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.
The environments at Sgnisor were as magnificent as the great mansion itself. Every morning, Thebazile ran a couple of kilometers through the well-tended jungle consisting of trees and animals imported from different parts of the universe. The air was nice to breathe, and as he understood, the atmosphere was imported from some very pleasant world.
Every day, he stumbled on Mizz Yzrad, who emerged here and there for whatever reason. He never got close to her, and he wondered if she had gone into training for some reason. Since the conditions for training were the best that could be, it was a probable explanation. On the other hand, Thebazile did not care and tried to avoid meeting her.
One morning, Thebazile thought he saw her among the trees, but it turned out to be the colonel. She came walking and when she saw him, she waved at him.
“Hello, Mizter Tenneb,” Mizz Mailliwztif said. “How are you this morning.”
“Very well. And you?”
“I’m fine and it’s very nice to walk in this environment. I’m looking for Yzrad. Have you seen her?”
“Not at all, but since you’ve mentioned her, may I ask a question?”
“Do you know Mizz Yelgnib?” Thebazile asked.
“Very little, but she’s Yzrad’s closest woman friend.”
“I know. You said that Mizz Yzrad is very loyal to her friends.”
“That’s right, and that goes not the least for Mizz Yelgnib. Yzrad boasts that she saved her from a most unsuitable engagement with a gentleman.”
“Why? He was too poor?”
“As far as I can understand it was rather a question of his family. His brothers behaved badly, his father was rather awkward, and he did himself not show much feeling for Mizz Yelgnib.”
Though Thebazile foamed with rage in his mind, he did not show anything to the colonel, who of course did not know that she had disclosed something important. So it was not her brothers that had caused Mizz Yelgnib to leave.
It was Mizz Yzrad!
Thebazile spent the rest of the day running about in the jungle to get rid of the tensions Mizz Mailliwztif’s revelation had caused. And the next day, when he went into the jungle, he ran straight into Mizz Yzrad.
“I must talk to you,” the haughty lady said. She looked nervous.
“What have you to say?”
“Well, how are ... your parents and your brothers?”
“Hopefully, they’re well. I haven’t seen them for some time now. I’m not sure that Enaj has recovered.”
“Enaj has been sick?”
“So you don’t know. He’s been very unhappy.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“And you didn’t see him in Nodnol, for he’s there with my aunt and uncle.”
“No, I didn’t.”
There was a pause.
“Mizter Thebazile, you asked me some time ago what I was doing here.”
“I thought for a moment that you might have come here to see your future husband.”
“Yes, I did,” Mizz Yzrad said eagerly.
“But you owed him the same indifference as you show all other people.”
Mizz Yzrad looked stunned.
“You don’t understand. I came here to see my future husband. Please listen to me.”
“I’ve struggled in vain, but it doesn’t help.”
“You’ve struggled in vain? So what?”
“You’re below me.”
“I’m a man. I know I’m below you women. At least in this mentally backward part of the universe.”
“That’s not what I meant!”
“So what the heck are you talking about? Please try to be a little bit more intelligible.”
“I mean... You’re below me in every respect. Your status is low, your family is far from acceptable and certainly not respectable. I know it’s irrational and goes against my own judgement, but I’ve come here to see you. All my relatives will despise my choice, but it won’t do. I love you. I admire you. I ardently do so. I’ve been struggling. I’ve suffered. Please be my husband.”
Thebazile stared at the arrogant woman, who was standing there like a beggar and asking him to marry her.
“On an occasion like this, the established mode should be to express a sense of obligation,” Thebazile said “but you don’t deserve anything of the kind. From the very beginning I came to despise and hate you and your arrogance. I’m not particularly talking about your humiliating statement that I’m sufferable but not tempting enough, an opinion you seem to have at least partly abandoned.”
“Is that all you’ll tell me in such an unkind, not to say hostile way?”
“Oh no. There’s more. I know you’ve destroyed my brother’s chance to marry the woman he loves. What do you say now?”
“I won’t deny that. It was for the good of Mizz Yelgnib, who became too attached to your brother. I’ve been more kind to her than to myself.”
“How could you do that, you cruel woman!”
“Wait a minute. Not so hasty. Your brother didn’t show any sign of liking Yelgnib, much less loving her.”
“Enaj barely shows his feelings to me. So why should he display them in public? I think it’s about time you closed your haughty private shop of psychology and kept your interfering talents to yourself.”
“And because of this you turn me down.”
