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Nicholson, Asenath, 1792-1855 / Ireland’s welcome to the stranger; or An excursion through Ireland, in 1844 & 1845, for the purpose of personally investigating the condition of the poor (1847)

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The spirit of Caste injurious in Ireland—Journey to Youghal—the Blessed Well of St. Dagan—Cabin Hospitality—Uncourteous Reception by Sir Richard Musgrave—Rebuff from a “great, good man”—Rejoicings at Lismore for O’Connell’s Liberation—A Disaster—Brutality of an Inn-keeper’s Son—Dungarvan—Two silent Quakeresses—Thoughts on Irish Hospitality—Unsuccessful Application to Bianconi—Strong National Peculiarities of the Irish—Unpopularity of Stepmothers—St. Patrick’s Well—A Poor Old Woman—A Baptist Minister—Happy Molly.

Of all the miseries entailed upon poor Ireland, that of “caste” is not the least, and in some circumstances you may as well be a beggar at once, if not a drop of high blood can be found in your veins, or if some title be not appended to your name.

Report had said that England was taking the liberty to break the seals of letters going from Ireland to America, and to retain such as did not suit her views of matters relative to the country. I had been in Ireland more than three months, had paid postage on a package of letters, but had received no answer, and was in much perplexity on account of it. When about leaving Cappoquin, I was advised by the good man of the   [p. 122]   house where I lodged, to call on Sir Richard Musgrave, who lived on his estate a mile and a half distant, and would give me information respecting the transmission of letters; adding, “He is condescending in manner, peculiarly kind of heart, a true friend of Ireland and O’Connell, and delights in doing good to Catholics, though himself a Protestant.” All these qualifications were certainly something, and I reluctantly consented to call at his house. I found that he was not at his country residence, but was spending a few weeks on the sea-shore, at Whiting-Bay, eighteen miles distant. A steamer was about to start for Youghal, down the Blackwater, and would take me fifteen miles on my way. The morning was a little dull, but the sun at ten o’clock broke through the clouds, and lighted up such a landscape as is impossible for me to describe, for Blackwater scenery is Blackwater scenery, and nothing else. It was not a cloudless state of mind that caused this bright vision of things, for I was going against my own inclination; but the reality so broke upon me at every new winding, that, in spite of myself, I must admire if not enjoy. A preceding rain had given a lively tint to tree and meadow, and nature appeared as in the freshness of a May morning, though September was well advanced, and the yellow hue, contrasted with the more sombre foliage of tree and hawthorn with which meadow and water were fringed, heightened the beauty of the scene. The cows and sheep were grazing upon hill and dale, and the song of the happy bird lent its notes of harmony. If for a moment the prospect was confined by a short turn in the river, the next a broad vista opened which displayed extended towns, rising cultivated hills, a stately mansion perched upon some shelving rock, and now and then a mutilated castle or abbey. Five ruined castles meet the eye in sailing fifteen miles upon this river, and though they speak loudly of the uncertainty of all human greatness and human hopes, yet they are a kind of pleasing proud memento to the heart of every Irishman, that his now oppressed country had once her men   [p. 123]   of cultivated tastes as well as of warlike feats. When passing through the vale of Ovoca, I thought that nature could do no more than she had there done; but on the banks of the Blackwater she showed me that a bolder stroke of her pencil had been reserved for this outline. Let the traveller gaze upon the picture, and tell us, if he can, what is wanting.

At last the town of Youghal, with her noble bridge, met the eye. The drawbridge was raised for the steamer to pass, and we saw the houses extending along the sea-shore, on the vicinity of a hill, commanding a noble prospect of the sea. The busy population in pursuit of gain by their bartering and bantering, told us that self here was an important item, though not a beggar put out her hand, invoking “the blessing of the Virgin” for your penny. A ferry-boat put me safely on the other side, leaving me a three miles walk, partly upon the beach, but mostly inland, and thus giving an opportunity of seeing a peasantry who speak English only when compelled by necessity. Making inquiry from cabin to cabin, not one bawled out, “Go along to such a place, and inquire;” but each one left her work, sometimes accompanied by two dogs and thrice the number of pigs, and led me a distance on the way, with a kind “God bless ye,” at parting. A troop of boys now came galloping at full speed, intent, one might suppose, on sport or mischief. But each had a book under his arm or in his hand, and I saw they were returning from school, and saluting them kindly, they gathered around me, listened to the story of schools in America, and earnestly asked such questions as to them seemed important. At our parting, each was emulous to direct me on my way, lest at the “cross-road” I should mistake. “Now, ma’am, don’t you take the left;” “nor don’t ye go straight on,” said a second, “but turn to the right,” &c. And when, like so many young deer, they bounded away, I blessed God that the dawn of education was breaking upon Ireland, and that the generation now rising shall feel its genial ray, and by her   [p. 124]   power have the independence to assert their country’s heaven-born rights.

