List Of Contents | Contents of The Pursuit of the House-Boat, by John Bangs
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all respect to Mr. Noah.  She's just about as suitable as any other
waterlogged cattle-steamer'd be, and no more--first-rate for
elephants and kangaroos, but no good for cruiser-work, and so slow
she wouldn't make a ripple high enough to drown a gnat going at the
top of her speed.  Furthermore, she's got a great big hole in her
bottom, where she was stove in by running afoul of--Mount Arrus-root,
I believe it was called when Captain Noah went cruising with that
menagerie of his."

"That's an unmitigated falsehood!" cried Noah, angrily.  "This man
talks like a professional amateur yachtsman.  He has no regard for
facts, but simply goes ahead and makes statements with an utter
disregard of the truth.  The Ark was not stove in.  We beached her
very successfully.  I say this in defence of my seamanship, which was
top-notch for my day."

"Couldn't sail six weeks without fouling a mountain-peak!" sneered
Wren, perceiving a chance to get even.

"The hole's there, just the same," said Charon.  "Maybe she was a
centreboard, sad that's where you kept the board."

"The hole is there because it was worn there by one of the
elephants," retorted Noah.  "You get a beast like the elephant
shuffling one of his fore-feet up and down, up and down, a plank for
twenty-four hours a day for forty days in one of your boats, and see
where your boat would be."

"Thanks," said Charon, calmly.  "But the elephants don't patronize my
line.  All the elephants I've ever seen in Hades waded over, except
Jumbo, and he reached his trunk across, fastened on to a tree limb
with it, and swung himself over.  However, the Ark isn't at all what
you want, unless you are going to man her with a lot of centaurs.  If
that's your intention, I'd charter her; the accommodations are just
the thing for a crew of that kind."

"Well, what do you suggest?" asked Raleigh, somewhat impatiently.
"You've told us what we can't do.  Now tell us what we can do."

"I'd stay right here," said Charon, "and let the ladies rescue
themselves.  That's what I'd do.  I've had the honor of bringing 'em
over here, and I think I know 'em pretty well.  I've watched 'em
close, and it's my private opinion that before many days you'll see
your club-house sailing back here, with Queen Elizabeth at the
hellum, and the other ladies on the for'ard deck knittin' and
crochetin', and tearin' each other to pieces in a conversational way,
as happy as if there never had been any Captain Kidd and his pirate

"That suggestion is impossible," said Blackstone, rising.  "Whether
the relief expedition amounts to anything or not, it's good to be set
going.  The ladies would never forgive us if we sat here inactive,
even if they were capable of rescuing themselves.  It is an accepted
principle of law that this climate hath no fury like a woman left to
herself, and we've got enough professional furies hereabouts without
our aiding in augmenting the ranks.  We must have a boat."

"It'll cost you a thousand dollars a week," said Charon.

"I'll subscribe fifty," cried Hamlet.

"I'll consult my secretary," said Solomon, "and find out how many of
my wives have been abducted, and I'll pay ten dollars apiece for
their recovery."

"That's liberal," said Hawkshaw.  "There are sixty-three of 'em on
board, together with eighty of his fiancees.  What's the quotation on
fiancees, King Solomon?"

"Nothing," said Solomon.  "They're not mine yet, and it's their
father's business to get 'em back.  Not mine."

Other subscriptions came pouring in, and it was not long before
everybody save Shylock had put his name down for something.  This
some one of the more quick-witted of the spirits soon observed, and,
with reckless disregard of the feelings of the Merchant of Venice,
began to call, "Shylock!  Shylock!  How much?"

The Merchant tried to leave the pier, but his path was blocked.

"Subscribe, subscribe!" was the cry.  "How much?"

"Order, gentlemen, order!" said Sir Walter, rising and holding a
bottle aloft.  "A black person by the name of Friday, a valet of our
friend Mr. Crusoe, has just handed me this bottle, which he picked up
ten minutes ago on the bank of the river a few miles distant.  It
contains a bit of paper, and may perhaps give us a clew based upon
something more substantial than even the wonderful theories of our
new brother Holmes."

A deathly silence followed the chairman's words, as Sir Walter drew a
corkscrew from his pocket and opened the bottle.  He extracted the
paper, and, as he had surmised, it proved to be a message from the
missing vessel.  His face brightening with a smile of relief, Sir
Walter read, aloud:

"Have just emerged into the Atlantic Club in hands of Kidd and forty
ruffians.  One hundred and eighty-three ladies on board.  Headed for
the Azores.  Send aid at once.  All well except Xanthippe, who is
seasick in the billiard-room.  (Signed) Portia."

