Vincent’s Christmas Carol

A Beauty and the Beast Fan Fiction

By: Linda White

 

“’Old Marley was as dead as a doornail,’” spoke Vincent in his most eloquent story-telling voice. “’This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.’”

Catherine was every bit as enraptured with Vincent’s re-telling of Dickens’ classic story as the tunnel children were. It never ceased to amaze her what an extraordinary instrument his voice really was. She wondered if he himself understood the remarkable power he possessed in that voice! She never tired of listening to it, and if the expressions on the faces of the tunnel children were any indication, they never tired of it either. And not just the tunnel children. The adults too! Father and Mary were sitting together in one corner with Mouse and Jamie on cushions at their feet, while William and Pascal sat just above the spiral staircase. Everyone else seemed to have filled every nook and cranny in Father’s study.

Catherine closed her eyes and let Vincent’s remarkable voice transport her to 1843 London. She was so engrossed in the story that she jumped about a foot out of her seatwhen Vincent’s voice suddenly boomed out, “’Bah, Humbug!’”

She opened her eyes and caught Vincent’s wink, but he never missed a beat! Catherine smiled at him, trying to convey how much she was enjoying the story. He winked again, and she knew he had gotten the message loud and clear through their bond.

She sighed and closed her eyes again.

*****

After a time, Catherine realized they were coming to a part of the story that always made her sad. In it, the Ghost of Christmas Past was showing Scrooge his younger self and how he had very badly bungled his relationship with his fiancé, Belle.

As Vincent’s voice built the scene, Catherine pictured herself as that young maiden sitting on a bench next to Scrooge whom, if truth be told, she secretly pictured as Vincent. “There were tears in Belle’s eyes. ‘Another idol has displaced me,’ she sobbed.”

“’What idol has displaced you?’ he rejoined.”

“’A golden one.’”

“’This is the even-handed dealing of the world!’ replied Scrooge. ‘There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty.’”

“’You fear the world too much,’ she answered. ‘All your hopes have merged…until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you.’”

“’Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.’”

“’Our contract is an old one,’ replied Belle. ‘It was made when we were both poor and content to be so. …How keenly I have thought of this…’ And with that, she said, ‘I release you.’”

“’Have I ever sought release?’”

“’In words, no.’”

“’In what, then?’”

“’In a changed nature…’ If there had never been an understanding between us, ‘tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now… a dowerless girl?’”

“’You think not?’”

“”I release you. With a full heart… May you be happy in the life you have chosen.’ And with this, Belle walked away with tears still in her eyes.”

*****

Catherine was surprised to find herself becoming misty-eyed. Vincent had conveyed the utter sadness of this scene so skillfully it made her feel like weeping, most especially because she had not been able to help imagining Vincent and herself as the two star-crossed lovers.

She glanced at Vincent just then, wondering if he had caught her sadness through their bond at this part of the story. She was anxious to reassure him that it was only a reaction and not anything to be concerned about. She was surprised to see a sparkle of moisture in his own eyes.

Her reaction did affect him! Was he imagining himself and Catherine in the scene just as she had imagined it? She couldn’t help but feel cherished, knowing he was so in tune with her feelings. But again, he never missed the thread of the story, and the quiet little mental exchange between the two of them went unnoticed by those gathered around.

A short time later, as Vincent wound up the story, the entire assemblage whooped and cheered and clapped when Scrooge finally learned the lessons of Christmas, reconciled with his nephew, embraced the Cratchit family,and became a loving second father to Tiny Tim, who did not die!

*****

After the story, the adults remained gathered in Father’s study, quaffing mugs of holiday cheer. The children had finally settled down and been hustled off to bed.

“That was the best reading of AChristmas Carol you’ve ever done, Vincent,” declared Father heartily. “You captured the essence of crotchety old Ebenezer Scrooge perfectly.”

“As well as all the other characters,” chimed in Catherine. “I just wish…”

“Wish what?” asked Vincent.

“That Dickens had written some kind of reunion scene with Belle and Scrooge, butbe that as it may, your storytelling was still masterful.”

“Indeed,” put in William. “I felt transported right into the heart of Old London.”

“Did you see the faces on the children?” said Mary. “They were completely absorbed by the story.”

“I’m sure my own face was just as absorbed as any of the children,” agreed Pascal. “Vincent is without doubt a master storyteller.”

“Here, here!” said Father, who raised his mug. “A toast to Vincent!”

“You flatter me too much,” said Vincent from the corner of the room where he’d sat down next to Catherine.

“Indeed, they are right, Vincent,” she interjected. “That was a wonderful retelling of the classic story.”

