[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Richard Armitage as Ben Scrooge, Danielle Denby-Ashe as Peggy Cratchit, Aidan Turner as Ben’s nephew Frankilin Durin, Ken Stott as the late Jacob Marley, Cate Blanchett as the Ghost of Christmas Past, James Nesbitt as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Meridith Baxter as Clara Lady Trenton, and Tom Conti as Lord Edward Trenton, and others as noted.]
Authors Introduction Note / Wattpad Description: My fan fic “A Christmas Carol Reimagined” ) [(1) story cover logo left] is the tale of a miserly middle aged man—a friend to no one–who is scared into realizing the folly of his ways when he is visited by three ghosts (past, present, and future). He then vows to be compassionate toward his fellow man and through his good deeds, he redeems himself—and he comes to know the meaning of love.
And as an homage to Dickens classic tale “A Christmas Carol” you will recognize some of the basic plot premises and a quote here and there. But there is a twist in that my story is a new telling, blending in British actor Richard Armitage’s character friends in “North & South” and “The Hobbit” trilogy of films. So anything can happen.
Author’s Recap from the previous chapter: Ben Scrooge having now being visited by three—the last of which, the Ghost of Christmas Future, having shocked in through realizing that Peggy Cratchit’s and his workers’ lives and deaths were due to him—Ben Scrooge vows to change. Ben vows to change not only his ways from self involvement and his neglect of others, but to change others futures for the better.
“A Christmas Carol Reimagined”, Ch. 05 End: Christmas Day Beginnings
Early Christmas Day morning in the bowels of Ben Scrooge’s Mill Manor kitchen, his new cook-housekeeper Mrs. Boucher carefully prepares a hot breakfast for her new master of steaming porridge, two eggs boiled, sliced bread with a jam pot, and hot tea. It was all the food that she could find in the kitchen and ice box—the pantry and larder were locked. And she dare not feed any of the food to her six hungry children, lest she and they be thrown out into the street. Such is the precarious nature of the Boucher family’s lot that, for now, a roof over their heads, and a warm kitchen due to her cooking for her employer Ben Scrooge, is a blessing that they did not have yesterday.
Then Mrs. Boucher urges her third oldest child and eldest boy, eight year old Tommy Boucher, to carry the tray with Mr. Scrooge’s food to his room at a quarter to seven o’clock in the morning.
Mrs. Boucher: “Go on, Tommy. Be quick about it so the Master’s food don’t get cold. But don’t spill anything!” She looks at him worriedly. He is her bright eyed boy. And his small shoulders have helped her carry some of their burdens since her husband and the children’s father died several months ago.
Tommy: “I’ll make right quick of it, Ma!” He smiles.
Tommy is a bright boy, quick to learn his letters and numbers as his Mother taught him, and he is dependable for his mother. Tommy along with his two elder sisters, help their Mother keep their younger siblings entertained since they became homeless over two months ago. Strangers had been kind at first, giving them food now and again. But without Peggy Cratchit looking out for them and then suggesting their Mother as cook-housekeeper to Mr. Scrooge, they would not have survived.
Then Tommy leaves the kitchen to head upstairs to the second floor bed chamber that is Ben Scrooge’s. Then to distract her children from their hunger pains, Mrs. Boucher tells them that they shall have water cress soup this morning for breakfast. It is really not a soup—and no cress is in it. But the water is clean and its warmth will help fill her children’s bellies for now. And she hopes that she will have enough milk to feed her six month old baby as she also eats some of the water cress soup.
Tommy pauses outside Mr. Scrooges bed chamber door just as the hall clock begins to chime seven o’clock in the morning. Dong! Tommy sets the tray on the hall table. Dong! Tommy knocks on Mr. Scrooge’s bed chamber door. Dong! Hearing no refusal of his entry, Tommy opens the door a crack and notices the darkened room. Dong! Tommy brings in the tray with the hot food and steaming tea for Mr. Scrooge. Dong! After setting the tray on a nearby table with a chair, Tommy heads for the closed window drapes. Dong! Then he pulls the drapes open—with much dust flying about causing him to cough.
At the seventh Dong! Ebenezer Ben Scrooge sits bolt upright in bed from a sound sleep [(2) right]. Ben is still in his now very crumpled suit coat, shirt, and pants—him having slept, and traveled, all night in them.
Ben: “What’s that!?!” Ben tries to cover his eyes from the glare of the bright morning sun. “Take pity on me ghost! No more!”
Tommy: “Ghost? Mr. Scrooge, Sir?”
Tommy looks warily at Ben Scrooge. Mr. Scrooge is a powerful man, barking orders around his Mill. But right now, Tommy thinks that Mr. Scrooge Ben Scrooge opens his eyes and surveys the puny looking lad before him.
Ben: “Odd. You’re the first child sized ghost that I have seen this night.” He furrows his brows at the child ghost.
Tommy: “I am no ghost, Mr. Scrooge, Sir.”
