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Location: Great Boreal Deciduous Hardwood Forest, New England, United States

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15 October 2005

she was a mother without knowing it and a wife without letting her husband know it


Mystery Tomb

One of the main attractions in the village of Plymouth [Trinidad] and a source of puzzlement to locals and visitors is the tombstone of a young woman who died in the 18th century. The epitaph reads:


Within these walls are deposed the bodies of Mrs. Betty Stiven and her child. She was the beloved wife of Aley Stiven. To the end of his days will deplore her death which happened upon the 25th day of Nov. 1783 in the 23rd year of her age. What was remarkable of her, she was a mother without knowing it and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgences to him.


This is how the Dave Dewitt and Mary Wilan (authors of a Trinbagonian cookbook called Callaloo, Calypso & Carnival) explain the riddle: Betty meets a guy and falls in love with him. He refuses to marry her, and she won't live in sin. She then gets him so drunk that he passes out, and a preacher with a good sense of humor marries them. Betty, being a wife without her husband's knowledge, kindly indulges his every whim, and the result is that Betty becomes pregnant. But before she realizes she is pregnant, she is struck down by brain fever and goes into a coma. Without regaining consciousness, Betty comes to term and delivers a baby, but she dies during birth, "a mother without knowing it." So much for that riddle.


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