List Of Contents | Contents of The Pursuit of the House-Boat, by John Bangs
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only mistake was that the dents were made by my son John, and not
Willie; but even there I cannot but wonder at you, for John and
Willie are twins, and so much alike that it sometimes baffles even
their mother to tell them apart.  The watch has no very great value
intrinsically, but the associations are such that I want it back, and
I will pay 200 pounds for its recovery.  I have no clew as to who
took it.  It was numbered--'

"Here a happy thought struck me.  In all my description of the watch
I had merely described my own, a very cheap affair which I had won at
a raffle.  My visitor was deceiving me, though for what purpose I did
not on the instant divine.  No one would like to suspect him of
having purloined his wife's tiara.  Why should I not deceive him, and
at the same time get rid of my poor chronometer for a sum that
exceeded its value a hundredfold?"

"Good business!" cried Shylock.

The stranger smiled and bowed.

"Excellent," he said.  "I took the words right out of his mouth.  'It
was numbered 86507B!' I cried, giving, of course, the number of my
own watch.

"He gazed at me narrowly for a moment, and then he smiled.  'You grow
more marvellous at every step.  That was indeed the number.  Are you
a demon?'

"'No,' I replied.  'Only something of a mind-reader.'

"Well, to be brief, the bargain was struck.  I was to look for a
watch that I knew he hadn't lost, and was to receive 200 pounds if I
found it.  It seemed to him to be a very good bargain, as, indeed, it
was, from his point of view, feeling, as he did, that there never
having been any such watch, it could not be recovered, and little
suspecting that two could play at his little game of deception, and
that under any circumstances I could foist a ten-shilling watch upon
him for two hundred pounds.  This business concluded, he started to

"'Won't you have a little Scotch?' I asked, as he started, feeling,
with all that prospective profit in view, I could well afford the
expense.  'It is a stormy night.'

"'Thanks, I will,' said he, returning and seating himself by my
table--still, to my surprise, keeping his hat on.

"'Let me take your hat,' I said, little thinking that my courtesy
would reveal the true state of affairs.  The mere mention of the word
hat brought about a terrible change in my visitor; his knees
trembled, his face grew ghastly, and he clutched the brim of his
beaver until it cracked.  He then nervously removed it, and I noticed
a dull red mark running about his forehead, just as there would be on
the forehead of a man whose hat fitted too tightly; and that mark,
gentlemen, had the undulating outline of nothing more nor less than a
tiara, and on the apex of the uttermost extremity was a deep
indentation about the size of a shilling, that could have been made
only by some adamantine substance!  The mystery was solved!  The
robber of the Duchess of Brokedale stood before me."

A suppressed murmur of excitement went through the assembled spirits,
and even Messrs. Hawkshaw and Le Coq were silent in the presence of
such genius.

"My plan of action was immediately formulated.  The man was
completely at my mercy.  He had stolen the tiara, and had it
concealed in the lining of his hat.  I rose and locked the door.  My
visitor sank with a groan into my chair.

"'Why did you do that?' he stammered, as I turned the key in the

"'To keep my Scotch whiskey from evaporating,' I said, dryly.  'Now,
my lord,' I added, 'it will pay your Grace to let me have your hat.
I know who you are.  You are the Duke of Brokedale.  The Duchess of
Brokedale has lost a valuable tiara of diamonds, and you have not
lost your watch.  Somebody has stolen the diamonds, and it may be
that somewhere there is a Bunker who has lost such a watch as I have
described.  The queer part of it all is,' I continued, handing him
the decanter, and taking a couple of loaded six-shooters out of my
escritoire--'the queer part of it all is that I have the watch and
you have the tiara.  We'll swap the swag.  Hand over the bauble,

"'But--' he began.

"'We won't have any butting, your Grace,' said I.  'I'll give you the
watch, and you needn't mind the 200 pounds; and you must give me the
tiara, or I'll accompany you forthwith to the police, and have a
search made of your hat.  It won't pay you to defy me.  Give it up.'

"He gave up the hat at once, and, as I suspected, there lay the
tiara, snugly stowed away behind the head-band.

"'You are a great fellow,' said I, as I held the tiara up to the
light and watched with pleasure the flashing brilliance of its gems.

