THE COMING OF ABEL BEHENNA II

At length there came a time which Sarah dreaded, and which she had tried to keep distant–the time when she had to make her choice between the two men. She liked them both, and, indeed, either of them might have satisfied the ideas of even a more exacting girl. But her mind was so constituted that she thought more of what she might lose, than of what she might gain; and whenever she thought she had made up her mind she became instantly assailed with doubts as to the wisdom of her choice. Always the man whom she had presumably lost became endowed afresh with a newer and more bountiful crop of advantages than had ever arisen from the possibility of his acceptance.

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She promised each man that on her birthday she would give him his answer, and that day, the 11th of April, had now arrived. The promises had been given singly and confidentially, but each was given to a man who was not likely to forget. Early in the morning she found both men hovering round her door. Neither had taken the other into his confidence, and each was simply seeking an early opportunity of getting his answer, and advancing his suit if necessary. Damon, as a rule, does not take Pythias with him when making a proposal; and in the heart of each man his own affairs had a claim far above any requirements of friendship. So, throughout the day, they kept seeing each other out. The position was doubtless somewhat embarrassing to Sarah, and though the satisfaction of her vanity that she should be thus adored was very pleasing, yet there were moments when she was annoyed with both men for being so persistent. Her only consolation at such moments was that she saw, through the elaborate smiles of the other girls when in passing they noticed her door thus doubly guarded, the jealousy which filled their hearts. Sarah’s mother was a person of commonplace and sordid ideas, and, seeing all along the state of affairs, her one intention, persistently expressed to her daughter in the plainest words, was to so arrange matters that Sarah should get all that was possible out of both men. With this purpose she had cunningly kept herself as far as possible in the background in the matter of her daughter’s wooings, and watched in silence. At first Sarah had been indignant with her for her sordid views; but, as usual, her weak nature gave way before persistence, and she had now got to the stage of acceptance. She was not surprised when her mother whispered to her in the little yard behind the house:–

‘Go up the hillside for a while; I want to talk to these two. They’re both red-hot for ye, and now’s the time to get things fixed!’ Sarah began a feeble remonstrance, but her mother cut her short.

‘I tell ye, girl, that my mind is made up! Both these men want ye, and only one can have ye, but before ye choose it’ll be so arranged that ye’ll have all that both have got! Don’t argy, child! Go up the hillside, and when ye come back I’ll have it fixed–I see a way quite easy!’ So Sarah went up the hillside through the narrow paths between the golden furze, and Mrs. Trefusis joined the two men in the living-room of the little house.

She opened the attack with the desperate courage which is in all mothers when they think for their children, howsoever mean the thoughts may be.

‘Ye two men, ye’re both in love with my Sarah!’

Their bashful silence gave consent to the barefaced proposition. She went on.

‘Neither of ye has much!’ Again they tacitly acquiesced in the soft impeachment.

‘I don’t know that either of ye could keep a wife!’ Though neither said a word their looks and bearing expressed distinct dissent. Mrs. Trefusis went on:

‘But if ye’d put what ye both have together ye’d make a comfortable home for one of ye–and Sarah!’ She eyed the men keenly, with her cunning eyes half shut, as she spoke; then satisfied from her scrutiny that the idea was accepted she went on quickly, as if to prevent argument:

‘The girl likes ye both, and mayhap it’s hard for her to choose. Why don’t ye toss up for her? First put your money together–ye’ve each got a bit put by, I know. Let the lucky man take the lot and trade with it a bit, and then come home and marry her. Neither of ye’s afraid, I suppose! And neither of ye’ll say that he won’t do that much for the girl that ye both say ye love!’…

by: Bram Stoker (1847-1912)

The following is reprinted from a collection of short stories entitled: Dracula’s Guest. Bram Stoker. London: Routledge, 1914.

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