Brutality of an Inn-keeper's Son

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (8) | Start of Chapter

Wednesday, September 17th.—I left my lodgings before five in the morning for Kilkenny. It was very cold for the season. I knocked at the door of the hotel, where I was told the preceding day that I must be at that hour, and was answered by a man who had rushed from his bed to the door half clad, with hair erect, demanding in surly tone who was there, and what was wanted. "The car, sir," "The car don't come till half after five." "I'll step in if you please, sir, and wait." "You won't. Do you think I'll set up for you to come in?" "What shall I do, sir?" "Go back where you came from." "The door is locked, and the servants in bed, and I could not get in." "Then stay out of doors," he shouted, and shut the door rudely upon me.

I did stay out of doors, and it was indeed a cold berth. I was obliged to keep walking, for no smoke yet ascended from cottage or cabin. Upon a distant green hillock a little smoke was slowly winding up: going to it, I found it was a stump smouldering out its last dying embers for the honor of O'Connell. Seating myself beside it upon my carpet bag, and stirring it with my parasol, I begged it to give one cheer more for the long life of him for whom it had been blazing, and the warmth of one who was well nigh freezing. A ragged laborer approached to light his pipe. "And sure what brings ye here so airly, lady?" "The civility of your innkeeper, sir." " The innkeeper, ma'am, is a woman of dacent manners, and wouldn't trait ye so; it was the vagabond of a son she keeps about her."

"And what has this decent woman been doing these twenty years, that she has not taught this vagabond son some of her good manners?"

"Faith, that I can't tell, and by your tongue ye must be a stranger in the country."

I had only time to say that I was from America, when the horn of the carman summoned me from the company that had gathered around, one of whom called after me, " And do you think we will have the repale?"

" I could wish that the next stump by which you light your pipe might be kindled to celebrate the jubilee of your freedom."

It was affecting to see how the hearts of these poor ill-paid laborers were everywhere intent on that one object, repeal. They feel daily more and more the iron hand that crushes them; and were it not that Father Mathew has sobered them, and O'Connell is enjoining "peace, peace," their forbearance would cease.

The sun was now rising in a clear sky. Never had I been so willing to leave a spot in all Ireland, but I grudged them my spectacles. I had scarcely found a comfort in Cappoquin. The father, son, and daughter where I lodged were employed in repairing the house, and selling ardent spirits; and though occasionally a kind wish was bestowed, I was left to carry out this kind wish as well as I could. But this unlucky visit was not a fair specimen of my tour through Ireland; and, even here, another time might have been quite the reverse.

I might call on Sir Richard with a fresher trimming on my bonnet, and receive a kind answer to my inquiries. The door of the estated gentleman might be opened if the hour were more favorable. I might stop at the same house when it was undergoing no repair, when the carpets were laid down (for they told me they had carpets), and I might call at the door of the innkeeper when the young boor had risen from his lair, when his hair was combed and his face shaven, and he might give me a complacent "walk in," and a seat by the fire till the car should arrive. These evils I determined should not annoy me; but oh, my spectacles! I could not enjoy the scenery without them, and was compelled to see the country through the descriptions of the carman, who was my only fellow-traveller, and somewhat intelligent.

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.