And each time he was touched, Zachariah was touched.
He had never felt that he belonged among the “clean people.”
Forgetting who he was and what he was for the first time
in his life since becoming aware of his lowly station,
Zachariah felt that…? That he belonged. His eyes becoming
shiny and wet, he became one of them, one of the happy
One of the clean people
Climbing Boy 19: Touched
December 24, 1843
Streaky and distorted, the glass was heavily frosted near
the bottom and coated with beads of moisture nearer the
top, and although the wavy window was misty at eye level,
Zachariah was able to see trays; at this time most were empty,
but not all.
Not too long until closing time, on this, the evening before
Christmas, not much was left in the bakery, but what did
remain was enough to make the suddenly hungry boy’s
There were cakes and cookies of many shapes and sizes;
some tarts with delicious-looking red and yellow toppings;
a few large, crusty napoleons; scones with rich, oozing
cream; and gingerbread men.
With his nose pressed against wet, cold glass, Zachariah
watched as the baker, wearing a soiled apron, reached from
tray to tray, taking the last of the napoleons and three
Who could ‘ave so much money, the boy thought, to buy
so many’a them wonderful things? And to Mousy, “Should I
go in ‘ere and buy me one’a them cream things?” Turning
from the window, starting through the door, No! Don’t ya
spend ya money so fast, thinking of what was ahead, Ya still
got a way to go. And knowing he’d be sorry if he spent his
money now, “An’ ya know’s what ya really be wantin’!” he
said aloud. “Just ya wait till we get to the confectioner’s shop!”
His deceived stomach grumbled in protest, but sighing
and wishing he had enough money for a pastry, too,
Zachariah began to walk again.
“A merry Christmas to ya, lad!” A smiling man with a
young boy in tow rubbed his shoulder.
“Thank ya, Sir!”
Another man, touching the sleeve of his long-coat, “May
the Lord Jesus keep ya, boy!”
“I thanks ya, Sir!”
Zachariah turned, looking.
“Aye, boy!” Waving, an elderly woman accompanied by
two younger women purposely crossed the road to come to
him, and each in turn touched Zachariah, wishing him “A
“You, too, Mum.” Warmed by the friendly touches of the
three women, “And a good Christmas to ya, too, Mum!”
The women were rewarded and delighted with the boy’s
heart-warming smile. “God bless you, lad!”
“Thank ya, Mum.” Looking from one lady to the other,
“And to you, too, Mum. Thank ya!”
They parted, the boy going in his direction and the women
theirs, but each of the four came away from their accidental
meeting feeling somehow rewarded.
Going on, one road crossing another.
Looking… Watching… The boy continued on until,
suddenly, he stopped walking and, turning in a tight circle,
his head thrown back, his nose in the air, he sniffed deeply…
His nose twitching, sniffing the air like a hungry animal,
“There!” It’s coming from there.
His stomach rumbling loudly, his mouth watered so badly
that he actually had to swallow and wipe the saliva from
Crossing the road, still sniffing, he stood in front of the
door of a rather melancholy appearing tavern when, the
door opening abruptly, he had to move backward out of the
way as a cheaply dressed man and woman came from
Seeing the little chimney sweep, the lady smiled and
lightly, with her forefinger only—not wanting to get her
somewhat dirty glove dirtier—touched his shoulder as the
man went to the road to hail a passing cab.
Zachariah watched as, “Whoa!” the driver pulled the
plodding horse to a halt, climbed down from his seat and
ran around the rear of the small carriage. Opening the door
with a slight bow, “Mum, Sir! An’ where might I be takin’ ya?”
Holding the man’s offered elbow for support, the lady
stepped onto the runner and into the cab.
Telling the driver their destination, the man followed
Tipping his cap, “Aye, Sir!” Slamming the door shut, the
driver ran back to the front of the cab where he pulled
himself up onto the seat and, the reins slapping the horse’s
rump, “Giddy’ap!” they were off.
