gone and there was to be no compensation for the Filbey’s emigration.
She wondered if her next request would be turned away by the old biddy, which is how she was beginning to think of Mistress Filbey, so she turned to speak to her more compassionate husband.
“Could yer give me that feather mattress from yer granddad’s room, Farmer Filbey? I’m only thinkin’ of me mammy....” she hurried on, thinking that perhaps she was asking for too much again.
“It would make her last few days comfortable and I won’t trouble you to help me. I can carry it down meself.”
Filbey seemed surprised, but nodded his head in agreement.
“Aye child, help yourself. If an old mattress will bring a little joy into those eyes of yours, you can have it with pleasure. You know where to find it, though it’s probably damp as it’s not been lain on for years. You’re welcome to it.”
Maggie took him at his word and flew up the stairs to the bedroom at the end of the farmhouse. He was right, the mattress did smell rather musty, but her spirits rose as she thought of the pleasure she would feel, when she saw her mammy lying in comfort. She dragged it off the bed, thinking that if the rain held off during her journey home, she could warm the mattress by the fire before letting her mammy lie on it.
She smiled to herself wryly, as she thought of her own accommodation when she had lived at the farm. She hadn’t been given a feather mattress to sleep on. Her mistress thought that servants shouldn’t be pampered, and had given her the storage room by the scullery, which was just big enough to hold a truckle bed with a straw filled palliasse on it. Sometimes when the mistresswas outdoors, she would creep upstairs and pretend that “granddad’s” room was her own room and would lie full stretched on the mattress to get the feel of it. She hadn’t been frightened like some would be, that old man Filbey had died upon it, but loved that drowsy, cosy feeling that washed over her on a sunny afternoon.
Maggie stumbled down the stairs with the feather mattress jogging behind her, its sides bumping against the thick whitewashed walls. Hearing the noise, Filbey came to ask if he could help her down with it. She would miss this kind man when he’d gone.
The couple stood together in the doorway, watching as Maggie careered across the farmyard half carrying, half dragging her hard won trophy. It was dark now, but at least the rain had cleared and the moon was so large it was taking up most of the sky.
She stopped for a moment to catch her breath and looked back to where Filbey had taken his wife’s hand in his and was patting it gently. Maggie could hear his voice as he soothed her, his words so clear in the still of the yard.
“There wasn’t much we could have done to help her, Bessie, but she’ll survive. Look at her balancing that mattress, she looks like a lad except for that skirt of hers trailing in the mud. She’s young, she’s a fighter, she has youth on her side, Bessie. Not like you or me!”
Maggie paused to catch her breath, leaning against the trunk of the same oak tree that had sheltered her before. A sleepy wood pigeon cooed above her and a rabbit darted past her legs causing her to stifle a scream. Her heart was racing madly anyway, as the burden of the clumsy mattress was beginning to take its toll. She began to wish that she had chosen something lighter to carry, but then chided herself for having selfish thoughts. This mattress was to make life more comfortable for her mammy. It could be her last act of love.
The thought that the earthly tie with her mother could soon be broken, brought a renewal of energy to her trembling body. She could see a light burning over at the cottage and remembered that the Widow Dockerty had offered her the loan of a lantern to guide her back home. Although she knew this track as well as any other in daylight, beyond the cottages lurked marshy bogs and peat land, a danger to
Alta Hensley, Allison West