy in his counting
house. It was cold, bleak, biting
weather, foggy withal, and he could
hear the people in the court outside
go wheezing up and down, beating
their hands upon their breasts and
stamping their feet upon the pavement
stones to warm them. The city clocks
had only just gone 3, but it was quite
dark already.
The door of Scrooge's counting house
was open that lie might keep his eye
upon his clerk, who in a dismal little
cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copy
ing letters. Scrooge had a very small
fire, but the clerk's fire was «0 very
much smaller that it looked like one
coal. But he couldn't replenish it. for
Scrooge kept the coal box in his own
room, and so surely as the clerk came
in with the shovel the master predict
ed that it would be necessary for them
to part, wherefore the clerk put on
his white comforter and tried to warm
himself at the candle, in which effort,
not being a man of a strong imagina
tion. lie failed.
. "A merry Christmas, uncle! God
save you!" cried a cheerful voice. It
was the voice of Scrooge's nephew,
who came upon him so quickly that
this was the first intimation he had
of his approach.
'Bah!" said Scrooge. "Humbug!"
He had so heated himself with rapid !
walking in the fog aud frost, this j
nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all
in a glow. His face was ruddy aud
"Christmas a humbug, uncle!" said
Scrooge's nephew. "You don't mean
that, I am sure."
"I do," said Scrooge. "Merry Christ
mas! What right have you to be mer
ry? What reason have you to be mer
"Come, then," returned the nephew
gayly. "What right have you to be
Scrooge, having no better answer
ready, on the spur of the moment said
•Bah!" again and followed it up with
"Uncle!" pleaded the nephew.
"Nephew," returned the uncle stern
ly, "keep Christmas in your own way
and let me keep it in mine."
"Keep it?" repeated Scrooge's neph
'But you don't keep it"
1 "Let me leave it alone, then," said,
Scrooge. "Much good may it do yon! !
Much good it has ever done you!" I
"There are many things from which
I might have derived good by which
I have not profited, I dare say." return
ed the nephew. "Christmas among the
rest. But I am sure I have always
thought of Christmas time when it has
come round—apart from the veneration
due to its sacred name and origin, if
anything belonging to it can be apart
from that—as a good time, a kind, for
giving. charitable, pleasant time, the
only time I know of in the long calen
dar of the year when men and women
seem by one* consent to open their
shut up hearts freely and to think of
people below them as if they really
were fellow passengers to the grave
and not another race of creatures
bound on other journeys. And there
fore. uncle, though it has never put a
scrap of gold or silver in my pocket.
I believe that it has done me good
and will do me good, and I say God
bless it!"
The clerk in the tank involuntarily
applauded. Becoming immediately sen
sible of the impropriety, he poked the
fire and extinguished the last frail
spark forever.
"Let mo hoar another sound from
you," said Scrooge, "and you'll keep
your Christmas by losing your situa
"Don't be angry, uncle. Come; dine
with us tomorrow."
«Scrooge said that lie would see him—
Yes, indeed he did. He went the whole
length of the expression and said that
ho would see him in that extremity
"But why?" cried Scrooge's nephew.
"Good afternoon." said Scrooge.
"I am sorry with all my heart to find
you so resolute. We have never had
any quarrel to which I have been a
party. But I have made the trial in
homage to Christmas, and I'll keep
my Christmas humor to the last. So
a merry Christmas, uncle!"
"Good afternoon," said Scrooge.
"And a happy New Year!"
"Good afternoon." said Scrooge.
Ilis nephew left the room without
an angry word notwithstanding. He
stopped at the outer door to bestow
the greetings of the season on the
clerk who, cold ns he was, was warm
er than Scrooge, for he returned them
At length the hour of shutting up
the counting house arrived. With an
ill will Scrooge dismounted from his
stool and tacitly admitted the fact to
the expectant clerk in the tank, who
instantly snuffed his candle out and
put on his hat.
"You'll want all titty tomorrow, I
suppose?" said Scrooge.
"If quite convenient, sir."
"It's not convenient," said Scrooge,
"and it's not fair.
If I was to stop
half a crown for
it you'd think
yourself ill used,
I'll he bound."
The clerk smil
ed faintly.
"And yet," said
Scrooge, ''you
don't think me
ill used when I
pay a day's
wages for no
The clerk ob
"a root: excuse ton served that it
ticking a max's wus only once a
pocket. * year.