Ben: “Then what … or rather who are you?” Ben asks in confusion.
Tommy: “I am Tommy, Tommy Boucher. My Ma sent me up with your breakfast.” Tommy smiles encouragingly at the man before him.
Ben: “Oh? And who is your mother?”
Tommy: “Lydia Boucher, Mrs. Boucher? She’s your new cook-housekeeper. Miss Peggy hired her for you yesterday.” Tommy coaches.
At the mention of Peggy Cratchit’s name, everything comes back to Ben Scrooge. And Ben looks at the boy as if little Tommy is his lifeline.
Ben: “Peggy! Peggy Cratchit hired your Mother to work for me?” Ben asks excitedly. Tommy nods. “And if yesterday was Christmas Eve Day, then today is …” Ben looks hopefully at the young boy.
Tommy: “It’s Friday, Christmas Day!” Tommy smiles. Tommy likes Christmas Day—not for presents, which have been few–but for the happy feeling that everyone has.
Tommy: “No Sir, Mr. Scrooge! See, the mantle clock says it is only a few minutes after seven o’clock in the morning.”
Ben: “You know how to read a clock?” Ben asks in astonishment—for most of his mill workers are illiterate, something he vows to change.
Tommy: “Yes Sir! And my numbers and my letters. Ma is teaching me to read.” Tommy states proudly.
Ben: “You have a very fine mother, My boy! Just a moment!” Ben races to the window and lifts sash, then sticks his head outside, breathing in the crisp Wintery air and gazing upon the new fallen snow. “It snowed! I love snow!” Then Ben returns inside and shuts the window. “After breakfast, we’ll have to make a snow man with your brothers and sisters. I haven’t done that in years! No time like the present!” Ben smiles giddily. He looks younger than his thirty eight years when he smiles.
Tommy: Tommy shifts his feet. “I haven’t had breakfast.” He admits shyly.
Ben: “Well then, sit down and have some of mine! There are two eggs there! One for each of us!” Ben offers uncharacteristically magnanimously.
Tommy looks longingly at the boiled egg. He hasn’t had an egg in forever. But there are other considerations.
Tommy: “Thank you, Mr. Scrooge Sir. But may I share my egg with my brothers and sisters, please?”
Ben: “Aren’t they eating their breakfast downstairs?” Ben looks at the boy with a quizzical expression on his face.
Tommy: “No Sir.” Tommy shuffles his feet and looks down at the floor. “This food here is all Ma found. She said it was yours, not ours to eat.”
Ben: “But, there should be plenty in the larder in the pantry!” Then he hits his head as if he is a knucklehead. “Blast!” Then Ben flinches for his use of vulgarity in front of the child. “My apologies, young man.” Then he adds conspiratorially. “And please do not mention that word to your mother, Mothers don’t like such words.”
Tommy: “I won’t tell.” Tommy nods with a grin. He has heard much worse where they used to live.
Ben: “Right! Ok Tommy, you grab the plate of food, and I’ll grab the teapot and tray!” Ben also grabs a large cluster of house keys on his nightstand, stuffing them into his pocket. “Off we go to the kitchens!”
Then like a pied piper, Ben Scrooge leads Tommy Boucher back down to the kitchens carrying Ben’s food. When they enter the kitchen, a startled Mrs. Boucher is tidying up and her children are sitting quietly around the kitchen preparation table. They are still quite hungry, but warm.
Ben Scrooge and Tommy Boucher set the food on the kitchen table uneaten. The Boucher children look at it longingly, still holding spoons in their hands from eating their watercress soup.
Mrs. Boucher: Asking with alarm. “Is everything alright Mr. Scrooge, Sir?”
Ben: “Alright? I should say not!” He intones imperiously.
Mrs. Boucher: “Well, I … Tell me what is wrong with the food and I will do better next time.” She pleads.
Ben: “My good woman, the fault lies not with you, but with me!” His face breaks into a grin. Then before he explains to a befuddled looking Mrs. Boucher what he means, he turns to Tommy. “Tommy! Be a good lad and share this breakfast with your brothers and sisters.” Ben pushes the bowl toward the children with spoons. They still wait to be told it is alright to eat. So Ben gently takes a spoon out of a little three year old girl’s hand, dips it into the porridge and then he gently spoon feeds her.
Girl: “Hmmm.” She smiles.
Tommy: “That’s Nina, Mr. Scrooge, Sir.”
Ben: “Thank you!” He smiles at Tommy. Then turning to Nina, Ben says. “Eat up, little one.” Then he turns to Mrs. Boucher as Tommy helps his brothers and sisters to the porridge and sliced bread and jam and tea. “My apologies, Mrs. Boucher. I forgot to give you the keys?” Ben jangles about six metal keys on a large metal ring.
Mrs. Boucher: “The keys?” She asks wonderingly. She has never lived in a house needing more than one key, if that.
