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Title: Mr. Munchausen  - Being a True Account of Some of the Recent Adventures beyond the Styx of the Late Hieronymus Carl Friedrich, Sometime Baron Munchausen of Bodenwerder
Author: Bangs, John Kendrick, 1862-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      which includes the original illustrations in color.
MR. MUNCHAUSEN


[Illustration]


MR. MUNCHAUSEN

_Being a TRUE ACCOUNT of some of the RECENT ADVENTURES beyond the STYX
of the late HIERONYMUS CARL FRIEDRICH, sometime BARON MUNCHAUSEN of
BODENWERDER, as originally reported for the SUNDAY EDITION of the
GEHENNA GAZETTE by its SPECIAL INTERVIEWER the late Mr. ANANIAS
formerly of JERUSALEM and now first transcribed from the columns of
that JOURNAL by_

JOHN KENDRICK BANGS

Embellished with Drawings by Peter Newell



[Illustration]

Boston: _Printed for Noyes, Platt & Company and published by them at
their offices in the Pierce Building in Copley Square_, A.D. 1901

Copyright, 1901, by Noyes, Platt & Company, (Incorporated)

Entered at Stationers' Hall

The lithographed illustrations are printed in eight colours by George
H. Walker and Company, Boston

Press of Riggs Printing and Publishing Co. Albany, N. Y., U. S. A.



EDITOR'S APOLOGY _and_ DEDICATION


_In order that there may be no misunderstanding as to the why and the
wherefore of this collection of tales it appears to me to be desirable
that I should at the outset state my reasons for acting as the medium
between the spirit of the late Baron Munchausen and the reading
public. In common with a large number of other great men in history
Baron Munchausen has suffered because he is not understood. I have
observed with wondering surprise the steady and constant growth of the
idea that Baron Munchausen was not a man of truth; that his statements
of fact were untrustworthy, and that as a realist he had no standing
whatsoever. Just how this misconception of the man's character has
arisen it would be difficult to say. Surely in his published writings
he shows that same lofty resolve to be true to life as he has seen it
that characterises the work of some of the high Apostles of Realism,
who are writing of the things that will teach future generations how
we of to-day ordered our goings-on. The note of veracity in Baron
Munchausen's early literary venturings rings as clear and as true
certainly as the similar note in the charming studies of Manx Realism
that have come to us of late years from the pen of Mr. Corridor
Walkingstick, of Gloomster Abbey and London. We all remember the glow
of satisfaction with which we read Mr. Walkingstick's great story of
the love of the clergyman, John Stress, for the charming little
heroine, Glory Partridge. Here was something at last that rang true.
The picture was painted in the boldest of colours, and, regardless of
consequences to himself, Mr. Walkingstick dared to be real when he
might have given rein to his imagination. Mr. Walkingstick was,
thereupon, lifted up by popular favour to the level of an
apostle--nay, he even admitted the soft impeachment--and now as a
moral teacher he is without a rival in the world of literature. Yet
the same age that accepts this man as a moral teacher, rejects Baron
Munchausen, who, in different manner perhaps, presented to the world
as true and life-like a picture of the conditions of his day as that
given to us by Mr. Walkingstick in his deservedly popular romance,
"Episcopalians I have Met." Of course, I do not claim that Baron
Munchausen's stories in bulk or in specified instances, have the
literary vigour that is so marked a quality of the latter-day writer,
but the point I do wish to urge is that to accept the one as a
veracious chronicler of his time and to reject the other as one who
indulges his pen in all sorts of grotesque vagaries, without proper
regard for the facts, is a great injustice to the man of other times.
The question arises, _why_ is this? How has this wrong upon the worthy
realist of the eighteenth century been perpetrated? Is it an
intentional or an unwitting wrong? I prefer to believe that it is
based upon ignorance of the Baron's true quality, due to the fact that
his works are rarely to be found within the reach of the public: in
some cases, because of the failure of librarians to comprehend his
real motives, his narratives are excluded from Public and
Sunday-School libraries; and because of their extreme age, they are
not easily again brought into vogue. I have, therefore, accepted the
office of intermediary between the Baron and the readers of the
present day, in order that his later work, which, while it shows to a
marked degree the decadence of his literary powers, may yet serve to
demonstrate to the readers of my own time how favourably he compares
with some of the literary idols of to-day, in the simple matter of
fidelity to fact. If these stories which follow shall serve to
rehabilitate Baron Munchausen as a lover and practitioner of the arts
of Truth, I shall not have made the sacrifice of my time in vain. If
they fail of this purpose I shall still have the satisfaction of
knowing that I have tried to render a service to an honest and
defenceless man._

_Meanwhile I dedicate this volume, with sentiments of the highest
regard, to that other great realist_

                      MR. CORRIDOR WALKINGSTICK

                                 _of_

                           GLOOMSTER ABBEY

                               J. K. B.



Contents


     I. I Encounter the Old Gentleman
    II. The Sporting Tour of Mr. Munchausen
   III. Three Months in a Balloon
    IV. Some Hunting Stories for Children
     V. The Story of Jang
    VI. He Tells the Twins of Fire-Works
   VII. Saved by a Magic Lantern
  VIII. An Adventure in the Desert
    IX. Decoration Day in the Cannibal Islands
     X. Mr. Munchausen's Adventure with a Shark
    XI. The Baron as a Runner
   XII. Mr. Munchausen Meets His Match
  XIII. Wriggletto
   XIV. The Poetic June-Bug, Together with Some
          Remarks on the Gillyhooly Bird
    XV. A Lucky Stroke



List of Illustrations


  Portrait of Mr. Munchausen
  "There was the whale, drawn by magnetic influence to the
        side of _The Lyre_"
  "As their bullets got to their highest point and began to
        drop back, I reached out and caught them"
  "I got nearer and nearer my haven of safety, the bellowing
        beasts snorting with rage as they followed"
  "Jang buzzed over and sat on his back, putting his sting
        where it would do the most good"
  "Out of what appeared to be a clear sky came the most
        extraordinary rain storm you ever saw"
  "'I am your slave,' he replied to my greeting, kneeling
        before me, 'I yield all to you'"
  "I reached the giraffe, raised myself to his back, crawled
        along his neck and dropped fainting into the tree"
  "They were celebrating Decoration Day, strewing flowers on
        the graves of departed missionaries"
  "I laughed in the poor disappointed thing's face, and with a
        howl of despair he rushed back into the sea"
  "This brought my speed down ten minutes to the mile which
        made it safe for me to run into a haystack"
  "At the first whoop Mr. Bear jumped ten feet and fell over
        backward on the floor"
  "He used to wind his tail about a fan and he'd wave it to
        and fro by the hour"
  "Most singular of all was the fact that, consciously or
        unconsciously, the insect had butted out a verse"
  "Again I swung my red-flagged brassey in front of the angry
        creature's face, and what I had hoped for followed"



MR. MUNCHAUSEN

AN ACCOUNT OF HIS RECENT ADVENTURES



I

I ENCOUNTER THE OLD GENTLEMAN


There are moments of supreme embarrassment in the lives of persons
given to veracity,--indeed it has been my own unusual experience in
life that the truth well stuck to is twice as hard a proposition as a
lie so obvious that no one is deceived by it at the outset. I cannot
quite agree with my friend, Caddy Barlow, who says that in a tight
place it is better to lie at once and be done with it than to tell the
truth which will need forty more truths to explain it, but I must
confess that in my forty years of absolute and conscientious devotion
to truth I have found myself in holes far deeper than any my most
mendacious of friends ever got into. I do not propose, however, to
desert at this late hour the Goddess I have always worshipped because
she leads me over a rough and rocky road, and whatever may be the
hardships involved in my wooing I intend to the very end to remain the
ever faithful slave of Mademoiselle Veracité. All of which I state
here in prefatory mood, and in order, in so far as it is possible for
me to do so, to disarm the incredulous and sniffy reader who may be
inclined to doubt the truth of my story of how the manuscript of the
following pages came into my possession. I am quite aware that to some
the tale will appear absolutely and intolerably impossible. I know
that if any other than I told it to me I should not believe it. Yet
despite these drawbacks the story is in all particulars, essential and
otherwise, absolutely truthful.

The facts are briefly these:

It was not, to begin with, a dark and dismal evening. The snow was not
falling silently, clothing a sad and gloomy world in a mantle of
white, and over the darkling moor a heavy mist was not rising, as is
so frequently the case. There was no soul-stirring moaning of bitter
winds through the leafless boughs; so far as I was aware nothing
soughed within twenty miles of my bailiwick; and my dog, lying before
a blazing log fire in my library, did not give forth an occasional
growl of apprehension, denoting the presence or approach of an uncanny
visitor from other and mysterious realms: and for two good reasons.
The first reason is that it was midsummer when the thing happened, so
that a blazing log fire in my library would have been an extravagance
as well as an anachronism. The second is that I have no dog. In fact
there was nothing unusual, or uncanny in the whole experience. It
happened to be a bright and somewhat too sunny July day, which is not
an unusual happening along the banks of the Hudson. You could see the
heat, and if anything had soughed it could only have been the mercury
in my thermometer. This I must say clicked nervously against the top
of the glass tube and manifested an extraordinary desire to climb
higher than the length of the tube permitted. Incidentally I may add,
even if it be not believed, that the heat was so intense that the
mercury actually did raise the whole thermometer a foot and a half
above the mantel-shelf, and for two mortal hours, from midday until
two by the Monastery Clock, held it suspended there in mid-air with no
visible means of support. Not a breath of air was stirring, and the
only sounds heard were the expanding creaks of the beams of my house,
which upon that particular day increased eight feet in width and
assumed a height which made it appear to be a three instead of a two
story dwelling. There was little work doing in the house. The children
played about in their bathing suits, and the only other active factor
in my life of the moment was our hired man who was kept busy in the
cellar pouring water on the furnace coal to keep it from spontaneously
combusting.

We had just had luncheon, burning our throats with the iced tea and
with considerable discomfort swallowing the simmering cold roast
filet, which we had to eat hastily before the heat of the day
transformed it into smoked beef. My youngest boy Willie perspired so
copiously that we seriously thought of sending for a plumber to solder
up his pores, and as for myself who have spent three summers of my
life in the desert of Sahara in order to rid myself of nervous chills
to which I was once unhappily subject, for the first time in my life I
was impelled to admit that it was intolerably warm. And then the
telephone bell rang.

"Great Scott!" I cried, "Who in thunder do you suppose wants to play
golf on a day like this?"--for nowadays our telephone is used for no
other purpose than the making or the breaking of golf engagements.

"Me," cried my eldest son, whose grammar is not as yet on a par with
his activity. "I'll go."

The boy shot out of the dining room and ran to the telephone,
returning in a few moments with the statement that a gentleman with a
husky voice whose name was none of his business wished to speak with
me on a matter of some importance to myself.

I was loath to go. My friends the book agents had recently acquired
the habit of approaching me over the telephone, and I feared that here
was another nefarious attempt to foist a thirty-eight volume tabloid
edition of _The World's Worst Literature_ upon me. Nevertheless I
wisely determined to respond.

"Hello," I said, placing my lips against the rubber cup. "Hello there,
who wants 91162 Nepperhan?"

"Is that you?" came the answering question, and, as my boy had
indicated, in a voice whose chief quality was huskiness.

"I guess so," I replied facetiously;--"It was this morning, but the
heat has affected me somewhat, and I don't feel as much like myself as
I might. What can I do for you?"

"Nothing, but you can do a lot for yourself," was the astonishing
answer. "Pretty hot for literary work, isn't it?" the voice added
sympathetically.

"Very," said I. "Fact is I can't seem to do anything these days but
perspire."

"That's what I thought; and when you can't work ruin stares you in the
face, eh? Now I have a manuscript--"

"Oh Lord!" I cried. "Don't. There are millions in the same fix. Even
my cook writes."

"Don't know about that," he returned instantly. "But I do know that
there's millions in my manuscript. And you can have it for the asking.
How's that for an offer?"

"Very kind, thank you," said I. "What's the nature of your story?"

"It's extremely good-natured," he answered promptly.

I laughed. The twist amused me.

"That isn't what I meant exactly," said I, "though it has some bearing
on the situation. Is it a Henry James dandy, or does it bear the mark
of Caine? Is it realism or fiction?"

"Realism," said he. "Fiction isn't in my line."

"Well, I'll tell you," I replied; "you send it to me by post and I'll
look it over. If I can use it I will."

"Can't do it," said he. "There isn't any post-office where I am."

"What?" I cried. "No post-office? Where in Hades are you?"

"Gehenna," he answered briefly. "The transportation between your
country and mine is all one way," he added. "If it wasn't the
population here would diminish."

"Then how the deuce am I to get hold of your stuff?" I demanded.

"That's easy. Send your stenographer to the 'phone and I'll dictate
it," he answered.

The novelty of the situation appealed to me. Even if my new found
acquaintance were some funny person nearer at hand than Gehenna trying
to play a practical joke upon me, still it might be worth while to get
hold of the story he had to tell. Hence I agreed to his proposal.

"All right, sir," said I. "I'll do it. I'll have him here to-morrow
morning at nine o'clock sharp. What's your number? I'll ring you up."

"Never mind that," he replied. "I'm merely a tapster on your wires.
I'll ring _you_ up as soon as I've had breakfast and then we can get
to work."

"Very good," said I. "And may I ask your name?"

"Certainly," he answered. "I'm Munchausen."

"What? The Baron?" I roared, delighted.

"Well--I used to be Baron," he returned with a tinge of sadness in his
voice, "but here in Gehenna we are all on an equal footing. I'm plain
Mr. Munchausen of Hades now. But that's a detail. Don't forget. Nine
o'clock. Good-bye."

"Wait a moment, Baron," I cried. "How about the royalties on this
book?"

"Keep 'em for yourself," he replied. "We have money to burn over here.
You are welcome to all the earthly rights of the book. I'm satisfied
with the returns on the Asbestos Edition, already in its 468th
thousand. Good-bye."

There was a rattle as of the hanging up of the receiver, a short sharp
click and a ring, and I realised that he had gone.

The next morning in response to a telegraphic summons my stenographer
arrived and when I explained the situation to him he was incredulous,
but orders were orders and he remained. I could see, however, that as
nine o'clock approached he grew visibly nervous, which indicated that
he half believed me anyhow, and when at nine to the second the sharp
ring of the 'phone fell upon our ears he jumped as if he had been
shot.

"Hello," said I again. "That you, Baron?"

"The same," the voice replied. "Stenographer ready?"

"Yes," said I.

The stenographer walked to the desk, placed the receiver at his ear,
and with trembling voice announced his presence. There was a response
of some kind, and then more calmly he remarked, "Fire ahead, Mr.
Munchausen," and began to write rapidly in short-hand.

Two days later he handed me a type-written copy of the following
stories. The reader will observe that they are in the form of
interviews, and it should be stated here that they appeared originally
in the columns of the Sunday edition of the _Gehenna Gazette_, a
publication of Hades which circulates wholly among the best people of
that country, and which, if report saith truly, would not print a line
which could not be placed in the hands of children, and to whose
columns such writers as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Jonah and
Ananias are frequent contributors.

Indeed, on the statement of Mr. Munchausen, all the interviews herein
set forth were between himself as the principal and the Hon. Henry B.
Ananias as reporter, or were scrupulously edited by the latter before
being published.



II

THE SPORTING TOUR OF MR. MUNCHAUSEN


"Good morning, Mr. Munchausen," said the interviewer of the _Gehenna
Gazette_ entering the apartment of the famous traveller at the Hotel
Deville, where the late Baron had just arrived from his sporting tour
in the Blue Hills of Cimmeria and elsewhere.

"The interests of truth, my dear Ananias," replied the Baron, grasping
me cordially by the hand, "require that I should state it as my
opinion that it is not a good morning. In fact, my good friend, it is
a very bad morning. Can you not see that it is raining cats and dogs
without?"

"Sir," said I with a bow, "I accept the spirit of your correction but
not the letter. It is raining indeed, sir, as you suggest, but having
passed through it myself on my way hither I can personally testify
that it is raining rain, and not a single cat or canine has, to my
knowledge, as yet fallen from the clouds to the parched earth,
although I am informed that down upon the coast an elephant and three
cows have fallen upon one of the summer hotels and irreparably damaged
the roof."

Mr. Munchausen laughed.

"It is curious, Ananias," said he, "what sticklers for the truth you
and I have become."

"It is indeed, Munchausen," I returned. "The effects of this climate
are working wonders upon us. And it is just as well. You and I are
outclassed by these twentieth century prevaricators concerning whom
late arrivals from the upper world tell such strange things. They tell
me that lying has become a business and is no longer ranked among the
Arts or Professions."

"Ah me!" sighed the Baron with a retrospective look in his eye, "lying
isn't what it used to be, Ananias, in your days and mine. I fear it
has become one of the lost arts."

"I have noticed it myself, my friend, and only last night I observed
the same thing to my well beloved Sapphira, who was lamenting the
transparency of the modern lie, and said that lying to-day is no
better than the truth. In our day a prevarication had all of the
opaque beauty of an opalescent bit of glass, whereas to-day in the
majority of cases it is like a great vulgar plate-glass window,
through which we can plainly see the ugly truths that lie behind. But,
sir, I am here to secure from you not a treatise upon the lost art of
lying, but some idea of the results of your sporting tour. You fished,
and hunted, and golfed, and doubtless did other things. You, of
course, had luck and made the greatest catch of the season; shot all
the game in sight, and won every silver, gold and pewter golf mug in
all creation?"

"You speak truly, Ananias," returned Mr. Munchausen. "My luck _was_
wonderful--even for one who has been so singularly fortunate as I. I
took three tons of speckled beauties with one cast of an ordinary
horse whip in the Blue Hills, and with nothing but a silken line and a
minnow hook landed upon the deck of my steam yacht a whale of most
tremendous proportions; I shot game of every kind in great abundance
and in my golf there was none to whom I could not give with ease seven
holes in every nine and beat him out."

"Seven?" said I, failing to see how the ex-Baron could be right.

"Seven," said he complacently. "Seven on the first, and seven on the
second nine; fourteen in all of the eighteen holes."

"But," I cried, "I do not see how that could be. With fourteen holes
out of the eighteen given to your opponent even if you won all the
rest you still would be ten down."

"True, by ordinary methods of calculation," returned the Baron, "but I
got them back on a technicality, which I claim is a new and valuable
discovery in the game. You see it is impossible to play more than one
hole at a time, and I invariably proved to the Greens Committee that
in taking fourteen holes at once my opponent violated the physical
possibilities of the situation. In every case the point was accepted
as well taken, for if we allow golfers to rise above physical
possibilities the game is gone. The integrity of the Card is the soul
of Golf," he added sententiously.

"Tell me of the whale," said I, simply. "You landed a whale of large
proportions on the deck of your yacht with a simple silken line and a
minnow hook."

