Walk to Cove

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIV (13) | Start of Chapter

The next day heard a prosing common-place discourse from the baptist minister where I dined on the potatoe and salt, in which he said he had no sympathy for a religion that comes out in a certain color or cut of the dress, or particular kinds of meat and drink. This sentence was so entirely a digression from text or sermon, that I pocketed the rebuke for not partaking of the swine's flesh at his table, "and hoped to learn better manners as I get along." After service, taking a bundle of tracts, I walked to Cove. On my way, two little cleanly-dressed girls were before me, reading a collection of Scripture admonitions from Father Mathew; approaching them, I asked, "What are you reading, little girls?"

"Something, ma'am, that Father Mathew wrote." They had come out of chapel, where they had obtained this document from their priest. They were but children of ten and eleven, and the girl who was reading was no novice in the art. I presented each of them with a little book, and thanking me, delighted, they ran on to a company of girls before them, but soon returned, saying, "Here are more little girls who can read, and hav'n't you a book for them? May be you couldn't spare 'em, but they would be very glad of one." Her interesting manner so won upon me, that she might have drained my basket, had not an older one in the party checked her importunity. My company was now quite numerous, for men, women, and children were following in my train. I gave them each a book, and walked on to the next village. All who accompanied me disappeared among the cottages, saying, "God speed ye," and left me alone. In a moment the two whom I first accosted, came out, and said, "We are goin' on a message to the bridge, and will be with you a bit." The bridge was passed, it was getting dark, and I said, "you had better return, your parents may chide you." "No," said the youngest of but nine years old, "ye are lonely and the night'll be on ye, and we'll go with ye to the town. We'd as lieve go with a stranger as with one of our own." The artless simplicity with which she said this, and the expression of kindness which lighted up her countenance when she spoke, strongly inclined me to take her in my arms, and snatch her away from a land where the poor must be kept in their rank because they are poor.

The instinct of kindness which is so strong in the children of the peasantry, is remarkable throughout the country, and offers to the observing stranger a redeeming substitute for all other privations. My little companions took me in sight of the town, and pointing forward, "and ye'll find the ferry on a bit," said "God speed ye," and scampered away, with my heart in galloping speed after them.

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.