Skip to main content

Spare Beds

From Ailenroc鈥檚 Book, by Cornelia Alexander

That is a curious subject, you will all think, and I think so myself; but I鈥檝e got a little tale to unfold about spare beds in general, and one spare bed in particular, and I had just as well get at it.

Last fall Jasper (that鈥檚 my husband) and I went over to Luke Singleton鈥檚 to spend the day, and, as a bit rain came on in the evening, we had to stay all night.

I was anxious to get back home; but Jasper said not to trouble, for his mother was with the children and everything would go right; so I tried to enjoy myself, and succeeded very well.

Sarah Singleton in one of the best housekeepers that I know. She does more work than half the other women put together, and she laid herself out for a good supper, and got it.

When bedtime came around, she lit a candle and led me out of her room into her spare room, which is in the front part of the house, and comes nearer being a parlor than any other in the neighborhood; for it has a nice carpet on the floor, two rocking-chairs, a big bureau, and a beautiful bed. The white counter-pane was tucked in so nicely, and the big pillows had such pretty shams on them, that I said: 鈥淪arah, I don鈥檛 want to muss up that pretty bed. Put us in one of the back rooms.鈥

鈥淚 shall not,鈥 she said, laughing as hard as she could. 鈥淭his is my company room, and I intend for my company to use it; we don鈥檛.鈥

Then she turned down the covers and gave the bed little pats here and there.

鈥淲ill you have the bolster and pillows, too?鈥 says she.

鈥淢ercy, no!鈥 I said. 鈥淭he bolster is enough. I would break my neck to lie on them big pillows, I expect. I believe there are fifty pounds of feathers in that bed and pillows.鈥

鈥淚 know it,鈥 said Sarah. 鈥淭here are forty pounds of feathers in that bed alone. It鈥檚 that heavy I can鈥檛 manage it. Luke has to carry it out when it is sunned. Dear me!鈥 said she, sitting down in a chair, while I unlaced my shoes, 鈥淭he time I did have picking those feathers! Sometimes the geese would pick me black and blue, and the ducks were a sight of trouble.鈥

鈥淵our carpet holds out well,鈥 I said. 鈥淚t looks as well as it did when new.鈥

鈥淭hat鈥檚 because I take care of it,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 promised Luke that I’d take care of it if he鈥檇 buy it, and I have. If I were to leave the doors and windows open, it would fade; and instead of sweeping, I go over it occasionally with a damp cloth.鈥

鈥淭hat鈥檚 a fine bureau,鈥 I said鈥攆or I don鈥檛 begrudge to brag on my neighbors鈥 things, not a bit鈥斺漚nd the drawers are so handy to keep things in.鈥

鈥淵es,鈥 said Sarah, 鈥渂ut we don’t keep our wearing clothes in here. I hate so much passing in and out over the carpet. We keep our bed linen and nicest quilts here; and that makes me think,鈥 says she, jumping up, 鈥測ou’ll need a quilt on your bed. I鈥檒l get out Mary Ann鈥檚 newest one. We quilted it last winter, and it never has been slept under. It is the 鈥榳orld’s wonder,鈥 and it鈥檚 got nearly fifteen hundred pieces in it.鈥

It was the prettiest thing I ever laid eyes on, when Sarah spread it over the bed, and I felt so ashamed of my Mattie that I didn鈥檛 know which way to look; for Mattie and Mary Ann were of one age鈥攆ourteen鈥攁nd Mattie didn鈥檛 have a quilt to her name, while Mary Ann had pieced six or eight nice ones.

When Sarah had bidden me good night and gone out, I took the candle and looked all around that pretty room. The pillow shams took my time. There were flowers, birds, and butterflies worked all over them鈥攁nd by Mary Ann, at that. I wondered if that was the reason the girl was so stoop-shouldered and so unhealthy looking, and then I thought of my tomboyish Mattie, who couldn鈥檛 sit still one minute, scarcely, and wished she was more like Mary Ann in her ways. The fireplace was hid by a paper screen, and there were pictures on it and pictures on the wall; but, although everything was so pretty, it all smelled damp and moldy.

Jasper came in and we went to bed, but I didn鈥檛 rest as I thought I should. I turned over and over, till finally Jasper said: 鈥淲hat on earth ails you tonight, Minty?鈥

鈥淭his bed needs sunning and airing,鈥 I said.

鈥淗ow do you know?鈥 he inquired.

鈥淚 know by the smell. Can鈥檛 you smell the feathers?鈥

鈥淚t鈥檚 the damp weather,鈥 he answered. 鈥淓verything smells musty in rainy weather.鈥

鈥淏ut it鈥檚 full of lumps,鈥 I said, sitting up and trying to work them with my fists. 鈥淪arah said she couldn鈥檛 manage this bed, and I believe her, for it has not been sunned lately. Fresh feathers ought not to knot up so.鈥

鈥淗er beds should be like ours鈥攑retty flat,鈥 says Jasper; and that was the last of him, for he went off to sleep.

But I stayed awake a long time, and sniffed the damp smell of the fireplace, the strange odor of the feathers, and the mustiness of Mary Ann鈥檚 quilt; but finally I dozed off.

