A Disaster

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (7) | Start of Chapter

Three miles and a half were before me, and night was gathering around. So absorbed was I in looking at the never-tiring beauties of the scenery, and so thick were the hedge-rows with tempting blackberries, that by the time the curtain of night had descended I found I had lost my spectacles! This was the ultimatum of all the vexations of yesterday's chase after a "sir," and to-day's hunt after a "great and good man." These spectacles were of superior excellence, were very expensive, and had been selected in New York as peculiarly suited for travelling. They brought every distant mountain and castle in bold relief before my eye, when riding in a car or coach. Now I found it was truly the "little foxes that spoil the vines." I had become so enchanted with the almost supernatural beauties of Ireland, that no troubles could sit long on my heart while looking upon them; but now this consolation was gone. I sat down upon a stone to think what I should do next. I was in a thick wood, three miles from Cappoquin.

The evening was still; the noise of joy and gladness fell upon my ear from the town, and I bent my steps towards it. The light from bonfires and barrels of blazing tar, drawn by noisy boys, was glimmering through the trees. Ireland was rejoicing that O'Connell was free. "It's many a long day that we have been lookin' for that same to do somethin' for us, but not a hap'orth of good has come to a cratur of us yet. We're aitin the pratee to-day, and not a divil of us has got off the rag since he begun his discoorse," said a peasant woman near me, not scrupulously tidy in her apron or cap. Making my way thorugh the crowd, I reached the whiskey lodging-house. A hearty greeting from the good-humored daughter, who was attending at the bar, was sullenly responded to by, "I've lost my spectacles." "And you've seen the good man, and the beautiful church of Lismore." "I've seen no good man." "Oh, the cratur's weary! But the priest'll find the spectacles, for he'll cry 'em from the altar next Sunday." I retired amid the din of rejoicing, and have heard nothing from priest or spectacles since.

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.