"What do you make of this, Watson?"
Holmes was by our sitting-room window, looking down at Baker Street, where two
men, standing beside a hansom, argued loudly. Angry voices rose and fell during the
dispute, punctuated frequently by a gruff "Humbug!' from one of them.
Curious, I went over to see what the commotion was about.
"In my judgment, Holmes, the old gentleman is protesting these exorbitant fares
the drivers have been charging lately. I can't say that I blame him."
A December storm, raging since early morning, had by now deposited a quantity of
snow over the scene, muffling some of the noisy sounds common to London the day
before Christmas. Except for this local disturbance, a peaceful charm existed outside
our steamy window panes. But the icy particles rattling against them told of the wintry
conditions that prevailed just below, making our well-heated rooms unusually appealing.
"You see, Watson, but you do not observe," my companion then remarked mildly.
"Doesn't it strike you odd that he is not wearing his greatcoat though the weather is
bitter, but carries it on his arm? His agitation has another source elsewhere, as shown
by the eye shade thrust hastily into his waistcoat pocket, where the upper tip of a quill
pen, you will notice, protrudes at an odd angle " objects used exclusively by those in
the bookkeeping profession " which would account as well for the stooped posture,
peculiar to one who is habitually bent over his ledgers. You have noticed, have you not,
the direction the tracks in the snow? They lead back to the Commerce Block, where
only one counting-house, to my knowledge, does business. If you had not missed these
telling facts, my dear fellow, you would have undoubtedly come to the same conclusion
I have, that we are about to receive a visit from someone who has just made a hurried
departure to get here."
By this time the belligerent old man had dismissed the luckless driver and stomped
into the entrance to our lodgings at 221B Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson's cheery "Merry
Christmas' received only a muttered "Humbug" as she led him to our door. His impatient
knock gave Holmes little time to open the door and show him in.
"Sherlock Holmes, is it?", he inquired, I am".."
"Ebenezer Scrooge", Holmes finished, smiling cordially.
"Come in, come in and warm yourself by our fire. You're chilled after that prolonged
discussion outside, I'm sure."
His anger flaring again, Scrooge began to pace.
"I could not convince that confounded rascal that we were being followed here. He saw
no one, he said, and made a reference to my mental capacity which did nothing to soften
my temper, or relieve my anxiety. As a practical business man, Mr.Holmes, I'm not given
to flights of fancy, but this afternoon has proved to be an unwelcome distraction to me.
There has been a threat made, and I don't seem to know who made it."
From the expression on his face, I saw that Holmes seemed to find the last comment
"Please describe the events of this afternoon that troubled you so spare no details."
"The days are dreadfully dreary at this time
of the year, and this continual intrusion by so-
called well-meaning solicitors, with their untiring
efforts to pick my pockets on their behalf does
not brighten them."
"How much can we put you down for?"
"You wish to be anonymous?""..
Scrooge's voice had risen to a falsetto.
"I wish to be left alone!, I told them. It's
hard enough to make ends meet as it is. We
are a small establishment. Christmas is a
poor excuse for robbing a".."
"The details," Holmes said sharply.
"Yes, of course," admitted our visitor, somewhat taken aback. "These incursions into
my place of business are an expensive nuisance. The weather is bitter enough without
bringing it in all day with every swing of the door. My clark, Bob Cratchett, has even
taken to putting coals on the fires without asking. I've caught him at it several times this
Perhaps due to the unaccustomed warmth, or fatigue from the tiresome
parade of these persons throughout the day, I've begun to fall asleep before the end of
the day " every day this week.Crachett has had to shake me awake before the closing
"This very afternoon I had to be roused, earlier than ever, as Cratchett left to take his
holiday time. After he left I stayed behind, intending to put things in order, mulling over
the day's events, when, as clearly as I hear you now, I recalled a voice speaking to me.
Although somewhat muffled in tone, I was able to hear it distinctly, retaining the words.
No one had come in " Cratchett locked the door. I cannot remember any of the solicitors
saying these things""
"What things?," prompted Holmes.
"I have been threatened that someone will be coming to my house tonight..perhaps
as many as three persons. They plan to carry me away somehow..perhaps for ransom.
