Such a Bed!

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter X (6) | Start of Chapter

The room was now shown me. The pile of straw, which reached nearly to the upper floor, so filled the passage to the bed, that I made my way with some difficulty, and the first fair and full glance of the bedding, by the light of a candle, so filled my eyes, that I extinguished the light instantly. I knew that a second look would keep me out of it, and rest I much needed.

And here I gave some proof of the truth of the woman's assertion, that I "had not the sinse," for why did I not lie down upon the clean straw? I spread a pocket-handkerchief upon the bolster, and managed as well as I could to forget where I was, and what might be about me.

The morning dawned; I heard a great pushing at a back-door, which led from my room to the yard,

"The door wide open flew,"

In walked a majestic pig, weighing three hundred, and moving towards my bed, elevated his nose, and gave me a hearty salute. I said "Good morning, sir," and he turned to the oaten straw and made himself busy, till the mistress entered, and I asked her if she would do me the favor to lead out my companion. She heeded it not, but walked away. In a few moments she returned, and a little more entreatingly I said, "Madam, will you be so good as to take out this pig?" She was angry at my repeated solicitations, but finally took away the domestic with her into the kitchen, with a mutter, "what harrum?" and violently shut the door. Seven times was the door from the kitchen opened, admitting to my apartment either the master or mistress, before I had an opportunity of making my toilette.

The room had neither window nor crack, but my sense of feeling had become so acute, that I managed very well without seeing, and made my ingress to the kitchen, and asked for my bill. Two-pence for three potatoes and a night's lodging. I paid it cheerfully, which left me seven-pence; and bidding good morning to the mistress, who manifested quite a shyness, I hurried out, for she evidently thought me "wild," and wished me away.

After walking four miles on a tolerable road, I bought a halfpenny roll, and hurried on quite happily with sixpence and halfpenny, which would buy me another roll on the morrow for my breakfast. This was not the most sumptuous fare, but it was so sweetened with the pure breath of heaven that was fanning my lungs, the sun shone so pleasantly, the lark sung so sweetly, and the poor peasants spoke so kindly, that I actually felt that I should never be happier this side the gates of the heavenly city. I could not think of a single thing needed but what was in my possession. I was not hungry, I was not naked, I did not wish a carriage; and I felt that all earth, air, and skies were mine. I had suffered hardships that few in my condition could have endured; but I was receiving the legacy that was left me eighteen hundred years ago, that, through much tribulation, all who will follow Christ must enter the kingdom. I was happy, I knew in whom I trusted, and heartily did I say,"What lack I yet?"

I reached a beautiful little place called Eyrecourt, toasted my piece of bread, and went on at two o'clock to walk five miles to Banagher. The road was quite muddy, and my feet were now blistered. I was obliged to wear coarse shoes, and my feet, never having been accustomed to them, were tender. Darkness overtook me, and the way became quite difficult. I inquired of all I met the distance to the bridge, and the distance to the town; and the way lengthened in proportion as I passed on, till I found myself upon the bridge; and meeting a woman, she led me to a lodging-house, which she assured me was as "clane and dacent as I could find in a day's walk."

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.