The Pursuit of the House-Boat
John Kendrick Bangs
Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced from the 1919 Harper and Brothers edition by
David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE PURSUIT OF THE HOUSE-BOAT
by John Kendrick Bangs
CHAPTER I: THE ASSOCIATED SHADES TAKE ACTION
The House-boat of the Associated Shades, formerly located upon the
River Styx, as the reader may possibly remember, had been torn from
its moorings and navigated out into unknown seas by that vengeful
pirate Captain Kidd, aided and abetted by some of the most ruffianly
inhabitants of Hades. Like a thief in the night had they come, and
for no better reason than that the Captain had been unanimously voted
a shade too shady to associate with self-respecting spirits had they
made off with the happy floating club-house of their betters; and
worst of all, with them, by force of circumstances over which they
had no control, had sailed also the fair Queen Elizabeth, the
spirited Xanthippe, and every other strong-minded and beautiful woman
of Erebean society, whereby the men thereof were rendered desolate.
"I can't stand it!" cried Raleigh, desperately, as with his
accustomed grace he presided over a special meeting of the club,
called on the bank of the inky Stygian stream, at the point where the
missing boat had been moored. "Think of it, gentlemen, Elizabeth of
England, Calpurnia of Rome, Ophelia of Denmark, and every precious
jewel in our social diadem gone, vanished completely; and with whom?
Kidd, of all men in the universe! Kidd, the pirate, the ruffian--"
"Don't take on so, my dear Sir Walter," said Socrates, cheerfully.
"What's the use of going into hysterics? You are not a woman, and
should eschew that luxury. Xanthippe is with them, and I'll warrant
you that when that cherished spouse of mine has recovered from the
effects of the sea, say the third day out, Kidd and his crew will be
walking the plank, and voluntarily at that."
"But the House-boat itself," murmured Noah, sadly. "That was my
delight. It reminded me in some respects of the Ark."
"The law of compensation enters in there, my dear Commodore,"
retorted Socrates. "For me, with Xanthippe abroad I do not need a
club to go to; I can stay at home and take my hemlock in peace and
straight. Xanthippe always compelled me to dilute it at the rate of
one quart of water to the finger."
"Well, we didn't all marry Xanthippe," put in Caesar firmly,
"therefore we are not all satisfied with the situation. I, for one,
quite agree with Sir Walter that something must be done, and quickly.
Are we to sit here and do nothing, allowing that fiend to kidnap our
wives with impunity?"
"Not at all," interposed Bonaparte. "The time for action has
arrived. All things considered, he is welcome to Marie Louise, but
the idea of Josephine going off on a cruise of that kind breaks my
"No question about it," observed Dr. Johnson. "We've got to do
something if it is only for the sake of appearances. The question
really is, what shall be done first?"
"I am in favor of taking a drink as the first step, and considering
the matter of further action afterwards," suggested Shakespeare, and
it was this suggestion that made the members unanimous upon the
necessity for immediate action, for when the assembled spirits called
for their various favorite beverages it was found that there were
none to be had, it being Sunday, and all the establishments wherein
liquid refreshments were licensed to be sold being closed--for at the
time of writing the local government of Hades was in the hands of the
"What!" cried Socrates. "Nothing but Styx water and vitriol,
Sundays? Then the House-boat must be recovered whether Xanthippe
comes with it or not. Sir Walter, I am for immediate action, after
all. This ruffian should be captured at once and made an example
"Excuse me, Socrates," put in Lindley Murray, "but, ah--pray speak in
Greek hereafter, will you, please? When you attempt English you have
a beastly way of working up to climatic prepositions which are
offensive to the ear of a purist."
"This is no time to discuss style, Murray," interposed Sir Walter.
"Socrates may speak and spell like Chaucer if he pleases; he may even
part his infinitives in the middle, for all I care. We have affairs
of greater moment in hand."
"We must ransack the earth," cried Socrates, "until we find that
boat. I'm dry as a fish."
"There he goes again!" growled Murray. "Dry as a fish! What fish,
I'd like to know, is dry?"
"Red herrings," retorted Socrates; and there was a great laugh at the
expense of the purist, in which even Hamlet, who had grown more and
more melancholy and morbid since the abduction of Ophelia, joined.
"Then it is settled," said Raleigh; "something must be done. And now
the point is, what?"
"Relief expeditions have a way of finding things," suggested Dr.
