Apples Having a Ball

By Nina Eliasson Sejrsen

Last Sat­ur­day, I stood in a long line to buy apples. Bored as I was, I looked at the apples on dis­play: Graven­stein, Elstar, Brae­burn, Pink Lady, Hol­stein­er Cox, Cox Orange, Jon­agold. “They sound like straight out of a Jane Austen nov­el,” I thought. And sud­den­ly I saw the apples arriv­ing at an old, yet strange­ly mod­est cas­tle in their finest clothes, dressed up for a ball host­ed by Lord and Lady Gravenstein.

© Copyright A. Dolman

© Copy­right A. Dolman

The Graven­stein Ball was the event of the sea­son which all the invit­ed had looked for­ward to for months. Gowns had been ordered from famous hous­es in Paris, and all the fam­i­ly jew­els appeared on the ladies’ bosoms.

Lord Graven­stein was a tall, stout man. Look­ing into his eyes, the echo of the hard­ships and sor­rows he had expe­ri­enced in his life­time appeared. So did all the joy and hap­pi­ness when he smiled. Secret­ly, he hat­ed the ball, but as his father would have said: ”Tra­di­tion is tra­di­tion.” Lady Graven­stein was a del­i­cate woman. Being in the autumn of her life, her past beau­ty had not fad­ed. Every­one would agree that Lord and Lady Graven­stein were still a very hand­some couple.

It was the young Lord Graven­stein who greet­ed the guests. He was ever so hand­some-look­ing in his red uni­form. The young lord was a tall gen­tle­man with ten­der and atten­tive blue eyes. He had a friend­ly, yet sad appear­ance that made every heart go out to him.

Also attend­ing the ball was Mr. Brae­burn with his wife and daugh­ters. Mr. Brae­burn was the Gravenstein´s solic­i­tor as his father had been before him. Brae­burn was a very pre­cise and care­ful man. He had seen for­tunes change hands because of words spo­ken too hasti­ly or con­tracts not signed in time. Braeburn´s secret hope was for one of his daugh­ters to mar­ry the young lord. How­ev­er, deep down he knew this would nev­er hap­pen. His daugh­ters were of a plain kind of beau­ty, a beau­ty which would nev­er attract the atten­tion of the likes of Alexan­der Graven­stein. A pity, real­ly, because once you got to know the Brae­burn girls their wit and intel­li­gence would strike you. They were very good judges of char­ac­ter and could imi­tate almost any­one so that audi­ence and vic­tims alike would cry with laugh­ter. Their favorite vic­tim was young Mr. Cox.

Speak­ing of the dev­il – the next to arrive was Mr. Cox of the Hol­stein­er Cox­es. His com­mon descent was still appar­ent in his looks despite his great-grandfather´s rise to for­tune. Thomas Cox had thick, rosy cheeks and brown curly hair. He would always draw atten­tion to him­self by mak­ing vul­gar jokes and ill-placed remarks. He had brought along his Dutch cousin once removed from the Cox Oranges. This cousin looked sur­pris­ing­ly sim­i­lar to his Ger­man coun­ter­part, only in a more red­dish version.

Out of nowhere Max Elstar appeared next to young Graven­stein, offer­ing him a sip of his flask. Alexan­der pushed the flask away, hug­ging Max and whis­per­ing into his ear. The two young lords shared a short laugh. Like Alexan­der Graven­stein, Max­imil­lian Elstar was of a noble, extreme­ly wealthy fam­i­ly. Max was the youngest of four sons and there­fore with noth­ing more to his name than a month­ly allowance; an allowance Lord Elstar had reduced time and time again because he deemed Max´s con­duct unwor­thy of a gen­tle­man. Young Max was not blessed with the good looks of Alexan­der. No mon­ey and no looks had made him an ill-natured, mean young man who drank more than was good for him. It puz­zled every­body why a nice young man like Alexan­der would want to be friends with him.

