This is the story so far…

Eben Scrooge was in the middle of an agreement to defraud his nephew, a local soccer club’s inheritance. He was awakened at night by the Ghost Of Christmas Past who brought back memories of past friendships and lost potential wives. The Ghost Of Christmas Present showed him how his selfishness had affected others including Tiny Tim, his disabled godson. And the Ghost Of Christmas Future made him see his unmourned, lonely death. He will he change his miserly ways now?

Pictured: The Mail invited the master storyteller Jeffrey Archer to reinvent the classic A Christmas Carol in a modern setting

Pictured by The Mail: Jeffrey Archer is a celebrated storyteller who was invited to reinvent A Christmas Carol for The Mail in a contemporary setting

Scrooge got up with a start and looked at the clock on his bedside: 6.38.

He reached for his phone and checked the messages. No messages. His WhatsApp was next: Nothing. Next, he received recent calls and saw a blank screen. Finally, he reached for voicemail to hear faint echo. ‘I cannot help you, unless . . .’

While he was trying to not think of the nightmares that he saw, he got up and went for a cold shower. By the time he was dressed, he’d made up his mind.

He took the long staircase down and found his way to his kitchen. There was his morning newspaper, The Daily Grump. These things don’t change.

‘Good morning, Janet,’ he said, as he took his place at the table.

Unable to conceal her shock, Mrs Carter looked around. ‘Good morning, Mr Scrooge,’ she replied, before placing two eggs in a pan of boiling water and dropping a slice of bread into the toaster.

‘How did your Christmas shopping go yesterday?’ Scrooge asked, as he pushed The Daily Grump to one side.

This time she couldn’t answer immediately, but eventually managed, ‘Almost done.’

‘Why don’t you take the rest of the day off, Janet? There must be lots of things you still need to do before Christmas Day.’

‘Thank you, Mr Scrooge,’ she said, not noticing that the egg timer had run its course and the toast was burnt. The master was actually hers, and she glanced around. What could have happened, she wondered, since she’d last seen him. He had won the Lottery. Did he have a hangover or had he won the Lottery? But neither was possible, because he never gambled and he didn’t drink.

Scrooge cracked the first of his eggs to find it was hard-boiled, then scraped his burnt toast with a knife, but he didn’t comment other than to say, ‘I’ll see you on Monday, Janet.’

‘Won’t you need me as usual on Boxing Day, Mr Scrooge?’

‘Certainly not. You must spend the day with your family.’ Though in truth, he wasn’t even sure if she had a family.

‘Thank you very much, Mr Scrooge,’ she said, sounding so surprised, it only reminded him how badly he’d treated her.

‘I’ve changed my mind,’ he announced, sounding more like his old self. ‘Take all next week off. In fact, I don’t want to see you again until January the second.’

‘But . . . but how will you survive, Mr Scrooge?’

‘I’ll let you know when you come back! Merry Christmas, Janet,’ he declared as he left the kitchen.

Mrs Carter fell into the closest chair. Her only assumption was that Mr. Scrooge was en route to the doctor.

Scrooge entered the hall where he stopped in front Ebenezer’s portrait. Scrooge lifted the painting from the wall, and he looked at Ebenezer for a second before moving his foot across the canvas.

Eben looked out the window and saw it snowing. He put on his coat and hat, before he set out. He hadn’t a moment to waste.

As he walked down the street, he was amazed to see that everyone passed him smiling, despite being cold. ‘Good morning, Mr Scrooge,’ said a passer-by as he made his way towards the town centre. He shook his head and returned the compliment.

Scrooge said: 'I should tell you that I had originally intended to buy the club as a tax write-off, but my accountant has advised me that if I make this ¿¿ he held up the cheque for one million pounds ¿¿ a charitable donation, your club,¿ he hesitated, ¿our club, can make a claim against tax and it will be worth one million, four hundred thousand pounds.¿

Scrooge said: ‘I should tell you that I had originally intended to buy the club as a tax write-off, but my accountant has advised me that if I make this —’ he held up the cheque for one million pounds ‘— a charitable donation, your club,’ he hesitated, ‘our club, can make a claim against tax and it will be worth one million, four hundred thousand pounds.’

When he reached the High Street, he quickly identified a shop he’d never noticed before but now recognised immediately.

He stepped in, trying not to let it be too obvious that he was aware of the man walking toward him. ‘Good morning, Sir,’ said the salesman. ‘How can I help you?’