"Well it's a tough story," the Baron replied, handing me a cigar. "But
it is true, Ananias, true to the last word. I was fishing for eels.
Sitting on the deck of _The Lyre_ one very warm afternoon in the early
stages of my trip, I baited a minnow hook and dropped it overboard. It
was the roughest day at sea I had ever encountered. The waves were
mountain high, and it is the sad fact that one of our crew seated in
the main-top was drowned with the spray of the dashing billows.
Fortunately for myself, directly behind my deck chair, to which I was
securely lashed, was a powerful electric fan which blew the spray away
from me, else I too might have suffered the same horrid fate. Suddenly
there came a tug on my line. I was half asleep at the time and let the
line pay out involuntarily, but I was wide-awake enough to know that
something larger than an eel had taken hold of the hook. I had hooked
either a Leviathan or a derelict. Caution and patience, the chief
attributes of a good angler were required. I hauled the line in until
it was taut. There were a thousand yards of it out, and when it
reached the point of tensity, I gave orders to the engineers to steam
closer to the object at the other end. We steamed in five hundred
yards, I meanwhile hauling in my line. Then came another tug and I let
out ten yards. 'Steam closer,' said I. 'Three hundred yards
sou-sou-west by nor'-east.' The yacht obeyed on the instant. I called
the Captain and let him feel the line. 'What do you think it is?' said
I. He pulled a half dozen times. 'Feels like a snag,' he said, 'but
seein' as there ain't no snags out here, I think it must be a fish.'
'What kind?' I asked. I could not but agree that he was better
acquainted with the sea and its denizens than I. 'Well,' he replied,
'it is either a sea serpent or a whale.' At the mere mention of the
word whale I was alert. I have always wanted to kill a whale.
'Captain,' said I, 'can't you tie an anchor onto a hawser, and bait
the flukes with a boa constrictor and make sure of him?' He looked at
me contemptuously. 'Whales eats fish,' said he, 'and they don't bite
at no anchors. Whales has brains, whales has.' 'What shall we do?' I
asked. 'Steam closer,' said the Captain, and we did so."

Munchausen took a long breath and for the moment was silent.

"Well?" said I.

"Well, Ananias," said he. "We resolved to wait. As the Captain said to
me, 'Fishin' is waitin'.' So we waited. 'Coax him along,' said the
Captain. 'How can we do it?' I asked. 'By kindness,' said he. 'Treat
him gently, persuasive-like and he'll come.' We waited four days and
nobody moved and I grew weary of coaxing. 'We've got to do something,'
said I to the Captain. 'Yes,' said he, 'Let's _make_ him move. He
doesn't seem to respond to kindness.' 'But how?' I cried. 'Give him an
electric shock,' said the Captain. 'Telegraph him his mother's sick
and may be it'll move him.' 'Can't you get closer to him?' I demanded,
resenting his facetious manner. 'I can, but it will scare him off,'
replied the Captain. So we turned all our batteries on the sea. The
dynamo shot forth its bolts and along about four o'clock in the
afternoon there was the whale drawn by magnetic influence to the side
of _The Lyre_. He was a beauty, Ananias," Munchausen added with
enthusiasm. "You never saw such a whale. His back was as broad as the
deck of an ocean steamer and in his length he exceeded the dimensions
of _The Lyre_ by sixty feet."

"And still you got him on deck?" I asked,--I, Ananias, who can stand
something in the way of an exaggeration.

"Yes," said Munchausen, lighting his cigar, which had gone out.
"Another storm came up and we rolled and rolled and rolled, until I
thought _The Lyre_ was going to capsize."

"But weren't you sea-sick?" I asked.

"Didn't have a chance to be," said Munchausen. "I was thinking of the
whale all the time. Finally there came a roll in which we went
completely under, and with a slight pulling on the line the whale was
landed by the force of the wave and laid squarely upon the deck."

"Great Sapphira!" said I. "But you just said he was wider and longer
than the yacht!"

[Illustration: "There was the whale drawn by magnetic influence to the
side of _The Lyre_." _Chapter II._]

"He was," sighed Munchausen. "He landed on the deck and by sheer force
of his weight the yacht went down under him. I swam ashore and the
whole crew with me. The next day Mr. Whale floated in strangled. He'd
swallowed the thousand yards of line and it got so tangled in his
tonsils that it choked him to death. Come around next week and I'll
give you a couple of pounds of whalebone for Mrs. Ananias, and all the
oil you can carry."

I thanked the old gentleman for his kind offer and promised to avail
myself of it, although as a newspaper man it is against my principles
to accept gifts from public men.

"It was great luck, Baron," said I. "Or at least it would have been if
you hadn't lost your yacht."

"That was great luck too," he observed nonchalantly. "It cost me ten
thousand dollars a month keeping that yacht in commission. Now she's
gone I save all that. Why it's like finding money in the street,
Ananias. She wasn't worth more than fifty thousand dollars, and in six
months I'll be ten thousand ahead."

I could not but admire the cheerful philosophy of the man, but then I
was not surprised. Munchausen was never the sort of man to let little
things worry him.

"But that whale business wasn't a circumstance to my catch of three
tons of trout with a single cast of a horse-whip in the Blue Hills,"
said the Baron after a few moments of meditation, during which I could
see that he was carefully marshalling his facts.

"I never heard of its equal," said I. "You must have used a derrick."

"No," he replied suavely. "Nothing of the sort. It was the simplest
thing in the world. It was along about five o'clock in the afternoon
when with my three guides and my valet I drove up the winding roadway
of Great Sulphur Mountain on my way to the Blue Mountain House where I
purposed to put up for a few days. I had one of those big mountain
wagons with a covered top to it such as the pioneers used on the
American plains, with six fine horses to the fore. I held the reins
myself, since we were in the midst of a terrific thunderstorm and I
felt safer when I did my own driving. All the flaps of the leathern
cover were let down at the sides and at the back, and were securely
fastened. The roads were unusually heavy, and when we came to the last
great hill before the lake all but I were walking, as a measure of
relief to the horses. Suddenly one of the horses balked right in the
middle of the ascent, and in a moment of impatience I gave him a
stinging flick with my whip, when like a whirlwind the whole six
swerved to one side and started on a dead run upward. The jolt and the
unexpected swerving of the wagon threw me from my seat and I landed
clear of the wheels in the soft mud of the roadway, fortunately
without injury. When I arose the team was out of sight and we had to
walk the remainder of the distance to the hotel. Imagine our surprise
upon arriving there to find the six panting steeds and the wagon
standing before the main entrance to the hotel dripping as though they
had been through the Falls of Niagara, and, would you believe it,
Ananias, inside that leather cover of the wagon, packed as tightly as
sardines, were no less than three thousand trout, not one of them
weighing less than a pound and some of them getting as high as four.
The whole catch weighed a trifle over six thousand pounds."

"Great Heavens, Baron," I cried. "Where the dickens did they come
from?"

"That's what I asked myself," said the Baron easily. "It seemed
astounding at first glance, but investigation showed it after all to
be a very simple proposition. The runaways after reaching the top of
the hill turned to the left, and clattered on down toward the bridge
over the inlet to the lake. The bridge broke beneath their weight and
the horses soon found themselves struggling in the water. The harness
was strong and the wagon never left them. They had to swim for it, and
I am told by a small boy who was fishing on the lake at the time that
they swam directly across it, pulling the wagon after them. Naturally
with its open front and confined back and sides the wagon acted as a
sort of drag-net and when the opposite shore was gained, and the wagon
was pulled ashore, it was found to have gathered in all the fish that
could not get out of the way."

The Baron resumed his cigar, and I sat still eyeing the ample pattern
of the drawing-room carpet.

"Pretty good catch for an afternoon, eh?" he said in a minute.

"Yes," said I. "Almost too good, Baron. Those horses must have swam
like the dickens to get over so quickly. You would think the trout
would have had time to escape."

"Oh I presume one or two of them did," said Munchausen. "But the
majority of them couldn't. The horses were all fast, record-breakers
anyhow. I never hire a horse that isn't."

And with that I left the old gentleman and walked blushing back to the
office. I don't doubt for an instant the truth of the Baron's story,
but somehow or other I feel that in writing it my reputation is in
some measure at stake.

    NOTE--Mr. Munchausen, upon request of the Editor of the
    _Gehenna Gazette_ to write a few stories of adventure for his
    Imp's page, conducted by Sapphira, contributed the tales which
    form the substance of several of the following chapters.



III

THREE MONTHS IN A BALLOON


Mr. Munchausen was not handsome, but the Imps liked him very much, he
was so full of wonderful reminiscences, and was always willing to tell
anybody that would listen, all about himself. To the Heavenly Twins he
was the greatest hero that had ever lived. Napoleon Bonaparte, on Mr.
Munchausen's own authority, was not half the warrior that he, the late
Baron had been, nor was Cæsar in his palmiest days, one-quarter so
wise or so brave. How old the Baron was no one ever knew, but he had
certainly lived long enough to travel the world over, and stare every
kind of death squarely in the face without flinching. He had fought
Zulus, Indians, tigers, elephants--in fact, everything that fights,
the Baron had encountered, and in every contest he had come out
victorious. He was the only man the children had ever seen that had
lost three legs in battle and then had recovered them after the fight
was over; he was the only visitor to their house that had been lost in
the African jungle and wandered about for three months without food or
shelter, and best of all he was, on his own confession, the most
truthful narrator of extraordinary tales living. The youngsters had to
ask the Baron a question only, any one, it mattered not what it
was--to start him off on a story of adventure, and as he called upon
the Twins' father once a month regularly, the children were not long
in getting together a collection of tales beside which the most
exciting episodes in history paled into insignificant commonplaces.

"Uncle Munch," said the Twins one day, as they climbed up into the
visitor's lap and disarranged his necktie, "was you ever up in a
balloon?"

"Only once," said the Baron calmly. "But I had enough of it that time
to last me for a lifetime."

"Was you in it for long?" queried the Twins, taking the Baron's watch
out of his pocket and flinging it at Cerberus, who was barking outside
of the window.

"Well, it seemed long enough," the Baron answered, putting his
pocket-book in the inside pocket of his vest where the Twins could not
reach it. "Three months off in the country sleeping all day long and
playing tricks all night seems a very short time, but three months in
a balloon and the constant centre of attack from every source is too
long for comfort."

"Were you up in the air for three whole months?" asked the Twins,
their eyes wide open with astonishment.

"All but two days," said the Baron. "For two of those days we rested
in the top of a tree in India. The way of it was this: I was always,
as you know, a great favourite with the Emperor Napoleon, of France,
and when he found himself involved in a war with all Europe, he
replied to one of his courtiers who warned him that his army was not
in condition: 'Any army is prepared for war whose commander-in-chief
numbers Baron Munchausen among his advisers. Let me have Munchausen at
my right hand and I will fight the world.' So they sent for me and as
I was not very busy I concluded to go and assist the French, although
the allies and I were also very good friends. I reasoned it out this
way: In this fight the allies are the stronger. They do not need me.
Napoleon does. Fight for the weak, Munchausen, I said to myself, and
so I went. Of course, when I reached Paris I went at once to the
Emperor's palace and remained at his side until he took the field,
after which I remained behind for a few days to put things to rights
for the Imperial family. Unfortunately for the French, the King of
Prussia heard of my delay in going to the front, and he sent word to
his forces to intercept me on my way to join Napoleon at all hazards,
and this they tried to do. When I was within ten miles of the
Emperor's headquarters, I was stopped by the Prussians, and had it not
been that I had provided myself with a balloon for just such an
emergency, I should have been captured and confined in the King's
palace at Berlin, until the war was over.

"Foreseeing all this, I had brought with me a large balloon packed
away in a secret section of my trunk, and while my body-guard was
fighting with the Prussian troops sent to capture me, I and my valet
inflated the balloon, jumped into the car and were soon high up out of
the enemy's reach. They fired several shots at us, and one of them
would have pierced the balloon had I not, by a rare good shot, fired
my own rifle at the bullet, and hitting it squarely in the middle, as
is my custom, diverted it from its course, and so saved our lives.

"It had been my intention to sail directly over the heads of the
attacking party and drop down into Napoleon's camp the next morning,
but unfortunately for my calculations, a heavy wind came up in the
night and the balloon was caught by a northerly blast, and blown into
Africa, where, poised in the air directly over the desert of Sahara,
we encountered a dead calm, which kept us stalled up for two miserable
weeks."

"Why didn't you come down?" asked the Twins, "wasn't the elevator
running?"

"We didn't dare," explained the Baron, ignoring the latter part of the
question. "If we had we'd have wasted a great deal of our gas, and our
condition would have been worse than ever. As I told you we were
directly over the centre of the desert. There was no way of getting
out of it except by long and wearisome marches over the hot, burning
sands with the chances largely in favour of our never getting out
alive. The only thing to do was to stay just where we were and wait
for a favouring breeze. This we did, having to wait four mortal weeks
before the air was stirred."

"You said two weeks a minute ago, Uncle Munch," said the Twins
critically.

"Two? Hem! Well, yes it was two, now that I think of it. It's a
natural mistake," said the Baron stroking his mustache a little
nervously. "You see two weeks in a balloon over a vast desert of sand,
with nothing to do but whistle for a breeze, is equal to four weeks
anywhere else. That is, it seems so. Anyhow, two weeks or four,
whichever it was, the breeze came finally, and along about midnight
left us stranded again directly over an Arab encampment near Wady
Halfa. It was a more perilous position really, than the first, because
the moment the Arabs caught sight of us they began to make frantic
efforts to get us down. At first we simply laughed them to scorn and
made faces at them, because as far as we could see, we were safely out
of reach. This enraged them and they apparently made up their minds to
kill us if they could. At first their idea was to get us down alive
and sell us as slaves, but our jeers changed all that, and what should
they do but whip out a lot of guns and begin to pepper us.

"'I'll settle them in a minute,' I said to myself, and set about
loading my own gun. Would you believe it, I found that my last bullet
was the one with which I had saved the balloon from the Prussian
shot?"

"Mercy, how careless of you, Uncle Munch!" said one of the Twins.
"What did you do?"

"I threw out a bag of sand ballast so that the balloon would rise just
out of range of their guns, and then, as their bullets got to their
highest point and began to drop back, I reached out and caught them in
a dipper. Rather neat idea, eh? With these I loaded my own rifle and
shot every one of the hostile party with their own ammunition, and
when the last of the attacking Arabs dropped I found there were enough
bullets left to fill the empty sand bag again, so that the lost
ballast was not missed. In fact, there were enough of them in weight
to bring the balloon down so near to the earth that our anchor rope
dangled directly over the encampment, so that my valet and I, without
wasting any of our gas, could climb down and secure all the
magnificent treasures in rugs and silks and rare jewels these robbers
of the desert had managed to get together in the course of their
depredations. When these were placed in the car another breeze came
up, and for the rest of the time we drifted idly about in the heavens
waiting for a convenient place to land. In this manner we were blown
hither and yon for three months over land and sea, and finally we were
wrecked upon a tall tree in India, whence we escaped by means of a
convenient elephant that happened to come our way, upon which we rode
triumphantly into Calcutta. The treasures we had secured from the
Arabs, unfortunately, we had to leave behind us in the tree, where I
suppose they still are. I hope some day to go back and find them."

Here Mr. Munchausen paused for a moment to catch his breath. Then he
added with a sigh. "Of course, I went back to France immediately, but
by the time I reached Paris the war was over, and the Emperor was in
exile. I was too late to save him--though I think if he had lived some
sixty or seventy years longer I should have managed to restore his
throne, and Imperial splendour to him."

The Twins gazed into the fire in silence for a minute or two. Then one
of them asked:

"But what did you live on all that time, Uncle Munch?"

"Eggs," said the Baron. "Eggs and occasionally fish. My servant had
had the foresight when getting the balloon ready to include, among the
things put into the car, a small coop in which were six pet chickens I
owned, and without which I never went anywhere. These laid enough eggs
every day to keep us alive. The fish we caught when our balloon stood
over the sea, baiting our anchor with pieces of rubber gas pipe used
to inflate the balloon, and which looked very much like worms."

[Illustration: "As their bullets got to their highest point and began
to drop back, I reached out and caught them." _Chapter III._]

"But the chickens?" said the Twins. "What did they live on?"

The Baron blushed.

"I am sorry you asked that question," he said, his voice trembling
somewhat. "But I'll answer it if you promise never to tell anyone. It
was the only time in my life that I ever practised an intentional
deception upon any living thing, and I have always regretted it,
although our very lives depended upon it."

"What was it, Uncle Munch?" asked the Twins, awed to think that the
old warrior had ever deceived anyone.

"I took the egg shells and ground them into powder, and fed them to
the chickens. The poor creatures supposed it was corn-meal they were
getting," confessed the Baron. "I know it was mean, but what could I
do?"

"Nothing," said the Twins softly. "And we don't think it was so bad of
you after all. Many another person would have kept them laying eggs
until they starved, and then he'd have killed them and eaten them up.
You let them live."

"That may be so," said the Baron, with a smile that showed how
relieved his conscience was by the Twins' suggestion. "But I couldn't
do that you know, because they were pets. I had been brought up from
childhood with those chickens."

Then the Twins, jamming the Baron's hat down over his eyes, climbed
down from his lap and went to their play, strongly of the opinion
that, though a bold warrior, the Baron was a singularly kind,
soft-hearted man after all.



IV

SOME HUNTING STORIES FOR CHILDREN


The Heavenly Twins had been off in the mountains during their summer
holiday, and in consequence had seen very little of their good old
friend, Mr. Munchausen. He had written them once or twice, and they
had found his letters most interesting, especially that one in which
he told how he had killed a moose up in Maine with his Waterbury watch
spring, and I do not wonder that they marvelled at that, for it was
one of the most extraordinary happenings in the annals of the chase.
It seems, if his story is to be believed, and I am sure that none of
us who know him has ever had any reason to think that he would deceive
intentionally; it seems, I say, that he had gone to Maine for a week's
sport with an old army acquaintance of his, who had now become a guide
in that region. Unfortunately his rifle, of which he was very fond,
and with which his aim was unerring, was in some manner mislaid on the
way, and when they arrived in the woods they were utterly without
weapons; but Mr. Munchausen was not the man to be daunted by any such
trifle as that, particularly while his friend had an old army musket,
a relic of the war, stored away in the attic of his woodland domicile.

"Th' only trouble with that ar musket," said the old guide, "ain't so
much that she won't shoot straight, nor that she's got a kick onto her
like an unbroke mule. What I'm most afeard 'on about your shootin'
with her ain't that I think she'll bust neither, for the fact is we
ain't got nothin' for to bust her with, seein' as how ammynition is
skeerce. I got powder, an' I got waddin', but I ain't got no shot."

"That doesn't make any difference," the Baron replied. "We can make
the shot. Have you got any plumbing in the camp? If you have, rip it
out, and I'll melt up a water-pipe into bullets."

"No, sir," retorted the old man. "Plumbin' is one of the things I came
here to escape from."

"Then," said the Baron, "I'll use my watch for ammunition. It is only
a three-dollar watch and I can spare it."

With this determination, Mr. Munchausen took his watch to pieces, an
ordinary time-piece of the old-fashioned kind, and, to make a long
story short, shot for several days with the component parts of that
useful affair rammed down into the barrel of the old musket. With the
stem-winding ball he killed an eagle; with pieces of the back cover
chopped up to a fineness of medium-sized shot he brought down several
other birds, but the great feat of all was when he started for moose
with nothing but the watch-spring in the barrel of the gun. Having
rolled it up as tight as he could, fastened it with a piece of twine,
and rammed it well into the gun, he set out to find the noble animal
upon whose life he had designs. After stalking the woods for several
hours, he came upon the tracks which told him that his prey was not
far off, and in a short while he caught sight of a magnificent
creature, his huge antlers held proudly up and his great eyes full of
defiance.

For a moment the Baron hesitated. The idea of destroying so beautiful
an animal seemed to be abhorrent to his nature, which, warrior-like as
he is, has something of the tenderness of a woman about it. A second
glance at the superb creature, however, changed all that, for the
Baron then saw that to shoot to kill was necessary, for the beast was
about to force a fight in which the hunter himself would be put upon
the defensive.

"I won't shoot you through the head, my beauty," he said, softly, "nor
will I puncture your beautiful coat with this load of mine, but I'll
kill you in a new way."

With this he pulled the trigger. The powder exploded, the string
binding the long black spring into a coil broke, and immediately the
strip of steel shot forth into the air, made directly toward the neck
of the rushing moose, and coiling its whole sinuous length tightly
about the doomed creature's throat strangled him to death.

