HotFreeBooks.com
In the Sweet Dry and Dry
by Christopher Morley
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

IN THE SWEET DRY AND DRY

BY

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY AND BART HALEY



ILLUSTRATED BY GLUYAS WILLIAMS

DEDICATED TO G. K. CHESTERTON

MOST DELIGHTFUL OF MODERN DECANTERBURY PILGRIMS



FOREWORD

As far as this book is concerned, the public may Take It, or the public may Let It Alone. But the authors feel it their duty to say that no deductions as to their own private habits are to be made from the story here offered. With its composition they have beguiled the moments of the valley of the shadow.

Acknowledgement should be made to the Evening Public Ledger of Philadelphia for permission to reprint the ditty included in Chapter VI.

The public will forgive this being only a brief preface, for at the moment of writing the time is short. Wishing you a Merry Abstinence, and looking forward to meeting you some day in Europe,

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY, BART HALEY.

Philadelphia, Ten minutes before Midnight, June 30, 1919.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. MYSTERY OF THE UNEXPECTED JULEP II. THE HOUSE ON CARAWAY STREET III. INCIDENT OF THE GOOSEBERRY BOMBS IV. THE GREAT WAR BEGINS V. THE TREACHERY OF MISS CHUFF VI. DEPARTED SPIRITS VII. THE DECANTERBURY PILGRIMS VIII. WITH BENEFIT OF CLERGY IX. THE ELECTION X. E PLURIBUS UNUM! XI. IT'S A LONG WORM THAT HAS NO TURNING



IN THE SWEET DRY AND DRY



CHAPTER I

MYSTERY OF THE UNEXPECTED JULEP

Dunraven Bleak, the managing editor of The Evening Balloon, sat at his desk in the center of the local-room, under a furious cone of electric light. It was six o'clock of a warm summer afternoon: he was filling his pipe and turning over the pages of the Final edition of the paper, which had just come up from the press-room. After the turmoil of the day the room had quieted, most of the reporters had left, and the shaded lamps shone upon empty tables and a floor strewn ankle-deep with papers. Nearby sat the city editor, checking over the list of assignments for the next morning. From an adjoining kennel issued occasional deep groans and a strong whiff of savage shag tobacco, blown outward by the droning gust of an electric fan. These proved that the cartoonist (a man whose sprightly drawings were born to an obbligato of vehement blasphemy) was at work within.

Mr. Bleak was just beginning to recuperate from the incessant vigilance of the day's work. There was an unconscious pathos in his lean, desiccated figure as he rose and crossed the room to the green glass drinking-fountain. After the custom of experienced newspapermen, he rapidly twirled a makeshift cup out of a sheet of copy paper. He poured himself a draught of clear but rather tepid water, and drank it without noticeable relish. His lifted head betrayed only the automatic thankfulness of the domestic fowl. There had been a time when six o'clock meant something better than a paper goblet of lukewarm filtration.

He sat down at his desk again. He had loaded his pipe sedulously with an extra fine blend which he kept in his desk drawer for smoking during rare moments of relaxation when he had leisure to savor it. As he reached for a match he was meditating a genial remark to the city editor, when he discovered that there was only one tandsticker in the box. He struck it, and the blazing head flew off upon the cream-colored thigh of his Palm Beach suit. His naturally placid temper, undermined by thirty years of newspaper work and two years of prohibition, flamed up also. With a loud scream of rage and a curse against Sweden, he leaped to his feet and shook the glowing cinder from his person. Facing him he found a stranger who had entered the room quietly and unobserved.

This was a huge man, clad in a sober uniform of gray cloth, with silver buttons and silver braid. A Sam Browne belt of wide blue leather marched across his extensive diagonal in a gentle curve. The band of his vizored military cap showed the initials C.P.H. in silver embroidery. His face, broad and clean-shaven, shone with a lustre which was partly warmth and partly simple friendliness. Save for a certain humility of bearing, he might have been taken for the liveried door-man of a moving-picture theater or exclusive millinery shop.

In one hand he carried a very large black leather suit-case.

"Is this Mr. Bleak?" he asked politely.

"Yes," said the editor, in surprise. His secret surmise was that some one had died and left him a legacy which would enable him to retire from newspaper work. (This is the unacknowledged dream that haunts many journalists.) Mr. Bleak was wondering whether this was the way in which legacies were announced.

The man in the gray uniform set the bag down with great care on the large flat desk. He drew out a key and unlocked it. Before opening it he looked round the room. The city editor and three reporters were watching curiously. A shy gayety twinkled in his clear blue eyes.

"Mr. Bleak," he said, "you and these other gentlemen present are men of discretion—?"

Bleak made a gesture of reassurance.

The other leaned over the suit-case and lifted the lid.

The bag was divided into several compartments. In one, the startled editor beheld a nest of tall glasses; in another, a number of interesting flasks lying in a porcelain container among chipped ice. In the lid was an array of straws, napkins, a flat tray labeled CLOVES, and a bunch of what looked uncommonly like mint leaves. Mr. Bleak did not speak, but his pulse was disorderly.

The man in gray drew out five tumblers and placed them on the desk. Rapidly several bottles caught the light: there was a gesture of pouring, a clink of ice, and beneath the spellbound gaze of the watchers the glasses fumed and bubbled with a volatile potion. A glass mixing rod tinkled in the thin crystal shells, and the man of mystery deftly thrust a clump of foliage into each. A well known fragrance exhaled upon the tobacco-thickened air.

"Shades of the Grail!" cried Bleak. "Mint julep!"

The visitor bowed and pushed the glasses forward. "With the compliments of the Corporation," he said.

The city editor sprang to his feet. Sagely cynical, he suspected a ruse.

"It's a plant!" he exclaimed. "Don't touch it! It's a trick on the part of the Department of Justice, trying to get us into trouble."

Bleak gazed angrily at the stranger. If this was indeed a federal stratagem, what an intolerably cruel one! In front of him the glasses sparkled alluringly: a delicate mist gathered on their ice-chilled curves: a pungent sweetness wavered in his nostrils.

