An aged Pilgrim

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXIV (7) | Start of Chapter

I soon saw an old man leaning upon a staff approaching, as I supposed, to beg. "An' ye're an American, an' I've been hurryin' home to see ye; an' ye're alone, and a stranger, and my heart wawrms towards the stranger. I've a daughter in America, an' I didn't hear from her these three years, an' I'd go there to-morrow if I had the manes, if I knew I should die in a week. This is a dreadful place, ma'am. They are all haythens. They buried a parish priest, and dragged him off in a common cart; they did indeed, ma'am; and I beg ye to be out of this mountain, ma'am, as soon as ye can." The old man's eloquence increased as he proceeded. "I'm from Kilkenny, and the people there are civilized. Oh, must my ould bones be buried here!" I had the Testament open in my hand, and went to a wall, and sat down. He tottered towards me, and I said, "If you will stop, I will read some of Christ's words to you. You are old, and if you love Christ, you will soon be where he is." "Ah, I am a sinner, lady, a great sinner, an ould sinner. But do ye tell me ye arn't lonely on these wild mountains?" "I am not alone; Christ is with me, and I hear him say, 'Let not your heart be troubled." "And d'ye say that Christ is with ye! Oh, if I could say that! Oh, if my owld heart could feel that!" I read the 14th of John in his wondering ears, while he, at every sentence which struck him, would lift his withered hands, exclaiming, "And is this Jesus? Did he say this to sinners?" I read, and talked, and read again. The winds had hushed, and the sun shone out, and told me I must hasten; I looked in the old man's face, the tear was trembling in his dim eye; I turned away. "I have kept ye too long, ma'am; pardon me, but my heart wawrms towards the stranger." He tottered away, and I heard him praying the good God to bless the lone stranger. Never can I forget that old man of the mountain.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.