They all raised their mugs and drank the toast.

“Whatever this brew is, William, it’s delicious,” remarked Father.

“My own secret recipe,” replied that cheerful fellow. “Be careful though. It can catch up to you rather suddenly!”

“Do I detect lime and perhaps a touch of mint?” asked Catherine.

“Kudos to the lady,” replied William. “You’ve nailed two of the ingredients. You know your libations, m’lady!”

She laughed. “I’ve simply attended many a cocktail party in my time, not to mention getting pretty inebriated a few times during my college days.”

They all laughed.

“I think Vincent is in a fair way to do that very thing if he’s not careful,” remarked Pascal. “How many is that now, Vincent? Four? Five?”

“Six,” replied Vincent, who promptly raised his mug, draining it.

“Whoa, better slow down, Vincent!” admonished Father.

“Stop badgering me,” said Vincent with a snarl.

Father turned beet red with embarrassment. “I only meant… uh, that is to say, William did warn us about the potency of this brew.”

Meanwhile, Vincent had selected a fresh mug from the adjacent tray. “The warning is noted. Now leave me alone, you doddering old fool.” With that he quaffed the fresh mugful in one gulp.

Catherine understood at once what was happening. Vincent had drunk too much of William’s brew without even realizing it andwas drunk. She knew he would never speak to Father in such a tone, even during the heat of an argument. She had to get him out of there. She nudged him with her elbow. “Vincent, I think we should say good night.”

Vincent stared at Catherine with eyebrows raised, and she knew he had been about to protest, but he seemed to think better of it and simply nodded. “We good be showing…er… should be going,” he said to the assembly. He stood somewhat shakily.

They left.

*****

Catherine put her arm through his and smiled but, truth be told, she could feel how unsteady he seemed. It turned out she was quite correct in that assumption because he leaned heavily into her as they exited Father’s study.

They continued toward Vincent’s chamber, stumbling through the passages. Catherine was exhausted by the time they finally reached Vincent’s chamber, having taken some of his weight along the way.

She had never seen him in such a state before. It was almost funny, although she restrained from laughing. She knew instinctively that laughter would not play well here.

Catherine excused herself and ran to the facility. When she returned, she found Vincent struggling with the buttons of his tunic. He let loose a frustrated growl and began to pull the offending garment up and over his head, but some of the buttons caught in his flowing tawny mane.

As he struggled to free himself, the sight of his head wrapped in a fabric cocoon became so absurdly comical that Catherine couldn’t help herself and broke into hysterical guffaws of laughter.

Vincent yanked the cocoon free, taking several clumps of hair with it. “Think that’s funny, do you?” he snorted angrily.

“I’m sorry, Vincent, but yes, it did look very funny from where I was standing.”

“Well, maybe you ought to try wearing clothing sewn together from scraps sometime instead of parading all over creation as though photographers from Vogue were lurking around the next corner.”

Catherine was shocked. Parading around? That hurt!

She realized he was inebriated, but she had no inkling that he could be a mean drunk! Was the state of drunkenness something that called forth the side of his nature that he usually held under such tight control… the bestial part of his inner self?

It was true that she had always been rather fashion forward, especially in her debutante days, and she had to admit to herself that she still enjoyed dressing well. Did he really think that she was some kind of primadonna about her clothes?

Catherine searched Vincent’s face for signs that he regretted the harshness of his words, but found no remorse written upon his features. She knew she shouldn’t let anything he said while intoxicated bother her. He had never before said anything mean or surly to her in the entire time she had known him, even during arguments. He’d always chosen his words most carefully. But yes, damn it! His harsh words had hurt.

She’d be a monkey’s uncle if she’d let him know how much though.

“Well, Vincent,” she said in a smooth voice, “it would seem I have a choice to make. I can either make a point to clothe myself in cast-offs when coming Below or I can refrain from coming Below at all.”

“Suityourself,” he replied in that same surly voice as he slumped into his big chair.

“Very well, Vincent. Since I have no intention of clothing myself in anything other than what I’m used to and can afford, I’ll bid you a good night and a very Merry Christmas.” She grabbed her overcoat from the hook where it had been hanging and, throwing it over her shoulders, she left without another word.

*****

“Humbug!” he growled.

*****

Vincent was dreaming.

“Humbug.”

“Christmas a humbug, Uncle? You don’t mean that, I’m sure.”

Fred! His nephew Fred was speaking to him, but Fred looked exactly like Devin. What was going on here?

“I do,” said Vincent, and he realized he made his answer in the voice of Ebenezer Scrooge. “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

“Uncle!” pleaded Devin/Fred.