"A poor excuse for picking a man s
pocket every 25tli of December." said j
Scrooge, buttoning his greatcoat to !
the chin. "But I suppose you must ,
have the whole day. Be here all the j
earlier next morning."
The clerk promised that he would,
and Scrooge walked out with a growl, i
Scrooge took his melancholy dinner
in his usual melancholy tavern and, |
having read all the newspapers aud ,
beguiled the rest of t,he evening with j
his banker's book, went home to bed. j
He lived in chambers which had once i
! belonged to his deceased partner,
j Xow. it is a fact that there was no.li
it all particular about the knocker
on the door except that it was very
large. Aud then let any man explain
to me if ho can how It happened that
Scrooge, having his key in the lock of
the door, saw in the knocker without
its undergoing any intermediate proc
ess or change, not a knocker, hut Mar
ley's face.
Marley's face. It was not in im
penetrable shadow, as the other objects
in the yard were, but had a dismal
light about it, like a bad lobster in a
dark cellar. It was not angry or fe
rocious, but looked at Scrooge as Mar
ley used to look—with ghostly specta
cles turned up upon its ghostly fore
As Scrooge looked fixedly at this
phenomenon it was a knocker again.
To say that he was not startled or
that bis blood was not conscious of a
terrible sensation to which it toad been
a stranger from infancy would be un
! l ' e bls hand upon the
I key relinquished, turned it
sturdily, walked in and lighted his can
He did pause, with a moment's ir
resolution, before he shut the door,
and he did look cautiously behind it
first as if he half expected to be terri
fied with the sight of Marley's pigtail
sticking out into the hall. But there
was nothing on the buck of the door
except the screws and nuts that held
the knocker on, so he said "Pooh,
pooh!" and closed it with n bang.
The sound resounded through the
house like thunder. Every room above
and every cask in the wine merchant's
collar below appeared to have a sep
arate peal of echoes of Its own.
Scrooge was not a man to he frighten
ed by echoes. He fastened the door
and walked across the hall and up the
stairs, slowly, too, trimming his can
dle as he went.
But before lie shut his heavy door
he* walked through his rooms to see
that all was right. He had just
enough recollection of the face to de
sire to do that.
Quite satisfied, he closed his door
and locked himself in. double locked
himself in, which was not his custom.
Thus secured against surprise, lie took
off liis cravat, put on his dressing
gown and slippers and liis nightcap
and sat down before the fire to take
his gruel.
It was a very low fire indeed, noth
ing on such it bitter night. He was
obliged to sit close to it and brood
over it before lie could extract the
least sensation of warmth from such a
handful of fuel. The fireplace was an
ohl one built by some Dutch mer
chant long ago and paved all round
with quaint Dutch tiles, designed to
illustrate (he Scriptures. There were
Cains and Abels, Pharaoh's daughters,
queens of Sheba, angelic messengers
descending through the air on clouds
like feather beds. Abrahams, Belshaz
zars, apostles put finir off to sea in
butter boats, hundreds of figures to
attract liis thoughts, and yet that face
of Marley, seven years dead, came like
the ancient prophet's rod and swal
lowed up the whole.
"Humbug!" said Scrooge and walked
across the room.
After several turns he sat down
again. As he threw liis head back in
the chair liis glance happened to rest
upon a bell, a disused boll, that hung
in the room and communicated for
some purpose now forgotten with a
chamber in the highest story of the
building. It was with great astonish
ment aud with a strange, inexplicable
dread that as he looked he saw this
bell begin to swing. It swung so soft
ly in the outset that it scarcely made
a sound, but soon it rang out loudly,
and so did every hell in the house.
Tills might have lasted half a min
ute or a minute, but it seemed an
hour. The bplls ceased as they had
begun—together. They were succeed
ed by a clanking noise deep down
below, as if some person were drag
ging a heavy chain over the casks in
the wine merchant's cellar.
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 stairs, then coming
straight toward his door.
"It's humbug still," said Scrooge. "I
won't believe it."
His color changed, though, when
without a pause it came on through
the heavy door and passed into the
room before his eyes.
The same face, the very same—Mar
ley in liis pigtail, usual waistcoat,
tights and hoots, the tassels on the
latter bristling like his pigtail and his
coat skirts and the hair upon his head.
The chain he drew 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
/ 1A
that Scrooge, observing him aud look
ing through his waistcoat, could see
the two buttons on his coat behind.