"Aha!" cried Hawkshaw.  "That shows how valuable the Holmes theory

"Precisely," said Holmes.  "No woman knows anything about seafaring,
but Portia is right.  The ship is headed for the Azores, which is the
first tack needed in a windward sail for London under the present

The reply was greeted with cheers, and when they subsided the cry for
Shylock's subscription began again, but he declined.

"I had intended to put up a thousand ducats," he said, defiantly,
"but with that woman Portia on board I won't give a red obolus!" and
with that he wrapped his cloak about him and stalked off into the
gathering shadows of the wood.

And so the funds were raised without the aid of Shylock, and the
shapely twin-screw steamer the Gehenna was chartered of Charon, and
put under the command of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who, after he had
thanked the company for their confidence, walked abstractedly away,
observing in strictest confidence to himself that he had done well to
prepare that bottle beforehand and bribe Crusoe's man to find it.

"For now," he said, with a chuckle, "I can get back to earth again
free of cost on my own hook, whether my eminent inventor wants me
there or not.  I never approved of his killing me off as he did at
the very height of my popularity."


Meanwhile the ladies were not having such a bad time, after all.
Once having gained possession of the House-boat, they were loath to
think of ever having to give it up again, and it is an open question
in my mind if they would not have made off with it themselves had
Captain Kidd and his men not done it for them.

"I'll never forgive these men for their selfishness in monopolizing
all this," said Elizabeth, with a vicious stroke of a billiard-cue,
which missed the cue-ball and tore a right angle in the cloth.  "It
is not right."

"No," said Portia.  "It is all wrong; and when we get back home I'm
going to give my beloved Bassanio a piece of my mind; and if he
doesn't give in to me, I'LL reverse my decision in the famous case of
Shylock versus Antonio."

"Then I sincerely hope he doesn't give in," retorted Cleopatra, "for
I swear by all my auburn locks that that was the very worst bit of
injustice ever perpetrated.  Mr. Shakespeare confided to me one
night, at one of Mrs. Caesar's card-parties, that he regarded that as
the biggest joke he ever wrote, and Judge Blackstone observed to
Antony that the decision wouldn't have held in any court of equity
outside of Venice.  If you owe a man a thousand ducats, and it costs
you three thousand to get them, that's your affair, not his.  If it
cost Antonio every drop of his bluest blood to pay the pound of
flesh, it was Antonio's affair, not Shylock's.  However, the world
applauds you as a great jurist, when you have nothing more than a
woman's keen instinct for sentimental technicalities."

"It would have made a horrid play, though, if it had gone on,"
shuddered Elizabeth.

"That may be, but, carried out realistically, it would have done away
with a raft of bad actors," said Cleopatra.  "I'm half sorry it
didn't go on, and I'm sure it wouldn't have been any worse than
compelling Brutus to fall on his sword until he resembles a chicken
liver en brochette, as is done in that Julius Caesar play."

"Well, I'm very glad I did it," snapped Portia.

"I should think you would be," said Cleopatra.  "If you hadn't done
it, you'd never have been known.  What was that?"

The boat had given a slight lurch.

"Didn't you hear a shuffling noise up on deck, Portia?" asked the
Egyptian Queen.

"I thought I did, and it seemed as if the vessel had moved a bit,"
returned Portia, nervously; for, like most women in an advanced state
of development, she had become a martyr to her nerves.

"It was merely the wash from one of Charon's new ferry-boats, I
fancy," said Elizabeth, calmly.  "It's disgusting, the way that old
fellow allows these modern innovations to be brought in here!  As if
the old paddle-boats he used to carry shades in weren't good enough
for the immigrants of this age!  Really this Styx River is losing a
great deal of its charm.  Sir Walter and I were upset, while out
rowing one day last summer, by the waves kicked up by one of Charon's
excursion steamers going up the river with a party of picnickers from
the city--the Greater Gehenna Chowder Club, I believe it was--on
board of her.  One might just as well live in the midst of the
turmoil of a great city as try to get uninterrupted quiet here in the
suburbs in these days.  Charon isn't content to get rich slowly; he
must make money by the barrelful, if he has to sacrifice all the
comfort of everybody living on this river.  Anybody'd think he was an
American, the way he goes on; and everybody else here is the same
way.  The Erebeans are getting to be a race of shopkeepers."

