Hospitable Port in a Storm

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XX (12) | Start of Chapter

I went on as I could, till the mountain was ascended; then the wind was at my back, and I soon had trouble to keep upon my feet; and for some perches there was actual danger of being dashed against the rock on one side, or thrown over the wall into the sea, upon the other. Two men upon a horse were blown aside from the path, and I in the same direction. One hat fell from a rider's head, and was blown a good distance, when my parasol held it fast, till a footman could carry it to the owner; and we were all going zig-zag as best we could, till the repeated gusts had spent their fury. I was once forced against a rock, and saved myself from being lost by clinging to a shelving part of it, till the gust past over. It was a sad night—one which cannot soon be forgotten, and while my despairing grasp held me to the slippery crag, my soliloquy was, "And is it from the house of Daniel O'Connell that a female stranger has been driven this perilous night? Is it from the house which, above all others, I had been told in my own country, was the welcome resort and tarrying place for every stranger of every clime, that I had been virtually turned out to perish, if not saved by little else than a miracle?" True Daniel O'Connell was not at home, (happy thought!) but where was the "generous Maurice?" He was sitting at home by a comfortable dinner, and might not have been told that a stranger had been there. Though I dealt out no anathemas, yet I did say, that the unfeeling instrument of my suffering, his housekeeper, was a bad representative of a house like his—that the hospitable abode of such a man, should have a sentinel at its post that had a common share of common hospitality. Fool that I was, that I did not ask her, as I thought, to let me pass the night in the tower, rather than risk my life on this bleak mountain! Again I ventured on amid pelting rain and furious blasts, till night overtook me, and a company of mountain peasantry met me. "And where have ye been, this bleak evening—not to Derrynane?" "Yes, to Derrynane." "But I'm sorry I didn't know it. I live a mile from the Abbey, and would have made ye quite comfortable in my cabin; and why didn't ye stay? I've been lookin' for ye. I wanted to talk of New York." It was not New York that was in my thoughts. I cared not a whit whether they were burning or freezing; it was the bleak rugged mountain—the mad, foaming sea, the whirlwind, and the storm that I was combating; and above, and beyond all, it was the "It will be bad for you," of the penurious voice of the housekeeper at the door of O'Connell, that was ringing in my ears. At ten I reached the hospitable dwelling of Jerry Quirks. "Welcome, welcome to my house, and stay as long as ye will, without any charges." Never was a salute more timely; never did a salute sound more sweetly.

Next morning the tempest was still high, and venturing upon the strand, I there saw, as at Valentia, crowds of females busied; and speaking to one, she replied, "These stawrmy nights, ma'am, blow good luck to the poor; they wash up the say-weed, and that's why ye see so many now at work."

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.