"See here!" he blurted with shrill excitement. "Are you a damned government agent? If so, take your poison and get out."

The tall stranger in his impressive uniform stood erect and unabashed. With affectionate care he gave the tumblers a final musical stir.

"O ye of little faith!" he said calmly. The sadness of the misunderstood idealist grieved his features. "Have you forgotten the miracle of Cana?" From his pocket he took a card and laid it on the desk.

Bleak seized it. It said:

THE CORPORATION FOR THE PERPETUATION OF HAPPINESS

1316 Caraway Street

Virgil Quimbleton, Associate Director

He stared at the pasteboard, stupefied, and handed it to the city editor.

Meanwhile the three reporters had drawn near. Light-hearted and irresponsible souls, unoppressed by the embittered suspicion of their superiors, they nosed the floating aroma with candid hilarity.

"The breath of Eden!" said one.

"It's a warm evening," remarked another, with seeming irrelevance.

The face of Virgil Quimbleton, the man in gray, relaxed again at these marks of honest appreciation. He waved an encouraging arm over the crystals. "With the compliments of the Corporation," he repeated.

Bleak and the city editor looked again at the card, and at each other. They scanned the face of their mysterious benefactor. Bleak's hand went out to the nearest glass. He raised it to his lips. An almost-forgotten formula recurred to him. "Down the rat-hole!" he cried, and tilted his arm. The others followed suit, and the associate director watched them with a glow of perfect altruism.

The glasses were still in air when the cartoonist emerged from his room. "Holy cat!" he cried in amazement. "What's going on?" He seized one of the empty vessels and sniffed it.

"Treason!" he exclaimed. "Who's been robbing the mint?"

"Maybe you can have one too," said Bleak, and turned to where Quimbleton had been standing. But the mysterious visitor had leff the room.

"You're too late, Bill," said the city editor genially. "There was a kind of Messiah here, but he's gone. Tough luck."

"Say, boss," suggested one of the reporters. "There's a story in this. May I interview that guy?"

Bleak picked up the card and put it in his pocket. A heavenly warmth pervaded his mental fabric. "A story?" he said. "Forget it! This is no story. It's a legend of the dear dead past. I'll cover this assignment myself."

He borrowed a match and lit his pipe. Then he put on his coat and hat and left the office.

It was remarked by faithful readers of the Balloon that the next day's cartoon was one of the least successful in the history of that brilliant newspaper.



CHAPTER II

THE HOUSE ON CARAWAY STREET

After telephoning to his wife that he would not be home for supper, Bleak set out for Caraway Street. He was in that exuberant mood discernible in commuters unexpectedly spending an evening in town. Instead of hurrying out to the suburbs on the 6:17 train, to mow the lawn and admire the fireflies, here he was watching the more dazzling fireflies of the city—the electric signs which were already bulbed wanly against the rich orange of the falling sun. He puffed his pipe lustily and with a jaunty condescension watched the crowds thronging the drugstores for their dram of ice-cream soda. In his bosom the secret julep tingled radiantly. At that hour of the evening the shining bustle of the central streets was drawing the life of the city to itself. In the residential by-ways through which his route took him the pavements were nearly deserted. A delicious sense of extravagant adventure possessed him. As a newspaper man, he did not feel at all sure that he was on the threshold of a printable "story"; but as a connoisseur of juleps he felt that very possibly he was on the threshold of another drink. Passing a line of billboards, he noticed a brightly colored poster advertising a brand of collars. In sheer light-heartedness he drew a soft pencil from his waistcoat and adorned the comely young man on the collar poster with a heavy mustache.

Caraway Street, with which he had not previously been familiar, proved to be a quaint little channel of old brick houses, leading into the bonfire of the summer sunset. There was nothing to distinguish number 1316 from its neighbors. He rang the bell, and there ensued a rapid clicking in the lock, indicating that the latch had been released by some one within. He pushed the door open, and entered.

He had a curious sensation of having stepped into an old Flemish painting. The hall in which he stood was cool and rather dark, though a bright refraction of light tossed from some upper window upon a tall mirror filled the shadow with broken spangles. Through an open doorway at the rear was the green glimmer of a garden. In front of him was a mahogany sideboard. On its polished top lay two books, a box of cigars, and a cut glass decanter surrounded by several glasses. In the decanter was a pale yellow fluid which held a beam of light. The house was completely silent.

Somewhat abashed, he removed his hat and stood irresolute, expecting some greeting. But nothing happened. On a rack against the wall he saw a gray uniform coat like that which Mr. Quimbleton had worn in the Balloon office, and a similar gray cap with the silver monogram. He glanced at the books. One was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the other was a Bible, open at the second chapter of John. He was looking curiously at the decanter when a voice startled him.

"Dandelion wine!" it said. "Will you have a glass?"

He turned and saw an old gentleman with profuse white hair and beard tottering into the hall.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Bleak," said the latter. "I was expecting you."

"You are very kind," said the editor. "I fear you have the advantage of me—I was told that Walt Whitman died in 1892—"

"Nonsense!" wheezed the other with a senile chuckle. He straightened, ripped off his silver fringes, and appeared as the stalwart Quimbleton himself.

"Forgive my precautions," he said. "I am surrounded by spies. I have to be careful. Should some of my enemies learn that old Mr. Monkbones of Caraway Street is the same as Virgil Quimbleton of the Happiness Corporation, my life wouldn't be worth—well, a glass of gooseberry brandy. Speaking of that, Have a little of the dandelion wine." He pointed to the decanter.

Bleak poured himself a glass, and watched his host carefully resume the hoary wig and whiskers. They passed into the garden, a quiet green enclosure surrounded by brick walls and bright with hollyhocks and other flowers. It was overlooked by a quaint jumble of rear gables, tall chimneys and white-shuttered dormer windows.

"Do you play croquet?" asked Quimbleton, showing a neat pattern of white hoops fixed in the shaven turf. "If so, we must have a game after supper. It's very agreeable as a quiet relaxation."

