The Great Grampus Bath-house Tragedy: 1875

The Sad Result of Using Patent Bathing Houses.

New Orleans Picayune.

A harrowing story comes to us from one of our sea side watering places. Old Mr. Grampus was in Paris last spring, and he brought home with him one of Baptiste’s patent bath houses. It was made of vulcanized silk with steel ribs, and it shut and opened by a spring. Open it had the appearance of a beautiful blue and buff striped pavilion, octagonal in shape, and covering a superficial area of some ninety or a hundred square feet. Shut up, it looked like a huge Brobdignagian umbrella, though, being very light, Mr. Grampus could carry it to the beach as easy as he did his camp stool. The Grampuses were very proud of this bath-house. They used to take it down to the most crowded point on the sands and flaunt it in the faces of their rivals. It afforded to Mrs. Grampus and the Miss Grampuses a satisfaction more ecstatic than they had ever known before to emerge from this gorgeous edifice just as those odious Millers came sneaking out of their dingy old wooden huts under the cliff. The crowd gazed at them with envy and admiration, while they either pitied or ignored the Millers. Baptiste’s patent bath-house was an object of respectful amazement to the whole caravansary, and the Grampuses came in for no little social eminence and superiority in consequence.

This sort of thing went on smoothly for a fortnight or so, until the Millers and the Joneses and the Snagsbys were absolutely on the point of leaving Jolimer for sheer mortification. And perhaps they would have gone the very next day, but for the singular adventure which little Blinker had with his donkey. It was about 11 o’clock; the beach had been crowed for an hour or more, and as usual the centre of attraction and of interest was the Grampus bath-house. They had lately embellished this beautiful structure with a pair of golden horns [antlers] and a silk centennial flag, and in the eyes of the unhappy Millers it looked more insolent and gaudy and overwhelming than ever. The Grampus ladies had been inside for a quarter of an hour or so, and the spectators conjectured, rightly as it afterward transpired, that they were almost ready for the surf, when all of a sudden little Blinkers was seen descending one of the winding paths astride a particularly contumacious and evil-minded donkey. His agonized cries and expostulations attracted attention, and in less than a minute every eye, except those of the doomed and unsuspecting Grampuses, was riveted on Blinkers. Here he came, his donkey churning away at the bit, and buck-jumping like a mustang, and be miserable, frantic and helpless with terror. Blinkers stuck, though, and the donkey lunged away down the path like something mad, without shaking off the stricken wretch who rode him.

There were a few Ravelian acrobatics, a wild lurch, and then Blinkers and the donkey went kerslap again the Grampuses’ patent bath-house! One complicated shriek shot through the air, a flutter and a rattling as of machinery, and the next instant Blinkers was dashed upon the sand in a crumpled heap, and a haggard and affrighted donkey with his ears pinned back and his tail between his legs, was seen hustling down the beach like some panic-stricken meteor. And then the great Grampus pavilion with a creak and a snap, suddenly shut itself up into umbrella shape, and waddled hysterically toward the surf on a pair of elephantine legs—identified by a spectator as the legs of the Mrs. Grampus—suggesting the idea, with its towering outline and its antlers and its flag, for some gigantic species of horned giraffe which had just taken the blue ribbon at the fair.

And that was the end of the great Grampus bath-house tragedy. Old mother Grampus pranced about the beach awhile with the patent bath house sitting on her head like a long but emaciated extinguisher, and the two Miss Grampuses who had escaped the collapse rushed frantically into the surf, with a good deal less bathing dress than they would have had if Blinkers and his donkey had given them a little more time. Next day the family departed before the rest of the world had wakened, and the Millers and the Joneses, and the Snagsbys are having their own way. Now, if this narrative should reach the eye of any family using Baptiste’s patent portable bath-house, we trust they will take warning, and never afterward trust to its protection until it has been enclosed in a serviceable picket fence.

Fort Wayne [IN] Weekly Sentinel 18 August 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Truly, a useful warning about bathing-pavilion hubris, which we all should take to heart. How are the Vulcanized fallen!  Mrs Daffodil has sought casually, but in vain for the inventor. Considering his role in submerging persons in water, he must have been called “Jean Baptiste.”

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a bathing machine as the scene of scandal, as well as the ideal bath-house, which will, indeed make one the envy of one’s friends, if not one’s maid.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “The Great Grampus Bath-house Tragedy: 1875

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s