Ben: “Yes! The pantry and larder are locked—to prevent theft by unknowns, when I am not at home, or by the char woman who comes in each day to do the cleaning.” Ben walks over to the far end of the kitchen and fiddles with the keys that he takes out of his pocket, trying to find the right ones.
Mrs. Boucher: “You have a char woman? Who cleans for you?” She looks around in incredulity. Clean is not what she would call the Manor by any stretch of the imagination. Despite their poverty stricken living conditions, Mrs. Boucher always kept her one room home tidy and as clean as she could make it—when water and soap were available.
Ben: “Yes, well, you will no doubt wish to organize her work better than I have.” He shrugs his shoulders. “Ah! Found it!” Ben puts the key into the lock of the pantry and turns it. The key sticks a bit. Ben smiles embarrassedly back at Mrs. Boucher. “Ha ha ha!” He chuckles. “It must be the cold making the lock stick.”
Then the lock turns and he opens the pantry door. He and Mrs. Boucher walk into what is essentially a large six foot square closet with rows of shelves laden with baking and food stuffs—flour, sugar, spices, tea, etc.—stocked from floor to ceiling. The larder next to it will have items needing to remain cool—such as butter, milk, and eggs. They look in there as well—seeing more eggs.
Mrs. Boucher: “I haven’t ever seen so much food making supplies in one place, unless it was at the market.” She marvels.
Ben: “Yes, well, with you and your six children living with me now we’ll have to adjust our weekly perishable and other household order at the grocer’s for Monday’s delivery.” Then he snaps his finger. “And the dairy man only brings a pint of milk twice a week—Tuesdays and Fridays—for my tea. But we’ll have to increase that, too.” While Mrs. Boucher is trying to take it all in, Ben leans out of the pantry. “Tommy, be a good lad and look outside the kitchen’s back door to see if the milk was left this morning. Then share it amongst the children.”
Mrs. Boucher: “Oh Mr. Scrooge, Sir!” Mrs. Boucher sobs in overwhelming relief as tears fall down her checks. “But may I have some of the milk for my baby, too?” She points out to the kitchen where her baby squirms in a basket on the kitchen preparation table.
Ben: “Of course. Let us get back to the kitchen, it’s chilly in here.” Then he notices that the kitchen is chilly as well– since the stove has cooled down. Ben checks the coal bin and finds it filled half way. “We need to put more coals on to warm the kitchen, and your rooms, I dare say.
Mrs. Boucher only used just enough coals in the stove for his breakfast and no more.
Mrs. Boucher: “I tweren’t sure what was allowed.” She admits hesitantly.
Ben: Shocked and chastened, he replies. “Mrs. Boucher. I am ashamed that I did not give you your instructions yesterday as to where everything was—let alone the keys. I was rather … preoccupied.” He thinks about trying to get the Mill order finished before the Christmas Day holiday break.
Then Ben Scrooge not only gives Mrs. Boucher his house keys so that she can find what she needs, but he also encourages her to check the storeroom for some old children’s clothes that had been left by a previous tenant, and that might fit her children until they can get them some decent warm clothes for them. He also gives her several coins with which to purchase additional food stuffs or household supplies today to tide she and her children over until Monday’s adjusted grocer’s delivery of food stuffs.
Ben is making positive changes to his and others lives, one person at a time—or seven people in this case, with the widowed Mrs. Boucher and her six children.
After Ben finishes his morning washing routine with a full bath today since it is the Christmas Day holiday—with Mrs. Boucher ecstatic to provide him with warmed bath water, that she later washes her little ones in with more warm water and with real soap—Ben Scrooge puts on his best suit and top hat and he strides out of his Mill Manor home with a spring in his step. Today, Christmas Day is the first day of the rest of his life. And he will not squander this chance that he has been given.
First, Ben stops by the grocers who is finalizing last minute Christmas Day food deliveries to his wealthier customers like Mr. Scrooge. Ben wants to adjust his weekly grocer’s order to add more food to cover the Boucher Family’s needs as well as his needs. He also buys a nice sized goose and side vegetables to be delivered to his Manor home this day for Mrs. Boucher to prepare for her children’s Christmas Day meal.
After doing so, Ben looks around and notices quite a few smaller goose birds that haven’t yet been sold—because they are not yet plucked, according to the grocer. The grocer will have to sell them at a much reduced price tomorrow, if he doesn’t sell them today. And Ben thinking rightly that his mill workers will be much less fastidious about needing to pluck the feathers from their own meal than the Grocer’s usual clientele, Ben buys the two dozen or so already killed birds and asks the grocer to have them delivered to that pesky union organizer at his Mill called Higgins—with instructions for Higgins to distribute the food to the neediest families. That ought to take the bluster out of the union organizer—at least for today. And Ben thinks kindly, the food will aid families who to fill their bellies. He smiles with satisfaction to himself—for recognizing a need and meeting it.