Mr. Bleak was still trying to get his bearings. To see this robust creature gravely counterfeiting the posture of extreme old age was almost too much for his gravity. There was a bizarre absurdity in the solemn way Quimbleton beamed out from his frosty and fraudulent shrubbery. Something in the air of the garden, also, seemed to push Bleak toward laughter. He had that sensation which we have all experienced—an unaccountable desire to roar with mirth, for no very definite cause. He bit his lip, and sought rigorously for decorum.

"Upon my soul," he said, "This is the most fragrant garden I ever smelt. What is that delicious odor in the air, that faint perfume—?"

"That subtle sweetness?" said Quimbleton, with unexpected drollery.

"Exactly," said Bleak. "That abounding and pervasive aroma—"

"That delicate bouquet—?"

"Quite so, that breath of myrrh—"

"That balmy exhalation—?"

Bleak wondered if this was a game. He tried valiantly to continue. "Precisely," he said, "That quintessence of—"

He could coerce himself no longer, and burst into a yell of laughter.

"Hush!" said Quimbleton, nervously. "Some one may be watching us. But the fragrance of the garden is something I am rather proud of. You see, I water the flowers with champagne."

"With champagne!" echoed Bleak. "Good heavens, man, you'll get penal servitude."

"Nonsense!" said Quimbleton. "The Eighteenth Amendment says that intoxicating liquors may not be manufactured, sold or transported FOR BEVERAGE PURPOSES. Nothing is said about using them to irrigate the garden. I have a friend who makes this champagne himself and gives me some of it for my rose-beds. If you spray the flowers with it, and then walk round and inhale them, you get quite a genial reaction. I do it principally to annoy Bishop Chuff. You see, he lives next door."

"Bishop Chuff of the Pan-Antis?"

"Yes," said Quimbleton—"but don't shout! His garden adjoins this. He has a periscope that overlooks my quarters. That's why I have to wear this disguise in the garden. I think he's getting a bit suspicious. I manage to cause him a good deal of suffering with the fizz fumes from my garden. Jolly idea, isn't it?"

Bleak was aghast at the temerity of the man. Bishop Chuff, the fanatical leader of the Anti-Everything League—jocosely known as the Pan-Antis—was the most feared man in America. It was he whose untiring organization had forced prohibition through the legislatures of forty States—had closed the golf links on Sundays—had made it a misdemeanor to be found laughing in public. And here was this daring Quimbleton, living at the very sill of the lion's den.

"By means of my disguise," whispered Quimbleton, "I was able to make a pleasant impression on the Bishop. One evening I went to call on him. I took the precaution to eat a green persimmon beforehand, which distorted my features into such a malignant contraction of pessimism and misanthropy that I quite won his heart. He accepted an invitation to play croquet with me. That afternoon I prepared the garden with a deluge of champagne. The golden drops sparkled on every rose-petal: the lawn was drenched with it. After playing one round the Bishop was gloriously inflamed. He had to be carried home, roaring the most unseemly ditties. Since then, as I say, he has grown (I fear) a trifle suspicious. But let us have a bite of supper."

More than once, as they sat under a thickly leafy grape arbor in the quiet green enclosure, Bleak had to pinch himself to confirm the witness of his senses. A table was delicately spread with an agreeable repast of cold salmon, asparagus salad, fruits, jellies, and whipped creams. The flagon of dandelion vintage played its due part in the repast, and Mr. Bleak began to entertain a new respect for this common flower of which he had been unduly inappreciative. Although the trellis screened them from observation, Quimbleton seemed ill at ease. He kept an alert gaze roving about him, and spoke only in whispers. Once, when a bird lighted in the foliage behind them, causing a sudden stir among the leaves, his shaggy beard whirled round with every symptom of panic. Little by little this apprehension began to infect the journalist also. At first he had hardly restrained his mirth at the sight of this burly athlete framed in the bush of Santa Claus. Now he began to wonder whether his escapade had been consummated at too great a risk.

That old-fashioned quarter of the city was incredibly still. As the light ebbed slowly, and broad blue shadows crept across the patch of turf, they sat in a silence broken only by the wiry cheep of sparrows and the distant moan of trolley cars. The arrows of the decumbent sun gilded the ripening grapes above them. Suddenly there were two loud bangs and a vicious whistle sang through the arbor. Broken twigs eddied down upon the table cloth.

"Spotted mackerel!" cried Bleak. "Is some one shooting at us?"

Quimbleton reappeared presently from under the table. "All serene," he said. "We're safe now. That was only Chuff. Every night about this time he comes out on his back gallery and enjoys a little sharp-shooting. He's a very good shot, and picks off the grapes that have ripened during the day. There were only two that were really purple this evening, so now we can go ahead. Unless he should send over a raiding party, we're all right."

The editor solaced himself with another beaker of the dandelion wine and they finished their meal in thoughtful silence.

"Mr. Bleak," said the other at last, "it was something more than mere desire to give you a pleasant surprise that led me to your office this afternoon. Have you leisure to listen? Good! Please try one of these cigars. If, while I am talking, you should hear any one moving in the garden, just tap quietly on the table. Tell me, have you, before to-day, ever heard of the Corporation for the Perpetuation of Happiness?"

"Never," replied Bleak, kindling a magnifico of remarkably rich, mild flavor.

"That is as I expected," rejoined Quimbleton. "We have campaigned incognito, partly by choice and partly (let me be candid) by necessity. But the time is come when we shall have to appear in the open. The last great struggle is on, and it can no longer be conducted in the dark. In the course of my remarks I may be tempted to forget our present perils. I beg of you, if you hear any sounds that seem suspicious, to notify me instantly."

"Pardon me," said Bleak, a little uneasily; "it was my intention to catch the 9.30 train for Mandrake Park."

The fantastic cascade of false white hair wagged gravely in the dusk.

"My dear sir," said Quimbleton solemnly, "I fancy you are to be gratified by a far higher destiny than catching the 9.30. Do me the honor of filling your glass. But be careful not to clink the decanter against the tumbler. There is every probability that vigilant ears are on the alert."

