Arthur's Bath

by Skippy Flink

 

It was coming close to Winterfest again, and everyone was busy – making candles, mending broken furniture, polishing tables, making sure that the huge candelabras were working properly in the Great Hall – just so much to do.

No one dared poke their nose in the kitchen; William was in a frenzy trying to get everything ready for the big night.  So many tunnel dwellers, so many helpers coming; there seemed to be more than ever this year.  Thank the heavens for Catherine and her assistance with the extra goodies for the feast.  Not that William let on, as she had specifically asked him to keep that little fact quiet. 

Vincent knew, of course, he mostly knew what his Catherine was up to, but he also knew the happiness she gained from her gifts to the tunnel family Below, especially her gifts for the children.  So, who was he to spoil their pleasure.

Mouse was exceptionally busy.  Catherine had asked him if he would be able to organise some music, other than asking the musicians to play all night, and give them a break to enjoy the celebrations for themselves.  She had brought a portable tape recorder along, with some extra speakers, but batteries were dismissed out of hand – “Mouse can fix power real good, better than good!”  Catherine wasn’t too sure about his methods, but was informed quite vociferously that “Mouse knows what he is doing.  All OK good, OK fine. Vincent’s Catherine trust Mouse.”

Catherine’s thoughts were wavering about the whole thing, but there was a particular song she wanted Vincent to hear, and she wanted it to be a complete surprise – hence not asking the Tunnel Musicians to be involved.

Mouse had devised a way of bringing an electrical wire to the Great Hall, and hidden the plug behind one of the many tapestries adorning the walls of the huge chamber.  All this without Father’s knowledge, of course, also without the knowledge of the majority of people, who mostly would have promptly pooh-poohed his ideas as too dangerous and risky.

Catherine had sworn Mouse to secrecy, not a whisper to Jamie; and most certainly not to Vincent;   “Oh boy, Arthur” said Mouse, as he was trying to hide what he was up to from everyone asking him to help out with this job or that. “Vincent’s Catherine trusted Mouse to do good job, Not tell anyone. Not even tell Jamie.  Mouse tell Arthur.  Must keep secret.” He was so proud – and he so wanted to do well for his big friend’s lady.

Arthur, by this stage was thoroughly fed up with all the rushing hither and thither, not only from his usually devoted master, but from the entire population of the tunnels.  It appeared that even the children had little time for him at present.  He stopped by to have lunch with them, but “Sorry, Arthur.  After Winterfest, we promise!”

Arthur resigned himself to staying out of the way as much as possible, he skulked in a corner of Mouse’s Chamber, and it was too risky to step outside, people running backwards and forwards, carrying different bundles and boxes in all directions.  And it was definitely NOWHERE near the kitchen.  He’d ventured a nose inside the doorway and been threatened by a very large, very irate ogre brandishing a meat cleaver and threats of “the Stew pot!!!”  Arthur wasn’t too sure what a “Stew pot” was, but it didn’t sound so good.   He’d chittered angrily in response to William’s threat and hastily headed off up the tunnel, as a saucepan lid narrowly missed his tail.

“What gets into people at this time of year” wondered Arthur. “I thought it was the season of happiness and good will to all. Obviously…” the little creature thought “…it doesn’t apply to racoons.”  He sulked in his master’s chamber, curled up in his bed wishing this was all over and life could get back to normal, and a ‘coon could go for a scavenge without being threatened by one and all.

After a time, Arthur realised that the mad to-ing and fro-ing had settled down, Ah hah! This was it!! Winterfest Night was here, and peace and quiet would descend on the home tunnels, as everyone prepared for their feast that evening.  Mouse had dressed himself up in his best finery, telling Arthur, “Mouse fixed up job for Vincent’s Catherine, real fine.  Better than best.  She’ll see.  Mouse can be trusted!!”  Arthur wrinkled his nose at his master, and snuggled under Mouse’s chin as he picked up the little racoon and cuddled him.

Jamie was looking so pretty, Arthur thought, as she came to check that Mouse was ready.

