B ride. ____ An illustrated novel in five parts. &. S elfishness.
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An illustrated novel in five parts
There was once a family in the city of Bath, who had moved there from Bristol about fifty years before. They were a family of six: mother, father and four well-behaved daughters, who all shared the wonderful family name Prestilicious. The Prestilicious’ had a comfortable home and, as they were a wealthy family, they had nothing to fear. This was the happiest, most harmonious family one could imagine and seemed to embody the best blessings of existence.
The first event of importance in the family’s life was the military draft of Mr. Phil Prestilicious. The poor father had to leave his family when he was sent to war. He was a soldier, but all family members had hoped to be able to stay together and had never even dared to think about being separated by the occupation of their beloved father.
When he had to leave, Mr. Prestilicious wore his handsome uniform and his wife, Cathy Prestilicious, as well as his daughters were filled with both pride and sadness. Standing in front of their mansion, they kissed him goodbye, tears in their eyes.
Now they were left all alone: Miffy, Fiffy, Tiffy and… Elfriede.
Miffy, the eldest sister was the one who spent most of her time with her books, pens and letters. She found greatest enjoyment in her readings and most of the time you would find her sitting at her desk in the library. She left their mansion on rare occasions to buy some new books or to enjoy a walk in the park.
Piffy, the second of the four sisters, was a self-pitying girl and everyone who ever met her was surprised at how snivelling a young lady could be. In her whole life she had never left the mansion without a handkerchief. Her sisters were annoyed when looking at her face which was contorted with pain all the time. They thought that she was a hypochondriac, but Piffy just loved to pity herself.
Tiffy, the third of the four daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father and a most dedicated, caring mother, was remarkably handsome, clever and good-hearted. But most striking about her was the effect she had on men. Whenever young Tiffy was walking along Cheap Street on her way to the service at Bath Abbey, many gazes followed her. Her daily companions were glances from noblemen, officers, tradesmen, soldiers and all other males, no matter if old, young rich or poor. Even the buskers who were performing in front of the Roman Baths tried to meet her eyes regularly. And not too long ago, Tiffy saw a whole group of German excursioners staring at her.
She knew about her effect on men and she knew how to play with them. She was proud of her talent to attract the other sex and secretly kept a small book, in which she listed every gaze she noticed. Tiffy loved play the coquet with her admirers and even kissed some of them. Although she was no more than 23 years old, the considerable number of fifteen men had proposed to her. But even though some of the men had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners, she would refuse their offers. Most of the times when she had male attendance, she was more than bored.
For her aptitude to bewitch the other sex, Tiffy reaped jealousy, disdain and admiration. Many people in Bath, especially women and denied gentlemen, thought of Tiffy as a hard-bitten man-eater. But deep in her heart, Tiffy was anxious to please and wished to find a man who would impress her, who would love her and whom she would love at first sight.
No one who had ever seen the fourth daughter Elfriede would have supposed her born to be anything but a spinster. Her situation in life, her unfortunate looks, her own person and disposition were all equally against her. Elfriede had neither a bad heart, nor a bad temper, but... (sigh) she was taller than her father, her figure was anything but slender and her facial hair was thicker than the brunette curls on her head.
More than anything else, Elfriede enjoyed house-keeping. As much as she detested dirt, she loved tea and the world-famous Sally Lunn Bun.
Several months after Mr. Phil Prestilicious had answered the call of duty, the horrible news reached the family that their beloved husband and father was killed in action.
Mrs. Prestilicious, Miffy, Piffy, Tiffy and Elfriede devastated. Holding the letter in her hands, Mrs. Prestilicious trembled while Miffy dropped the novel she was studying and sank to the ground. Piffy accidentally dried her tears with the handkerchief she had just blown her nose into. Tiffy wet the love letter she had been about to open and Elfriede spilled her tea in terror and almost suffocated from her Sally Lunn Bun.
Oh, in just one instant the poor family found itself in a terrible situation. Not only had they lost their father, but also their fortune! Thomas Prestilicious, the tight-fisted brother of Phil Prestilicious, would inherit both the family’s money and their mansion.
“What shall become of us now?” cried Miffy at her fathers funeral, her nose swollen from both weeping and sniffing.
“I don't want to leave Bath” added Elfriede, her face a mask of terror and grief. “I don't want to live without the Sally Lunn Bun!”
“Alas! I'm afraid there'll be no other option for us.” said Piffy with some hesitation from the fear of mortifying her sister.
“Good heavens!” was ejaculated at the same moment by Elfriede, having not heard her sister's gothic prediction. “Look at that handsome Gentleman!” In a rather eye-catching manner, Elfriede's plump body language assisted her cry. Quiveringly, her bulky finger was pointing at a Gentlemen who just descended from the spiral staircase leading to the Abbey's upper rooms. Fortunately for the girls, hardly anyone noticed Elfriede's behaviour - the stranger she so hotly pointed at had already drawn the attention of both her sisters and the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was circulated within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.
“Oh my”, Tiffy gushed, “I know who he must be! Netherfield near Bristol has been empty for years and some peasant in town told me that it was rented by now.” “Oh my”, gushed the others. “Now, my dear, you must know, the peasant says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed to take possession of it, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.” “What is his name?” “I don’t know.” “Is he married or single?” “Oh! Single, my dear, I hope! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for us!”
