Stave Three (The Second of the Three Ghosts)
A Christmas Dinner
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought
a goose the rarest of all 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 vigour; 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.
At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. 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!
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't
believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its
tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the
themes of universal admiration. Eked out by the 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 upon the dish),
they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had
enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were
steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the
plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left
the room alone--too nervous to bear witness--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 back-yard, and stolen it, while
they were merry with the goose: a supposition at which
the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of
horrors were supposed.
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,
blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and
bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
Oh, 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 quantity
of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but
nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for
a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so.
Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.