Livingstone. "Or rather of being found by the things they go out to
relieve. I propose that we send out a number of them. I will take
Africa; Bonaparte can lead an expedition into Europe; General
Washington may have North America; and--"
"I beg pardon," put in Dr. Johnson, "but have you any idea, Dr.
Livingstone, that Captain Kidd has put wheels on this House-boat of
ours, and is having it dragged across the Sahara by mules or camels?"
"No such absurd idea ever entered my head," retorted the Doctor.
"Do you, then, believe that he has put runners on it, and is engaged
in the pleasurable pastime of taking the ladies tobogganing down the
Alps?" persisted the philosopher.
"Not at all. Why do you ask?" queried the African explorer,
"Because I wish to know," said Johnson. "That is always my motive in
asking questions. You propose to go looking for a house-boat in
Central Africa; you suggest that Bonaparte lead an expedition in
search of it through Europe--all of which strikes me as nonsense.
This search is the work of sea-dogs, not of landlubbers. You might
as well ask Confucius to look for it in the heart of China. What
earthly use there is in ransacking the earth I fail to see. What we
need is a navel expedition to scour the sea, unless it is pretty well
understood in advance that we believe Kidd has hauled the boat out of
the water, and is now using it for a roller-skating rink or a bicycle
academy in Ohio, or for some other purpose for which neither he nor
it was designed."
"Dr. Johnson's point is well taken," said a stranger who had been
sitting upon the string-piece of the pier, quietly, but with very
evident interest, listening to the discussion. He was a tall and
excessively slender shade, "like a spirt of steam out of a teapot,"
as Johnson put it afterwards, so slight he seemed. "I have not the
honor of being a member of this association," the stranger continued,
"but, like all well-ordered shades, I aspire to the distinction, and
I hold myself and my talents at the disposal of this club. I fancy
it will not take us long to establish our initial point, which is
that the gross person who has so foully appropriated your property to
his own base uses does not contemplate removing it from its keel and
placing it somewhere inland. All the evidence in hand points to a
radically different conclusion, which is my sole reason for doubting
the value of that conclusion. Captain Kidd is a seafarer by
instinct, not a landsman. The House-boat is not a house, but a boat;
therefore the place to look for it is not, as Dr. Johnson so well
says, in the Sahara Desert, or on the Alps, or in the State of Ohio,
but upon the high sea, or upon the waterfront of some one of the
world's great cities."
"And what, then, would be your plan?" asked Sir Walter, impressed by
the stranger's manner as well as by the very manifest reason in all
that he had said.
"The chartering of a suitable vessel, fully armed and equipped for
the purpose of pursuit. Ascertain whither the House-boat has sailed,
for what port, and start at once. Have you a model of the House-boat
within reach?" returned the stranger.
"I think not; we have the architect's plans, however," said the
"We had, Mr. Chairman," said Demosthenes, who was secretary of the
House Committee, rising, "but they are gone with the House-boat
itself. They were kept in the safe in the hold."
A look of annoyance came into the face of the stranger.
"That's too bad," he said. "It was a most important part of my plan
that we should know about how fast the House-boat was."
"Humph!" ejaculated Socrates, with ill-concealed sarcasm. "If you'll
take Xanthippe's word for it, the House-boat was the fastest yacht
"I refer to the matter of speed in sailing," returned the stranger,
quietly. "The question of its ethical speed has nothing to do with
"The designer of the craft is here," said Sir Walter, fixing his eyes
upon Sir Christopher Wren. "It is possible that he may be of
assistance in settling that point."
"What has all this got to do with the question, anyhow, Mr.
Chairman?" asked Solomon, rising impatiently and addressing Sir
Walter. "We aren't preparing for a yacht-race, that I know of.
Nobody's after a cup, or a championship of any kind. What we do want
is to get our wives back. The Captain hasn't taken more than half of
mine along with him, but I am interested none the less. The Queen of
Sheba is on board, and I am somewhat interested in her fate. So I
ask you what earthly or unearthly use there is in discussing this
question of speed in the House-boat. It strikes me as a woful waste
of time, and rather unprecedented too, that we should suspend all
rules and listen to the talk of an entire stranger."
"I do not venture to doubt the wisdom of Solomon," said Johnson,
dryly, "but I must say that the gentleman's remarks rather interest
"Of course they do," ejaculated Solomon. "He agreed with you. That
ought to make him interesting to everybody. Freaks usually are."