‘An old friend of mine, Mr Cratchit, came into your shop yesterday afternoon,’ said Scrooge, ‘with his wife and their son.’

‘I remember them well. They purchased the new SRX electric wheelchair.’

‘The latest model,’ said Scrooge. ‘I believe he paid a deposit of one thousand pounds.’

‘He did indeed, sir.’

‘Do you still have the cheque, by any chance?’

‘Yes, I’ll be banking it later.’

‘May I see it?’

The salesman was puzzled and eventually opened the till, looking through several different cheques until he found the right one. Scrooge took the cheque from him and cut it in half. He then took out his chequebook and said, ‘£4,600, is that correct?’

‘Plus VAT.’

‘Of course,’ said Scrooge, then wrote out the full amount and handed the cheque over.

‘Thank you, Sir,’ said the salesman as he placed the cheque in the till and closed it quickly.

‘Should Mr Cratchit ever ask you who paid for the wheelchair, you will not under any circumstances tell him. Is that understood?’

‘Of course, Sir,’ said the salesman. He would have thanked the customer who had ensured his Christmas bonus, but he’d already left the shop.

Scrooge continued on down the High Street, raising his hat to several more well-wishers before coming to halt outside a building he’d visited many times before, but not for this purpose.

He entered the bank and joined a line of people waiting for their turn. After he had reached the top of the queue, he asked the teller for a conversation with the manager.

‘Mr Deering usually only sees customers who’ve made an appointment,’ she said. ‘I’ll have to see if he’s free, Mr . . ?’

‘Eben Scrooge.’

The number was dialed immediately and the phone rang. ‘Mr Deering, I have a Mr Eben Scrooge at my counter, and he’s asking . . .’ The line went dead. When the teller started to dial, the door at the end of the bank room burst open. The manager ran in. He hurried across to a customer he knew didn’t like to be kept waiting.

‘Good morning, Mr Scrooge,’ he said, even before he’d reached him. ‘How can I help you?’

‘I must apologise, Mr Deering,’ began Scrooge, ‘as I don’t have an appointment and I now realise Christmas Eve must be one of your busiest days of the year.’

‘I’m never too busy to see you, Mr Scrooge,’ said the manager, fearful of what could have caused such an important customer to visit without an appointment. ‘Perhaps you’d like to come into my office,’ he ventured.

After Scrooge had taken a seat, Deering asked him if he’d like some coffee.

‘No, thank you. I have a busy day ahead of me.’

‘Of course, Sir. So please, tell me,’ he added, with a slight tremor in his voice, ‘how can I assist you?’

‘My old schoolfriend Dick Wilkins is due to repay me a sum of money I loaned him almost a year ago.’

‘The payment is due on January the first, if I remember correctly,’ said the manager, opening a desk drawer and removing a file. ‘Twenty thousand pounds at 12 per cent interest, with a penalty clause should he fail to pay on time. You insisted on the title deeds of his home as collateral.’

‘I’d like you to clear the debt and return the deeds to him.’

Mr Deering wasn’t sure he’d heard Mr Scrooge correctly, but after a moment’s hesitation he opened another drawer and extracted a form. ‘Shall I fill in the details?’ he asked.

Master storyteller Jeffrey Archer has reinvented the Dickens original, A Christmas Carol, in a modern setting, creating a joyous tale for our age

Jeffrey Archer, master storyteller, has reimagined Dickens’ original A Christmas Carol in a contemporary setting. It is a joyful tale that will appeal to our time.

‘Yes, of course. I’ll just sign it for now and leave the rest to you.’

Deering hesitated again. He’d never known Mr Scrooge not to check a document twice before he signed it. Sometimes, it was three. ‘As you wish,’ he said, turning to the last page and pointing to the dotted line.

Scrooge got out his fountain pens and signed his name before he handed the document back.

‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’ asked Mr Deering as Scrooge rose from his seat.

‘Just one more thing. Would you be kind enough to call Mr Wilkins and tell him he’s had a dividend payment on old shares following a takeover, which has yielded £25,000, and transfer that amount from my personal account.’

In this instance, Mr Deering lost his speech.

‘Happy Christmas, Mr Deering,’ said Scrooge, who left the manager’s office without another word. By the time Mr Deering had looked up Dick Wilkins’s number in his phone book to pass on the glad news, Scrooge was already back out on the street, heading home. He didn’t want to be late for the club’s Christmas Eve lunch.

Scrooge was moving along and saw a man whom he believed he recognized, so he stopped, turned, and called him.


