Posted on Saturday, 14 December 2002, at 6:10 p.m.
'Twas the night before Christmas at Mansfield great house,
And the only person awake was as quiet as a mouse.
Softly she crept down the stairs with great care,
In hopes that nobody would catch her there.
Fanny Price alone was not snug in her bed,
As visions of just desserts danced in her head.
Should her plan succeed, what a feather in her cap!
Now was her time for action, and not for a nap.
When down in the hall there arose such a clatter,
Her ears pricked to find out fast what was the matter.
Into the shadows she flew like a flash,
Glad she had worn a dark frock and dark sash.
The moon through the window shone with a bright gleam,
Making all objects appear to be not what they seemed.
Then what to her wondering eyes should appear,
But her aunt's little Pug, dressed like a reindeer!
And all dressed up too, all lively and quick,
Was Mr. John Yates impersonating St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles he ran down the hall,
He whistled and shouted, clearly having a ball!
A prancing John Yates was such a ridiculous elf,
That Fanny laughed when she saw him, in spite of herself.
But oh dear! Her slight movement was enough to allow
Yates to espy her from the hall down below.
"Is someone there? Don't hide! Come down, join the fun!
Surely two can celebrate Christmas better than one."
So Fanny down the stairs did make her way,
If only to ask Mr. Yates, "Please don't give me away!
"If I'm caught down here, I'll be sent back to my room,
And I can't imagine a more melancholy doom.
I've had quite enough of the Bertram family antics,
But before I escape, I'll play a few of my own tricks."
Yates was quite stunned - could this be the same girl?
Was this meek little Fanny? His head was in a whirl.
She smiled at him. "No, I haven't gone mad.
And this strength of character is what I've always had.
"Only no one noticed - self-absorbed to a one!
Their indifference hurts - my heart's not a stone!
I see in your eye, you wonder, is my course sure?
Well, let me give you a sample of what I've had to endure.
"We'll pass right over you and your fawn yellow breeches,
Not to mention Mr. Rushworth and his forty-two speeches!
Then there's my aunt Bertram, her only illness is ennui,
And the lucky person who has to entertain her is me.
"But she's not so bad - at least, when she's awake.
My aunt Norris, on the other hand, I really could shake!
With her, being a Price is a bane and a curse,
I'm just not good enough for these Bertrams of hers!
"Shall I continue? Well, my cousins are next!
When you hear about them, you'll know why I am vexed.
Tom, as the eldest son, is already fated
To be with his father forever equated.
"Julia so vain, and Maria so flighty,
Both like to pretend that they're so high and mighty.
But can I respect them? No, their behavior hardly impresses
When they let the same man pay to both his addresses.
"At last Edmund, whom once I worshipped from afar,
But what he's done lately has quite brought down his star.
He can't see the truth of Mary Crawford; he's too busy pining!
She doesn't want a parson - she's far too designing!
"At last her brother Henry, so grand and so pompous!
But I'm meant for more than to be his moral compass.
When I hear love from his lips, then I spurn the word!
To think he knows what it means is just too absurd.
"So on this Christmas Eve, I'm taking my flight,
And at Mansfield Park this is my last night!
They all deserve a swift kick in the britches,
And I've filled all their stockings with coal and with switches."
John Yates was a man of not too many vices
(Just enough to be handy for a few plot devices).
At his core he was decent, so he simply had to know
Would Fanny just run, or had she somewhere to go?
"You can't just wander off, if I may be so bold.
I'd never forgive myself if you got lost in the cold!
At least use my curricle to get where you're going -
And please put the hood up, if it should start snowing."
It made Fanny glad to know someone cared,
And when she kissed his cheek, poor Yates stood and stared!
"In return," she said, "what I advise you to do
Is take Maria, who's better away from this crew.
"But don't worry! I'll be spending this holiday season
With friends who value my ideas and my reason.
Invitations for me have poured in by the score:
The Darcys, the Brandons, the Tilneys, and more!
"And after that, who knows what I'll do?
Explore the world? Find some cities to view?
All I know is that it's time for me to make my mark,
And I doubt that I'll return to Mansfield Park."
"And I'll keep your secret!" Yates answered, right quick.
"I won't even tell that silly Rozema chick!
A good soul like you deserves to be happy,
So get out of here, miss, and you make it snappy!"
What an uproar the next morning, when Fanny was missed!
But Yates held his tongue, just as he had promised.
Long he remembered his last glimpse of Miss Price,
Who had seemed so mousy, and yet turned out so nice.
As he'd handed her into the curricle that eve,
She'd smiled and kindly laid a hand on his sleeve.
And he heard her exclaim, ere she drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"