"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 liis 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
"Can you—can you sit down?" asked
Scrooge, looking doubtfully at him.
"I can."
"Do it, then."
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," observed
the ghost.
"I don't," said Scrooge.
To sit staring at those fixed, glazed
eyes in silence for a moment would
play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with
him. There was something very aw
ful, too, in the specter's being provided
with an infernal atmosphere of its
own. Scrooge could not feel it him
self, but this was clearly the case, for,
though the ghost sat perfectly motion
less. its hair and skirts and tassel«
were still agitated as by the hot vapor
from an oven.
"You see this toothpick?" said
Scrooge, wishing, though it were only
for a second,' to divert the vision's
stony gaze from himself.
"1 do," replied the ghost.
"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. Hum
bug, I tell you—humbug!"
At this the spirit raised a frightful
cry and shook its chain with' such
a dismal and appalling noise that
Scrooge held on tight to his chair to j
save himself from falling in a swoon.
But how much greater was his horror
when, tin« phantom taking off the j
bandage round its head, as if it were
too warm to wear indoors, its lower '
jaw dropped down upon its breast!
Scrooge foil upon his knees and
clasped liis hands before liis face. i
7 s
"Mercy!" he said. "Dreadful appari
tion. why do you trouble me?"
"It is required of every man." the
ghost returned, "that the spirit within
him should walk abroad among hD
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—oh, woe is me!—and wit
ness what it cannot share, but might
have shared on earth and turned to
Again the specter raised a cry aud
shook its chain and wrung its shadowy
Scrooge glanced about him on the
floor in the expectation of finding him
self surrounded by some fifty or sixty
fathoms of iron cable, but he could
sco nothing.
"Jacob," he said imploringly—"old
Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak
comfort to me. Jacob."
"I-Iow it Is that I appear before you
in a shape that you can see 1 may not
toll. I have sat invisible beside you
many and many a day."
It was not an agreeable idea. Scrooge
shiver e d and
wiped the per
spiration from
his brow.
"That is no light
part of my pen
ance," pursued
the ghost. "I am
hero tonight to
warn you t h a t
you have yet a
chance and hope
of escaping my
fate—a c li a n c e
and hope of my
procuring, Ebene
"You were al
ways a good
friend to mo,"
said Scrooge.
"Y'ou will be
haunted," resumed the ghost, "by three
Scrooge's countenance fell almost us
low asj the ghost's had done.
"Without their visits," said the,
ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the
path I tread. Expect the first tonior
row when the hell tolls 1, expert
the second on the next night at the
same hour, the third upon the liex
night wlien the last stroke of 12 has
ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no
more and look that, for your own
sake, you remember what lias passed
between us,"
The apparition walked backward
from him, and at every step it took
the window raised itself a little, so
that when the specter reached it il
was wide open. It beckoned Scrooge
to approach, which lie did. When they
were within two paces of each other
Marley's ghost held up its hand, warn
ing him to come no nearer. Scrooge
stopped—not so much in obedience as in
surprise and fear, for on the raising of
the hand he became sensible of confus
ed noises in the air, incoherent sounds
of lamentation and regret, wailings in
expressibly sorrowful and self accusa
tory. The specter, after listening for
a moment, joined in the mournful
dirge and floated out upon the bleak,
dark night.
Scrooge closed the window and ex
arnined the door by which the ghost
hail entered. It was double locked, as
he had locked it with his own hands,
and the bolts were undisturbed. He
tried to say "Humbug!" hut stopped
at the first syllable and being, from
the emotion lie had undergone, or the
fatigues of tlie day, or liis glimpse of
the invisible world, or the dull conver
sation of the ghost, or the lateness of
the hour, much in need of repose, went
straight to bed without undressing and
fell asleep upon the instaut.
HEN Scrooge awoke
it was so darl;
that, looking out
of bed, he could
scarcely d i s t i n -
guish the transpar
ent window from
the opaque walls
of his chamber. He was endeavoring
to pierce the darkness with his ferret
eyes when the chimes of a neighboring
church struck the four quarters. So
he listened for the hour.
To his great astooishment, the heavy
boll went on from 6 to 7 and from 7
to 8 and regularly up to 12, then stop
ped. Twelve! It was past 2 when he
went to bed. The clock was wrong.
An icicle must have got into the works.
He touched the spring of his repeater
to correct this most preposterous clock.
