Charles Dickens has given us no picture of Tiny Tim, but at the thought of him comes a vision of a delicate figure, less boy than spirit. We seem to see a face oval in shape and fair in colouring. We see eyes deep-set and grey, shaded by lashes as dark as the hair parted from the middle of his low forehead. We see a sunny, patient smile which from time to time lights up his whole face, and a mouth whose firm, strong lines reveal clearly the beauty of character, and the happiness of disposition, which were Tiny Tim’s.
He was a rare little chap indeed, and a prime favourite as well. Ask the Crachits old and young, whose smile they most desired, whose applause they most coveted, whose errands they almost fought with one another to run, whose sadness or pain could most affect the family happiness, and with one voice they would answer, “Tim’s!”
It was Christmas Day, and in all the suburbs of London there was to be no merrier celebration than at the Crachits. To be sure, Bob Crachit had but fifteen “Bob” himself a week on which to clothe and feed all the little Crachits, but what they lacked in luxuries they made up in affection and contentment, and would not have changed places, one of them, with any king or queen.
While Bob took Tiny Tim to church, preparations for the feast were going on at home. Mrs. Crachit was dressed in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons, while Master Peter Crachit plunged a fork into a saucepan full of potatoes, getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob’s private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, but rejoiced to find himself so finely dressed, and yearning to show his linen in the fashionable Parks.
Two smaller Crachits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker’s they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onions, these young Crachits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Crachit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collar almost choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes, bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.
“What has ever got your precious father, then?” said Mrs. Crachit. “And your brother, Tiny Tim! And Martha warn’t as late last Christmas Day by half an hour!”
“Here’s Martha, mother!” cried the two young Crachits. ” Hurrah ! there’s such a goose, Martha!”
“Why, bless your heart alive, dear, how late you are!” said Mrs. Crachit, kissing the daughter, who lived away from home, a dozen times. “Well, never mind as long as you are come!”
“There’s father coming!” cried the two young Crachits, who were everywhere at once. ” Hide, Martha, hide !”
So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter hanging down before him, and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Why was the child thus carried? Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch and had his limbs supported by an iron frame! Patient little Tim,–never was he heard to utter a fretful or complaining word. No wonder they cherished him so tenderly!
“Why, where’s our Martha?” cried Bob Crachit looking round.
“Not coming!” said Mrs. Crachit.
“Not coming?” said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim’s blood horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant.
“Not coming upon Christmas Day!”