This announcement may be a little late for Christmas but I figured it's never too late to make publishing history. One Albert Barnes a dealer in rare books contacted me four days ago. He got my name from Pegotty Applebloom (see Lincoln's Lover, December 16). Barnes had a rare and never before published manuscript he wanted to sell me.
"Dickens's original intent was to write a horror story. But he folded to his publisher's pressure to do something warm and fuzzy. I have in my possession the original," said Barnes.
Why was he offering this precious piece of literature to My Little Publishing Company? Was I being duped? Then I remembered that this was the season of giving. I put aside my doubts and began practicing gratitude instead. I gave Barnes my MasterCard number as it was only card I hadn't exceeded my limit on. I also paid extra to have the manuscript delivered overnight.
I studied the rare document. It was filled with crossed out words and ink spatters. If this wasn't authentic then I didn't know what was.
Attack of the Christmas Pudding ran pretty much along the same lines as the published version of A Christmas Carol. The same ghosts, same mean old Scrooge and then the lovely Cratchit Christmas supper scene. And it's here we see the foreshadowing of the horrors to come:
"Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper...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."
This is where the original manuscript veers off from the published version:
"Cratchits sat back in their chairs each and everyone filled to the brim with happiness and good Christmas cheer. Suddenly Tiny Tim pointed his dear finger at what was just a moment before an empty pudding platter.
'It's come back,' he cried. 'Tis another pudding.'
They watched as the hard round shape grew and grew until it covered the entire Cratchit table.
At first the little Cratchit children clapped their hands with delight. But as the hard round shape continued to swell they became very frightened. Soon it filled the Christmas Table. The smell of it was so thick and sweet, that the wee ones had trouble breathing. And yet it did not stop swelling and growing.
'Oh Bob, do something! We shall all be crushed to smithereens,' cried Mrs. Cratchit.
'Is this our punishment for wishing for more than our due?' pondered poor Bob."
The manuscript goes on to describe it horrific detail what happened to the Cratchits as the pudding continued on its relentless attack.
With a trembling hand I set the manuscript aside. I was tormented by the question of whether or not to release it to the public. Finally, I decided against publishing it. Why ruin Christmas for everybody? I thought about Tiny Tim's immortal words:
"God bless us everyone."
Of course, Tiny Tim didn't say that in Dickens original version. What he did say was:
"I never thought a Christmas pudding could kill a horse."
But why dwell on that? I've returned the rare manuscript to Barnes and I'm hoping MasterCard will issue me a credit for it. My New Year's resolution is not to buy any more manuscripts no matter how rare they may be.