Another Unfortunate Letter of Introduction

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IX (7) | Start of Chapter

Now for the reception. Dr. White, in his good nature, had urged a letter upon me to a family whom he had befriended, and of whom he had the highest regard. He had not seen them for some years; "and will you," he said, "do me the favor to give them this letter yourself?" I could not refuse him, though, when he added, they had become quite prosperous, and were very much afflicted when he first became acquainted with them, I well knew what to expect, if they were like most upstarts in life. But go I must, and go I did, and here is the result.

My first depôt was into a whiskey room, and a chill came over me. By this they had grown rich. A brother of the family had spent some years in America, and was much attached to it, but unfortunately this brother was absent. Another was behind the counter, busy in measuring whiskey, and in every nation where property is acquired by this degrading practice, the finer sensibilities of the heart are all blasted, and no age or station commands either attention or respect, that does not administer to the interests of the traffic dealer. Long I waited before the customers were served. Then seeing a little pause, I presented the letter. It was read, but "Who is this Doctor White? Did he ever live in Thurles? I think I have heard of him, but don't know him. My brother, who has been to America, would be happy indeed to see you, but he is gone to Dublin; he would render you any service. My sister too is gone, and the family are quite deserted."

I then asked the privilege of writing a note to the Doctor, which was readily granted; while I was doing so, in an adjoining room, a young woman entered, and passed through without speaking. The brother then came in, and begged me to step into the next door and write as the room I was then in was not his. When I entered the door, the young woman who had previously passed through, was standing in the room, with the letter from Doctor W. in her hand, whom the young man introduced as his sister. I saw the manoeuvering; but took all in sober earnest. The sister was so delighted to do something for Doctor W.; he had served them years ago, and she should never forget his goodness. "Do walk up stairs, and tell us what we can do for you? you must have some dinner, and I will give you some chop till dinner is ready." Finding I did not take flesh, she was flung into great distress, "what should she do to make me comfortable?" Some cheese and milk were brought, and she talked religiously on self-denial, was much given to despondency, loved retirement, suddenly begged pardon, but she had an engagement, and would leave me unmolested to finish my lunch and my letter.

The brother soon entered, asking for his sister; but she would soon be in, and he regretted much that he was so busy, that he could not go about the town with me. The blarney was under full sail, and who does not like blarney? So I finished my letter, walked into and through the pretty town, visited the lunatic asylum, a noble building, with many hundreds of lunatics. I returned to the house at sunset; all was solitude, as if the finger of death were in the dwelling. The servant who opened the door spoke not, and I went up stairs to get my basket and parasol. The parlor door was locked. I sat down on a little couch near by, when the servant came softly, well schooled in duplicity, and in a soft tone said, "My mistress told me to say we have no beds for you; your basket is in the hall; she has gone out to spend the night." "Where is my parasol?" "O you can't have that; it is locked in the parlor. You can call and get it to-morrow." I did call on the morrow, and left a note for the sentimental young lady, which I hoped might do her good in her solitude.

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.