Cartoon Christmas Carol
Plotz and Don were dead to begin with. Dead as a doornail! And so was the heart of Count Duckula. Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Duckula! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. The door of Count Duckula's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Count had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Duckula kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed. "'A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!' cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Duckula's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
Bah!' said Count Duckula, Humbug!'
He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Count's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
'Christmas a humbug, uncle!' said Count's nephew. 'You don't mean that, I am sure?'
'I do,' said Count Duckula. 'Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.'
'Come, then,' returned the nephew gaily. 'What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough.'
Duckula having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said 'Bah!' again; and followed it up with 'Humbug.'
'Don't be cross, uncle!' said the nephew.
'What else can I be,' returned the uncle, 'when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,' said Count Duckula indignantly, 'every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should! "This lunatic, in letting Duckula's nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Count Duckula's office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.
'Duckula and Marley's, I believe,' said Mr. Small, referring to his list. 'Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Duckula, or Mr. Marley?'
'Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,' he replied. 'He died seven years ago, this very night.
'We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,' said the Mr. Nosey, presenting his credentials.
It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word 'liberality,' Count Duckula frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.
'At this festive season of the year, Mr. Count,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, 'it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.'
'Are there no prisons?' asked Count.
'Plenty of prisons,' said the orange gentleman, laying down the pen again.
'And the Union workhouses?' demanded Count Duckula. 'Are they still in operation?'
'They are. Still,' returned the green gentleman, 'I wish I could say they were not.'
'The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?' said Duckula.
'Both very busy, sir.'
'Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Count Duckula. 'I'm very glad to hear it.'
'Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,' returned the gentleman, 'a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink. and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?'
'Nothing!' he replied.
'You wish to be anonymous?'
'I wish to be left alone,' said Count Duckula. 'Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.'
'Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'
If they would rather die,' said Count, 'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.