Maurice Raheley's Lodging House

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXI (4) | Start of Chapter

The shadows of the night were now heavy on the outstretched bog before me; a woman and young lad came out of a cabin, and the youth said, "This is a lonely road for a lady to walk, and where can ye be goin'?" "To Maurice Raheley's."—"Maurice Raheley's! and the night is now nearly on ye, and ye've a long two miles under yer fut; we'll be on the way a half mile on." They gave me directions in the kindest manner, and turned away. The night "was on me;" the road long and dreary, was before me, covered with coarse gravel, without the smoke of a cabin or the sight of a sheep, cow, or ass, to tell me that I was not alone in the world. The stillness of death reigned; for in Ireland the night knows not the howl of the beast of prey, and it was not the season for the chirping cricket; and not a sound for more than a weary mile once broke upon my ear. The barking of a dog from a far distant mountain, suddenly told me that I was in the precincts of man's abode. "Welcome, dog," I said; "however coarse and ugly you may be, you have the voice of a dog, and could I reach you, I would pat you on the head, I would give you a piece of bread from my bag;" but, alas! I had but a scanty crust. The Irish peasant dogs, like their masters, are patient and kind; many a one has met me at the door of a cabin, and instead of barking as a surly dog would, by the wagging of his tail and inviting look of the eye, said, "Walk in, walk in, stranger; my master will make ye welcome to our fire and our potato."

If ever a being wanted to see Maurice Raheley, I was that being. At last I descried a human form approaching. "God save ye kindly, lady; and what misfortune has brought ye among these lone mountains to-night? I'm sorry for ye; for, if I can see rightly, ye're no common body. And where's the comrade that should be wid ye?" Telling him who I was, and what was my object, he added, "And ye'll soon be at Maurice Raheley's lodgin', God speed ye." I hurried on with fresh vigor, and at last, on a hill, the slated roof of the long desired dwelling appeared. Meeting a man a few paces from the door, I said, "Is this the lodging-house, sir?" "This is no lodging-house; but he'll keep ye, as ye're alone and a stranger." My heart, which had been beating high with expectation, began to flag a little; but wading through the usual preface to almost every cabin in Ireland (a manure heap), I met at the crossing of the threshold, cows, calves, sheep, and lambs, occupying half of the room, which was made up with a host of children, and I asked, "Are these all your family, madam?"

"Some of them are man-sarvants and maid-sarvants, ma'am," was the reply.

"Do you take lodgers here?"

"We don't, ma'am."

"But why have I been told this by so many on whom I have inquired?"

"I know not, unless to lead you astray, ma'am."

"And what am I to do? There is no house where I can go."

"We'll not send you out to-night, as ye're a stranger."

Soon I heard the sound of a pot behind me; the good housewife was pouring in potatoes. "And they're for you, ma'am," said the old grandfather. A bowl of milk, saucer of butter, and cup of salt, were soon before me, by the side of a bountiful plate of potatoes; and while I was taking, with a high relish, my potatoes and salt alone, a son of the family read aloud a tract which I gave him.

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.