I was quite confused, therefore, when I read the Dickens novella closely, to discover that Marley's ghost said the visitations would occur over three nights (from Stave I):
"Without their visits," said the Ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one."
"Couldn't I take `em all at once, and have it over, Jacob?" hinted Scrooge.
"Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!"This, of course, makes sense of the miser's later surprise when he wakes up on Christmas morning (from Stave V):
"What's to-day, my fine fellow?" said Scrooge.
"To-day?" replied the boy. "Why, Christmas Day."
"It's Christmas Day!" said Scrooge to himself. "I haven't missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!"The spirits did everything in one night. Interestingly, this bit of dialogue is almost always retained in the films, even though it makes little sense if Marley promised they'd all turn up on the same night anyway. (At least one movie version is faithful to Dickens on this point: Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009).)
I like this aspect of the story. It tells us that even mixed in with Scrooge's horrible experience was grace and mercy. He requested that the spirits come "all at once," and -- although, God knows, Scrooge didn't deserve such mercy -- his plea was heard.