"'I beg you'll not expose me,' he moaned.  'I was driven to it by

"'Not I,' I replied.  'As long as you play fair it will be all right.
I'm not going to keep this thing.  I'm not married, and so have no
use for such a trifle; but what I do intend is simply to wait until
your wife retains me to find it, and then I'll find it and get the
reward.  If you keep perfectly still, I'll have it found in such a
fashion that you'll never be suspected.  If, on the other hand, you
say a word about to-night's events, I'll hand you over to the

"'Humph!' he said.  'You couldn't prove a case against me.'

"'I can prove any case against anybody,' I retorted.  'If you don't
believe it, read my book,' I added, and I handed him a copy of my

"'I've read it,' he answered, 'and I ought to have known better than
to come here.  I thought you were only a literary success.'  And with
a deep-drawn sigh he took the watch and went out.  Ten days later I
was retained by the Duchess, and after a pretended search of ten days
more I found the tiara, restored it to the noble lady, and received
the 5000 pounds reward.  The Duke kept perfectly quiet about our
little encounter, and afterwards we became stanch friends; for he was
a good fellow, and was driven to his desperate deed only by the
demands of his creditors, and the following Christmas he sent me the
watch I had given him, with the best wishes of the season.

"So, you see, gentlemen, in a moment, by quick wit and a mental
concentration of no mean order, combined with strict observance of
the pettiest details, I ferreted out what bade fair to become a great
diamond mystery; and when I say that this cigar end proves certain
things to my mind, it does not become you to doubt the value of my

"Hear! hear!" cried Raleigh, growing tumultuous with enthusiasm.

"Your name? your name?" came from all parts of the wharf.

The stranger, putting his hand into the folds of his coat, drew forth
a bundle of business cards, which he tossed, as the prestidigitator
tosses playing-cards, out among the audience, and on each of them was
found printed the words:

Plots for Sale.

"I think he made a mistake in not taking the 200 pounds for the
watch.  Such carelessness destroys my confidence in him," said
Shylock, who was the first to recover from the surprise of the


"Well, Mr. Holmes," said Sir Walter Raleigh, after three rousing
cheers, led by Hamlet, had been given with a will by the assembled
spirits, "after this demonstration in your honor I think it is hardly
necessary for me to assure you of our hearty co-operation in anything
you may venture to suggest.  There is still manifest, however, some
desire on the part of the ever-wise King Solomon and my friend
Confucius to know how you deduce that Kidd has sailed for London,
from the cigar end which you hold in your hand."

"I can easily satisfy their curiosity," said Sherlock Holmes,
genially.  "I believe I have already proven that it is the end of
Kidd's cigar.  The marks of the teeth have shown that.  Now observe
how closely it is smoked--there is barely enough of it left for one
to insert between his teeth.  Now Captain Kidd would hardly have
risked the edges of his mustache and the comfort of his lips by
smoking a cigar down to the very light if he had had another; nor
would he under any circumstances have smoked it that far unless he
were passionately addicted to this particular brand of the weed.
Therefore I say to you, first, this was his cigar; second, it was the
last one he had; third, he is a confirmed smoker.  The result, he has
gone to the one place in the world where these Connecticut hand-
rolled Havana cigars--for I recognize this as one of them--have a
real popularity, and are therefore more certainly obtainable, and
that is at London.  You cannot get so vile a cigar as that outside of
a London hotel.  If I could have seen a quarter-inch more of it, I
should have been able definitely to locate the hotel itself.  The
wrappers unroll to a degree that varies perceptibly as between the
different hotels.  The Fortuna cigar can be smoked a quarter through
before its wrapper gives way; the Felix wrapper goes as soon as you
light the cigar; whereas the River, fronting on the Thames, is
surrounded by a moister atmosphere than the others, and, as a
consequence, the wrapper will hold really until most people are
willing to throw the whole thing away."

"It is really a wonderful art!" said Solomon.

"The making of a Connecticut Havana cigar?" laughed Holmes.  "Not at
all.  Give me a head of lettuce and a straw, and I'll make you a

"I referred to your art--that of detection," said Solomon.  "Your
logic is perfect; step by step we have been led to the irresistible
conclusion that Kidd has made for London, and can be found at one of
these hotels."

