Mr. Walpole's Honorable Dealings

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXII (4) | Start of Chapter

I passed a miserable night, took a miserable breakfast in a miserably dirty room, and went out. Before eleven, which was the carman's appointed hour, I returned to my lodgings to be in readiness, when two young lads entered, asking if I had any trunks, and said the car was ready. I told them my luggage was in the care of the carman, and he had said he should go at eleven, and it was not the hour. "The car is ready, and you must hurry to the post office and pay fare." I did so, and as I handed the money into the hand of the clerk, the man who had engaged to take me to Dingle, stepped near, and said, "You have paid into the wrong office." The fraud was evident. They had watched where I changed my lodgings, when I left the night preceding, and had sent these lads to secure my money before the time that I was to go out. I turned to the clerk, telling him I had been deceived, had made a previous engagement with the young man, and he now had my luggage. He refused, declaring he would pay no money back, that the car was ready, I might take it or leave it at my option; my money was in his hands, and there it should be, but he would condescend to take me to Dingle for the three shillings. A crowd assembled. A policeman said, "We can do nothing for you, but you should consult ——, Esq." He was a peace-maker in the town, and would persuade Walpole to do right.

The peace-maker appeared; the portly Mr. Walpole appeared also. "What do you want, ——, Esq.?"

"To inquire into the affair concerning this stranger." "There is a car ready, she has paid her money to me, and she may go or stay; her money she shall not have." I pleaded a stranger's claim, a female and unprotected. I appealed to an Irishman's honor to an American, on whose shores so many of his countrymen had found a welcome home. He sullenly refused; the magistrate told him it was kidnapping, and begged him to return the money. The great and the small were there, and the good feeling of the police, and indeed all but the man himself, deserve my acknowledgment. One whispered in my ear, "He is not an Irishman, but a Scotch Presbyterian." I turned to Walpole, and told him I was happy to learn that he was not an Irishman, and now better understood my true condition. The young man generously offered to give me my baggage, or carry me for nothing, as I had once paid. I told him I would not ride with a man who would defraud a stranger, neither would I take his car without paying, but would walk to Dingle if he would carry my luggage. I went on, the policeman begging me to ride, and the poor following and saying, "Ye'd be destroyed, and he's a rich old blackguard. The young man that has the car is as fine a lad as ye'd find in the country." One poor woman, with an infant in her arms, went out of town more than a mile, barefooted and bareheaded, though the sun was scorching; nor could I prevail on her to return. "Ye're a lone stranger, and that blackguard of a Scotchman to trate ye so." When she saw me well out of town, she returned, and I walked eight miles in torment with blistered feet, which had not been healed since my Killarney expedition. The carman then overtook me, with five on his car, and prevailed on me to be the sixth. We arrived at Dingle at nine o'clock, and I stayed at the house of his sister where he lodged, and found the same accommodations, the same food, and the same kindness as in all houses among the poor.

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.