But the great man was not yet reached, and I was weary with walking. A little girl with a heavy burden on her back, said, “And is it Sir Musgrave, ma’am, ye would see? you should go up that road, ma’am, and the way is much shorter.” That road had long since been passed, but the girl added, “Ye are on the road to the Blessed Well.” “Blessed Well! what is that?” “I don’t know, ma’am, only people goes there to pray.” This reconciled me a little to the mistake of the path; and walking on, a clump of trees was pointed out as the sacred place. There was something superstitiously pleasant in the appearance and associations about this well. It was eighteen hundred years ago since Jesus, “weary with his journey, sat down on the well,” and the woman of Samaria came out to draw water. Here was a spot where thousands had knelt, and drank, and gone away as dark as they came; ignorantly supposing that some saint had sanctified its waters. As I was musing, a young damsel like Rebecca of old, with a large brown pitcher, “came hither to draw.” She was “fair to look upon.” I saluted her, she answered pleasantly in Irish, and after filling her pitcher walked away. Never did that living water of which Jesus told the woman of Samaria look more precious than now; never had I more ardently desired to tell a benighted traveller “the way, the truth, and the life;” but I could not speak her language, neither could I, like Jesus, have told her “all that ever she did.” How many of these sincere devotees who come here to drink, have ever tasted of the well of salvation, God alone must decide.

A large stone, with a wooden cross fixed in it, stands at the head of this well, and a beautiful tree waves over the whole. St. Dagan, we are told, blessed this water some hundred years ago; and so efficacious has it been, that cripples, who came on crutches, have gone away leaping and praising St. Dagan, and the blind have been made to see. So infatuated have been its devotees,   [p. 125]   that the bishop has thought it expedient to prohibit its resort, as being a place where miracles are no more to be expected. So unmindful was I of its healing virtues, that I actually turned away without tasting its waters. Fearing I had gone astray, I made my way to a cabin door through mud and filth; here a woman pointed me to the house of the great man, and added, “May-be ye are wairy, and would like to sit down a bit.” I gladly accepted the invitation, and followed my guide into the small cabin. Here were two men sitting upon a table in a corner, an old man smoking, and a wretched-looking woman, who like me was weary with her journey, and had “turned in hither,” and was sitting upon the ground. In the centre of the room stood the dinner table, with the remains of the potatoes on which the family had been dining. A tub of potato-skins and water stood near the table, from which two huge matronly swine, and eleven young sucklings, were eating their dinner, and I, in return for the civility shown me, could do no less than extol the beauty of the little bonnels, and the fine bulk of the mother. The mistress took a wooden bowl, mashed a few fine potatoes into it with her hands, and, adding milk, called a couple of more favored ones, and fed them from it. Upon a cupboard stood a plate of tempting well-cooked potatoes, and I asked leave to take one. This was the signal for a fresh effusion of kindness, and the good woman left her pets to their own guidance, and selected with her hands one of the finest, divested it of its coat with her nails, and handed it to me. I was caught in my own trap, and was obliged to surrender; and before the first was masticated, a second was in readiness, and so on, till I was positively obliged to refuse the fourth, much to the grief of the good woman, who was “in dread” lest I should go away hungry.

