Bad choice of a Lodging-house

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVI (9) | Start of Chapter

The lodging-house at length appeared, and before a filthy door were horses, men, and asses in thick array. John with his wallet squeezed through, and I followed before the passage was closed. "This is the way, ma'am," leading me up to a dark whiskey deposit, entered by a hole a few feet high. In this place stood a dirty woman pouring muddy coffee into bowls, and sending it to a mass of ragged countrymen, who were drinking it without milk. She was occasionally interrupted by a call for hot punch; "Going, going," was the answer, and going they were in very deed. This lodging was the height and depth of all that I had seen in depravity. "Can I have some boiling water?" "When the men are sarved, ma'am." John had seated himself on a bench, quietly smoking, past all hurry, though in the greatest haste for the last three hours. Saying to him, as he was in fear of night, he had better take a loaf of bread, and not wait for the kettle. "Aw, I'll wait for the kettle, plaise God." The kettle came, a bowl of cocoa and a loaf of bread were soon dispatched. "Take care of yourself and your things, ma'am, or ye'll not have a hap'orth belonging to ye." he whispered as he went out.

When John was sitting upon the wall, eating a piece of bread, by the way, I asked, "do you expect to go to heaven?" "No, ma'am, I shall never go to heaven. The poor, ma'am, are great sinners, and must not expect to go there." "The poor will certainly go to heaven, if they repent." He still insisted, "the poor are very wicked, and must not expect to go there. No, no, ma'am, I shall not get there." As he was departing, I said, "John, I shall see you no more, and I beg you to go to Christ, and be saved." He paused, resting on his stick; then giving me a piercing glance of desponding bitterness, he shook his head, and answered emphatically, "that can never be for me." What had so firmly fixed this opinion, I could not nor can I imagine, for it seems to be the prevailing consolatory belief of the peasantry in Ireland, that the poor are in a much better way for heaven than the rich, and they bear their poverty often with great patience, because they shall soon be better situated. Not so with John. His mind had been differently trained, and though he seemed fixed in his belief, he made it a duty to submit to his fate. I felt regret at parting with this ignorant old man, for though not skilled in books, he was a shrewd child of nature, and had been for half a day a more amusing and profitable companion, than a college dandy, "fresh from the mint," could have been.

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.