Safe Arrival and kind Reception

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter III (3) | Start of Chapter

I was the first passenger called upon by the coachman, when we reached Arklow; and inquiring in surprise what he could mean by asking money for perilling our lives, and then abusing us because we had sense enough to know it, I assured him I never would pay a man for abusing me, as that could always be procured without price. He walked away amid the laughter of the multitude, without soliciting money from any other. Twenty-nine were on and in the coach, and he expected a shilling each from most of them. I was heartily thanked by the good-natured Irishmen, but this was a poor compensation for a forty miles' ride of peril and the loss of my luggage.

My carpet bag was missing; and as the coachman, by the way of revenge for the loss of fee, would not look for it, I was left to make my way without it, a mile and a half to the house where my letter was directed. Endeavoring to take a shorter route, I was entangled in hedge-rows and plunged in ditches. Every one of whom I inquired gave me a different direction, while all of them agreed that I was "goin' astray," and some told me I must "be cracked." At length, climbing upon the top of a wall, I found a man digging in a pit, and called, "Will you tell me the way to Mrs.——and what kind of a woman she is," (for my vexatious ride and my perplexing walk had made me quite suspicious). His reply was, "You must take the lane, and go by the monument; and the woman is not a bad one; she's a snug farm, and sent five barrels of potatoes to the poor in Arklow last winter." This was a cordial for my fears. "And how much do you have a day for labor?" I inquired. "But a sorry bit, ma'am. I stay here all day without my dinner, because my wages won't buy one. Plase God, I hope we shall yet see better days in Ireland."

Following his guidance, I found myself at the gate. An open lane showed the placid sea, and the far-famed mountains of Wicklow. About the door were roses, a shrubbery, and lilies of the most beautiful kind. I entered so fatigued with the day's excursion, that I cared but little whether smiles or frowns received me. A daughter met me in the hall, and presenting her the letter from a long absent brother, she invited me in. The mother was called, and though she gave me no Irish "thousand welcomes," yet when she saw the letter from her son, and heard the sad tale of my coach ride, the loss of my carpet bag, and my walk through quagmire and ditch to her house, she invited me in to a well furnished table, with every appendage of neatness and order. The party consisted of the mother, the eldest son, four daughters, a little niece, a young lady and her brother who were lodgers, and two ladies on a visit. The vexations of the day and the embarrassments of a stranger were soon lost in the courtesy and flow of kindness manifested, and I felt as if seated at the dinner table of an intelligent New England family, where familiar friends had assembled. After dinner the mother invited me to the garden, saying, "We have made our arrangements for you to spend a week with us, and if we did not wish it we should not ask it; so this point is at once settled, and we will show you what we can of our country and people." The kindness of this offer was greatly heightened, when I ascertained that the young gentleman who lodged with them had offered his room for my accommodation, and that he was to share the bed of the son of the mistress.

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.