Walking out of the Grocer’s into the bracingly fresh chilly air and then walking several blocks over to St. Marks for the ten o’clock morning Christmas Day worship service, Ben Scrooge hesitates upon the church’s threshold. Ben wonders if he is allowed inside—his ghostly visitors did not say that he was prohibited. But then, they did not say whether he was welcome, either. Yet attending services was something that Benhad done in childhood with his late Mother and sister. So Ben feels a sentimentally poignant pull to do this. Slowly sliding his foot over the threshhold—ready to pull it back at any moment if the heavenly forces repeal him—Ben Scrooge makes an odd view, as if he were dancing, almost.
Seeing him paused in thought, the vicar walks up to him. The vicar wears a white surplice over his black vestment.
Vicar: “My son, you are welcome to join us.” He smiles kindly at the younger man, Ben Scrooge.
Ben: Ben pulls at his cravat. “Vicar.” Ben nods his head. “I don’t believe we have met. I am Ebenezer Scrooge, the owner of Marlbourough Mills.”
Vicar: “Yes.” He smiles benignly. He knows who Ben is.
Ben looks at the kindly vicar again, and startles. For he thinks that he sees his late partner Jacob Marley’s face staring back at him.
Ben: “Hhuuh!” Ben nearly squeaks.
Vicar: “Are you alright?” The vicar looks quizzically at Ben.
Ben takes another peak at the vicar, and sighs, relieved to find no trace of Jacob Marley in his countenance.
Ben quickly walks into the sanctuary and sits in the back in the very last row—easier to make a quick exit that way, if needed. As Ben looks around the church, he notices happy families sitting together in their family pews as according to rank and tradition. Since Ben has no tradition of church going, he sits back in the unreserved seating.
Then what he presumes are a husband and wife excuse themselves as they walk in front of them to take open seats further down the pew. Ben gawks when he sees the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present in proper English attire—no flowing robes nor mustachioed shaped hats– sitting three feet away from him. The couple smiles knowingly at him. Ben shivers. He wonders, what does one say to ghosts in a church? Then the husband looks pointedly at Ben Scrooge—glaring at Ben for staring at his wife. Ben blinks and realizes that they are not his Ghosts. Ben wonders if his Ghosts are watching him, or if it is his own nascent conscience taking over? Either way, it is quite unnerving to him.
The rest of the worship service goes along without incident—mostly because Ben keeps his head down and his eyes closed, as if he is in prayer. He is praying, just not the prayer that everyone else is. Finally on Ben’s way out of the church, he is accosted once more.
Frankilin Durin: “Uncle! Uncle! It is you!” Frankilin smiles broadly and claps his Uncle Ben on his arm.
Ben: “Oh! Frankilin! It’s you!” Ben is so relieved that he smiles and shakes his nephew’s hand.
Frankilin Durin: “Happy Christmas!”
Ben: “What? Oh yes! Happy Christmas!” Ben surreptitiously glances at parishioners leaving the church, hoping not to see his final ghost’s face among them. All the while his nephew keeps up a conversational patter about the rest of the day’s planned activities.
Frankilin Durin: “So you’ll come then, Uncle Ben?” He asks hopefully.
Ben: Ben returns to looking at his nephew and asks quizzically. “Come?”
Frankilin Durin: “You remember, Uncle Ben. I invited you earlier–to our Christmas Midday luncheon at one o’clock? My wife Serena and I hope to host several friends and some of her family. And you are the only family I have. Well, that is, except for my dear wife.”
Ben notices the utter joy that beams from his newlywed nephew’s face as Frankilin’s wife joins him and introductions are made. She is charming and gracious. And it is clear to Ben that his nephew is very happy in his choice of bride. And Ben only hopes that happiness with his chosen one will be his fate as well. Then Ben looks at his watch—his father’s pocket watch—and the time is a quarter til twelve noon.
Ben: “Well, if you will please excuse me, I have to check back at the Manor on something first before I attend your party.” He dissembles. Ben is feeling quite overwhelmed with the ghostly reminders and his new found charitable attitudes. And he does want to check on the Bouchers—to make certain that they received the Christmas Day food stuffs and such. For he had also bought some candy cane sweets for the children to enjoy.
Frankilin Durin: “That is perfect! We have also invited Miss Cratchit and her parents who live near the Mill in Crampton. I told them that I would send a carriage for them at half past twelve in hope of their joining us. But I fear that the lane is too narrow to allow a carriage entrance.” Frankilin winces. “And I’m afraid that Miss Cratchit might back out of attending if given half the chance. She is so reserved.”
Ben: “She is reserved!” Ben nods. “Frankilin, I will be happy to meet your carriage at Crampton and then escort Miss Cratchit and her parents to your luncheon party.”
Frankilin During; “That’s smashing!”
Ben: “I beg your pardon?” Ben looks quizzically at his nephew.
Frankilin Durin: “I just mean that we well be delighted to see you.
Ben: “Very well.” Ben nods and shakes his head.
