List Of Contents | Contents of The Pursuit of the House-Boat, by John Bangs
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money.  The commonplace inhabitants of this country could thus meet
the truly great; and if I know them well, as I think I do, they'll
pay readily for the privilege.  The obscure love to rub up against
the famous here as well as they do on earth."

"You'd run a sort of Social Zoo?" suggested Elizabeth.

"Precisely; and provide entertainment for private residences too.  An
advertisement in Boswell's paper, which everybody buys--"

"And which nobody reads," said Portia.

"They read the advertisements," retorted Madame Recamier.  "As I was
saying, an advertisement could be placed in Boswell's paper as
follows:  'Are you giving a Function?  Do you want Talent?  Get your
Genius at the Recamier Salon (Limited).'  It would be simply
magnificent as a business enterprise.  The common herd would be
tickled to death if they could get great people at their homes, even
if they had to pay roundly for them."

"It would look well in the society notes, wouldn't it, if Mr. John
Boggs gave a reception, and at the close of the account it said, 'The
supper was furnished by Calizetti, and the genius by the Recamier
Salon (Limited)'?" suggested Elizabeth, scornfully.

"I must admit," replied the French lady, "that you call up an
unpleasant possibility, but I don't really see what else we can do if
we want to preserve the salon idea.  Somebody has told these talented
people that they have a commercial value, and they are availing
themselves of the demand."

"It is a sad age!" sighed Elizabeth.

"Well, all I've got to say is just this," put in Xanthippe:  "You
people who get up functions have brought this condition of affairs on
yourselves.  You were not satisfied to go ahead and indulge your
passion for lions in a moderate fashion.  Take the case of
Demosthenes last winter, for instance.  His wife told me that he
dined at home three times during the winter.  The rest of the time he
was out, here, there, and everywhere, making after-dinner speeches.
The saving on his dinner bills didn't pay his pebble account, much
less remunerate him for his time, and the fearful expense of nervous
energy to which he was subjected.  It was as much as she could do,
she said, to keep him from shaving one side of his head, so that he
couldn't go out, the way he used to do in Athens when he was afraid
he would be invited out and couldn't scare up a decent excuse for

"Did he do that?" cried Elizabeth, with a roar of laughter.

"So the cyclopaedias say.  It's a good plan, too," said Xanthippe.
"Though Socrates never had to do it.  When I got the notion Socrates
was going out too much, I used to hide his dress clothes.  Then there
was the case of Rubens.  He gave a Carbon Talk at the Sforza's
Thursday Night Club, merely to oblige Madame Sforza, and three weeks
later discovered that she had sold his pictures to pay for her gown!
You people simply run it into the ground.  You kill the goose that
when taken at the flood leads on to fortune.  It advertises you, does
the lion no good, and he is expected to be satisfied with
confectionery, material and theoretical.  If they are getting tired
of candy and compliments, it's because you have forced too much of it
upon them."

"They like it, just the same," retorted Recamier.  "A genius likes
nothing better than the sound of his own voice, when he feels that it
is falling on aristocratic ears.  The social laurel rests pleasantly
on many a noble brow."

"True," said Xanthippe.  "But when a man gets a pile of Christmas
wreaths a mile high on his head, he begins to wonder what they will
bring on the market.  An occasional wreath is very nice, but by the
ton they are apt to weigh on his mind.  Up to a certain point
notoriety is like a woman, and a man is apt to love it; but when it
becomes exacting, demanding instead of permitting itself to be
courted, it loses its charm."

"That is Socratic in its wisdom," smiled Portia.

"But Xanthippic in its origin," returned Xanthippe.  "No man ever
gave me my ideas."

As Xanthippe spoke, Lucretia Borgia burst into the room.

"Hurry and save yourselves!" she cried.  "The boat has broken loose
from her moorings, and is floating down the stream.  If we don't
hurry up and do something, we'll drift out to sea!"

"What!" cried Cleopatra, dropping her cue in terror, and rushing for
the stairs.  "I was certain I felt a slight motion.  You said it was
the wash from one of Charon's barges, Elizabeth."

"I thought it was," said Elizabeth, following closely after.

"Well, it wasn't," moaned Lucretia Borgia.  "Calpurnia just looked
out of the window and discovered that we were in mid-stream."

The ladies crowded anxiously about the stair and attempted to ascend,
Cleopatra in the van; but as the Egyptian Queen reached the doorway
to the upper deck, the door opened, and the hard features of Captain
Kidd were thrust roughly through, and his strident voice rang out
through the gathering gloom.  "Pipe my eye for a sardine if we
haven't captured a female seminary!" he cried.

