Jacob missed his father terribly, for until his death, Joseph Marley had been an honorable man intent on passing along the traditions of manhood to his only son. But Jacob kept his loneliness to himself. His mother, Genevieve, had immersed herself in the business of finding a new husband (and father for Jacob), taking no notice of his isolation. She had grown accustomed to their former grand lifestyle, and hoped to recreate it with due haste.
Jacob already despised whoever this man might be, because no one could replace the emptiness he felt inside. So without a tutor and without friends, Jacob spent his days reading and studying, treasuring what little remained of his father’s fortune, for it was all that set him apart from the miscreants who scavenged for food and work in the streets.
Nevertheless, Jacob was alone and hated it.
One particularly cold Saturday, Jacob’s mother sent her son off to buy coal for their furnace. A nasty job. The coal dust got everywhere, no matter how careful he was, always necessitating a bath afterwards.
He made his way through the narrow streets until he came upon another boy his age. Jacob could tell from his tattered clothes and sickly face that this boy was, as his father would have said, “one in need.” He was shivering, hands tucked in opposing sleeves, failing to keep warm.
“Boy,” Jacob Marley said. “Haven’t you a coat?”
The boy said nothing, but glared at Jacob all the same.
“What is your name?”
The boy barked out his name: Tuck.
“Tuck, then. I have a job for you, if you wish. Ha’penny payment.”
Tuck quickly agreed, and Jacob managed to buy the coal and get it home without dirtying so much as his fingertips. To be sure, he dropped the coin into Tuck’s open palm from above to avoid touching him.