There was a brief silence, and Bleak wondered (a trifle wildly) if he were dreaming. The cigar on the opposite side of the little table glowed rosily several times, and then Quimbleton's voice resumed, in a deep undertone.

"It is necessary to tell you," he said, "that the Corporation was founded a number of years ago, long before the events of the fatal year 1919 and the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The incident of this afternoon may have caused you to think that what is vulgarly called booze is the chief preoccupation of our society. That is not so. We were organized at first simply to bring merriment and good cheer into the lives of those who have found the vexations of modern life too trying. In our early days we carried on an excellent (though unsystematic) guerilla warfare against human suffering.

"In this (let me admit it frankly) we were to a great degree selfish. As you are aware, the essence of humor is surprise: we found a delicious humor in our campaign of surprising woebegone humanity in moments of crisis. For instance, we used to picket the railway terminals to console commuters who had just missed their trains. We found it uproariously funny to approach a perspiring suburbanite, who had missed the train (let us say) to Mandrake Park, and to press upon him, with the compliments of the Corporation, some consolatory souvenir—a box of cigars, perhaps, or a basket of rare fruit. Housewives, groaning over their endless routine of bathing the baby, ordering the meals, sweeping the floors and so on, would be amazed by the sudden appearance of one of our deputies, in the service uniform of gray and silver, equipped with vacuum cleaner and electric baby-washing machine, to take over the domestic chores for one day. The troubles of lovers were under our special care. We saw how much anguish is caused by the passion of jealousy. Many an engaged damsel, tempted to mild escapade in some perfumed conservatory, found her heart chilled by the stern eye of a uniformed C.P.H. agent lurking behind a potted hydrangea. We hired bands of urchins to make faces at evil old men who plate-glass themselves in the windows of clubs. Many a husband, wondering desperately which hat or which tie to select, has been surprised by the appearance of one of our staff at his elbow, tactfully pointing out which article would best harmonize with his complexion and station in life. Ladies who insisted on overpowdering their noses were quietly waylaid by one of our matrons, and the excess of rice-dust removed. A whole shipload of people who persisted in eating onions were gathered (without any publicity) into a concentration camp, and in company with several popular comedians, deported to a coral atoll. I could enumerate thousands of such instances. For several years we worked in this unassuming way, trying to add to the sum of human happiness."

Quimbleton's white beard shone with a pinkish brightness as he inhaled heavily on his cigar.

"Now, Mr. Bleak," he went on, "I come to you because we need your help. We can no longer maintain a light-hearted sniping campaign on the enemies of human happiness. This is a death struggle. You are aware that Chuff and his legions are planning a tremendous parade for to-morrow. You know that it will be the most startling demonstration of its kind ever arranged. One hundred thousand pan-antis will parade on the Boulevard, with a hundred brass bands, led by the Bishop himself on his coal black horse. Do you know the purpose of the parade?"

"In a general way," said Bleak, "I suppose it is to give publicity to the prohibition cause."

"They have kept their malign scheme entirely secret," said Quimbleton. "You, as a newspaper man, should know it. Does the (so-called) cause of prohibition require publicity? Nonsense! Prohibition is already in effect. The purpose of the parade is to undermine the splendid work our Corporation has been doing for the past two years. As soon as the fatal amendment was passed we set to work to teach people how to brew beverages of their own, in their own homes. As you know, very delicious wine may be made from almost every vegetable and fruit. Potatoes, tomatoes, rhubarb, currants, blackberries, gooseberries, raisins, apples—all these are susceptible of fermentation, transforming their juices into desirable vintages. We specialized on such beverages. We printed and distributed millions of recipes. Chuff countered by passing laws that no printed recipes could circulate through the mails. We had motion pictures filmed, showing the eager public how to perform these simple and cheering processes. Chuff thereupon had motion pictures banned. He would abolish the principle of fermentation itself if he could.

"We composed a little song-recipe for dandelion wine, sending thousands of minstrels to sing it about the country until the people should memorize it. Now Chuff threatens to forbid singing and the memorizing of poetry. At this moment he has fifty thousand zealots working in the countryside collecting and burning dandelion seeds so as to reduce the crop next spring.

"The purpose of his parade to-morrow is devastating in its simplicity. Having learned that wine may be made from gooseberries, he proposes (as a first step) to abolish them altogether. This is to be the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. No gooseberries shall be grown upon the soil of the United States, or imported from abroad. Raisins too, since it is said that one raisin in a bottle of grape juice can cause it to bubble in illicit fashion, are to be put in the category of deadly weapons. Any one found carrying a concealed raisin will go before a firing squad. And Chuff threatens to abolish all vegetables of every kind if necessary."

Bleak sat in horrified silence.

"There is another aspect of the matter," said Quimbleton, "that touches your profession very closely. Bishop Chuff is greatly annoyed at the persistent use of the printing press to issue clandestine vinous recipes. He solemnly threatens, if this continues, to abolish the printing press. This is to be the Twentieth Amendment. No printing press shall be used in the territory of the United States. Any man found with a printing press concealed about his person shall be sentenced to life imprisonment. Even the Congressional Record is to be written entirely by hand."

The editor was unable to speak. He reached for the decanter, but found it empty.

"Very well then," said Quimbleton. "The facts are before you. I suppose The Evening Balloon has made its customary enterprising preparations to report the big parade?"

"Why, yes," said Bleak. "Three photographers and three of our most brilliant reporters have been assigned to cover the event. One of the stories, dealing with pathetic incidents of the procession, has already been written—cases of women swooning in the vast throng, and so on. The Balloon is always first," he added, by force of habit.

"I want you to discard all your plans for describing the parade," said Quimbleton. "I am about to give you the greatest scoop in the history of journalism. The procession will break up in confusion. All that will be necessary to say can be said in half a dozen lines, which I will give you now. I suggest that you print them on your front page in the largest possible type."

From his pocket he took a sheet of paper, neatly folded, and handed it across the table.