Its rapid little pulse beat 12 and
"Why, it isn't possible," said Scrooge,
"that I can have slept through a whole
day and far iuto another night. It
isn't possible that anything has hap
pened to the sun and this is 12 at
The Idea being an alarmin
one, he
scrambled out of bed and groped liis |
j way to the window. lie was obliged
to rub tlio frost, off with the sleeve of
' his dressing gown before he could see
anything, and lie could see very little
then. All he could make out was that
i it was still very foggy and extremeiy
cold anil that there was no noise
f j
people running to and fro and making
a great stir, as there unquestionably
would have been if night had beaten
off bright day and taken possession of
the world.
Scrooge went to lied again and
thought and thought and thought it
over and over anil over and coulil
make nothing of it. "Was it a dream
or not?"
Scrooge lay in this slate until the
chimes had gone three-quarters more,
when ho remembered on a sudden that
the ghost had warned him of a visi
tation when the bell tolled 1. He
resolved to lie awake until the hour
was past.
The quarter was so long that he was
more than once convinced ho must
have sunk into a doze unconsciously
and missed the clock. At length it
broke upon his listening ear.
"A quarter past," said Scrooge,
"Half past !" said Scrooge.
"A quarter to it." said Scrooge.
"1 Hngdong!"
"The hour itself," said Scrooge tri
umphantly, "and nothing else."
He spoke before the hour hell sound
ed, which it now did with a deep, dull,
hollow, melancholy DM ! Light flash i!
\qi in the room upon the instant, anil
the curtains of his bed were drawn,
and Scrooge, starting up into a half
recumbent attitude, found himself face
to face with the unearthly visitor who
drew them.
It was a strange figure, like a child,
yet not so like a child as like an old
man viewed through some supernat
ural medium, which gave him the ap
pearance of having receded from the
view and being diminished to a child's
proportions. Its hair, which lmng about
its neck and down its hack, was white
as If with age, and yet the face had
not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderost
bloom was on the skin. The arms were
very long and muscular, the hands the
same as If its hold were of uncommon
strength. Its legs and feet, most deli
cately formed, were, like those upper
members, bare. It wore a tunic of
the purest white, and round its waist
was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen
of which was beautiful. II held a
branch of fresh green holly in its hand
and in singular contradiction of that
wintry emblem had ils dress trimmed
with summer flowers. But the straw
gest thing about it was that from the
crown of its head there sprang a
bright, clear jet of light by which all
this was visible and which was doubl -
less the occasion of its using in Its
duller moments a great extinguisher
for a cap, which
it now hold un
der its arm.
"Are you the
spirit, sir. whose
coining was fore
told to me?" ask
ed Scrivvro.
"I am."
The voice was
soft anil gontlc,
singularly low,
as If. instead of
hoing so close be
side him, it were
at a distance.
* ' W h o a n d
what are you?"
Scrooge demand
"I am the Ghost
of Christ mas
It put out Its
strong hand as it
spoke and clasped him gently by the
"Rise and walk with mo."
The grasp, though gentle as a wo
man's hand, was not to be resisted.
Scrooge rose, but, finding that the spirit
made toward the window, clasped its
robe in supplication.
They passed through the wall and
stood upon an open country road with
fields on cither hand. The city had
entirely vanished. X'ot a vestige of it
was to be seen. The darkness and the
mist had vanished with it, for it was a
clear, cold winter day, with snow upon
the ground.
"Good heaven!" said Scrooge, clasp
ing liis hands together as ho looked
about him. "I was bred in this place.
I was a boy here."
"You recollect the way?" inquired
the spirit.
"Remember it!" cried Scrooge with
fervor. "I coulil walk it blindfold."
"Strange to bave forgotten it for so
many years," observed the ghost. "Let
us go on."
They walked along the road, Scrooge
recognizing every gate and post and
tree, until a little market town appear
ed in the distance, with its bridge, it3
church and winding river. Some shag
gy ponies now were seen trotting to
ward them with boys upon their backs.
who called to other boys in country
gigs and carts driven by farmers. All
these boys were in great spirits aud
shouted to each other until the broad
fields were so full of merry music that
the crisp air laughed to hear it.
"The school is not quite deserted,"
said the ghost. "A solitary child, neg
lected by his friends, is left there still."
Scrooge said he knew It, and he
They left the highroad by a well re
membered lane and soon approached
a mansion of dull red brick, with a lit
tle weathercock surmounted cupola on
the roof and a bell hanging in it. It
was a large house, but one of broken
| fortunes, for the spacious offices were
little used, their walls were damp and
mossy, their windows broken and their
gates decayed.
