Molly Vesey's Lodgings

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXVI (5) | Start of Chapter

It was now nearly sunset, and lodging must be found. The hotel was not quite in readiness, and no private lodgings I was told were in the colony, and I was directed to a hill out of the colony, to a "respectable tidy house kept by Molly Vesey." I walked and waded through deep sand till the hill was ascended, and the huts, of rough stone, flung together without mortar, without gables, and circular at the top, made one of the most forbidding looking spots that I had ever seen. Winding among the huddled kraals, to ascertain whether it was possible that a being who had breathed a civilized air could tarry there for a night, I at last was directed to Molly Vesey's. As I looked in, "And is this in truth the tidy lodging-house, where the good people of the colony directed a stranger to lodge? Is this the domicile where the thrifty manager has gathered two hundred pounds, and put it in safe keeping for posterity?" A cow was in the kitchen; a man not of the "finest and fairest" was smoking in a corner; a two pail-full pot was boiling a supper of lumpers, but Molly was not in. I sat down, and she soon entered, and making my wants known, I was invited "to walk down." Hope revived—something better might be in reserve. My fate was fixed. I turned my eyes upon the frightful bed on which I was to be laid, and said, must I drink this bitter cup? A pile of stools, barrels, and such like etceteras, with a long table, made up the furniture, and in the midst of this I was seated. I was for a few moments in a profound reverie. And is this the outer porch of the superb temple I had come to visit? Surely the architect must have a few mouldings and trimmings yet to put on before the fabric will be quite finished. My meditations were soon broken by Molly's entering with a feather bed, and placing it upon a bench; the long table was drawn into a central part of the room, a chair put at one end, and a half barrel across it serving two purposes—to lengthen the table, and elevate my head. Seeing what was in reserve, I asked, "What are you doing?" "Making you a nice bed, ma'am." "Why not put me upon the bedstead?" "A stranger sleeps there." "A stranger! Who is this stranger?" "A nice man, ma'am." This was the man who was smoking in the corner when I entered. "And you mean, madam, to put a man into this room to-night?" "What harrum, what harrum?" My indignation was aroused, nor did it settle entirely on the head of Molly. In the mouth of two or three witnesses was it established at the colony, that Molly Vesey was not only a respectable woman, but kept a respectable tidy house; and yet that same Molly sold whiskey, and by this got her wealth. Is this then the standard of morality, propriety, and tidiness elevated by the colonists for strangers to gather about? Do you ask the names of these witnesses? I do not know, or gladly would I put them upon this paper. "You may, please, carry your bed away, good woman. I shall not sleep upon it." A whisper was given to the girl, and then, turning to me, "You shall sleep on the bedstead." I was the loser on the score of cleanliness. Had I slept upon the barrel, I might have had a clean cover for my pillow; but I had the room, with all its indescribables, to my own independent self, and in the morning awoke to a brighter view of what appertained to this "tidy lodging-place." A plate of potatoes was offered, which I declined, paid for my accommodations, and was about to depart, when a loquaoious teacher gave me a few new ideas and proofs of the merits of the Romish church; he certainly had tact, he certainly had words, and he certainly knew something of the history of both the Romish and Protestant church. After an hour's listening, my escape was effected, through sand and difficulties, to the neat little colony.

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.