Sir Richard,” said the old man, putting his pipe in his pocket, “will sartainly consider your case. He is a good man, and his wife is a kind woman.” And now, with three fine potatoes in my stomach, and thrice the   [p. 126]   number of blessings on my head, I departed to the “great man’s” abode. The sea was dashing against the gravelly beach at the front of the dwelling; an air of comfort was shed around; and when the porter responded to my knock, and had gone to present my card, I looked about the hall, and seeing no false appendages of greatness, and being soon invited into the parlor by the gentleman himself, I felt as much at ease as when eating my potatoes in the cabin. I introduced myself, and the object of my errand, while he peered at me over his spectacles, and seemed to listen with attention. He read my letter of introduction, and returned it without note or comment. I stated the exigencies of my case, as a stranger in a strange land, and asked if he could give any information as to whether the English government had really taken the liberty to open and retain letters. He looked silently upon me, with a gaze which seemed to say, “I wish this insignificant woman could finish her story, and let me return to my lunch.” “I may be keeping you from dinner, sir.” “I was taking lunch, madam; my dinner hour is five.” “Do you know, sir, and will you tell me, whether you think this report true or false?” No answer: he took out his watch; I understood the signal, and rose to depart. “I can give you no advice on this subject.” As I was going into the hall he said, “May be you would take something to eat.” “I am not hungry, sir,” replied I. My heart rejected this coldly proffered bread. Then did the cabin woman’s potato look doubly valuable, and I blessed God that he had left some poor in the world, that every vestige of humanity and kind feeling might not be swept from the earth. The heart of a stranger was emphatically mine. I had travelled a distance of twenty miles for the privilege of being treated with the coldest indifference by a titled gentleman. Yet I was not sorry. I at least learned something. This man was celebrated for his urbanity of manners and kindness of heart; the well intentioned friends who advised me to apply to him were certain that he would solve my difficulties; and I had gone   [p. 127]   more in complaisance to their good feelings, than from a favorable opinion of the undertaking on my part. I had visited Ireland to see the poor, to learn its manners and customs, and how they would treat American strangers in any and every condition. I was placed in peculiar circumstances, and a few kind words, if they would not have helped me out of my dilemma, would have cost him but little, and have been grateful to me. But not even a generous look could be gained, and I hoped my friends would see that this boasting of the benevolence of great men is often but boasting, and whoever follows them to get good, will generally find himself in pursuit of an ignis fatuus, which, perchance may land him in a quagmire.

The sail back upon the enchanting Blackwater was if possible more pleasant than in the morning. The setting sun cast a mellow light on tower, castle, ivied abbey, and tree; and the vesper song of the bird, seeking its shelter for the night, had a soothing effect upon my mind after my zig-zag pursuit of Irish aristocracy.

To atone for yesterday’s adventure, the good people of the lodging-house advised a ramble to Lismore, as castles, bridges, and churches, besides “Lord Devonshire” himself, were all there. A plain-looking man offered his services as my guide, for Lismore was on his route home, and he knew every nook and corner “right well,” and would show me all with the greatest pleasure. But we must take a circuitous road, and call on another “great and good man,” who could not give an unkind look, for he was “made up of goodness.” In vain I pleaded my excuses; my guide was a familiar acquaintance of the gentleman’s, and could remove all impediments to an introduction, and I was obliged to yield. We went over gravelled walks, through rich lawns, and sheltered pathways, till behind a high wall we saw the numerous chimneys of this “great and good man.” He was a Scotchman and a Presbyterian. A laborer on the top of the wall called out, “The master is at dinner, and cannot be seen.”   [p. 128]   A nurse with a sweet infant in her arms was sitting upon a stile, and half an hour was beguiled in listening to the good qualities of both master and mistress, till the kind girl, eager to acquaint the hospitable woman that an American lady was without, hastened in, and I saw her no more. “The master is coming,” said my guide, “and I will go and tell him who you are.” He did so, and I was a mile on my way to Lismore, when he overtook me, muttering that the man had returned from giving orders to his men, and they went to the stile, and no American was there. I had stopped a full half hour for the hospitable mistress, who knew I was in waiting, and then went away. Not a cabin in all Ireland would have treated a stranger thus.

But leaving the “good and great man,” let us walk to the pleasant town of Lismore.