And one by one the ladies, in terror, shrank back into the billiard-
room, while Kidd, overcome by surprise, slammed the door to, and
retreated into the darkness of the forward deck to consult with his
followers as to "what next."


"Here's a kettle of fish!" said Kidd, pulling his chin whisker in
perplexity as he and his fellow-pirates gathered about the captain to
discuss the situation.  "I'm blessed if in all my experience I ever
sailed athwart anything like it afore!  Pirating with a lot of low-
down ruffians like you gentlemen is bad enough, but on a craft loaded
to the water's edge with advanced women--I've half a mind to turn

"If you do, you swim--we'll not turn back with you," retorted
Abeuchapeta, whom, in honor of his prowess, Kidd had appointed
executive officer of the House-boat.  "I have no desire to be
mutinous, Captain Kidd, but I have not embarked upon this enterprise
for a pleasure sail down the Styx.  I am out for business.  If you
had thirty thousand women on board, still should I not turn back."

"But what shall we do with 'em?" pleaded Kidd.  "Where can we go
without attracting attention?  Who's going to feed 'em?  Who's going
to dress 'em?  Who's going to keep 'em in bonnets?  You don't know
anything about these creatures, my dear Abeuchapeta; and, by-the-way,
can't we arbitrate that name of yours?  It would be fearful to
remember in the excitement of a fight."

"Call him Ab," suggested Sir Henry Morgan, with an ill-concealed
sneer, for he was deeply jealous of Abeuchapeta's preferral.

"If you do I'll call you Morgue, and change your appearance to fit,"
retorted Abeuchapeta, angrily.

"By the beards of all my sainted Buccaneers," began Morgan, springing
angrily to his feet, "I'll have your life!"

"Gentlemen!  Gentlemen--my noble ruffians!" expostulated Kidd.
"Come, come; this will never do!  I must have no quarrelling among my
aides.  This is no time for divisions in our councils.  An entirely
unexpected element has entered into our affairs, and it behooveth us
to act in concert.  It is no light matter--"

"Excuse me, captain," said Abeuchapeta, "but that is where you and I
do not agree.  We've got our ship and we've got our crew, and in
addition we find that the Fates have thrown in a hundred or more
women to act as ballast.  Now I, for one, do not fear a woman.  We
can set them to work.  There is plenty for them to do keeping things
tidy; and if we get into a very hard fight, and come out of the melee
somewhat the worse for wear, it will be a blessing to have 'em along
to mend our togas, sew buttons on our uniforms, and darn our

Morgan laughed sarcastically.  "When did you flourish, if ever,
colonel?" he asked.

"Do you refer to me?" queried Abeuchapeta, with a frown.

"You have guessed correctly," replied Morgan, icily.  "I have quite
forgotten your date; were you a success in the year one, or when?"

"Admiral Abeuchapeta, Sir Henry," interposed Kidd, fearing a further
outbreak of hostilities--"Admiral Abeuchapeta was the terror of the
seas in the seventh century, and what he undertook to do he did, and
his piratical enterprises were carried on on a scale of magnificence
which is without parallel off the comic-opera stage.  He never went
forth without at least seventy galleys and a hundred other vessels."

Abeuchapeta drew himself up proudly.  "Six-ninety-eight was my great
year," he said.

"That's what I thought," said Morgan.  "That is to say, you got your
ideas of women twelve hundred years ago, and the ladies have changed
somewhat since that time.  I have great respect for you, sir, as a
ruffian.  I have no doubt that as a ruffian you are a complete
success, but when it comes to 'feminology' you are sailing in unknown
waters.  The study of women, my dear Abeuchadnezzar--"

"Peta," retorted Abeuchapeta, irritably.

"I stand corrected.  The study of women, my dear Peter," said Morgan,
with a wink at Conrad, which fortunately the seventh-century pirate
did not see, else there would have been an open break--"the study of
women is more difficult than that of astronomy; there may be two
stars alike, but all women are unique.  Because she was this, that,
or the other thing in your day does not prove that she is any one of
those things in our day--in fact, it proves the contrary.  Why, I
venture even to say that no individual woman is alike."

"That's rather a hazy thought," said Kidd, scratching his head in a
puzzled sort of way.

"I mean that she's different from herself at different times," said
Morgan.  "What is it the poet called her?--'an infinite variety
show,' or something of that sort; a perpetual vaudeville--a
continuous performance, as it were, from twelve to twelve."

