List Of Contents | Contents of The Pursuit of the House-Boat, by John Bangs
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Venezuelan Gulf, the Spanish Main, an' the Pacific seas, but there
was precious little money into it.  The best pay I got was from a
Sunday noospaper which paid me well to sign an article on 'Modern
Piracy' which I didn't write.  Finally business got so bad the crew
began to murmur, an' I was at my wits' ends to please 'em; when one
mornin', havin' passed a restless night, I picks up a noospaper and
sees in it that 'Next Saturday's steamer is a weritable treasure-
ship, takin' out twelve million dollars, and the jewels of a certain
prima donna valued at five hundred thousand.'  'Here's my chance,'
says I, an' I goes to sea and lies in wait for the steamer.  I
captures her easy, my crew bein' hungry, an' fightin according like.
We steals the box a-hold-in' the jewels an' the bag containin' the
millions, hustles back to our own ship, an' makes for our rondyvoo,
me with two bullets in my leg, four o' my crew killed, and one engin'
of my ship disabled by a shot--but happy.  Twelve an' a half millions
at one break is enough to make anybody happy."

"I should say so," said Abeuchapeta, with an ecstatic shake of his
head.  "I didn't get that in all my career."

"Nor I," sighed Kidd.  "But go on, Hawkins."

"Well, as I says," continued Captain Hawkins, "we goes to the
rondyvoo to look over our booty.  'Captain 'Awkins,' says my valet--
for I was a swell pirate, gents, an' never travelled nowhere without
a man to keep my clothes brushed and the proper wrinkles in my
trousers--'this 'ere twelve millions,' says he, 'is werry light,'
says he, carryin' the bag ashore.  'I don't care how light it is, so
long as it's twelve millions, Henderson,' says I; but my heart sinks
inside o' me at his words, an' the minute we lands I sits down to
investigate right there on the beach.  I opens the bag, an' it's the
one I was after--but the twelve millions!"

"Weren't there?" cried Conrad.

"Yes, they was there," sighed Hawkins, "but every bloomin' million
was represented by a certified check, an' payable in London!"

"By Jingo!" cried Morgan.  "What fearful luck!  But you had the prima
donna's jewels."

"Yes," said Hawkins, with a moan.  "But they was like all other prima
donna's jewels--for advertisin' purposes only, an' made o' gum-

"Horrible!" said Abeuchapeta.  "And the crew, what did they say?"

"They was a crew of a few words," sighed Hawkins.  "Werry few words,
an' not a civil word in the lot--mostly adjectives of a profane kind.
When I told 'em what had happened, they got mad at Fortune for a-
jiltin' of 'em, an'--well, I came here.  I was 'sas'inated that werry

"They killed you?" cried Morgan.

"A dozen times," nodded Hawkins.  "They always was a lavish lot.  I
met death in all its most horrid forms.  First they stabbed me, then
they shot me, then they clubbed me, and so on, endin' up with a
lynchin'--but I didn't mind much after the first, which hurt a bit.
But now that I'm here I'm glad it happened.  This life is sort of
less responsible than that other.  You can't hurt a ghost by shooting
him, because there ain't nothing to hurt, an' I must say I like bein'
a mere vision what everybody can see through."

"All of which interesting tale proves what?" queried Abeuchapeta.

"That piracy on the sea is not profitable in these days of the check
banking system," said Kidd.  "If you can get a chance at real gold
it's all right, but it's of no earthly use to steal checks that
people can stop payment on.  Therefore it was my plan to visit the
cities and do a little freebooting there, where solid material wealth
is to be found."

"Well?  Can't we do it now?" asked Abeuchapeta.

"Not with these women tagging after us," returned Kidd.  "If we went
to London and lifted the whole Bank of England, these women would
have it spent on Regent Street inside of twenty-four hours."

"Then leave them on board," said Abeuchapeta.

"And have them steal the ship!" retorted Kidd.  "No.  There are but
two things to do.  Take 'em back, or land them in Paris.  Tell them
to spend a week on shore while we are provisioning.  Tell 'em to shop
to their hearts' content, and while they are doing it we can sneak
off and leave them stranded."

"Splendid!" cried Morgan.

"But will they consent?" asked Abeuchapeta.

"Consent!  To shop?  In Paris?  For a week?" cried Morgan.

"Ha, ha!" laughed Hawkins.  "Will they consent!  Will a duck swim?"

And so it was decided, which was the first incident in the career of
the House-boat upon which the astute Mr. Sherlock Holmes had failed
to count.


