The Church of the Ascension 276
“Happy Hollow,” Mr. Irvine’s Present
Peekskill, New York 294
Happy Hollow in the Winter, Looking from the House 298
FROM THE BOTTOM UP
BOYHOOD IN IRELAND
The world in which I first found myself was a world of hungry people.
My earliest sufferings were the sufferings of hunger—physical hunger. It was not an unusual sight to see the children of our neighbourhood scratching the offal in the dunghills and the gutterways for scraps of meat, vegetables, and refuse. Many times I have done it myself.
My father was a shoemaker; but something had gone wrong with the making of shoes. Improvements in machinery are pushed out into the commercial world, and explanations follow. A new shoemaker had arrived—a machine—and my father had to content himself with the mending of the work that the machine produced. It took him about ten years to find out what had happened to him.
There were twelve children in our family, five of whom died in childhood. Those of us who were left were sent out to work as soon as we were able. I began at the age of nine. My first work was peddling newspapers. I remember my first night in the streets. Food was scarce in the home, and I begged to be allowed to do what other boys were doing. But I was not quite so well prepared. I began in the winter. I was shoeless, hatless, and in rags. My contribution to the family treasury amounted to about fifty cents a week; but it looked very large to me then. It was my first earning.
Our home was a two-room cottage. Over one room was a little loft, my bedroom for fourteen years. The cottage floor was hard, dried mud. There was a wide, open fireplace. Several holes made in the wall by displacing of bricks here and there contained my father’s old pipes. A few ornaments, yellow with the smoke of years, adorned the mantelpiece. At the front window sat my father, and around him his shoemaking tools. Beside the window hung a large cage, made by his own hands, and in which singing thrushes had succeeded one another for twenty years. The walls were whitewashed. There was a little partition that screened the work-bench from the door. It was made of newspapers, and plastered all over it were pictures from the illustrated weeklies. Two or three small dressers contained the crockery ware. A long bench set against the wall, a table, several stools, and two or three creepies constituted the furniture. There was not a chair in the place.
[Illustration: Mr. Irvine’s Birthplace. There are four different houses in the picture. The third door from the left is that of the house in which he was born.]