Jacob Marley died seven years ago and left his home and his half of the business to his partner, Ebenezer Scrooge. Marley was a stingy old man, and Scrooge happily carries on that tradition.
"Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster." Stave 1, pg 59
Scrooge is such a miser that even in the coldest days of winter, he insists on saving money by burning as little coal as possible. Even on Christmas Eve his clerk, Bob Cratchit suffers through the cold because he is afraid to ask Scrooge for more coal.
As Bob Cratchit sits at his desk trying to warm himself over the candle, Scrooge's Nephew, the son of his deceased sister, comes in bidding his uncle a merry Christmas. Scrooge answers with his customary, "'Bah! Humbug!'" Stave 1, pg 60. Scrooge's nephew, a cheerful pauper, invites the old man to join him and his wife for dinner on Christmas Day, but Scrooge refuses. He doesn't believe in Christmas and tells his nephew that anyone who considers Christmas a day different from any other should be boiled in their own juices and stabbed through the heart with a stake of holly. The young man leaves in good spirits despite Scrooge's grouchiness.
As Scrooge's nephew departs, two gentlemen come in. They are collecting donations to ease the comfort of the poor at Christmas this year. Scrooge asks if there are not prisons, workhouses, and government programs in place to aid the poor. Scrooge believes that he does his part by contributing to those institutions. The collectors insist that many of the poor do not have access to that form of aid and many others are so proud that they would rather die than receive help that way. Scrooge answers with, "'If they would rather die, . . . they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'" Stave 1, pg 63
As the cold, gray day is drawing to a close, a young boy suffering with cold and hunger begins to sing a carol at the counting house door, but Scrooge scares him away. Scrooge complains because Cratchit expects to have all of Christmas Day off of work with pay, but he agrees to it…