Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XI (7) | Start of Chapter

A breakfast was prepared. I passed the day in making repairs in garments sadly racked by storms and trials before unknown, and the next morning the boy and car were sent to carry me to Urlingford. My money was in waiting, my friends were as kind as when I left, and I sat down to rest and reflect.

I looked back upon the strange journey with peculiar feelings. Through storm and sunshine, by night and by day, without harm or fear of harm, had I wandered. I looked down upon the shoes which a lady presented me in New York, and could say with the children of Israel, "My shoes waxed not old on my feet," though they let in the water; but they made a decent appearance outside, which among the peasantry is a matter of great moment. Filthy as they may be called in Connaught, yet a clean collar and cuffs would immediately be noticed, and mentioned as a proof that I was a "proper person." And I was more careful to be in tidiness when among the poorest peasantry, than when among the gentry; the latter could make suitable allowances for all defects, and the former thought it, from its rarity, an attainment of great merit.

The protecting kindness of God must be recorded in particular, as I never had been in the habit of being out alone after nightfall in city or country, and should have shrunk from it as improper, if not dangerous. Here, the peace of mind, the unwavering trust which I ever felt in the arm that sustained me, kept me not only from fear, but kept me joyful. Yes, I was joyful, though a stranger, alone, upon desert mountains, and in deep glens, without money, and often without food,—sometimes sleeping upon naked chairs, sometimes upon a pile of straw, and sometimes not at all. Yet my strength never failed; no pain of the head or sickness of the stomach, no cold or fever ever assailed me. Yes, I can say, that I then knew and felt, that the bank of heaven was full, that it could never fail, that the banker knew every deposit, and knew how and when to give out as the depositor needed; and that he would withhold "no more than was meet," and no longer than was necessary.

"Do not, I beg you," said a kind clergyman, who is mentioned in this journal, "ever suffer yourself to be out after dark alone in Ireland. It is presumptuous, it is dangerous." This was his last injunction, and twice has he written me the same caution. I thanked him kindly, but could not understand his fears. I had but one feeling, and that was trust; and when night unavoidably overtook me, whether upon a mountain or in a city, what was that to me? I loved to hear a footstep in my path, for I knew it would be accompanied with a "God save ye kindly;" and that salutation has ever sounded to me, when alone, like the voice of Him who said, "My peace I give unto you." And often have I answered the kind peasant by saying, "the Lord does save me kindly." These were halcyon days, days of my best and richest, days when I turned to the God that was within me, and laid hold of his strength.

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.