BearbnbOn March 16, 2022 by Elyse
Whether it’s a thief running through the hallway in his underwear or a night spent inside a whale, everyone has a hotel horror story. For me, it was the giant, unidentified insect I found crawling around the bathtub in a rural South Dakota motel. I may or may not have screamed. However, with some hindsight, I should count my blessings—at least my uninvited bunkmate didn’t snore.
Once upon a time in Livonia—then in the Russian Empire and today a part of Latvia and Estonia—there lived an unusual bear.
The animal had an odd fancy for sleeping indoors and in a bed.
Frankly, I don’t see anything odd about that. Camping is overrated—just ask President Roosevelt.
His human neighbors hospitably set up a room in a tower for their furry friend:
If he arrived at his tower and mounted the long flight of steps which led from outside to his own door and found that anything prevented his entrance, the bear made a horrible noise, growling and battering the woodwork.
On second thought, maybe their hospitality wasn’t so much generosity as a fear of noise complaints. The bear wasn’t the only one imposing on them.
In Livonia, during the brief northern summer, the local magnates visit each other without prior arrangement, and they arrive prepared to stop the night.
That seems rather inconsiderate, but there’s always room at the table for an extra place setting, right?
It not infrequently occurs that many carriages converge at the same time on one country house, with the result that as many as 40 beds may be required.
We already know how welcoming this particular family was, so it’s no wonder that when these uninvited guests stopped by, they pulled out the bear—air—mattresses.
Unfortunately for one straggling young cousin, then as now, the early bird gets the worm. His host was the bearer of bad news. (Don’t worry, that’s my last allotted bear pun.)
“What a pleasure, Ivan! You’ll find half the relations here. But, alas, you’ll not have a good room. Every other corner is full. There’s only the tower left. As you know, the bear comes there. But never mind! He does not put in an appearance every night.”
Ivan did not take the hint that should’ve been obvious to anyone who knew their hosts had forty other guests staying the night. At least he had the good sense to ask, “Can I lock the door to keep the bear out?”
[The bear] “would not let a soul in the place have a wink of sleep.”
Besides, “he wasn’t coming very likely.”
And, further, “there wasn’t any means of altogether fastening the door.”
“It was left on the latch on purpose.”
The last words of a rather sleepy cousin to the newcomer were, “Better take the bed in the far corner, Ivan!”
You know you’re the least favorite cousin when your family values their shut eye more than your safety.
The terror of bruin kept him awake at first and then bruin himself, for in the small hours a shambling step and a sound of claws on the steps and balustrade froze the blood in the unhappy youth’s veins. The noise came nearer. There was a fumbling at the latch.
Pop quiz: What did the door open to reveal?
A. Ivan’s cousins, making scary faces.
B. The love of Ivan’s life, who had run off with another magnate.
C. The bear, wielding a chainsaw.
D. None of the above.
The truth is more snooze worthy:
With great growling and grumbling, bruin entered and put himself to bed in the couch near the door. There the beast grumbled, grunted and seemed to snore.
You might think this was good news for our young friend, but no. The beary many what-ifs kept him just as still as if he had been hibernating. (Now, I’m done with the bear puns. I pinky swear.)
The wretch dared scarcely breathe. Dawn was breaking, but that was only another danger. The bear might see him. . . soon he rolled about and growled and groaned discontentedly. The heart of the watcher beat painfully loud. He dared not rise. He had not nerve enough to pass the sleeping animal and rush down the steps. Terror paralyzed the youth, and prudence whispered that inactivity can be sometimes masterly.
It’s nice to know that someone in history was as big a worrywart as I am.
The slow hours dragged on. All the company had assembled down stairs at breakfast, but bruin still slept, and the timid cousin watched him with eyes that burned and throbbed.
I take it back. Not even a snoring bear could keep me from a breakfast buffet, especially one with chocolate croissants.
At last the host said: “Where’s Ivan? Where’s the bear too?”
Once again, you know you’re the least favorite cousin when your family doesn’t realize you’re missing until mid-way through the meal.
And a messenger was dispatched to the tower, there to find a pallid guest and his uninvited companion. The messenger routed out the bear, who had been kept as a pet when a cub and who was really only half a wild beast, and helped the nerve shattered youth to dress and join the breakfast party.– The London News, quoted in the Norfolk Weekly News, May 3, 1900
Here’s hoping Ivan was served some strong coffee to give him the energy to write a scathing BearBnB review:
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Welcome to Second Glance History! This blog seeks to uncover the people and the stories forgotten by history and give them another read through a modern lens. Join me every week as we examine the differences that divide and the common threads that connect the then to the now.