An Anxious Mother

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter X (8) | Start of Chapter

Among this group was a peculiarly interesting woman of forty-five, who had been the mother of twelve children. Six of them, she said, had "gone innocently to heaven." She was endowed with good talents, had been well bred, and was quite engaging in her manner. But the desire she manifested for her children, their education, and their eternal good, almost exceeded belief. She raised her hands, her full grey eyes glistening with tears, and said, "Can you, will you tell me how I can get to your country, where I can place my children under a good and virtuous influence, and where they will be taught the way to heaven as they should be? We are here in darkness, darkness! Our clergy are good for nothing; they go to the altar, and say mass, but they preach no sermons. They give no other instructions, and who is any better? We have schools, where they learn more that is bad than is good. I go to bed at night, and I pray, pray. I wake up, and do the same, and here I am. Will you talk to my husband, and tell him what privileges you have in America. I can do nothing with him; he does not feel the accountability of training the children, as I do, and could I persuade him to go from this dreadful place, I would work night and day, not for myself, but for my children." I heard her through, and said, "You say you are all in darkness, and I say to you, Christ and his word can give you light. Believe me, you must read the Bible; your children must read the Bible; or they never can reach those high attainments which you so greatly desire. There is a science in that Book of books that can be found no where else, and this science cannot be taught except by the Holy Spirit." "Is it so?" she eagerly said. "Have you a Bible?" I inquired. "No; we have never had one." The mistress then remarked, "There are but two Catholic families in all Banagher that have a Bible." "Well you may be in darkness, if you have not the chart that God has given to guide you to heaven." The company now dispersed, when she entreated again. "Do say what you can to my husband. He may listen to you." "That woman," said one, when she had gone, "has always been goin' on in this way. Her children, she says, are goin' wrong, and her husband cares nothin' about it."

A little clean, curly-headed girl called the next day, the youngest of this doating, anxious mother, and led me round the corner to show me her home.

"Welcome," said the mother; "you find me in this dirty cabin, where the pig and the shoemaker's bench are always with me. I live in wretchedness; I was not so rair'd. But my husband will have it so; he is a passionate man; but it was a runaway match; and though he often beats me, yet I am fond of him still. Forgive me for making so free with a stranger, but these dear, dear children; my heart is burning up; it is scalded for them, and I cannot get rid of it. We are not poor, though we live here in this humble cabin with pigs. I can spin, weave, and make all kinds of cloth." She then went up a ladder, and brought down two nice specimens of worsted and flannel cloths, which she had manufactured. "And could any such work as this do any good in America for my children? I believe," she added, "Almighty God has put this in my heart, and what shall I do at the day of judgment when I meet my children?" I listened to this woman with the full conviction that the Spirit of God had enlightened her, and would yet bring her further out of darkness into his marvellous light.

I went to church, and found a small congregation; but so engrossed was my mind with the sermon I had heard from the woman, that I was but little improved by what I heard there.

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.