When my guide had conducted me to the town, and showed me into the celebrated church, which in the days of the never-forgotten Cromwell was defaced, and taken possession of by the Protestants, he abruptly took leave, saying, “I hove showed ye all I can.” I stood alone in the midst of that venerable pile, looking at its pictures and stained glass windows, through which the setting sun shed a mellow light, throwing upon its walls a softened sadness, which, as the flickering rays died away, seemed to say, “The glory of Erin is departed.”

The town was in high glee, for O’Connell was liberated. One of the newspaper editors who had been imprisoned with him was there, and bonfires blazed in various places, their smoke giving to the tasteful little town the appearance of a reeking furnace. I hastened to the bridge, to look at the castle of the Duke of Devonshire. It is situated upon an elevated site, overlooking the romantic Blackwater.

Three miles and a half were before me, and night was gathering around. So absorbed was I in looking at the never-tiring beauties of the scenery, and so thick were the hedge-rows with tempting blackberries,   [p. 129]   that by the time the curtain of night had descended I found I had lost my spectacles! This was the ultimatum of all the vexations of yesterday’s chase after a “sir,” and to-day’s hunt after a “great and good man.” These spectacles were of superior excellence, were very expensive, and had been selected in New York as peculiarly suited for travelling. They brought every distant mountain and castle in bold relief before my eye, when riding in a car or coach. Now I found it was truly the “little foxes that spoil the vines.” I had become so enchanted with the almost supernatural beauties of Ireland, that no troubles could sit long on my heart while looking upon them; but now this consolation was gone. I sat down upon a stone to think what I should do next. I was in a thick wood, three miles from Cappoquin. The evening was still; the noise of joy and gladness fell upon my ear from the town, and I bent my steps towards it. The light from bonfires and barrels of blazing tar, drawn by noisy boys, was glimmering through the trees. Ireland was rejoicing that O’Connell was free. “It’s many a long day that we have been lookin’ for that same to do somethin’ for us, but not a hap’orth of good has come to a cratur of us yet. We’re aitin the pratee to-day, and not a divil of us has got off the rag since he begun his discoorse,” said a peasant woman near me, not scrupulously tidy in her apron or cap. Making my way through the crowd, I reached the whiskey lodging-house. A hearty greeting from the good-humored daughter, who was attending at the bar, was sullenly responded to by, “I’ve lost my spectacles.” “And you’ve seen the good man, and the beautiful church of Lismore.” “I’ve seen no good man.” “Oh, the cratur’s weary! But the priest’ll find the spectacles, for he’ll cry ’em from the altar next Sunday.” I retired amid the din of rejoicing, and have heard nothing from priest or spectacles since.

Wednesday, September 17th.—I left my lodgings before five in the morning for Kilkenny. It was very cold for the season. I knocked at the door of the hotel,   [p. 130]   where I was told the preceding day that I must be at that hour, and was answered by a man who had rushed from his bed to the door half clad, with hair erect, demanding in surly tone who was there, and what was wanted. “The car, sir,” “The car don’t come till half after five.” “I’ll step in if you please, sir, and wait.” “You won’t. Do you think I’ll set up for you to come in?” “What shall I do, sir?” “Go back where you came from.” “The door is locked, and the servants in bed, and I could not get in.” “Then stay out of doors,” he shouted, and shut the door rudely upon me.

I did stay out of doors, and it was indeed a cold berth. I was obliged to keep walking, for no smoke yet ascended from cottage or cabin. Upon a distant green hillock a little smoke was slowly winding up: going to it, I found it was a stump smouldering out its last dying embers for the honor of O’Connell. Seating myself beside it upon my carpet bag, and stirring it with my parasol, I begged it to give one cheer more for the long life of him for whom it had been blazing, and the warmth of one who was well nigh freezing. A ragged laborer approached to light his pipe. “And sure what brings ye here so airly, lady?”

“The civility of your innkeeper, sir.”

“The innkeeper, ma’am, is a woman of dacent manners, and wouldn’t trait ye so; it was the vagabond of a son she keeps about her.”

“And what has this decent woman been doing these twenty years, that she has not taught this vagabond son some of her good manners?”

“Faith, that I can’t tell, and by your tongue ye must be a stranger in the country.”

I had only time to say that I was from America, when the horn of the carman summoned me from the company that had gathered around, one of whom called after me, “And do you think we will have the repale?”

“I could wish that the next stump by which you light your pipe might be kindled to celebrate the jubilee of your freedom.”

  [p. 131]  

It was affecting to see how the hearts of these poor ill-paid laborers were everywhere intent on that one object, repeal. They feel daily more and more the iron hand that crushes them; and were it not that Father Mathew has sobered them, and O’Connell is enjoining “peace, peace,” their forbearance would cease.

The sun was now rising in a clear sky. Never had I been so willing to leave a spot in all Ireland, but I grudged them my spectacles. I had scarcely found a comfort in Cappoquin. The father, son, and daughter where I lodged were employed in repairing the house, and selling ardent spirits; and though occasionally a kind wish was bestowed, I was left to carry out this kind wish as well as I could. But this unlucky visit was not a fair specimen of my tour through Ireland; and, even here, another time might have been quite the reverse.

I might call on Sir Richard with a fresher trimming on my bonnet, and receive a kind answer to my inquiries. The door of the estated gentleman might be opened if the hour were more favorable. I might stop at the same house when it was undergoing no repair, when the carpets were laid down (for they told me they had carpets), and I might call at the door of the innkeeper when the young boor had risen from his lair, when his hair was combed and his face shaven, and he might give me a complacent “walk in,” and a seat by the fire till the car should arrive. These evils I determined should not annoy me; but oh, my spectacles! I could not enjoy the scenery without them, and was compelled to see the country through the descriptions of the carman, who was my only fellow-traveller, and somewhat intelligent.

At seven we reached the flourishing sea-port of Dungarvan; flourishing it might be, at least, if such a harbor were anywhere but in poor Ireland. The houses are built with considerable regard to taste, and the population had the appearance of more comfort than in many towns of Ireland; but the same   [p. 132]   complaint of poor price for labor, and the same inquiry, “Do ye think we shall get the repale?” saluted me from all to whom I spoke.

Here two Quakeresses joined the car, and rode to Clonmel, and certainly they were proofs that woman is sometimes silent, for from nine till three they sat, and scarcely uttered a word. I made a few ineffectual efforts to talk a little about the country, but gave it up as hopeless. The Quakers are a worthy people, but when I hear of the poor laborers reaping down their fields for a shilling a day, I cannot but say, “One thing thou lackest.”

The gentleman who had invited me to visit him at Cappoquin was at the car when we arrived there, and showed me into the house, where much apparent kindness was manifested. And here let me remark that the Irish peasantry cannot be surpassed in hospitality; but in proportion as independence and rank are attained, this hospitality does not always meet the stranger with the same warmth and sincerity. It seems to say, “We know that the Irish people are proverbial for their hospitality, and I must keep up the credit of my country; but had you not come to my house, I should not have troubled myself about you.” I always managed well for myself in doubtful cases, by saying that I had met with such unbounded kindness among the poor in Ireland, that I could not doubt the national reputation for hospitality was well merited; and when I was invited to partake of it, I would not insult the Irish character by any suspicion of sincerity on their part. I was advised to avail myself of Bianconi’s offer to all foreigners, to travel upon his cars free. This Italian, who some twenty years before came into Ireland and went about with a box selling trinkets, had by dint of industry and good management become rich. When he commenced his cars, he travelled for weeks without a passenger; but perseverance conquered, and he now owns thirteen hundred horses, and cars in proportion, and is at the head of Ireland in this department. He was at this time mayor of the town of Clonmel. I felt a delicacy   [p. 133]   in making my appeal, but yielded to the urgent entreaty of the friend who gave so many assurances of success from this best of men. My sensitiveness on the subject of great and good men had become so acute, that if left to myself I should have preferred staying upon the lower step. The request was made through the clerk of the mayor, my letter of introduction to a friend of Bianconi’s being unsealed; the result was a failure, Bianconi refused; and the clerk told me frankly, that if I had come to see the poor of Ireland, I had come on a very foolish errand. He had left me waiting till the car had left, and I had not money to take me to Urlingford unless I went that night.

Unhesitatingly I turned to the gentleman who urged me to this step, and threw myself upon his protection until the next car should start. My stay was continued three days, till I had seen outwardly the most interesting part of Clonmel. Passing one evening through the churchyard, I saw the door of the church open, and was attracted by the voice of a child above; following the sound, it led me to a large upper chamber, where sat a man reading to a tidy looking woman, amusing herself with a child. This man was sexton of the church, and though a Protestant, did not seem so well suited with all the arrangements of that body as most of them were. The weekly meetings were kept up, he said, but often only three attended.

“And how do your Catholic brethren and you agree?” “Very well,” said the woman; “we find them quite obligin’, and I must acknowledge they are a more humble people than the Protestants.”

This acknowledgment, though a merited one so far as I had seen, I did not expect from that source. I had seen rich Catholics and rich Protestants, and seen them both similarly circumstanced, but acting quite differently when any manifestations of either pride or benevolence were concerned.

The characteristics of an Irishman are so marked, that whether you find him living on a bog or in a domain, in a cabin or in a castle, you know he is an   [p. 134]   Irishman still. His likes and dislikes, his love and hatred, seem regulated by a national standard. One of their deeply infixed characteristics is, hatred to stepmothers. The poor victim might as well enter her name on the black roll, and make a league to become a witch at once, as to undertake this crusade; for indulgent or severe, idle or industrious, amiable or unamiable, she is a stepmother still.

In this family, one of these victims presided, or rather tarried; and the very atmosphere of the house seemed to whisper stepmother, wherever a child appeared. A daughter of seventeen offered to accompany me in the evening to the well of St. Patrick, two miles from town, but this hopeful girl was not out of bed till eleven in the morning, and when the time arrived she could not accompany me, “she had no leisure but on the Sabbath.” The stepmother looked significantly, and I inquired if her daughter had any business which was pressing?

“She lies in bed, as you see, taking her breakfast after the family alone, and sits till dinner time; she has nothing to do, but I mustn’t——I’m a stepmother,” giving another significant look.

I went alone to the St. Patrick’s well, and was directed as many different ways as I found Paddys to point me. At length two fine boys left their sport, and conducted me back over a wall, and showed me the winding path through shady trees, down a declivity to the dark solitude where the sacred well was sparkling. Soft and pure was this water, like most that I found throughout Ireland.

Two aqueducts conduct it underground a little distance; it then forms a rill. A stone cross stands near for the benefit of pilgrims, and a decayed church whose mutilated altar, with its rude inscription, carried you back for centuries, to the time when the Irish Roman Catholic Church was in her glory.

Everything about this frequented spot is calculated to fill the mind with a chastened if not religious awe. The dark wood behind the old stone church, the rippling   [p. 135]   of the little brook, the ancient stone cross, the seclusion of the spot chosen for a place of worship, the lateness of the hour, my distance from the land of my fathers, and the thought that this is the green spot in the ocean, where have figured and still live a people unlike all others, filled my mind with painful, pleasant, and romantic ideas. But I must now leave this sacred dell, and though neither snake or lizard could coil about my feet, yet it was sunset; and ascending the serpentine path, I reluctantly left the enchanting spot.

The first object I beheld at the foot of a hill when I had gained the road, was an old woman with a sack of potatoes on her back, suspended by a rope across her forehead. The whiteness of her hair, the deep wrinkles of her face, the sadness of her countenance, and the feebleness with which she tottered when the burden inclined to slide from her back, so affected me, that never had the miseries of Ireland stood before me in so broad an outline as now.

“You are old, madam, to be carrying such a heavy burden up a hill like this,”

“Ould and wairy, ma’am, be sure; and it’s many a long day the good God has been puttin’ this on me. I must keep a little cabin over my head to shelter a sick gal, who has this six years been on my hands, and God Almighty don’t bring her yet.”

“And have you any more children?”

“I have three abroad, I don’t know where. They forget their ould mother, and never write to me. I raired six of them after the father died. Two are married in Ireland, but they keep away; I s’pose they are afeared the sick one would want something if they should come. I kept ’em all to school, till, like the birds, as soon as they could fly, they left the nest.”

“And do you have any bread?”

