It has long been rumoured that Charles Dickens removed a “stave” from A Christmas Carol, in between III & IV. At the end of Stave III, Ebenezer Scrooge “lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him”, and at the start of Stave IV, he is approached by The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. But what happens between the two? Careful study led me to find this missing portion of the manuscript, down the back of a sofa once owned by Dickens.
The Ghost Of Future Appalling Tea
As the phantom approached, Scrooge was startled by the figure of a tall man in a coat and hat with a seemingly endless scarf who, from nowhere, stepped between himself and the slowly approaching phantom.
“I say, Ebenezer, could you come with me for a moment? Thanks awfully” And with that, the tall man encompassed Scrooge’s arm with his hand and dragged him towards a mysterious cupboard, which had not been present in his room until that very moment.
The cupboard surprised him by opening, not into a traditional cupboard as expected, but into an enormous room that Scrooge could not recall having been in his house, and the room was filled with what appeared to be machinery. “Hold tight” said the tall man, and he moved a few switches, resulting in a tremendous wheezing and groaning, so much so that Scrooge thought Marley’s Ghost had come back for another visit.
Scrooge was just looking around when the sound stopped. His eyes alighted on what appeared to be a dog made of metal which was wagging it’s tail, but before he could react, the tall man was once again dragging him through the cupboard doors.
But not back into his room.
Instead, they were upon a balcony, on the side of a building built of a smooth stone, the like of which he had not seen before. They were three stories high, and overlooking some sort of restaurant, but one where the tables appeared to be outside, and under an enormous shade of glass.
Ebenezer Scrooge was getting a little tired of being pushed around.
“You are the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, I Presume” he addressed the tall man, who, come to think of it, seemed quite solid.
“Me? No, not at all, That’s the grey chap that was dawdling towards your bed. I’ll get you back there before he finally drags himself up for his dramatic entrance. That’s ghosts for you.”
“So.. which Ghost are you are you?”
“I’m the Doc.. hang on, I’m the… Ghost of Future Appalling Tea. Sort of a bonus Ghost.”
“What?”. This was not a Ghost Scrooge was expected, and despite the depredations of his night, Scrooge liked to be kept accurately informed.
“Shhhhh… – watch this”. And the bonus Ghost gestured toward the restaurant below. It was full, and the people below, who were very strangely attired, had just finished their Christmas pudding. They called for tea, and as Scrooge watched large cups were delivered.
“What do you notice?” asked the bonus Ghost.
“Well, some of those ladies are not fully dressed. How scandalous! Where have you bought me?”
“It’s London, Christmas Day. 2047. Now pay attention to the tea. What do you notice?”
“Well, there are strange bits of string hanging from the cups, and there is… no teapot. I do not understand”
“Well, I’ll tell you. Let’s get moving”.
The apparition pushed Ebenezer back into the cupboard, and once more pressed buttons. He started shouting over the noise.
“Sixty years from your time, an insidious device called the “tea bag” will start to become popular. So much so that 2046 is the last Christmas where anyone will use a teapot. And the result of that will be the end of the entire human race four years later, when some off-world neighbours drop in for a cuppa and, feeling like they are not being honoured with the good china, they take offense. Then BOOM!” he waved his hands in the air to emphasize the point
“BOOM? I don’t understand”
“You don’t need to understand, you need to listen. You know that fellow Topper, the one who fancies your niece?”
“Topper? That rake? Yes, but…”
“Shhhh. If he marries her and has children, their child will invent the teabag. You need to make sure that your niece does not marry this fellow.”
“Stop asking questions!”
With that the Bonus Ghost propelled Ebenezer Scrooge out of the cupboard and back to his bed, where the grey Phantom was almost upon him
“Listen, Ebenezer, you’re about to have a very traumatic experience with this Ghost, so please, please, do not forget what I have told you. All of humanity depends upon it”.
With that he returned to his cupboard, and that cupboard simply vanished, leaving Ebenezer alone in his room, save for the slow approaching apparition, which approached him with such a feeling of doom attached to it, that it drove all thoughts of the last few minutes from his mind.
*IIISS is indeed the actual Roman Numeral for 3½. You learn something new every day.