"What on earth do you mean?" asked Bleak. "How can you know what will happen?"

"The Corporation has spoken," said his host. "Let us go indoors, where you can read what I have written."

In a small handsomely appointed library Bleak opened the paper. It was a sheet of official stationery and read as follows:—

THE CORPORATION FOR THE PERPETUATION OF HAPPINESS

Cable Address: Hapcorp

Virgil Quimbleton, Associate Director

1316 Caraway Street

Owing to the intoxication of Bishop Chuff, the projected parade of the Pan-Antis broke up in confusion. Federal Home for Inebriates at Cana, N.J., reopened after two years' vacation.

"Is this straight stuff?" asked Bleak tremulously.

"My right hand upon it," cried Quimbleton, tearing off his beard in his earnestness.

"Then good-night!" said Bleak. "I must get back to the office."



CHAPTER III

INCIDENT OF THE GOOSEBERRY BOMBS

The day of the great parade dawned dazzling and clear, with every promise of heat. From the first blue of morning, while the streets were still cool and marble front steps moist from housemaids' sluicings, crowds of Bishop Chuff's marchers came pouring into the city. At the prearranged mobilization points, where bands were stationed to keep the throngs amused until the immense procession could be ranged in line, the press was terrific. Every trolley, every suburban train, every jitney, was crammed with the pan-antis, clad in white, carrying the buttons, ribbons and banners that had been prepared for this great occasion. DOWN WITH GOOSEBERRIES, THE NEW MENACE! was the terrifying legend printed on these emblems.

The Boulevard had been roped off by the police by eight o'clock, and the pavements were swarming with citizens, many of whom had camped there all night in order to witness this tremendous spectacle. As the sun surged pitilessly higher, the temperature became painful. The asphalt streets grew soft under the twingeing feet of the Pan-Antis, and waves of heat radiation shimmered along the vista of the magnificent highway. To keep themselves cheerful the legions of Chuff sang their new Gooseberry Anthem, written by Miss Theodolinda Chuff (the Bishop's daughter) to the air of "Marching Through Georgia." The rousing strains rose in unison from thousands of earnest throats. The majesty of the song cannot be comprehended unless the reader will permit himself to hum to the familiar tune:—

Root up every gooseberry where Satan winks his eye— We will make the sinful earth a credit by and by: Europe may be stubborn, but we'll legislate her dry, And then we'll tackle the planets.

Chorus:

Hurrah! Hurrah! We're anti-everything— Hurrah! Hurrah! An end to joy we sing: Come let's make life doleful and then death will lose its sting, Happiness is only a habit!

Come then, all ye citizens, and join our stern Verein: We're the ones that put the crimp in whiskey, beer and wine; Booze is gone and soon we'll make tobacco fall in line, And then we'll tackle the planets.

Chorus:

Hurrah! Hurrah! We're anti-everything— Hurrah! Hurrah! An end to joy we sing: Come let's make life doleful and then death will lose its sting, Happiness is only a habit!

We'll abolish every fruit attempting to ferment— We will alter Nature's laws and teach her to repent: Let the fatal gooseberry proceed where cocktails went, And then we'll tackle the planets.

Chorus as before.

From the beginning of the day, however, it became apparent that there was a concerted movement under way to heckle the Pan-Antis. As the Gooseberry Anthem came to an end a number of men were observed on the skyline of a tall building, wig-wagging with flags. All eyes were turned aloft, and much speculation ensued among the waiting thousands as to the meaning of the signals. Then a cry of anger burst from one of the section leaders, who was acquainted with the Morse code. The flags were spelling WHAT A DAY FOR A DRINK! All down the Boulevard the white and gold banners tossed in anger. To those above, the mass of agitated chuffs looked like a field of daisies in a wind.

Shortly afterward the familiar buzz of airplane motors was heard, and three silver-gray machines came coasting above the channel of the Boulevard. They flew low, and it was easy to read the initials C.P.H. painted on the nether surface of their wings. Over the front ranks of the parade (which was beginning to fall in line) they executed a series of fantastic twirls. Then, as though at a concerted signal, they dropped a cloud of paper slips which came eddying down through the sunlight. The chuffs scrambled for them, wondering. A sullen murmur rose when the messages were read. They ran thus:—

TO MAKE GOOSEBERRY WINE

(Paste This in Your Hat),

Ten quarts of gooseberries, thoroughly crushed; Over these, five quarts of water are flushed. Twice round the clock let the fluid remain, Then through a sieve the blithe mixture you strain, Adding some sugar (not less than ten pound) And stirring it carefully, round and around.

To the pulp of the fruit that remains in the sieve A gallon of pure filtered water you give: This you let stand for a dozen of hours, Then add to the other to strengthen its powers. Shut up the whole for the space of a day And it will ferment in a riotous way.

When you see by the froth that the fluid grows thicker You, should skim it (with glee) for it's turning to liquor! While it ferments, please continue to skim: At the end, you may murmur the Bartender's Hymn. This makes a booze that is potent enough— Seal in a hogshead—and hide it from Chuff!

Corporation for the Perpetuation of Happiness.

The Pan-Antis were still muttering furiously over this daring act of defiance when a shrill bugle-call pealed down the avenue. Bishop Chuff rode out into the middle of the street on his famous coal-black charger, John Barleycorn. There was a long hush. Then, with a wave of his hand, he gave the signal. One hundred bands burst into the somber and clanging strains of "The Face on the Bar-Room Floor." The great parade had begun.

From a house-top farther up the street Dunraven Bleak watched them come. He had taken Quimbleton's word seriously, and with his usual enterprise had rented a roof overlooking the Boulevard, on which several members of the Balloon staff were prepared to deal with any startling events that might occur. A battery of telephones had been installed on the house-top; Bleak himself sat with apparatus clamped to his head like an operator at central. Two reporters were busy with paper and pencil; the cartoonist sat on the cornice, with legs swinging above two hundred feet of space, sketching the prodigious scene. The young lady editor of the Woman's Page was there, with opera glasses, noting down the "among those present."

