List Of Contents | Contents of The Pursuit of the House-Boat, by John Bangs
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misfortune, and no belief in our continued existence."

"But what, then, shall we do?" cried Ophelia, wringing her hands in

"It is a terrible problem," said Cleopatra, anxiously; "and yet it
does seem as if our woman's instinct ought to show us some way out of
our trouble."

"The Committee on Treachery," said Delilah, "has already suggested a
chafing-dish party, with Lucretia Borgia in charge of the lobster

"That is true," said Lucretia; "but I find, in going through my
reticule, that my maid, for some reason unknown to me, has failed to
renew my supply of poisons.  I shall discharge her on my return home,
for she knows that I never go anywhere without them; but that does
not help matters at this juncture.  The sad fact remains that I could
prepare a thousand delicacies for these pirates without fatal

"You mean immediately fatal, do you not?" suggested Xanthippe.  "I
could myself prepare a cake which would in time reduce our captors to
a state of absolute dependence, but of course the effect is not

"We might give a musicale, and let Trilby sing 'Ben Bolt' to them,"
suggested Marguerite de Valois, with a giggle.

"Don't be flippant, please," said Portia.  "We haven't time to waste
on flippant suggestions.  Perhaps a court-martial of these pirates,
supplemented by a yard-arm, wouldn't be a bad thing.  I'll prosecute
the case."

"You forget that you are dealing with immortal spirits," observed
Cleopatra.  "If these creatures were mortals, hanging them would be
all right, and comparatively easy, considering that we outnumber them
ten to one, and have many resources for getting them, more or less,
in our power, but they are not.  They have gone through the refining
process of dissolution once, and there's an end to that.  Our only
resource is in the line of deception, and if we cannot deceive them,
then we have ceased to be women."

"That is truly said," observed Elizabeth.  "And inasmuch as we have
already provided ourselves with a suitable committee for the
preparation of our plans of a deceptive nature, I move, as the
easiest possible solution of the difficulty for the rest of us, that
the Committee on Treachery be requested to go at once into executive
session, with orders not to come out of it until they have suggested
a plausible plan of campaign against our abductors.  We must be rid
of them.  Let the Committee on Treachery say how."

"Second the motion," said Mrs. Noah.  "You are a very clear-headed
young woman, Lizzie, and your grandmother is proud of you."

The Committee on Treachery were about to protest, but the chair
refused to entertain any debate upon the question, which was put and
carried with a storm of approval.

Five minutes later a note was handed through the port, addressed to
Cleopatra, which read as follows:

"Dear Madame,--Six bells has just struck, and the officers and crew
are hungry.  Will you and your fair companions co-operate with us in
our enterprise by having a hearty dinner ready within two hours?  A
speck has appeared on the horizon which betokens a coming storm, else
we would prepare our supper ourselves.  As it is, we feel that your
safety depends on our remaining on deck.  If there is any beer on the
ice, we prefer it to tea.  Two cases will suffice.

"Yours respectfully,

"HENRY MORGAN, Bart.; First Mate."

"Hurrah!" cried Cleopatra, as she read this communication.  "I have
an idea.  Tell the Committee on Treachery to appear before the full
meeting at once."

The committee was summoned, and Cleopatra announced her plan of
operation, and it was unanimously adopted; but what it was we shall
have to wait for another chapter to learn.


When Captain Holmes arrived upon deck he seized his glass, and,
gazing intently through it for a moment, perceived that the faithful
Shem had not deceived him.  Flying at half-mast from a rude, roughly
hewn pole set upon a rocky height was the black flag, emblem of
piracy, and, as Artemus Ward put it, "with the second joints
reversed."  It was in very truth a signal of distress.

"I make it a point never to be surprised," observed Holmes, as he
peered through the glass, "but this beats me.  I didn't know there
was an island of this nature in these latitudes.  Blackstone, go
below and pipe Captain Cook on deck.  Perhaps he knows what island
that is."

"You'll have to excuse me, Captain Holmes," replied the Judge.  "I
didn't ship on this voyage as a cabin-boy or a messenger-boy.
Therefore I--"

"Bonaparte, put the Judge in irons," interrupted Holmes, sternly.  "I
expect to be obeyed, Judge Blackstone, whether you shipped as a Lord
Chief-Justice or a state-room steward.  When I issue an order it must
be obeyed.  Step lively there, Bonaparte.  Get his honor ironed and
summon your marines.  We may have work to do before night.  Hamlet,
pipe Captain Cook on deck."

"Aye, aye, sir," replied Hamlet, with alacrity, as he made off.