After Ben Scrooge’s nephew Frankilin Durin asks him to escort Miss Peggy Cratchit to their Midday Christmas luncheon, Ben’s mind and heart do flip flops without abating. Ben knows that he has a long way to go to make up for worker living conditions and wage levels—and he will work on those. But it is Peggy Cratchit—the one woman who might be his lifeline to a happy life, and her lifeline, literally—whom he is desperate to make a good impression with.
Ben realizes that as Peggy’s employer—and as her family’s landlord–there are still boundaries of behavior that he cannot cross. Even were she to truly love him and she were to wish to entertain the idea of him courting her with an eye to marriage, there are those who might be quick to gossip and besmirch her reputation. His reputation is in shreds from his past actions, but hers is pristine—and he will not damage it by his attentions, wanted by her or not.
As Ben bounds up the steps of Crampton where the Cratchits reside as his tenants, he is reminded at how far below their former standard of living when her father was a vicar in Helstone that this modest home and its location are. He quickly raps on the front door five times. Then Ben stands back looking at one moment the proud suitor, and the next an eagerly uncertain one—his wonderfully tall height accentuated by his top hat [(4) right] . He waits a moment or two, then just as his arm is poised to knock again, the door opens.
Peggy: “Mr. Scrooge!?! Is everything alright at the Mill? Are Mrs. Boucher and the children alright?” For Peggy was worried that Mr. Scrooge’s exacting ways might frighten Mrs. Boucher before she had time to settle in.
Ben: “Hhhh!” He sighs to get control of himself. Peggy looks lovely in her simply blouse and skirt that she wears most days at the Mill office as his Administrative Assistant. “All is well, Miss Cratchit. They are no doubt eating their Christmas goose even as we speak.” He smiles earnestly.
Peggy: “Is that so?” She looks at him curiously, uncertain as to why he is here. But she is too polite to ask that question.
Sensing her thoughts after working closely with her for over two years, he clarifies why he is standing before her. But he rather gushes it out—she has that effect on him, now.
Ben: “Yes, I realized this morning after rising from slumber when Tommy Boucher brought me my breakfast—that they had had none of their own. And that Mrs. Boucher needed some information as to where the main food and other supplies were kept at the Manor. After we settled that, I ordered a Christmas goose to be delivered to them on my way to church. Happy Christmas!”
Peggy: She tilts her head in curiosity. “Happy Christmas.” She replies evenly—still uncertain why her handsome employer is standing before her now. She shivers from the cold—with them standing on her front stoop.
Ben: “My apologies for my forwardness, but perhaps we should continue our discussion inside where it is warmer for you?” He gestures toward her home’s open doorway.
Having sauntered to the front door when he heard the knocking, Peggy’s father Mr. Cratchit pokes his head out and asks.
Mr. Cratchit: “Peggy Dear, who is it? Oh! It’s you!” The old parson smiles benignly at Ben Scrooge—it is a skill that he has long perfected over the many years of his faithful service to his parishioners.
Ben: “Mr. Cratchit! My apologies for visiting you unannounced, but I come on an errand for my nephew Frankilin Durin. He asked me to escort Miss Cratchit and her parents to our family’s Midday Christmas Luncheon at his home with his new bride.”
Peggy Cratchit’s mouth opens in astonishment. Not only is Ben Scrooge planning to attend his nephew’s Christmas gathering this year, but Mr. Scrooge also refers to his nephew as family. And, Mr. Scrooge is solicitously requesting to escort she and her parents to the party.
Mr. Cratchit: “Splendid! I know that Peggy is looking forward it it. Aren’t you, My Dear?”
Peggy: “Yes, Papa! It was very kind of Mr. Durin to invite us, but is Mama well enough?” She frets.
Mr. Cratchit: Smiling, he reports. “She is having Dixon help her get ready now. And you should go upstairs and change into your gown, the pretty pale bluish green one that everyone so admires. She made her come out in the very same gown six years ago.” Mr. Cratchit shares proudly.
But to Peggy, her Father has just announced to her employer—the man she is secretly in love with, despite their stations being so different—that her best gown is six years out of fashion. Then Ben Scrooge surprises her.
Ben: “I am certain that Miss Cratchit will look lovely and charming in it. She graces whatever garment she wears.”
Peggy’s eyes widen again in astonishment—and something else. He is paying attention to her. Ben Scrooge is paying attention to her, flattering her, perhaps even flirting with her. This is a side of him that she has never thought to see.
Mr. Cratchit: “Run along My Dear.” Mr. Cratchit ushers his daughter back inside their home. Then he beckons to Ben. “Come in from the cold Mr. Scrooge. We will await the ladies in my study.”
Ben: “I will be honored, Sir.” Ben gives a slight head bow and follows Mr. Cratchit into the Crampton house and to what serves as Mr. Cratchit’s study—a small room wreathed in packed book shelves, a lifetime’s collection of scholarly thought.
For a quarter hour, the two men speak of nothing of significance—the weather, family Christmas traditions, etc. Then suddenly, Mr. Chratchit becomes quite serious.
