It had been seven years since what all the lenders and borrowers of London, and even many outside the city and the practice of usury, had come to know as the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. With a fervency rivaling far more scurrilous gossip, the good citizens of England passed along the tale of the hard-hearted moneylender who awoke one Christmas morning bursting with generosity of a magnitude normally suppressed by an unspoken mutual consent among the prosperous gentlemen of the civilised world. In fact, the tale of Scrooge was a commodity so much traded at the Yuletide gatherings of rich and poor alike that few of the tellers had ever met or even spied its subject, and as with all such things, each telling brought an embellishment that would be further embellished in the next generation.
Yet with all this enlargement, the yarn of Scrooge's newfound largess often paled in comparison to the reality. As a favorite phrase in the story went, Scrooge was better than his word. Many well-off have been known to heed the call of charity in a great public burst of munificence, only to return to the expansion of their secret, fat ledgers by next sunrise. Still others, who have been frighted by some private intimation of their own deaths, seek to set right the unbalanced accounts of their souls with a spate of good deeds and a conspicuous merriment in their outward demeanor, both of which melt away, with perhaps a few squalls of renewal, like the snows of early Spring. However, this was not true of Scrooge.
He had bestowed a ceaseless stream of gifts and kindnesses on all with whom he had dealings. He had sold off possessions and cashed in his staggering investments to raise funds for hospitals and kitchens and orphanages. He had visited the proprietors and patrons of asylums and debtor's prisons to plead for the improvement of conditions for the unfortunates in them. In his own business, he had extended, reduced, or utterly forgiven many of the private accounts due to him and his now-partner, once-clerk Bob Cratchit. This last habit of Scrooge had, in fact, reached such an extreme that the firm of Scrooge & Cratchit currently stood close to the abyss of bankruptcy, beset by a pack of ravenous creditors and, now in the waning of December, faced with the inescapable maw of foreclosure after the turn of the new year.
Such were the worries of Bob Cratchit as he labored to shift accounts and defer payments for loans the firm itself had to take out merely to continue operation. However, for the moment, he had a more immediate matter to which he had to attend.