"That is not the reason at all," retorted Dr. Johnson. "Cold water
agrees with me, but it doesn't interest me. What I do think,
however, is that our unknown friend seems to have a grasp on the
situation by which we are confronted, and he's going at the matter in
hand in a very comprehensive fashion. I move, therefore, that
Solomon be laid on the table, and that the privileges of the--ah--of
the wharf be extended indefinitely to our friend on the string-
The motion, having been seconded, was duly carried, and the stranger
"I will explain for the benefit of his Majesty King Solomon, whose
wisdom I have always admired, and whose endurance as the husband of
three hundred wives has filled me with wonder," he said, "that before
starting in pursuit of the stolen vessel we must select a craft of
some sort for the purpose, and that in selecting the pursuer it is
quite essential that we should choose a vessel of greater speed than
the one we desire to overtake. It would hardly be proper, I think,
if the House-boat can sail four knots an hour to attempt to overhaul
her with a launch, or other nautical craft, with a maximum speed of
two knots an hour."
"Hear! hear!" ejaculated Caesar.
"That is my reason, your Majesty, for inquiring as to the speed of
your late club-house," said the stranger, bowing courteously to
Solomon. "Now, if Sir Christopher Wren can give me her measurements,
we can very soon determine at about what rate she is leaving us
behind under favorable circumstances."
"'Tisn't necessary for Sir Christopher to do anything of the sort,"
said Noah, rising and manifesting somewhat more heat than the
occasion seemed to require. "As long as we are discussing the
question I will take the liberty of stating what I have never
mentioned before, that the designer of the House-boat merely
appropriated the lines of the Ark. Shem, Ham, and Japhet will bear
testimony to the truth of that statement."
"There can be no quarrel on that score, Mr. Chairman," assented Sir
Christopher, with cutting frigidity. "I am perfectly willing to
admit that practically the two vessels were built on the same lines,
but with modifications which would enable my boat to sail twenty
miles to windward and back in six days' less time than it would have
taken the Ark to cover the same distance, and it could have taken all
the wash of the excursion steamers into the bargain."
"Bosh!" ejaculated Noah, angrily. "Strip your old tub down to a
flying balloon-jib and a marline-spike, and ballast the Ark with
elephants until every inch of her reeked with ivory and peanuts, and
she'd outfoot you on every leg, in a cyclone or a zephyr. Give me
the Ark and a breeze, and your House-boat wouldn't be within hailing
distance of her five minutes after the start if she had 40,000 square
yards of canvas spread before a gale."
"This discussion is waxing very unprofitable," observed Confucius.
"If these gentlemen cannot be made to confine themselves to the
subject that is agitating this body, I move we call in the
authorities and have them confined in the bottomless pit."
"I did not precipitate the quarrel," said Noah. "I was merely trying
to assist our friend on the string-piece. I was going to say that as
the Ark was probably a hundred times faster than Sir Christopher
Wren's--tub, which he himself says can take care of all the wash of
the excursion boats, thereby becoming on his own admission a wash-
"Order! order!" cried Sir Christopher.
"I was going to say that this wash-tub could be overhauled by a
launch or any other craft with a speed of thirty knots a mouth,"
continued Noah, ignoring the interruption.
"Took him forty days to get to Mount Ararat!" sneered Sir
"Well, your boat would have got there two weeks sooner, I'll admit,"
retorted Noah, "if she'd sprung a leak at the right time."
"Granting the truth of Noah's statement," said Sir Walter, motioning
to the angry architect to be quiet--"not that we take any side in the
issue between the two gentlemen, but merely for the sake of argument-
-I wish to ask the stranger who has been good enough to interest
himself in our trouble what he proposes to do--how can you establish
your course in case a boat were provided?"
"Also vot vill be dher gost, if any?" put in Shylock.
A murmur of disapprobation greeted this remark.
"The cost need not trouble you, sir," said Sir Walter, indignantly,
addressing the stranger; "you will have carte blanche."
"Den ve are ruint!" cried Shylock, displaying his palms, and showing
by that act a select assortment of diamond rings.
"Oh," laughed the stranger, "that is a simple matter. Captain Kidd
has gone to London."
"To London!" cried several members at once. "How do you know that?"
"By this," said the stranger, holding up the tiny stub end of a
"Tut-tut!" ejaculated Solomon. "What child's play is this!"
"No, your Majesty," observed the stranger, "it is not child's play;
it is fact. That cigar end was thrown aside here on the wharf by
Captain Kidd just before he stepped on board the House-boat."
"How do you know that?" demanded Raleigh. "And granting the truth of
the assertion, what does it prove?"
"I will tell you," said the stranger. And he at once proceeded as
CHAPTER II: THE STRANGER UNRAVELS A MYSTERY AND REVEALS HIMSELF
"I have made a hobby of the study of cigar ends," said the stranger,
as the Associated Shades settled back to hear his account of himself.
"From my earliest youth, when I used surreptitiously to remove the
unsmoked ends of my father's cigars and break them up, and, in
hiding, smoke them in an old clay pipe which I had presented to me by
an ancient sea-captain of my acquaintance, I have been interested in
tobacco in all forms, even including these self-same despised
unsmoked ends; for they convey to my mind messages, sentiments,
farces, comedies, and tragedies which to your minds would never
become manifest through their agency."
The company drew closer together and formed themselves in a more
compact mass about the speaker. It was evident that they were
beginning to feel an unusual interest in this extraordinary person,
who had come among them unheralded and unknown. Even Shylock stopped
calculating percentages for an instant to listen.
"Do you mean to tell us," demanded Shakespeare, "that the unsmoked
stub of a cigar will suggest the story of him who smoked it to your
"I do," replied the stranger, with a confident smile. "Take this
one, for instance, that I have picked up here upon the wharf; it
tells me the whole story of the intentions of Captain Kidd at the
moment when, in utter disregard of your rights, he stepped aboard
your House-boat, and, in his usual piratical fashion, made off with
it into unknown seas."
"But how do you know he smoked it?" asked Solomon, who deemed it the
part of wisdom to be suspicious of the stranger.
"There are two curious indentations in it which prove that. The
marks of two teeth, with a hiatus between, which you will see if you
look closely," said the stranger, handing the small bit of tobacco to
Sir Walter, "make that point evident beyond peradventure. The
Captain lost an eye-tooth in one of his later raids; it was knocked
out by a marine-spike which had been hurled at him by one of the crew
of the treasure-ship he and his followers had attacked. The adjacent
teeth were broken, but not removed. The cigar end bears the marks of
those two jagged molars, with the hiatus, which, as I have indicated,
is due to the destruction of the eye-tooth between them. It is not
likely that there was another man in the pirate's crew with teeth
exactly like the commander's, therefore I say there can be no doubt
that the cigar end was that of the Captain himself."
"Very interesting indeed," observed Blackstone, removing his wig and
fanning himself with it; "but I must confess, Mr. Chairman, that in
any properly constituted law court this evidence would long since
have been ruled out as irrelevant and absurd. The idea of two or
three hundred dignified spirits like ourselves, gathered together to
devise a means for the recovery of our property and the rescue of our
wives, yielding the floor to the delivering of a lecture by an entire
stranger on 'Cigar Ends He Has Met,' strikes me as ridiculous in the
extreme. Of what earthly interest is it to us to know that this or
that cigar was smoked by Captain Kidd?"
"Merely that it will help us on, your honor, to discover the
whereabouts of the said Kidd," interposed the stranger. "It is by
trifles, seeming trifles, that the greatest detective work is done.
My friends Le Coq, Hawkshaw, and Old Sleuth will bear me out in this,
I think, however much in other respects our methods may have
differed. They left no stone unturned in the pursuit of a criminal;
no detail, however trifling, uncared for. No more should we in the
present instance overlook the minutest bit of evidence, however
irrelevant and absurd at first blush it may appear to be. The truth
of what I say was very effectually proven in the strange case of the
Brokedale tiara, in which I figured somewhat conspicuously, but which
have never made public, because it involves a secret affecting the
integrity of one of the noblest families in the British Empire. I
really believe that mystery was solved easily and at once because I
happened to remember that the number of my watch was 86507B. How
trivial and yet how important it was, to what then transpired, you
will realize when I tell you the incident."
The stranger's manner was so impressive that there was a unanimous
and simultaneous movement upon the part of all present to get up
closer, so as the more readily to hear what he said, as a result of
which poor old Boswell was pushed overboard, and fell, with a loud
splash into the Styx. Fortunately, however, one of Charon's
pleasure-boats was close at hand, and in a short while the dripping,
sputtering spirit was drawn into it, wrung out, and sent home to dry.
The excitement attending this diversion having subsided, Solomon
"What was the incident of the lost tiara?"
"I am about to tell you," returned the stranger; "and it must be
understood that you are told in the strictest confidence, for, as I
say, the incident involves a state secret of great magnitude. In
life--in the mortal life--gentlemen, I was a detective by profession,
and, if I do say it, who perhaps should not, I was one of the most
interesting for purely literary purposes that has ever been known. I
did not find it necessary to go about saying 'Ha! ha!' as M. Le Coq
was accustomed to do to advertise his cleverness; neither did I
disguise myself as a drum-major and hide under a kitchen-table for
the purpose of solving a mystery involving the abduction of a parlor
stove, after the manner of the talented Hawkshaw. By mental
concentration alone, without fireworks or orchestral accompaniment of
any sort whatsoever, did I go about my business, and for that very
reason many of my fellow-sleuths were forced to go out of real
detective work into that line of the business with which the stage
has familiarized the most of us--a line in which nothing but
stupidity, luck, and a yellow wig is required of him who pursues it."
"This man is an impostor," whispered Le Coq to Hawkshaw.
"I've known that all along by the mole on his left wrist," returned
"I suspected it the minute I saw he was not disguised," returned Le
Coq, knowingly. "I have observed that the greatest villains latterly
have discarded disguises, as being too easily penetrated, and
therefore of no avail, and merely a useless expense."
"Silence!" cried Confucius, impatiently. "How can the gentleman
proceed, with all this conversation going on in the rear?"
Hawkshaw and Le Coq immediately subsided, and the stranger went on.
"It was in this way that I treated the strange case of the lost
tiara," resumed the stranger. "Mental concentration upon seemingly
insignificant details alone enabled me to bring about the desired
results in that instance. A brief outline of the case is as follows:
It was late one evening in the early spring of 1894. The London
season was at its height. Dances, fetes of all kinds, opera, and the
theatres were in full blast, when all of a sudden society was
paralyzed by a most audacious robbery. A diamond tiara valued at
50,000 pounds sterling had been stolen from the Duchess of Brokedale,
and under circumstances which threw society itself and every
individual in it under suspicion--even his Royal Highness the Prince
himself, for he had danced frequently with the Duchess, and was known
to be a great admirer of her tiara. It was at half-past eleven
o'clock at night that the news of the robbery first came to my ears.
I had been spending the evening alone in my library making notes for
a second volume of my memoirs, and, feeling somewhat depressed, I was
on the point of going out for my usual midnight walk on Hampstead
Heath, when one of my servants, hastily entering, informed me of the
robbery. I changed my mind in respect to my midnight walk
immediately upon receipt of the news, for I knew that before one
o'clock some one would call upon me at my lodgings with reference to
this robbery. It could not be otherwise. Any mystery of such
magnitude could no more be taken to another bureau than elephants
"They used to," said Adam. "I once had a whole aviary full of winged
elephants. They flew from flower to flower, and thrusting their
probabilities deep into--"
"Their what?" queried Johnson, with a frown.
"Probabilities--isn't that the word? Their trunks," said Adam.
"Probosces, I imagine you mean," suggested Johnson.
"Yes--that was it. Their probosces," said Adam. "They were great
honey-gatherers, those elephants--far better than the bees, because
they could make so much more of it in a given time."
Munchausen shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid I'm outclassed by these
antediluvians," he said.
"Gentlemen! gentlemen!" cried Sir Walter. "These interruptions are
"That's what I think," said the stranger, with some asperity. "I'm
having about as hard a time getting this story out as I would if it
were a serial. Of course, if you gentlemen do not wish to hear it, I
can stop; but it must be understood that when I do stop I stop
finally, once and for all, because the tale has not a sufficiency of
dramatic climaxes to warrant its prolongation over the usual magazine
period of twelve months."
"Go on! go on!" cried some.
"Shut up!" cried others--addressing the interrupting members, of
"As I was saying," resumed the stranger, "I felt confident that
within an hour, in some way or other, that case would be placed in my
hands. It would be mine either positively or negatively--that is to
say, either the person robbed would employ me to ferret out the
mystery and recover the diamonds, or the robber himself, actuated by
motives of self-preservation, would endeavor to direct my energies
into other channels until he should have the time to dispose of his
ill-gotten booty. A mental discussion of the probabilities inclined
me to believe that the latter would be the case. I reasoned in this
fashion: The person robbed is of exalted rank. She cannot move
rapidly because she is so. Great bodies move slowly. It is probable
that it will be a week before, according to the etiquette by which
she is hedged about, she can communicate with me. In the first
place, she must inform one of her attendants that she has been
robbed. He must communicate the news to the functionary in charge of
her residence, who will communicate with the Home Secretary, and from
him will issue the orders to the police, who, baffled at every step,
will finally address themselves to me. 'I'll give that side two
weeks,' I said. On the other hand, the robber: will he allow
himself to be lulled into a false sense of security by counting on
this delay, or will he not, noting my habit of occasionally entering
upon detective enterprises of this nature of my own volition, come to
me at once and set me to work ferreting out some crime that has never
been committed? My feeling was that this would happen, and I pulled
out my watch to see if it were not nearly time for him to arrive.
The robbery had taken place at a state ball at the Buckingham Palace.
'H'm!' I mused. 'He has had an hour and forty minutes to get here.
It is now twelve-twenty. He should be here by twelve-forty-five. I
will wait.' And hastily swallowing a cocaine tablet to nerve myself
up for the meeting, I sat down and began to read my Schopenhauer.
Hardly had I perused a page when there came a tap upon my door. I
rose with a smile, for I thought I knew what was to happen, opened
the door, and there stood, much to my surprise, the husband of the
lady whose tiara was missing. It was the Duke of Brokedale himself.
It is true he was disguised. His beard was powdered until it looked
like snow, and he wore a wig and a pair of green goggles; but I
recognized him at once by his lack of manners, which is an
unmistakable sign of nobility. As I opened the door, he began:
"'You are Mr.--'
"'I am,' I replied. 'Come in. You have come to see me about your
stolen watch. It is a gold hunting-case watch with a Swiss movement;
loses five minutes a day; stem-winder; and the back cover, which does
not bear any inscription, has upon it the indentations made by the
molars of your son Willie when that interesting youth was cutting his
teeth upon it.'"
"Wonderful!" cried Johnson.
"May I ask how you knew all that?" asked Solomon, deeply impressed.
"Such penetration strikes me as marvellous."
"I didn't know it," replied the stranger, with a smile. "What I said
was intended to be jocular, and to put Brokedale at his ease. The
Americans present, with their usual astuteness, would term it bluff.
It was. I merely rattled on. I simply did not wish to offend the
gentleman by letting him know that I had penetrated his disguise.
Imagine my surprise, however, when his eye brightened as I spoke, and
he entered my room with such alacrity that half the powder which he
thought disguised his beard was shaken off on to the floor. Sitting
down in the chair I had just vacated, he quietly remarked:
"'You are a wonderful man, sir. How did you know that I had lost my
"For a moment I was nonplussed; more than that, I was completely
staggered. I had expected him to say at once that he had not lost
his watch, but had come to see me about the tiara; and to have him
take my words seriously was entirely unexpected and overwhelmingly
surprising. However, in view of his rank, I deemed it well to fall
in with his humour. 'Oh, as for that,' I replied, 'that is a part of
my business. It is the detective's place to know everything; and
generally, if he reveals the machinery by means of which he reaches
his conclusions, he is a fool, since his method is his secret, and
his secret his stock-in-trade. I do not mind telling you, however,
that I knew your watch was stolen by your anxious glance at my clock,
which showed that you wished to know the time. Now most rich
Americans have watches for that purpose, and have no hesitation about
showing them. If you'd had a watch, you'd have looked at it, not at
"My visitor laughed, and repeated what he had said about my being a
"'And the dents which my son made cutting his teeth?' he added.
"'Invariably go with an American's watch. Rubber or ivory rings
aren't good enough for American babies to chew on,' said I. 'They
must have gold watches or nothing.'
"'And finally, how did you know I was a rich American?' he asked.
"'Because no other can afford to stop at hotels like the Savoy in the
height of the season,' I replied, thinking that the jest would end
there, and that he would now reveal his identity and speak of the
tiara. To my surprise, however, he did nothing of the sort.
"'You have an almost supernatural gift,' he said. 'My name is
Bunker. I am stopping at the Savoy. I AM an American. I WAS rich
when I arrived here, but I'm not quite so bloated with wealth as I
was, now that I have paid my first week's bill. I HAVE lost my
watch; such a watch, too, as you describe, even to the dents. Your
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
"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
"'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
"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:
FERRETING DONE HERE.
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
CHAPTER III: THE SEARCH-PARTY IS ORGANIZED
"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
"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
"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
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
"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."
CHAPTER IV: ON BOARD THE HOUSE-BOAT
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,"
"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
"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:
NOTICE TO HOSTESSES.
Owing to the very great, constantly growing, and at times vexatious
demands upon his time socially,
HERR WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
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
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
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
"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."
CHAPTER V: A CONFERENCE ON DECK
"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
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
"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
CHAPTER VI: A CONFERENCE BELOW-STAIRS
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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.
CHAPTER VII: THE "GEHENNA" IS CHARTERED
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.
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