In came Lady Vic­to­ria Pinkston. She was an ever so charm­ing, beau­ti­ful young lady. As she entered all the guests stopped what­ev­er they were doing. Her com­plex­ion and her long hair had a light pink tone to them. She was affec­tion­ate­ly called “Pink Lady” behind her back. As she was approach­ing Alexan­der, Max looked at her with a mean, know­ing smile. Young Lord Graven­stein took her hand and kissed it. As their eyes met, Lady Pinkston blushed and Alexan­der smiled. Oh, how the old lord ached for an engage­ment between the two! Lord Graven­stein took his wife’s hand and whis­pered in her ear: “Per­haps tonight, my dar­ling, per­haps tonight.” Lady Graven­stein noticed the hope in her dear husband’s voice, wish­ing he would nev­er learn the truth. Lady Pinkston turned away from the two young lords and crossed the room, much like she was float­ing. She looked stun­ning in her ash-pink gown, with her red­dish curls bounc­ing off her back. “Granny Smith, aren’t you too old for a ball,” she said as she set­tled on the sofa tak­ing Granny Smith´s hand. “My dear Vicky,” Granny Smith replied, “I´m too old to care for what one ought and ought not do. If I wish to accept an invi­ta­tion to a ball, I shall do so. Now to you, my dear, how are things with you?” “Ah, Granny Smith, please….” Annoyed, Vic­to­ria Pinkston got up, leav­ing Granny Smith behind. No one seemed to know how old Granny Smith was. The way she did her hair and the style of her gown had been out of fash­ion long before any of the oth­er guests had even been born – or so it seemed. Granny Smith had been a wid­ow for just as long. Who the late Mr. Smith had been and what Granny Smith had done before her mar­riage were lost to mem­o­ry. Granny Smith knew every man worth know­ing, and it was rumored that she could end famines and start wars with a blink of the eye. “Don´t I know an eli­gi­ble young gen­tle­man? That Alex, he´s break­ing too many hearts for his own good. But who knows, maybe Max will break his one day,” Granny Smith thought to herself.

Reach­ing the edge of the dance floor, Vic­to­ria Pinkston met Elis­a­beth Brae­burn. “Vicky, dar­ling, you look so pale. Are you quite well?” Elis­a­beth led Vic­to­ria to a qui­eter corner.

“He will not ask me to mar­ry him,” Vic­to­ria blurt­ed out.

“I’m sor­ry, Vicky dear,” Elis­a­beth said qui­et­ly, tak­ing Victoria’s hand.

“Alex doesn’t love me, and he will cer­tain­ly not mar­ry me.” Big soft tears rolled down Victoria´s cheeks.

“How do you know?”

“I asked him at the Jon­agold gar­den party.”

“You did what?” Elis­a­beth drew a quick breath, and her eyes widened in dis­be­lief. “I think that was rather forward.”

“Ah Lizzie, you know how bored I am with all this behaving-like-a-lady-nonsense.”

They sat lost in their own thoughts. “He loves some­one else. He told me,” Vic­to­ria sobbed under her breath.

“I know he does,” Elis­a­beth replied qui­et­ly. “I saw some­thing at the Jon­agold gar­den par­ty. They didn´t real­ize I was there. Oh Vicky, I should have told you, but I want­ed to be absolute­ly sure.”

“What did you see?” Vic­to­ria asked eager­ly, yet afraid of what Lizzie might say next.

“Well, you must have heard the rumors.”

“What rumors?”

“That Max and Alex, you know…” Elis­a­beth was watch­ing Vic­to­ria attentively.

“What do you mean? Ohhh!” Victoria’s eyes welled up again.

At that very moment the orches­tra played the first notes of the great Vien­nese waltz. Cou­ples took to the floor and swirled around to the music. I felt some­one tap­ping on my shoul­der: “Miss, Miss.” I turned around hop­ing to gaze into Alexan­der Gravenstein´s eyes only to look into the angry eyes of a com­plete stranger. Reluc­tant­ly, I left the ball and bought three pounds of Gold­en Delicious.

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