The Little Petitioner for the "Word of God"

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (19) | Start of Chapter

At six o'clock, taking as usual tracts and books, I went to the gate-house of Lord Kenmare. Here was a family of children, who had been well educated for the peasantry, and giving a book to one, it was read audibly, and received that hearty response that every subject treating on benevolence ever does among the poor of Ireland. Charity is the alpha and omega, the sum total of all that makes the man or woman, with these people. Without it your religion, whether Roman or Protestant, is but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And a distinguishing feature which cannot be too much admired, is, that when they give, they give unsparingly from their pittance, and when they receive, they do it with as much thankfulness, when the smallest trifle is offered, as when the donation is quite bountiful. While the child was reading the story the potatoes were preparing, and milk and eggs put on, and I was invited to "the egg and sup of milk, ma'am, but you couldn't take the potatoe." I had taken supper, but never declined a potatoe, and always took it in my hand, which to them was as sure a test of good-will and sincerity on my part, as are the grip and well-known password to the initiated brother mason.

As I went out four little girls were at the gate, where they had been waiting an hour to ask for books. "It's the Word of God I want," said one, "which you promised me last Friday. I went to your place at six, as you told me, and they sent me to the gate, and

I have been waiting an hour, ma'am. And have you got the Word of God for me now? it's that I want."

"I am not certain but you will destroy it if I give you one."

"Destroy the Word of God! Who would dare do that?"

A woman now interfered, "And what's this you're saying? If you touch one of her books, I'll tell the bishop." The bishop's house was at our left, but a few yards distant. "He has told us we must not touch a Protestant book." "I don't care if you do tell the bishop. If I can get the Word of God, I'll read it." This was plain English, and then turning to me, "I know, lady, you'll give it to me. You said you would." "But," continued the woman,"they are the same books that the Protestant man had, to put down the church, and speak against our religion." Turning to the woman, and telling her I had no books but what the bishop would approve, and that they were Irish and Douay Testaments, &c., she begged pardon, and walked on, the little girl exulting said, "There, I knew the lady was right."

When we reached the lodging-house, the Testaments and books were presented; but by no urging would the girl be persuaded to take any books but the Scriptures, though she was told they contained beautiful stories, and were handsomely covered. "It's the Word of God I want, and nothing else," was the only answer, though the three others were better pleased with a colored tract than with any other book.

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.