'Tis the season at SteynOnline: If you've left it all a bit last-minute for long-distance shipping, there's always a Mark Steyn Club Christmas gift membership, which can be digitally delivered to your kith and kin's Christmas stocking as late as the small hours of Christmas morn. And, if you really want to treat your beloved this holiday, there's a stateroom waiting on the Mark Steyn Caribbean Cruise, with Eva Vlaardingerbroek, Conrad Black, Michele Bachmann, Bo Snerdley, Leilani Dowding and more.
~Here comes Part Five of my annual serialisation of A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens, very quickly, in the autumn of 1843 and a Christmas perennial ever since. On the first airing of Steyn's Dickens, one of our First Weekend Founding Members, Sam Williamson, wrote:
Thanks for running this feature Mark. Your site continues to evolve into,... we know not what, perhaps a Grand Theatre Arts Books Mass Media Department Store (Marky's on Fifth) where one can find all that is required for the serious shopper, and be well served by the employees who wear the white gloves, operate the elevator and open the door to the lounge.
We hope you still feel that way, Sam. And our white-gloved elevator boy thanks you, too. In tonight's episode, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present - and Dickens gives us one of the great Christmas Pudding scenes of English literature:
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 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 pastrycook'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.
The first Sunday of Advent used to be known as "Stir-Up Sunday" - as you'll know if you heard my Plum Duff. I wonder how many English children today (or grown-ups) would even recognise the expression.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Five of our adventure simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes of A Christmas Carol can be found here, and dozens more of our Tales for Our Time here.
Following my variation on a theme of H G Wells, Allen Randall, a First Day Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes:
Do you have plans to publish Out of Time in book form? It is the perfect tale for our time and tale of a better time. Merry Christmas and thank you for the light and laughter you bring.
I'm thinking about it, Allen. Right now, I'm focused on trying to get through the stress of next month's trial without a fourth heart attack. If I survive that, we'll get right on it. In the meantime, there's always the hardback of The Prisoner of Windsor.
For more on The Mark Steyn Club, please see here.
See you for Part Six of A Christmas Carol tomorrow.