“Oh no! I’ve more to say. Your treatment of your girlhood friend, Mizz Mahkciw! You treated her so badly that she now is a poor officer. It shows what a disgusting mentality you possess.”
“Mizz Mahkciw, oh yes indeed, her situation is certainly miserable. And you think that is my doing? Had I not told you about my struggle to overcome my own judgement in order to propose to you, then you would...”
“Oh come on,” Thebazile interrupted. “Don’t try to give that kind of reasoning a chance. I knew soon after seeing your behavior in public that if I were the last man in the universe and you suddenly tried to adjust to my wall, I would see to it that you could not penetrate the wall and enter.”
“I comprehend your feelings about me. I’m ashamed of myself and of my feelings. I wish you happiness in your life. Farewell.”
Mizz Yzrad turned her back to him and walked away.
Disgusted, Thebazile returned to Eganosrap. Ettolrahc immediately saw that something was wrong.
“What is it, Thebazile?”
“Yes, there’s something.”
“Okay. It’s something. Let’s call it a headache.”
Thebazile went to his room and he had hardly entered when the wall flared up with Mizz Yzrad’s serious face.
“I’m not going to repeat the proposal you found disgusting, but I must defend myself against your accusation when it comes to Mizz Mahkciw. She and I grew up together. Her mother was in charge of my mother’s finances, and my mother was very fond of Mizz Mahkciw.
“Actually, I think mama liked her more than me, her own daughter. Mizz Mahkciw’s mother died and my mother decided that Mizz Mahkciw would be given a parish when there was a vacancy. But when my mother died, Mizz Mahkciw was not at all interested in becoming a vicar. Instead she demanded from me a sum of three million universal credits. I gave it to her and she rapidly spent it on professional lovers.
“When the money was gone, she returned and tried to seduce my innocent brother, who was only fourteen years old then. Mizz Mahkciw knew he would inherit a not inconsiderable amount of money. I succeeded in stopping her plans at the last moment. If you don’t believe me, then ask Colonel Mailliwztif, who knows everything about my dealings with Mizz Makhciw.
“As to your brother Enaj, I saw no sign at all that he was in love with my dear friend Yelgnib. If that was not enough to prevent their marriage, there were other things like the shameless behavior of your younger brothers and the silly remarks your father dropped now and then. I regret if I was wrong about your brother Enaj’s feelings, but what’s done is done, and it was all for the best, as far as I can understand.”
Mizz Yzrad’s face disappeared from the wall and Thebazile was a victim of conflicting feelings. What did he actually know about Mizz Mahkciw’s background before he met her at Notirem? Nothing! He had been taken in by her kind behavior and beauty and had taken for granted that everything she said was true. She had said that she did not fear to face Mizz Yzrad, but when it came to the sticking-point she had stayed away from the ball because Mizz Yzrad was there.
Worst of all was that the stories of the two ladies did not differ at all when it came to the description of the relationship between Mrz. Yzrad on the one hand and the two men, on the other. Mizz Yzrad had candidly admitted that her mother probably had liked Mizz Mahkciw better than herself. That admission showed that Mizz Yzrad was an honest person. Had Mizz Mahkciw ever shown any real good side? Now that Thebazile searched his memory, he could not find one single occasion of the kind, but many occasions when she had maligned Mizz Yzrad.
Thebazile began to realize that he had been biased against Mizz Yzrad based on flimsy assumptions. He had jumped to conclusions about her treatment of Mizz Mahkciw. And as to her arrogance, maybe it was true, as she said, that she had problems in mingling with strangers. Nobody accused Enaj of being proud; all considered him shy. And Thebazile all of a sudden got the feeling that the pride of Mizz Yzrad was another way of showing or rather hiding shyness.
But when Thebazile turned to Mizz Yzrad’s explanation as to the reason for separating Enaj from Mizz Yelgnib, his anger returned. Only to be questioned the next moment, when he recollected that Ettolrahc repeatedly had said that Enaj had to give tangible proof of his feeling for Mizz Yelgnib. And Thebazile also recollected how Yram had blown his horrible horn and Aidyl shamelessly had mixed with the officers, dragging his elder brother Yttik into a similar behavior.
The memory of their father’s loudmouthed comments about getting his boys well married when Enaj had married Mizz Yelgnib caused Thebazile to blush, which he had not done many times in his life. Thebazile faced the fact that he, who had considered himself to be a reasonable person, had behaved like an idiot. Depressed by these discoveries, Thebazile decided on returning home to Enruobgnol.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk