Wild Natives

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVII (7) | Start of Chapter

We made a safe journey home. The strange things I had seen, and the difficulties I had surmounted, were sufficient for meditation; but above all how to approach Lord Bantry, and entreat him to do as others had done, visit the cabins and work some change for the better—was a weighty incubus which I could not shake off. As I passed his cottage, a message was sent out inviting me in; but the lateness of the hour, and the plight of my feet, together with the state of my mind, urged me on, lest as a whole he might mistake my drabbled dress, twisted awry bonnet, and absence of mind, for "a loss of the sinse," and I hurried home.

The next morning, a little more restored, I called at his door, but the butler informed me he could see no one, as he had a bleeding at the nose; so he escaped what he ought to have heard years before. I took another day's ramble up to the head of the glen, a distance of nearly three miles, and never was a glen to me like this. From the top of a rock sometimes a shout burst upon my ear, then some wild mountain girl would cross my path, then a peasant or two, with braided straw saddles and baskets across the woe-begone donkey, with a salute of "God save ye kindly, lady"—then some wayworn old woman, with a rope about her forehead, supporting a ponderous sack of potatoes or turf upon her back, would greet me. Meeting a path leading from the main road, I followed it, and seeing a broken cart, supposed that human beings must be among these rocks, and upon my left I saw an aperture into what I thought might be a cave or mountain den, and approaching, found a pig nestled in some straw, and a voice from within called out, "May-be ye'd like to come in and take a hait by the fire."

Had this invitation proceeded from a sepulchre, it could not have been much more surprising, and not half so unnatural for the abode of the dead as the living. I stooped down and walked over the obstinate pig—stumbled in, and here saw patient misery in somewhat a new habiliment.

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.