When, with a resounding slam, the door to the upper deck of the
House-boat was shut in the faces of queens Elizabeth and Cleopatra by
the unmannerly Kidd, these ladies turned and gazed at those who
thronged the stairs behind them in blank amazement, and the heart of
Xanthippe, had one chosen to gaze through that diaphanous person's
ribs, could have been seen to beat angrily.

Queen Elizabeth was so excited at this wholly novel attitude towards
her regal self that, having turned, she sat down plump upon the floor
in the most unroyal fashion.

"Well!" she ejaculated.  "If this does not surpass everything!  The
idea of it!  Oh for one hour of my olden power, one hour of the axe,
one hour of the block!"

"Get up," retorted Cleopatra, "and let us all return to the billiard-
room and discuss this matter calmly.  It is quite evident that
something has happened of which we wotted little when we came aboard
this craft."

"That is a good idea," said Calpurnia, retreating below.  "I can see
through the window that we are in motion.  The vessel has left her
moorings, and is making considerable headway down the stream, and the
distinctly masculine voices we have heard are indications to my mind
that the ship is manned, and that this is the result of design rather
than of accident.  Let us below."

Elizabeth rose up and readjusted her ruff, which in the excitement of
the moment had been forced to assume a position about her forehead
which gave one the impression that its royal wearer had suddenly
donned a sombrero.

"Very well," she said.  "Let us below; but oh, for the axe!"

"Bring the lady an axe," cried Xanthippe, sarcastically.  "She wants
to cut somebody."

The sally was not greeted with applause.  The situation was regarded
as being too serious to admit of humor, and in silence they filed
back into the billiard-room, and, arranging themselves in groups,
stood about anxiously discussing the situation.

"It's getting rougher every minute," sobbed Ophelia.  "Look at those
pool-balls!"  These were in very truth chasing each other about the
table in an extraordinary fashion.  "And I wish I'd never followed
you horrid new creatures on board!" the poor girl added, in an agony
of despair.

"I believe we've crossed the bar already!" said Cleopatra, gazing out
of the window at a nasty choppy sea that was adding somewhat to the
disquietude of the fair gathering.  "If this is merely a joke on the
part of the Associated Shades, it is a mighty poor one, and I think
it is time it should cease."

"Oh, for an axe!" moaned Elizabeth, again.

"Excuse me, your Majesty," put in Xanthippe.  "You said that before,
and I must say it is getting tiresome.  You couldn't do anything with
an axe.  Suppose you had one.  What earthly good would it do you, who
were accustomed to doing all your killing by proxy?  I don't believe,
if you had the unmannerly person who slammed the door in your face
lying prostrate upon the billiard-table here, you could hit him a
square blow in the neck if you had a hundred axes.  Delilah might as
well cry for her scissors, for all the good it would do us in our
predicament.  If Cleopatra had her asp with her it might be more to
the purpose.  One deadly little snake like that let loose on the
upper deck would doubtless drive these boors into the sea, and even
then our condition would not be bettered, for there isn't any of us
that can sail a boat.  There isn't an old salt among us."

"Too bad Mrs. Lot isn't along," giggled Marguerite de Valois, whose
Gallic spirits were by no means overshadowed by the unhappy
predicament in which she found herself.

"I'm here," piped up Mrs. Lot.  "But I'm not that kind of a salt."

"I am present," said Mrs. Noah.  "Though why I ever came I don't
know, for I vowed the minute I set my foot on Ararat that dry land
was good enough for me, and that I'd never step aboard another boat
as long as I lived.  If, however, now that I am here, I can give you
the benefit of my nautical experience, you are all perfectly welcome
to it."

"I'm sure we're very much obliged for the offer," said Portia, "but
in the emergency which has arisen we cannot say how much obliged we
are until we know what your experience amounted to.  Before relying
upon you we ought to know how far that reliance can go--not that I
lack confidence in you, my dear madam, but that in an hour of peril
one must take care, to rely upon the oak, not upon the reed."

"The point is properly taken," said Elizabeth, "and I wish to say
here that I am easier in my mind when I realize that we have with us
so level-headed a person as the lady who has just spoken.  She has
spoken truly and to the point.  If I were to become queen again, I
should make her my attorney-general.  We must not go ahead
impulsively, but look at all things in a calm, judicial manner."

"Which is pretty hard work with a sea like this on," remarked
Ophelia, faintly, for she was getting a trifle sallow, as indeed she
might, for the House-boat was beginning to roll tremendously with no
alleviation save an occasional pitch, which was an alleviation only
in the sense that it gave variety to their discomfort.  "I don't
believe a chief-justice could look at things calmly and in a judicial
manner if he felt as I do."

"Poor dear!" said the matronly Mrs. Noah, sympathetically.  "I know
exactly how you feel.  I have been there myself.  The fourth day out
I and my whole family were in the same condition, except that Noah,
my husband, was so very far gone that I could not afford to yield.  I
nursed him for six days before he got his sea-legs on, and then
succumbed myself."

"But," gasped Ophelia, "that doesn't help me -

"It did my husband," said Mrs. Noah.

"When he heard that the boys were seasick too, he actually laughed
and began to get better right away.  There is really only one cure
for the mal de mer, and that is the fun of knowing that somebody else
is suffering too.  If some of you ladies would kindly yield to the
seductions of the sea, I think we could get this poor girl on her
feet in an instant."

Unfortunately for poor Ophelia, there was no immediate response to
this appeal, and the unhappy young woman was forced to suffer in

"We have no time for untimely diversions of this sort," snapped
Xanthippe, with a scornful glance at the suffering Ophelia, who,
having retired to a comfortable lounge at an end of the room, was
evidently improving.  "I have no sympathy with this habit some of my
sex seem to have acquired of succumbing to an immediate sensation of
this nature."

"I hope to be pardoned for interrupting," said Mrs. Noah, with a
great deal of firmness, "but I wish Mrs. Socrates to understand that
it is rather early in the voyage for her to lay down any such broad
principle as that, and for her own sake to-morrow, I think it would
be well if she withdrew the sentiment.  There are certain things
about a sea-voyage that are more or less beyond the control of man or
woman, and any one who chides that poor suffering child on yonder
sofa ought to be more confident than Mrs. Socrates can possibly be
that within an hour she will not be as badly off.  People who live in
glass houses should not throw dice."

"I shall never yield to anything so undignified as seasickness, let
me tell you that," retorted Xanthippe.  "Furthermore, the proverb is
not as the lady has quoted it.  'People who live in glass houses
should not throw stones' is the proper version."

"I was not quoting," returned Mrs. Noah, calmly.  "When I said that
people who live in glass houses should not throw dice, I meant
precisely what I said.  People who live in glass houses should not
take chances.  In assuming with such vainglorious positiveness that
she will not be seasick, the lady who has just spoken is giving
tremendous odds, as the boys used to say on the Ark when we gathered
about the table at night and began to make small wagers on the day's

"I think we had better suspend this discussion," suggested Cleopatra.
"It is of no immediate interest to any one but Ophelia, and I fancy
she does not care to dwell upon it at any great length.  It is more
important that we should decide upon our future course of action.  In
the first place, the question is who these people up on deck are.  If
they are the members of the club, we are all right.  They will give
us our scare, and land us safely again at the pier.  In that event it
is our womanly duty to manifest no concern, and to seem to be aware
of nothing unusual in the proceeding.  It would never do to let them
think that their joke has been a good one.  If, on the other hand, as
I fear, we are the victims of some horde of ruffians, who have
pounced upon us unawares, and are going into the business of
abduction on a wholesale basis, we must meet treachery with
treachery, strategy with strategy.  I, for one, am perfectly willing
to make every man on board walk the plank; having confidence in the
seawomanship of Mrs. Noah and her ability to steer us into port."

"I am quite in accord with these views," put in Madame Recamier, "and
I move you, Mrs. President, that we organize a series of sub-
committees--one on treachery, with Lucretia Borgia and Delilah as
members; one on strategy, consisting of Portia and Queen Elizabeth;
one on navigation, headed by Mrs. Noah; with a final sub-committee on
reconnoitre, with Cassandra to look forward, and Mrs. Lot to look
aft--all of these subordinated to a central committee of safety
headed by Cleopatra and Calpurnia.  The rest of us can then commit
ourselves and our interests unreservedly to these ladies, and proceed
to enjoy ourselves without thought of the morrow."

"I second the motion," said Ophelia, "with the amendment that Madame
Recamier be appointed chair-lady of another sub-committee, on

The amendment was accepted, and the motion put.  It was carried with
an enthusiastic aye, and the organization was complete.

The various committees retired to the several corners of the room to
discuss their individual lines of action, when a shadow was observed
to obscure the moonlight which had been streaming in through the
window.  The faces of Calpurnia and Cleopatra blanched for an
instant, as, immediately following upon this apparition, a large
bundle was hurled through the open port into the middle of the room,
and the shadow vanished.

"Is it a bomb?" cried several of the ladies at once.

"Nonsense!" said Madame Recamier, jumping lightly forward.  "A man

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