Bias and Vanity
by Bertil Falk
This story adapts Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with a plot that is condensed and turned somewhat the other way around. It pays homage to one of England’s greatest novelists.
At the household of Mrz. Tenneb, tension grew. And on the party day, at least Mr. Tenneb and the two youngest sons were on tenterhooks, looking forward to the upcoming festivity as if it was a much longed-for orgy, while Yram, the middle boy, just sighed and turned to his books.
Aidyl, the youngest, was very excited and his two years elder brother Yttik, who always wanted to do what Aidyl did, was similarly up to speed.
“I don’t want to go,” said Enaj. “I feel like an idiot.”
“Oh, come on, Enaj,” protested Thebazile. “You like dancing.”
“Yes, but I hate conversing and feel awkward when I have to look into the eyes of all those pretty girls.”
“Then look somewhere else,” Thebazile encouraged his one-year elder brother. “If it gets too difficult, just shut your eyes.”
“And how about you?” Enaj asked.
“Having no expectations at all, I’m probably the one who’ll enjoy the party more than anyone else.”
The Tennebs adjusted the wall of their home to the lounge of Egdolsacul and arrived through it in a row of straddle-vaults in front of Dame Sacul, who received her guests in a welcoming manner. Her husband stood at the safe distance of one proper meter behind her. She heartily greeted Mrz. Tenneb and nodded graciously at Mr. Tenneb.
“Today competition will be great,” she said. “Besides my two daughters and three sons as well as your five sons, there will be many unmarried boys here, but very few girls.”
“Too many boys,” Thebazile said. “The girls will be up to their ears in dancing if they satisfy the demand.”
At that moment, the Retsrofs arrived through the wall. In her red full-dress uniform, General Retsrof was a most impressive lady and her husband was very stylish. Mizter Retsrof, who was very talkative, immediately began to discuss the evening’s pleasures with Aidyl and Yttik Tenneb.
“Mizz Yelgnib and her friend Mizz Yzrad are expected,” he blabbed. ”They’re the two most desirable spinsters within a radius of at least three thousand parsecs.”
The ballroom was big. Already at this stage, the supply of male specimens exceeded the demand to such a degree that most of the boys were pasted like Denebian flowers along the walls. The few girls, as well as the even fewer women, all had an appreciated freedom of choice.
That freedom was utilized to the hilt. Even though he was the most shy and unobtrusive person in the hall, Enaj, the eldest and the handsomest of the Tenneb boys, was for certain not neglected. He had to dance every dance and that was no problem since he did not dislike dancing. On the contrary, he obviously enjoyed it, especially since it brought him relief. He did not have to chat with a cluster of women glued to him and, when necessary, he shut his eyes.
The dance was at one of its peaks, the music at its intoxicating height, when it all of a sudden more or less stopped dead and a silence settled upon those present. For through the ballroom wall entered a most extraordinary pageant of well-fixed mortals.
The new tenant of Dleifrehten, Mizz Yelgnib, led the procession, and she certainly lived up to her reputation and beyond. Not only was she a downright beauty, dressed in a most fashionable evening dress, she was full of life and literally shone with enthusiasm. She scanned the room and one could see that she approved of what she saw. Her perfect appearance did certainly not contradict the rumor that she was more of an android than a human being.
Behind her was an even more beautiful lady, not exactly dressed according to the latest fashion, but rather dressed, as it seemed, to kill. For there was no doubt that all this glittering and sparkling was designed for her in particular, and that by one of the most famous dressmakers in the cosmos. In glaring contrast to her spectacular clothes, she looked stiff and far from enthusiastic. This was the very, very rich Mizz Yzrad. And she never smiled.
A third lady, of a similarly high society kind, turned out to be Mrz. Yelgnib, married to one of the two brothers of Mizz Yelgnib. These two gentlemen made the procession complete. For a while the other guests were stunned, but then the orchestra began churning out another exciting piece of music. The spell was broken and once more the ballroom was a brew of bodies in whirling patterns.