As the Twins' father said, a feat of that kind entitled the Baron to a
high place in fiction at least, if not in history itself. The Twins
were very much wrought up over the incident, particularly, when one
too-smart small imp who was spending the summer at the same hotel
where they were said that he didn't believe it,--but he was an imp who
had never seen a cheap watch, so how should he know anything about
what could be done with a spring that cannot be wound up by a great
strong man in less than ten minutes?

As for the Baron he was very modest about the achievement, for when he
first appeared at the Twins' home after their return he had actually
forgotten all about it, and, in fact, could not recall the incident at
all, until Diavolo brought him his own letter, when, of course, the
whole matter came back to him.

"It wasn't so very wonderful, anyhow," said the Baron. "I should not
think, for instance, of bragging about any such thing as that. It was
a simple affair all through."

"And what did you do with the moose's antlers?" asked Angelica. "I
hope you brought 'em home with you, because I'd like to see 'em."

"I wanted to," said the Baron, stroking the Twins' soft brown locks
affectionately. "I wanted to bring them home for your father to use as
a hat rack, dear, but they were too large. When I had removed them
from the dead animal, I found them so large that I could not get them
out of the forest, they got so tangled up in the trees. I should have
had to clear a path twenty feet wide and seven miles long to get them
even as far as my friend's hut, and after that they would have had to
be carried thirty miles through the woods to the express office."

"I guess it's just as well after all," said Diavolo. "If they were as
big as all that, Papa would have had to build a new house to get 'em
into."

"Exactly," said the Baron. "Exactly. That same idea occurred to me,
and for that reason I concluded not to go to the trouble of cutting
away those miles of trees. The antlers would have made a very
expensive present for your father to receive in these hard times."

"It was a good thing you had that watch," the Twins observed, after
thinking over the Baron's adventure. "If you hadn't had that you
couldn't have killed the moose."

"Very likely not," said the Baron, "unless I had been able to do as I
did in India thirty years ago at a man hunt."

"What?" cried the Twins. "Do they hunt men in India?"?

"That all depends, my dears," replied the Baron. "It all depends upon
what you mean by the word they. Men don't hunt men, but animals, great
wild beasts sometimes hunt them, and it doesn't often happen that the
men escape. In the particular man hunt I refer to I was the creature
that was being hunted, and I've had a good deal of sympathy for foxes
ever since. This was a regular fox hunt in a way, although I was the
fox, and a herd of elephants were the huntsmen."

"How queer," said Diavolo, unscrewing one of the Baron's shirt studs
to see if he would fall apart.

"Not half so queer as my feelings when I realised my position," said
the Baron with a shake of his head. "I was frightened half to death.
It seemed to me that I'd reached the end of my tether at last. I was
studying the fauna and flora of India, in a small Indian village,
known as ah--what was the name of that town! Ah--something like
Rathabad--no, that isn't quite it--however, one name does as well as
another in India. It was a good many miles from Calcutta, and I'd been
living there about three months. The village lay in a small valley
between two ranges of hills, none of them very high. On the other side
of the westerly hills was a great level stretch of country upon which
herds of elephants used to graze. Out of this rose these hills, very
precipitously, which was a very good thing for the people in the
valley, else those elephants would have come over and played havoc
with their homes and crops. To me the plains had a great fascination,
and I used to wander over them day after day in search of new
specimens for my collection of plants and flowers, never thinking of
the danger I ran from an encounter with these elephants, who were very
ferocious and extremely jealous of the territory they had come through
years of occupation to regard as their own. So it happened, that one
day, late in the afternoon, I was returning from an expedition over
the plains, and, as I had found a large number of new specimens, I was
feeling pretty happy. I whistled loudly as I walked, when suddenly
coming to a slight undulation in the plain what should I see before me
but a herd of sixty-three elephants, some eating, some thinking, some
romping, and some lying asleep on the soft turf. Now, if I had come
quietly, of course, I could have passed them unobserved, but as I told
you I was whistling. I forget what the tune was, The Marsellaise or
Die Wacht Am Rhein, or maybe Tommie Atkins, which enrages the
elephants very much, being the national anthem of the British invader.
At any rate, whatever the tune was it attracted the attention of the
elephants, and then their sport began. The leader lifted his trunk
high in the air, and let out a trumpet blast that echoed back from the
cliff three miles distant. Instantly every elephant was on the alert.
Those that had been sleeping awoke, and sprang to their feet. Those
that had been at play stopped in their romp, and under the leadership
of the biggest brute of the lot they made a rush for me. I had no gun;
nothing except my wits and my legs with which to defend myself, so I
naturally began to use the latter until I could get the former to
work. It was nip and tuck. They could run faster than I could, and I
saw in an instant that without stratagem I could not hope to reach a
place of safety. As I have said, the cliff, which rose straight up
from the plain like a stone-wall, was three miles away, nor was there
any other spot in which I could find a refuge. It occurred to me as I
ran that if I ran in circles I could edge up nearer to the cliff all
the time, and still keep my pursuers at a distance for the simple
reason that an elephant being more or less unwieldy cannot turn as
rapidly as a man can, so I kept running in circles. I could run around
my short circle in less time than the enemy could run around his
larger one, and in this manner I got nearer and nearer my haven of
safety, the bellowing beasts snorting with rage as they followed.
Finally, when I began to see that I was tolerably safe, another idea
occurred to me, which was that if I could manage to kill those huge
creatures the ivory I could get would make my fortune. But how! That
was the question. Well, my dearly beloved Imps, I admit that I am a
fast runner, but I am also a fast thinker, and in less than two
minutes I had my plan arranged. I stopped short when about two hundred
feet from the cliff, and waited until the herd was fifty feet away.
Then I turned about and ran with all my might up to within two feet of
the cliff, and then turning sharply to the left ran off in that
direction. The elephants, thinking they had me, redoubled their speed,
but failed to notice that I had turned, so quickly was that movement
executed. They failed likewise to notice the cliff, as I had intended.
The consequence was the whole sixty-three of them rushed head first,
bang! with all their force, into the rock. The hill shook with the
force of the blow and the sixty-three elephants fell dead. They had
simply butted their brains out."

[Illustration: "I got nearer and nearer my haven of safety, the
bellowing beasts snorting with rage as they followed." _Chapter IV._]

Here the Baron paused and pulled vigourously on his cigar, which had
almost gone out.

"That was fine," said the Twins.

"What a narrow escape it was for you, Uncle Munch," said Diavolo.

"Very true," said the great soldier rising, as a signal that his story
was done. "In fact you might say that I had sixty-three narrow
escapes, one for each elephant."

"But what became of the ivory?" asked Angelica.

"Oh, as for that!" said the Baron, with a sigh, "I was disappointed in
that. They turned out to be all young elephants, and they had lost
their first teeth. Their second teeth hadn't grown yet. I got only
enough ivory to make one paper cutter, which is the one I gave your
father for Christmas last year."

Which may account for the extraordinary interest the Twins have taken
in their father's paper cutter ever since.



V

THE STORY OF JANG


"Did you ever own a dog, Baron Munchausen?" asked the reporter of the
_Gehenna Gazette_, calling to interview the eminent nobleman during
Dog Show Week in Cimmeria.

"Yes, indeed I have," said the Baron, "I fancy I must have owned as
many as a hundred dogs in my life. To be sure some of the dogs were
iron and brass, but I was just as fond of them as if they had been
made of plush or lamb's wool. They were so quiet, those iron dogs
were; and the brass dogs never barked or snapped at any one."

"I never saw a brass dog," said the reporter. "What good are they?"

"Oh they are likely to be very useful in winter," the Baron replied.
"My brass dogs used to guard my fire-place and keep the blazing logs
from rolling out into my room and setting fire to the rug the Khan of
Tartary gave me for saving his life from a herd of Antipodes he and I
were hunting in the Himalaya Mountains."

"I don't see what you needed dogs to do that for," said the reporter.
"A fender would have done just as well, or a pair of andirons," he
added.

"That's what these dogs were," said the Baron. "They were fire dogs
and fire dogs are andirons."

Ananias pressed his lips tightly together, and into his eyes came a
troubled look. It was evident that, revolting as the idea was to him,
he thought the Baron was trying to deceive him. Noting his
displeasure, the Baron inwardly resolving to be careful how he handled
the truth, hastened on with his story.

"But dogs were never my favourite animals," he said. "With my pets I
am quite as I am with other things. I like to have pets that are
entirely different from the pets of other people, and that is why in
my day I have made companions of such animals as the sangaree, and the
camomile, and the--ah--the two-horned piccolo. I've had tame bees
even--in fact my bees used to be the wonder of Siam, in which country
I was stationed for three years, having been commissioned by a British
company to make a study of its climate with a view to finding out if
it would pay the company to go into the ice business there. Siam is,
as you have probably heard, a very warm country, and as ice is a very
rare thing in warm countries these English people thought they might
make a vast fortune by sending tug-boats up to the Arctic Ocean, and
with them capture and tow icebergs to Siam, where they might be cut up
and sold to the people at tremendous profit. The scheme was certainly
a good one, and I found many of the wealthy Siamese quite willing to
subscribe for a hundred pounds of ice a week at ten dollars a pound,
but it never came to anything because we had no means of preserving
the icebergs after we got them into the Gulf of Siam. The water was so
hot that they melted before we could cut them up, and we nearly got
ourselves into very serious trouble with the coast people for that
same reason. An iceberg, as you know, is a huge affair, and when a
dozen or two of them had melted in the Gulf they added so to the
quantity of water there that fifty miles of the coast line were
completely flooded, and thousands of valuable fish, able to live in
warm water only, were so chilled that they got pneumonia, and died.
You can readily imagine how indignant the Siamese fishermen were with
my company over the losses they had to bear, but their affection for
me personally was so great that they promised not to sue the company
if I would promise not to let the thing occur again. This I promised,
and all went well. But about the bees, it was while I was living in
Bangkok that I had them, and they were truly wonderful. There was
hardly anything those bees couldn't do after I got them tamed."

"How did you tame them, Baron," asked Ananias.

"Power of the eye, my boy," returned the Baron. "I attracted their
attention first and then held it. Of course, I tried my plan on one
bee first. He tamed the rest. Bees are very like children. They like
to play stunts--I think it is called stunts, isn't it, when one boy
does something, and all his companions try to do the same thing?"

"Yes," said Ananias, "I believe there is such a game, but I shouldn't
like to play it with you."

"Well, that was the way I did with the bees," said Mr. Munchausen. "I
tamed the king bee, and when he had learned all sorts of funny little
tricks, such as standing on his head and humming tunes, I let him go
back to the swarm. He was gone a week, and then he came back, he had
grown so fond of me--as well he might, because I fed him well, giving
him a large basket of flowers three times a day. Back with him came
two or three thousand other bees, and whatever Jang did they did."

"Who was Jang?" asked Ananias.

"That was the first bee's name. King Jang. Jang is Siamese for Billie,
and as I was always fond of the name, Billie, I called him Jang. By
and by every bee in the lot could hum the Star Spangled Banner and
Yankee Doodle as well as you or I could, and it was grand on those
soft moonlight nights we had there, to sit on the back porch of my
pagoda and listen to my bee orchestra discoursing sweet music. Of
course, as soon as Jang had learned to hum one tune it was easy enough
for him to learn another, and before long the bee orchestra could give
us any bit of music we wished to have. Then I used to give musicales
at my house and all the Siamese people, from the King down asked to be
invited, so that through my pets my home became one of the most
attractive in all Asia.

"And the honey those bees made! It was the sweetest honey you ever
tasted, and every morning when I got down to breakfast there was a
fresh bottleful ready for me, the bees having made it in the bottle
itself over night. They were the most grateful pets I ever had, and
once they saved my life. They used to live in a hive I had built for
them in one corner of my room and I could go to bed and sleep with
every door in my house open, and not be afraid of robbers, because
those bees were there to protect me. One night a lion broke loose from
the Royal Zoo, and while trotting along the road looking for something
to eat he saw my front door wide open. In he walked, and began to
sniff. He sniffed here and he sniffed there, but found nothing but a
pot of anchovy paste, which made him thirstier and hungrier than ever.
So he prowled into the parlour, and had his appetite further
aggravated by a bronze statue of the Emperor of China I had there. He
thought in the dim light it was a small-sized human being, and he
pounced on it in a minute. Well, of course, he couldn't make any
headway trying to eat a bronze statue, and the more he tried the more
hungry and angry he got. He roared until he shook the house and would
undoubtedly have awakened me had it not been that I am always a sound
sleeper and never wake until I have slept enough. Why, on one
occasion, on the Northern Pacific Railway, a train I was on ran into
and completely telescoped another while I was asleep in the smoking
car, and although I was severely burned and hurled out of the car
window to land sixty feet away on the prairie, I didn't wake up for
two hours. I was nearly buried alive because they thought I'd been
killed, I lay so still.

"But to return to the bees. The roaring of the lion disturbed them,
and Jang buzzed out of his hive to see what was the matter just as the
lion appeared at my bed-room door. The intelligent insect saw in a
moment what the trouble was, and he sounded the alarm for the rest of
the bees, who came swarming out of the hive in response to the
summons. Jang kept his eye on the lion meanwhile, and just as the
prowler caught sight of your uncle peacefully snoring away on the bed,
dreaming of his boyhood, and prepared to spring upon me, Jang buzzed
over and sat down upon his back, putting his sting where it would do
the most good. The angry lion, who in a moment would have fastened his
teeth upon me, turned with a yelp of pain, and the bite which was to
have been mine wrought havoc with his own back. Following Jang's
example, the other bees ranged themselves in line over the lion's
broad shoulders, and stung him until he roared with pain. Each time he
was stung he would whisk his head around like a dog after a flea, and
bite himself, until finally he had literally chewed himself up, when
he fainted from sheer exhaustion, and I was saved. You can imagine my
surprise when next morning I awakened to find a dying lion in my
room."

"But, Baron," said Ananias. "I don't understand one thing about it. If
you were fast asleep while all this was happening how did you know
that Jang did those things?"

[Illustration: "Jang buzzed over and sat down upon his back, putting
his sting where it would do the most good." _Chapter V._]

"Why, Jang told me himself," replied the Baron calmly.

"Could he talk?" cried Ananias in amazement.

"Not as you and I do," said the Baron. "Of course not, but Jang could
spell. I taught him how. You see I reasoned it out this way. If a bee
can be taught to sing a song which is only a story in music, why can't
he be taught to tell a story in real words. It was worth trying
anyhow, and I tried. Jang was an apt pupil. He was the most
intelligent bee I ever met, and it didn't take me more than a month to
teach him his letters, and when he once knew his letters it was easy
enough to teach him how to spell. I got a great big sheet and covered
it with twenty-six squares, and in each of these squares I painted a
letter of the alphabet, so that finally when Jang came to know them,
and wanted to tell me anything he would fly from one square to another
until he had spelled out whatever he wished to say. I would follow his
movements closely, and we got so after awhile that we could converse
for hours without any trouble whatsoever. I really believe that if
Jang had been a little heavier so that he could push the keys down far
enough he could have managed a typewriter as well as anybody, and when
I think about his wonderful mind and delicious fancy I deeply regret
that there never was a typewriting machine so delicately made that a
bee of his weight could make it go. The world would have been very
much enriched by the stories Jang had in his mind to tell, but it is
too late now. He is gone forever."

"How did you lose Jang, Baron?" asked Ananias, with tears in his eyes.

"He thought I had deceived him," said the Baron, with a sigh. "He was
as much of a stickler for truth as I am. An American friend of mine
sent me a magnificent parterre of wax flowers which were so perfectly
made that I couldn't tell them from the real. I was very proud of
them, and kept them in my room near the hive. When Jang and his tribe
first caught sight of them they were delighted and they sang as they
had never sung before just to show how pleased they were. Then they
set to work to make honey out of them. They must have laboured over
those flowers for two months before I thought to tell them that they
were only wax and not at all real. As I told Jang this, I
unfortunately laughed, thinking that he could understand the joke of
the thing as well as I, but I was mistaken. All that he could see was
that he had been deceived, and it made him very angry. Bees don't seem
to have a well-developed sense of humour. He cast a reproachful glance
at me and returned to his hive and on the morning of the third day
when I waked up they were moving out. They flew to my lattice and
ranged themselves along the slats and waited for Jang. In a moment he
appeared and at a given signal they buzzed out of my sight, humming a
farewell dirge as they went. I never saw them again."

Here the Baron wiped his eyes.

"I felt very bad about it," he went on, "and resolved then never again
to do anything which even suggested deception, and when several years
later I had my crest designed I had a bee drawn on it, for in my eyes
my good friend the bee, represents three great factors of the good and
successful life--Industry, Fidelity, and Truth."

Whereupon the Baron went his way, leaving Ananias to think it over.



VI

HE TELLS THE TWINS OF FIRE-WORKS


There was a great noise going on in the public square of Cimmeria when
Mr. Munchausen sauntered into the library at the home of the Heavenly
Twins.

"These Americans are having a great time of it celebrating their
Fourth of July," said he, as the house shook with the explosion of a
bomb. "They've burnt powder enough already to set ten revolutions
revolving, and they're going to outdo themselves to-night in the park.
They've made a bicycle out of the two huge pin-wheels, and they're
going to make Benedict Arnold ride a mile on it after it's lit."

The Twins appeared much interested. They too had heard much of the
celebration and some of its joys and when the Baron arrived they were
primed with questions.

"Uncle Munch," they said, helping the Baron to remove his hat and
coat, which they threw into a corner so anxious were they to get to
work, "do you think there's much danger in little boys having
fire-crackers and rockets and pin-wheels, or in little girls having
torpeters?"

"Well, I don't know," the Baron answered, warily. "What does your
venerable Dad say about it?"

"He thinks we ought to wait until we are older, but we don't," said
the Twins.

"Torpeters never sets nothing afire," said Angelica.

"That's true," said the Baron, kindly; "but after all your father is
right. Why do you know what happened to me when I was a boy?"

"You burnt your thumb," said the Twins, ready to make a guess at it.

"Well, you get me a cigar, and I'll tell you what happened to me when
I was a boy just because my father let me have all the fire-works I
wanted, and then perhaps you will see how wise your father is in not
doing as you wish him to," said Mr. Munchausen.

The Twins readily found the desired cigar, after which Mr. Munchausen
settled down comfortably in the hammock, and swinging softly to and
fro, told his story.

"My dear old father," said he, "was the most indulgent man that ever
lived. He'd give me anything in the world that I wanted whether he
could afford it or not, only he had an original system of giving which
kept him from being ruined by indulgence of his children. He gave me a
Rhine steamboat once without its costing him a cent. I saw it, wanted
it, was beginning to cry for it, when he patted me on the head and
told me I could have it, adding, however, that I must never take it
away from the river or try to run it myself. That satisfied me. All I
wanted really was the happiness of feeling it was mine, and my dear
old daddy gave me permission to feel that way. The same thing happened
with reference to the moon. He gave it to me freely and ungrudgingly.
He had received it from his father, he said, and he thought he had
owned it long enough. Only, he added, as he had about the steamboat, I
must leave it where it was and let other people look at it whenever
they wanted to, and not interfere if I found any other little boys or
girls playing with its beams, which I promised and have faithfully
observed to this day.

"Of course from such a parent as this you may very easily see
everything was to be expected on such a day as the Tenth of August
which the people in our region celebrated because it was my birthday.
He used to let me have my own way at all times, and it's a wonder I
wasn't spoiled. I really can't understand how it is that I have become
the man I am, considering how I was indulged when I was small.

"However, like all boys, I was very fond of celebrating the Tenth, and
being a more or less ingenious lad, I usually prepared my own
fire-works and many things happened which might not otherwise have
come to pass if I had been properly looked after as you are. The first
thing that happened to me on the Tenth of August that would have a
great deal better not have happened, was when I was--er--how old are
you Imps?"

"Sixteen," said they. "Going on eighteen."

"Nonsense," said the Baron. "Why you're not more than eight."

"Nope--we're sixteen," said Diavolo. "I'm eight and Angelica's eight
and twice eight is sixteen."

"Oh," said the Baron. "I see. Well, that was exactly the age I was at
the time. Just eight to a day."

"Sixteen we said," said the Twins.

"Yes," nodded the Baron. "Just eight, but going on towards sixteen. My
father had given me ten thalers to spend on noises, but unlike most
boys I did not care so much for noises as I did for novelties. It
didn't give me any particular pleasure to hear a giant cracker go off
with a bang. What I wanted to do most of all was to get up some kind
of an exhibition that would please the people and that could be seen
in the day-time instead of at night when everybody is tired and
sleepy. So instead of spending my money on fire-crackers and torpedoes
and rockets, I spent nine thalers of it on powder and one thaler on
putty blowers. My particular object was to make one grand effort and
provide passers-by with a free exhibition of what I was going to call
'Munchausen's Grand Geyser Cascade.' To do this properly I had set my
eye upon a fish pond not far from the town hall. It was a very deep
pond and about a mile in circumference, I should say. Putty blowers
were then selling at five for a pfennig and powder was cheap as sand
owing to the fact that the powder makers, expecting a war, had made a
hundred times as much as was needed, and as the war didn't come off,
they were willing to take almost anything they could get for it. The
consequence was that the powder I got was sufficient in quantity to
fill a rubber bag as large as five sofa cushions. This I sank in the
middle of the pond, without telling anybody what I intended to do, and
through the putty blowers, sealed tightly together end to end, I
conducted a fuse, which I made myself, from the powder bag to the
shore. My idea was that I could touch the thing off, you know, and
that about sixty square feet of the pond would fly up into the air and
then fall gracefully back again like a huge fountain. If it had worked
as I expected everything would have been all right, but it didn't. I
had too much powder, for a second after I had lit the fuse there came
a muffled roar and the whole pond in a solid mass, fish and all, went
flying up into the air and disappeared. Everybody was astonished, not
a few were very much frightened. I was scared to death but I never let
on to any one that I was the person that had blown the pond off. How
high the pond went I don't know, but I do know that for a week there
wasn't any sign of it, and then most unexpectedly out of what appeared
to be a clear sky there came the most extraordinary rain-storm you
ever saw. It literally poured down for two days, and, what I alone
could understand, with it came trout and sunfish and minnows, and most
singular to all but myself an old scow that was recognised as the
property of the owner of the pond suddenly appeared in the sky falling
toward the earth at a fearful rate of speed. When I saw the scow
coming I was more frightened than ever because I was afraid it might
fall upon and kill some of our neighbours. Fortunately, however, this
possible disaster was averted, for it came down directly over the
sharp-pointed lightning-rod on the tower of our public library and
stuck there like a piece of paper on a file.

"The rain washed away several acres of finely cultivated farms, but
the losses on crops and fences and so forth were largely reduced by
the fish that came with the storm. One farmer took a rake and caught
three hundred pounds of trout, forty pounds of sun-fish, eight
turtles, and a minnow in his potato patch in five minutes. Others were
almost as fortunate, but the damage was sufficiently large to teach me
that parents cannot be too careful about what they let their children
do on the day they celebrate."

"And weren't you ever punished?" asked the Twins.

"No, indeed," said the Baron. "Nobody ever knew that I did it because
I never told them. In fact you are the only two persons who ever heard
about it, and you mustn't tell, because there are still a number of
farmers around that region who would sue me for damages in case they
knew that I was responsible for the accident."

[Illustration: "Out of what appeared to be a clear sky came the most
extraordinary rain storm you ever saw." _Chapter VI._]

"That was pretty awful," said the Twins. "But we don't want to blow up
ponds so as to get cascadeses, but we do want torpeters. Torpeters
aren't any harm, are they, Uncle Munch?"

"Well, you can never tell. It all depends on the torpedo. Torpedoes
are sometimes made carelessly," said the Baron. "They ought to be made
as carefully as a druggist makes pills. So many pebbles, so much
paper, and so much saltpeter and sulphur, or whatever else is used to
make them go off. I had a very unhappy time once with a carelessly
made torpedo. I had two boxes full. They were those tin-foil torpedoes
that little girls are so fond of, and I expected they would make quite
a lot of noise, but the first ten I threw down didn't go off at all.
The eleventh for some reason or other, I never knew exactly what, I
hurled with all my force against the side of my father's barn, and my,
what a surprise it was! It smashed in the whole side of the barn and
sent seven bales of hay, and our big farm plough bounding down the
hillside into the town. The hay-bales smashed down fences; one of them
hit a cow-shed on its way down, knocked the back of it to smithereens
and then proceeded to demolish the rear end of a small crockery shop
that fronted on the main street. It struck the crockery shop square in
the middle of its back and threw down fifteen dozen cups and saucers,
thirty-two water pitchers, and five china busts of Shakespeare. The
din was frightful--but I couldn't help that. Nobody could blame me,
because I had no means of knowing that the man who made the torpedoes
was careless and had put a solid ball of dynamite into one of them. So
you see, my dear Imps, that even torpedoes are not always safe."

"Yes," said Angelica. "I guess I'll play with my dolls on my birthday.
They never goes off and blows things up."

"That's very wise of you," said the Baron.

"But what became of the plough, Uncle Munch?" said Diavolo.

"Oh, the plough didn't do much damage," replied Mr. Munchausen. "It
simply furrowed its way down the hill, across the main street, to the
bowling green. It ploughed up about one hundred feet of this before it
stopped, but nobody minded that much because it was to have been
ploughed and seeded again anyhow within a few days. Of course the
furrow it made in crossing the road was bad, and to make it worse the
share caught one of the water pipes that ran under the street, and
ripped it in two so that the water burst out and flooded the street
for a while, but one hundred and sixty thousand dollars would have
covered the damage."

The Twins were silent for a few moments and then they asked:

"Well, Uncle Munch, what kind of fire-works are safe anyhow?"

"My experience has taught me that there are only two kinds that are
safe," replied their old friend. "One is a Jack-o-lantern and the
other is a cigar, and as you are not old enough to have cigars, if you
will put on your hats and coats and go down into the garden and get me
two pumpkins, I'll make each of you a Jack-o'-lantern. What do you
say?"

"We say yes," said the Twins, and off they went, while the Baron
turning over in the hammock, and arranging a pillow comfortably under
his head, went to sleep to dream of more birthday recollections in
case there should be a demand for them later on.



VII

SAVED BY A MAGIC LANTERN


When the Sunday dinner was over, the Twins, on Mr. Munchausen's
invitation, climbed into the old warrior's lap, Angelica kissing him
on the ear, and Diavolo giving his nose an affectionate tweak.

"Ah!" said the Baron. "That's it!"

"What's what, Uncle Munch?" demanded Diavolo.

"Why that," returned the Baron. "I was wondering what it was I needed
to make my dinner an unqualified success. There was something lacking,
but what it was, we have had so much, I could not guess until you two
Imps kissed me and tweaked my nasal feature. Now I know, for really a
feeling of the most blessed contentment has settled upon my soul."

"Don't you wish _you_ had two youngsters like us, Uncle Munch?" asked
the Twins.

"Do I wish I had? Why I have got two youngsters like you," the Baron
replied. "I've got 'em right here too."

"Where?" asked the Twins, looking curiously about them for the other
two.

"On my knees, of course," said he. "You are mine. Your papa gave you
to me--and you are as like yourselves as two peas in a pod."

"I--I hope you aren't going to take us away from here," said the
Twins, a little ruefully. They were very fond of the Baron, but they
didn't exactly like the idea of being given away.

"Oh no--not at all," said the Baron. "Your father has consented to
keep you here for me and your mother has kindly volunteered to look
after you. There is to be no change, except that you belong to me,
and, vice versa, I belong to you."

"And I suppose, then," said Diavolo, "if you belong to us you've got
to do pretty much what we tell you to?"

"Exactly," responded Mr. Munchausen. "If you should ask me to tell you
a story I'd have to do it, even if you were to demand the full
particulars of how I spent Christmas with Mtulu, King of the Taafe
Eatars, on the upper Congo away down in Africa--which is a tale I have
never told any one in all my life."

"It sounds as if it might be interesting," said the Twins. "Those are
real candy names, aren't they?"

"Yes," said the Baron. "Taafe sounds like taffy and Mtulu is very
suggestive of chewing gum. That's the curious thing about the savage
tribes of Africa. Their names often sound as if they might be things
to eat instead of people. Perhaps that is why they sometimes eat each
other--though, of course, I won't say for sure that that is the real
explanation of cannibalism."

"What's cannon-ballism?" asked Angelica.

"He didn't say cannon-ballism," said Diavolo, scornfully. "It was
candy-ballism."

"Well--you've both come pretty near it," said the Baron, "and we'll
let the matter rest there, or I won't have time to tell you how
Christmas got me into trouble with King Mtulu."

The Baron called for a cigar, which the Twins lighted for him and then
he began.

"You may not have heard," he said, "that some twenty or thirty years
ago I was in command of an expedition in Africa. Our object was to
find Lake Majolica, which we hoped would turn up half way between
Lollokolela and the Clebungo Mountains. Lollokolela was the
furthermost point to which civilisation had reached at that time, and
was directly in the pathway to the Clebungo Mountains, which the
natives said were full of gold and silver mines and scattered all over
which were reputed to be caves in which diamonds and rubies and other
gems of the rarest sort were to be found in great profusion. No white
man had ever succeeded in reaching this marvellously rich range of
hills for the reason that after leaving Lollokolela there was, as far
as was known, no means of obtaining water, and countless adventurous
spirits had had to give up because of the overpowering thirst which
the climate brought upon them.

"Under such circumstances it was considered by a company of gentlemen
in London to be well worth their while to set about the discovery of a
lake, which they decided in advance to call Majolica, for reasons best
known to themselves; they probably wanted to jar somebody with it. And
to me was intrusted the mission of leading the expedition. I will
confess that I did not want to go for the very good reason that I did
not wish to be eaten alive by the savage tribes that infested that
region, but the company provided me with a close fitting suit of mail,
which I wore from the time I started until I returned. It was very
fortunate for me that I was so provided, for on three distinct
occasions I was served up for state dinners and each time successfully
resisted the carving knife and as a result, was thereafter well
received, all the chiefs looking upon me as one who bore a charmed
existence."

Here the Baron paused long enough for the Twins to reflect upon and
realise the terrors which had beset him on his way to Lake Majolica,
and be it said that if they had thought him brave before they now
deemed him a very hero of heroes.

"When I set out," said the Baron, "I was accompanied by ten Zanzibaris
and a thousand tins of condensed dinners."

"A thousand what, Uncle Munch?" asked Jack, his mouth watering.

"Condensed dinners," said the Baron, "I had a lot of my favourite
dinners condensed and put up in tins. I didn't expect to be gone more
than a year and a thousand dinners condensed and tinned, together with
the food I expected to find on the way, elephant meat, rhinoceros
steaks, and tiger chops, I thought would suffice for the trip. I could
eat the condensed dinners and my followers could have the elephant's
meat, rhinoceros steaks, and tiger chops--not to mention the bananas
and other fruits which grow wild in the African jungle. It was not
long, however, before I made the discovery that the Zanzibaris, in
order to eat tigers, need to learn first how to keep tigers from
eating them. We went to bed late one night on the fourth day out from
Lollokolela, and when we waked up the next morning every mother's son
of us, save myself, had been eaten by tigers, and again it was nothing
but my coat of mail that saved me. There were eighteen tigers' teeth
sticking into the sleeve of the coat, as it was. You can imagine my
distress at having to continue the search for Lake Majolica alone. It
was then that I acquired the habit of talking to myself, which has
kept me young ever since, for I enjoy my own conversation hugely, and
find myself always a sympathetic listener. I walked on for days and
days, until finally, on Christmas Eve, I reached King Mtulu's palace.
Of course your idea of a palace is a magnificent five-story building
with beautiful carvings all over the front of it, marble stair-cases
and handsomely painted and gilded ceilings. King Mtulu's palace was
nothing of the sort, although for that region it was quite
magnificent, the walls being decorated with elephants' tusks,
crocodile teeth and many other treasures such as delight the soul of
the Central African.

"Now as I may not have told you, King Mtulu was the fiercest of the
African chiefs, and it is said that up to the time when I outwitted
him no white man had ever encountered him and lived to tell the tale.
Consequently, when without knowing it on this sultry Christmas Eve,
laden with the luggage and the tinned dinners and other things I had
brought with me I stumbled upon the blood-thirsty monarch I gave
myself up for lost.

"'Who comes here to disturb the royal peace?' cried Mtulu, savagely,
as I crossed the threshold.

"'It is I, your highness,' I returned, my face blanching, for I
recognized him at once by the ivory ring he wore in the end of his
nose.

"'Who is I?' retorted Mtulu, picking up his battle axe and striding
forward.

"A happy thought struck me then. These folks are superstitious.
Perhaps the missionaries may have told these uncivilised creatures the
story of Santa Claus. I will pretend that I am Santa Claus. So I
answered, 'Who is I, O Mtulu, Bravest of the Taafe Chiefs? I am Santa
Claus, the Children's Friend, and bearer of gifts to and for all.'

"Mtulu gazed at me narrowly for a moment and then he beat lightly upon a
tom-tom at his side. Immediately thirty of the most villainous-looking
natives, each armed with a club, appeared.

"'Arrest that man,' said Mtulu, 'before he goes any farther. He is an
impostor.'

"'If your majesty pleases,' I began.

"'Silence!' he cried, 'I am fierce and I eat men, but I love truth.
The truthful man has nothing to fear from me, for I have been
converted from my evil ways and since last New Year's day I have eaten
only those who have attempted to deceive me. You will be served raw at
dinner to-morrow night. My respect for your record as a man of courage
leads me to spare you the torture of the frying-pan. You are Baron
Munchausen. I recognized you the moment you turned pale. Another man
would have blushed.'

"So I was carried off and shut up in a mud hovel, the interior walls
of which were of white, a fact which strangely enough, preserved my
life when later I came to the crucial moment. I had brought with me,
among other things, for my amusement solely, a magic lantern. As a
child, I had always been particularly fond of pictures, and when I
thought of the lonely nights in Africa, with no books at hand, no
theatres, no cotillions to enliven the monotony of my life, I resolved
to take with me my little magic-lantern as much for company as for
anything else. It was very compact in form. It folded up to be hardly
larger than a wallet containing a thousand one dollar bills, and the
glass lenses of course could be carried easily in my trousers pockets.
The views, instead of being mounted on glass, were put on a substance
not unlike glass, but thinner, called gelatine. All of these things I
carried in my vest pockets, and when Mtulu confiscated my luggage the
magic lantern and views of course escaped his notice.

"Christmas morning came and passed and I was about to give myself up
for lost, for Mtulu was not a king to be kept from eating a man by
anything so small as a suit of mail, when I received word that before
dinner my captor and his suite were going to pay me a formal parting
call. Night was coming on and as I sat despondently awaiting the
king's arrival, I suddenly bethought me of a lantern slide of the
British army, standing and awaiting the command to fire, I happened to
have with me. It was a superb view--lifelike as you please. Why not
throw that on the wall and when Mtulu enters he will find me
apparently with a strong force at my command, thought I. It was no
sooner thought than it was done and my life was saved. Hardly was that
noble picture reflected upon the rear wall of my prison when the door
opened and Mtulu, followed by his suite, appeared. I rose to greet
him, but apparently he saw me not. Mute with terror he stood upon the
threshold gazing at that terrible line of soldiers ready as he thought
to sweep him and his men from the face of the earth with their
death-dealing bullets.

[Illustration: "'I am your slave,' he replied to my greeting, kneeling
before me, 'I yield all to you.'" _Chapter VII._]

"'I am your slave,' he replied to my greeting, kneeling before me, 'I
yield all to you.'

"'I thought you would,' said I. 'But I ask nothing save the discovery
of Lake Majolica. If within twenty-four hours Lake Majolica is not
discovered I give the command to fire!' Then I turned and gave the
order to carry arms, and lo! by a quick change of slides, the army
appeared at a carry. Mtulu gasped with terror, but accepted my
ultimatum. I was freed, Lake Majolica was discovered before ten
o'clock the next morning, and at five o'clock I was on my way home,
the British army reposing quietly in my breast pocket. It was a mighty
narrow escape!"

"I should say so," said the Twins. "But Mtulu must have been awful
stupid not to see what it was."

"Didn't he see through it when he saw you put the army in your
pocket?" asked Diavolo.

"No," said the Baron, "that frightened him worse than ever, for you
see he reasoned this way. If I could carry an army in my pocket-book,
what was to prevent my carrying Mtulu himself and all his tribe off in
the same way! He thought I was a marvellous man to be able to do
that."

"Well, we guess he was right," said the Twins, as they climbed down
from the Baron's lap to find an atlas and search the map of Africa for
Lake Majolica. This they failed to find and the Baron's explanation is
unknown to me, for when the Imps returned, the warrior had departed.



VIII

AN ADVENTURE IN THE DESERT


"The editor has a sort of notion, Mr. Munchausen," said Ananias, as he
settled down in the big arm-chair before the fire in the Baron's
library, "that he'd like to have a story about a giraffe. Public taste
has a necky quality about it of late."

"What do you say to that, Sapphira?" asked the Baron, politely turning
to Mrs. Ananias, who had called with her husband. "Are you interested
in giraffes?"

"I like lions better," said Sapphira. "They roar louder and bite more
fiercely."

"Well, suppose we compromise," said the Baron, "and have a story about
a poodle dog. Poodle dogs sometimes look like lions, and as a rule
they are as gentle as giraffes."

"I know a better scheme than that," put in Ananias. "Tell us a story
about a lion and a giraffe, and if you feel disposed throw in a few
poodles for good measure. I'm writing on space this year."

"That's so," said Sapphira, wearily. "I could say it was a story about
a lion and Ananias could call it a giraffe story, and we'd each be
right."

"Very well," said the Baron, "it shall be a story of each, only I must
have a cigar before I begin. Cigars help me to think, and the
adventure I had in the Desert of Sahara with a lion, a giraffe, and a
slippery elm tree was so long ago that I shall have to do a great deal
of thinking in order to recall it."

So the Baron went for a cigar, while Ananias and Sapphira winked
enviously at each other and lamented their lost glory. In a minute the
Baron returned with the weed, and after lighting it, began his story.

"I was about twenty years old when this thing happened to me," said
he. "I had gone to Africa to investigate the sand in the Desert of
Sahara for a Sand Company in America. As you may already have heard,
sand is a very useful thing in a great many ways, more particularly
however in the building trades. The Sand Company was formed for the
purpose of supplying sand to everybody that wanted it, but land in
America at that time was so very expensive that there was very little
profit in the business. People who owned sand banks and sand lots
asked outrageous prices for their property; and the sea-shore people
were not willing to part with any of theirs because they needed it in
their hotel business. The great attraction of a seaside hotel is the
sand on the beach, and of course the proprietors weren't going to sell
that. They might better even sell their brass bands. So the Sand
Company thought it might be well to build some steam-ships, load them
with oysters, or mowing machines, or historical novels, or anything
else that is produced in the United States, and in demand elsewhere;
send them to Egypt, sell the oysters, or mowing machines, or
historical novels, and then have the ships fill up with sand from the
Sahara, which they could get for nothing, and bring it back in ballast
to the United States."

"It must have cost a lot!" said Ananias.

