My Matrimonial Predicament

by Leopold Wagner

I dare say a great many men in my situation would think themselves highly honoured; but, however this may strike others, I fell bound to confess that I am far from happy. The truth is, I have become so entangled in the meshes of a really romantic love affair, that I can see no possible hope of freeing myself. Let me hasten to explain.

About twelve months ago I engaged myself to a pretty young girl, who, out of sheer fickleness—it could have been nothing else—jilted me. I was much cut up at the time, since I had learnt to grow very fond of her. A little while after, I began to take an interest in another pretty girl whom I came in contact with almost daily; but, as I had no means of getting properly introduced to her, I never spoke. By-and-by she disappeared, and I soon forgot her. Things went on with me in the usual way until, suddenly growing tired of my lonely existence, I advertised for "a nice young girl, thoroughly domesticated, able and willing to make a good-looking young bachelor happy;" adding, "Previous experience not necessary." In this way I actually found one who answered my expectations to the letter. We met, took the usual walks; and in the course of a week or two, I could see she loved me with her whole heart. The arrangments for our wedding were soon made. I procured the ring and keeper; then put up the banns. Now the house I live in is peculiarly situated. When I lie in bed, my head is in Blankshire, while my feet extend over the boundary-line into Chumpshire. This may appear a slight matter enough; and yet, I fancy, that if hard times should ever overtake me, I would have two different parishes to fall back upon. However, I found it necessary to publish the banns in both parishes; added to which my fiancée, who is, or rather was, a lady's maid, a mile or two away in another direction, must needs put them up in her own parish also. So that I ought to reckon myself very much married, when it's all over. But here comes my predicament.

I forgot to mention that the girl who jilted me is godmother to my landlady's new baby. This slight relationship enables my landlady to take the liberty of corresponding with her; and the other day, as it transpires, she let slip the news of my approaching marriage. About the same time, I not only met, but had the pleasure of being introduced to, the second pretty girl at a concert. She, too, had heard of my marriage; and presently confessed that she loved me herself; that, in fact, she would never have left the neighbourhood if I had only once spoken to her. This put me about considerably; and I heartily wished my wedding was not so far advanced. Arrived home, I found a letter from the first girl imploring me to pause before it was too late, and begging my forgiveness for her past conduct. I took no notice of it; but the next day brought her over, to stay, invited by my landlady. It was impossible for me to offer any objection, as I was only a lodger myself. Still, the girl's manner was convincing. She threw herself into my arms, and begged I would postpone the ceremony, until she could really prove her devotion to me. This was rather awkward; for, almost on the instant, all my old love came back to me again, and I could not let her go.

The following day I took her about a bit, when I fell in love with her more than ever. In the afternoon I even went so far as to write to her mother, asking her to drop over to tea on Sunday afternoon. That night I also introduced her to the second pretty girl—whom I must now speak of as Miss No. 3. To my great surprise, the two became fast friends. On the Sunday morning, when the little godmother heard my banns called out in church, she fainted right away, and had to be carried outside. For myself, I felt like listening to my own death-warrant. At tea-time the mother came over; so she and my landlady soon settled it between themselves, that the little godmother had the greatest right to me. In the middle of all this, my fiancée turned up, when a lively scene ensued. Eventually I left the house with her, to explain matters. But nothing would satisfy her short of my marrying her, as she had the right to demand. She swore that if I did not go through with the ceremony, she would make away with herself. No; she had no intention of bringing up a breach of promise case, for she loved me too much. Poor girl; I pitied her from the bottom of my heart, and went straight back to my place to give the little godmother her congé. But when we reached the house, I found the latter stretched upon the floor in a dead faint; and my courage completely gave way. I could not make up my mind which of the two girls I liked the best, so begged for a little time to decide. My fiancée went into the back parlour to cry, while I, in a frenzy of distraction, rushed first to one girl, then to the other; and at last into the open air, full butt against the third girl, who, brokenhearted, was coming to see me. I thought the best thing I could do would be to go for a walk and try to console her. I did; but this little walk turned out so delightful, that I forgot all about the other two girls, and fell madly in love with her! On our way back to my place, we met my fiancée just leaving. I introduced and saw them both home. When I reached home myself, Miss. No. 1 had been put to bed; her mother had gone, while I was left to reflect upon my singular position. In the morning at breakfast, the girl came to me crying; hanging round my neck, and telling me how much she loved me. "Don't marry her, marry me!" she pleaded, as I left the house on business. During the day I redeemed a promise exacted from me by No. 3 to visit her, when she told me the same tale. I also received a letter from my fiancée, demanding whether or not I intended to go through the ceremony; failing which she would end her life by poison. This was very dreadful; I went to see her, and begged time for consideration.

The fact is, I could not—nor can I yet—make up my mind which I like best. I love them all, and am convinced they each love me. Position has nothing whatever to do with it, for I am only a poor man. Had I money, I might perhaps square the difficulty with the mothers; but the girls themselves are above mercenary ideas. I am sure, nay, positive that they love me for myself alone. They are not even unfriendly disposed towards each other, which is the most awkward part of the business. If they would only consent to be locked up in a room together and fight it out amongst themselves, I might be able to marry whichever one was left alive. But no such thing. Each swears she will not stand in the others' way, yet vows suicide if I do not individually marry her. The other morning, because I would not give her a decided "Yes," No. 1 ran out of the house to drown herself, and I arrived on the scene just in the nick of time to pull her back at the water's edge, by the bustle. A day or so afterwards, No. 3 put the same question to me, and noticing my hesitation, had well-nigh leapt upon the railway metals before I could prevent her. I didn't see my fiancée that night: but at six o'clock the next morning, my landlady knocked me up to say that according to a message left with her late at night Miss No. 2 had poisoned herself. For an hour or so I was completely stunned; but after that time I dressed and ran to the house, to find that the whole affair was a hoax. I intend to be even with the fellow who played it on me, yet.

This kind of thing has been going on for more than a week, and I feel worried to death. The latest is that, in addition to No. 1, both the other girls have taken up their residence with my landlady. I would fly if I could, but my business compels me to remain on the spot. The three girls follow me about everywhere. I never have a minute's peace. Though the greatest of friends, they are at the same time jealous of trusting each other alone with me, lest I should commit myself to any rash promise. I suppose I am one of those susceptible fellows who falls in love with any girl who may encourage him. It must be so. Yet these girls are every bit as nice as they are loving and different. No. 1 is very young and pretty; my fiancée has a splendid figure, and is thoroughly domesticated; No. 3 is my counterpart in everything. I love them all, and can't for the life of me tell which I like the best. Whatever I do, it will be a case of suicide for two of them, or a couple of breach of promise actions for me. I ought to have stated before that the mothers have taken lodgings in the house as well, so that I am in for a nice thing! I would marry all three if the law allowed me; but though the girls themselves might not object, yet the prospect of three mothers-in-law is too much for one man to contemplate. The most sensible arrangement would be, I think, not to marry anybody, but to go on loving all three in a perfectly platonic manner until something happened to make two of them throw the game up. I dare say the girls would be willing enough—one of them even suggested it herself yesterday; but the mothers won't hear of such a thing, their purpose being to bring me to the point at once. I am a great favourite with the mothers too; and their solicitations that I should marry their respective daughters are almost as pressing as are those of the girls themselves. Really I am in a most uncomfortable position. Out of doors, as I walk along followed by these three young creatures, I am regarded as a noted character, and the people everywhere whisper, "There goes the young man with his three wives!" I shouldn't mind this in the least if only the mothers would pack up their traps and go about their business. But they won't; here they stick at my very elbow, calmly waiting for me to say whose daughter I really mean to marry. So long as I refuse to give an answer to all three, I am safe; but the business is getting just a little bit tiresome, and I should heartily like to see my way out of it.

Was there ever anybody in such a predicament before! What shall I do? What can I do? Is there any charitably-disposed person here who can advise me? No? Then I am a doomed man, and must meet my fate resignedly. However, I vow and declare that if by any chance I should get over this, I'll not repeat the experiment as long as I live.