"That's the way to obey orders," said Holmes, with a scornful glance
at Blackstone.

"I was only jesting, Captain," said the latter, paling somewhat.

"That's all right," said Holmes, taking up his glass again.  "So was
I when I ordered you in irons, and in order that you may appreciate
the full force of the joke I repeat it.  Bonaparte, do your duty."

In an instant the order was obeyed, and the unhappy Judge shortly
found himself manacled and alone in the forecastle.  Meanwhile
Captain Cook, in response to the commander's order, repaired to the
deck and scanned the distant coast.

"I can't place it," he said.  "It can't be Monte Cristo, can it?"

"No, it can't," said the Count, who stood hard by.  "My island was in
the Mediterranean, and even if it dragged anchor it couldn't have got
out through the Strait of Gibraltar."

"Perhaps it's Robinson Crusoe's island," suggested Doctor Johnson.

"Not it," observed De Foe.  "If it is, the rest of you will please
keep off.  It's mine, and I may want to use it again.  I've been
having a number of interviews with Crusoe latterly, and he's given me
a lot of new points, which I intend incorporating in a sequel for the
Cimmerian Magazine."

"Well, in the name of Atlas, what island is it, then?" roared Holmes,
angrily.  "What is the matter with all you learned lubbers that I
have brought along on this trip?  Do you suppose I've brought you to
whistle up favorable winds?  Not by the beard of the Prophet!  I
brought you to give me information, and now when I ask for the name
of a simple little island like that in plain sight there's not one of
you able so much as to guess at it reasonably.  The next man I ask
for information goes into irons with Judge Blackstone if he doesn't
answer me instantly with the information I want.  Munchausen, what
island is that?"

"Ahem! that?" replied Munchausen, trembling, as he reflected upon the
Captain's threat.  "What?  Nobody knows what island that is?  Why,
you surprise me -

"See here, Baron," retorted Holmes, menacingly, "I ask you a plain
question, and I want a plain answer, with no evasions to gain time.
Now it's irons or an answer.  What island is that?"

"It's an island that doesn't appear on any chart, Captain,"
Munchausen responded instantly, pulling himself together for a mighty
effort, "and it has never been given a name; but as you insist upon
having one, we'll call it Holmes Island, in your honor.  It is not
stationary.  It is a floating island of lava formation, and is a
menace to every craft that goes to sea.  I spent a year of my life
upon it once, and it is more barren than the desert of Sahara,
because you cannot raise even sand upon it, and it is devoid of water
of any sort, salt or fresh."

"What did you live on during that year?" asked Holmes, eying him

"Canned food from wrecks," replied the Baron, feeling much easier now
that he had got a fair start--"canned food from wrecks, commander.
There is a magnetic property in the upper stratum of this piece of
derelict real estate, sir, which attracts to it every bit of canned
substance that is lost overboard in all parts of the world.  A ship
is wrecked, say, in the Pacific Ocean, and ultimately all the loose
metal upon her will succumb to the irresistible attraction of this
magnetic upper stratum, and will find its way to its shores.  So in
any other part of the earth.  Everything metallic turns up here
sooner or later; and when you consider that thousands of vessels go
down every year, vessels which are provisioned with tinned foods
only, you will begin to comprehend how many millions of pounds of
preserved salmon, sardines, pate de foie gras, peaches, and so on,
can be found strewn along its coast."

"Munchausen," said Holmes, smiling, "by the blush upon your cheek,
coupled with an occasional uneasy glance of the eye, I know that for
once you are standing upon the, to you, unfamiliar ground of truth,
and I admire you for it.  There is nothing to be ashamed of in
telling the truth occasionally.  You are a man after my own heart.
Come below and have a cocktail.  Captain Cook, take command of the
Gehenna during my absence; head her straight for Holmes Island, and
when you discover anything new let me know.  Bonaparte, in honor of
Munchausen's remarkable genius, I proclaim general amnesty to our
prisoners, and you may release Blackstone from his dilemma; and if
you have any tin soldiers among your marines, see that they are
lashed to the rigging.  I don't want this electric island of the
Baron's to get a grip upon my military force at this juncture."

With this Holmes, followed by Munchausen, went below, and the two
worthies were soon deep in the mysteries of a phantom cocktail, while
Doctor Johnson and De Foe gazed mournfully out over the ocean at the
floating island.

"De Foe," said Johnson "that ought to be a lesson to you.  This
realism that you tie up to is all right when you are alone with your
conscience; but when there are great things afoot, an imagination and
a broad view as to the limitations of truth aren't at all bad.  You
or I might now be drinking that cocktail with Holmes if we'd only
risen to the opportunity the way Munchausen did."

