Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A postscript to table-tunnels

I'm reading Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857) and have just encountered a terrific moment. In 1850, the half-Scottish, half-Creole Mary Seacole travels to her brother Edward's hotel in Panama. Upon arriving in Cruces, where she encounters (among other fascinations) women returning with their husbands from successful bids in the California goldrush and consequently "in no hurry to resume the dress or obligations of their sex," Seacole also finds that her brother hasn't been able to save her any proper sleeping space; he's rented out his own "private apartment" to a trio of female travellers who are able to pay richly for "so exclusive a luxury." At first, Seacole is pissed off and exclaims to her brother, "What am I to do? Why did you ever bring me to this place? See what a state I am in--cold, hungry, and wretched. I want to wash, to change my clothes, to eat, to----" When Edward just shrugs, Mary settles in "to watch the strange life [she] has come to." At bedtime, though, she turns to her brother again and asks for somewhere to sleep. Once again, he proves ineffectual, leaving her to take matters into her own hands.

Here's where it gets fun: "stripping the green oilskin cloth from the rough [dining] table--it would not be wanted again until to-morrow's breakfast--[I] pinned up some curtains round the table's legs, and turned in with my little servant beneath it. It was some comfort to know that my brother, his servants, and [her manservant] Mac brought their mattresses, and slept upon it above us. It was a novel bed, and required some slight stretch of the imagination to fancy it a four-poster; but I was too tired to be particular, and slept soundly."

Right on!

source for today's image: MovingHere's Migration Histories.


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