Arrival at Achill Sound

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXVI (3) | Start of Chapter

I passed on, overtook a poor man walking slowly with a pack upon his back, and said to him, "We are walking the same way, and you look in ill health." He was cleanly dressed, and his whole appearance said he had seen better days. "I am palsied, ma'am, on one side, and can move but slowly." His history was, that he had been a police-officer, had been struck with the palsy, and was dumb for three months. He went to Scotland, England, and France to be cured, spent all he had, became a beggar, and finally by teaching had been able to purchase a few goods, which he was trying to sell about the country. He was a Roman Catholic, and said he always kept a Bible till he was palsied; it was then lost, and he had not been able to buy one since. He added, "I am a sinner, and fear I shall never be saved." "Go to Jesus," was my reply. His ready answer was, "But I must go in faith, and how shall I get that faith? I must go, nothing doubting, for 'he that doubteth is like a wave of the sea.'" This was sound doctrine, and I sent up a hearty petition that God would put suitable words into my mouth, to speak in season to that inquiring soul. I endeavored to do so, he thanked me, and gave an interesting recital of the exercises of his mind during his sickness, and since he was able to move again upon the face of the earth. I presented him a Testament. He took it, much gratified, and promised to read it daily; he had already been enlightened by the Holy Spirit into many of its truths, and could teach many who had read it much more. He walked so slowly that I bade him good morning, and passed on to stop at a house and rest a little. While there, he went by, and we fell in company again, and soon overtook a tidily dressed woman, who was his wife. Again we talked on the same good subject, but the mind of his wife was still in darkness. They left me at a poor town, I supposed for ever, and I reached the Sound at eight o'clock. It was a desired haven for my weary feet, and yet I dreaded to enter it. I looked about on the wild shore, to ascertain where I should find shelter if not received at the hotel. I saw nothing, and made an ingress in the only door I saw, which took me to the kitchen, and asked a little girl if I could have entertainment. She could not tell, but would ask the mistress. The mistress in a moment was before me; and when I saw her uncommonly tall figure, I shrank; but when her kindly soothing voice said, "You are fatigued, and you had better walk down to the room," I felt it was the voice of a friend. In this room were no pigs, hens, calves, or goats. It was a well ordered, inviting place; an air of comfort, health, and peace said, here is the mother whose daughters shall "arise up and call her blessed." Every question was put to ascertain my wants; they inquired not the strange object of my journey, nor my pedigree, but, "What can we do to make you most comfortable?" O, these are mercy drops to a lone stranger, far, far from home. These are kindnesses which Christ will remember when he shall say, "I was a stranger, and ye took me in."

A fine little ruddy boy of twelve months was laughing in a sister's lap, and saying, by the clapping of his tiny hands and sparkling of his eyes, "Welcome, welcome, stranger." This boy was the twenty-first child of that mother, all in the dust but four; three lovely daughters moved in that house like young blossoms of future promise. Gladly would I have stayed for weeks; but when two nights and a day had refreshed my weary limbs, and healed a little my irritated feet, I looked across the Sound, and made preparations for leaving their comfortable carpets, cheerful fires, and wholesome beds, and felt that I was leaving home. "Go," said Mrs. Savage, "and stay a week upon the island. Visit the schools, and the cabins, and the curiosities of the island, and you will be well paid."

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.