"Not at all," returned the Baron. "The profits on the oysters and
mowing machines and historical novels were so large that all expenses
both ways were more than paid, so that when it was delivered in
America the sand had really cost less than nothing. We could have
thrown it all overboard and still have a profit left. It was I who
suggested the idea to the President of the Sand Company--his name was
Bartlett, or--ah--Mulligan--or some similar well-known American name,
I can't exactly recall it now. However, Mr. Bartlett, or Mr. Mulligan,
or whoever it was, was very much pleased with the idea and asked me if
I wouldn't go to the Sahara, investigate the quality of the sand, and
report; and as I was temporarily out of employment I accepted the
commission. Six weeks later I arrived in Cairo and set out immediately
on a tour of the desert. I went alone because I preferred not to take
any one into my confidence, and besides one can always be more
independent when he has only his own wishes to consult. I also went on
foot, for the reason that camels need a great deal of care--at least
mine would have, if I'd had one, because I always like to have my
steeds well groomed whether there is any one to see them or not. So to
save myself trouble I started off alone on foot. In twenty-four hours
I travelled over a hundred miles of the desert, and the night of the
second day found me resting in the shade of a slippery elm tree in the
middle of an oasis, which after much suffering and anxiety I had
discovered. It was a beautiful moonlight night and I was enjoying it
hugely. There were no mosquitoes or insects of any kind to interfere
with my comfort. No insects could have flown so far across the sands.
I have no doubt that many of them have tried to get there, but up to
the time of my arrival none had succeeded, and I felt as happy as
though I were in Paradise.

"After eating my supper and taking a draught of the delicious spring
water that purled up in the middle of the oasis, I threw myself down
under the elm tree, and began to play my violin, without which in
those days I never went anywhere."

"I didn't know you played the violin," said Sapphira. "I thought your
instrument was the trombone--plenty of blow and a mighty stretch."

"I don't--now," said the Baron, ignoring the sarcasm. "I gave it up
ten years ago--but that's a different story. How long I played that
night I don't know, but I do know that lulled by the delicious strains
of the music and soothed by the soft sweetness of the atmosphere I
soon dropped off to sleep. Suddenly I was awakened by what I thought
to be the distant roar of thunder. 'Humph!' I said to myself. 'This is
something new. A thunder storm in the Desert of Sahara is a thing I
never expected to see, particularly on a beautifully clear moonlight
night'--for the moon was still shining like a great silver ball in the
heavens, and not a cloud was anywhere to be seen. Then it occurred to
me that perhaps I had been dreaming, so I turned over to go to sleep
again. Hardly had I closed my eyes when a second ear-splitting roar
came bounding over the sands, and I knew that it was no dream, but an
actual sound that I heard. I sprang to my feet and looked about the
horizon and there, a mere speck in the distance, was something--for
the moment I thought a cloud, but in another instant I changed my
mind, for glancing through my telescope I perceived it was not a cloud
but a huge lion with the glitter of hunger in his eye. What I had
mistaken for the thunder was the roar of this savage beast. I seized
my gun and felt for my cartridge box only to discover that I had lost
my ammunition and was there alone, unarmed, in the great desert, at
the mercy of that savage creature, who was drawing nearer and nearer
every minute and giving forth the most fearful roars you ever heard.
It was a terrible moment and I was in despair.

"'It's all up with you, Baron,' I said to myself, and then I caught
sight of the tree. It seemed my only chance. I must climb that. I
tried, but alas! As I have told you it was a slippery elm tree, and I
might as well have tried to climb a greased pole. Despite my frantic
efforts to get a grip upon the trunk I could not climb more than two
feet without slipping back. It was impossible. Nothing was left for me
to do but to take to my legs, and I took to them as well as I knew
how. My, what a run it was, and how hopeless. The beast was gaining on
me every second, and before me lay mile after mile of desert. 'Better
give up and treat the beast to a breakfast, Baron,' I moaned to
myself. 'When there's only one thing to do, you might as well do it
and be done with it. Your misery will be over the more quickly if you
stop right here.' As I spoke these words, I slowed up a little, but
the frightful roaring of the lion unnerved me for an instant, or
rather nerved me on to a spurt, which left the lion slightly more to
the rear--and which resulted in the saving of my life; for as I ran
on, what should I see about a mile ahead but another slippery elm
tree, and under it stood a giraffe who had apparently fallen asleep
while browsing among its upper branches, and filling its stomach with
its cooling cocoanuts. The giraffe had its back to me, and as I sped
on I formed my plan. I would grab hold of the giraffe's tail; haul
myself up onto his back; climb up his neck into the tree, and then
give my benefactor a blow between the eyes which would send him flying
across the desert before the lion could come along and get up into the
tree the same way I did. The agony of fear I went through as I
approached the long-necked creature was something dreadful. Suppose
the giraffe should be awakened by the roaring of the lion before I got
there and should rush off himself to escape the fate that awaited me?
I nearly dropped, I was so nervous, and the lion was now not more than
a hundred yards away. I could hear his breath as he came panting on. I
redoubled my speed; his pants came closer, closer, until at length
after what seemed a year, I reached the giraffe, caught his tail,
raised myself up to his back, crawled along his neck and dropped
fainting into the tree just as the lion sprang upon the giraffe's back
and came on toward me. What happened then I don't know, for as I have
told you I swooned away; but I do know that when I came to, the
giraffe had disappeared and the lion lay at the foot of the tree dead
from a broken neck."

"A broken neck?" demanded Sapphira.

"Yes," returned the Baron. "A broken neck! From which I concluded that
as the lion reached the nape of the giraffe's neck, the giraffe had
waked up and bent his head toward the earth, thus causing the lion to
fall head first to the ground instead of landing as he had expected in
the tree with me."

"It was wonderful," said Sapphira, scornfully.

"Yes," said Ananias, "but I shouldn't think a lion could break his
neck falling off a giraffe. Perhaps it was one of the slippery elm
cocoanuts that fell on him."

"Well, of course," said the Baron, rising, "that would all depend upon
the height of the giraffe. Mine was the tallest one I ever saw."

"About how tall?" asked Ananias.

"Well," returned the Baron, thoughtfully, as if calculating, "did you
ever see the Eiffel Tower?"

"Yes," said Ananias.

"Well," observed the Baron, "I don't think my giraffe was more than
half as tall as that."

With which estimate the Baron bowed his guests out of the room, and
with a placid smile on his face, shook hands with himself.

"Mr. and Mrs. Ananias are charming people," he chuckled, "but amateurs
both--deadly amateurs."

[Illustration: "I reached the giraffe, raised myself to his back, crawled
along his neck and dropped fainting into the tree." _Chapter VIII._]



IX

DECORATION DAY IN THE CANNIBAL ISLANDS


"Uncle Munch," said Diavolo as he clambered up into the old warrior's
lap, "I don't suppose you could tell us a story about Decoration Day
could you?"

"I think I might try," said Mr. Munchausen, puffing thoughtfully upon
his cigar and making a ring with the smoke for Angelica to catch upon
her little thumb. "I might try--but it will all depend upon whether
you want me to tell you about Decoration Day as it is celebrated in
the United States, or the way a band of missionaries I once knew in
the Cannibal Islands observed it for twenty years or more."

"Why can't we have both stories?" said Angelica. "I think that would
be the nicest way. Two stories is twice as good as one."

"Well, I don't know," returned Mr. Munchausen. "You see the trouble is
that in the first instance I could tell you only what a beautiful
thing it is that every year the people have a day set apart upon which
they especially honour the memory of the noble fellows who lost their
lives in defence of their country. I'm not much of a poet and it takes
a poet to be able to express how beautiful and grand it all is, and so
I should be afraid to try it. Besides it might sadden your little
hearts to have me dwell upon the almost countless number of heroes who
let themselves be killed so that their fellow-citizens might live in
peace and happiness. I'd have to tell you about hundreds and hundreds
of graves scattered over the battle fields that no one knows about,
and which, because no one knows of them, are not decorated at all,
unless Nature herself is kind enough to let a little dandelion or a
daisy patch into the secret, so that they may grow on the green grass
above these forgotten, unknown heroes who left their homes, were shot
down and never heard of afterwards."

"Does all heroes get killed?" asked Angelica.

"No," said Mr. Munchausen. "I and a great many others lived through
the wars and are living yet."

"Well, how about the missionaries?" said Diavolo. "I didn't know they
had Decoration Day in the Cannibal Islands."

"I didn't either until I got there," returned the Baron. "But they
have and they have it in July instead of May. It was one of the most
curious things I ever saw and the natives, the men who used to be
cannibals, like it so much that if the missionaries were to forget it
they'd either remind them of it or have a celebration of their own. I
don't know whether I ever told you about my first experience with the
cannibals--did I?"

"I don't remember it, but if you had I would have," said Diavolo.

"So would I," said Angelica. "I remember most everything you say,
except when I want you to say it over again, and even then I haven't
forgotten it."

"Well, it happened this way," said the Baron. "It was when I was
nineteen years old. I sort of thought at that time I'd like to be a
sailor, and as my father believed in letting me try whatever I wanted
to do I took a position as first mate of a steam brig that plied
between San Francisco and Nepaul, taking San Francisco canned tomatoes
to Nepaul and bringing Nepaul pepper back to San Francisco, making
several dollars both ways. Perhaps I ought to explain to you that
Nepaul pepper is red, and hot; not as hot as a furnace fire, but hot
enough for your papa and myself when we order oysters at a club and
have them served so cold that we think they need a little more warmth
to make them palatable and digestible. You are not yet old enough to
know the meaning of such words as palatable and digestible, but some
day you will be and then you'll know what your Uncle means. At any
rate it was on the return voyage from Nepaul that the water tank on
the _Betsy S._ went stale and we had to stop at the first place we
could to fill it up with fresh water. So we sailed along until we came
in sight of an Island and the Captain appointed me and two sailors a
committee of three to go ashore and see if there was a spring anywhere
about. We went, and the first thing we knew we were in the midst of a
lot of howling, hungry savages, who were crazy to eat us. My
companions were eaten, but when it came to my turn I tried to reason
with the chief. 'Now see here, my friend,' said I, 'I'm perfectly
willing to be served up at your breakfast, if I can only be convinced
that you will enjoy eating me. What I don't want is to have my life
wasted!' 'That's reasonable enough,' said he. 'Have you got a sample
of yourself along for me to taste?' 'I have,' I replied, taking out a
bottle of Nepaul pepper, that by rare good luck I happened to have in
my pocket. 'That is a portion of my left foot powdered. It will give
you some idea of what I taste like,' I added. 'If you like that,
you'll like me. If you don't, you won't.'"

"That was fine," said Diavolo. "You told pretty near the truth, too,
Uncle Munch, because you are hot stuff yourself, ain't you?"

"I am so considered, my boy," said Mr. Munchausen. "The chief took a
teaspoonful of the pepper down at a gulp, and let me go when he
recovered. He said he guessed I wasn't quite his style, and he thought
I'd better depart before I set fire to the town. So I filled up the
water bag, got into the row-boat, and started back to the ship, but
the _Betsy S._ had gone and I was forced to row all the way to San
Francisco, one thousand, five hundred and sixty-two miles distant. The
captain and crew had given us all up for lost. I covered the distance
in six weeks, living on water and Nepaul pepper, and when I finally
reached home, I told my father that, after all, I was not so sure that
I liked a sailor's life. But I never forgot those cannibals or their
island, as you may well imagine. They and their home always interested
me hugely and I resolved if the fates ever drove me that way again, I
would go ashore and see how the people were getting on. The fates,
however, were a long time in drawing me that way again, for it was not
until July, ten years ago that I reached there the second time. I was
off on a yachting trip, with an English friend, when one afternoon we
dropped anchor off that Cannibal Island.

"'Let's go ashore,' said I. 'What for?' said my host; and then I told
him the story and we went, and it was well we did so, for it was then
and there that I discovered the new way the missionaries had of
celebrating Decoration Day.

"No sooner had we landed than we noticed that the Island had become
civilised. There were churches, and instead of tents and mud-hovels,
beautiful residences appeared here and there, through the trees. 'I
fancy this isn't the island,' said my host. 'There aren't any
cannibals about here.' I was about to reply indignantly, for I was
afraid he was doubting the truth of my story, when from the top of a
hill, not far distant, we heard strains of music. We went to see
whence it came, and what do you suppose we saw? Five hundred
villainous looking cannibals marching ten abreast along a fine street,
and, cheering them from the balconies of the houses that fronted on
the highway, were the missionaries and their friends and their
children and their wives.

"'This can't be the place, after all,' said my host again.

"'Yes it is,' said I, 'only it has been converted. They must be
celebrating some native festival.' Then as I spoke the procession
stopped and the head missionary followed by a band of beautiful girls,
came down from a platform and placed garlands of flowers and beautiful
wreaths on the shoulders and heads of those reformed cannibals. In
less than an hour every one of the huge black fellows was covered with
roses and pinks and fragrant flowers of all kinds, and then they
started on parade again. It was a fine sight, but I couldn't
understand what it was all done for until that night, when I dined
with the head missionary--and what do you suppose it was?"

"I give it up," said Diavolo, "maybe the missionaries thought the
cannibals didn't have enough clothes on."

"I guess I can't guess," said Angelica.

"They were celebrating Decoration Day," said Mr. Munchausen. "They
were strewing flowers on the graves of departed missionaries."

"You didn't tell us about any graves," said Diavolo.

[Illustration: "They were celebrating Decoration Day ... strewing
flowers on the graves of departed missionaries." _Chapter IX._]

"Why certainly I did," said the Baron. "The cannibals themselves were
the only graves those poor departed missionaries ever had. Every one
of those five hundred savages was the grave of a missionary, my dears,
and having been converted, and taught that it was not good to eat
their fellow-men, they did all in their power afterwards to show their
repentance, keeping alive the memory of the men they had treated so
badly by decorating themselves on memorial day--and one old fellow,
the savagest looking, but now the kindest-hearted being in the world,
used always to wear about his neck a huge sign, upon which he had
painted in great black letters:

                              HERE LIES
                         JOHN THOMAS WILKINS,
                               SAILOR.
                 DEPARTED THIS LIFE, MAY 24TH, 1861.
                   HE WAS A MAN OF SPLENDID TASTE.

"The old cannibal had eaten Wilkins and later when he had been
converted and realised that he himself was the grave of a worthy man,
as an expiation he devoted his life to the memory of John Thomas
Wilkins, and as a matter of fact, on the Cannibal Island Decoration
Day he would lie flat on the floor all the day, groaning under the
weight of a hundred potted plants, which he placed upon himself in
memory of Wilkins."

Here Mr. Munchausen paused for breath, and the twins went out into the
garden to try to imagine with the aid of a few practical experiments
how a cannibal would look with a hundred potted plants adorning his
person.



X

MR. MUNCHAUSEN'S ADVENTURE WITH A SHARK


                    Mr. and Mrs. Henry B. Ananias.
          _THURSDAYS._                         _CIMMERIA._

This was the card sent by the reporter of the _Gehenna Gazette_, and
Mrs. Ananias to Mr. Munchausen upon his return from a trip to mortal
realms concerning which many curious reports have crept into
circulation. Owing to a rumour persistently circulated at one time,
Mr. Munchausen had been eaten by a shark, and it was with the
intention of learning, if possible, the basis for the rumour that
Ananias and Sapphira called upon the redoubtable Baron of other days.

Mr. Munchausen graciously received the callers and asked what he could
do for them.

"Our readers, Mr. Munchausen," explained Ananias, "have been much
concerned over rumours of your death at the hands of a shark."

"Sharks have no hands," said the Baron quietly.

"Well--that aside," observed Ananias. "Were you killed by a shark?"

"Not that I recall," said the Baron. "I may have been, but I don't
remember it. Indeed I recall only one adventure with a shark. That
grew out of my mission on behalf of France to the Czar of Russia. I
carried letters once from the King of France to his Imperial Coolness
the Czar."

"What was the nature of the letters?" asked Ananias.

"I never knew," replied the Baron. "As I have said, it was a secret
mission, and the French Government never took me into its confidence.
The only thing I know about it is that I was sent to St. Petersburg,
and I went, and in the course of time I made myself much beloved of
both the people and his Majesty the Czar. I am the only person that
ever lived that was liked equally by both, and if I had attached
myself permanently to the Czar, Russia would have been a different
country to-day."

"What country would it have been, Mr. Munchausen," asked Sapphira
innocently, "Germany or Siam?"

"I can't specify, my dear madame," the Baron replied. "It wouldn't be
fair. But, at any rate, I went to Russia, and was treated warmly by
everybody, except the climate, which was, as it is at all times, very
freezing. That's the reason the Russian people like the climate. It is
the only thing the Czar can't change by Imperial decree, and the
people admire its independence and endure it for that reason. But as I
have said, everybody was pleased with me, and the Czar showed me
unusual attention. He gave fêtes in my honour. He gave the most
princely dinners, and I met the very best people in St. Petersburg,
and at one of these dinners I was invited to join a yachting party on
a cruise around the world.

"Well, of course, though a landsman in every sense of the word, I am
fond of yachting, and I immediately accepted the invitation. The yacht
we went on was the Boomski Zboomah, belonging to Prince--er--now
what was that Prince's name! Something like--er--Sheeroff or
Jibski--or--er--well, never mind that. I meet so many princes it is
difficult to remember their names. We'll say his name was Jibski."

"Suppose we do," said Ananias, with a jealous grin. "Jibski is such a
remarkable name. It will look well in print."

"All right," said the Baron, "Jibski be it. The yacht belonged to
Prince Jibski, and she was a beauty. There was a stateroom and a
steward for everybody on board, and nothing that could contribute to a
man's comfort was left unattended to. We set sail on the 23rd of
August, and after cruising about the North coast of Europe for a week
or two, we steered the craft south, and along about the middle of
September we reached the Amphibian Islands, and anchored. It was here
that I had my first and last experience with sharks. If they had been
plain, ordinary sharks I'd have had an easy time of it, but when you
get hold of these Amphibian sharks you are likely to get yourself into
twenty-three different kinds of trouble."

"My!" said Sapphira. "All those? Does the number include being struck
by lightning?"

"Yes," the Baron answered, "And when you remember that there are only
twenty-four different kinds altogether you can see what a peck of
trouble an Amphibian shark can get you into. I thought my last hour
had come when I met with him. You see when we reached the Amphibian
Islands, we naturally thought we'd like to go ashore and pick the
cocoanuts and raisins and other things that grow there, and when I got
upon dry land again I felt strongly tempted to go down upon the
beautiful little beach in the harbour and take a swim. Prince Jibski
advised me against it, but I was set upon going. He told me the place
was full of sharks, but I wasn't afraid because I was always a
remarkably rapid swimmer, and I felt confident of my ability, in case
I saw a shark coming after me, to swim ashore before he could possibly
catch me, provided I had ten yards start. So in I went leaving my gun
and clothing on the beach. Oh, it was fun! The water was quite warm,
and the sandy bottom of the bay was deliciously soft and pleasant to
the feet. I suppose I must have sported in the waves for ten or
fifteen minutes before the trouble came. I had just turned a
somersault in the water, when, as my head came to the surface, I saw
directly in front of me, the unmistakable fin of a shark, and to my
unspeakable dismay not more than five feet away. As I told you, if it
had been ten yards away I should have had no fear, but five feet meant
another story altogether. My heart fairly jumped into my mouth. It
would have sunk into my boots if I had had them on, but I hadn't, so
it leaped upward into my mouth as I turned to swim ashore, by which
time the shark had reduced the distance between us by one foot. I
feared that all was up with me, and was trying to think of an
appropriate set of last words, when Prince Jibski, noting my peril,
fired one of the yacht's cannon in our direction. Ordinarily this
would have been useless, for the yacht's cannon was never loaded with
anything but a blank charge, but in this instance it was better than
if it had been loaded with ball and shot, for not only did the sound
of the explosion attract the attention of the shark and cause him to
pause for a moment, but also the wadding from the gun dropped directly
upon my back, so showing that Prince Jibski's aim was not as good as
it might have been. Had the cannon been loaded with a ball or a shell,
you can very well understand how it would have happened that yours
truly would have been killed then and there."

