A Lone Woman In Ireland.
by Max Bennett Thrasher
Doorway Of The Joyce Mansion.
Were I to be asked my first impression of Galway, I would say it was of a city that had retired from business. It seems to have closed its doors, put up its shop windows, and adopted idling as a more congenial manner of passing through life. The dirt and encumberment one sees are those of neglect, not of traffic; and a jingling chain or rotting rope dangling from some lofty warehouse gives strange emphasis to the inactivity and silence which prevail. Where once resounded the bargainings of rich merchants, the wind and rain whistle through the broken panes, or the crouching beggar shields himself from the storm, while the grass in the streets hides the foot-prints worn by centuries of trade. It is the Micawber of cities, patiently waiting for some ray of good fortune to revive its commerce. Although most advantageously situated for commercial purposes, all its ventures seem to have failed. A few years ago an attempt was made to establish a regular line of steamers to New York, distant twenty-seven hundred miles, which, though subsidized by government and maintained for a while with great spirit, was completely unsuccessful, and immense rows of vacant warehouses, with the deserted quays, are a perpetual warning to adventurous enterprise. In the fourteenth century Galway coined money from its own mint, and until the beginning of the seventeenth its trade was enormous; yet while twelve hundred tuns of Spanish wine were brought into its port in the year 1615 alone, a forlorn Italian brig which wanders here with a cargo of flour in 1872 is stared at with surprise.
These knee-breeched idlers, however, whose pockets I think never contain any thing except their hands, and who apparently, like Horatio, have nothing but their good spirits to feed and clothe them, seem well nourished, if I may judge from their ruddy, jovial faces, albeit much can not be said for the sufficiency or condition of their attire. One of the brightest of these humble Galwegians, whose voice was as cheery and sympathetic as the chirp of a bird, and whose face shone with kindliness—which I am sure is a quality native of Ireland—was the first person who accosted me in the damp, half-lighted railway station at Galway. A frightened scream from the locomotive announced our arrival, and a few sleepy travelers (for it was midnight) crowded round the baggage van as I looked around for some appearance of a city, some gleam of gas-light to say welcome, some officious cabbies to invite me to rush with them into the bustle of life and cheerfulness which most cities present in contrast with a long, dreary railway ride at night. There was none of this. Surprise was depicted on the face of the railway porter, as he surveyed me over a heap of luggage, among which I could not descry my own. At last, from a group of knights of the whip eying the passengers as if in despair rather than hope of a fare, a square-shouldered man emerged, and singling me out with his twinkling black eyes, which shone brighter than the lamps overhead, touched the scarcely perceptible rim of his hat with the butt of his whip.
"You are looking for me, ma’am," he said; and I supposed I was, as he seemed the only individual in sight who thought that by any possibility a lone woman could be coming to Galway. Ere I could tell him to get my trunk he anticipated my wishes, as is usual with his countrymen, and pounced upon an article of luggage that was apparently as solitary and unclaimed as myself, but which certainly was not mine.
"It is the black one!" he asserted, with a rising inflection which sounded like an interrogation.
"No; a white one," I replied.
"It’s meself that knows it well," he returned. "I’ll have it on me back before ye have time to think." And after having seized at random various articles which were disputed him by reluctant owners, he hit upon my trunk, and with that positive air about myself and my belongings that was at least a novel feature in a stranger, he declared I was going to the Railway Hotel; and resigning myself to chance in this matter, as hotel choosing in all countries is