Bias and Vanity
by Bertil Falk
“Did you see, Mizz Yzrad, how that brother of Mr. Enaj Tenneb was dressed?” asked Mizz Yelgnib’s unmarried brother Tsruh Yelgnib, while Thebazile went upstairs to see his sick brother. “Two asteroid jumpers within two days! How about that? They must be very poor.”
“Thebazile Tenneb definitely looked gloomy,” said Tsruh Yelgnib.
“On the contrary. The exercise caused those intelligent eyes of his to glitter,” Mizz Yzrad said to Mr. Yelgnib’s disappointment.
Tsruh Yelgnib had a design — per se a hopeless design — on Mizz Yzrad. This design made him jealous of Thebazile Tenneb even though common sense told him that Mizz Yzrad would hardly contemplate an alliance that would be totally repulsive to her uncle, Count Hgruob ed Enirehtac of the Sgnisor solar system, whose son she was supposed to marry. Pondering about the somewhat puzzling and complex situation, Tsruh Yelgnib drew himself back.
Mizz Yelgnib was all charm and she told Thebazile how glad she was that they were able to show his brother all available care.
“You must stay here during his period of convalescence.”
“Very kind of you, Mizz Yelgnib.”
Thebazile sat by his brother’s bed until Enaj later that evening fell asleep. Then Thebazile found himself a stranger in a luxurious parlor in the company of a group of people he rather would have avoided.
There was Mizz Yzrad, particularly stiff and unsmiling, Mrz. Yelgnib and the two brothers of Mizz Yelgnib. The only one who was not haughty was Mizz Yelgnib. She was as always cheerful and friendly and tried her best to make Thebazile feel comfortable. Tsruh Yelgnib, however, took the opportunity to use Thebazile for her own purposes.
“Look at Mizz Yzrad,” Tsruh Yelgnib said to Thebazile. “What do you think she’s thinking of?”
“I’ve no idea what such a stately lady may have in mind,” Thebazile replied.
“I agree that she’s difficult to read,” Mr. Yelgnib admitted, “but she may be thinking of her younger brother. Are you, Yzrad?”
“Not at the moment,” Mizz Yzrad grunted. “But you’re right that he’s often on my mind. I’ve not talked to him since yesterday. He’s very dear to me.”
“Why don’t you come over and join us here in our cozy corner?” Tsruh Yelgnib asked.
“I would rather sit here and admire you both from a distance.”
“Listen to her! How shall we retaliate?” Tsruh Yelgnib said to Thebazile, thus teasing Mizz Yzrad.
“I don’t think she’s worth the least retaliation from us,” said Thebazile.
“You’ve a tendency to express your impressions very strongly,” said Mizz Yzrad.
“Why shouldn’t I? As far as I can understand, I’ve no reason to be retiring.” Thebazile made a pause, then added. “Wherefrom have you gotten all that pride of yours, Mizz Yzrad?”
The question came as a surprise to all in the room. Mizz Yzrad seemed to be the only one who was not shocked by Thebazile’s impertinent question.
“Pride should be derived from facts. In my case pride is part of tradition and inheritance,” she said.
“Only that? You’ve no personal achievement to base your pride on?”
The silence following that bold, almost cheeky question was hearable.
Mizz Yzrad looked straight at the hunk. “I’m not perfect, Mr. Tenneb. I have my faults, but pretending that I’ve done something spectacular that gives me pride is not one of them. The answer is: No, I can’t make boast of any personal achievement of the kind you’re asking for.”
“What a pity!” Thebazile said and there was a slightly discernible touch of contempt in his voice.
Tsruh Yelgnib found the situation both amusing and relieving. Thebazile’s attitude showed that whatever Mizz Yzrad had on her mind, she had not made any positive impression on the hunky-dory Tenneb.
What Tsruh Yelgnib did not know was that Thebazile’s decidedly negative attitude, instead of having the intended result of wounding its target, had had the quite opposite effect on Mizz Yzrad.
After three days, Mr. Tenneb and his three younger sons came through the wall to inspect the situation, but even though Enaj considered himself ready to be brought home through the wall, Mr. Tenneb considered him to be in too bad a shape to be moved.
“No problem,” said Mizz Yelgnib. “He’ll be well taken care of.”
“And you, Mizz Yzrad. How do you enjoy our archipelago?” Mr. Tenneb asked.
“I think it’s a very slow place,” said Mizz Yzrad. “The social life is not very developed.”
“The social life here is very good!” Mr. Tenneb exclaimed in an angry voice. “We have parties about three, sometimes four times a month.”
At that, Mrz. Yelgnib, her husband and Tsruh Yelgnib giggled in the background.
“Papa, don’t misunderstand Mizz Yzrad,” Thebazile pleaded, “what she meant was most certainly that social life is more developed in the more populated parts of the universe as compared to these outskirts.”