“Nephew,” replied Vincent/Scrooge. “Keep Christmas in your own way and let me keep it in mine.”

“Keep it? But you don’t keep it at all.”

“Let me leave it alone then. Humbug.”

They went on like this for several minutes, and the more they did so, the more frustrated Vincent/Scrooge became. He wanted to wake up! Tried to wake up, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to do it.

Finally, Fred/Devin left the premises, cheerfully bestowing Christmas wishes on his uncle and also on Bob Cratchit, who sat hunched over his work. And as Bob Cratchit came into focus, Vincent realized he had the countenance of Kanin.

“I suppose you’ll want all day tomorrow,” grumbled Vincent/Scrooge.

“If quite convenient, sir,” said Bob/Kanin.

“It’s not convenient,” grumbled Vincent/Scrooge. “And it’s not fair. If I was to withhold half a crown from your wages, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound, but you don’t think me ill-used when I pay a day’s wages for no work!”

“It’s only once a year,sir,” replied Bob/Kanin meekly.

“Poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December! But I suppose you must have it. Be here all the earlier the next morning.”

“Yes, sir. I will, sir,” promised Bob/Kanin.

*****

The scene faded again. Vincent was trying desperately to wake up. He feared what might be coming and, sure enough, as the misty cobwebs of his dream world cleared once again, he found himself facing the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Father!

The Ghost of Christmas Past was Father.

“Wake up, wake up!” he admonished himself, but the dream world had him tightly in its grasp.

“Who and what are you?” Vincent/Scroogedemanded.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past,” declared Ghost/Father.

“Long past?”

“No, your past. Rise and walk with me.”

“I am a mortal and likely to fall,” declared Vincent/Scrooge.

“Bear but a touch of my hand,” said the spirit.

As they floated, Vincent saw himself in several visions of his boyhood, but the visions seemed vague and wispy. Hopefully, he was waking up, came his wishful thought. But then he began to tremble, for the visions solidified again and he knew what was coming. He was desperate to wake up. “Please, let me go,” he begged Ghost/Father. “Let me go.”

The spirit merely raised its eyebrows, and Vincent/Scrooge saw himself approaching that forlorn bench where a solitary figure sat.

Vincent/Scrooge cringed. He knew that when that dainty figure turned around, the image it bore would be that of Catherine, and he knew that the following scene would be painful in the extreme. It was almost more than he could bear.

Suddenly, he understood his dream! What was it Catherine had said before he got so ridiculously drunk? She said she wished Dickens had written a reunion between the characters of Scrooge and Belle.

Could he do that himself within this dreamscape? After all, he had apparently been cast within the dream as Scrooge. Dickens had written that scene to illustrate how the character of Scrooge began to lose touch with the finer qualities of humanity. How he had more heartily embraced greed and avarice in place of empathy and kindness, even love. It was only through the intervention of the spirits of Christmas that he found his way once again. A hard lesson but an important one.

Perhaps he, Vincent, could also alter his course and find redemption by altering the course of his dream. He’d hurt Catherine with his stupid and callous criticism. He’d criticized her clothing, for God’s sake. How could he be so mean-spirited… so Scrooge-like! No wonder his dream had cast him in that role.

He closed his eyes and allowed the dreamscape to take him once more. He saw himself approach the bench where she sat. He sat down next to her.

“I thought you might not come,” whispered Belle/Catherine. “I know how busy you are.”

Vincent saw Catherine’s sweet face even though he knew his dream had put her in the role of Belle. Her eyes were close to overflowing with tears.

He had to answer her in the way of love, not the way the original story went. “Yes, busy, and I am so sorry to have neglected you so.” There! Was his apology sincere enough? Could he hope to alter the direction of this scenario?

“Another idol has displaced me.”

“What idol?”

“A golden one.”

Damn! The scene was playing out like the book. He had to get hold of it and move it into another direction. “There is only one thing I value above all else, dearest one, and that is you.”

“Can this be true, Ebenezer?” she asked incredulously.

Vincent/Scrooge answered with humility and sincerity. “I swear it upon my heart. Do not forsake me, for I love you with all my heart.”

“Oh, Ebenezer. Is it true?” Belle/Catherine threw herself into his arms.

“Yes, dearest one. It is true.” With that, he pulled her into his arms, kissing her soft lips.

*****

Vincent awoke with a start. “I’m back! I’m myself.” He heaved a great sigh.

Wait!

Catherine!

