It was the season of goodwill and love, but Alice saw nothing of that when she met her aunts and uncles. It was when she visited her Uncle Scrooge in hospital she found out what it was all about!
Twelve-year-old Alice was going Christmas shopping with her aunt Rose and cousin Ruth. Aunt Rose arrived in her car to pick up Alice and her mother. “Here's the guest list for my Christmas party. See if I had left anyone,” said Aunt Rose as she handed a paper to Alice's mother.
“You forgot to include Cousin Jonas' family,” said Alice's mother.
“I'm not inviting them,” said aunt Rose.
“Please do invite them. You know they are having financial problems,” said Alice's mother.
Aunt Rose's silence saddened Alice's mother. They reached a shopping mall. Alice and Ruth raced each other to the toy store. “Ruth, help me to select the toys to give the kids, who come to our Christmas party,” said Aunt Rose.
“How about this doll house for Janice?” asked Ruth. Aunt Rose looked at the price and shook her head. “This doll house costs 600 rupees. Janice's parents gave you a bag worth 300 rupees last Christmas. Find something that costs below 300 rupees,” said Aunt Rose.
Ruth picked a board game for 400 rupees. “We'll give this to Cousin Rachel's daughter. Last Christmas she gave you a watch worth 400 rupees,” said Aunt Rose.
“So this is how Aunt Rose buys Christmas gifts for others,” said Alice to herself. Alice wanted to buy a bicycle for herself. But the Christmas gift money she received from her parents was not enough. She browsed around the toy store, but found nothing to her liking.
Later they went to Aunt Rose's house for lunch. Alice's Uncle James and Aunt Mary were there.
“Uncle Scrooge is in town,” said Uncle James. Uncle Scrooge's real name was Ebenezer Williams. He was Alice's grand-uncle. His relatives nicknamed him Uncle Scrooge because they said he was a miser. “He refused to come to my Christmas party,” said Aunt Rose. “He turned down your invitation, because he is afraid to spend money to buy Christmas gifts for his relatives,” said Aunt Mary. “He has no wife or children. He is a self-made millionaire. But he has no heart to spend single rupee for his own relatives. I wish the ghosts of the past, present and future visits him on Christmas Eve,” laughed Uncle James. “Don't ridicule him,” said Alice's mother.
Uncle James, mobile phone rang. But he did not answer it. “It's Martin. He has been nagging us for a donation for some orphanage,” he said.
“Don't give him any money,” said Aunt Mary.
The next day Alice's mother received news that Uncle Scrooge was admitted in a hospital with a broken leg after he slipped and fell down a staircase. She informed the other relatives. But no one wanted to visit him at the hospital. Alice was surprised that Uncle Scrooge was admitted in the general ward in a government hospital.
“He could've got an air conditioned room in a private hospital. Looks like he hates to spend money even for his own medical treatment,” thought Alice.
Uncle Scrooge looked content in the general ward. He was talking to his secretary and manager. His face lit up when he saw Alice and her mother. In the bed next to his, Alice saw an elderly, gloomy looking man. In another bed an eight-year-old boy with a broken leg was crying inconsolably.
The next day, Alice's mother packed some lunch for Uncle Scrooge and Alice reluctantly accompanied her to the hospital. Alice looked around and saw that the boy with a broken leg was playing with an aeroplane. There were many other expensive toys on his bed. The elderly man in the next bed looked very happy.
“Let's step out,” said Uncle Scrooge and Alice's mother took him out in a wheel chair. As Alice was about to follow, she heard the elderly man tell a nurse, “May God bless the generous soul who paid my operation fee.” Alice passed by the boy's bed and heard the boy's mother tell the father, “I don't know who sent these expensive toys to our Ravi.”
A nurse was telling a ward boy, “Looks like angels came down and paid the medical bills of all these patients in this ward. Each patient also received a Christmas gift.”
“Who could the Angels be?” wondered Alice. Then she overheard the doctor, “That man has a golden heart. He made me promise not to tell anyone of his generosity.”
“Who is he?” asked the nurse.
“The one in the wheelchair. His name is Ebenezer Williams. He knows that the true spirit of Christmas is giving to the less fortunate with a happy heart.”
Alice was astounded. Uncle Scrooge was that mysterious angel! She joined her Uncle and mother. He was telling her mother about helping cousin Jonas family. It dawned on Alice that it was her own relatives who were Scrooges. But what about her? Alice felt ashamed that she has not helped anyone without expecting anything in return. She stood outside the hospital while her mother went to get the car. She saw volunteers from the Salvation Army collecting money. Without giving a second thought, she put her Christmas money into their Salvation Army collection box. She was not going to tell anyone what she had done.
After they left, Uncle Ebenezer called his secretary, “I want to buy a bicycle for my grand niece Alice. She is an angel. I saw her contribute a generous amount of money to the Salvation Army.”
Keywords: Christmas stories