"Fine Stage-house"

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIX (3) | Start of Chapter

Here I pause, for we were in view of this "decent lodgin'," and a little time is requisite to gird ourselves for the coming conflict.

Supposing I was approaching the "tidy stage-house," my steps were accelerated, and looking on my left I saw a thatched house of considerable dimensions, and a pile of well packed manure at the door. Here stood two goats and a ram, each with a stout pair of horns, and the ram was using his with much dexterity against a spirited girl, who was pulling and beating the "bold blackguard," to get him aside, that the "lady might come in." I stood at a respectful distance till the battle was decided in favor of the girl and myself, and looking in, saw a cow fastened at the entrance, standing upon straw and filth, and her young calf to the right, near the fire. The smoke was making its way as well as it could through the door, eight beings in the shape of men were lolling upon a settee and benches, with one stretched at full length upon a table, his head hanging off at one end, and the mother, three daughters, the two teamsters, and myself, with geese, and hens at roost, made up the group in the room and about the fireside of this "stage house." The whole together was so complete an overthrow of all my expectations of an Englishman's lodgings, that what with my miserable feet, empty stomach, and prospects for the night, I was quite indignant, and pettishly demanded of the consequential landlord why he lived with his cattle in the house, when I saw he had a barn near.

"The cow has a new calf, ma'am, and she's warmer in the house."

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.