“Not a hap’orth, ma’am, but potatoes; sometimes the girl, when she bleeds at the lungs, says she can’t swallow ’em; and when I get a hap’orth, it’s a sup of milk, a candle, and a bit of turf, and not a farthin’ can I spare for her. Sometimes she says, ‘If I could smell   [p. 136]   a little tay, how it would revive me,’ but I can’t, no, I can’t git her a drop. I never have begged, ma’am, in all the long days of distress I have ever had.” “Well, madam, your days on earth are well nigh finished, and you are nearly home.” “Yes, I am near my home, but it’s the heart, ma’am, it’s the heart, after all; the prayers don’t do without the heart. But the mighty God have mercy on a poor cratur like me, it’s all I can say.” She stopped to adjust her pack, and I saw her no more. The reality of this picture of patient suffering needed no aid of the imagination to make it as perfect a one as I had seen. But in every place I go, woman is made a beast of burden; and where this is allowed, and men are not paid for their toil, no legislation can elevate a people.

I turned aside into a little chapel, and heard a Baptist minister preach a sermon to five auditors, on the righteous dealings of God. I breakfasted with him in the morning; a loaf of brown bread, butter, tea, and an egg, formed his repast. This simple breakfast, which may everywhere be found on the tables of the gentry, is quite a rebuke on American extravagance. And hard as is the fate of the laboring man, I think he is greatly indebted to the potato for his flow of spirits and health of body.

This clergyman had a church of only twelve, but in a town of Quakers, Roman Catholics, and Protestants of the Established Church, who had occupied the field long before him. Nothing, he said, but love of his people kept him from going to America; adding, “My country cannot long endure the miseries she now suffers; some change must soon take place.”

The next day I was to leave for Urlingford, and the lady of the house where I stopped said, “You must see an old woman we have in our cellar; she’s the wonder of us all. She sleeps on a handful of straw upon some narrow boards, a few inches from the floor, without pillow, or any covering, but a thin piece of a blanket, and the clothes she wears through the day. She goes to mass at five in the morning, with a saucepan,   [p. 137]   and fills it with holy water, which she offers to every friend she meets, telling them it will ensure good luck through the day, and then sprinkles it about her room.” At this moment, Molly, unobserved, stole softly upon us. When I met her laughing eye, and still more laughing face, I could not refrain from laughing too. Her cheeks were red, as though the bloom of sixteen rested upon them; her hair was white, yet her countenance was full of vivacity. She looked the “American lady” full in the face, and pressing my hand, said, “Welcome, welcome; good luck, good luck to ye, mavourneen. Come into my place, and see how comfortable I am fixed.” We followed to Happy Molly’s cellar; five or six stone steps led us into a dark enclosure, with a stone floor, which contained all that Happy Molly said she needed.

“Where do you sleep, Molly?” Taking me by the arm, she pointed to the corner, behind the fire-place, “Here ! here! and look, here is my blanket” (which was but a thin piece of flannel) “and here, you see, is an old petticoat, which the woman where I stopped pulled out of my box, and tore it in pieces, ma’am, because I couldn’t pay two pennies for my rent; and then, ye see, ma’am, I came here, and praise God they be so kind; oh, I couldn’t tell ye how kind.”

“Where’s your pillow, Molly?” “Oh! I want no pillow, ma’am, and I sleep so warm.”

“And where are your children, Molly?” “Some of them gone to God, and some of them gone abroad, I don’t know where; I never sees them. They forgets their ould mother. I nursed six, and one for a lady in Dublin. I never gave them any milk from the cow.

“Had you a cow, Molly?” “A cow, and four too, and a good husband.”

“And you are happy now, Molly?” “And why shouldn’t I be? I have good friends, and enough to cat, a comfortable room, and good bed.”

“Where do you get your food?” “Oh, up and down, ma’am.”

She did not beg, but all who knew her, when   [p. 138]   they saw her, would ask, “Well, Molly, have you had anything to-day?” If not, a bit was given her. She is very cleanly, and always healthy. When I was leaving, I stepped down to say good-bye. She was sewing on a bench at the foot of the stone steps, and when she found I was going, she seized my hand, and kissed it, saying, “Good luck, good luck, American lady, the good God will let us meet in heaven.”

God surely “tempers the wind to the shorn lamb” in Ireland. Such unheard-of sufferings as poor Erin has endured have drawn out all kinds of character, except the very worst.

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