Dear God, he’d made such a complete ass of himself. How could he face her after such a callous and ill-mannered display? To insult her with something as trivial as her garments was the absolute height of drunken stupidity. She always looked just beautiful. How could he have been so utterly without tact?

He knew he had to face her and apologize.

He arose and dressed himself, choosing the nicest garments he had. Hopefully, she would see that he, too, tried to look his best with whatever he had. He walked with grim determination out of his chamber, through the tunnels, taking the fork that would lead him towards the basement of Catherine’s house. He prayed that she had not chosen to lock the utility door, for that door was his point of entry to her house. If that door was locked, he feared all might be lost.

*****

There it was. Just ahead. The utility door. He stopped in front of it, suddenly wary. He tried to sense whether she was alone or had guests within. If she had guests, he would have to turn around and go back, but his inner senses told him she was alone. He swallowed nervously. Would she welcome him with forgiveness, or would she send him away?

He balled his fist, about to knock, when the door opened.

“Oh! Vincent. You gave me quite a start. I was just about to enter the tunnels and bring a bundle to Mary.” She dropped what looked like something Santa Claus would have on his sleigh! “Was there something you wanted?”

“Yes, Catherine. There is something. Something very important.”

“Well, come in then. Let’s go upstairs and you can tell me what’s on your mind.”

Vincent could tell that Catherine was still miffed by her cool tone. He prayed he could find the right words to make amends.

She left her bundle right where it had landed by the utility door and started up the two flights to living room level. Vincent followed. “Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll make some coffee.”

Vincent sat in the large wing chair he favored and waited until Catherine brought a tray in with the coffee service. They sat down and there followed an awkward silence. Vincent tried to think of a way to break the ice. He settled on Catherine’s bundle.

“So, what’s in the very large bundle you were bringing into the world Below, Catherine?”

“Clothing! I was bringing the bundle to Mary. She gave me a list about a month ago of needed things for the children, and we decided to make it a Christmas delivery! I was going to help her wrap everything tonight.”

“A list? Did you purchase everything in that entire bundle, Catherine?”

She nodded, and blushed. “I admit I had a great deal of fun shopping for all the things on the list.”

“You are truly the most wonderful and generous person I have ever known. I came to apologize for my abominable behavior toward you the other night. The things I said are completely inexcusable, and I beg your forgiveness.”

“It’s all right, Vincent. I realize you were quite inebriated at the time. I was just shocked that you could be a mean drunk. But then again, alcohol can do strange things to people. I shouldn’t have let it hurt my feelings.”

“I had no business hurting your feelings. Your feelings are important to me. Always! I apologize again.”

“Thank you, Vincent. I forgive you.”

“Will you allow me to help transport your enormous bundle through the tunnels, Catherine?”

“Of course. I could use the help. I think I got a little carried away shopping for all the really cute things.”

“I’m sure the children will be completely thrilled with everything.”

They finished their coffee. Vincent helped Catherine clear away the service and helped her clean up. They went back downstairs, where Catherine unwrapped her bundle. “We can divide this into two smaller bundlesso it’ll be easier to manage.”

Once that was accomplished, they each grabbed a bundle and went through the utility door in Catherine’s basement that led directly into the tunnels.

*****

As they traversed the world Below, Vincent told Catherine about his strange dream and of how he finally figured out that the only way he was going to shake his Scrooge persona was to redeem himself, just as the storybook Scrooge had done in that remarkable story. “You’ll be happy to know I made up a better conclusion for Belle and Ebenezer!” he declared.

“Tell me,” she smiled. “I’ve always thought Dickens missed the boat on that one.”

He told her. “I think the dream was trying to tell me how great a gift your love is and how I abused it so carelessly.”

“It seems many miracles happen during the time of Christmas, Vincent. Perhaps your dream was simply your subconscious working through the platform of a great story, a story you yourself brought to life with the most extraordinary retelling of that classic. Your voice makes the words live.”

“Thank you, Catherine. You flatter me greatly, and perhaps you’re right. There were many parts of the story that felt real to me even as I was telling it.”

By this time, they had reached Vincent’s chamber, where they dumped the bundles in the corner. They both collapsed on Vincent’s bed. Vincent pulled Catherine into the curve of his body, holding her tenderly, and stroking her hair. She turned her body to face him and he kissed her gently, then the kiss became more urgent.

“Stay right here, Catherine.” He got up and went to lock the doors of his chamber. Then he laid back down next to her. “It would not do to have visitors just now, I think,” he said softly.

“I think the delivery to Mary is going to be slightly late,” she whispered. “Merry Christmas, Vincent.”

“Merry Christmas, Catherine. I love you.”

“And God bless us, everyone!”