"Morgan is right, admiral!" put in Conrad the corsair, acting
temporarily as bo'sun.  "The times are sadly changed, and woman is no
longer what she was.  She is hardly what she is, much less what she
was.  The Roman Gynaeceum would be an impossibility to-day.  You
might as well expect Delilah to open a barber-shop on board this boat
as ask any of these advanced females below-stairs to sew buttons on a
pirate's uniform after a fray, or to keep the fringe on his epaulets
curled.  They're no longer sewing-machines--they are Keeley motors
for mystery and perpetual motion.  Women have views now they are no
longer content to be looked at merely; they must see for themselves;
and the more they see, the more they wish to domesticate man and
emancipate woman.  It's my private opinion that if we are to get
along with them at all the best thing to do is to let 'em alone.  I
have always found I was better off in the abstract, and if this
question is going to be settled in a purely democratic fashion by
submitting it to a vote, I'll vote for any measure which involves
leaving them strictly to themselves.  They're nothing but a lot of
ghosts anyhow, like ourselves, and we can pretend we don't see them."

"If that could be, it would be excellent," said Morgan; "but it is
impossible.  For a pirate of the Byronic order, my dear Conrad, you
are strangely unversed in the ways of the sex which cheers but not
inebriates.  We can no more ignore their presence upon this boat than
we can expect whales to spout kerosene.  In the first place, it would
be excessively impolite of us to cut them--to decline to speak to
them if they should address us.  We may be pirates, ruffians,
cutthroats, but I hope we shall never forget that we are gentlemen."

"The whole situation is rather contrary to etiquette, don't you
think?" suggested Conrad.  "There's nobody to introduce us, and I
can't really see how we can do otherwise than ignore them.  I
certainly am not going to stand on deck and make eyes at them, to try
and pick up an acquaintance with them, even if I am of a Byronic

"You forget," said Kidd, "two essential features of the situation.
These women are at present--or shortly will be, when they realize
their situation--in distress, and a true gentleman may always fly to
the rescue of a distressed female; and, the second point, we shall
soon be on the seas, and I understand that on the fashionable
transatlantic lines it is now considered de rigueur to speak to
anybody you choose to.  The introduction business isn't going to
stand in my way."

"Well, may I ask," put in Abeuchapeta, "just what it is that is
worrying you?  You said something about feeding them, and dressing
them, and keeping them in bonnets.  I fancy there's fish enough in
the sea to feed 'em; and as for their gowns and hats, they can make
'em themselves.  Every woman is a milliner at heart."

"Exactly, and we'll have to pay the milliners.  That is what bothers
me.  I was going to lead this expedition to London, Paris, and New
York, admiral.  That is where the money is, and to get it you've got
to go ashore, to headquarters.  You cannot nowadays find it on the
high seas.  Modern civilization," said Kidd, "has ruined the pirate's
business.  The latest news from the other world has really opened my
eyes to certain facts that I never dreamed of.  The conditions of the
day of which I speak are interestingly shown in the experience of our
friend Hawkins here.  Captain Hawkins, would you have any objection
to stating to these gentlemen the condition of affairs which led you
to give up piracy on the high seas?"

"Not the slightest, Captain Kidd," returned Captain Hawkins, who was
a recent arrival in Hades.  "It is a sad little story, and it gives
me a pain for to think on it, but none the less I'll tell it, since
you ask me.  When I were a mere boy, fellow-pirates, I had but one
ambition, due to my readin', which was confined to stories of a
Sunday-school nater--to become somethin' different from the little
Willies an' the clever Tommies what I read about therein.  They was
all good, an' they went to their reward too soon in life for me, who
even in them days regarded death as a stuffy an' unpleasant
diversion.  Learnin' at an early period that virtue was its only
reward, an' a-wish-in' others, I says to myself:  'Jim,' says I, 'if
you wishes to become a magnet in this village, be sinful.  If so be
as you are a good boy, an' kind to your sister an' all other animals,
you'll end up as a prosperous father with fifteen hundred a year
sure, with never no hope for no public preferment beyond bein' made
the super-intendent of the Sunday-school; but if so be as how you're
bad, you may become famous, an' go to Congress, an' have your picture
in the Sunday noospapers.'  So I looks around for books tellin' how
to get 'Famous in Fifty Ways,' an' after due reflection I settles in
my mind that to be a pirate's just the thing for me, seein' as how
it's both profitable an' healthy.  Pass-in' over details, let me tell
you that I became a pirate.  I ran away to sea, an' by dint of
perseverance, as the Sunday-school book useter say, in my badness I
soon became the centre of a evil lot; an' when I says to 'em, 'Boys,
I wants to be a pirate chief,' they hollers back, loud like, 'Jim,
we're with you,' an' they was.  For years I was the terror of the

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