A Christmas Carol in One-act by Paul Thain

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent

SCENE ONE

The counting house of SCROOGE & MARLEY

Dark and dreary

There’s a High Desk Stage Right with a Tall Stool, ledger, quill pen, ink, and candle

Down Left is a Small Desk & Chair facing audience with another Ledger, quill pen, books, and a candle stuck in an old bottle

A CHOIR enters the Auditorium singing “God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen”

As LIGHTS SLOWLY RISE ...

BOB CRATCHIT enters the gloom carrying a Candle

He sits on his stool, rubs his hands against the cold then blows on them

He then picks up his Quill, opens his ledger

Then pauses, turns to the CHOIR, smiles appreciatively, beating time with his Quill

SCROOGE enters, also carrying a Candle

CRATCHIT hurriedly returns to his work

SCROOGE shouts to the CHOIR

SCROOGE: Begone! Begone, you beggars! Begone, I say!

CAROL SINGER: Only a shillin', sir. A shilling for a merry Christmas, yer honour.

SCROOGE: A shilling!

CAROL SINGER: Only a shillin', sir.

SCROOGE: A whole shilling! Impudent wretch! Think I’m made of money?

CAROL SINGER: It is Christmas, sir.

SCROOGE: Christmas, humbug! Away with you or I'll call the police! Go on! Be off with you!

CAROL SINGER: All right, sir. Merry Christmas, just the same, sir.

SCROOGE goes to his desk, mumbling

SCROOGE: A shilling, indeed! Ha! I know what I’d like to give them. Six months in the Workhouse, that’s what.

CRATCHIT gets down from his stool, starts to slink out

SCROOGE: And where do you think you’re going?

CRATCHIT: Just getting a few coals, sir. Warm us up a bit.

SCROOGE: You let my coals alone. Warm us up, indeed! Back to work with you!

CRATCHIT: Yes, sir.

SCROOGE: A few coals! Coals cost money. My money. And you’d do well to remember that if you want to keep your job. A few coals, indeed. Middle of the afternoon and we’ve already two candles burning. What more do you want? Think I’m made of money? You’ll have me in the poorhouse with the rest of them!

FRED: (Off) Uncle! Uncle Scrooge! Where are you?

FRED enters, happy and bright

SCROOGE: Oh, it’s you.

FRED: Merry Christmas, Uncle!

SCROOGE: And what do you want?

FRED: Why, to wish you A Merry Christmas, of course.

SCROOGE: What’ve you to be merry about? You haven’t two pennies to rub together.

FRED: We may be poor, Uncle, but we’re still happy.

SCROOGE: Happy? Ha!

FRED: Please, Uncle, it’s Christmas. Won’t you ever forgive me?

SCROOGE: You disobeyed me. Disobeyed me and ruined your life.

FRED: I fell in love.

SCROOGE: Love? You can’t live off love, boy. Love won’t pay the rent. Love won’t put food on the table.

FRED: Can’t you forgive and forget? It is the season of peace and goodwill.

SCROOGE: Peace and goodwill, my elbow! Hypocrisy and humbug, that’s all it is.

FRED: You don't mean that.

SCROOGE: Don’t I? Everyone pretending to be ever so nice, ever so jolly? Hypocrites, the lot of them. Humbug, I tell you, nothing but humbug, nothing but extra bills and another year closer to the grave.

FRED: We had hoped you’d dine with us tomorrow.

SCROOGE: What? With you and that woman?

FRED: That woman is my dear wife.

SCROOGE: I’d rather starve.

FRED: Uncle, please.

SCROOGE: You keep your Christmas to yourself and leave me to mine.

CRATCHIT: Begging your pardon, sir, but surely –

SCROOGE: You keep out of it. (TO FRED) Think I don’t know your little game, eh? You don’t fool me, boy. Taking advantage of a poor, old man? Shame on you. I’ve told you - you’ll not get a penny off me. Never, do you hear? Not a penny.

FRED: I don’t want your money.

SCROOGE: So you say.

FRED: All I want is for us to be friends. Christmas is a time for forgiveness, a time for family, a time for friendship, a time to celebrate and share our blessings.

CRATCHIT: (applauding) Oh, indeed, sir! Bravo! Hear, hear! Well said, young man!

SCROOGE glares

SCROOGE: Are you quite done?

CRATCHIT: Sorry, sir, I got ... got a bit carried away.

SCROOGE: Another peep out of you and you’ll be carried away to the workhouse!

CRATCHIT: Yes, sir.

FRED: Uncle, I won't see us part in anger.

SCROOGE: Then you’ll have a long wait.

FRED: Please ... Think of my dear mother, your only sister ...

SCROOGE: Good day, sir.

FRED: At least for her sake –

SCROOGE: I said, Good day, sir!

FRED: Very well, But I'll still keep the Christmas spirit, no matter what you say. I bid you A Merry Christmas, Uncle.

SCROOGE: Conniving rascal ... away with you.

FRED: And a very Merry Christmas to you, Bob Cratchit. And to all your family.

SCROOGE: Humbug, nothing but humbug.

CRATCHIT gets down from his stool, shakes hands with FRED

CRATCHIT: And to you, sir. God bless you, sir.

SCROOGE: Haven’t you work to do?

CRATCHIT: Yes, sir, of course, sir.

CRATCHIT resumes work

FRED leaves

SCROOGE mumbles as he scribbles

SCROOGE: Humbug ... bah, humbug.

TWO MISSION WOMEN APPROACH

MISSION WOMAN 1 coughs

SCROOGE ignores them

MISSION WOMAN 1: Excuse me.

SCROOGE continues to ignore them

MISSION WOMAN 1: I said, excuse me.

