Still, the twins were smart enough to know good fortune when it fell on them. They were well aware that women like themselves either lived as servants in their parent’s home or they married and lived as servants in their husband’s home. Now, they found themselves not living as servants, but in charge of the S’TO household. This was richness beyond compare for two girls who were not the oldest in their family.
Both Marina and Sabrina were vocal in their praise of everything they saw in their new home including their new husbands Rue and Hau. Rue and Hau had nothing to complain about especially when their new wives who had actually lived in a convent near the city told them how poor the men who worked in the factories really were and how they were beaten, and starved at work. Surely, their wives must know the truth because they’d lived in a convent in the city.
Old Man S’TO congratulated himself daily for his great wisdom in choosing these two women for his sons. Marina and Sabrina reinforced his self-congratulation with their praise of his wisdom and wealth. He didn’t have a clue that they had been under his roof only two days when they formed plans for his happiness.
The subject of the widow S’PU came up when Hau told Marina not to waste time making bean cakes because the widow S’PU needed the income from selling bean cakes to survive.
When Marina and Sabrina took fish to trade for bean cakes they expected to find an elderly widow crippled with arthritis. The widow S’PU was much younger than they imagined. The older woman was delighted with female company and eagerly told the girls her life story. When she explained that she owned her hut and the land inside her fence, Sabrina glanced at her sister in the way they silently communicated and their campaign was launched.
Marina started, “Oh, I am so thankful to find that we have an older woman to guide us. Can we come often--just to visit? The S’TOs are so rich we have little to do some days.”
Sabrina chimed in, “Indeed, I like to be busy, but our husbands do all the work. Papa S’TO is so generous with us. Look how he gave us these hair ribbons. Isn’t he thoughtful.”
That night at home when the girls and their new husbands were under their covers in the house, and Papa S’TO was sleeping in the goat shed, the girls whispered their plan to their husbands.
Rue laughed, “What! Him marry her? Why would he want to?”
Sabrina explained, “She owns her own house. It’s much nicer than the goat shed he’s sleeping in. She has land inside her fence. We could add to the land the S’TO family owns.”
Marina explained, “Her house is right there were the mountain trail joins the valley trail. It is a good spot for selling our produce and whatever we make.”
Rue and Hau acknowledged that their wives were mental giants and joined the campaign to open their father’s eyes to the opportunity before him.
At dinner, Marina commented, “Mrs. S’PU told us that Old Man M’NiL was trying to court her, but she doesn’t like him, and thinks he just wants to get his hands on her house.”
Sabrina commented, “She’s a good woman. Mr. M’NiL is reaching above his station. She owns her own home, and he has nothing.”
Old Man S’TO squinted his eyes and listened to the conversation around him. He knew M’NiL as a good for nothing, who beat his first wife.
On Tuesday, Marina invited Mrs. S’PU to dinner. They served an elegant dinner of fish, mushrooms the girls had found in the woods, and greens that grew on the hillside. The S’TO men were unaccustomed to talking at dinner, but their wives started a lively discussion about their plans to build an oven and make pottery from the white clay in the creek bank. Marina told about learning to make pots and all the disasters she had. Soon everybody laughed with her as she described her early failures.
Old Man S’TO thought that the widow S’PU had a nice laugh. He looked at the woman he’d known for years and saw that his daughters had braided her hair. She had nice eyes.
After dinner, the family sat around the fire and Marina and Sabrina started singing folk songs. They encouraged the older woman to join them and praised her alto voice. The women laughed and sang and finally convinced the men to join their voices to the songs.
Old Man S’TO surprised his family and the widow by singing an old love song in a deep bass voice. When quizzed about where he learned the song. He told a story. “When I was just a lad, we lived with Mama’s family. The family took in an opera singer. He got hurt when the theater burned and a piece of scenery fell on him. After that he was afraid of being trapped in a burning building again so he traveled the countryside teaching young men to sing and looking for men and women who could sing in the opera. He taught me to sing and wanted me to sing in the opera, but Papa had passed-on so I told him that my responsibility was to care for my family and my land.”
Rue and Hau sat with their mouths hanging open as their father talked about the opera and learning to sing.
Marina begged, “Papa, that was so beautiful. Can you sing us another.”
Sabrina smiled triumphantly at her sister as she gave the widow S’PU a little squeeze and said, “Our new papa is so wise and smart and refined. He can even sing for the opera.” She had no idea what an opera was, but gathered from Papa’s story that it was some sort of theater, whatever that was. Her voice dripped with awe and wonder.
Papa S’TO sang two more songs for his family, impressed by the glow on his daughter’s faces and amused by the shocked incredulity on his son’s.
When the singing ended, Mrs. S’PU needed to walk home. Marina rushed to light a lamp for her because it had grown quite dark. She handed the light to Papa.
Sabrina working in perfect harmony with her sister worried, “Should you take your walking stick? I’m afraid you might encounter wild dogs this late at night. Yes. You must have your stick. There may be any sort of wild beasts out there.” She handed Papa his walking stick.
Both girls hugged and kissed their mother-in-law-to-be good night and told her how happy they were she came, and told her they would miss her and visit her soon.
Papa S’TO left his home with the widow clinging to his arm and didn’t hear his daughters giggling and clapping their hands as they hugged each other and danced in a circle.
Rue and Hau didn’t quite understand that the deed was done, but they didn’t know much about women.
Papa S’TO did not return to the goat shed that night.