Mr. Cratchit: “Mr. Scrooge, I do not wish to over step my bounds …”
Ben: “Please. You have my permission to state whatever you wish.” Then Ben thinks, except to discourage him from courting his daughter Peggy.
Mr. Cratchit: “You are a man of the world—of business and enterprise. You must daily think in terms of profit and loss. My daughter Peggy is not of that world. She is not a commodity to be used, then discarded.”
Stunned at the frankness of Peggy’s father, Ben’s face looks as if he just sucked on a lemon—and lemons are very dear, and out of season in December.
Ben: “Sir …”
Mr. Cratchit: “No, let me finish. Though my daughter is your employee, your escorting her to this party is out of the ordinary. What are your intentions toward my daughter?”
Ben: Caught unawares from Peggy’s father’s interrogation, Ben falters. “I … I wish to … well, to court Miss Cratchit—with an eye to marrying her—if she is agreeable.” Ben adds the last rejoinder almost as an afterthought–because he remembers Peggy’s dying confession of her love for him. But was that truth, or fiction? He cannot know.
Mr. Cratchit: “I see.” He narrows his eyes. “Well if your intentions are honorable, you may approach my daughter. However, if she declines, you will not press the point. Are we clear?” Mr. Cratchit nearly shakes his finger at the younger man, but thinks better of it.
Ben: “Perfectly, Mr. Cratchit.” Ben nods.
Then Peggy and her mother join them. Both are wearing cloaks, so Ben is prevented for now from seeing Peggy’s elusive gown that she made her come out in six years ago.
Once they arrive by carriage Ben’s nephew Frankilin’s home—with introductions made to Frankilin’s delightful and lovely new wife–hats and coats and cloaks are doffed to reveal the finery underneath. And Ben Scrooge is awestruck by the beauty of Peggy Cratchit [(5) right]. No other woman compares to her in beauty and grace and elegance. The pale blueish green color of Peggy’s gown charmingly matches the blue green of her eyes—still crystalline, but with depth and life burning in them.
At first, Ben is speechless and he gazes upon Peggy as if he and she were the only occupants of the room [(6) right] . Everyone else falls away. Peggy gazes up at Ben, marveling at the perfection of his gentlemanly demeanor. He was so gallant to collect them on behalf of his nephew.
Ben: “I must thank you, Miss Cratchit.” He begins haltingly. Peggy looks up at him with curiosity. “For sending Mrs. Boucher to me. I believe that she will get my Manor properly organized.”
Peggy: “Oh? And what makes you think that?” She asks in amusement.
Ben: “She clearly disdained the efforts of my weekly char woman. So I sense that improvements to the overall comfortableness of my Manor will be welcome.”
Peggy: “I am glad to hear it!” I smile. “Is there anything else?” I ask him which he stares at me with those big blue eyes of his.
Ben: “Well, I … I also sent over two dozen smaller Goose birds to the neediest families amongst my workers. And I would like to review everyone’s wages for possible increases. My Mill workers are the life blood of my enterprise. And I need to value and pay them for their worth.” I pause and see Peggy gazing at me appreciatively. “In fact Miss Cratchit, your own contributions at the Mill are too numerous for me to mention here. But suffice it to say, that I could not run the Mill without you.”
Peggy: She dutifully makes a mental note about his wishes for reviewing worker wages. But she also wants to make something plain. “That is all well and good, Mr. Scrooge. but I will not accept wages unless I have earned them.”
Ben: “Of course, Miss Cratchit.” I smile charmingly at the loveliest lady in the room. She smiles timidly back at me.
As Ben and Peggy move into the main parlor of his nephew’s home, they see one side of the room serving as a sumptuous banquet buffet with overflowing foods and every delight imaginable. The room’s decoration is lovely with both feminine and masculine touches here and there—and an abundance of Christmas greens on mantles and over doorways, in addition to mistletoe.
The other guests cheerfully prod Ben to kiss Peggy under the mistletoe. And then he plants a tender kiss upon her blushing cheek—and she gazes up at him in wonder at this rare and delicate gift of a kiss. His eyes are full of caring sincerity for her. And his touch sends her senses reeling. The softness of her delicately blushing cheek also gives Ben’s heart hope as he and Peggy share this lovely family and friends Christmas gathering together.
To be continued with the Epilogue
“A Christmas Carol Reimagined”, Epilogue: A New Future
On Christmas Day, Peggy Cratchit does not initially admit to the possibility of the notion that the longtime bachelor Ebenezer Ben Scrooge intends to woo her and to make her his wife—not even to herself, because it is the dearest wish of her heart. And yet, and yet.
On the day after Christmas—the Saturday of her cousin Edith’s ball—Peggy Cratchit walks with determination to Marlbourough Mills for the half day of work that will begin at seven o’clock in the morning and end at one o’clock in the afternoon. With the Mill loom workers having already started their day at six o’clock in the morning. Though there would be plenty of time to get ready for her cousin’s evening ball, Peggy has decided to forgo it.