It was an awe-inspiring spectacle. Between sidewalks jammed with silent and morose citizens, the Pan-Antis passed like a conquering army. The terrible Bishop, the man who had put military discipline into the ranks of his mighty organization, rode his horse as the Kaiser would have liked to ride entering Paris. His small, bitter, fanatical face wore a deeply carved sneer. His great black beard flapped in the breeze, and he sang as he rode. Behind him came huge floats depicting in startling tableaux the hideous menace of the gooseberry. Bands blared and crashed. Then, rank on rank, as far as eye could see, followed the zealots in their garments of white. Each one, it was noticed, carried a neat knapsack. Huge tractors rumbled along, groaning beneath a tonnage of tracts which were shot into the watching crowd by pneumatic guns. Banners whipped and fluttered.

The sound of shrill chanting vibrated in the blazing air like a visible wave of power. These were conquerors of a nation, and they knew it. A former bartender, standing in the front of the crowd, caught Chuff's merciless gaze, wavered, and swooned. A retired distiller, sitting in the window of the Brass Rail Club, fell dead of apoplexy.

Bleak trembled with nervousness. Had Quimbleton hoaxed him? What could halt this mighty pageant now? He was about to telephone to his city editor to go ahead with the one o'clock edition as originally planned....

From the sky came a roar of engines that drowned for a moment the thundering echoes of the parade. The three gray planes, which had been circling far above, swooped down almost to a level with the tops of the buildings. One of these, a huge two-seated bomber, passed directly over Bleak's head. He craned upward, and caught a glimpse of what he thought at first was a white pennant trailing over the bulwark of the cockpit. A snowy shag of whiskers came tossing down through the air and fell in his lap. It was Quimbleton's beard, torn from its moorings by the tug of wind-pressure. Bleak thrust it quickly in his pocket. As the great plane passed over the head of the parade, flying dangerously low, every face save that of the iron-willed Bishop was turned upward. But even in their curiosity the rigid discipline of the Pan-Antis prevailed. Now they were singing, to the tune of "The Old Gray Mare."

Old John Barleycorn, he ain't what he used to be AIN'T WHAT HE USED TO BE— AIN'T WHAT HE USED TO BE! Old John Barleycorn, he ain't what he used to be, Many a year ago.

The great volume of gusty sound, hurled aloft by these thousands of sky-pointing mouths, created an air-pocket in which the bombing plane tilted dangerously. For a moment, Bleak, who was watching the plane, thought it was going to careen into a tail-spin and crash down fatally. Then he saw Quimbleton, still recognizable by an adhering shred of whisker, lean over the side of the fuselage.

A small dark object dropped through the air, fell with a loud POP on the street a few yards in front of the Bishop. A faint green vapor arose, misting for a moment the proud figures of Chuff and his horse. At the same instant the other two planes, throbbing down the line of the parade, discharged a rain of similar projectiles along the vacant strip of paving between the marching chuffs and the police-lined curb. An eddying emerald fume filled the street, drifting with the brisk air down through all the ranks of the procession. There were shouts and screams; the clanging bands squawked discordantly.

"Holy cat!" shouted the cartoonist—"Poison gas!"

"Nix!" said Bleak, revealing Quimbleton's secret in his excitement. "Gooseberry bombs. Every chuff that inhales it will be properly soused. Oh, boy, some story! Look at the Bish! He's got a snootful already—his face has turned black!"

"The whole crowd has turned black," said the cartoonist, almost falling off his perch in a frantic effort to see more clearly through the olive haze that filled the street.

It was true. Above the thousands of white figures, as they emerged from the intoxicating cloud-bank of gooseberry gas, grinned ghastly, inhuman, blackened faces, with staring goggle eyes. The Bishop was most frightful of all. His horse was prancing and swaying wildly, and the Bishop's transformed features were diabolic. His whole profile had altered, seemed black and shapeless as the face of a tadpole. The amazing truth burst upon Bleak. Chuff and his paraders were wearing gas-masks. These were what they had carried in their knapsacks. Indomitable Chuff, who had foreseen everything!

"Poor Quimbleton," said Bleak. "This will break his heart!"

"His neck too, I fancy," said one of the others, pointing to the sky, and indeed one of the three planes was seen falling tragically to earth behind the tower of the City Hall.

The cloud of gas was rapidly drifting off down the Boulevard, and through the exhilarating and delicious fog the Pan-Antis waved their defiant banners unscathed. The progress of the parade, however, was halted by the behavior of the Bishop's horse, for which no mask had been provided. The noble animal, under this sudden and extraordinary stimulus, was almost human in its actions. At first it stood, whinneying sharply, and pawing the air with one forefoot—as though feeling for the brass rail, as one of Bleak's companions said. It raised its head proudly, with open mouth and expanded nostrils. Then, dashing off across the broad street, it seemed eager to climb a lamp-post, and only the fierce restraint of the Bishop held it in. One of the chuffs (perhaps only lukewarm in loyalty), ran up and offered to give his mask to the horse, but was sternly motioned back to the ranks by the infuriated leader, who was wildly wrestling to gain control of the exuberant animal. At last the horse solved the problem by lying down in the street, on top of the Bishop, and going to sleep. An ambulance, marked Federal Home for Inebriates, Cana, N.J., dashed up with shrilling gong. This had been arranged by Quimbleton, who had wired a requisition for an ambulance to remove one intoxicated bishop. As the Bishop was quite in command of his faculties, the horse, after some delay, was hoisted into the ambulance instead. The Bishop was given a dusting, and the parade proceeded. The self-control of the police alone averted prolonged and frightful disorder, for when the conduct of the horse was observed thousands of spectators fought desperately to get through the ropes and out into the fumes that still lingered in wisps and whorls of green vapor. Others tore off their coats and attempted to bag a few cubic inches of the gas in these garments. But the police, with a devotion to duty that was beyond praise, kept the mob in check and themselves bore the brunt of the lingering acid. Only one man, who leaped from an office-window with an improvised parachute, really succeeded in getting into the middle of the Boulevard, and he refused to be ejected on the ground that he was chief of the street-cleaning department. This department, by the way, was given a remarkable illustration of the fine public spirit of the citizens, for by three o'clock in the afternoon two hundred thousand applications had been received from those eager to act as volunteer street-cleaners and help scour the Boulevard after the passage of the great parade.