Who would be likely to pay to get me back?" Scrooge laughed sardonically.
Was there a note of wistfulness?
"I will not be the same man when they are done with me, I'm told, whatever that
Scrooge was regaining his belligerence.
"I'm not going to put up with this any longer, Holmes.I confess I was at a loss what
to do, when your name suddenly came to mind. I came here immediately. Will you
"By all means. Unless I miss my guess, this may become a most memorable
Christmas Eve. If Dr. Watson is agreeable, you may expect us later tonight."
Visibly relaxed, Scrooge took his leave.
"Watson, I trust you will thank your good wife for her continual patience in these
matters.Your assistance is highly valued. Your companionship her loss. We shall
make this up to her. Mrs.Hudson has invited the three of us to share Christmas dinner
with her tomorrow. Assure Mary that nothing shall deprive us of this delightful prospect."
"In the meantime however, if you will bring along your revolver, we must find our way
into the office of Scrooge and Marley."
Going to the window, Holmes raised and lowered the shade twice, then suggested
we put on our heavy coats. By the time we reached the street, a black hansom had
drawn up alongside and was waiting. Holmes' contact with certain members of the under-
world was widespread and of great use to him often.
A brief journey through the deserted streets
brought us to the darkened counting-house, where
the hansom stopped long enough for us to get out,
then moved slowly away.
Using one of the many lock-picking tools he
carried with him at all times, Holmes easily opened
the door to the bleak interior, illuminated with a
ghastly yellow light from the gas street lamp on the
As Holmes moved silently about the room, I remarked on the
pungent, yet somehow sickly sweet odor of smoke that still lingered.
"Don't breathe too deeply, Watson!"
He was kneeling by a stove quite close to the front door,
undoubtedly Bob Cratchett's, sifting ashes gently through
his fingers, then quickly located the second one, Scrooge's,
and probed those ashes as well, disclosing a small lump
that he immediately slipped into another pocket
"As I thought", he exclaimed, in barely audible tones.
"Watson, we're finished here", he whispered. Taking my
arm he led us back into the street. As the door clicked
shut behind us, the black hansom reappeared.
" We're headed to your home at the moment as you
see", Holmes told me as we rode.
"I'm not completely heartless " you need a little time
with your long-suffering wife before spending this
Christmas Eve with two crotchety old men. We will
return for you in an hour."
True to his word, the black carriage arrived within
the hour. Holmes seemed much more at ease,
I thought". but said nothing.
Scrooge opened his door to let us in " pausing only to peer closely at the knocker,
before shutting it firmly behind us.
"My mind has been playing tricks since I left you", he apologized. "I seem to have
encountered Jacob Marley at every turn. A good night's sleep will soon straighten me out.
So much for Spirits! Humbug!."
As was his habit, Scrooge retired early to his bedchamber, not however, before a
final outburst of rage at his supposed persecutors, solicitors, life in general and
Christmas in particular.
"What an awful man" I muttered.
"Perhaps not, Watson, perhaps not," Holmes mused absently.
"We shall see."
A series of regular, rasping sounds
indicated that Scrooge was sleeping.
Holmes was right " it was indeed a
long night. my anticipated excitement
was cut short when I laid my revolver on
a nearby table only to hear him say it
would not be needed.
"They'll be no intruders, Watson."
"Then why are we here?", I asked,
"Your medical skills may be needed."
The night dragged on while I dozed
fitfully. Holmes watched me with a trace
of a sympathetic smile.
"Watson, my dear fellow, don't fight it.
Lie down on that sofa and get some rest."
I must admit I followed his advice and
the remainder of the night passed quickly,
bringing daylight " and an unexpected
Before I saw him, I heard him. Scrooge was at his window, calling to a youngster.
"What day is this?"
"Christmas day, sir."
"Then I haven't missed it!", followed by gales of laughter.
I sat in stunned disbelief. "Holmes, what in the world".?"
Scrooge continued to address the boy, made arrangements for a goose to be
delivered to Bob Cratchett's home, throwing him money, with a promise of more for
speedy service".all this with continual eruptions of giggles until he had to stop to
catch his breath. At last he rushed from his bedroom and greeted us as though we
might have just come in.
