"News" from 1909: Captain Hambelton's Hobby

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
MAB Note: This is an excerpt from a longer article entitled "Princes of the

Sunday Magazine Of the New-York Tribune, 26 December 1909
Original article digitized by the Library of Congress
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,

Captain Hambelton's Hobby
Every transatlantic Captain has a hobby, varying from the raising of
goldfish to the maintenance of a first class choir made out of the crew.
Some skippers have one hobby for their spare moments at sea and another for
their leisure ashore.

Captain Hambelton of the Celtic is enthusiastic over the science of teaching
children the proper use of English, and there is little in educational
methods with which he is not familiar. On this side of the Atlantic, his
hobby is the science of making plausible excuses to escape dinner and
reception invitations which come to him from patrons of his steamer. But
once in awhile his excuses get him into trouble. By way of illustration he
tells the following story on himself.

When he was on the run between Liverpool and Boston, a fashionable matron of
the latter city invited him to attend a lawn party at her summer home. The
invitation was a verbal one and she was insistent. Captain Hambelton threw
up a strong bulwark of excuses, but she was obdurate, and he was finally
forced to accept.

In the forenoon of the appointed day he started in good faith for a train to
the matron's country home, but on the way he met the Captain of the Saxonia,
whom he had not seen in two years.

"Where are you going, Hambelton?" inquired the latter.

"To a lawn party I don't want to attend," replied Hambelton.

"Can't you change your course and head to the s'uthard with me?" asked the
other Captain. "I'm going to the ball game."

"All right," said Hambelton, "we'll go to the game, have dinner, and go to
the theater this evening."

The matron and her guests waited in vain for Captain Hambelton. She
telephoned to the steamer, and found that he had started for her home.
Surely some accident must have befallen him!

He did not meet her again until he had made several trips to Liverpool and
had forgotten the incident.

Then the matron taxed the skipper with his breach of etiquette.

Captain Hambelton explained with much feeling, "Oh, that was a dreadful
affair! Of course you have heard all about it?"

"Certainly not," said the matron. "Did you meet with an accident?"

"Accident! That is a feeble word," said Hambelton volubly. "It was a
catastrophe. You see, it was this way. I went over to the navy yard at
Charlestown to visit an officer, an old friend of mine, and he insisted that
I go up with him in the big war balloon."

"War balloon!" interposed the matron. She could almost see tears in the
skipper's eyes. "And you went up in that horrid thing?"

"Yes, I foolishly accepted, believing that we should go up only a few
hundred feet. Well, we were caught by an easterly wind when we got up seven
hundred feet, and carried miles and mile from the city. Finally we got out
of sight of the earth and drifted that way all night."

"Oh, how terrible!" gasped the Bostonian.

"We landed next morning," continued the skipper dejectedly, "somewhere in
Connecticut, and I got back to the steamer barely before sailing hour."

"There, I knew something frightful must have happened," said the woman
trustingly, "or you would have come to my lawn party!"


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