Jasper waked me the next morning, sneezing. 鈥淜erchew, kerchew!鈥 he said. 鈥淗um, hum, hum! The rain is over, Minty, but I鈥檝e got a bad cold. Kerchew, kerchew!鈥

鈥淚 feel right stiff,鈥 I said, 鈥渂ut I guess it will wear off when I get up.鈥

鈥淚 hope it鈥檚 not your old complaint coming on,鈥 he said.

My 鈥渙ld complaint鈥 was sciatica. Well, it did come on. As I stepped into the buggy on starting home, it struck me in my hip like a knife. 鈥淥!鈥 I said. 鈥淭hat old pain again!鈥

Of course I was laid up for a week or more, suffering great pain, and all the time Jasper went sniffling and coughing around, drinking mullein tea.

鈥淚t is strange,鈥 he said to me one day, 鈥渢hat our trip to the Singleton鈥檚 laid us both up.鈥

鈥淚t鈥檚 their fine spare room and their grand company bed that did the work, and I鈥檒l hint Sarah with it, if I live,鈥 said I.

But I didn鈥檛 see Sarah in some time. A month passed by, and one day she came to see me. I knew something was wrong with her, for she seemed out of sorts all day; and in the evening, when I remarked that I hoped to be well enough to go out on our next meeting day, she surprised me.

鈥淚 never want to hear Brother Simpson preach again,鈥 she said. 鈥淗e has hurt my feelings so bad I can鈥檛 get over it.鈥

鈥淲hat in the world?鈥 I said, in amazement. 鈥淚 thought Brother Simpson was all in all with you and Luke.鈥

鈥淪o he was,鈥 she said, just ready to cry, 鈥渁nd Luke has paid him more than any other one member; but he has hurt my feelings, in my own house.鈥

鈥淲hat has he done?鈥 I urged; and she told me.

鈥淗e went home with us on his last appointment, and when bedtime came, and I fixed my best bed for him, he refused to occupy it.鈥

鈥淲as that all?鈥 I inquired.

鈥淣o; he gave his reasons, and that鈥檚 why it hurt me. He said he had lain in it once and had a spell of sickness in consequence. He said he believed sleeping in unused beds caused the 鈥榩reacher鈥檚 sore throat;鈥 that in his travels he had been put in the spare rooms, till the colds, coughs, and ticklings in his throat interfered seriously with his preaching; and now he makes it a rule to ask to sleep with the children or in a bed that is regularly used. The idea of putting the preacher with the children! And he went on and told me of foul gases, and goodness knows what else, that come from unused feathers. He even said that there was microscopic fungus鈥攍ittle growing things鈥攗nder my carpet and on the fire screen just because I keep that room shut up ready for company. I never was so insulted in my life, but he was the preacher and I had to bear it. I鈥檝e thought myself a good housekeeper, and the idea of my clean, best room being a trap of diseases鈥攊t鈥檚 just horrible!鈥

Then I thought I鈥檇 speak, if I died for it. 鈥淪arah,鈥 I said, 鈥渄on鈥檛 get mad with me, for we have always been friends, and I believe you are a little the cleanest housekeeper in the neighborhood; but perhaps there is more truth than poetry in what Brother Simpson said.鈥

She looked at me pretty hard, but all she said was: 鈥淢inty, I鈥檓 surprised at you.鈥

鈥淏ut maybe it is unhealthy to sleep on feathers that are not aired often. We don鈥檛 know, for we have never studied the matter.鈥

鈥淏osh!鈥 Sarah said. 鈥淚 know I don鈥檛 sun my bed as often as I ought, but there is no gas in it to kill people.鈥

鈥淚鈥檒l tell you how to find out, Sarah,鈥 I said. 鈥淵ou and Luke sleep in that room and see if it has any effect on you. If it has, make two beds out of that big one. Let your doors and windows stay open, even if the sun does fade the carpet; it makes the are so close when a room is shut up.鈥

鈥淚 will,鈥 she said. 鈥淲e will sleep in that dreadful bed to-night.鈥

The next time I saw Sarah she was in a good humor and laughed over her experiment.

鈥淭he room was dreadfully musty,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 had no idea feathers could smell so old and strange, and I鈥檓 sure I sat up in bed half the night, and had a crick in my neck, besides. Luke was so stifled he couldn鈥檛 get his breath; so he hoisted a window, and had a headache for his pains. I don鈥檛 believe a word about that fungus, but when I took the fire screen out to sun it the next day, there was a thin green coat on the back of it鈥攎old, I suppose. I鈥檝e divided that big bed, and I鈥檓 bound from this on to use that room in the daytime, if we don鈥檛 need it at night. If keeping a room shut up makes it unhealthy鈥攁nd I expect it does鈥攖hat one shall stand open. The boys have put a mat at the door, and I tell them to walk right in to the big glass to comb and brush, if they wear the carpet to a frazzle, but they brush their feet just as carefully. Mary Ann says she is glad the preacher said what he did, and I鈥檝e gotten over it now. I鈥檓 sure when he stays with us again the bed won鈥檛 give him the sore throat.鈥

So you see there ends the story of one spare bed, and I鈥檒l be bound all through the length and breadth of the land there is many a company bed that smells just as moldy, just as musty, just as unhealthy, as Sarah Singleton鈥檚; but it鈥檚 not every person who has the courage, like Brother Simpson, to call attention to the fact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *