Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VIII (9) | Start of Chapter

It requires the Irish language to provide suitable words for a suitable description of the spirit which is manifested in some parts to proselyte, by bribery, the obstinate Romans to the church which has been her instrument of oppression for centuries. The English language is too meager to delineate it in the true light. Rice, Indian meal, and black bread would, if they had tongues, tell sad and ludicrous tales. The artless children too, who had not become adepts in deceit, would and did sometimes by chance tell the story, in short and pithy style. It was a practice by some of the zealous of this class, to open a school or schools, and invite those children who were in deep want to attend, and instruction, clothes, and food should be given, on the simple terms of reading the scriptures and attending the church. The church catechism must be rehearsed as a substitute for the Romish, and though in substance a passage or two looked as if the hoof of the so-called "beast," might have been over it and left a modest track, yet by its adherents it was thought to be the pure coin. The children flocked by scores and even hundreds: they were dying with hunger, and by going to these places they could "keep the life in 'em," and that was what they most needed; they could go on the principle, "if thou hast faith, have it to thyself before God," and when the hunger was appeased, and the "blessed potato should come, they could say mass at home again." When such children were interrogated, the answer would be, "We are going back to our own chapel or our own religion, when the stirabout times are over;" or when the "bread's done," or the "potatoes come again." "But you are saying these prayers and learning this catechism." "We shan't say the prayers when we go back—we'll say our own then," &c. Now the more experienced father or mother would not have said this to a stranger, and such might have passed for a true convert, while receiving the "stirabout." The priests were very quiet while this kind of bantering was in progress; they knew its beginning, and by this "concordance" could well trace the end; they held these favored ones of their flock by a cord while the stomach was filling, as the traveler does his steed that he is watering, and turns it away when its thirst is assuaged, caring little at what fountain he drinks, if the water be wholesome. "We had as lief they would be in that school as any," said a priest, "while they are so young; we can counteract all the bad or wrong impressions their lessons may have had on their minds."