"That is true," said De Foe, sadly.  "But I didn't suppose he wanted
that kind of information.  I could have spun a better yarn than that
of Munchausen's with my eyes shut.  I supposed he wanted truth, and I
gave it."

"I'd like to know what has become of the House-boat," said Raleigh,
anxiously gazing through the glass at the island.  "I can see old
Henry Morgan sitting down there on the rocks with his elbows on his
knees and his chin in his hands, and Kidd and Abeuchapeta are
standing back of him, yelling like mad, but there isn't a boat in

"Who is that man, off to the right, dancing a fandango?" asked

"It looks like Conrad, but I can't tell.  He appears to have gone
crazy.  He's got that wild look on his face which betokens insanity.
We'll have to be careful in our parleyings with these people," said

"Anything new?" asked Holmes, returning to the deck, smacking his
lips in enjoyment of the cocktail.

"No--except that we are almost within hailing distance," said Cook.

"Then give orders to cast anchor," observed Holmes.  "Bonaparte, take
a crew of picked men ashore and bring those pirates aboard.  Take the
three musketeers with you, and don't let Kidd or Morgan give you any
back talk.  If they try any funny business, exorcise them."

"Aye, aye, sir," replied Bonaparte, and in a moment a boat had been
lowered and a sturdy crew of sailors were pulling for the shore.  As
they came within ten feet of it the pirates made a mad dash down the
rough, rocky hillside and clamored to be saved.

"What's happened to you?" cried Bonaparte, ordering the sailors to
back water lest the pirates should too hastily board the boat and
swamp her.

"We are marooned," replied Kidd, "and on an island of a volcanic
nature.  There isn't a square inch of it that isn't heated up to 125
degrees, and seventeen of us have already evaporated.  Conrad has
lost his reason; Abeuchapeta has become so tenuous that a child can
see through him.  As for myself, I am growing iridescent with
anxiety, and unless I get off this infernal furnace I'll disappear
like a soap-bubble.  For Heaven's sake, then, General, take us off,
on your own terms.  We'll accept anything."

As if in confirmation of Kidd's words, six of the pirate crew
collapsed and disappeared into thin air, and a glance at Abeuchapeta
was proof enough of his condition.  He had become as clear as
crystal, and had it not been for his rugged outlines he would hardly
have been visible even to his fellow-spirits.  As for Kidd, he had
taken on the aspect of a rainbow, and it was patent that his fears
for himself were all too well founded.

Bonaparte embarked the leaders of the band first, returning
subsequently for the others, and repaired with them at once to the
Gehenna, where they were ushered into the presence of Sherlock
Holmes.  The first question he asked was as to the whereabouts of the

"That we do not know," replied Kidd, mournfully, gazing downward at
the wreck of his former self.  "We came ashore, sir, early yesterday
morning, in search of food.  It appears that when--acting in a wholly
inexcusable fashion, and influenced, I confess it, by motives of
revenge--I made off with your club-house, I neglected to ascertain if
it were well stocked with provisions, a fatal error; for when we
endeavored to get supper we discovered that the larder contained but
half a bottle of farcie olives, two salted almonds, and a soda
cracker--not a luxurious feast for sixty-nine pirates and a hundred
and eighty-three women to sit down to."

"That's all nonsense," said Demosthenes.  "The House Committee had
provided enough supper for six hundred people, in anticipation of the
appetite of the members on their return from the fight."

"Of course they did," said Confucius; "and it was a good one, too--
salads, salmon glace, lobsters--every blessed thing a man can't get
at home we had; and what is more, they'd been delivered on board.  I
saw to that before I went up the river."

"Then," moaned Kidd, "it is as I suspected.  We were the victims of
base treachery on the part of those women."

"Treachery?  Well, I like that.  Call it reciprocity," said Hamlet,

"We were informed by the ladies that there was nothing for supper
save the items I have already referred to," said Kidd.  "I see it all
now.  We had tried to make them comfortable, and I put myself to some
considerable personal inconvenience to make them easy in their minds,
but they were ungrateful."

"Whatever induced you to take 'em along with you?" asked Socrates.

"We didn't want them," said Kidd.

"We didn't know they were on board until it was too late to turn
back.  They'd broken in, and were having the club all to themselves
in your absence."

"It served you good and right," said Socrates, with a laugh.  "Next
time you try to take things that don't belong to you, maybe you'll be
a trifle more careful as to whose property you confiscate."

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