"And only until next Tuesday, when he will take a house in the
neighborhood of Scotland Yard," put in Holmes, quickly, observing a
sneer on Hawkshaw's lips, and hastening to overwhelm him by further
evidence of his ingenuity.  "When he gets his bill he will open his
piratical eyes so wide that he will be seized with jealousy to think
of how much more refined his profession has become since he left it,
and out of mere pique he will leave the hotel, and, to show himself
still cleverer than his modern prototypes, he will leave his account
unpaid, with the result that the affair will be put in the hands of
the police, under which circumstances a house in the immediate
vicinity of the famous police headquarters will be the safest hiding-
place he can find, as was instanced by the remarkable case of the
famous Penstock bond robbery.  A certain churchwarden named Hinkley,
having been appointed cashier thereof, robbed the Penstock Imperial
Bank of 1,000,000 pounds in bonds, and, fleeing to London, actually
joined the detective force at Scotland Yard, and was detailed to find
himself, which of course he never did, nor would he ever have been
found had he not crossed my path."

Hawkshaw gazed mournfully off into space, and Le Coq muttered profane
words under his breath.

"We're not in the same class with this fellow, Hawkshaw," said Le
Coq.  "You could tap your forehead knowingly eight hours a day
through all eternity with a sledge-hammer without loosening an idea
like that."

"Nevertheless I'll confound him yet," growled the jealous detective.
"I shall myself go to London, and, disguised as Captain Kidd, will
lead this visionary on until he comes there to arrest me, and when
these club members discover that it is Hawkshaw and not Kidd he has
run to earth, we'll have a great laugh on Sherlock Holmes."

"I am anxious to hear how you solved the bond-robbery mystery," said
Socrates, wrapping his toga closely about him and settling back
against one of the spiles of the wharf.

"So are we all," said Sir Walter.  "But meantime the House-boat is
getting farther away."

"Not unless she's sailing backwards," sneered Noah, who was still
nursing his resentment against Sir Christopher Wren for his
reflections upon the speed of the Ark

"What's the hurry?" asked Socrates.  "I believe in making haste
slowly; and on the admission of our two eminent naval architects, Sir
Christopher and Noah, neither of their vessels can travel more than a
mile a week, and if we charter the Flying Dutchman to go in pursuit
of her we can catch her before she gets out of the Styx into the

"Jonah might lend us his whale, if the beast is in commission,"
suggested Munchausen, dryly.  "I for one would rather take a state-
room in Jonah's whale than go aboard the Flying Dutchman again.  I
made one trip on the Dutchman, and she's worse than a dory for
comfort; further--I don't see what good it would do us to charter a
boat that can't land oftener than once in seven years, and spends
most of her time trying to double the Cape of Good Hope."

"My whale is in commission," said Jonah, with dignity.  "But Baron
Munchausen need not consider the question of taking a state-room
aboard of her.  She doesn't carry second-class passengers.  And if I
took any stock in the idea of a trip on the Flying Dutchman amounting
to a seven years' exile, I would cheerfully pay the Baron's expenses
for a round trip."

"We are losing time, gentlemen," suggested Sherlock Holmes.  "This is
a moment, I think, when you should lay aside personal differences and
personal preferences for immediate action.  I have examined the wake
of the House-boat, and I judge from the condition of what, for want
of a better term, I may call the suds, when she left us the House-
boat was making ten knots a day.  Almost any craft we can find
suitably manned ought to be able to do better than that; and if you
could summon Charon and ascertain what boats he has at hand, it would
be for the good of all concerned."

"That's a good plan," said Johnson.  "Boswell, see if you can find

"I am here already, sir," returned the ferryman, rising.  "Most of my
boats have gone into winter quarters, your Honor.  The Mayflower went
into dry dock last week to be calked up; the Pinta and the Santa
Maria are slow and cranky; the Monitor and the Merrimac I haven't
really had time to patch up; and the Valkyrie is two months overdue.
I cannot make up my mind whether she is lost or kept back by
excursion steamers.  Hence I really don't know what I can lend you.
Any of these boat I have named you could have had for nothing; but my
others are actively employed, and I couldn't let them go without a
serious interference with my business."

The old man blinked sorrowfully across the waters at the opposite
shore.  It was quite evident that he realized what a dreadful expense
the club was about to be put to, and while of course there would be
profit in it for him, he was sincerely sorry for them.

"I repeat," he added, "those boats you could have had for nothing,
but the others I'd have to charge you for, though of course I'll give
you a discount."

And he blinked again, as he meditated upon whether that discount
should be an eighth or one-quarter of one per cent.

"The Flying Dutchman," he pursued, "ain't no good for your purposes.
She's too fast.  She's built to fly by, not to stop.  You'd catch up
with the House-boat in a minute with her, but you'd go right on and
disappear like a visionary; and as for the Ark, she'd never do--with

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