Search for Dr. Power

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIV (8) | Start of Chapter

Upon the top of the hill are springs of clear water, which send forth rivulets down its side, ever fresh and never failing, furnishing the dwellers on the sloping hill a supply the whole year. Inquiring of a woman raising a bucket of water from one of these sparkling rivulets, if she could direct me to a lodging-house, one standing near responded, "You can give her one, and as clane a bed as in all Cove;" and I had no cause to regret meeting these cottagers. The room was clean, the bed wholesome, and the charge moderate; and at five I made my entrance into the town over a wall, down a precipice, partly by stairs, to a range of cabins sheltered under the hill, and jutting into a narrow path that bordered on the sea. Seeing a woman at her door, I asked, "Can you tell me where Doctor Power lives?" Her answer was a piteous whine, that her husband had not been able to airn a sixpence for weeks, and begged me to go in and see "the poor cratur." All this without a word of Doctor Power. When the question was repeated, and the answer, "Will ye walk in and spake to the man?" which savored so much of an attack upon my scanty purse, that, saying I was in haste, and must find Doctor Power, I turned away, "And y'ill meet him a bit under yer fut," she called out in a healthy creditable tone. A seven months' travelling in Ireland had taught me a little discrimination. Begging, here, is so common and so respectable among the poor, that many resort to intrigues and petty ingenuities when they meet a stranger; which is a kind of dishonesty not only to the stranger, but to the thousands who, by the last extremity, are driven to this method to escape starvation.

The next cabin with open door, I put in my head, and saw the mother with five children sitting upright in bed, all putting on their "apology" for clothes; and certainly no small nest was ever fuller. The good matron told me where I should find the house in question. I lingered long enough to learn that the father of this "joyous genealogy" had arisen an hour before out of the same bed, and gone to his work. Ye downy-bed sleepers what say ye to this? What say you to these your own countrymen? And "who maketh thee to differ?" and "what hast thou that thou didst not receive?"

Enclosed among trees at the margin of the water, was the festooned cottage of Dr. Power, adorned with walks and shrubbery; and at the door stood the titled gentleman and his lady, about to enter their carriage for an excursion to Cork. A letter of introduction from a brother of his in New York gave me a welcome reception, and stepping into their carriage, I went with them to Cork, promising a return in a few days.

Mrs. P. is a genuine American, a daughter of the well-known Judge Livingston of New York, amiable and courteous to all. I was proud to find in one of my own country so much kindness, so much affability in rank so high. The doctor was an Irishman by birth, but had spent much of his early life in America, and imbibed so much of republicanism, that respectability in coarse boots and jacket received as hearty a grasp of the hand as when dressed in morocco or broadcloth.

At five, again seated at the hospitable board of Father Mathew, where I was daily invited to dine while in Cork. New guests were present each day, always accompanied by his brother, who was an overseer of the workhouse. He was a promoter of morality and good order, and sympathized deeply in all the movements of temperance.

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.