List Of Contents | Contents of The Pursuit of the House-Boat, by John Bangs
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doesn't mind blowing a woman up, but he'll never blow himself up.
We're safe enough in that respect.  The thing looks to me like a
bundle of illustrated papers."

"That's what it is," said Cleopatra who had been investigating.
"It's rather a discourteous bit of courtesy, tossing them in through
the window that way, I think, but I presume they mean well.  Dear
me," she added, as, having untied the bundle, she held one of the
open papers up before her, "how interesting!  All the latest Paris
fashions.  Humph!  Look at those sleeves, Elizabeth.  What an
impregnable fortress you would have been with those sleeves added to
your ruffs!"

"I should think they'd be very becoming," put in Cassandra, standing
on her tip-toes and looking over Cleopatra's shoulder.  "That Watteau
isn't bad, either, is it, now?"

"No," remarked Calpurnia.  "I wonder how a Watteau back like that
would go on my blue alpaca?"

"Very nicely," said Elizabeth.  "How many gores has it?"

"Five," observed Calpurnia.  "One more than Caesar's toga.  We had to
have our costumes distinct in some way."

"A remarkable hat, that," nodded Mrs. Lot, her eye catching sight of
a Virot creation at the top of the page.

"Reminds me of Eve's description of an autumn scene in the garden,"
smiled Mrs. Noah.  "Gorgeous in its foliage, beautiful thing; though
I shouldn't have dared wear one in the Ark, with all those hungry
animals browsing about the upper and lower decks."

"I wonder," remarked Cleopatra, as she cocked her head to one side to
take in the full effect of an attractive summer gown--"I wonder how
that waist would make up in blue crepon, with a yoke of lace and a
stylishly contrasting stock of satin ribbon?"

"It would depend upon how you finished the sleeves," remarked Madame
Recamier.  "If you had a few puffs of rich brocaded satin set in with
deeply folded pleats it wouldn't be bad."

"I think it would be very effective," observed Mrs. Noah, "but a
trifle too light for general wear.  I should want some kind of a wrap
with it."

"It does need that," assented Elizabeth.  "A wrap made of
passementerie and jet, with a mousseline de soie ruche about the neck
held by a chou, would make it fascinating."

"The committee on treachery is ready to report," said Delilah, rising
from her corner, where she and Lucretia Borgia had been having so
animated a discussion that they had failed to observe the others
crowding about Cleopatra and the papers.

"A little sombre," said Cleopatra.  "The corsage is effective, but I
don't like those basque terminations.  I've never approved of those
full godets--"

"The committee on treachery," remarked Delilah again, raising her
voice, "has a suggestion to make."

"I can't get over those sleeves, though," laughed Helen of Troy.
"What is the use of them?"

"They might be used to get Greeks into Troy," suggested Madame

"The committee on treachery," roared Delilah, thoroughly angered by
the absorption of the chairman and others, "has a suggestion to make.
This is the third and last call."

"Oh, I beg pardon," cried Cleopatra, rapping for order.  "I had
forgotten all about our committees.  Excuse me, Delilah.  I--ah--was
absorbed in other matters.  Will you kindly lay your pattern--I
should say your plan--before us?"

"It is briefly this," said Delilah.  "It has been suggested that we
invite the crew of this vessel to a chafing-dish party, under the
supervision of Lucretia Borgia, and that she--"

The balance of the plan was not outlined, for at this point the
speaker was interrupted by a loud knocking at the door, its instant
opening, and the appearance in the doorway of that ill-visaged
ruffian Captain Kidd.

"Ladies," he began, "I have come here to explain to you the situation
in which you find yourselves.  Have I your permission to speak?"

The ladies started back, but the chairman was equal to the occasion.

"Go on," said Cleopatra, with queenly dignity, turning to the
interloper; and the pirate proceeded to take the second step in the
nefarious plan upon which he and his brother ruffians had agreed, of
which the tossing in through the window of the bundle of fashion
papers was the first.


It was about twenty-four hours after the events narrated in the
preceding chapters that Mr. Sherlock Holmes assumed command of the
Gehenna, which was nothing more nor less than the shadow of the ill-
starred ocean steamship City of Chicago, which tried some years ago
to reach Liverpool by taking the overland route through Ireland,
fortunately without detriment to her passengers and crew, who had the
pleasure of the experience of shipwreck without any of the
discomforts of drowning.  As will be remembered, the obstructionist
nature of the Irish soil prevented the City of Chicago from
proceeding farther inland than was necessary to keep her well
balanced amidships upon a convenient and not too stony bed; and that
after a brief sojourn on the rocks she was finally disposed of to the
Styx Navigation Company, under which title Charon had had himself
incorporated, is a matter of nautical history.  The change of name to
the Gehenna was the act of Charon himself, and was prompted, no
doubt, by a desire to soften the jealous prejudices of the residents
of the Stygian capital against the flourishing and ever-growing
metropolis of Illinois.

The Associated Shades had had some trouble in getting this craft.
Charon, through his constant association with life on both sides of
the dark river, had gained a knowledge, more or less intimate, of
modern business methods, and while as janitor of the club he was
subject to the will of the House-boat Committee, and sympathized
deeply with the members of the association in their trouble, as
president of the Styx Navigation Company he was bound up in certain
newly attained commercial ideas which were embarrassing to those
members of the association to whose hands the chartering of a vessel
had been committed.

"See here, Charon," Sir Walter Raleigh had said, after Charon had
expressed himself as deeply sympathetic, but unable to shave the
terms upon which the vessel could be had, "you are an infernal old
hypocrite.  You go about wringing your hands over our misfortunes
until they've got as dry and flabby as a pair of kid gloves, and yet
when we ask you for a ship of suitable size and speed to go out after
those pirates, you become a sort of twin brother to Shylock, without
his excuse.  His instincts are accidents of birth.  Yours are
cultivated, and you know it."

"You are very much mistaken, Sir Walter," Charon had answered to
this.  "You don't understand my position.  It is a very hard one.  As
janitor of your club I am really prostrated over the events of the
past twenty-four hours.  My occupation is gone, and my despair over
your loss is correspondingly greater, for I have time on my hands to
brood over it.  I was hysterical as a woman yesterday afternoon--so
hysterical that I came near upsetting one of the Furies who engaged
me to row her down to Madame Medusa's villa last evening; and right
at the sluice of the vitriol reservoir at that."

"Then why the deuce don't you do something to help us?" pleaded

"How can I do any more than I have done?  I've offered you the
Gehenna," retorted Charon.

"But on what terms?" expostulated Raleigh.  "If we had all the wealth
of the Indies we'd have difficulty in paying you the sums you

"But I am only president of the company," explained Charon.  "I'd
like, as president, to show you some courtesy, and I'm perfectly
willing to do so; but when it comes down to giving you a vessel like
that, I'm bound by my official oath to consider the interest of the
stockholders.  It isn't as it used to be when I had boats to hire in
my own behalf alone.  In those days I had nobody's interest but my
own to look after.  Now the ships all belong to the Styx Navigation
Company.  Can't you see the difference?"

"You own all the stock, don't you?" insisted Raleigh.

"I don't know," Charon answered, blandly.  "I haven't seen the
transfer-books lately.''

"But you know that you did own every share of it, and that you
haven't sold any, don't you?" put in Hamlet.

Charon was puzzled for a moment, but shortly his face cleared, and
Sir Walter's heart sank, for it was evident that the old fellow could
not be cornered.

"Well, it's this way, Sir Walter, and your Highness," he said, "I--I
can't say whether any of that stock has been transferred or not.  The
fact is, I've been speculating a little on margin, and I've put up
that stock as security, and, for all I know, I may have been sold out
by my brokers.  I've been so upset by this unfortunate occurrence
that I haven't seen the market reports for two days.  Really you'll
have to be content with my offer or go without the Gehenna.  There's
too much suspicion attached to high corporate officials lately for me
to yield a jot in the position I have taken.  It would never do to
get you all ready to start, and then have an injunction clapped on
you by some unforeseen stockholder who was not satisfied with the
terms offered you; nor can I ever let it be said of me that to retain
my position as janitor of your organization I sacrificed a trust
committed to my charge.  I'll gladly lend you my private launch,
though I don't think it will aid you much, because the naphtha-tank
has exploded, and the screw slipped off and went to the bottom two
weeks ago.  Still, it is at your service, and I've no doubt that
either Phidias or Benvenuto Cellini will carve out a paddle for you
if you ask him to."

"Bah!" retorted Raleigh.  "You might as well offer us a pair of

"I would, if I thought the river'd freeze," retorted Charon, blandly.

Raleigh and Hamlet turned away impatiently and left Charon to his own
devices, which for the time being consisted largely of winking his
other eye quietly and outwardly making a great show of grief.

"He's too canny for us, I am afraid," said Sir Walter.  "We'll have
to pay him his money."

"Let us first consult Sherlock Holmes," suggested Hamlet, and this
they proceeded at once to do.

"There is but one thing to be done," observed the astute detective
after he had heard Sir Walter's statement of the case.  "It is an old
saying that one should fight fire with fire.  We must meet modern
business methods with modern commercial ideas.  Charter his vessel at
his own price."

"But we'd never be able to pay," said Hamlet.

"Ha-ha!" laughed Holmes.  "It is evident that you know nothing of the
laws of trade nowadays.  Don't pay!"

"But how can we?" asked Raleigh.

"The method is simple.  You haven't anything to pay with," returned
Holmes.  "Let him sue.  Suppose he gets a verdict.  You haven't
anything he can attach--if you have, make it over to your wives or
your fiancees"

"Is that honest?" asked Hamlet, shaking his head doubtfully.

"It's business," said Holmes.

"But suppose he wants an advance payment?" queried Hamlet.

"Give him a check drawn to his own order.  He'll have to endorse it
when he deposits it, and that will make him responsible," laughed

"What a simple thing when you understand it!" commented Raleigh.

"Very," said Holmes.  "Business is getting by slow degrees to be an
exact science.  It reminds me of the Brighton mystery, in which I
played a modest part some ten years ago, when I first took up
ferreting as a profession.  I was sitting one night in my room at one
of the Brighton hotels, which shall be nameless.  I never give the
name of any of the hotels at which I stop, because it might give
offence to the proprietors of other hotels, with the result that my
books would be excluded from sale therein.  Suffice it to say that I
was spending an early summer Sunday at Brighton with my friend
Watson.  We had dined well, and were enjoying our evening smoke
together upon a small balcony overlooking the water, when there came
a timid knock on the door of my room.

"'Watson,' said I, 'here comes some one for advice.  Do you wish to
wager a small bottle upon it?'

"'Yes,' he answered, with a smile.  'I am thirsty and I'd like a
small bottle; and while I do not expect to win, I'll take the bet.  I
should like to know, though, how you know.'

"'It is quite simple,' said I.  'The timidity of the knock shows that
my visitor is one of two classes of persons--an autograph-hunter or a
client, one of the two.  You see I give you a chance to win.  It may
be an autograph-hunter, but I think it is a client.  If it were a
creditor, he would knock boldly, even ostentatiously; if it were the
maid, she would not knock at all; if it were the hall-boy, he would
not come until I had rung five times for him.  None of these things
has occurred; the knock is the half-hearted knock which betokens
either that the person who knocked is in trouble, or is uncertain as
to his reception.  I am willing, however, considering the heat and my
desire to quench my thirst, to wager that it is a client.'

"'Done,' said Watson; and I immediately remarked, 'Come in.'

"The door opened, and a man of about thirty-five years of age, in a
bathing-suit, entered the room, and I saw at a glance what had

"'Your name is Burgess,' I said.  'You came here from London this
morning, expecting to return to-night.  You brought no luggage with
you.  After luncheon you went bathing.  You had machine No. 35, and
when you came out of the water you found that No. 35 had disappeared,
with your clothes and the silver watch your uncle gave you on the day
you succeeded to his business.'

"Of course, gentlemen," observed the detective, with a smile at Sir
Walter and Hamlet--"of course the man fairly gasped, and I continued:
'You have been lying face downward in the sand ever since, waiting
for nightfall, so that you could come to me for assistance, not
considering it good form to make an afternoon call upon a stranger at
his hotel, clad in a bathing-suit.  Am I correct?'

"'Sir,' he replied, with a look of wonder, 'you have narrated my
story exactly as it happened, and I find I have made no mistake in
coming to you.  Would you mind telling me what is your course of

"'It is plain as day,' said I.  'I am the person with the red beard
with whom you came down third class from London this morning, and you
told me your name was Burgess and that you were a butcher.  When you
looked to see the time, I remarked upon the oddness of your watch,
which led to your telling me that it was the gift of your uncle.'

"'True,' said Burgess, 'but I did not tell you I had no luggage.'

"'No,' said I, 'but that you hadn't is plain; for if you had brought
any other clothing besides that you had on with you, you would have
put it on to come here.  That you have been robbed I deduce also from
your costume.'

"'But the number of the machine?' asked Watson.

"'Is on the tag on the key hanging about his neck,' said I.

"'One more question,' queried Burgess.  'How do you know I have been
lying face downward on the beach ever since?'

"'By the sand in your eyebrows,' I replied; and Watson ordered up the

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