Bundles of Straw

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXIII (16) | Start of Chapter

Night came, but what was to be my lodging? The bed in the room was nothing but a pile of straw, with a dirty blanket and heavy woollen quilt over it; but the horse, to my great delight, was removed by the coachman, leaving two good bundles of clean straw untouched. The father went out; a little son fell asleep, and I persuaded him to go to bed, the girl saying, "He musn't lie there; father told us that we are to sit by the fire, and ye are to lie in the bed." I refused, telling her I should not do it; but when the father came in, he told the son in anger, "he'd break every bone in his body if he didn't go out of that." I at last prevailed on the father to allow him to remain, and told him I had an excellent bed in my eye. "An' sure it isn't the bundle of straw; not a ha'porth of yer wet and wairy bones shall lie there to-night." I insisted that I greatly preferred it as a luxury, and finally took one bundle, removed the band, made a little opening, and placing it before the fire, put a second one at the bottom of the door, as the breach was large and the wind piercing; and then with some loose handfuls stopped the crevices above and around, till all was quite snug. Then wrapping my coat closely about me, I lay down in as comfortable a nest, and slept as sweetly as I ever had in America or Ireland.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.