I peered over the head-board, and discovered the larger half of an enormous storage-barrel used for packing fish, with fresh saw-marks indenting its upper rim. Then I shouted for Baeader.
Before anybody answered, there came another onslaught, and in burst the same girls, carrying a great iron beach-kettle filled with water. This, with renewed fits of laughter, they dashed into the tub, and in a flash were off again, their wooden sabots clattering down the steps.
There was no mistaking the indications; Baeader’s bath had arrived.
I climbed up, and, dropping in with both feet, avoiding the splinters and the nails, sat on the sawed edge, ready for total immersion. Before I could adjust myself to its conditions there came another rush along the companionway, accompanied by the same clatter of sabots and splashing of water. There was no time to reach the bed, and it was equally evident that I could not vault out and throw myself against the door. So I simply ducked down, held on, and shouted, in French, Normandy patois, English:—
“Don’t come in! Don’t open the door! Leave the water outside!” and the like. I might as well have ruined my throat on a Cancale lugger driving before a gale. In burst the door, and in swept the Amazons, letting go another kettleful, this time over my upper half, my lower half being squeezed down into the tub.
When the girls had emptied the contents of this last kettle over the edge, and caught sight of my face,—they evidently thought I was still behind the head-board,—both gave one prolonged shriek that literally roused the house. The brawnier of the two,—a magnificent creature, with her corsets outside of her dress,—after holding her sides with laughter until I thought she would suffocate, sank upon the sea-chest, from which her companion rescued her just as Mme. Flamand and Baeader opened the door. All this time my chin was resting on the jagged rim of the tub, and my teeth were chattering.
“Baeader, where in thunder have you been? Drag that chest against that door quick, and come in. Is this what you call a bath?”
“Monsieur, if you will pardon. I arouse myself at ze daylight; I rely upon Mme. Flamand that ze Englishman who is dead had left one behind; I search everywhere. Zen I make inquiry of ze mother of ze two demoiselles who have just gone. She was much insulted; she make ze bad face. She say with much indignation: ’Monsieur, since I was a baby ze water has not touched my body.’ At ze supreme moment, when all hope was gone, I discover near ze house of ze same madame this grand arrangement. Immediately I am on fire, and say to myself, ’Baeader, all is not lost. Even if zare was still ze bath of ze Englishman, it would not compare.’ In ze quickness of an eye I bring a saw, and ze demoiselles are on zare knees making ze arrangement, one part big, one small. I say to myself, ’Baeader, monsieur is an artist, and of enthusiasm, and will appreciate zis utensile agreable of ze fisherman.’ If monsieur will consider, it is, of course, not ze grand bain of Paris, but it is simple, and quite of ze people.”