“Whatever she meant, there’s no lack of social life here,” said Mr. Tenneb, not the least taken aback by his son’s interference.
Aidyl turned out to be the angel of mercy.
“You must throw a party,” he said to Mizz Yelgnib, who had not as much as dreamed of throwing a party, but now Aidyl had put the idea into her head, and she immediately responded, saying: “As soon as your brother has recovered we’ll certainly have a party.”
Mr. Tenneb and his three sons returned home and Mr. Tenneb was very indignant at Mizz Yzrad’s attitude.
“A very disagreeable character!” was his opinion of Mizz Yzrad.
And it tallied very well with the general judgement.
Enaj and Thebazile stayed for another two days at Dleifrehten. That gave Thebazile an opportunity to take a look at the stately asteroid and while jumping around, he found Dleifrehten to be a very rich and beautiful place. The famous ballroom inside the asteroid was however locked, but would be ready for the big party.
Enaj and Thebazile said farewell, adjusted a wall to their home and went away. At home, Thebazile told his brother that it had been awful to stay with the arrogant people at Dleifrehten, but he soon found to his terror that he had come out of the frying pan straight into the fire. For at Enruobgnol, Mizz Snilloc eagerly awaited his return and she demanded a private interview that turned out to be a dreadful proposal.
“I’ve decided on marrying you,” Mizz Snilloc said.
Alarmed, Thebazile protested, but was silenced by Mizz Snilloc, who without consideration continued.
“The most important reason for my decision is that my good mentor, Count Hgruob ed Enirehtac of the Sgnisor solar system, has told me to get a husband as quickly as possible. My second reason is that I need a man to reign over and my third reason is that I find it important to tie the nuptial knot with a relative.”
“No, no, I can’t marry you,” Thebazile exclaimed, tensing his muscles. “I’m not at all inclined to enter into matrimony. Far from it.”
“Yes, I know. Clever young men like you want to make yourself more attractive by pretending that you don’t want to marry. I understand that, but you don’t have to pretend to me. I know that you in your heart want to become my husband.”
“No and no and no again.”
“You’re a very good actor. It almost sounds as if you meant it.”
“Don’t you understand the word NO!” Thebazile screamed.
It slowly dawned upon Mizz Snilloc that she faced a downright refusal to every sensible alternative.
“But...” she began. She was not permitted to continue her sentence, for Thebazile ejaculated: “Don’t you understand that I’m giving you the brushoff?”
“But... but.... why... ?”
On the spur of the moment, Thebazile said: “It’s my intention to enter a monastery.”
“I’ll be a monk. You’re the first one I’m telling.”
Crushed, Mizz Snilloc, sank down on to a chair. “How’s that possible? You’re a Lutheran, I believe?“
“I... I’m contemplating conversion to Catholicism.”
Mr. Tenneb, who had eavesdropped, found to his horror that the proposal was going awry. He rushed into the room.
“Are you out of your mind, Thebazile! You can’t turn down Mizz Snilloc. And what is this talk of Catholicism and monasteries? ”
Thebazile flexed his muscles and left the room.
He heard the uproar his refusal had caused and half an hour later, he was summoned to his mother’s studio. Mrz. Tenneb sat by her desk and looked at her son with an enigmatic gaze. Mr. Tenneb stood by her side.
“Tell him what his duty is,” he said.
“Your father has just told me that you will convert to Catholicism and enter a monastery. Is that true?”
“May I ask if you’ll be a Dominican or a Franciscan?”
“I’ve not made up my mind on that.”
“I see. Could it be that this sudden decision has been taken in order to avoid some other problem like marrying Mizz Snilloc?”
“Do I have to explain my motives?”
“No, my dear son. You don’t.”
“If you don’t marry Mizz Snilloc, I’ll commit suicide,” exclaimed Mr. Tenneb.
“You hear what your father says,” Mrz. Tenneb said, her voice serious. “If you don’t marry Mizz Snilloc, he’ll commit suicide. I don’t know if that can be said to be a big loss, but you must make your choice. For if you do marry her, I will commit suicide. Take your pick.”
“Mama, you’re an angel.”
Thebazile embraced her and run out of the room, but heard his father angrily complaining. However, Thebazile immediately run straight into another scene. For there, in front of him, was Mizz Snilloc crying, while Ettolrahc Saluc, who just had arrived through the wall to see Thebazile, wiped away the reverend’s tears.
“What the heck have you done to Mizz Snilloc?” Ettolrahc reproached his friend.
“I... I’ve...I...” Thebazile stammered.
“You’d better come with me to Egdolsacul, Mizz Snilloc. I don’t think that Enruobgnol is a healthy spot for you right now and I think that it’s for the benefit of everyone concerned if you come with me.”
Grateful to his friend, who like a deus ex machina had arrived as the rescuing angel, Thebazile saw the two adjust the wall and disappear.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk