Two Maidens and Their Lover

Orphan fell in love with two young girls who lived in different towns; he loved them equally, and they loved him too.

All the young girls in these two towns were to be joined to the women’s powerful Sande Society on a certain day; on that day each town would hold a feast, with song and dance and palm wine, and Orphan wished to be present at each feast.

On the appointed day he set out from his village and came to a place where the road forked, leading to each of the towns where he wished to go.

“What shall I do?” he asked himself. “Which way shall I go?”

“If I go to one girl and other will think less of me, and I could not hear to lose the love of either. Better to die in happiness than live in disappointment.”

He decided to kill himself; he ate a poisonous fruit from a nearby tree, and died. In their different towns each of the two girls waited for their lover, and when he failed to come the first went forth to meet him. When she found him dead beside the road she grieved until her heart seemed near bursting; and being unable to live without her lover she, too, ate a poisonous fruit from the tree, then flung herself on Orphan’s body, and so died.

Soon after the second maiden came and found her lover and her rival dead beside the road. She cast herself upon the ground beside them wailing and weeping, and swooned away. After a time she rose, and wild with grief she fled back to her town and summoned a powerful medicine man. With haste she hustled and hurried him to the place and begged him to bring her lover back to life.

The medicine man took leaves form the poisonous tree and crushed them. He caught the juice in a snail shell. He cut the flesh above the heart of Orphan and the lifeless girl, poured in the juice, and uttered certain magic words.

For some moments nothing happened, and the second girl decided she herself would die if Orphan could not live again; but then the bodies began to stir, and Orphan and the girl with him came back to life.

The two girls and their lover shed tears of happiness; Orphan embraced both of them, and they clung to him. But then the girls drew away, glancing jealously at each other, and turned beseeching eyes on Orphan.

“You must choose one of us,” they said to him. “You cannot have us both, we love you too much for that. Oh Orphan, you must choose!”

One girl had killed herself for love of him. The other girl had saved his life, and saved her rival’s too.

Which girl should he choose?