My Carpet-bag ransacked

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXIII (8) | Start of Chapter

I called at my old lodgings, was welcomed, and learned that the asthmatic mother had gone down to the grave, and that comfortable lodgings could be given without taking a room with "John." I first hastened to the car-office to make arrangements for Clifden, and there found my carpet-bag upon the floor in the corner broken open, and the articles flying in fragments about it. I inquired the cause of the agent, who insolently answered, "Your things are all there. An officer's wife said she had examined them, and found the value was not much, and she had left them as she found them; but I must have an additional shilling for my trouble, or the luggage shall not leave the office." I asked him whether as a stranger I had merited such treatment. He cared nothing, he said, for strangers, nor anything for Americans. Offering a sovereign to change, "he should change it when he knew the weight, but should not trust to my honesty." The sovereign was weighed, and proved to be more than weight. He took the shilling, and asked my name to enter on the book. I declined, and told him I should have no more to do with Bianconi's cars. That I had paid him considerable, and this was not the first time that I had been treated rudely and unkindly by his agents.

"I am quite sorry, ma'am. I should be glad of your money, and you will wear yourself out by walking." Telling him that would be my misfortune, I passed out, found the one-armed man, and agreed with him to take me fourteen miles for two shillings. His price was a shilling a day, and he could perform this journey in a day. He went home, and I to my lodgings, and early in the morning was prepared for the ride, but no man appeared. I took my parasol, leaving my luggage, and went on, hoping the old man might soon follow. The wife of a poor curate soon joined me, with two fine boys, a book and a rattan, going on a two miles' excursion for exercise and air, and gave me as much talk as I could reasonably ask concerning religious societies in Galway. She deplored greatly the delusions of Romanism, but the divisions among Protestants she thought were more to be regretted than all. Her husband, she said, was a spiritual indefatigable laborer in the cause of Christ, and had lost a promised promotion from the bishop, because he had sought to obey a higher Master than an earthly one. My next call was to the house of a very civil shoe-maker, whose wife showed me every attention, and conducted me into the National School, where I heard better specimens than usual of reading and grammar, and what is quite noticeable in all schools, a knowledge of arithmetic beyond the years of children in other countries. My best wishes for the success of public schools in Ireland, for the more I see of them, the more do I expect that great good will be the result. I passed two other schools that day, but was not in time for either.

The last four miles of my journey I had the company of a police-officer. I have invariably found these men civil and sober, and a great blessing to Ireland as she now is.

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.