SCROOGE: So you did.

MISSION WOMAN 1: Scrooge and Marley, I believe?

SCROOGE: And what of it?

MISSION WOMAN 1: Do I have the pleasure of addressing Mr Scrooge or Mr Marley?

SCROOGE: Mr Marley has been dead these past seven years. Seven years this very night, in fact.

MISSION WOMAN 2: Indeed? Well, I’ve no doubt his generous spirit lives on?

SCROOGE: (chuckling) ... generous? Marley? Ha!

MISSION WOMAN 1: A generosity no doubt shared by his surviving partner.

MISSION WOMAN 2: Especially at Christmas.

MISSION WOMAN 1: Our purpose, sir, is to make some slight provision for the poor and destitute. Whom as I’m sure you know are suffering greatly...

MISSION WOMAN 2: ... especially at Christmas.

MISSION WOMAN 1: Hundreds, nay thousands, sir, all in want of common comforts.

MISSION WOMAN 2: ... especially at Christmas.

MISSION WOMAN 1: Well, sir?

SCROOGE: Well what?

MISSION WOMAN 1: Would you care to make a contribution?

SCROOGE: No, I would not care, madam. Are there no prisons?

MISSION WOMAN 2: Plenty of prisons, sir, but –

SCROOGE: Are there no workhouses?

MISSION WOMAN 2: Indeed there are, sir, but -

SCROOGE: Well then?

MISSION WOMAN 2: But they scarcely furnish Christmas cheer, do they?

MISSION WOMAN 1: And so to that end, we are raising a fund to purchase meat and drink and means of warmth.

MISSION WOMAN 2: At a time when need is most keenly felt.

MISSION WOMAN 1: So - what shall we put you down for?

SCROOGE: Down? I have no wish to be put down.

MISSION WOMAN 1: You wish to remain anonymous?

SCROOGE: I wish to be left alone. I have no inclination to make merry myself and I’ve certainly no desire to make the idle and the good-for-nothing merry at my expense.

MISSION WOMAN 2: But what of the ill, the sick, the destitute, the poor widow woman?

SCROOGE: What indeed, madam? What of the poorhouse?

MISSION WOMAN 2: Many of them would rather die, sir.

SCROOGE: Then should we not respect their decision? And would not their noble sacrifice decrease the population for the greater good?

MISSION WOMAN 2: Have you no pity, sir?

SCROOGE: Pity? I can’t afford pity. I am a practical man.

MISSION WOMAN 1: Shame on you, sir. (leaving) Come, Augusta, the man has a heart of stone.

SCROOGE: Damnable impudence! And don’t forget to close the door!!

They leave

SCROOGE: What are looking at?

CRATCHIT: Nothing, sir

The Clock strikes Five

CRATCHIT closes his ledger, blows out his candle

CRATCHIT: Will there be anything more, sir?

SCROOGE: No, no, off you go, see you tomorrow.

CRATCHIT: Tomorrow? But tomorrow’s Christmas ...

SCROOGE: Ah, yes, so it is. I suppose you’ll be wanting the morning off?

CRATCHIT: Well, sir, I was hoping - ?

SCROOGE: What? You want the whole day off?

CRATCHIT: If it's quite convenient, sir.

SCROOGE: And what if it isn’t? What if it isn’t quite convenient? What if I were to dock you a half a crown? Hm? What then, eh?

CRATCHIT: I don't rightly know, sir.

SCROOGE: (mimics) I don’t rightly know, sir. And I suppose you’ll be expecting a full day's pay for no work?

CRATCHIT: Well, sir, it is only once a year.

SCROOGE: And that makes it all right, does it? Once a year, indeed! That’s a poor excuse for picking a poor man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December! Well?

CRATCHIT: I hadn’t quite looked on it like that, sir.

SCROOGE: No. Quite. Exactly. Oh, very well, I’m a fool to myself.

CRATCHIT: Thank you, sir.

SCROOGE: But you’d better be early the next morning.

CRATCHIT: Oh, yes, sir. Yes, indeed, sir.

CRATCHIT takes his hat and coat from a peg, wraps a long muffler around his chin and pulls his hat down over his face

SCROOGE returns to his desk, scribbles at his ledger

CRATCHIT: I'll be off now then, sir.

SCROOGE: Yes, yes ... off you go.

CRATCHIT: (mumbles) Merry ... Merry Christmas, sir.

SCROOGE: What?

CRATCHIT: I said –

SCROOGE: Get out!

CRATCHIT: Begging your pardon, sir.

SCROOGE: Just get out.

CRATCHIT makes a hasty exit

SCROOGE: (mumbling) ... humbug, nothing but humbug.

He sighs, puts down his quill, rubs his eyes, stretches and yawns, mutters

SCROOGE: ... heart of stone indeed ...

Finally drops his head on his arms

SCROOGE: ... the cheek of it ...

And sleeps

His candle flickers

Then goes out (Scrooge blows it out unseen)

The stage is now in darkness

A slow, Cold Wind rises

Far in the distance, a Clock chimes the Midnight hour

We hear the approach of Clinking Chains

MARLEY’S GHOST - invisible, entirely covered with black - face and all - slips in and sits

The Clock finally strikes Twelve

SCROOGE stirs from his sleep

A sudden clap of thunder jolts him awake

And a Green Light rises and illuminates MARLEY’S GHOST

The GHOST groans

SCROOGE stands, recoils

GHOST: Ebenezer ...

SCROOGE: ... what ... what in the name of-?

GHOST: Ebenezer ...

SCROOGE: You know me?

GHOST: Aye I know you. I know you well. And you know me.

SCROOGE: How so?

GHOST: I am the ghost of Jacob Marley.

[end of extract]



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