I.—THE ORDEAL BY WATER
"We will now bathe," said a voice at the back of my neck.
I gave a grunt and went on with my dream. It was a jolly dream, and nobody got up early in it.
"We will now bathe," repeated Archie.
"Go away," I said distinctly.
Archie sat down on my knees and put his damp towel on my face.
"When my wife and I took this commodious residence for six weeks," he said, "and engaged the sea at great expense to come up to its doors twice a day, it was on the distinct understanding that our guests should plunge into it punctually at seven o'clock every morning."
"Don't be silly, it's about three now. And I wish you'd get off my knees."
"It's a quarter-past seven."
"Then there you are, we've missed it. Well, we must see what we can do for you to-morrow. Good-night."
Archie pulled all the clothes off me and walked with them to the window.
"Jove, what a day!" he said. "And can't you smell the sea?"
"I can. Let that suffice. I say, what's happened to my blanket? I must have swallowed it in my sleep."
"Where's his sponge?" I heard him murmuring to himself as he came away from the window.
"No, no, I'm up," I shouted, and I sprang out of bed and put on a shirt and a pair of trousers with great speed. "Where do I take these off again?" I asked. "I seem to be giving myself a lot of trouble."
"There is a tent."
"Won't the ladies want it? Because, if so, I can easily have my bathe later on."
"The ladies think it's rather too rough to-day."
"Perhaps they're right," I said hopefully. "A woman's instinct—No,I'm NOT a coward."
It wasn't so bad outside—sun and wind and a blue-and-white sky and plenty of movement on the sea.
"Just the day for a swim," said Archie cheerily, as he led the way down to the beach.
"I've nothing against the day; it's the hour I object to. The Lancet says you mustn't bathe within an hour of a heavy meal. Well, I'm going to have a very heavy meal within about twenty minutes. That isn't right, you know."
By the time I was ready the wind had got much colder. I looked out of the tent and shivered.
"Isn't it jolly and fresh?" said Archie, determined to be helpful."There are points about the early morning, after all."
"There are plenty of points about this morning. Where do they get all the sharp stones from? Look at that one there—he's simply waiting for me."
"You ought to have bought some bathing shoes. I got this pair in the village."
"Why didn't you tell me so last night?"
"It was too late last night."
"Well, it's much too early this morning. If you were a gentleman you'd lend me one of yours, and we'd hop down together."
Archie being no gentleman, he walked and I hobbled to the edge, and there we sat down while he took off his shoes.
"I should like to take this last opportunity," I said, "of telling you that up till now I haven't enjoyed this early morning bathe one little bit. I suppose there will be a notable moment when the ecstasy actually begins, but at present I can't see it coming at all. The only thing I look forward to with any pleasure is the telling Dahlia and Myra at breakfast what I think of their cowardice....