“You must see to it that our sons are introduced to Mizz Yelgnib and her gang immediately,” Mr. Tenneb urged his wife.
To begin with, Mizz Yzrad was admired. A rumor made a few turns along the walls that she was the owner of a big chunk of the Notrebmep solar system and one of the richest women in the known universe. Dame Sacul, who had accompanied the new arrivals into the ballroom, gladly introduced the Tennebs to her illustrious guests. Mizz Yelgnib without hesitation told them that she was delighted to meet Mrz. Tenneb and her five boys.
“It’s strange that one has to go to a remote place like this to find so many good-looking males clustered at one spot, or what do you say, Yzrad?” said Mizz Yelgnib, her eyes fixed on the blushing Enaj Tenneb.
A growl showed that Mizz Yzrad had heard the question. The people standing around interpreted her reaction as an answer in the negative.
Mizz Yelgnib, known to love dancing, had already chosen a partner, no less a young man than Thebazile’s best friend, Ettolrahc Sacul. That was probably not due to his all but attractive appearance but rather a concession, attributed to the fact that Ettolrahc was a son of the hostess. But as soon as she had done her duty, Mizz Yelgnib let Ettolrahc go. She grabbed Enaj Tenneb and more or less kept him for herself.
Between two dances, Mizz Yelgnib went over to Mizz Yzrad. “Why are you standing there? Just see how many handsome boys there are.”
“You’ve already seized the only handsome chap in this room,” Mizz Yzrad replied.
“Yes, I’ve never before seen such a handsome guy. But don’t be ridiculous, Yzrad. Over here, look!”
Thebazile Tenneb, who sat together with Ettolrahc Sacul a few meters from the two women, raised his eyes when he realized that Mizz Yelgnib had him in mind.
“That handsome boy is the brother of Enaj Tenneb. Why don’t you dance with him?”
Mizz Yzrad looked at Thebazile and said, “That Hercules? Well, he seems to possess a well-trained body, but he’s too much of a man mountain to tempt me. And while some cartoonist seems to have used him as a sketchpad, no one else seems to be attracted by this muscle man, so why should I be tempted? He’s sufferable, that’s all.”
Her eyes met his, and when Thebazile instead of casting his down, not only looked straight into hers, but actually was so impudent as to smile at her, Mizz Yzrad thought fit to look in another direction.
Thebazile was not conceited, but even though, he felt that Mizz Yzrad’s commentary on him was offensive.
“You heard what that abominable woman said,” Thebazile whispered, turned to Ettolrahc.
“She’s the owner of one of the biggest solar estates in the universe,” Ettolrahc Sacul replied.
“Must be a lousy place,” Thebazile declared. “Even if she ever changes her mind, I’ll never in my life dance with that bastard.”
“Remember how rich she is,” Ettolrahc scolded him.
Mizz Yzrad had hardly made her too hasty opinion of Thebazile known to her friend, when she realized that she had looked into two of the keenest and most intelligent eyes she had ever beheld. Bewildered by that unexpected discovery, she began to study the muscle man.
To her surprise, she found that he on closer inspection was both attractive and in a strange way even handsome with an interesting chin. And those illustrations were not as repugnant as she had thought at first sight. But for sure he belonged to a worthless family of low reputation.
As could have been foreseen, Aidyl and Yttik Tenneb enjoyed the party. Very much so! They danced and played and behaved a little bit over the accepted top, a fact that not the least Thebazile was aware of and even Mizz Yzrad observed.
Slowly but surely, it dawned on those present, that even though Mizz Yzrad seemed to be dressed to kill, she was not there to kill, or to be killed for that matter. During the evening, she only danced a few times and only with the brothers of her friend. Her stiff behavior, conceited appearance, haughty attitude and condescending airs, caused her stocks to drop from a next to all time high down to a level below face value at the end of the evening. Not that it seemed to affect her the least.
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk