Posted on Sunday, 19 December 2004
'Twas the night before Christmas up north in Newcastle,
At the home of George Wickham, that scurrilous rascal!
His lodgings showed little evidence of holiday cheer,
Of Yule log or holly there was naught to appear.
The rooms were oddly quiet - was something the matter?
Where was Mrs. Wickham's unending chatter?
If we listen to Wickham, perhaps we'll discover
Why he's having Christmas with only himself and none other.
"It's unfair," he grumbles, "it's really too hard!
That she goes to Pemberley, where my presence is barred!
It's so not my fault, this bad fix that I'm in."
And he poured some more whiskey - or perhaps it was gin?
His sulking continued, but we won't listen to more,
Since more interesting to see is who's at the door.
A loud knock now takes Wickham by surprise,
And when he answers he just can't believe his eyes!
What is Henry Crawford doing on his front stoop?
"Let me in," Crawford snaps, "before your neighbors all snoop."
So he walked in, and he selected a chair,
Taking charge while Wickham was hardly aware.
Wickham sputtered, "What's this? What's happening, all right?
How dare you invade my rooms on this night?"
Crawford raised a hand, telling Wickham to sit down.
"If you'll wait I'll tell you why I'm so far from Town.
This had to be done where they'd least expect -
And don't lock the door, for you're having more guests."
Sure enough, more knocks followed, and more folks arrived:
John Willoughby, John Thorpe, and William Elliot made five.
"At last we are gathered, we're all on the spot!
And now," Crawford said, "I will unfold our plot.
All villains we are, and it's a pretty mean trick,
That in all the stories we get the short end of the stick.
I've had it, I tell you, and I'm sure you'll all understand
If we must take our futures into our own hands.
As I will briefly explain -" but then he was cut off
By a strange sound between a laugh and a cough.
Wickham laughed and he chuckled, he chortled with glee.
"A villain, you? Ha! Let's compare you to me.
For my awful exploits, I've got wide renown!
I blackened Darcy's name for an entire town!
And how many girls' reputations did I ruin?
As the worst villain here, I'm simply a shoe-in."
The response to this speech was not what Wickham expected,
For now others with mirth were highly affected.
"Then you haven't studied villainy as well as you ought,"
Thorpe answered, "for in the end you got caught!
Leg-shackled you are, to that fine little miss,
So if you want evil, just listen to this..."
But before he got started, there came a loud yawn
From Willoughby, saying, "Now don't you go on!
Of all of us here, you're the least qualified.
Your only achievement is perhaps that you've lied
To that foolish Miss Moreland, but that's hardly a test
Of which one of us can call himself the best.
Now I, on the other hand, am truly a rogue,
And a good seducer will be always in vogue."
Elliot took his turn next, he fairly exploded,
"But you were caught, too - quite neatly railroaded
Into marrying Miss Grey, who's such a great pill,
Just to pay off your huge collection of bills!
None of your plans were as devious as mine,
Since I was all set to hoodwink Sir Walter, that swine!"
Crawford's patience by now had nearly run out,
So he called them to order with a very big shout.
"Gentlemen, please! Do cease all this bickering.
I've heard more sense from plow horses whickering.
None of us were successful - and that's just my point!
But for my plot to succeed, we must act in joint.
No 'me first' and not 'every man for himself,'
Or you'll find yourself permanently up on the shelf.
Now, before you work yourselves back up to a bother,
My plan boils down to kidnapping an author!
Or perhaps even two - yes, two would be better.
(Jimmy's first on my hit list, if we can get 'er.)
Then we'll have control of the stories they write,
And at long last our fates will turn out right!
Never mind the Darcys and Brandons who came before us -
We'll be the new heroes, and all will adore us!"
At this they all cheered and Crawford's back they slapped,
Congratulating him for being such a devious chap.
With their own captive authors, what heights they'd achieve!
And it was fitting, somehow, to start on Christmas Eve.
They poured out some wine and were drinking a toast -
But then came a sound that they each hated most.
A pounding at the door, quite rattling its hinges!
Now watch as each of these new "heroes" cringes.
They threw down their glasses and got ready to run,
In case it was a bailiff or one of his duns.
The door burst open at last, letting in snow and cold,
And the men were amazed to see who crossed the threshold.
Though it was Christmas Eve, the visitor wasn't Saint Nick -
Instead it was Black Peter, his trusty sidekick.
"I give you good evening!" he cried out, quite mocking,
"For this folly you deserve worse than coal in your stocking!
Never before has my personal attention been needed,
But for this case Santa suggested it, and I acceded.
I'm bound to tell you, your plans already have failed,
So you'd best be off home before you all find yourself jailed.
But first let me ask you - what if you'd been successful?
You'd learn soon that heroes' lives also are stressful.
Think it through carefully - did you ever suppose
That when you were the hero, whom would you oppose?
For a hero is nothing without some struggle or strife,
So who would be the villain there, in your new life?
And can you imagine yourselves fighting for good?
You probably can't - I know I never could!
Your biggest problem, what you've never learned
Is that heroism isn't awarded, it's earned.
You've never known what it is to work hard -
Did you think being a hero was like cheating at cards?
So face it, you're all stuck as rascals and cads,
But let me assure you, it's really not so bad.
Even as a villain, you've got your part to play -
For without night, would anyone rejoice in the day?
And there must be shadow if there is a light,
Everything has two sides, a dark and a bright.
I speak from experience, for it's no mean trick
To be the dark side of jolly old Saint Nick!"
Black Peter fell silent when his speech was done,
And Crawford and the others were affected, each one.
Wickham stood up, and so did the other four:
They'd be the best villains they could, so they swore.
Heeding the advice, and taking the warning,
They'd be off to start things afresh in the morning.
It made them feel better to know they weren't jerks,
But were in fact necessary to make stories work.
With a new sense of purpose, their spirits would lift -
Quite an unusual Christmas Eve gift!
Black Peter smiled and felt glad in his heart
To see just how well he too played his part.
And he quietly said, 'ere he vanished from sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"