He swung about.

‘Aren’t you the choirmaster at St Bede’s?’

‘Indeed I am, Mr Scrooge.’

‘Was that your choir singing outside my house when I returned home last night?’

‘I’m afraid it was, Sir. If they have disturbed you, I can only apologize. Be assured it won’t happen again.’

‘It is I who should apologise. I’m afraid I was preoccupied at the time,’ said Scrooge, as he took out his wallet and emptied it of every note, before handing them over to the shocked choirmaster. ‘I’m afraid this won’t make up for all those years when I failed to give your superb choristers anything. But don’t hesitate to call on me again whenever it’s convenient.’

(From a previous chapter) Eben Scrooge was always delighted when anyone described him as every bit as mean as his ancestor, and among the other traits he was proud to have inherited were being ruthless, cunning and selfish, all of which he considered compliments

Eben Scrooge (from a previous chapter). Eben was delighted whenever someone described him as being every bit as mean and ruthless as his ancestor. He also considered it compliments that he was so cunning, selfish and ruthless.

‘That’s most generous of you, Mr Scrooge,’ replied the choirmaster, as Eben raised his hat and continued on his way. Eben was beginning to worry that Heath might be outside, and he wondered where he was.

As he turned around, he noticed his driver stomping in the snow to stay warm.

‘Sorry to have kept you waiting,’ said Scrooge, as he jumped into the back of the car. ‘I hope we will still be on time for the club’s Christmas lunch.’

‘I’ll try to make sure you’re not late, Mr Scrooge,’ said Heath. And as the car moved off, Scrooge asked, ‘When did I last give you a raise, Ned?’

‘Must have been about three years ago, Sir.’

‘Then you shall have one immediately. Ten per cent, and I’ll backdate it for three years.’ Heath crunched the gears. ‘It’s no more than you deserve,’ said Scrooge.

Heath looked in the rearview mirror to make sure it was indeed his master at the back. ‘That’s most generous of you, Sir,’ he said, still not sure if he’d heard correctly.

‘It’s nothing of the sort. And in future, make sure that whenever you do any overtime, you keep a record of the hours so you can claim the full amount.’

Heath just managed to stay out of the way of the front car.

Scrooge didn’t say another word until they drew up outside the clubhouse 15 minutes later. Scrooge’s nephew stood on top of the steps, waiting to welcome him. Scrooge was impressed by this young, well-mannered man.

Scrooge stood up from the car and took a look at the vast expanse of land before he got out. If he was right, it would have been twenty-two acres. He knew it was an excellent spot to build a supermarket. But he then looked elsewhere for the ideal place for a parking lot.

(From a previous chapter) Scrooge didn¿t say a word during the 15-minute journey to Southbury Football Club. He spent the time mentally preparing himself for the encounter with his nephew Fred, who had been brought up by Jake Marley after Scrooge¿s sister Nell had died in childbirth

From a previous chapter: Scrooge did not speak a word on the fifteen-minute trip to Southbury Football Club. Scrooge used the time to mentally prepare for meeting Fred Marley, his nephew who was raised by Jake Marley. Nell’s death in childbirth had caused Scrooge to spend a lot of mental energy.

He began to wonder if he’d already done enough to assuage the three ghosts and could now go ahead with the deal.

Fred was still standing on top, so he looked back at Scrooge. Jake Marley was staring at Fred disapprovingly and waving a finger. Scrooge bows his head while he climbs the clubhouse stairs to meet his nephew who shakes him by the arm.

‘Welcome back,’ said Fred, before accompanying him into the clubhouse. Scrooge’s entrance was met with a standing ovation by several club members, while some remained in their seats. One couple turned their backs to him.

The assembled members took their seats and ate lunch a few minutes later. Fred placed Scrooge to his right and began to entertain him with future plans for the club.

Scrooge looked down at the table to see Belle, who was deep in conversation and chatting with Bob Cratchit. The look of despair she had worn the last time he’d seen her had been replaced by the old familiar smile.

Dick, too, was looking relaxed as he told the club secretary that he’d completed the outline drawings for the new clubhouse.

‘Be sure to send me your account,’ said the secretary. ‘We won’t have to delay payments any longer, as I have a feeling Mr Scrooge is about to hand over a cheque for a million pounds now that we’ve signed away our land.’

‘But can we trust him?’ said Dick, remembering his wife’s words.

Scrooge looked over to the side, and Bob Cratchit was intently listening to what Tiny Tim was saying to him.