CHAPTER IV

THE GREAT WAR BEGINS

As the echoes of the parade died away, public excitement was roused to fever by the discovery that evening of an infernal machine in the City Hall. Leaning against one of the great marble pillars in the lobby of the building, a gleaming object (looking very much like a four-inch shrapnel shell) was found by a vigilant patrolman. To his horror he found it to be one of the much-dreaded thermos bottles. Experts from the Bureau of Rumbustibles were summoned, and the bomb was carefully analyzed. Much to the disappointment of the chief inspector, the devilish ingredients of the explosive had been spoiled by immersion in a pail of water, so his examination was purely theoretical; but it was plain that the leading component of this hellish mixture had been nothing less than gin, animated by a fuse of lemon-peel. If the cylinder had exploded, unquestionably every occupant of the City Hall would have been intoxicated.

The conduct of the municipal officials in this crisis was extremely courageous. No one knew whether other articles of this kind might not be concealed about the building, but the Mayor and councilmen refused to go home, and even assisted in the search for possible bombs. Secret service men were called from Washington, and went into consultation with Bishop Chuff. It was a night of uproar. A reign of terror was freely predicted, and many prominent citizens sat up until after midnight on the chance of discovering similar explosives concealed about their premises.

The morning papers rallied rapidly to the cause of threatened civilization. The Daily Circumspect declared, editorially:—

The alcoholsheviks have at last thrown down the gauntlet. The news that the ginarchists have placed a ginfernal machine in the very shrine of law and order is tantamount to a declaration of war upon sobriety as a whole. A canister of forbidden design, filled with the deadliest gingredients, was found in the corridor leading to the bureau of marriage licenses in the City Hall. There must have been something more than accident in its discovery just in this spot. Men of thoughtful temper will do well to heed the symbolism of this incident. Plainly not only the constitution of the United States is to be made a quaffing-stock, but the very sanctity of the marriage bond is assailed. To this form of terrorism there is but one answer.

In the meantime, Quimbleton had disappeared. The house on Caraway Street was broken into by the police, but except for the grape arbor and a great quantity of empty bottles in the cellar, no clue was found. Apparently, however, the vanished ginarchist (for so Chuff called him) had been writing poetry before his departure. The following rather inscrutable doggerel was found scrawled on a piece of paper:—

When Death doth reap And Chuff is sickled, He will not keep: He was never pickled.

For Bishop Chuff This is ill cheer: That Time will force him To the bier.

And when he stands On his last legs Then Death will drain him To the dregs.

So when Chuff croaks Bury him on a high hill— For he's a hoax Et praeterea nihil!

But Bishop Chuff was not the man to take these insults tamely. His first act was to call together the legislature of the State in special session, and the following act was rushed through:

AN ACT

Severing relations with Nature, and amending the principles and processes of the same in so far as they contravene the Constitution of the United States and the tenets of the Pan-Antis:

WHEREAS, in accordance with the Declaration of Gindependence, it may become necessary for a people to dissolve the alcoholic bands which have connected them with one another and to assume among the powers of the earth the sobriety to which the laws of pessimism entitle them, a decent disrespect to the opinions of drinkers requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to drouth.

WHEREAS we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created sober, and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, such as Life, Grievances, and the Pursuit of Other People's Happiness. Whenever any form of amusement becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the Pan-Antis to abolish it. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that beverages long established should not be abolished for light and transient causes. But when it is evident that Nature herself is in conspiracy against the Constitution of the United States, and that millions of so-called human beings have found in forbidden tipples a cause for mirth and merriment, it is time to call a halt to malt, and have no parley with barley.

WHEREAS it has frequently and regrettably been evidenced that Nature is a sot at heart, by reason of her deplorably lax morals. Painful as it is to make the admission, there are many of her apparently innocent fruits and plants that are susceptible, by the unlawful processes of fermentation and effervescence, of transformation into alcoholic liquid. Science tells us that this abominable form of activity to which Nature is privy is in reality a form of decomposition or putrefaction; but willful men will hardly be restrained by science in their illicit pursuit of frivolity.

WHEREAS Nature (hereinafter referred to as The Enemy) has been guilty of repeated ruptures of the Constitution of the United States, having permitted the juice of apples to ferment into cider, having encouraged seditious effervescence on the part of gooseberries, currants, raisins, grapes and similar conspirators; having fomented outrageous yeastiness in hops, malt, rye, barley and other grains and fodders,

THEREFORE be it enacted, and it hereby is, that all relations with the Enemy are hereby and henceforward suspended; and any citizen of the United States having commerce with Nature, or giving her aid and comfort or encouragement in her atrocious alcoholshevik designs on human dignity, be, and hereby is, guilty of treason and lese-sobriety.

BE IT ALSO enacted, and it hereby is, that the principle of fermentation is forbidden in the territory of the United States; and all plants, herbs, legumes, vegetables, fruits and foliage showing themselves capable of producing effervescent juices or liquids in which bubbles and gases rise to the top be, and hereby are, confiscated, eradicated and removed from the surface of the soil. And all the laws of Nature inconsistent with the principle of this Act be and hereby are repealed and rendered null and inconclusive.

IT IS HOPED that this suspension of relations with Nature will operate as a sharp rebuke, and bring her to reason. It is not the sense of this Act to withhold from the Enemy all hope of a future reconciliation, should she cast off the habits that have made her a menace. We have no quarrel with Nature as a whole. But there is a certain misguided clique, the dandelions and gooseberries and other irresponsible plants, which must be humiliated. We do not presume to suggest to Nature any alteration or modification of her necessary institutions. But who can claim that the principle of fermentation, which she has arrogated to herself, is necessary to her health and happiness? This Intolerable Thing, of which Nature has shown us the ugly mug, this menace of combined intrigue and force, must be crushed, with proud punctilio.

