The bright Old Man of the Mountain

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XII (6) | Start of Chapter

Sabbath morning.—The sun rose pleasantly—a welcome sight, as my eyes had scarcely seen a cloudless sky in seven months. Taking a few tracts, I went out to ascend the wild mountains, which lay back from the town, and whose heathy sides I was told were sprinkled with smoky cabins. Climbing rocks, crossing hedges and ditches, I at last saw a cabin on the brow of a hill, and entered its humble door. An old man was shaving; wiping his razor, "God save ye kindly, lady; and sure ye must have gone astray, to be so airly out on this wild mountain; ye must be a stranger; and have ye no comrade to be with ye?"

His tall stooping figure, his noble bald forehead, the sprinkling grey locks upon the back and sides of his head, the lustre of his eye, and the smoothness of his placid face, made him an object of deep interest at first sight; but when he told me he had breathed the air of seventy-five winters on these mountains, without a "hap'orth of sickness, or pill from the doctor," and could read my books with a naked eye, I was almost incredulous. "If ye have a Douay Testament, I will try my hand at one, lady; but will not touch any other." Promising to return with one, if I had any, he accompanied me a good distance up the mountain, and making a low bow, which would have done honor to a Parisian, he bade a good morning, adding, "Ye must be in haste, ma'am, if ye would be in time for chapel."

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.