Another tale from Geoff Cronin – author of three books with a fourth on its way to celebrate his 91st year. Always a raconteur – his stories of 1930’s Ireland are always full of humour and colour.
Lateral Thinking – Geoff Cronin
The widow O’Gorman was worried. She lived on a tidy farm of thirty seven acres and her only son was thirty five, a strong healthy man… and “not a stir out of him”, as they say in the country.
He was unmarried and showed no sign of changing that situation. But the widow was a far seeing and practical woman conscious of the fact that one of her fields adjoined a field of a neighbour who incidentally was also a widow having an only daughter who was ‘idle’ as they say, i.e. she was single, and her name was Eileen.
After much deliberation Mrs. O’Gorman decided to take her son Willie’s future in hand, spurred on by the vision of the two farms eventually being joined by matrimony and making a holding which would be the envy of three parishes. So, on the next fair day, she ‘happened’ to meet Eileen’s mother in the town and invited her into the snug at the bar and grocery shop for ‘a chat between neighbours.’
Two small glasses of port helped to get the small talk out of the way and Mrs. O’Gorman put her cards on the table.
“Did it ever cross you mind that my Willie and your Eileen would make a nice match?” She ventured.
“Well now, isn’t that strange,” said Eileen’s mother, “my dream is out.”
“A week ago didn’t I dream that them two were standing at the altar!”
After that exchange, the two widows got down to business and the match was made, while the two people most concerned were totally unaware of what had gone on behind the scenes.
The following week Eileen’s mother said, “I was baking today and I made a currant cake and after the milking I want you to bring it down to Mrs. O’Gorman this evening.”
“I owe her a turn, you see, and this is by way of a thank you.”
“Alright mother,” said Eileen, “and do you think I should wear my blue dress?”
“You might as well look your best calling on the neighbours,” said her mother, tongue in cheek.
It was Willie who answered Eileen’s tap on the door.
“Come in Eileen, this is a nice surprise,” he said, eyeing her appreciatively.
“I just called to give yer mother this currant cake,” said Eileen.
The widow took her hand and thanking her for the cake said, “come in girl and we’ll have the tea, that blue dress suits you well – doesn’t she look lovely Willie?”
“Now Willie,” she said, “show Eileen the little white faced calf born this morning, and the new span on the hayshed, while I put the kettle on.”
Willie smiled and said, “come on Eileen, I’ll give you the guided tour.”
The pair left the house and Willie showed Eileen all the features of his little kingdom, answering her every question – she was a farmer too, after all – and she showed a genuine interest in all that Willie had to say.
The whole process took longer than they had anticipated and darkness was falling by the time they returned to the house.
“Come in now, letye and have the tea,” said the mother, “and don’t worry about the dark Eileen, ’cos Willie will see you home safely.”
‘The tea’ being over, the pair were ready to depart when the widow said, “Willie, take this stick and give it to Eileen’s mother for I know her back is not the best… And bring me a bucket of water from the well on your way and carry this hatching hen under your arm – Eileen’s mother lent me that hen… And tie the goat at the head of the boreen on your way.
Eileen thanked the widow as they left and Willie looked decidedly unhappy. The widow was making sure he didn’t have a free hand going up the boreen! Anyway, the couple headed off down the lane which by now was quite dark.
As they got to the really dark part, Eileen stopped suddenly and said, “Willie I’m afraid.”
“Afraid of what,” said Willie testily.
“I’m afraid that you might try to kiss me,” she said, leaning suggestively towards the ditch.
“And how exactly would I do that?” said Willie displaying the load he was carrying.
“Well,” said she smiling boldly at him, “I thought you might drive the stick into the ground and tie the goat to it and put the hen under the bucket.”
Willie and Eileen married the following spring and the union of the two farms was the envy of three parishes.
©Geoff Cronin 2006 The Black Bitch and Other Tales.
You can find othe stories from Geoff Cronin in the following directory.