"We should have missed you," said Ananias sweetly.

"Thanks," said the Baron. "But to resume. The shark's pause gave me
the start I needed, and the heat from the burning wadding right
between my shoulders caused me to redouble my efforts to get away from
the shark and it, so that I never swam faster in my life, and was soon
standing upon the shore, jeering at my fearful pursuer, who, strange
to say, showed no inclination to stop the chase now that I was, as I
thought, safely out of his reach. I didn't jeer very long I can tell
you, for in another minute I saw why the shark didn't stop chasing me,
and why Amphibian sharks are worse than any other kind. That shark had
not only fins like all other sharks to swim with, but he had likewise
three pairs of legs that he could use on land quite as well as he
could use the fins in the water. And then began the prettiest chase
you ever saw in your life. As he emerged from the water I grabbed up
my gun and ran. Round and round the island we tore, I ahead, he thirty
or forty yards behind, until I got to a place where I could stop
running and take a hasty shot at him. Then I aimed, and fired. My aim
was good, but struck one of the huge creature's teeth, broke it off
short, and bounded off to one side. This made him more angry than
ever, and he redoubled his efforts to catch me. I redoubled mine,
until I could get another shot at him. The second shot, like the
first, struck the creature in the teeth, only this time it was more
effective. The bullet hit his jaw lengthwise, and knocked every tooth
on that side of his head down his throat. So it went. I ran. He
pursued. I fired; he lost his teeth, until finally I had knocked out
every tooth he had, and then, of course, I wasn't afraid of him, and
let him come up with me. With his teeth he could have ground me to
atoms at one bite. Without them he was as powerless as a bowl of
currant jelly, and when he opened his huge jaws, as he supposed to
bite me in two, he was the most surprised looking fish you ever saw on
land or sea to discover that the effect his jaws had upon my safety
was about as great as had they been nothing but two feather bed
mattresses."

"You must have been badly frightened, though," said Ananias.

"No," said the Baron. "I laughed in the poor disappointed thing's
face, and with a howl of despair, he rushed back into the sea again. I
made the best time I could back to the yacht for fear he might return
with assistance."

"And didn't you ever see him again, Baron?" asked Sapphira.

"Yes, but only from the deck of the yacht as we were weighing anchor,"
said Mr. Munchausen. "I saw him and a dozen others like him doing
precisely what I thought they would do, going ashore to search me out
so as to have a little cold Munch for dinner. I'm glad they were
disappointed, aren't you?"

"Yes, indeed," said Ananias and Sapphira, but not warmly.

Ananias was silent for a moment, and then walking over to one of the
bookcases, he returned in a moment, bringing with him a huge atlas.

"Where are the Amphibian Islands, Mr. Munchausen?" he said, opening
the book. "Show them to me on the map. I'd like to print the map with
my story."

"Oh, I can't do that," said the Baron, "because they aren't on the map
any more. When I got back to Europe and told the map-makers about the
dangers to man on those islands, they said that the interests of
humanity demanded that they be lost. So they took them out of all the
geographies, and all the cyclopædias, and all the other books, so that
nobody ever again should be tempted to go there; and there isn't a
school-teacher or a sailor in the world to-day who could tell you
where they are."

"But, you know, don't you?" persisted Ananias.

"Well, I did," said the Baron; "but, really I have had to remember so
many other things that I have forgotten that. All that I know is that
they were named from the fact that they were infested by Amphibious
animals, which are animals that can live on land as well as on water."

"How strange!" said Sapphira.

"It's just too queer for anything," said Ananias, "but on the whole
I'm not surprised."

And the Baron said he was glad to hear it.

[Illustration: "I laughed in the poor disappointed thing's face, and
with a howl of despair he rushed back into the sea." _Chapter X._]



XI

THE BARON AS A RUNNER


The Twins had been on the lookout for the Baron for at least an hour,
and still he did not come, and the little Imps were beginning to feel
blue over the prospect of getting the usual Sunday afternoon story. It
was past four o'clock, and for as long a time as they could remember
the Baron had never failed to arrive by three o'clock. All sorts of
dreadful possibilities came up before their mind's eye. They pictured
the Baron in accidents of many sorts. They conjured up visions of him
lying wounded beneath the ruins of an apartment house, or something
else equally heavy that might have fallen upon him on his way from his
rooms to the station, but that he was more than wounded they did not
believe, for they knew that the Baron was not the sort of man to be
killed by anything killing under the sun.

"I wonder where he can be?" said Angelica, uneasily to her brother,
who was waiting with equal anxiety for their common friend.

"Oh, he's all right!" said Diavolo, with a confidence he did not
really feel. "He'll turn up all right, and even if he's two hours late
he'll be here on time according to his own watch. Just you wait and
see."

And they did wait and they did see. They waited for ten minutes, when
the Baron drove up, smiling as ever, but apparently a little out of
breath. I should not dare to say that he was really out of breath, but
he certainly did seem to be so, for he panted visibly, and for two or
three minutes after his arrival was quite unable to ask the Imps the
usual question as to their very good health. Finally, however, the
customary courtesies of the greeting were exchanged, and the decks
were cleared for action.

"What kept you, Uncle Munch?" asked the Twins, as they took up their
usual position on the Baron's knees.

"What what?" replied the warrior. "Kept me? Why, am I late?"

"Two hours," said the Twins. "Dad gave you up and went out for a
walk."

"Nonsense," said the Baron. "I'm never that late."

Here he looked at his watch.

"Why I do seem to be behind time. There must be something wrong with
our time-pieces. I can't be two hours late, you know."

"Well, let's say you are on time, then," said the Twins. "What kept
you?"

"A very funny accident on the railroad," said the Baron lighting a
cigar. "Queerest accident that ever happened to me on the railroad,
too. Our engine ran away."

The Twins laughed as if they thought the Baron was trying to fool
them.

"Really," said the Baron. "I left town as usual on the two o'clock
train, which, as you know, comes through in half an hour, without a
stop. Everything went along smoothly until we reached the Vitriol
Reservoir, when much to the surprise of everybody the train came to a
stand-still. I supposed there was a cow on the track, and so kept in
my seat for three or four minutes as did every one else. Finally the
conductor came through and called to the brakeman at the end of our
car to see if his brakes were all right.

"'It's the most unaccountable thing,' he said to me. 'Here's this
train come to a dead stop and I can't see why. There isn't a brake out
of order on any one of the cars, and there isn't any earthly reason
why we shouldn't go ahead.'

"'Maybe somebody's upset a bottle of glue on the track,' said I. I
always like to chaff the conductor, you know, though as far as that is
concerned, I remember once when I was travelling on a South American
Railway our train was stopped by highwaymen, who smeared the tracks
with a peculiar sort of gum. They'd spread it over three miles of
track, and after the train had gone lightly over two miles of it the
wheels stuck so fast ten engines couldn't have moved it. That was a
terrible affair."

"I don't think we ever heard of that, did we?" asked Angelica.

"I don't remember it," said Diavolo.

"Well, you would have remembered it, if you had ever heard of it,"
said the Baron. "It was too dreadful to be forgotten--not for us, you
know, but for the robbers. It was one of the Imperial trains in
Brazil, and if it hadn't been for me the Emperor would have been
carried off and held for ransom. The train was brought to a
stand-still by this gluey stuff, as I have told you, and the
desperadoes boarded the cars and proceeded to rifle us of our
possessions. The Emperor was in the car back of mine, and the robbers
made directly for him, but fathoming their intention I followed close
upon their heels.

"'You are our game,' said the chief robber, tapping the Emperor on the
shoulder, as he entered the Imperial car.

"'Hands off,' I cried throwing the ruffian to one side.

"He scowled dreadfully at me, the Emperor looked surprised, and
another one of the robbers requested to know who was I that I should
speak with so much authority. 'Who am I?' said I, with a wink at the
Emperor. 'Who am I? Who else but Baron Munchausen of the Bodenwerder
National Guard, ex-friend of Napoleon of France, intimate of the
Mikado of Japan, and famed the world over as the deadliest shot in two
hemispheres.'

"The desperadoes paled visibly as I spoke, and after making due
apologies for interfering with the train, fled shrieking from the car.
They had heard of me before.

"'I thank you, sir,' began the Emperor, as the would-be assassins
fled, but I cut him short. 'They must not be allowed to escape,' I
said, and with that I started in pursuit of the desperate fellows,
overtook them, and glued them with the gum they had prepared for our
detention to the face of a precipice that rose abruptly from the side
of the railway, one hundred and ten feet above the level. There I left
them. We melted the glue from the tracks by means of our steam heating
apparatus, and were soon booming merrily on our way to Rio Janeiro
when I was fêted and dined continuously for weeks by the people,
though strange to say the Emperor's behaviour toward me was very
cool."

"And did the robbers ever get down?" asked the Twins.

"Yes, but not in a way they liked," Mr. Munchausen replied. "The sun
came out, and after a week or two melted the glue that held them to
the precipice, whereupon they fell to its base and were shattered into
pieces so small there wasn't an atom of them to be found when a month
later I passed that way again on my return trip."

"And didn't the Emperor treat you well, Uncle Munch?" asked the Imps.

"No--as I told you he was very cool towards me, and I couldn't
understand it, then, but I do now," said the Baron. "You see he was
very much in need of ready cash, the Emperor was, and as the taxpayers
were already growling about the expenses of the Government he didn't
dare raise the money by means of a tax. So he arranged with the
desperadoes to stop the train, capture him, and hold him for ransom.
Then when the ransom came along he was going to divide up with them.
My sudden appearance, coupled with my determination to rescue him,
spoiled his plan, you see, and so he naturally wasn't very grateful.
Poor fellow, I was very sorry for it afterward, because he really was
an excellent ruler, and his plan of raising the money he needed wasn't
a bit less honest than most other ways rulers employ to obtain revenue
for State purposes."

"Well, now, let's get back to the runaway engine," said the Twins.
"You can tell us more about South America after you get through with
that. How did the engine come to run away?"

"It was simple enough," said the Baron. "The engineer, after starting
the train came back into the smoking car to get a light for his pipe,
and while he was there the coupling-pin between the engine and the
train broke, and off skipped the engine twice as fast as it had been
going before. The relief from the weight of the train set its pace to
a mile a minute instead of a mile in two minutes, and there we were at
a dead stop in front of the Vitriol Station with nothing to move us
along. When the engineer saw what had happened he fainted dead away,
because you know if a collision had occurred between the runaway
engine and the train ahead he would have been held responsible."

"Couldn't the fireman stop the engine?" asked the Twins.

"No. That is, it wouldn't be his place to do it, and these railway
fellows are queer about that sort of thing," said the Baron. "The
engineers would go out upon a strike if the railroad were to permit a
stoker to manage the engine, and besides that the stoker wouldn't
undertake to do it at a stoker's wages, so there wasn't any help to be
looked for there. The conductor happened to be nearsighted, and so he
didn't find out that the engine was missing until he had wasted ten or
twenty minutes examining the brakes, by which time, of course, the
runaway was miles and miles up the track. Then the engineer came to,
and began to wring his hands and moan in a way that was heart-rending.
The conductor, too, began to cry, and all the brakemen left the train
and took to the woods. They weren't going to have any of the
responsibility for the accident placed on their shoulders. Whether
they will ever turn up again I don't know. But I realised as soon as
anybody else that something had to be done, so I rushed into the
telegraph office and telegraphed to all the station masters between
the Vitriol Reservoir and Cimmeria to clear the track of all trains,
freight, local, or express, or somebody would be hurt, and that I
myself would undertake to capture the runaway engine. This they all
promised to do, whereupon I bade good-bye to my fellow-travellers, and
set off up the track myself at full speed. In a minute I strode past
Sulphur Springs, covering at least eight ties at a stretch. In two
minutes I thundered past Lava Hurst, where I learned that the engine
had twenty miles start of me. I made a rapid calculation mentally--I
always was strong in mental arithmetic, which showed that unless I was
tripped up or got side-tracked somewhere I might overtake the runaway
before it reached Noxmere. Redoubling my efforts, my stride increased
to twenty ties at a jump, and I made the next five miles in two
minutes. It sounds impossible, but really it isn't so. It is hard to
run as fast as that at the start, but when you have got your start the
impetus gathered in the first mile's run sends you along faster in the
second, and so your speed increases by its own force until finally you
go like the wind. At Gasdale I had gained two miles on the engine, at
Sneakskill I was only fifteen miles behind, and upon my arrival at
Noxmere there was scarcely a mile between me and the fugitive.
Unfortunately a large crowd had gathered at Noxmere to see me pass
through, and some small boy had brought a dog along with him and the
dog stood directly in my path. If I ran over the dog it would kill him
and might trip me up. If I jumped with the impetus I had there was no
telling where I would land. It was a hard point to decide either way,
but I decided in favour of the jump, simply to save the dog's life,
for I love animals. I landed three miles up the road and ahead of the
engine, though I didn't know that until I had run ten miles farther
on, leaving the engine a hundred yards behind me at every stride. It
was at Miasmatica that I discovered my error and then I tried to stop.
It was almost in vain; I dragged my feet over the ties, but could only
slow down to a three-minute gait. Then I tried to turn around and slow
up running backward; this brought my speed down ten minutes to the
mile, which made it safe for me to run into a hay-stack at the side of
the railroad just this side of Cimmeria. Then, of course, I was all
right. I could sit down and wait for the engine, which came booming
along forty minutes later. As it approached I prepared to board it,
and in five minutes was in full control. That made it easy enough for
me to get back here without further trouble. I simply reversed the
lever, and back we came faster than I can describe, and just one hour
and a half from the time of the mishap the runaway engine was restored
to its deserted train and I reached your station here in good order. I
should have walked up, but for my weariness after that exciting run,
which as you see left me very much out of breath, and which made it
necessary for me to hire that worn-out old hack instead of walking up
as is my wont."

[Illustration: "This brought my speed down ten minutes to the mile,
which made it safe for me to run into a haystack." _Chapter XI._]

"Yes, we see you are out of breath," said the Twins, as the Baron
paused. "Would you like to lie down and take a rest?"

"Above all things," said the Baron. "I'll take a nap here until your
father returns," which he proceeded at once to do.

While he slept the two Imps gazed at him curiously, Angelica, a little
suspiciously.

"Bub," said she, in a whisper, "do you think that was a true story?"

"Well, I don't know," said Diavolo. "If anybody else than Uncle Munch
had told it, I wouldn't have believed it. But he hates untruth. I know
because he told me so."

"That's the way I feel about it," said Angelica. "Of course, he can
run as fast as that, because he is very strong, but what I can't see
is how an engine ever could run away from its train."

"That's what stumps me," said Diavolo.



XII

MR. MUNCHAUSEN MEETS HIS MATCH

(Reported by Henry W. Ananias for the _Gehenna Gazette_.)


When Mr. Munchausen, accompanied by Ananias and Sapphira, after a long
and tedious journey from Cimmeria to the cool and wooded heights of
the Blue Sulphur Mountains, entered the portals of the hotel where the
greater part of his summers are spent, the first person to greet him
was Beelzebub Sandboy,--the curly-headed Imp who acted as "Head Front"
of the Blue Sulphur Mountain House, his eyes a-twinkle and his swift
running feet as ever ready for a trip to any part of the hostelry and
back. Beelzy, as the Imp was familiarly known, as the party entered,
was in the act of carrying a half-dozen pitchers of iced-water
upstairs to supply thirsty guests with the one thing needful and best
to quench that thirst, and in his excitement at catching sight once
again of his ancient friend the Baron, managed to drop two of the
pitchers with a loud crash upon the office floor. This, however, was
not noticed by the powers that ruled. Beelzy was not perfect, and as
long as he smashed less than six pitchers a day on an average the
management was disposed not to complain.

"There goes my friend Beelzy," said the Baron, as the pitchers fell.
"I am delighted to see him. I was afraid he would not be here this
year since I understand he has taken up the study of theology."

"Theology?" cried Ananias. "In Hades?"

"How foolish," said Sapphira. "We don't need preachers here."

"He'd make an excellent one," said Mr. Munchausen. "He is a lad of
wide experience and his fish and bear stories are wonderful. If he can
make them gee, as he would put it, with his doctrines he would prove a
tremendous success. Thousands would flock to hear him for his bear
stories alone. As for the foolishness of his choice, I think it is a
very wise one. Everybody can't be a stoker, you know."

At any rate, whatever the reasons for Beelzebub's presence, whether he
had given up the study of theology or not, there he was plying his old
vocation with the same perfection of carelessness as of yore, and
apparently no farther along in the study of theology than he was the
year before when he bade Mr. Munchausen "good-bye forever" with the
statement that now that he was going to lead a pious life the chances
were he'd never meet his friend again.

"I don't see why they keep such a careless boy as that," said
Sapphira, as Beelzy at the first landing turned to grin at Mr.
Munchausen, emptying the contents of one of his pitchers into the lap
of a nervous old gentleman in the office below.

"He adds an element of excitement to a not over-exciting place,"
explained Mr. Munchausen. "On stormy days here the men make bets on
what fool thing Beelzy will do next. He blacked all the russet shoes
with stove polish one year, and last season in the rush of his daily
labours he filled up the water-cooler with soft coal instead of ice.
He's a great bell-boy, is my friend Beelzy."

A little while later when Mr. Munchausen and his party had been shown
to their suite, Beelzy appeared in their drawing-room and was warmly
greeted by Mr. Munchausen, who introduced him to Mr. and Mrs. Ananias.

"Well," said Mr. Munchausen, "you're here again, are you?"

"No, indeed," said Beelzy. "I ain't here this year. I'm over at the
Coal-Yards shovellin' snow. I'm my twin brother that died three years
before I was born."

"How interesting," said Sapphira, looking at the boy through her
lorgnette.

Beelzy bowed in response to the compliment and observed to the Baron:

"You ain't here yourself this season, be ye?"

"No," said Mr. Munchausen, drily. "I've gone abroad. You've given up
theology I presume?"

"Sorter," said Beelzy. "It was lonesome business and I hadn't been at
it more'n twenty minutes when I realised that bein' a missionary ain't
all jam and buckwheats. It's kind o' dangerous too, and as I didn't
exactly relish the idea o' bein' et up by Samoans an' Feejees I made
up my mind to give it up an' stick to bell-boyin' for another season
any how; but I'll see you later, Mr. Munchausen. I've got to hurry
along with this iced-water. It's overdue now, and we've got the
kickinest lot o' folks here this year you ever see. One man here the
other night got as mad as hookey because it took forty minutes to soft
bile an egg. Said two minutes was all that was necessary to bile an
egg softer'n mush, not understanding anything about the science of
eggs in a country where hens feeds on pebbles."

"Pebbles?" cried Mr. Munchausen. "What, do they lay Roc's eggs?"

Beelzy grinned.

"No, sir--they lay hen's eggs all right, but they're as hard as Adam's
aunt."

"I never heard of chickens eating pebbles," observed Sapphira with a
frown. "Do they really relish them?"

"I don't know, Ma'am," said Beelzy. "I ain't never been on speakin'
terms with the hens, Ma'am, and they never volunteered no information.
They eat 'em just the same. They've got to eat something and up here
on these mountains there ain't anything but gravel for 'em to eat.
That's why they do it. Then when it comes to the eggs, on a diet like
that, cobblestones ain't in it with 'em for hardness, and when you
come to bite 'em it takes a week to get 'em soft, an' a steam drill to
get 'em open--an' this feller kicked at forty minutes! Most likely
he's swearin' around upstairs now because this iced-water ain't came;
and it ain't more than two hours since he ordered it neither."

