Perilous Transit

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVII (6) | Start of Chapter

But the getting home was the next question. Determining to cross the river when anything like probability appeared, I saw something tolerable, though my watchful guide said we should "be destroyed" getting through the bog and rushes on the other side. So engrossed were my thoughts on what I had seen at the Eagle's Nest, that I heeded neither the admonitions of the careful child nor the peril that lay in my path. I stepped upon the rocks, not once looking or thinking what might impede me on the other side, telling the girl to go on before me. She insisted, "Ye'd be lost, ye cannot get up the bank," but after much hesitation she reluctantly obeyed. I soon found myself in a perilous situation; the rocks slippery and far asunder, the water deep and turbid, and my Indian rubber shoes were the most unpromising part of my security, as I could neither take them off, nor maintain my position, but with a great effort. I saw my folly and commended the wisdom of the child, whom I directed to take a horizontal direction up the bank, and with a kind of vacant anxiety bordering on petrifaction, I watched till her well-guided feet stood on the steep bank over my head. What could I do? To retrace my steps or stay where I was, looked alike impossible, and to try to ascend the bank would be almost madness. There was no alternative but onward. I clasped a bunch of hanging twigs, they loosened the earth, and I felt myself sliding. The presence of mind of the guardian angel Mary saved me; she caught the twigs, and with an almost supernatural grasp she said, "Take hold of the top, lady, and I will hold fast at the bottom so that you can't pull them up." It was done, I was on the bank, and not till I looked down the precipitous steep did I realize the presumptuous step I had taken. But my stupidity was God's instrument to save me; my mind was so absorbed on what I had seen, that it was deadened to everything beside, and fear or concern was not awakened. The watchful child, as though my life had been intrusted to her care, guided my way with the discretion of an experienced general.

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.