Hesitating a moment, Zachariah came closer to the tavern
door again… And within seconds had to back away as it
swung open once again.
The man coming out noticed the boy. “Ah, for luck, my
little friend.” he said as he vigorously rubbed his left hand
across the boy’s shoulder, then, walking away, he picked his
teeth with a toothpick with his right hand, while wiping his
other hand on the back of his own shabby coat.
Drawn back, holding the door open a bit, inhaling deeply
through his nostrils, smelling, the combined odors of
roasting pork, beef and mutton made the suddenly ravenous
boy giddy and, his stomach grumbling, he took another deep
breath, as though by merely breathing he’d be able to taste
what he smelled, and so satisfy his hunger.
Grabbed from behind, held by the collar of his coat,
Zachariah was lifted off his feet.
“What do you want here?”
Frightened, the tips of his toes barely touching the ground,
turning his head, the boy looked into the face of a thin, elderly
man with deep set, dark brown eyes, scraggly eyebrows, a
beaked nose and wildly flowing white hair.
An obvious look of contempt showing on the man’s face,
“Don’t you have anywhere else to be?” Shaking the boy,
“Why’s your kind always hanging about?” Bringing his head
closer, breathing his fetid breath in Zachariah’s face, “Every
place I go it’s you beggars and filth!” Bending forward,
coming even closer, the man’s long nose just an inch from
the boy’s, “Why can’t you stay with your own kind? Why
must you people always be hanging about?”
“But, Sir,” squirming, Zachariah tried to speak. “I ain’t…”
Tightening his grip on the boy’s collar, the man shook
him into silence. “Why must your kind”—annoyed at being
interrupted, he repeated—“always be bothering and
harassing honest, hard working people?”
Taking his unknown anger out on the unfortunate boy
who just happened to be here, in his way.
“I ain’t a beggar, Sir. An’ I works, too…”
Shaking him even harder, “Quiet!”
Bouncing back and forth, slipping off the bump on
Zachariah’s forehead and his ears, the top hat covered his
eyes for a second, then jiggled off his head and fell to the
ground where it rolled to the man’s feet.
The man looked at the little boy’s frightened, pathetic
face then down at the hat where, seemingly lost in thought,
the man stared at it for a long moment then, “Bah!” he said,
and released Zachariah.
Losing his balance, almost falling, the boy slumped to
Straightening his back, dismissing the boy, the man
turned away, grabbed the doorknob and angrily pulled the
door open letting it slam against the opposite wall where it
remained open and, “Bah!” muttering, the man entered the
The confrontation with the dreadful man having left
Zachariah cold again, bending, he lifted the hat, fitted it
onto the three points of his head, and as before, by covering
his head, a feeling of warmth came to the boy.
Everyone he’d met this night—except this man—seemed
to, or at least gave the appearance of liking him. Confused,
“Why’s ‘e ‘ate me so?” he said to his pocket. “‘e don’t even
The door to the tavern remaining open, the boy watched
as the man walked to a table and sat.
Noticing the man, “Evenin’, Sir!” a barman went to
The man did not answer.
The barman, knowing this customer, asked, “Ya, be
wantin’ the mutton tonight, Sir?”
Still irritated by his encounter with the ragamuffin
outside, his voice harsh, “Yes!
Knowing this customer well, knowing that making a stab
at friendliness on this night would probably mean no more
than the times he’d made an attempt at being friendly in the
past, “Will ya be spending this night afore Christmas with
your family, Sir?”
“No, George!” the man answered harshly. “If it is any of
your business, I’ll be spending this night before Christmas
at home, in bed, as all men should.”
“‘owever, Sir, I do wish ya a good Christmas.”
“Save your ‘good Christmas’ for some other gullible fool!”
Expecting none other than this rebuke, “Aye, Sir,”
“One thing more…”
“None of your indigestible potatoes tonight, George!”
“Aye, Sir. As ya wish, Mister Scrooge.”
Outside, catching the door, a gust of wind slammed it shut.