"What an unreasonable gentleman," said Sapphira.

"Ain't he though!" said Beelzy. "And he ain't over liberal neither.
He's been here two weeks now and all the money I've got out of him was
a five-dollar bill I found on his bureau yesterday morning. There's
more money in theology than there is in him."

With this Beelzebub grabbed up the pitcher of water, and bounded out
of the room like a frightened fawn. He disappeared into the dark of
the corridor, and a few moments later was evidently tumbling head over
heels up stairs, if the sounds that greeted the ears of the party in
the drawing-room meant anything.

The next morning when there was more leisure for Beelzy the Baron
inquired as to the state of his health.

"Oh it's been pretty good," said he. "Pretty good. I'm all right now,
barrin' a little gout in my right foot, and ice-water on my knee, an'
a crick in my back, an' a tired feelin' all over me generally. Ain't
had much to complain about. Had the measles in December, and the mumps
in February; an' along about the middle o' May the whoopin' cough got
a holt of me; but as it saved my life I oughtn't to kick about that."

Here Beelzy looked gratefully at an invisible something--doubtless the
recollection in the thin air of his departed case of whooping cough,
for having rescued him from an untimely grave.

"That is rather curious, isn't it?" queried Sapphira, gazing intently
into the boy's eyes. "I don't exactly understand how the whooping
cough could save anybody's life, do you, Mr. Munchausen?"

"Beelzy, this lady would have you explain the situation, and I must
confess that I am myself somewhat curious to learn the details of this
wonderful rescue," said Mr. Munchausen.

"Well, I must say," said Beelzy, with a pleased smile at the very
great consequence of his exploit in the lady's eyes, "if I was a-goin'
to start out to save people's lives generally I wouldn't have thought
a case o' whoopin' cough would be of much use savin' a man from
drownin', and I'm sure if a feller fell out of a balloon it wouldn't
help him much if he had ninety dozen cases o' whoopin' cough concealed
on his person; but for just so long as I'm the feller that has to come
up here every June, an' shoo the bears out o' the hotel, I ain't never
goin' to be without a spell of whoopin' cough along about that time if
I can help it. I wouldn't have been here now if it hadn't been for
it."

"You referred just now," said Sapphira, "to shooing bears out of the
hotel. May I inquire what useful function in the ménage of a hotel a
bear-shooer performs?"

"What useful what?" asked Beelzy.

"Function--duty--what does the duty of a bear-shooer consist in?"
explained Mr. Munchausen. "Is he a blacksmith who shoes bears instead
of horses?"

"He's a bear-chaser," explained Beelzy, "and I'm it," he added. "That,
Ma'am, is the function of a bear-shooer in the menagerie of a hotel."

Sapphira having expressed herself as satisfied, Beelzebub continued.

"You see this here house is shut up all winter, and when everybody's
gone and left it empty the bears come down out of the mountains and
use it instead of a cave. It's more cosier and less windier than their
dens. So when the last guest has gone, and all the doors are locked,
and the band gone into winter quarters, down come the bears and take
possession. They generally climb through some open window somewhere.
They divide up all the best rooms accordin' to their position in bear
society and settle down to a regular hotel life among themselves."

"But what do they feed upon?" asked Sapphira.

"Oh they'll eat anything when they're hungry," said Beelzy. "Sofa
cushions, parlor rugs, hotel registers--anything they can fasten their
teeth to. Last year they came in through the cupola, burrowin' down
through the snow to get at it, and there they stayed enjoyin' life out
o' reach o' the wind and storm, snug's bugs in rugs. Year before last
there must ha' been a hundred of 'em in the hotel when I got here, but
one by one I got rid of 'em. Some I smoked out with some cigars Mr.
Munchausen gave me the summer before; some I deceived out, gettin' 'em
to chase me through the winders, an' then doublin' back on my tracks
an' lockin' 'em out. It was mighty wearin' work.

"Last June there was twice as many. By actual tab I shooed two hundred
and eight bears and a panther off into the mountains. When the last
one as I thought disappeared into the woods I searched the house from
top to bottom to see if there was any more to be got rid of. Every
blessed one of the five hundred rooms I went through, and not a bear
was left that I could see. I can tell you, I was glad, because there
was a partickerly ugly run of 'em this year, an' they gave me a pile
o' trouble. They hadn't found much to eat in the hotel, an' they was
disappointed and cross. As a matter of fact, the only things they
found in the place they could eat was a piano stool and an old hair
trunk full o' paper-covered novels, which don't make a very hearty
meal for two hundred and eight bears and a panther."

"I should say not," said Sapphira, "particularly if the novels were as
light as most of them are nowadays."

"I can't say as to that," said Beelzy. "I ain't got time to read 'em
and so I ain't any judge. But all this time I was sufferin' like
hookey with awful spasms of whoopin' cough. I whooped so hard once it
smashed one o' the best echoes in the place all to flinders, an' of
course that made the work twice as harder. So, naturally, when I found
there warn't another bear left in the hotel, I just threw myself down
anywhere, and slept. My! how I slept. I don't suppose anything ever
slept sounder'n I did. And then it happened."

Beelzy gave his trousers a hitch and let his voice drop to a stage
whisper that lent a wondrous impressiveness to his narration.

"As I was a-layin' there unconscious, dreamin' of home and father, a
great big black hungry bruin weighin' six hundred and forty-three
pounds, that had been hidin' in the bread oven in the bakery, where I
hadn't thought of lookin' for him, came saunterin' along, hummin' a
little tune all by himself, and lickin' his chops with delight at the
idee of havin' me raw for his dinner. I lay on unconscious of my
danger, until he got right up close, an' then I waked up, an' openin'
my eyes saw this great black savage thing gloatin' over me an' tears
of joy runnin' out of his mouth as he thought of the choice meal he
was about to have. He was sniffin' my bang when I first caught sight
of him."

"Mercy!" cried Sapphira, "I should think you'd have died of fright."

[Illustration: "At the first whoop Mr. Bear jumped ten feet and fell
over backwards on the floor." _Chapter XII._]

"I did," said Beelzy, politely, "but I came to life again in a minute.
'Oh Lor!' says I, as I see how hungry he was. 'This here's the end o'
me;' at which the bear looked me straight in the eye, licked his chops
again, and was about to take a nibble off my right ear when 'Whoop!' I
had a spasm of whoopin'. Well, Ma'am, I guess you know what that
means. There ain't nothin' more uncanny, more terrifyin' in the whole
run o' human noises, barrin' a German Opery, than the whoop o' the
whoopin' cough. At the first whoop Mr. Bear jumped ten feet and fell
over backwards onto the floor; at the second he scrambled to his feet
and put for the door, but stopped and looked around hopin' he was
mistaken, when I whooped a third time. The third did the business.
That third whoop would have scared Indians. It was awful. It was like
a tornado blowin' through a fog-horn with a megaphone in front of it.
When he heard that, Mr. Bear turned on all four of his heels and
started on a scoot up into the woods that must have carried him ten
miles before I quit coughin'.

"An' that's why, Ma'am, I say that when you've got to shoo bears for a
livin', an attack o' whoopin' cough is a useful thing to have around."

Saying which, Beelzy departed to find Number 433's left boot which he
had left at Number 334's door by some odd mistake.

"What do you think of that, Mr. Munchausen?" asked Sapphira, as Beelzy
left the room.

"I don't know," said Mr. Munchausen, with a sigh. "I'm inclined to
think that I am a trifle envious of him. The rest of us are not in his
class."



XIII

WRIGGLETTO


It was in the afternoon of a beautiful summer day, and Mr. Munchausen
had come up from the simmering city of Cimmeria to spend a day or two
with Diavolo and Angelica and their venerable parents. They had all
had dinner, and were now out on the back piazza overlooking the
magnificent river Styx, which flowed from the mountains to the sea,
condescending on its way thither to look in upon countless
insignificant towns which had grown up on its banks, among which was
the one in which Diavolo and Angelica had been born and lived all
their lives. Mr. Munchausen was lying comfortably in a hammock,
collecting his thoughts.

Angelica was somewhat depressed, but Diavolo was jubilant and all
because in the course of a walk they had had that morning Diavolo had
killed a snake.

"It was fine sport," said Diavolo. "He was lying there in the sun, and
I took a stick and put him out of his misery in two minutes."

Here Diavolo illustrated the process by whacking the Baron over his
waist-coat with a small malacca stick he carried.

"Well, I didn't like it," said Angelica. "I don't care for snakes, but
somehow or other it seems to me we'd ought to have left him alone. He
wasn't hurting anybody off there. If he'd come walking on our place,
that would have been one thing, but we went walking where he was, and
he had as much right to take a sun-bath there as we had."

"That's true enough," put in Mr. Munchausen, resolved after Diavolo's
whack, to side against him. "You've just about hit it, Angelica. It
wasn't polite of you in the first place, to disturb his snakeship in
his nap, and having done so, I can't see why Diavolo wanted to kill
him."

"Oh, pshaw!" said Diavolo, airily. "What's snakes good for except to
kill? I'll kill 'em every chance I get. They aren't any good."

"All right," said Mr. Munchausen, quietly. "I suppose you know all
about it; but I know a thing or two about snakes myself that do not
exactly agree with what you say. They are some good sometimes, and, as
a matter of fact, as a general rule, they are less apt to attack you
without reason than you are to attack them. A snake is rather inclined
to mind its own business unless he finds it necessary to do otherwise.
Occasionally too you'll find a snake with a truly amiable character.
I'll never forget my old pet Wriggletto, for instance, and as long as
I remember him I can't help having a warm corner for snakes in my
heart."

Here Mr. Munchausen paused and puffed thoughtfully on his cigar as a
far-away half-affectionate look came into his eye.

"Who was Wriggletto?" asked Diavolo, transferring a half dollar from
Mr. Munchausen's pocket to his own.

"Who was he?" cried Mr. Munchausen. "You don't mean to say that I have
never told you about Wriggletto, my pet boa-constrictor, do you?"

"You never told me," said Angelica. "But I'm not everybody. Maybe
you've told some other little Imps."

"No, indeed!" said Mr. Munchausen. "You two are the only little Imps I
tell stories to, and as far as I am concerned, while I admit you are
not everybody you are somebody and that's more than everybody is.
Wriggletto was a boa-constrictor I once knew in South America, and he
was without exception, the most remarkable bit of a serpent I ever
met. Genial, kind, intelligent, grateful and useful, and, after I'd
had him a year or two, wonderfully well educated. He could write with
himself as well as you or I can with a pen. There's a recommendation
for you. Few men are all that--and few boa-constrictors either, as far
as that goes. I admit Wriggletto was an exception to the general run
of serpents, but he was all that I claim for him, nevertheless."

"What kind of a snake did you say he was?" asked Diavolo.

"A boa-constrictor," said Mr. Munchausen, "and I knew him from his
childhood. I first encountered Wriggletto about ten miles out of Para
on the river Amazon. He was being swallowed by a larger
boa-constrictor, and I saved his life by catching hold of his tail and
pulling him out just as the other was getting ready to give the last
gulp which would have taken Wriggletto in completely, and placed him
beyond all hope of ever being saved."

"What was the other boa doing while you were saving Wriggletto?" asked
Diavolo, who was fond always of hearing both sides to every question,
and whose father, therefore, hoped he might some day grow up to be a
great judge, or at least serve with distinction upon a jury.

"He couldn't do anything," returned Mr. Munchausen. "He was powerless
as long as Wriggletto's head stuck in his throat and just before I got
the smaller snake extracted I killed the other one by cutting off his
tail behind his ears. It was not a very dangerous rescue on my part as
long as Wriggletto was likely to be grateful. I must confess for a
minute I was afraid he might not comprehend all I had done for him,
and it was just possible he might attack me, but the hug he gave me
when he found himself free once more was reassuring. He wound himself
gracefully around my body, squeezed me gently and then slid off into
the road again, as much as to say 'Thank you, sir. You're a brick.'
After that there was nothing Wriggletto would not do for me. He
followed me everywhere I went from that time on. He seemed to learn
all in an instant that there were hundreds of little things to be done
about the house of an old bachelor like myself which a willing serpent
could do, and he made it his business to do those things: like picking
up my collars from the floor, and finding my studs for me when they
rolled under the bureau, and a thousand and one other little services
of a like nature, and when you, Master Diavolo, try in future to say
that snakes are only good to kill and are of no use to any one, you
must at least make an exception in favour of Wriggletto."

"I will," said Diavolo, "But you haven't told us of the other useful
things he did for you yet."

"I was about to do so," said Mr. Munchausen. "In the first place,
before he learned how to do little things about the house for me,
Wriggletto acted as a watch-dog and you may be sure that nobody ever
ventured to prowl around my house at night while Wriggletto slept out
on the lawn. Para was quite full of conscienceless fellows, too, at
that time, any one of whom would have been glad to have a chance to
relieve me of my belongings if they could get by my watch-snake. Two
of them tried it one dark stormy night, and Wriggletto when he
discovered them climbing in at my window, crawled up behind them and
winding his tail about them crept down to the banks of the Amazon,
dragging them after him. There he tossed them into the river, and came
back to his post once more."

"Did you see him do it, Uncle Munch?" asked Angelica.

"No, I did not. I learned of it afterwards. Wriggletto himself said
never a word. He was too modest for that," said Mr. Munchausen. "One
of the robbers wrote a letter to the Para newspapers about it,
complaining that any one should be allowed to keep a reptile like that
around, and suggested that anyhow people using snakes in place of dogs
should be compelled to license them, and put up a sign at their gates:

                         BEWARE OF THE SNAKE!

"The man never acknowledged, of course, that he was the robber,--said
that he was calling on business when the thing happened,--but he
didn't say what his business was, but I knew better, and later on the
other robber and he fell out, and they confessed that the business
they had come on was to take away a few thousand gold coins of the
realm which I was known to have in the house locked in a steel chest.

"I bought Wriggletto a handsome silver collar after that, and it was
generally understood that he was the guardian of my place, and robbers
bothered me no more. Then he was finer than a cat for rats. On very
hot days he would go off into the cellar, where it was cool, and lie
there with his mouth wide open and his eyes shut, and catch rats by
the dozens. They'd run around in the dark, and the first thing they'd
know they'd stumble into Wriggletto's mouth; and he swallowed them and
licked his chops afterwards, just as you or I do when we've swallowed
a fine luscious oyster or a clam.

"But pleasantest of all the things Wriggletto did for me--and he was
untiring in his attentions in that way--was keeping me cool on hot
summer nights. Para as you may have heard is a pretty hot place at
best, lying in a tropical region as it does, but sometimes it is awful
for a man used to the Northern climate, as I was. The act of fanning
one's self, so far from cooling one off, makes one hotter than ever.
Maybe you remember how it was with the elephant in the poem:

  "'Oh my, oh dear!' the elephant said,
    'It is so awful hot!
  I've fanned myself for seventy weeks,
    And haven't cooled a jot.'

"And that was the way it was with me in Para on hot nights. I'd fan
and fan and fan, but I couldn't get cool until Wriggletto became a
member of my family, and then I was all right. He used to wind his
tail about a huge palm-leaf fan I had cut in the forest, so large that
I couldn't possibly handle it myself, and he'd wave it to and fro by
the hour, with the result that my house was always the breeziest place
in Para."

"Where is Wriggletto now?" asked Diavolo.

"Heigho!" sighed Mr. Munchausen. "He died, poor fellow, and all
because of that silver collar I gave him. He tried to swallow a jibola
that entered my house one night on wickedness intent, and while
Wriggletto's throat was large enough when he stretched it to take down
three jibolas, with a collar on which wouldn't stretch he couldn't
swallow one. He didn't know that, unfortunately, and he kept on trying
until the jibola got a quarter way down and then he stuck. Each
swallow, of course, made the collar fit more tightly and finally poor
Wriggletto choked himself to death. I felt so badly about it that I
left Para within a month, but meanwhile I had a suit of clothes made
out of Wriggletto's skin, and wore it for years, and then, when the
clothes began to look worn, I had the skin re-tanned and made over
into shoes and slippers. So you see that even after death he was
useful to me. He was a faithful snake, and that is why when I hear
people running down all snakes I tell the story of Wriggletto."

[Illustration: "He used to wind his tail about a fan and he'd wave it
to and fro by the hour." _Chapter XIII._]

There was a pause for a few moments, when Diavolo said, "Uncle Munch,
is that a true story you've been giving us?"

"True?" cried Mr. Munchausen. "True? Why, my dear boy, what a
question! If you don't believe it, bring me your atlas, and I'll show
you just where Para is."

Diavolo did as he was told, and sure enough, Mr. Munchausen did
exactly as he said he would, which Diavolo thought was very
remarkable, but he still was not satisfied.

"You said he could write as well with himself as you or I could with a
pen, Uncle Munch," he said. "How was that?"

"Why that was simple enough," explained Mr. Munchausen. "You see he
was very black, and thirty-nine feet long and remarkably supple and
slender. After a year of hard study he learned to bunch himself into
letters, and if he wanted to say anything to me he'd simply form
himself into a written sentence. Indeed his favourite attitude when in
repose showed his wonderful gift in chirography as well as his
affection for me. If you will get me a card I will prove it."

Diavolo brought Mr. Munchausen the card and upon it he drew the
following:

[Illustration: A snake in the form of 'UncleMunch']

"There," said Mr. Munchausen. "That's the way Wriggletto always used
to lie when he was at rest. His love for me was very affecting."



XIV

THE POETIC JUNE-BUG, TOGETHER WITH SOME REMARKS ON THE GILLYHOOLY BIRD


"Uncle Munch," said Diavolo one afternoon as a couple of bicyclers
sped past the house at breakneck speed, "which would you rather have,
a bicycle or a horse?"

"Well, I must say, my boy, that is a difficult question to answer,"
Mr. Munchausen replied after scratching his head dubiously for a few
minutes. "You might as well ask a man which he prefers, a hammock or a
steam-yacht. To that question I should reply that if I wanted to sell
it, I'd rather have a steam-yacht, but for a pleasant swing on a cool
piazza in midsummer or under the apple-trees, a hammock would be far
preferable. Steam-yachts are not much good to swing in under an apple
tree, and very few piazzas that I know of are big enough--"

"Oh, now, you know what I mean, Uncle Munch," Diavolo retorted,
tapping Mr. Munchausen upon the end of his nose, for a twinkle in Mr.
Munchausen's eye seemed to indicate that he was in one of his chaffing
moods, and a greater tease than Mr. Munchausen when he felt that way
no one has ever known. "I mean for horse-back riding, which would you
rather have?"

"Ah, that's another matter," returned Mr. Munchausen, calmly. "Now I
know how to answer your question. For horse-back riding I certainly
prefer a horse; though, on the other hand, for bicycling, bicycles are
better than horses. Horses make very poor bicycles, due no doubt to
the fact that they have no wheels."

Diavolo began to grow desperate.

"Of course," Mr. Munchausen went on, "all I have to say in this
connection is based merely on my ideas, and not upon any personal
experience. I've been horse-back riding on horses, and bicycling on
bicycles, but I never went horse-back riding on a bicycle, or
bicycling on horseback. I should think it might be exciting to go
bicycling on horse-back, but very dangerous. It is hard enough for me
to keep a bicycle from toppling over when I'm riding on a hard,
straight, level well-paved road, without experimenting with my wheel
on a horse's back. However if you wish to try it some day and will get
me a horse with a back as big as Trafalgar Square I'm willing to make
the effort."

Angelica giggled. It was lots of fun for her when Mr. Munchausen
teased Diavolo, though she didn't like it quite so much when it was
her turn to be treated that way. Diavolo wanted to laugh too, but he
had too much dignity for that, and to conceal his desire to grin from
Mr. Munchausen he began to hunt about for an old newspaper, or a lump
of coal or something else he could make a ball of to throw at him.

