There once lived a man and his two daughters.
Dulce, the eldest was exquisitely beautiful; honey-coloured locks fell upon slender shoulders, framing a face that would have made Helen of Troy jealous. Young men could not resist her temptuous advances; captivated by her saccharine-sweet beauty they would surrender their hearts in an instant, only to have them tossed back - still beating, but empty.
Sarriette, the younger sister, was Dulce's antithesis. Her plain, mouse-gray hair frizzed in every direction but the right one. Her solid, sloping shoulders struggled to retain their grasp of the unpatterned knit-green cardigan that covered her sensible school-ma'am pinnafore. The stark-white collar of her full-sleeved shirt, buttoned under her round chin, exaggerated her ghost-like countenance.
At 21, Sarriette had never been courted or invited to dance at balls; Dulce made very sure of that. Sarriette was to sit at the very back of the room, in the shadows, until Dulce had had her fun; then, she could take her turn around the room. By this hour most men had already skulked away in raw humiliation; unwitting casualties of Dulce's "thrill-of-the-chase" antics.
One evening, before their customary supper of bread and cheese, their father summoned them to his drawing room. Standing alongside him was a well-dressed, albeit awkward, man, probably in his late 20s. Sarriette gazed upon his not-unhandsome features, willing her cheeks not to betray her fluttering heart.
"Dulce, Sarriette, this is Dr. Tilney. He's going to spend the remainder of the autumn in our company; collecting samples of my medicinal herbs found on our estate. He hopes they might be useful in his medical practice. I trust you will welcome Dr. Tilney into our home." Dulce wasted no time in her pursuance of their guest; batting her false eyelashes in Dr. Tilney's direction, she giggled and flirted with him shamefully; lust and excitement dancing in her eyes. Sarriette felt her heart sink. She could not - would not - attempt to compete with her sister; honour was something that one kept sacred; she would not trade it in.
Dr. Tilney commenced each day at precisely 9am, at which time Dulce would swoosh down and slide her Lollypop-pink-nail-polished hand onto his arm. He would spend the daylight hours cutting, clipping, recording and bagging samples; she spent them shamelessly flirting, giggling and laughing incessantly. On occasion Sarriette would join them, offering cool beverages or tasty hors d'oeuvres. Dr. Tilney would remove his dirt-stained gloves to graciously accept and, smiling his quirky smile, talk of his work and ambitions. Sometimes a full fifteen minutes would pass before Dulce simpered over, unable to bear being shown-up.
Winter drew near; Dr. Tilney announced he would be departing on the next train.
"So soon? Dear me, that is a shame. How shall we ever endure your absence?" Dulce's insincerity made Sarriette burn with fury; how dare she mock him? She pursed her lips to keep from speaking out. Dr. Tilney smiled, "I'm so glad to hear you say that. I must confess, I've been in discussions with your father this past week; he's agreed for me to take a bride from this family." Dulce's face grew pale and serious; Sarriette simply looked down at her plain, brown shoes and silently accepted the inevitable. For the first time, her sister's conquest made her heart ache.
Realising his intentions Dulce stammered her objections, "Dr. Tilney, I'm flattered, really but, I. . . "
"Relax, Dulce. It is not you who has won my heart, but your sister; Sarriette."
"What?! Her! What can you possibly see in her?! She is plain and uninteresting; we're as different as... as... sugar and salt!" Dulce no longer portrayed a sensuous woman, but a half-crazed banshee. Sarriette relished the moment.
"That's exactly right, Dulce. You are, indeed, like the cake served at the end of a meal; beautiful to look at, and so very tempting. But a man needs more than 'cake,' whose sweetness dissipates almost immediately. Now Sarriette, she is like ... like the savoury dish that comes after the dessert; that - forgive me - plain but delectable morsel that cleanses the palette of all other tastes, preparing one to settle in for the night. Dulce, you may appear to some to be the better catch, but dear Sarriette is the person, the character, whom I choose to settle with - in the best sense of the word - now, and for all the nighttimes of my life."
Sarriette means "savory" in French; Dulce means "sweet" in Italian.
A savoury is the final course of a traditional British formal meal, following the sweet pudding or dessert course. The savoury is designed to "clear the palate" before the Port is served. It generally consists of salty and plain elements.* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoury_(small_dish)
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