Another Hospitable Gate-house

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (16) | Start of Chapter

We will now, reader, escape the market-women and visit Lord Kenmare's deer park. At the gate a more than ordinary looking woman met me, and in a pleasant manner invited me into her cottage. It was cleanly, and she was tidily dressed, and had no occasion to say she had been "better rair'd." She was religious, and when she learned my object to Ireland, in admiration she exclaimed, "Blessed Jesus, make me thankful, and bless and protect her! The people in Kerry, ma'am, are very dark; some of them are married, and can't say the Lord's prayer. I bless God that he sent you to Ireland. And what can I do for you? I have nothing to give a stranger, a lady like you. I am sitting desolate and alone in my cabin. My husband is dead, my children are gone, and I keep this little cottage at the gate for my bit of bread."

I read a tract to her called the "Worth of a Dollar," and presented it to her. She clasped it, raising her hands and eyes, saying, "Is this a present for me? I was going to ask where one could be bought, and now you have given it to me. I have a friend who loves the world too much, and this is the book I'll give him to read. I've often told him he'd lose his soul if he didn't let go the world." She was not ignorant of the Word of God, and repeated some Scripture, though she had no Bible. I presented her with the Douay gospels, and read some portions to her, when with emphasis she exclaimed, "It is good, but where is the 'Blessed Virgin?' Didn't she bring forth the blessed Saviour, and didn't she wrap him in swaddling clothes in a manger, and didn't the breath of oxen warm his blessed body?" The expression was new, simple, and touching.

She showed me the best walk through the park to find the glen behind it, and heaped renewed blessings on my head, for leaving her the books. Walking a little distance, some laboring men saw me, and informing them I was an American, and asking the way to the glen, one dropped his spade, and in spite of remonstrance, would show me to the gate, lest I should "go astray." The law of kindness is most indelibly written on these poor peasants' hearts. If they meet a stranger, and need require, they will give to the utmost, they will do to the utmost, and not let him know they have made any sacrifice.

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.