A Chapter of Accidents

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter I (9) | Start of Chapter

A lady from Liverpool, whose sable weeds and careworn cheeks told that she was a child of sorrow, proposed that, as we were alone, and must pass the day together, we might go on shore, and visit the monument erected to King George. We had read the names of the lords and earls who erected it, examined the prints of the shoes cut in marble at the foot, where his kingship stood when he visited it, and had seated ourselves upon a block of marble, and there concluded to go into the railroad office, purchase tickets for Dublin, and leave our luggage to follow us in the packet. Putting my hand into my pocket to get a shilling for my ticket, I missed my pocket-book; this pocket-book contained all valuables of purse and scrip, and not a farthing had I out of it. My character, as far as letters of introduction might go, had gone to the winds; but as I expected to pay no lodging or travelling fees by it, the money was the great concern. This was a sad landing indeed on a foreign shore, where I had already seen so many asking alms, that I could not hope much for my share. A "horror of darkness" came over me, and while I stood petrified, the good woman set off at full speed towards the block of granite where we had been sitting. I moped at a distance, muttering, "It will do no good," while all the sage counsels given me in New York, of being among strangers, unprotected, alone, unknown, and uncared for, like spectres stood in array. My kind helper reached the fatal block, but no pocket-book was there. "There I told you so." "What will you do?" Then for a few moments we mingled our sorrows; she had tasted deeply of worldly afflictions, and could only say, "If you have no money, you have no friends." At that moment an aged pilgrim, in ragged garb, called from a distance, "Have you lost anything?" "Yes, a pocket-book." "What color?" "Dark red." "I have found one, but have not opened it."

Did not I love the old man? and when I gladly put a bit into his hand, was I not thrice thankful that I had lost it, because it put a piece of bread into the mouth of an honest child of want, and thankful that I had found it for my own benefit; and then the finding it had given so early a proof of Irish honesty; for one of the dreadful predictions of my fate was, that if I was not murdered outright, I should certainly be robbed.

We heard the car, and no time must be lost. On examination, I found that in pursuit of my pocket-book, I had lost my ticket; ran into the office, paid for another, and lost my keys. After considerable bustle I found them, and then commenced regulating government affairs a little, because the railway clerk required a second shilling for a second ticket. "I am obliged to do so, madam—another person might find it, and get the ride; you have found your pocket-book, and should be contented." I saw my mistake, and determined to learn better manners in future.

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.