Self Denial

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VIII (21) | Start of Chapter

A little incident occurred one morning, which egotism and boasting would forbid noticing, if both duty and inclination did not call for an acknowledgment of God's never ceasing care over his creatures, especially to me in a land of strangers. A genteel tidy woman came into the house every morning, to assist for an hour or two, and get her breakfast. This woman was sitting by the fire, when a son of the landlady took up a pennyworth of bread which the poor woman had just bought, with a penny she had borrowed from his mother. He said, "Is this yours, Peggy?" "No matter, Mickey, you are quite welcome; take it—take it." This was all she had for a breakfast for a daughter, who had walked thirteen miles the evening before from a place of service, to see the mother. I had gone to my room, and she entered. Seeing me, as she thought, a little sober; "And ma'am, I fear ye are fretted. Don't fret; the Lord is good. It was never so dark with me as at this minute. My little slip of a gal is come, and I have no breakfast for her, and it's hard, ma'am, to have a child come to ye, and not have a bit to give her to ate; and I have taken off my petticoat, and pinned a piece of flannel about me, and the good God have mercy on me, I don't know what to do," importuning me at the same time not to fret, the Lord would certainly take care of me. "But I have sixpence beside to pay for my rent, and the good God send it to me, or I shall lose my little cabin to-morrow." When her face was turned about, the sixpence was put into her hand; in an ecstacy of joy, she fell upon her knees before the donor. This woman had been the wife of an officer, and had seen something of fashionable life, but had not lost that native heart-feeling which the uneducated Irish so eminently possess. In her concern for me, she forgot the application of her exhortation to herself; though she was fretting, she seemed not to know it. These Irish are a great anomaly to all but the Almighty: reader, remember the sixpence.

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.