"Merry Christmas", he roared, bestowing a great bear hug to each of us. "What
a fine morning! i can scarcely contain myself. Oh, i have so many places to go, so
many people I must see, before my nephew's dinner party. I mustn't miss it. Where
do I start? Why, I'm as giddy as a schoolboy
He fairly danced as he got himself dressed and out the door he went.
Holmes was smiling as he motioned me to follow him out the same door. Not surprisingly, the black hansom was waiting at the curb.
Settling back in the familiar hansom once again I pressed Holmes for hisexplanation of the remarkable occurrence we had just witnessed.
"The Spirits have done it, Watson", he smiled, "that is how history will record it."
"Humbug!". I found myself quoting Scrooge at the notion. "You know better. What
DO you know? And where are we headed this time?"
"One more appointment, only, my dear fellow, before our promised dinner. There
will be ample time to acquire hearty appetites."
"Were now on our way to the home of a troubled man who is anxiously awaiting us.
I want to see him before Scrooge gets there."
"Bob Cratchett, Watson."
"After I left you at your home yesterday, I went directly to his for a little talk. When I
showed him the small lump extracted from Scrooge's stove " his stove only, mind you,
he grew quite pale and led me into an adjoining room, away from his family. Once in the
little side chamber he handed me a small booklet which justified my suspicions. Are you
acquainted with the growing practice of Mesmerism, Watson?"
"I took the liberty of copying for you a portion of the page which states their objective:
"To alleviate pain and suffering, to cure others of diseases and ailments without drugs
or the surgeon's knife, is to engage in work evoking the keenest human sympathy. Here
is one of the noblest callings to which human kind can devote it's energies " a work of
sympathy, love and devotion to our fellow mortals and that science is Mesmerism. By
its influence you can extend a powerful influence over the mind of others without their
"In the space of half an hour Cratchett laid bare his desperation, employment under
a severe taskmaster, the poverty of his existence, unable to meet the needs of his
growing family, the bleak outlook for his youngest, Tiny Tim. Somewhere, somehow
he came into possession of this tract and saw immediately a way out.
"The harsh weather provided an excuse for stoking the fires without incurring the wrath
of Scrooge. While his employer was intent on his ledger, Cratchett added a substance to
the fire which produced the drowsiness he spoke of " cannabis. When Scrooge was deep
in slumber, Cratchett spoke persuasively to him, telling him he was to be visited by three
Spirits who would reveal his past life and lead him into a happier one of love for his fellow
man. A fanciful tale, Watson, which could add to your literary merits should you write it
up. If you don't, rest assured someone else will."
"By the way, in answer to my unspoken question, I saw a note at the back of the
book that he must have seen:
"Cannabis can be smoked in a variety of ways, whereas in some places a pile of
cannabis is simply thrown on the fire.and the smoke inhaled.'
"How is it that Cratchett was not affected?" I wondered aloud..
"The muffled voice Scrooge heard would indicate that Cratchett used some form of
covering to avoid the fumes, perhaps a kerchief."
"He repeated this procedure for several days and now suffers agonies at what he has
done, fearful of the consequences to Scrooge."
"Then this Christmas morning should be a delight for him, Holmes, when he hears
that he was successful."
"We can only hope the results are permanent. Mesmerism is successful when the
individual has a strong desire to accept the outcome. I have a feeling that Scrooge had
a facade he adopted long ago for whatever reason, and may have often wished to shrug
it off." It appears that Mesmerism has accomplished the feat.
"It's mind control nevertheless, Watson, and though one could find himself longing for
a world where the evil that drives man could be so readily suggested away, it must never
be allowed." I have exchanged a promise with Bob Cratchett that he is to have no further
dealing with the practice, and I, in turn, will conveniently forget the entire matter. If you
will leave this out of your journals, I will be grateful, Watson. The story will emerge one
day in some fanciful form that will charm readers everywhere."
"But that is not our concern, my good doctor, is it? If you are getting as hungry as I
am, we must not keep Mrs.Hudson waiting another moment."