They wont, the ghost and Scrooge,
across th.e hall to a door at the back
of the house. It opened before them
j and disclosed a long. hare, melancholy
room, made barer still by lines of plnin
deal forms and desks. At one of these
a lonely boy was reading near a feeble
lire, and S 'rooge sat down upon a form
and wept to see liis poor forgotten self
as he hr.il used to be.
"I wish," Scrooge muttered, putting
his hand in his pocket and looking
about him, drying his eyes with his
cuff. "But it's too late now."
"What is the matter?" asked the
"Nothing," said Scrooge, "nothing.
There was a boy singing a Christmas
carol at my door last night. I should,
have liked to give him something—
that's all."
The ghost smiled thoughtfully and
waved ils hand, saying as it did so,
"Lot us see another Christmas."
Scrooge's former self grow larger at
the words, and the room became a Ut
ile darker and more dirty. The panels
sluaink, the windows cracked, frag
ments of plaster fell out of the cell
ing, and the naked laths were shown
Instead, but how all this was brought
about S- rooge knew no more than you
do. He only knew that It was quite
correct; that every thing had happen
ed so; that there he was alone again
when all the other boys had gone home
for the jolly holidays.
lie was not reading now, but walk
ing up and ill v u despairingly. Scrooge
looked at the ghost and with a mourn
ful shake of his head glanced anxious
ly toward the door.
It opened, and a little girl, much
younger than the boy, came darting
in and. putting her arms about his
neck and often kissing him. addressed
him as her "dear, dear brother."
"I have come to bring you home,
dear brother." said the child, clapping
her tiny hands and bending down to
laugh—"to bring you home, home,
"Home, little Fan?" returned the
"Yes," said the child, brimful of
glee—"home for good and all, home
forever and ever. Father is so itulch
kinder than he used to he that home's
like heaven. He spoke so gently to me
one dear night when I was going to
bed (hat 1 was not afraid to ask him
once more if you might come home,
and he said yes you should and sent
me in a coach to bring you. And
you're to be a man." said the child,
opening her eyes, "and are never to
come back here, but first we're to be
together all the Christmas long and
have the merriest time in all the
"You are unite a woman, little Fan!"
exclaimed the boy.
She clapped her hands and laughed
and tried to touch Ids head, but. being
too little laughed again and stood on
tiptoe to embrace him. Then she be
gan to drag him, in her childish eager
ness, toward the door, and lie, nothing
loath to go, accompanied her.
"Always a delicate •creature whom
a breath might have withered," said
the ghost, "but she had a large heart."
"So she had." cried Scrooge. "You
are right. I'll not gainsay it, spirit.
Coil forbid!"
"She died a woman," sahl tin* ghost,
"and had, as I think, children."
"One child," Scrooge returned.
"True," said the ghost—"your neph
Scrooge seemed uneasy In his mind,
and answered briefly, "Yes."
Although they had but that moment
left the school behind them, they were
now in the busy thoroughfares of a
city. It was made plain enough by
the dressing of the shops that here,
too, it was Christmas time again, but
it was evening, and the streets were
lighted up.
The ghost stopped at a certain ware
house door ami asked Scrooge if he
knew it.
"Know it!" said Scrooge. "Was I
apprenticed here?"
They went in. At sight of an old
gentleman in a Welsh wig sitting be
hind such a high desk that if he had
been two inches taller he must have
knocked his head against tho ceiling
Scrooge cried in great excitement:
"Why, it's old Fezziwig!"
Old Fezziwig laid down his pen and.
looked up at the clock, which point
ed to the hour of 7. He rubbed his
hands, adjusted his capacious waist
coat, laughed all over himself from his
shoes to his organ of benevolence aud
called out in a comfortable, oily, rich,,
fat, jovial voice:
"Yo ho, there! Ebeuezer! Dick!"
Scrooge's former self, now grown a
young man, came briskly in, accompa
nied by his fellow 'prentice.
"Dick Wilkins, to be sure," said
Scrooge to the ghost. "Bless me, yes.'
There he is. He was very much at
tached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick!
Dear, dear!"
"Yo ho, my boys." said Fezziwig,
"no more work tonight! Christmas
eve, Dick! Christmas, Ebenezer! Let's
have the shutters up," cried old Fezzl-

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