"I think myself," sighed Cleopatra, "that Hades is being spoiled by
the introduction of American ideas--it is getting by far too
democratic for my tastes; and if it isn't stopped, it's my belief
that the best people will stop coming here.  Take Madame Recamier's
salon as it is now and compare it with what it used to be!  In the
early days, after her arrival here, everybody went because it was the
swell thing, and you'd be sure of meeting the intellectually elect.
On the one hand you'd find Sophocles; on the other, Cicero; across
the room would be Horace chatting gayly with some such person as
myself.  Great warriors, from Alexander to Bonaparte, were there, and
glad of the opportunity to be there, too; statesmen like
Macchiavelli; artists like Cellini or Tintoretto.  You couldn't move
without stepping on the toes of genius.  But now all is different.
The money-getting instinct has been aroused within them all, with the
result that when I invited Mozart to meet a few friends at dinner at
my place last autumn, he sent me a card stating his terms for
dinners.  Let me see, I think I have it with me; I've kept it by me
for fear of losing it, it is such a complete revelation of the actual
condition of affairs in this locality.  Ah! this is it," she added,
taking a small bit of pasteboard from her card-case.  "Read that."

The card was passed about, and all the ladies were much astonished--
and naturally so, for it ran this wise:


Owing to the very great, constantly growing, and at times vexatious
demands upon his time socially,


takes this method of announcing to his friends that on and after
January 1, 1897, his terms for functions will be as follows:

Dinners with conversation on the         Marks
    Theory of Music                       500
Dinners with conversation on the
    Theory of Music, illustrated          750
Dinners without any conversation          300
 Receptions, public, with music           1000
   "    "   private,                      750
 Encores (single)                          100
 Three encores for                         150
 Autographs                                 10

Positively no Invitations for Five-o'Clock Teas or Morning Musicales

"Well, I declare!" tittered Elizabeth, as she read.  "Isn't that
extraordinary?  He's got the three-name craze, too!"

"It's perfectly ridiculous," said Cleopatra.  "But it's fairer than
Artemus Ward's plan.  Mozart gives notice of his intentions to charge
you; but with Ward it's different.  He comes, and afterwards sends a
bill for his fun.  Why, only last week I got a 'quarterly statement'
from him showing a charge against me of thirty-eight dollars for
humorous remarks made to my guests at a little chafing-dish party I
gave in honor of Balzac, and, worst of all, he had marked it 'Please
remit.'  Even Antony, when he wrote a sonnet to my eyebrow, wouldn't
let me have it until he had heard whether or not Boswell wanted it
for publication in the Gossip.  With Rubens giving chalk-talks for
pay, Phidias doing 'Five-minute Masterpieces in Putty' for suburban
lyceums, and all the illustrious in other lines turning their genius
to account through the entertainment bureaus, it's impossible to have
a salon now."

"You are indeed right," said Madame Recamier, sadly.  "Those were
palmy days when genius was satisfied with chicken salad and lemonade.
I shall never forget those nights when the wit and wisdom of all time
were--ah--were on tap at my house, if I may so speak, at a cost to me
of lights and supper.  Now the only people who will come for nothing
are those we used to think of paying to stay away.  Boswell is always
ready, but you can't run a salon on Boswell."

"Well," said Portia, "I sincerely hope that you won't give up the
functions altogether, because I have always found them most
delightful.  It is still possible to have lights and supper."

"I have a plan for next winter," said Madame Recamier, "but I suppose
I shall be accused of going into the commercial side of it if I adopt
it.  The plan is, briefly, to incorporate my salon.  That's an idea
worthy of an American, I admit; but if I don't do it I'll have to
give it up entirely, which, as you intimate, would be too bad.  An
incorporated salon, however, would be a grand thing, if only because
it would perpetuate the salon.  'The Recamier Salon (Limited)' would
be a most excellent title, and, suitably capitalized would enable us
to pay our lions sufficiently.  Private enterprise is powerless under
modern conditions.  It's as much as I can afford to pay for a dinner,
without running up an expensive account for guests; and unless we get
up a salon-trust, as it were, the whole affair must go to the wall."

"How would you make it pay?" asked Portia.  "I can't see where your
dividends would come from."

"That is simple enough," said Madame Recamier.  "We could put up a
large reception-hall with a portion of our capital, and advertise a
series of nights--say one a week throughout the season.  These would
be Warriors' Night, Story-tellers' Night, Poets' Night, Chafing-dish
Night under the charge of Brillat-Savarin, and so on.  It would be
understood that on these particular evenings the most interesting
people in certain lines would be present, and would mix with
outsiders, who should be admitted only on payment of a certain sum of

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