Remembering the mute Irish wife

When Dean and I were in Ireland in 1985 for our honeymoon we were slightly alarmed when approached at the ferry depot or train stations by aggressive people who were offering places to stay, but since we had no lodging set up, we often went with them. While they all turned out okay, the accommodations were sup-par but often memorable.

One such “B&B” was in Rosslare where we needed a place to stay one night before taking the ferry to France. The accommodation was on a farm, if I recall correctly, and the family we stayed with had many children. The husband was brutish — Dean suspected he beat his wife because, I think, she had a black eye.

The wife was mute — I think she could hear, but she could not speak. I remember asking her about a particular herb in her garden and she was frustrated that she could not tell me. She had no paper on which to write the name, but we had some playing cards and so she wrote verbeena on a joker card.  I suspect it was lemon verbena and I must have asked her because of the smell. Although comparing the dried plant to photos of verbena online make me doubt my suspicions. I am going to now say it was probably lemon balm and not lemon verbena.

I found the card and a clipping of the plant in a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn when we were in the process of a book purge. I am glad I checked because otherwise I may have forgotten her. I hope Dean was wrong about her husband beating her.

Tropic of Capricorn, dried verbena and a playing card

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