Attentive Auditory

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XII (4) | Start of Chapter

In the evening, the woman of the house asked, "Have you anything nice to read, ma'am?" Telling her I had, she prepared to listen, when a fish-woman entered wet with rain, and seating herself by the fire, commenced a stream of talk, sense and nonsense, Irish wit and Irish vulgarity, so compounded and so overwhelming, that I was about leaving the room, when the man of the house whispered, "She has lost her mind, ma'am. Two years ago she had two sons, fine young men as ye'd find in a day's walk, and they were drowned in the say, and she never had her mind since." I took my books, when she inquired, "Are ye going to read, ma'am?" "If you wish, I will, if you can be quiet." "Be sure I will," and seating herself at my feet upon the floor, she listened with the deepest interest. She sat for more than two hours, nor could she be persuaded to sit anywhere else; and when I read some of the last words of the Saviour, in the book of John, she clasped her hands with wonder and joy, asking, "Was that for poor sinners like me?" She seemed clothed and in her right mind, and I could think of nothing but the calm that followed when the Saviour rebuked the wind and the sea. My auditory had increased to a goodly number, and when I finished, they inquired, "And could ye sell a few of these books?" Telling them they were not to sell, but to be given; "and may be ye'd give us a little one," meaning the tracts, which they had seen, and "our children shall read 'em, lady," said one. With all the simplicity of children, they talked of all the good things they had heard me read. "And it's many a long day since we've seen the likes of ye, and heard the nice things ye have said to us." Thanking, blessing, and bidding me God speed, they went out.

Saturday Morning—The woman had the Evangelists and the book of Acts, of the Douay translation, reading them most attentively, exclaiming, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" This book she kept under her counter, and every moment, when at leisure, she was reading; nor was this a transient fit, for when I commenced reading a chapter in John, she went before me, repeating it verbatim as she had learned it before, till nearly the whole chapter was rehearsed.

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.