But there was some cause for worry. At the age of twenty, Aku was still single. This was not because of lack of interest. There had been many approaches by unsuitable young men in the past, which her parents had refused. Now her parents realised that Aku was getting older and was still unmarried. So through the grapevine of relations and friends, it was made known that Aku was of marriageable age and needed a husband.
In the course of time, four suitors arranged for their female relations to approach Aku's mother about the prospect of marriage. Each of the suitors brought drink to Aku's father and money to Aku's mother to show their interest. But every time one of them asked about the status of his courtship, Yao Bonsu would respond by saying he was still thinking about the matter.
There is much to be done before a suitor can be accepted. The mother and the girl's female relatives have to investigate the background of the suitor. In particular, her parents must be certain there is no leprosy, epilepsy, insanity, blindness or witchcraft in the suitor's family. So there can be a gap of several months between a man's initial approach and the parents' decision. But there was no cause to reject any of the four men on these grounds, so Yao Bonsu was faced with a difficult decision.
In the meanwhile, the suitors had an opportunity for pursuing their courtship and introducing the woman of their choice to their family. The first of the suitors to invite Aku to his house to meet the family was a trader called Asibi. He was much older than Aku and had the reputation of being rich. Although courteous and restrained in courtship, he was the type of man who could turn out to be a difficult master.
On reaching Asibi's house, Aku was greeted without enthusiasm by a middle-aged woman - who turned out to be Asibi's wife. Aku could see that there was trouble in store for her if she married a polygamous rich man, who would no doubt want to take further wives in the future.
She recalled the words of the folk song: "The tadpole complained people had no wish to keep it after they caught their first fish." It is unlucky for a fisherman to have caught nothing, but once a real fish is caught, the tadpole is discarded. So complain the wives of polygamists. Aku could see that in the years to come, she could suffer from all the problems of polygamy if she married Asibe.
The second suitor was a hunter called Kuduu. He was a tall, good looking and a very strong man. To show his interest in Aku, Kuduu had worked on her mother's farm, felling trees and clearing the bush. But Kuduu was rough and uncultivated, and could get into a nasty temper on the slightest provocation. He would be very jealous if Aku merely greeted another man when she was with him. As a hunter Kuduu spent long periods in the bush. On his return, he would celebrate and get drunk, when he was not a pleasant companion for a young girl. Aku soon realised that Kuduu's temperament left much to be desired.
The third suitor, Bedae, had just been visited by the "money doublers" who had driven up to his house in a bright new car one December day, just after the cocoa farmers been paid. The strangers were well dressed and had a bag filled with more money than Bedae had ever seen before.
They talked of growing and harvesting money just as farmers grew and harvested cocoa. At first, Bedae did not believe them, but they offered to perform a demonstration. Bedae had to bring them some money, a piece of cloth and some lavender. Whilst the money-doublers recited incantations calling on the spirits to make the money grow, Bedae was told to close his eyes, whilst the money was blessed, sprinkled with lavender and wrapped in the cloth.
Bedae was told to bury the cloth just under the surface near a palm tree next to the house. The position must be marked with crossed twigs. After 2 days he was told to come back and dig up the cloth. Sure enough, when he recovered the cloth he was delighted to find that the 2 pounds he had placed in it had doubled to 4 pounds.
A few days later, the money-doublers returned and offered to repeat the ceremony. This time Bedae buried 4 pounds and after two days he recovered 8 pounds. Bedae was so pleased with this wonderful juju that on the next occasion when the money-doublers came, he buried the whole proceeds of his cocoa harvest. When he came to dig up the money - there was nothing there! The sad story became known when Bedae was forced to borrow money. Aku found it easy to smile at this story, but she also thought that a man who could be deceived so easily would never make a good husband.
The fourth suitor, Tando, was a teacher in the village primary school. He was very different from the others in being short in height, stocky in build; not the physically strong and good looking man of Aku's dreams. But he was a thoughtful and contemplative man, who delighted in talking and was always thinking of the future and making plans. Aku had often seen him at funeral celebrations, but had not spoken to him before.
Aku was impressed because, unlike the other suitors, Tando had taken the trouble to discuss with her what business she could do after she was married. It then turned out that they had both attended Anglican mission schools, which gave them some common background. Aku was also pleased that Tando had great respect for the traditions of the village and wherever possible delighted in quoting proverbs. And he was not already married! There was not much doubt about the choice Aku would have made. Yet no one in her family had ever married a teacher.
Yao Bonsu knew that he would soon have to make a difficult decision in selecting one of the four suitors because this implied rejecting the other three. But he thought of a plan to resolve the dilemma and consulted the Linguist for permission to put his surprising plan into action.
Aku's brother was sent to each of the four suitors to announce that Aku travelled to the village from which there is no return. They reacted in very different ways to this startling and unexpected news of her death.
Asibi, the rich man, reacted in very strong terms and shouted at Aku's brother:
"Because of my money, you think I can organise the funeral. But I have no interest in a dead woman. Tell your father that if he does not take care, I will issue a summons against him for abuse of my wealth"
Kuduu, the strong man, reacted to the news by slapping Aku's brother twice.
"You must think I am stupid. I applied to your parents for a woman to marry - not this nonsense. What is the use of a dead woman to me?"
Bedae, having been cheated once by the money-doublers did not want to be cheated again. He said to Aku's brother:
"Tell your father if he thinks I am foolish enough to come over and offer services connected with the burial and funeral celebrations, then he has mis-fired. To hell with courting a dead woman."
Tando was philosophic about the matter and argued:
"If Aku were alive, I would want her for a wife. As she is dead, I should express sympathy and participate in the funeral."
So Tando greeted Aku's brother respectfully, offered him palm-wine and announced that he would support the funeral because he had at one time proposed marriage to Aku.
He asked his friends to accompany him and presented Aku's family with the traditional gifts of a pot of palm-wine, a gold ring for the marriage that was not to be, a piece of white cloth to wipe off sweat on her journey to the next world, two bottles of Schnapps and five pounds for her lorry fare.
When the party reached Aku's house, Tando was overcome by grief and started crying. The group was led into the house, welcomed, seated and offered drinks. Then Yao Bonsu asked them the purpose of their mission.
Tando told how he had been informed of the death of his hoped-for wife-to-be. Although she had not lived for him to realise his ambitions, he had felt it his duty to pay his last respects to the soul of the departed would-be wife and to mourn with the bereaved family. And he had brought the gifts to show his sympathy in a practical way.
Yao Bonsu thanked Tando for the gifts, and asked the gathering to leave for the Linguist's house, where some essential rituals had to be performed.
After offering drinks, Yao Bonsu revealed his secret to the assembled group. The announcement of the death of his daughter was a plan designed to help him test the suitors and make his difficult decision. In fact, Aku was alive and well, and was happy in now being pledged to marry Tando.
Yao Bonsu's plan had been successful.