Posted on Sunday, 13 December 1998
Author's Note: This is a continuation of my own annual Christmas tradition of writing a parody of Clement Clark Moore's Twas the Night Before Christmas. Last year I wrote a version using the characters from Pride and Prejudice, which is somewhere in the BoI archives (At the Republic of Pemberley). It seemed only fair to use a different Austen novel for inspiration this time!
Twas the night before Christmas (and a dark night, that's sure)
When a fine coach and horses drove up to the door
Where the Westons greeted all of their guests with delight,
Glad to see their good friends on this cold winter's night.
For the Westons were hosting a small Christmas fete,
And very pleased they were that no one arrived late.
"Come in! Don't just stand there! Come sit by the fire!"
Such holiday warmth could do naught but inspire.
Mr. Woodhouse soon was seated by the hearth, nice and cozy,
The better to advise all there present, and be nosy.
"A whole leg of mutton for supper this Yule?
Most unwholesome – why not have a basin of gruel?"
By now Mrs. Bates and her daughter were there;
One deaf and one garrulous, they made quite a pair!
Mr. Knightley had loaned them his carriage, it seemed,
And their thanks for this service in torrents it streamed.
Already Miss Bates, as she entered, was talking
(Her constant occupation, whether standing or walking)
Praising to the skies the decorations, the good cheer
(And repeated everything loudly in her mother's left ear.)
"And oh! We must tell you! From Jane came a letter!
She's knitting my mother a warm Christmas sweater!
(SWEATER, mother!) Oh, Jane is such a dear girl,
She is simply a jewel – like a diamond or pearl!"
Her listeners smiled and nodded delightfully,
Though Miss Fairfax was thought of in Highbury spitefully;
No one could be so accomplished! It really wasn't fair
To be lauding Miss Fairfax, to whom none could compare!
Mr. Elton, the parson, with an air most solicitous,
Thanked his fair hostess for this party felicitous.
"To gather for Christmas! How charming! None better!
Though it's doubtful the snow could be at all wetter."
Listen carefully and then you might possibly hear,
"Could this pompous young twit be any more insincere?"
Mr. Knightley in the corner was muttering gruffly,
Restraining himself from grabbing Elton quite roughly.
While Miss Woodhouse, our Emma, looked on all serene,
For she thought she knew just what Mr. Elton did mean.
He complained of the weather which kept his heart's darling away:
Miss Harriet Smith had a cold and must stay home today.
Little did she think – no, not even suspected! –
That Mr. Elton's attentions towards herself were directed.
Poor Harriet he would have slighted, even had she been here,
For he could not think of Miss Smith when Miss Woodhouse was near!
So throwing caution to the wind, with some verse he composed,
He dropped down to his knees on the carpet and proposed!
Poor Emma was shocked, and she let out a shriek,
To find that Elton had loved her for an entire whole week.
When he tried to grab her hand, to place kisses upon it,
Mr. Knightley strode forward and disregarded the sonnet;
But taking firm hold of the man's black clerical collar
Lifted him up and into his face he did holler:
"What on earth are you doing? Have you gone all insensible?
Such boorish behavior is wholly indefensible!
I thought you were staid, sober, solemn and mellow –
But you've been taking lessons in gall from that Fitz Darcy fellow!"
Mr. Elton was now rather red in the face,
Trying to salvage his dignity with passable grace.
"I'm offended! Unhand me! Now you let me go!
If Miss Woodhouse wasn't interested, well, how should I know?"
So he brushed himself off and he tried to stand tall,
Pretending his embarrassment was nothing at all.
He hid his chagrin with a joke and a quip,
But already he was planning to take a short trip.
For Elton was no simpleton, though perhaps good for a laugh,
And he had insured his prospects with some friends down in Bath.
Just in case dear Miss Woodhouse refused him, you see,
He'd be courting Miss Hawkins before you counted to three.
In the festive mood of the party, there was of a sudden a lull;
Don't tell me the Westons' evening was going to be dull!
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
They sprang to the windows to see what was the matter.
A smart barouche and pair sped fast up the drive,
And the horses had run 'til they were barely alive;
The lone figure of the driver perched over the wheels
Was Miss Augusta Hawkins herself, and she let out a squeal:
"Caro sposo! Oh, sweetheart! Come on, Mr. E.!
I got tired of waiting for you to come to me!
Your situation's respectable, though your face I've not seen,
So hurry and let's be off at once to Gretna Green!"
Mr. Elton in his chagrin didn't wait to hear twice,
So tipping his hat to Mrs. Weston, he was out the door in a trice.
The people left behind waved good-bye and farewell;
On Mr. Elton's fate they certainly would not dwell.
A moment or two later, at the door someone knocked;
And Emma, being nearest, opened it (for it was unlocked).
And what to her wondering eyes should appear,
But an eligible bachelor with a few thousand a year!
It was Frank Churchill himself, that bright golden Apollo!
(He had even brought his favorite wolfhound, named Rollo.)
He was the object of Emma's daydreams so fair;
But his next words put a wrench in her plans then and there.
Mr. Weston did welcome him (for he was Frank's dad),
And asked the youth what was the news that he had;
Young Churchill smiled sweetly, in his eye came a gleam:
"Father, I must confess things are not what they seem.
I've been engaged to Miss Fairfax these three months or so,
And she's getting impatient, so to Gretna we'll go!"
Sure enough, from behind him, Jane waved her salutations,
But dragged Frank away before he could make explanations.
(She knew in her heart that her Frank was a flirt,
So marrying him sooner, not later – it just couldn't hurt;
Once safely married, she felt she could trust him,
Though if he ever strayed she would be sure to bust him.)
Now was Emma confused! All her plans come to nuffing!
She felt that Fate had entirely knocked out her stuffing.
"I know I could handle Mr. Elton's defection;
His choice of Miss Hawkins was less than perfection.
But now Frank and Miss Fairfax! I don't know what to do!
All my schemes turned to ash and have flown up the flue!"
And such was her acute distress, she did quake
When another knock made the front hallway door shake.
It was Harriet Smith! Far from cold, she looked warmer;
Perhaps because she was with a certain young farmer.
Robert Martin by name, he was not a bad gent,
So no one was surprised when off to Gretna they went.
That is, no one except Emma, I am bound to report.
She had to sit down and slam back a big glass of port.
Perhaps it was the alcohol that allowed her at last to see rightly:
That the man whom she loved was none other than Knightley.
She stood and she hugged him, an embrace they enacted:
"Can you ever forgive me for being so distracted?"
He smiled and said, "Emma, you looked on me as a brother,
But tell me as your husband you will have none other."
With her arms round his neck, and standing on tiptoe,
Emma kissed him right there (they were under the mistletoe),
And since eloping had become the Christmas Eve fashion,
Complained not when Knightley said, "To Scotland we're dashin'!"
So the Westons and others escorted them out to their carriage
(A gleaming black vehicle quite suited to a marriage);
They waved good-bye and they called as the pair drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"