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bare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tin, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame !
Why, where's our Martha ?” cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.
“Not coming !” said Mrs. Cratchit.
“Not coming!” said Bob, with a sudden fall in his high spirits; for he had been Tim's blood-horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. “Not coming upon Christmas Day!”
Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in a joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.
6. 6 And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's content.
“ As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember, upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”
7. Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.
His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool beside the fire; and while Bob compounded some hot mixture in a jug, and put it on the hob to simmer, Master Peter and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession.
8. Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of birds, — a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course; and, in truth, it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigor; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates ; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner, at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves; and, mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped.
9. At last the dishes were set on, and It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long-expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried, Hurrah!” 10. There never was such a goose. Bob said he
grace was said.
didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family, indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone on the dish), they hadn't eaten it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage-and-onions to the eyebrows. But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses to take the pudding up, and bring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the backyard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose, - a supposition at which the two young Cratehits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.
11. Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastry-cook’s next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that! That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered, flushed but smiling proudly, with the pudding like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
12. O, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly, too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs.
Cratchit said that, now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quality of the flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for so large a family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.
13. At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovelful of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass, — two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.
14. These held the hot stuff, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:
“ A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us !” Which all the family reëchoed.
“God bless us, every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
“ Mr. Scrooge now,” said Bob; “I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast.”
“The Founder of the Feast indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening. “I wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it.”
• My dear,” said Bob,“ the children; Christmas Day.”
“ It should be Christmas Day I am sure,” said she, “ on which one proposes the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow !”
“My dear,” was Bob's mild answer, “ Christmas Day.”
“For your sake and the Day's,” said Mrs. Cratchit, “not for his, I'll say • Long life to him! A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!' He'll be very merry, and very happy, I have no doubt!”
XXXI. — THE KEEPING OF THE BRIDGE.
Out spake the consul roundly,
The bridge must straight go down;
Naught else can save the town."
The captain of the gate,
Death cometh soon or late.
Than facing fearful odds,
And the temples of his gods ?