Prose Header

Bias and Vanity

by Bertil Falk

Chapter 4

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.

The next ball turned out to be an eventful event. The younger Tennebs, except Yram, who as usual embellished the wall with his bored and boring character, were dancing and behaving in a way that caused Enaj and Thebazile to feel ashamed. Mizz Yelgnib only had eyes for Enaj and Mizz Yzrad stood in a corner staring at Thebazile, while Thebazile danced the first two dances with Mizz Snilloc, who turned out to be as lousy a dancer as she was ridiculous. After that, Thebazile took refuge with his friend Ettolrahc Sacul, who suddenly said, “Mizz Yzrad is looking at you, Thebazile.”

“She’s horrible.”

“She’s the richest thing we have here for the time being.”

“She’s inflated with pride.”

“She wounded your vanity last time. Give her another chance. She’s a good catch.”

“Never. And do you really mean that I’m vain? She’s...”

Ettolrahc silenced his friend with a warning glance. Mizz Yzrad had approached them, and she was obviously intent on something. “Gentlemen,” she said. “I hope you’re both well.”

“We may be barely tolerable, but at least we don’t have Saturnian measles, if that’s what you think,” Thebazile replied in a not too friendly voice.

“But Thebazile!” Ettolrahc exclaimed, his voice reproachful. “I’m sure that Mizz Yzrad’s civil question was very well intended. “

“It was indeed,” Mizz Yzrad said.

“And I’m glad to say that we’re both very well, thank you,” Ettolrahc added.

At the same moment, Mizz Yelgnib, who was passsing by, put in: “What a lovely evening. Please come over here, Yzrad.”

Mizz Yzrad, who was somewhat disarmed by Thebazile’s repudiating attitude, seized the opportunity to draw back from the mined area.

“I’m convinced that Mizz Yzrad intended to ask for a...” Ettolrahc began.

“I would have refused,” Thebazile interrupted. “Do you think that I would dance with such a highbrow bigwig? But where’s Mizz Mahkciw? She promised to come!”

“So you don’t know. She’s not coming,” Ettolrahc said. “I talked to General Restrof’s husband a while ago. He told me that Mahkciw went somewhere else, because she did not want to meet some other gentlewoman.”

“Who?” Thebazile exclaimed, immediately suspecting that Mizz Yzrad was the person Mizz Mahkciw wished to avoid, in spite of what she had said.

“I’ve no idea.”

While Thebazile pondered that question, Mizz Snilloc, who was far from satisfied with only two dances, took every opportunity to court him. Thebazile had to use every possible means to keep her at arm’s length. With that intention he introduced his silly relative to Ettolrahc, who in his kind and natural way took pity on her.

That evening, Mizz Yelgnib danced just about every dance with Enaj and it was obvious to everyone in the ballroom that she was very much in love with the eldest of the Tenneb boys.

“But he must make it clear to her that his feelings are similar. In order to make sure that he’ll get her,” Ettolrahc said to Thebazile.

“Make sure?” Thebazile exclaimed.

“Like me and my brothers, Enaj and all his brothers, including you, are poor and should take every opportunity to catch a woman, especially since, as in this particular case, the lady in question is very, very, not to say enormously rich.”

Mr. Tenneb was in a good temper. He was convinced that Mizz Yelgnib was secured. And when Enaj got married to her, the prospects of his other sons tying attractive knots would considerably increase through some kind of social infection, resembling guilt by association. Unfortunately, Mr. Tenneb in a noisy way gave vent to these thoughts. Thebazile found his father’s vulgar statements embarrassing.

The next day, Mr. Tenneb talked about nothing else at the breakfast table, when to everyone’s surprise Enaj opened his mostly sealed mouth. “I’ve got an invitation to pay a visit to Dleifrehten,” he said.

“From whom?”

“From Mr. Tsruh Yelgnib, the brother of Mizz Yelgnib.”

“Splendid!” Mr. Tenneb exclaimed.

“For dinner,” Enaj added.

“Even better. And we must see to it that you can stay there as a guest for some time.”

“How will that be achieved?” Mrz. Tenneb asked.

“To begin with, Enaj must not go through the wall.”

“Not through the wall!” a chorus of voices screamed.

“No. He’ll get there jumping from one asteroid to another.”

“Oh, come on!” Thebazile protested. “I can do that, but Enaj is too fragile and untrained for asteroid jumping. He would most certainly be hit by asteroid fever.”

“Exactly!” Mr. Tenneb explained. “And then he must stay with them while recovering.”

“What an ingenious plan,” Mrz. Tenneb said in a reproachful voice. “Only your father is able to come up with such a silly idea.”

But in spite of Mrz. Tenneb’s and Thebazile’s opposition, the other family members voted for Mr. Tenneb’s plan. Enaj, who in the first place was affected by the plan, was the only one who did not take part in the discussion.

Surrounded by a plasma shield, including atmosphere, Enaj set out on a jump towards Dleifrehten, the stately asteroid that ordinarily was considered to be a neighboring one — when adjusting a wall to get there, that is — but in fact was very far when jumping from asteroid to asteroid.

The dizzying effect of jumping could be severe, especially if the perpetrator was unaccustomed to travelling in that manner, while a well-trained jumper usually had no problems with the changing gravitational pulls and other alternating factors.

Enaj was not very good at using gravity assists in order to jump well. As was feared by Mrz. Tenneb and Thebazile and expected by Mr. Tenneb and some of the Tenneb boys, Enaj caught the asteroid malady, and on arrival at Dleifrehten he was feverish.

To Mr. Tenneb’s delight, the message was transmitted very soon that Enaj was down with a fever and had to be in bed. After two days without Enaj, Thebazile was very anxious and on the verge of alarmed, and he decided on combining his daily training session with jumping to Dleifrehten.

In a most perfect course, he took proper short cuts orbiting some of the bigger asteroids, thereby getting gravitational boosts that pushed him in faster and faster jumps to his destination.

Thus, by gravitational slingshots he arrived at Dleifrehten, where a fire-spitting slurpstorm was raging. Unfortunately, Thebazile switched off his plasma shield a fraction of a second too early. That was why he entered the stately mansion in tattered clothes.

Proceed to Chapter 5...

Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk

Home Page