“Have a surprise for Arthur” said Mouse; “Vincent’s Catherine gave me some bubble bath, makes you feel good, better than good”

Arthur viewed this idea with immediate suspicion.  Mouse’s surprises usually ended up in trouble, but then Arthur was tired, keeping out of everyone’s way was a pain in the butt, literally in a couple of instances, and a nice relaxing bubble bath sounded pretty good.

Mouse and Jamie brought in an ”Arthur”-sized tub, and filled it with warm water and added some beautifully scented bath oil, which bubbled deliciously when stirred.  Arthur sniffed and thought to himself “I might even catch Catherine’s eye tonite; that is if Vincent isn’t looking!”

A shower cap – courtesy of Jamie, to keep the water out of his ears, and two cucumber slices for his eyes, which Arthur thought were to eat, until Jamie explained.  “Aw, what the heck, these women!” thought our little racoon, and laid back to relax.  Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!   This was soooooooooo nice!

Off went Mouse and Jamie to enjoy their Winterfest celebrations, leaving Arthur to enjoy at his leisure, after his constant running backwards and forwards of the previous weeks.  Aaahhhhhh, so nice and comforting.  Arthur was nearly asleep, thoroughly enjoying his nice warm bath, when a startled squawk came from the doorway … “Omigawd!!  A racoon in the bath-tub!!!”

Arthur at once dived like a submarine, then realised he had no periscope for breathing and shot immediately back up splashing water and bubbles onto the carpet below the tub.

“What the . . . . Don’t you even KNOCK?!!” he chittered loudly, as a Helper (obviously lost) turned around and fled the chamber screaming, “Ah do declah!! A racoon in a bathtub . . . . What evah next!!”

Pandemonium reigned as Arthur promptly followed in order to find his beloved master to save him from further embarrassment.  Hurtling after the rapidly disappearing voyeur, they both raced into the Great Hall, amidst roars of laughter, as the Helper related loudly what had happened; with Arthur chittering wildly that “HE had nothing to do with it!! HE was merely having a quiet bath!  AND SHE WALKED IN!!  WITHOUT KNOCKING!!!” what was a racoon to do?

Hands grabbed for Arthur as he charged around the chamber looking for Mouse, who was waiting to switch on Catherine’s music.  Arthur found him holding back the tapestry, unfortunately just as Mouse was about to turn on the machine.   He sprang into his master’s arms and up onto his shoulder, sending a shower of water onto the plug of the tape recorder.  There was a flash, bang, and sparks flew.  “Uh oh!” thought Arthur   “I’ve done it again!  Upset everyone!  Aw! Heck! Old grumblebum with the stick was sure to have something to yell about now.”

Naturally, Father was immediately up in arms, demanding to know what was going on, and WHO had brought that wretched racoon into the Great Hall when Mouse had been warned about him before.  Vincent and Catherine calmed him down, and pointed out that it had nothing to do with Mouse, but in reality one of the Helpers had inadvertently brought him in, Arthur was frightened out of his wits, and only looking for his master.  Father was quietened down eventually, amid gales of laughter still erupting around the tables.

It was just a minor fault, and Mouse soon fixed the problem, using the batteries Catherine had initially provided, and she was able to hear the song she had picked especially for Vincent.

The strains of the beautiful  music and the rich earthy voice of Roberta Flack singing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”1 filled the Great Hall, as Catherine  walked up to Vincent and held out her arms in invitation. Vincent realised that no harm was done, and gathered his lady into his arms for their dance.

Father then asked Mary to dance with him, and gradually the floor was a whirl of dancers, enjoying their Winterfest together.

Arthur sat quietly on Mouse’s shoulder, watching Catherine and Vincent waltzing, and thought to himself: “You’re once, twice, three times a lady! And I love you!”2

********

1”The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” written by Ewan McColl, 1957
Recorded by Roberta Flack, 1969, Album “First Take”

2 “You’re Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady” written by Lionel Ritchie
Recorded by The Commodores 1978, Album “Natural High”

 

 

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