I knew both Michael Hennessey and his wife Katty, though under the local pronunciation of the surname-Hinnessey. I had often gone into the little farmhouse to smoke a pipe with the old man, and to have, before I came away, a glass of milk from the old woman’s clean, cool dairy. I had always understood that they were looked upon as a model couple; and it was within my knowledge that a little more than a year ago they had celebrated their golden wedding. But when old Lord Killendell – “The Lard” as they called him locally – suggested that I should ask old Michael how it was that they had lived such a happy life, there was something in his tone and the quiet laugh which followed it, which made me take the advice to heart. More especially when Lady Killendell, who had always been most kind to me, added with an approving smile –
“Do! You are a young man and a bachelor; you will learn something which may be of some service to you later on in your life.”
The next time I was near Hennessey’s farm the advice occurred to me, and I went in. The two old folk were alone in the house. Their work for the day – the strenuous work – was done, and they were beginning the long evening of rest, which is the farmer’s reward for patient toil. We three sat round the hearth enjoying the glowing fire, and the aromatic smell of the burning turf, which is the only fuel used in that part of Ireland.
I gradually led conversation round to the point of happy marriages by way of the Golden Wedding, which was not yet so far off as to have lost interest to the old folk.
“They tell me,” I said presently, “that you two are the happiest couple in the Country. I hope that is so? You look it anyway; and every time I have seen you the idea has been with me.”
“That’s true, God be thanked!” said Michael, after a pause.
“Amin!” joined in Katty, as she crossed herself.
“I wish you’d tell me how you do it?” I asked. Michael smiled this time, and his wife laughed.
“Why do ye want to know, acushla?” she said in reply. This put me in a little personal difficulty. As a matter of fact, I was engaged to be married, but I had been enjoined not to say anything about it – as yet. So I had to put my request on general grounds, which is never so appealing as when such information is asked for personal reasons.
“Well, you see, Mrs. Hennessey,” I said, stumbling along as well as I could, “a man would always like to know a secret like that. It is one which might – at some time in his life – be – be useful to him. He – ”
“Begob it might, yer ‘ann’r,” broke in Michael. “Divil recave me if a young man beginnin’ life wid a knowledge like that mightn’t have all the young women iv a township follyin’ round afther him like a flock iv geese afther a ghander.” He was interrupted in turn by Katty –
“Ay, or th’ ould wans too!” Then she turned to me –
“An’ so ye’re goin’ to be married, yer ‘ann’r. More power to ye; an’ as many childher as there’s days in the month.”
“Hold hard there, ma’am!” I retorted. “That would be an embarras de richesse.” She winced at the foreign phrase, so I translated it – “too much of a good thing – as the French say. But why do you think I’m going to be married?”
“Ah, go on out iv that wid ye! For what would a young man like yer ‘ann’r want to know how marrid people does get on wid wan another, unless he’s ceasin’ to be a bhoy himself!” (In Ireland a man is a “bhoy” so long as he remains a bachelor. I have myself known a “bhoy” over ninety.) Her inductive ratiocination was too much for me; I remained silent.
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