A formidable Animal in the Caravan

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XII (2) | Start of Chapter

Thus equipped, like Abraham, I "went out, not knowing whither I went." The family where I stopped had anticipated my wants, and furnished me with such little et ceteras as to a traveller are very grateful, and the two mindful sisters accompanied me to the caravan, which at half past three was to go out for Wicklow. I was cheerful; I was happy; till one of the ladies called out, "Look! there is a Connaughtman." At the entrance into the caravan sat a man with blue stockings to the knee, corduroys above, grey coat, and a pipe in his mouth. This to me was the "avalanche" more formidable than beds of straw, potatoes without salt, nights of wanderings on bleak mountains in rain and storm. Not because he was a Connaughtman—not because he was poor—not because he was ignorant; but because I hated to my very heart the stench of tobacco, and the wholesale, never-dying staring which penetrated every fibre of my frame, and set every nerve ajar. Laugh who may, I could not help it.

As I approached the vehicle, the kind man moved, allowing me to sit near the door. A countryman and countrywoman were in the caravan; the former soon fell a-snoring; and a ride of twenty-two miles in "darkness visible" brought us to Wicklow. The man awoke, and offered to find me a "proper lodgin'-house," and in my hurry to escape the Connaughtman, I left my parasol, and lost a guide book, which I never found. The man found me a comfortable lodging-place, bade me "God speed," and departed.

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.