This section is from the "The New Student's Reference Work Volume 5: How And Why Stories" by Elinor Atkinson.
If the German people brought the Christmas tree to America the Irish brought us something for every day in the year. It was like the milk in the mi-rac-u-lous pitcher. No matter how much was given away the pitcher was always full.
You wouldn't think people so poor would have anything at all to give away. Why, they were so poor the children were hungry. There were Kathleen and Nora and Pat, Larry and Tommie and baby Mary. They lived in a little gray plastered cottage in Ireland. The floor under their bare feet was black earth, the straw roof leaked in wet weather. The farm was just one acre for growing potatoes. A lot of potatoes can be grown on an acre of ground if the weather is just right. But some years there was too much rain and the potatoes rotted. Some years there wasn't enough and the potatoes grew no larger than marbles. One dreadful year many people in Ireland starved. In thousands of cottages there wasn't enough to eat in September. It was plain the potatoes would not last all winter.
The black pot was not half filled, but it bubbled bravely above the peat fire in the open grate. The potatoes made a small heap on the bare table. Father and mother just pretended to eat so the children could have enough. The mother said she didn't care for new potatoes until they got old. That was an Irish joke. It made everybody laugh. Then the father said he would have to step across the sea to England and do some real work to get an appetite. There were two jokes, for the Irish sea was eighty miles wide, and he worked at home all the time. Kathleen gathered up the peelings and two of her own potatoes to feed the pig. Poor pig, he couldn't see the joke. When he was hungry he squealed.
Why didn't they eat the pig? They couldn't. He was "the good little fellow who paid the rent." When father sold him the money was sent to the great nobleman who owned the potato patch and the wretched little cottage. He lived in London. All the land for miles around belonged to him. Hundreds of such poor families sold their pigs to pay rent to him. He was very rich. Ship loads of corn were sent from America to feed people, and England sent food and money too. Still, of Ireland's eight million people, three million were hungry. It was hard to get enough food to them and some really did starve.
The Irish people have light hearts and merry tongues and loving words, and these helped them bear the hunger in the great famine. In thousands of Irish cottages it was pet names every other minute. When things were at their very worst fairy god-mothers flew over the sea by thousands. They were letters. In every letter was money. The money was sent by uncles and aunts and cousins, and big brothers and sisters, who had gone to America long before. All these letters said: "Use this money to come to America where there is plenty to eat." Why, that money was like the magic wand that turned Cin-der-ella into a princess. It bought new clothes and shoes; put roses into pale cheeks. It paid for a grand journey on the sea, and set them all down, right side up, in a new home in America.
The only tool the farmer needed was his potato spade. We were digging canals and building railroads then, in America, and any man who could use a spade could earn money. The Irishman was such a good worker, and so quick to learn new ways, that he was soon "boss" of the other men. The children were sent to school. Tommie became a lawyer, Pat the Mayor of the city and Larry a soldier. The Irish people always got up in the world when they came to America. In Ireland they had no chance.
Kathleen was a school teacher and all the children loved her. It was like Mary's little lamb. Kathleen loved the children, and she told them so. Do you know the good Puritans thought it wrong-to love people too much—as if you could! And pioneer life was so hard it often made people hard, too. Wasn't that too bad? So, by and by, we forgot how to tell people that we loved them. Then the [Irish people came over and showed us how. They scattered jokes and loving words around as free as sunshine.
Kathleen was a darling of a teacher. She had violet-blue eyes with smiles in them. She had red-brown curling hair, a merry laugh and golden freckles on her nose. When she wanted a child to do anything she'd say " Jimmie-dear " just as if it was all one word, or "Pet Marjorie" or "Honey Bee." The children just flew to do things for Miss Kathleen. Other people began to find out that they had loving words, packed away in their hearts and getting rusty. They took them out and polished them and used them every day. No matter how many they used they had just as many left. You see it was like the milk in the mi-rac-u-lous pitcher.
Wasn't that a nice thing to bring to America? See Ireland, page 936.
A Hospitable Home In Ireland. "Fine day, sir, and welcome."
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood