Cold Comfort

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XX (11) | Start of Chapter

A lunch was before me at my return into the house; the long table was in the dining-room, around which are seated, when O'Connell is at home, a goodly number of his children; and sometimes thirty-six grandchildren have been seated together there, with priest and guests, partaking the bounties of this hospitable board.

While enjoying my bread and cheese, the threatening clouds began to drop rain: it was now twenty minutes past four. I had a wild mountainous walk of five miles before me, and the wind was howling tremendously among the bleak mountains. I said to the housekeeper, "I dread the walk, my feet are blistered, and should the storm increase upon the mountain, as there is no place to lodge, what shall I do.?" "It will be bad for you," was the reply of this fixture in female form, as she showed me out of the house. I said, "Should you ever visit New York, I will do as much for you, if you will call on me." My fate was now fixed; I was out and the door was shut, and never did the bolting of the prison gate of a condemned culprit, grate more harshly upon the ear, as the turnkey "shut him in," than did the closing of this door of the "Agitator," when its last echo died on my ear. It was then the "Repeal" of this union of wind and rain was the pitiful cry of my heart. The rain and wind were in my face, and the wild mountain before me. When I could face the storm no longer, I turned my back, and endeavored to walk in that way. A poor woman and her basket were sheltered under the wall, and she cried out, "And why, ma'am, are ye out in this stawrm? and sure why didn't ye lodge at Derrynane?" "Because they did not ask me," I replied. "And sure they wouldn't turn a stranger out on the wild mountains in such a stawrm as this?" "And sure they did," was all I could say.

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.