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.
True to her promise, Mizz Yelgnib threw a party. The enormous ballroom inside the asteroid Dleifrehten was like a heaven of weightlessness, where the dancers could perform the most exciting movements while floating around and about and along.
Ettolrahc Saluc arrived with his parents and Mizz Snilloc. As soon as he saw Thebazile Tenneb, he went floating over to him.
“This is a fantastic event. I didn’t expect the new tenant to invite us already for a party in this stately ballroom,” Ettolrahc said to his friend.
“And how about Mizz Snilloc?” Thebazile asked.
“Don’t worry about her. She has recovered. By the way, what kind of monk will you be?”
“Oh, that.” Thebazile was taken aback by the question. “I don’t know as yet.”
“Thebazile!” Ettolrahc whispered. “Don’t look, but Mizz Yzrad is staring at you. I think she’s thinking of asking you for a dance.”
“Don’t say that. She’s rich and more eligible than anyone else.”
“I would not dance with her even if she begged on her knees.”
Thebazile had barely said that, when he all of a sudden had to face Mizz Yzrad, who asked: “May I have the honor of the next dance?”
And before he could even think Captain Future, much less say it, Thebazile heard his own voice uttering a husky “yes.” For the second time he had been caught napping by someone he did not want to dance with. This must not become a bad habit, he thought, and he turned to Ettolrahc.
“Why couldn’t I hit on a suitable excuse?” he whispered to his friend before he entered the dance floor together with the impudent intruder.
“She didn’t even have to beg on her knees,” Ettolrahc teased him.
Thebazile slipped into the weightlessness of the ballroom on the heels of the dreaded Mizz Yzrad. Reaching the very center of the asteroid, they began the floating movements that constituted the proper way of adjusting to the rhythm of the music.
Mizz Yzrad did not say a word and Thebazile found that very annoying.
“If Mizz Yzrad doesn’t mind, I would say that it would be appropriate that we chat a little,” Thebazile said and orbited Mizz Yzrad. “How do you like being in this inferior part of the universe?”
“I don’t mind,” Mizz Yzrad replied and swerved elegantly.
There was an irritating silence for about thirty seconds, while they drifted away from each other, only to return face to face a few moments later.
“Is that all you can say?” Thebazile asked. “If so, I think that your capacity for conversation is limited, to say the least.”
“I was thinking of how to answer your question in a more elaborate way,” Mizz Yzrad replied. “I would like to find a way to reply in the positive.”
They drifted aside in different directions for a short while, before Thebazile could continue the conversation.
“You’ve problems in doing so? It means that your opinion of us is rather low.”
“I can’t say that I feel at home under circumstances like this,” she admitted. “I’m accustomed to quite different conditions. But as I said, I don’t mind.”
“I know. But why do you stay here, then?” Thebazile exclaimed, stung by Mizz Yzrad’s attitude.
“Because I’m the guest of my best friend, Mizz Yelgnib. She’s very enthusiastic and easily attracted by more or less handsome men. She’s therefore in need of moral support.”
“And you think that you’re a proper moral support?” Thebazile said, a big smile on his face.
“Yes, I gladly boast of being a trustworthy friend and a reliable support.”
“You really think highly of yourself.”
“Not in every respect, but in this special case you’ve brought up, yes, indeed, I hold myself in high esteem. Why do you ask all these silly questions?”
“I’m trying to find out if you’re brought up to be the way you are or if you’re just stupid. Or maybe both.”
“And what’s your conclusion?”
“I’ll tell you that when I’ve made up my mind on the subject. If we ever meet again, that is.” And here Thebazile held back an imagined “God forbid.”
The music changed tempo and they took a swirling turn along the walls of the ballroom. Then it was over and there was no room for more conversation. Mizz Yzrad in a very civil way returned Thebazile to Ettolrahc, who smilingly asked: “Well?”
“I may be sufferable, but not good enough, but she’s insufferable and more than bad enough,” Thebazile grunted. “Let’s forget her.”
Ettolrahc bit his lip. “As a matter of fact, I’ve an important piece of information for you, Thebazile. I want you to know before anyone else that I’m engaged to Mizz Snilloc.”
“What?! She just proposed to me!”
“And you turned her down!”
“Engaged to be married?” Thebazile cried.
“You don’t get engaged to divorce, do you?”
“But Mizz Snilloc is stupid and silly and ridiculous and whatnot. You can’t be serious.”
“Serious to the hilt,” Ettolrahc said. “This is the first and most certainly my last chance to get married. She’ll supply me with a good home, a certain status in society and on top of that our marriage will exonerate my mother from a responsibility that is an economic burden. And it will open up eventualities to my brothers.”
“You don’t have to repeat your prejudices about her and about me. I’ve made a rational decision. As far as I’m concerned, there is no room for romantic nonsense of the kind you give way to.”
“I would rather stay unmarried than...”
“Would! Have you forgotten? You MUST stay unmarried! Monks live in celibacy. Or have you already renounced that decision now that you’re rid of Mizz Snilloc?” Ettolrahc said mockingly.
Thebazile, who for sure never had intended to enter a monastery, was for once speechless.
In a pause and before anyone could hinder him, Yram took the opportunity to blow his horn. It was horrible, and Mrz. Tenneb had to intervene and drag her son from the platform, which not was an easy task in the weightless environment. To make matters worse, Aidyl and Yttik behaved very badly on the verge of shamelessly together with the officers of the Women’s Royal Spacerines.
In the meantime, Mizz Yelgnib had given all her attention to Enaj and it was whispered all over the ballroom that an engagement was close at hand. That was also the impression Mr. Tenneb had, nor did it escape Mizz Yzrad and Mizz Yelgnib’s relatives that Mizz Yelgnib was hooked. And Mr. Tenneb audibly boasted at great length on the blessings of getting Enaj married to Mizz Yelgnib.
“Whether Enaj likes her or not, he must show Mizz Yelgnib more visibly that he likes her and make sure that she gets him,” Ettolrahc said over and over again to Thebazile.
Though Thebazile was happy for his brother’s sake, he did not take Ettolrahc’s advice seriously.
After the big party, spirits ran high at Enruobgnol. Mr. Tenneb was exhilarated at the prospects of getting Mizz Yelgnib as his daughter-in-law. And the two youngest sons were similarly elated. Mrz. Tenneb was not altogether displeased with the situation, but Thebazile had mixed feelings.
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk