THE PURSUIT OF THE HOUSE-BOAT
THE PURSUIT OF THE HOUSE-BOAT
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.