Scrooge, having eaten too many and taken a few sips from his wine glass, put down his knife, fork and pocketbook and pulled out a cashier’s check and laid it before him.

He watched as the words and numbers appeared to change in front of his eyes to ‘Pay Eben Scrooge £20,000,000’ and he once again had second thoughts — until the empty plate in front of him began to take the shape of a tombstone and his knife rose from its place unaided, turning into a chisel that began to carve the dates ‘1971-20 . . .’

Fred then tapped his side with a spoon, and Scrooge was able to get back in the real world.

‘Today,’ he began, once the murmur of conversation had quietened down, ‘is a red-letter day in the club’s history. In the cup final, we will play our rivals from nearby. Should we win, it would be more than reason enough to celebrate, but I know you will all be delighted to learn that our generous benefactor, Eben Scrooge, has agreed to become the club’s president.’

Almost everyone joined in the applause that followed, and the cries of ‘Speech! Speech!’ left Scrooge with little choice but to respond. Scrooge slowly rose from his seat.

‘I am,’ he began, searching for the words, ‘honoured to follow my late business partner Jake Marley as your club president. I should tell you that I had originally intended to buy the club as a tax write-off, but my accountant has advised me that if I make this —’ he held up the cheque for one million pounds ‘— a charitable donation, your club,’ he hesitated, ‘our club, can make a claim against tax and it will be worth one million, four hundred thousand pounds.’

He could not continue after the applause became too loud. ‘Be assured,’ he said, ‘that early in the new year, the bulldozers will move in and demolish this antiquated clubhouse. Its replacement, designed by my old friend Dick Wilkins, one of the city’s leading architects, will be a building we can all be proud of.’

Scrooge added more information and received another round of applause. ‘And, like your chairman, I am confident Southbury will win the Marley Cup this afternoon, and that this will only be the start of far greater things to come.’

Scrooge was standing to receive a standing ovation. He couldn’t help wondering where those words had come from, until he saw Jake Marley standing at the end of the table, a satisfied grin on his face.

‘We’d better get a move on,’ said Fred, after coffee had been served, ‘or we’ll miss the kick-off.’

Scrooge stood immediately and led the group out of clubhouse.

While the club’s new president stood alongside the supporters on the touchline, waiting for the match to begin, several members came up to congratulate him on his speech. ‘Reminded me of Jake Marley,’ one said. A moment later, Councillor Roberts appeared at the president’s side and asked if they could have a word in private.

‘Not now,’ said Scrooge, turning his back on him as the referee blew his whistle.

It was a match that went in one direction and another, but it ended at 90 minutes. With only three minutes left to go, it was still nil.

Scrooge felt both excited and anxious. In less than one minute, Scrooge started cheering louder when Wayne Ibrahim ran over to the halfway line. With the ball at the feet of his feet, he had already left two opposition players behind.

The goal was only two yards away from him as he glided by another defender, then a third. Deftly he moved to his left, which caused one of the hapless full-backs to fall over and another to run towards him. Wayne turned to him and spun around, propelling the ball towards the goalmouth.

The ball flew through the air silently, and the crowd fell to their knees. The goalkeeper made a desperate leap to his left, but his outstretched fingers couldn’t reach the ball as it whistled past him into the far corner of the net.

‘Goal!’ screamed the jubilant crowd, as they leapt in the air while the rest of the team ran deliriously towards their talisman. Wayne was headed for the touchline, but he had changed his direction once more and was about to stop. Tiny Tim embraced him and pulled his legs to an abrupt halt. As loud as possible, cheers increased.

Scrooge turned to Councillor Roberts and said, ‘He’ll play for England one day.’

The cup was presented to the home team by Scrooge, the chairman and Councillor Roberts. They then headed back into the clubhouse.

‘I wonder if I might be allowed to change my mind,’ he said to Fred, bowing his head. While his nephew seemed anxious, Councillor Roberts suddenly became more alert.

‘You see,’ said Eben, embarrassed, ‘I’ve had second thoughts.’ He whispered the words, making sure no one else could hear. ‘I wonder if I could accept your kind invitation and join you and your family for dinner on Christmas Day?’

Scrooge did not have any further contact with Spirits. He was known for his ability to make Christmas a happy time, and was the only man who had that knowledge. We should all be able to say that about ourselves! Tiny Tim said, “God Bless Every One!”

© 2021 Jeffrey Archer

The fee for this story will be donated to the Science Museum at Lord Archer’s request.