In this chatter, the original subject seemed entirely forgotten and the sisters were very pleased to drop it for awhile.
“He looks just like an angel” romanticized Elfriede later on the way to the family's carriage.
“I do not know any young lady who is a better judge of beauty than Elfriede” mocked her Tiffy, followed by a giggle by Miffy and an “Achoo” by Piffy.
“I never saw anything half so beautiful as him!” continued Elfriede and turned her head so that she could see the angels on the front wall of the Bath Abbey in the distance. “How excessively like one of these he looks!”
“The very picture of them, indeed!” teased her Tiffy, who was much more used to beauty than her sister.
“I wonder what he'd look like climbing down a ladder upside down.”
But Elfriede's enthusiasm would not be dropped so easily. It wasn't until their coachmen Kevin drove as if the Exmoor monster was following the carriage that her babble would cease.
When Cathy Prestilicious on the afternoon of the following day was sitting on the bench in front of the house that would not be hers for much longer she witnessed a tall figure approaching the house.
“Mr. Hardy” she greeted the Gentleman and wiped a tear from her eye.
“Mrs. Prestilicious” replied the Gentleman. “I came to see whether you and your daughters are well.”
“That was very good-natured of you” said Mrs. Prestilicious, again moved to tears. “Oh. Here come my dear girls!” cried she, pointing at three smart-looking females and Elfriede, who, arm-in-arm, were moving towards them from the park where they went for a walk.
“My dear Mr. Hardy, I long to introduce them. They will be so delighted to see you – the one in the middle is Piffy, my fairest, is not she a fine young woman? The others are much admired, too, but I believe Tiffy is the best match.”
The sisters were delighted to see Mr. Hardy, indeed. “An angel has come to visit us” cried Elfriede at the sight of the Gentlemen she recognized from her father's funeral. Miffy and Tiffy blushed, and even Piffy's pale cheeks turned redder behind the cover of her handkerchief.
“Mr. Hardy fought at the side of your dear father in the war” introduced Mrs. Prestilicious the visitor. “He came to see whether we are well” she added, wiggling her eyebrows at Tiffy.
“He has charming spirits, has not he? May I offer you a piece of my Sally Lunn Bun, Mr. Hardy?”
“Thank you.” said Mr. Hardy, in some distress, from a doubt of the propriety of accepting such an offer.
After Mr. Hardy had left, the sisters sat together in the living room. Elfriede had resumed slobbering over Mr. Hardy, her sisters growled. Every now and then, Piffy achooed.
“Is he not an angel?” crooned Elfriede.
“You are the stupidest thing in creation. He's mine.” barked Tiffy.
“What do you mean, he's yours?” asked Miffy.
“Achoo” interrupted Piffy.
“I'm the fairest of us” underlined Tiffy her tenure.
“Fair you are, but you can neither draw nor play the piano, he should marry me.” teased her Miffy.
“Achoo” interrupted Piffy.
“Just like an angel” continued Elfriede.
“Shut it!” demanded, Miffy, Piffy and Tiffy.
What happened then I dare not put into words for it was neither elegant, nor charming. Let the pictures speak for themselves.
The fight ended when all of a sudden the door opened again and one, two, three men entered.
The sisters quickly recovered from their fight and were pleased to make the acquaintance of the two Hardy brothers. Now those men were just as handsome and just as rich as A.Hardy! How lucky can they be? “Oh”, Miffy said, “he has brought ‘Pride and Prejudice’ along! You know, I love Jane Austen!” “Oh”, Piffy said, “he seems to have a cold!” “Oh”, Elfie said, “where’s my gentleman in shiny armour?”
Now of course marriage was not far away any longer and one would not exaggerate in saying that the sisters would share the happiest day in their lives.
But Elfie again, the poor girl! Devastated at the injustice of the presence of only three Hardy brothers, she sought the help of higher spirits. Off she went, wandering around the countryside, searching for other pleasures in nature. It was nearing midnight when she suddenly tripped and fell.
What monstrous place is this? She took a glimpse at the vast erection directly before her, rising starkly from the grass.
“It is Stonehenge”, Elfie murmured. “Now, if this magical, highly spiritual place does not offer a husband for me…”
And she flung herself upon the sacrificial stone and started to pray.
And suddenly the sky opened up and a bright light shone, revealing a man flying down with the help of cute little white wings! Elfie rose and in the moment their eyes met they were sure that they were made for each other.
“Now, who are you?” Elfie said. “Dearest, do you believe in love at first sight?” “I am D. Hardy and I was intending to find my brothers here.” “Oh, so right, because luckily all of your brothers will be my brothers-in-law by now.” “How incredibly lovely!” “Can we get married at this monstrous place right away?” “What place is it?” “It is a temple of wind. It is Stonehenge, my love.” “The heathen temple, you mean.” “Yes, older than centuries. Older than the Prestilicious’! Well, what shall we do, darling? We indeed might get married here right away!” “We should. How long have I been wanting a husband like you. From now on we shall never part again. From now on I shall call you MY Mr. Hardy!