"Which would you rather do, Angelica," Mr. Munchausen resumed, "go to
sea in a balloon or attend a dumb-crambo party in a chicken-coop?"

"I guess I would," laughed Angelica.

"That's a good answer," Mr. Munchausen put in. "It is quite as
intelligent as the one which is attributed to the Gillyhooly bird.
When the Gillyhooly bird was asked his opinion of giraffes, he
scratched his head for a minute and said,

  "'The question hath but little wit
    That you have put to me,
  But I will try to answer it
    With prompt candidity.

  The automobile is a thing
    That's pleasing to the mind;
  And in a lustrous diamond ring
    Some merit I can find.

  Some persons gloat o'er French Chateaux;
    Some dote on lemon ice;
  While others gorge on mixed gateaux,
    Yet have no use for mice.

  I'm very fond of oyster-stew,
    I love a patent-leather boot,
  But after all, 'twixt me and you,
    The fish-ball is my favourite fruit.'"

"Hoh" jeered Diavolo, who, attracted by the allusion to a kind of bird
of which he had never heard before, had given up the quest for a paper
ball and returned to Mr. Munchausen's side, "I don't think that was a
very intelligent answer. It didn't answer the question at all."

"That's true, and that is why it was intelligent," said Mr.
Munchausen. "It was noncommittal. Some day when you are older and know
less than you do now, you will realise, my dear Diavolo, how valuable
a thing is the reply that answereth not."

Mr. Munchausen paused long enough to let the lesson sink in and then
he resumed.

"The Gillyhooly bird is a perfect owl for wisdom of that sort," he
said. "It never lets anybody know what it thinks; it never makes
promises, and rarely speaks except to mystify people. It probably has
just as decided an opinion concerning giraffes as you or I have, but
it never lets anybody into the secret."

"What is a Gillyhooly bird, anyhow?" asked Diavolo.

"He's a bird that never sings for fear of straining his voice; never
flies for fear of wearying his wings; never eats for fear of spoiling
his digestion; never stands up for fear of bandying his legs and never
lies down for fear of injuring his spine," said Mr. Munchausen. "He
has no feathers, because, as he says, if he had, people would pull
them out to trim hats with, which would be painful, and he never goes
into debt because, as he observes himself, he has no hope of paying
the bill with which nature has endowed him, so why run up others?"

"I shouldn't think he'd live long if he doesn't eat?" suggested
Angelica.

"That's the great trouble," said Mr. Munchausen. "He doesn't live
long. Nothing so ineffably wise as the Gillyhooly bird ever does live
long. I don't believe a Gillyhooly bird ever lived more than a day,
and that, connected with the fact that he is very ugly and keeps
himself out of sight, is possibly why no one has ever seen one. He is
known only by hearsay, and as a matter of fact, besides ourselves, I
doubt if any one has ever heard of him."

Diavolo eyed Mr. Munchausen narrowly.

"Speaking of Gillyhooly birds, however, and to be serious for a
moment," Mr. Munchausen continued flinching nervously under Diavolo's
unyielding gaze; "I never told you about the poetic June-bug that
worked the typewriter, did I?"

"Never heard of such a thing," cried Diavolo. "The idea of a June-bug
working a typewriter."

"I don't believe it," said Angelica, "he hasn't got any fingers."

"That shows all you know about it," retorted Mr. Munchausen. "You
think because you are half-way right you are all right. However, if
you don't want to hear the story of the June-bug that worked the
type-writer, I won't tell it. My tongue is tired, anyhow."

"Please go on," said Diavolo. "I want to hear it."

"So do I," said Angelica. "There are lots of stories I don't believe
that I like to hear--'Jack the Giant-killer' and 'Cinderella,' for
instance."

"Very well," said Mr. Munchausen. "I'll tell it, and you can believe
it or not, as you please. It was only two summers ago that the thing
happened, and I think it was very curious. As you may know, I often
have a great lot of writing to do and sometimes I get very tired
holding a pen in my hand. When you get old enough to write real long
letters you'll know what I mean. Your writing hand will get so tired
that sometimes you'll wish some wizard would come along smart enough
to invent a machine by means of which everything you think can be
transferred to paper as you think it, without the necessity of
writing. But as yet the only relief to the man whose hand is worn out
by the amount of writing he has to do is the use of the type-writer,
which is hard only on the fingers. So to help me in my work two
summers ago I bought a type-writing machine, and put it in the great
bay-window of my room at the hotel where I was stopping. It was a
magnificent hotel, but it had one drawback--it was infested with
June-bugs. Most summer hotels are afflicted with mosquitoes, but this
one had June-bugs instead, and all night long they'd buzz and butt
their heads against the walls until the guests went almost crazy with
the noise.

"At first I did not mind it very much. It was amusing to watch them,
and my friends and I used to play a sort of game of chance with them
that entertained us hugely. We marked the walls off in squares which
we numbered and then made little wagers as to which of the squares a
specially selected June-bug would whack next. To simplify the game we
caught the chosen June-bug and put some powdered charcoal on his head,
so that when he butted up against the white wall he would leave a
black mark in the space he hit. It was really one of the most exciting
games of that particular kind that I ever played, and many a rainy day
was made pleasant by this diversion.

"But after awhile like everything else June-bug Roulette as we called
it began to pall and I grew tired of it and wished there never had
been such a thing as a June-bug in the world. I did my best to forget
them, but it was impossible. Their buzzing and butting continued
uninterrupted, and toward the end of the month they developed a
particularly bad habit of butting the electric call button at the side
of my bed. The consequence was that at all hours of the night,
hall-boys with iced-water, and house-maids with bath towels, and
porters with kindling-wood would come knocking at my door and routing
me out of bed--summoned of course by none other than those horrible
butting insects. This particular nuisance became so unendurable that I
had to change my room for one which had no electric bell in it.

"So things went, until June passed and July appeared. The majority of
the nuisances promptly got out but one especially vigorous and
athletic member of the tribe remained. He became unbearable and
finally one night I jumped out of bed either to kill him or to drive
him out of my apartment forever, but he wouldn't go, and try as I
might I couldn't hit him hard enough to kill him. In sheer desperation
I took the cover of my typewriting machine and tried to catch him in
that. Finally I succeeded, and, as I thought, shook the heedless
creature out of the window promptly slamming the window shut so that
he might not return; and then putting the type-writer cover back over
the machine, I went to bed again, but not to sleep as I had hoped. All
night long every second or two I'd hear the type-writer click. This I
attributed to nervousness on my part. As far as I knew there wasn't
anything to make the type-writer click, and the fact that I heard it
do so served only to convince me that I was tired and imagined that I
heard noises.

[Illustration: "Most singular of all was the fact that consciously or
unconsciously the insect had butted out a verse." _Chapter XIV._]

"The next morning, however, on opening the machine I found that the
June-bug had not only not been shaken out of the window, but had
actually spent the night inside of the cover, butting his head against
the keys, having no wall to butt with it, and most singular of all was
the fact that, consciously or unconsciously, the insect had butted out
a verse which read:

  "'I'm glad I haven't any brains,
    For there can be no doubt
  I'd have to give up butting
    If I had, or butt them out.'"

"Mercy! Really?" cried Angelica.

"Well I can't prove it," said Mr. Munchausen, "by producing the
June-bug, but I can show you the hotel, I can tell you the number of
the room; I can show you the type-writing machine, and I have recited
the verse. If you're not satisfied with that I'll have to stand your
suspicions."

"What became of the June-bug?" demanded Diavolo.

"He flew off as soon as I lifted the top of the machine," said Mr.
Munchausen. "He had all the modesty of a true poet and did not wish to
be around while his poem was being read."

"It's queer how you can't get rid of June-bugs, isn't it, Uncle
Munch," suggested Angelica.

"Oh, we got rid of 'em next season all right," said Mr. Munchausen. "I
invented a scheme that kept them away all the following summer. I got
the landlord to hang calendars all over the house with one full page
for each month. Then in every room we exposed the page for May and
left it that way all summer. When the June-bugs arrived and saw these,
they were fooled into believing that June hadn't come yet, and off
they flew to wait. They are very inconsiderate of other people's
comfort," Mr. Munchausen concluded, "but they are rigorously bound by
an etiquette of their own. A self-respecting June-bug would no more
appear until the June-bug season is regularly open than a gentleman of
high society would go to a five o'clock tea munching fresh-roasted
peanuts. And by the way, that reminds me I happen to have a bag of
peanuts right here in my pocket."

Here Mr. Munchausen, transferring the luscious goobers to Angelica,
suddenly remembered that he had something to say to the Imps' father,
and hurriedly left them.

"Do you suppose that's true, Diavolo?" whispered Angelica as their
friend disappeared.

"Well it might happen," said Diavolo, "but I've a sort of notion that
it's 'maginary like the Gillyhooly bird. Gimme a peanut."



XV

A LUCKY STROKE


"Mr. Munchausen," said Ananias, as he and the famous warrior drove off
from the first hole at the Missing Links, "you never seem to weary of
the game of golf. What is its precise charm in your eyes,--the
health-giving qualities of the game or its capacity for bad lies?"

"I owe my life to it," replied the Baron. "That is to say to my
precision as a player I owe one of the many preservations of my
existence which have passed into history. Furthermore it is ever
varying in its interest. Like life itself it is full of hazards and no
man knows at the beginning of his stroke what will be the requirements
of the next. I never told you of the bovine lie I got once while
playing a match with Bonaparte, did I?"

"I do not recall it," said Ananias, foozling his second stroke into
the stone wall.

"I was playing with my friend Bonaparte, for the Cosmopolitan
Championship," said Munchausen, "and we were all even at the
thirty-sixth hole. Bonaparte had sliced his ball into a stubble field
from the tee, whereat he was inclined to swear, until by an odd
mischance I drove mine into the throat of a bull that was pasturing on
the fair green two hundred and ninety-eight yards distant. 'Shall we
take it over?' I asked. 'No,' laughed Bonaparte, thinking he had me.
'We must play the game. I shall play my lie. You must play yours.'
'Very well,' said I. 'So be it. Golf is golf, bull or no bull.' And
off we went. It took Bonaparte seven strokes to get on the green
again, which left me a like number to extricate my ball from the
throat of the unwelcome bovine. It was a difficult business, but I
made short work of it. Tying my red silk handkerchief to the end of my
brassey I stepped in front of the great creature and addressing an
imaginary ball before him made the usual swing back and through
stroke. The bull, angered by the fluttering red handkerchief, reared
up and made a dash at me. I ran in the direction of the hole, the bull
in pursuit for two hundred yards. Here I hid behind a tree while Mr.
Bull stopped short and snorted again. Still there was no sign of the
ball, and after my pursuer had quieted a little I emerged from my
hiding place and with the same club and in the same manner played
three. The bull surprised at my temerity threw his head back with an
angry toss and tried to bellow forth his wrath, as I had designed he
should, but the obstruction in his throat prevented him. The ball had
stuck in his pharynx. Nothing came of his spasm but a short hacking
cough and a wheeze--then silence. 'I'll play four,' I cried to
Bonaparte, who stood watching me from a place of safety on the other
side of the stone wall. Again I swung my red-flagged brassey in front
of the angry creature's face and what I had hoped for followed. The
second attempt at a bellow again resulted in a hacking cough and a
sneeze, and lo the ball flew out of his throat and landed dead to the
hole. The caddies drove the bull away. Bonaparte played eight, missed
a putt for a nine, stymied himself in a ten, holed out in twelve and I
went down in five."

"Jerusalem!" cried Ananias. "What did Bonaparte say?"

[Illustration: "Again I swung my red-flagged brassey in front of the angry
creature's face, and what I had hoped for followed." _Chapter XV._]

"He delivered a short, quick nervous address in Corsican and retired
to the club-house where he spent the afternoon drowning his sorrows in
Absinthe high-balls. 'Great hole that, Bonaparte,' said I when his
geniality was about to return. 'Yes,' said he. 'A regular lu-lu, eh?'
said I. 'More than that, Baron,' said he. 'It was a Waterlooloo.' It
was the first pun I ever heard the Emperor make."

"We all have our weak moments," said Ananias drily, playing nine from
behind the wall. "I give the hole up," he added angrily.

"Let's play it out anyhow," said Munchausen, playing three to the
green.

"All right," Ananias agreed, taking a ten and rimming the cup.

Munchausen took three to go down, scoring six in all.

"Two up," said he, as Ananias putted out in eleven.

"How the deuce do you make that out? This is only the first hole,"
cried Ananias with some show of heat.

"You gave up a hole, didn't you?" demanded Munchausen.

"Yes."

"And I won a hole, didn't I?"

"You did--but--"

"Well that's two holes. Fore!" cried Munchausen.

The two walked along in silence for a few minutes, and the Baron
resumed.

"Yes, golf is a splendid game and I love it, though I don't think I'd
ever let a good canvasback duck get cold while I was talking about it.
When I have a canvasback duck before me I don't think of anything else
while it's there. But unquestionably I'm fond of golf, and I have a
very good reason to be. It has done a great deal for me, and as I have
already told you, once it really saved my life."

"Saved your life, eh?" said Ananias.

"That's what I said," returned Mr. Munchausen, "and so of course that
is the way it was."

"I should admire to hear the details," said Ananias. "I presume you
were going into a decline and it restored your strength and vitality."

"No," said Mr. Munchausen, "it wasn't that way at all. It saved my
life when I was attacked by a fierce and ravenously hungry lion. If I
hadn't known how to play golf it would have been farewell forever to
Mr. Munchausen, and Mr. Lion would have had a fine luncheon that day,
at which I should have been the turkey and cranberry sauce and mince
pie all rolled into one."

Ananias laughed.

"It's easy enough to laugh at my peril now," said Mr. Munchausen, "but
if you'd been with me you wouldn't have laughed very much. On the
contrary, Ananias, you'd have ruined what little voice you ever had
screeching."

"I wasn't laughing at the danger you were in," said Ananias. "I don't
see anything funny in that. What I was laughing at was the idea of a
lion turning up on a golf course. They don't have lions on any of the
golf courses that I am familiar with."

"That may be, my dear Ananias," said Mr. Munchausen, "but it doesn't
prove anything. What you are familiar with has no especial bearing
upon the ordering of the Universe. They had lions by the hundreds on
the particular links I refer to. I laid the links out myself and I
fancy I know what I am talking about. They were in the desert of
Sahara. And I tell you what it is," he added, slapping his knee
enthusiastically, "they were the finest links I ever played on. There
wasn't a hole shorter than three miles and a quarter, which gives you
plenty of elbow room, and the fair green had all the qualities of a
first class billiard table, so that your ball got a magnificent roll
on it."

"What did you do for hazards?" asked Ananias.

"Oh we had 'em by the dozen," replied Mr. Munchausen. "There weren't
any ponds or stone walls, of course, but there were plenty of others
that were quite as interesting. There was the Sphynx for instance; and
for bunkers the pyramids can't be beaten. Then occasionally right in
the middle of a game a caravan ten or twelve miles long, would begin
to drag its interminable length across the middle of the course, and
it takes mighty nice work with the lofting iron to lift a ball over a
caravan without hitting a camel or killing an Arab, I can tell you.
Then finally I'm sure I don't know of any more hazardous hazard for a
golf player--or for anybody else for that matter--than a real hungry
African lion out in search of breakfast, especially when you meet him
on the hole furthest from home and have a stretch of three or four
miles between him and assistance with no revolver or other weapon at
hand. That's hazard enough for me and it took the best work I could do
with my brassey to get around it."

"You always were strong at a brassey lie," said Ananias.

"Thank you," said Mr. Munchausen. "There are few lies I can't get
around. But on this morning I was playing for the Mid-African
Championship. I'd been getting along splendidly. My record for fifteen
holes was about seven hundred and eighty-three strokes, and I was
flattering myself that I was about to turn in the best card that had
ever been seen in a medal play contest in all Africa. My drive from
the sixteenth tee was a simple beauty. I thought the ball would never
stop, I hit it such a tremendous whack. It had a flight of three
hundred and eighty-two yards and a roll of one hundred and twenty
more, and when it finally stopped it turned up in a mighty good lie on
a natural tee, which the wind had swirled up. Calling to the monkey
who acted as my caddy--we used monkeys for caddies always in Africa,
and they were a great success because they don't talk and they use
their tails as a sort of extra hand,--I got out my brassey for the
second stroke, took my stance on the hardened sand, swung my club
back, fixed my eye on the ball and was just about to carry through,
when I heard a sound which sent my heart into my boots, my caddy
galloping back to the club house, and set my teeth chattering like a
pair of castanets. It was unmistakable, that sound. When a hungry lion
roars you know precisely what it is the moment you hear it, especially
if you have heard it before. It doesn't sound a bit like the miauing
of a cat; nor is it suggestive of the rumble of artillery in an
adjacent street. There is no mistaking it for distant thunder, as some
writers would have you believe. It has none of the gently mournful
quality that characterises the soughing of the wind through the
leafless branches of the autumnal forest, to which a poet might liken
it; it is just a plain lion-roaring and nothing else, and when you
hear it you know it. The man who mistakes it for distant thunder might
just as well be struck by lightning there and then for all the chance
he has to get away from it ultimately. The poet who confounds it with
the gentle soughing breeze never lives to tell about it. He gets
himself eaten up for his foolishness. It doesn't require a Daniel come
to judgment to recognise a lion's roar on sight.

"I should have perished myself that morning if I had not known on the
instant just what were the causes of the disturbance. My nerve did not
desert me, however, frightened as I was. I stopped my play and looked
out over the sand in the direction whence the roaring came, and there
he stood a perfect picture of majesty, and a giant among lions, eyeing
me critically as much as to say, 'Well this is luck, here's breakfast
fit for a king!' but he reckoned without his host. I was in no mood to
be served up to stop his ravening appetite and I made up my mind at
once to stay and fight. I'm a good runner, Ananias, but I cannot beat
a lion in a three mile sprint on a sandy soil, so fight it was. The
question was how. My caddy gone, the only weapons I had with me were
my brassey and that one little gutta percha ball, but thanks to my
golf they were sufficient.

"Carefully calculating the distance at which the huge beast stood, I
addressed the ball with unusual care, aiming slightly to the left to
overcome my tendency to slice, and drove the ball straight through the
lion's heart as he poised himself on his hind legs ready to spring
upon me. It was a superb stroke and not an instant too soon, for just
as the ball struck him he sprang forward, and even as it was landed
but two feet away from where I stood, but, I am happy to say, dead.

"It was indeed a narrow escape, and it tried my nerves to the full,
but I extracted the ball and resumed my play in a short while, adding
the lucky stroke to my score meanwhile. But I lost the match,--not
because I lost my nerve, for this I did not do, but because I lifted
from the lion's heart. The committee disqualified me because I did not
play from my lie and the cup went to my competitor. However, I was
satisfied to have escaped with my life. I'd rather be a live runner-up
than a dead champion any day."

"A wonderful experience," said Ananias. "Perfectly wonderful. I never
heard of a stroke to equal that."

"You are too modest, Ananias," said Mr. Munchausen drily. "Too modest
by half. You and Sapphira hold the record for that, you know."

"I have forgotten the episode," said Ananias.

"Didn't you and she make your last hole on a single stroke?" demanded
Munchausen with an inward chuckle.

"Oh--yes," said Ananias grimly, as he recalled the incident. "But you
know we didn't win any more than you did."

"Oh, didn't you?" asked Munchausen.

"No," replied Ananias. "You forget that Sapphira and I were two down
at the finish."

And Mr. Munchausen played the rest of the game in silence. Ananias had
at last got the best of him.



      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Spellings were left as found.

Illustrations were moved when they interrupted paragraphs.





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