Her ball gown though lovely, is six years out of fashion. And Peggy is still too self conscious about her old gown to attend a ball with her affluent cousin and her friends. And Peggy realizes as a retired Vicar’s daughter, that attending balls is a frivolous matter when both the business of the Mill and the Mill workers’ compensation are in focus.
Mill owner and her employer Ben Scrooge had told her yesterday of his hopes to review worker wage rates. And though she demurred about her own salary being raised, she is a little excited at the prospect of it. Even just a little more would give her family a cushion should emergencies arise. As Ben Scrooge’s Administrative Aide, Peggy commands a salary equal to his highest paid skilled Mill worker. Yet if Mill worker salaries are too low, so is hers.
Ben Scrooge was up already and had eaten his breakfast the day after Christmas—courtesy of his cook-housekeeper Mrs. Boucher, who with her children are thriving under his roof. He realizes that he is a bit nervous to see Peggy Cratchit this morning—mostly because he wishes it so. She was a vision of loveliness at his nephew Frankilin’s Christmas Midday Luncheon party yesterday. And they got on well together. Ben only hopes that their easy camaraderie will be in evidence today. Because he has set in motion something that is bold and daring—but he hopes that it will please her.
The first several hours of work spent with Peggy in the Mill Office are devoted to reviewing Mill Worker wages. It is a complex task—taking into account skill, years of service, and so on. They were aided in having in hand a wage report issued by the country’s Labor Ministry. And though Marlborough Mills worker salaries are generally competitive—the best in the area—they are still two percent below the average at some of Scrooge’s competitor mills in other counties.
So Ben takes action, deciding to raise his Mill Worker salaries beginning January 1st. And to insure that not one of his Mill workers and their families goes hungry or lacks adequate shelter—as Mrs. Boucher and her children had–Ben decides to institute a soup kitchen and family rooms bunk house in one of his unused Mill buildings. The cost is minimal, and the benefit in happy Mill workers will hopefully prevent a strike and rioting.
At a ten o’clock morning break with tea—another new initiative that in Ben Scrooge is implementing for his office staff at least—Ben anxiously looks out of his office window toward his manor, then at his pocket watch. Then suddenly, an agitated Tommy Boucher bursts into the Mill Office babbling incoherently.
Tommy: “You must come! Ma doesn’t know what to do! Please come!”
Peggy: Trying to calm the boy down, Peggy asks in a soothing voice. “Now what is wrong, Tommy?” She smiles at the boy encouragingly.
Tommy: He looks briefly at Mr. Scrooge, then back at Miss Cratchit. “You must come!” Then he dashes out of the Mill Office and back to the Mill Manor.
Ben: “I wonder what can be the matter?” Ben wonders aloud. Though he, of anyone, should know.
Peggy: “I fear that we should go to the Manor check on the Bouchers.”
Ben: “Well then, let us not delay.” He good naturedly gestures for her to put on her cloak and he also puts on his outer coat.
When Ben Scrooge and Peggy Cratchit arrive at the Mill Manor situated just two buildings away from the Mill Offices, they find a scene of pandemonium. The Boucher children are playing a singing running game in the Manor’s entry hall, while a smiling Mrs. Boucher rocks her baby to sleep. And she and all of her children are more warmly dressed in the cast off, but still nice, clothing that they found in the store and that Mrs. Boucher washed for them yesterday.
Ben: “Ah! Mrs. Boucher. Thank you again for a lovely breakfast this morning. Tommy said there was something needing our attention?
Peggy Cratchit cannot believe that her boss Ben Scrooge is so calm, when he usually barks orders on the loom floors when anything is amiss.
Peggy: “How may we help, Mrs. Boucher?” Ben stifles a small smile.
Mrs. Boucher: “Well, it’s this lady and her … anntourage that has come and won’t budge.” Mrs. Boucher states convincingly as she points to the closed sliding drawing room doors.
Peggy looks quizzically at Ben.
Ben: “Well, let us take a look and see, shall we?”
Ben Scrooge nods and then gestures to Peggy Cratchit to precede him. Then he winks at Mrs. Boucher and she ushers her children back to the kitchen and their rooms for a morning nap. Tommy hangs back, endlessly curious to see how everything will turn out. Ben opens the drawing room sliding doors and Peggy Cratchit walks into what has been transformed into what looks to be a ladies dress shop with several lovely evening gowns being displayed on mannequins and yards of laces and ribbons spilling out of trunks as potential decorations to be added to the dresses.
Mme Suzette: “C’est bon. Miss Cratchit. I am Mme Suzette! We are ready to fit you into one of these lovely gowns.”
Peggy: “But I do not understand.” Peggy looks with confusion between the matronly but stylish lady modiste.
Mme Suzette: “It eez to Monsieur Scrooge you must apply your question.” She smiles knowingly at the young man, obviously in love with the young lady.
