The Self-denying Child

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (9) | Start of Chapter

Stopping to feed the pony, a woman entered, whom we had passed an hour before, with a little girl peeping out from under a cloak upon her back. She told us she had been at Mulrone the day before, in hopes of getting a little meal, and was disappointed; it was not the day that the relief was given out. They were penniless, and had not eaten since the day before, and the walk was nine miles. Having in my reticule a sweet biscuit, it was given to the pretty and clean hungry child. She took it, and gave me a "God bless ye, lady," but could not be prevailed to eat it; she wrapped it in her pinafore most carefully, looked up to her mother and smiled, but would not break it. "How is this?" I asked the mother; "she cannot be hungry." "She is indeed hungry, but she never saw such a thing before, and she cannot think of parting with it, hungry as she must be." Such self-denial in a child was quite beyond my comprehension, but so inured are these people to want, that their endurance and self-control are almost beyond belief. Giving her a piece of bread, she ate it with the greatest zest—she had seen bread before.

We took her upon the car, and for three miles she rode under my cloak, with her biscuit snugly wrapped in her apron, holding it most carefully between her hands; and when we set her down, at the turn of the road and I saw her little bare feet running away, and heard her last word of "bless ye, lady," with the precious treasure safely secured, I prayed the Savior that he would take that little lamb of his flock, and shelter her in his bosom from the bleak winds of adversity, that are so keenly blowing and withering the cheek of many a fair blossom in that stricken country. Some days after the mother found me, and said the biscuit was preserved, "to remember the nice lady!" How little does it take to make such poor happy! The country was bleak and barren, and a cordial welcome to Croy Lodge after dark was a pleasant salutation. Here, shut in from wind and cold by a bright turf fire, clean cloth, and good dinner, had there been none starving without, the evening would have been a pleasant one. Ballacroy had suffered much, but it was not Belmullet. That ghastly look and frightful stare had not eaten out all the appearance of life and hope which many manifested. A visit to the national school gave not a very favorable impression of the state of the children; nearly a hundred pale-faced and bare-footed little ones were crowded into a cold room, squatting upon their feet, cowering closely together, waiting for ten ounces of bread, which was all their support, but now and then a straggling turnip-top. The teacher, with a salary of £12 a year, could not be expected to be of the nicer sort, nor of the highest attainments in education. The improvement of the children would not in some time fit them for a class in college.