Asenath Nicholson
Chapter X (12) | Start of Chapter

We turned into this cabin, and here found William and Mary, a brother and sister advanced in life, who, as Mary said, had been "bred, born, and raired on the ground, and knew the father and mother of this good man; and he will like to discoorse with sich a nice body as ye are, a fine bidable woman; and if ye love the poor, he'll be glad to see ye; and ye should stop with me through the rain to-night, but he'll give ye the cup of tay and the fine bed; and ye shall have my cloak, and I'll go with ye and see ye snug in." While this long preface was going on, the young wag who accompanied me gave signs of unbelief, which Mary rebuked by, "And, Pat, it ain't you that have sairved him, as we have." She got her best cloak, and fastened it about my neck, for my clothes were dripping with wet, and we all went out for the castle gate, but William, who stopped to keep the cabin.

The bell was not answered till the ringing had been long and loud; at last we were admitted into the kitchen. There was an interesting sight,—a company of fifty-two were sitting down to a supper of potatoes and buttermilk, mostly orphans. A few aged people were among them. They had just arisen from prayer. I saw, through the door, a table with Bibles, and was informed his custom was to pray before supper with the family.

Mary made known to the housemaid what a bidable, nice body she had brought to the master, and begged her to go and give information. The girl hesitated. Mary spoke again; at last the messenger went in, when a fine maiden lady of fifty majestically approached, "What is your name?" Telling her, she answered, "You can't see Mr. S." "Did I understand you?" I asked. "Mr. S. can't see you." This was the good woman who was "worth a voyage acrass the Atlantic to listen to her discoorse." The good Mary was aroused, and rising up, she said with much decision, "It seems that Mr. S. is not at home. Come, ye shan't stay out in the staurm; my poor cabin can give ye a shelter;" and taking me by the arm, she drew me towards the door. The maiden lady whispered in her ear that she must have a cloak, seeing that I had hers on my shoulders. Mary supposed that she was to be presented with some cake and tay for the stranger, and refused the cloak in contempt.

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.