Suddenly, Ben feels like an awkward school boy—worried that Peggy will think his gesture is too much. And he looks at the floor before looking up at Peggy.
Ben: “Well I … It is just that … Your parents indicated to me yesterday that the only reason that you did not wish to attend your cousin Edith’s Ball tonight was because you felt that your gown was too out of date. So I …” He gestures to the smiling Mme. Suzette.
Peggy: “But why are you doing this? Whatever the reason, I thank you. But I cannot accept so lavish a gift.” She stands primly to the side, sneaking glances at the beautiful gowns.
Ben: “Oh!” Ben’s foray into wooing Peggy Cratchit, is starting off poorly. Then another voice enters the conversation.
Tommy: “But Miss Cratchit! Mr. Scrooge was ever so excited to give you a new dress for the party, because he likes you so much!” He pleads and Ben blushes crimson.
Peggy: Her head swinging to look at Ben Scrooge, she asks uncertainly. “You like me, Mr. Scrooge?” She asks haltingly.
Tommy: “So much, Miss!”
Ben: “Ha!” Ben guffaws. Then with a twinkle in his eye, Ben points to Tommy. “Just call him Cyrano.” Then Ben dares to look took at Peggy again. “And yes, I like you and admire you, Miss Cratchit—very much.” Ben lifts Peggy’s hand to his lips and leaves a lingering, but respectful kiss upon her knuckles. “And I would like to escort you to the ball at your cousin’s this evening.
Peggy: “Oh!” Peggy gasps with girlish pleasure at his kiss and his kind gesture. And Peggy Cratchit hopes that she and Ben Scrooge might find a compatibility with and affection for each other sufficient to perhaps lead to marriage in the future.
Peggy and her Mr. Scrooge are the talk of her cousin’s ball this evening. And, indeed, after three months of courting, a more gentlemanly, compassionate, and socially conscious Ebenezer Scrooge marries his sweetheart, Miss Peggy Cratchit in a lovely ceremony at St. Marks Church. Ben’s Mill employees are given a day off—with pay. And Ben and Peggy go on to live a life together of happiness and love—welcoming their first of four children in the second year of their marriage. Though Peggy eventually quits working in the Mill Office when she became pregnant with their first child, she continues to be a strong advisor and confidante for her husband Ben as she pursues charitable work.
And Ebenezer Scrooge? Ben becomes what he always should have been–had his Mother not died and he lost her influence and support, and had he not had to then bear his father’s indifference and neglect. With his beloved wife Peggy by his side, Ben Scrooge lives now as a good man, a generous man, a caring man–and a worthy man to be called husband and father, and friend.
And it is now said of Ben Scrooge that he honors the time of Christmas and “that he knows how to keep it well” [(7)]. So in the spirit of Christmas, of generosity of spirit and of caring, may we honor this Christmas Day and every day, with hope for a better future in our hearts.
December 25, 2016
Thank you for reading my story “A Christmas Carol Reimagined”! I hope that you have enjoyed reading this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Charles Dickens original story “A Christmas Carol” is one of my favorite stories, because of its hopeful messages of redemption and forgiveness—and of the importance of caring for our neighbors in our communities, near and far.
So I hope that this Christmas and Holiday Season as we look forward to the new year of 2017, finds you sheltered and nurtured—as well as you finding the strength to share your gifts of your talent, caring, and support with others. For a gift given, blesses twice—once to the receiver and once again to the giver.
Blessings, Hugs, & Love! Gratiana Lovelace!
References for Ch. 5 of “A Christmas Carol Reimagined”, December 25, 2016 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1020)
1) “A Christmas Carol Reimagined” story logo cover that I/Gratiana Lovelace created, is comprised of several elements:
a) the old drawing of Scrooge awaiting his ghosts by John Leech (for the 1843 Chapman and Hall published edition) was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Carol;
b) an image of Richard Armitage portraying John Thornton in the 2004 BBC miniseries “North & South” was my cap from Episode 1;
c) and holly clipart found at http://cliparts.co/cliparts/rcn/Gg8/rcnGg84zi.jpg
2) Ben Scrooge looking dazed after waking up from his night of ghosts is Richard Armitage as John Thornton in 2004’s North & South, epi3 found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/slides/ns2-216.html
3) Ben Scrooge is Richard Armitage as John Thornton smiling in N &S 2004, epi4, pix 285 found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/slides/ns4-285.html
4) Ben- Scrooge is Richard Armitage as John Thornton smiling in N &S2004 found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/slides/ns4-179.html
5) Peggy Cratchit is Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale in North & South 2004, epi2 Dec2213GratinaLovelaceCap
6) Ben Scrooge is Richard Armitage as John Thornton in BBCs 2004 North&South epi2-108_May3114ranet-sized-eyeclr
7) Paraphrase quote from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”: “And it is now said of Ben Scrooge that he honors the time of Christmas and “that he knows how to keep it well”.
Something About Love, previous Ch. 04 link: