At the end of John Kendrick Bangs’ A House-boat on the Styx, the men went ashore to watch Goliath fight Samson, leaving the houseboat untended. So the ladies, headed by Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth, took the opportunity to trespass. While they were playing pool below decks, the pirate Captain Kidd and his crew, unaware that the ladies were aboard, hijacked the boat and set out for Europe so they could do some looting.
As The Pursuit of the Houseboat opens, everyone is discovering what’s just happened. When the men realize that the boat is missing, they have no idea how to find it but, fortunately, Sherlock Holmes appears and offers his services. Meanwhile, the pirates and the ladies are shocked and horrified to find themselves sharing the houseboat. The rest of the plot involves the pirates and the women trying to outwit each other.
The Pursuit of the Houseboat is more fun than A House-boat on the Styx — it doesn’t feel quite so much like a series of history lessons. There is still some slightly clunky humor that depends on understanding the historical allusions (e.g., Delilah is asked to fetch her scissors so she can cut the rope holding the anchor, and Queen Elizabeth tries to be discreet about her relationship to Sir Walter Raleigh), but The Pursuit of the Houseboat actually has an entertaining plot as Captain Kidd and his crew try to deal with the women. The more ancient men (those from earlier times, I mean) think this will be rather easy to do, but the modern men scoff and explain that women are different than they used to be and are not going to let themselves get pushed around by pirates. (This was written in 1897 — good for you, Mr. Bangs — I wish you were writing paranormal romance novels today!) Sure enough, the ladies of Hades (sorry, I couldn’t resist) are up to the task!
A House-Boat on the Styx and The Pursuit of the Houseboat are available on Kindle in the Halcyon Classics edition, which contains 48 works by John Kendrick Bangs for (at this writing) only $1.99. Both books are rather short and easily read in an afternoon.