Visit to Mr. S.

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter X (11) | Start of Chapter

Monday.—These Banagher friends wished me "God speed," without taking a farthing, and told me their house should be welcome as long as I would stay. Others in the town did the same; but the time had come; new things were before me, and these new things I must meet.

In a few hours I found myself in Birr, dining with Mr. Walsh, and he insisted that I should go that evening to visit the good Mr. S. at whose castle I was so kindly entertained by his housekeeper, and should find him there, as he had just left Birr, with a lady in his carriage, for his home. "In him," he added, "you will see the Christian in a new and striking light. Go, I beg you; it will refresh you on your journey, and you will have it to say, when you return to your country, that in Ireland you found one rich man who lived wholly to God, and to serve his fellow-creatures." I went. At the lodge I was told he had left for Rathmore, where he had another castle, and, added the good woman, "It is but five miles. The road is good, you are quick on the fut, and it would be well nigh worth a voyage across the Atlantic, to hear the lady who is in his house discoorse on the subject of religion."

It was now sun-set, and clouds were gathering. I hesitated, "Go, in the name of the Lord, and he will receive you kindly," setting me on the path, she bid me "God speed." Darkness, rain, and tempest soon overtook me; the way was quite dreary, and I much feared I should lose my path, and I felt that the errand was quite an uncertain one. It was a sad night; a small parasol was a miserable defence against the furious wind and pelting rain; and yet I felt more composed and less shrinking than I do now, while writing it. I had not the least anxiety. I neither knew nor cared what was before me. I saw a faint light in a cabin-window, some perches from the road, and felt my way to it, and inquired the distance to the castle. "A short half mile; but ye'll be destroyed in the staurm. Ye had better stop a bit." Telling them I must go on, they stood in the cabin-door till I had reached the path, and as well as I could, I made my way forward.

The darkness was so total, that a beast could not be distinguished from a man on the path, and in a few moments I heard walking behind me. I turned about, but could not tell what it was. "The staurm is heavy and the night dark on ye, and I'll show ye to the castle." This was a young man from the cabin I had just left. I thanked him sincerely, and said, "It is a great blessing to have so good a landlord as Mr. S. one who gives so much to the poor." "A divil of a hap'orth will he give, only to sich as are of his religion." "I have heard he often puts his hand into his pocket, and hands a poor man a pound he may meet on the way." "And I hope ye'll meet the pounds when ye get into the castle, but we'll turn into a cabin here, to a man who keeps the gate, and he'll go with us."

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.