AND FOR THE strict enforcement of this Act, the Pan-Antis are authorized and empowered to organize expeditionary forces, by recruitment or (if necessary) by conscription and draft, to proceed into the territory of the enemy, lay waste and ravage all dandelions, gooseberries and other unlawful plants. Until this is accomplished Nature shall be and hereby is declared a barred zone, in which civilians and non-combatants pass at their own peril; and all citizens not serving with the expeditionary forces shall remain within city and village limits until the territory of Nature is made safe for sobriety.

This document, having been signed by the Governor, became law, and thousands of people who were about to leave town for their vacation were held up at the railway stations. Nature was declared under martial law. There were many who held that the Act, while admirable in principle, did not go far enough in practice. For instance, it was argued, the detestable principle of fermentation was due in great part to the influence of the sun upon vegetable matter; and it was suggested that this heavenly body should be abolished. Others, pointing out that this was a matter that would take some time, advanced the theory that large tracts of open country should be shielded from the sun's rays by vast tents or awnings. Bishop Chuff, with his customary perspicacity, made it plain that one of the chief causes of temptation was hot weather, which causes immoderate thirst. In order to lessen the amount of thirst in the population he suggested that it might be feasible to shift the axis of the earth, so that the climate of the United States would become perceptibly cooler and the torrid zone would be transferred to the area of the North Pole. This would have the supreme advantage of melting all the northern ice-cap and providing the temperate belts with a new supply of fresh water. It would be quite easy (the Bishop insisted) to tilt the earth on its axis if everything heavy on the surface of the United States were moved up to Hudson's Bay. Accordingly he began to make arrangements to have the complete files of the Congressional Record moved to the far north in endless freight trains.

Dunraven Bleak, a good deal exhausted by his efforts to keep all these matters carefully reported in the columns of the Evening Balloon, was ready to take his vacation. As a newspaper man he was able to get a passport to go into the country, on the pretext of observing the movements of the troops of the Pan-Antis, who were vigorously attacking the dandelion fields and gooseberry vineyards. He had already sent his wife and children down to the seashore, in the last refugee train which had left the city before Nature was declared outlaw.

It was a hot morning, and having wound up his work at the office he was sitting in a small lunchroom having a shrimp salad sandwich and a glass of milk. The street outside was thronged with great motor ambulances rumbling in from the suburbs, carrying the wilted remains of berries and fruits which had been dug up by the furious legions of Chuff. These were hastily transported to the municipal cannery where they were made into jams and preserves with all possible speed, before fermentation could set in. Bleak saw them pass with saddened eyes.

A beautiful gray motor car drew up at the curb, and honked vigorously. The proprietor of the lunchroom, thinking that possibly the chauffeur wanted some sandwiches, left the cash register and crossed the pavement eagerly. Every eye in the restaurant was turned upon the glittering limousine, whose panels of dove-throat gray shone with a steely lustre. In a moment the proprietor returned with a large basket and a small folded paper, looking puzzled. He glanced about the room, and approached Bleak.

"I guess you're the guy," he said, and handed the editor a note on which was scrawled in pencil

TO THE MAN WITH A PENETRATING GAZE WHO HAS JUST SPILLED SOME SHRIMP SALAD ON HIS PALM BEACH TROUSERS

Bleak, after removing the shrimp, opened the paper. Inside he read

PLEASE BRING TWO DOZEN RYE-TONGUE SANDWICHES AND AS MUCH SHRIMP SALAD AS THE BASKET WILL HOLD. AM FAMISHED.

QUIMBLETON.

He looked at the restaurateur in surprise.

"The lady said you were to get the grub and put it in this basket," said the latter.

"The lady?" inquired Bleak.

"The dame in the car," said Isidor, owner of the Busy Wasp Lunchroom.

Bleak obeyed orders. He filled the basket with tongue sandwiches and a huge platter of shrimp salad, paid the check, and carried the burden to the door of the motor.

At the wheel sat a damsel of extraordinary beauty. The massive proportions of the enormous car only accentuated the perfection of her streamline figure. Her chassis was admirable; she was upholstered in a sports suit of fawn-colored whipcord; and her sherry-brown eyes were unmodified by any dimming devices. Before Bleak could say anything she cried eagerly, "Get in, Mr. Bleak! I've been looking for you everywhere. What a happy moment this is!"

Bleak handed in the basket. "Quimbleton—" he began.

"I know," she said. "I'm taking you to him. Poor fellow, he is in great peril. Get in, please."

By the time Bleak was in the seat beside her, the car was already in motion.

"You have your passport?" she said, steering through the tangled traffic.

"Yes," he said. He could not help stealing a sidelong glance at this bewitching creature. Her dainty and vivacious face, just now a trifle sunburnt, was fixed resolutely upon the vehicles ahead. On the rim of the big steering wheel her small gloved hands gave an impression of great capability. Bleak thought that her profile seemed oddly familiar.

"Haven't I seen you before?" he said.

"Very possibly. Your newspaper printed my picture the other day, with some rather uncomplimentary remarks."

Bleak was nonplussed.

"Very stupid of me," he said, "but I don't seem to recall—"

"I am Miss Chuff," she said calmly.

The editor's brain staggered.

"Miss Theodolinda Chuff?" he said, in amazement. He recalled some satirical editorials the Balloon had printed concerning the activities of the Chuffs, and wondered if he were being kidnaped for court-martial by the Pan-Antis. Evidently the use of Quimbleton's name had been a ruse.

"It was unfair of you to make use of Quimbleton's name to get me into your hands," he said angrily.

Miss Chuff turned a momentary gaze of amusement upon him, as they passed a large tractor drawing several truckloads of gooseberry plants.

"You don't understand," she said demurely. "You may remember that Mr. Quimbleton's card gave his name as associate director of the Happiness Corporation?"

"Yes," said Bleak.

"I am the Director," she said.

"YOU? But how can that be? Why, your father—"

"That's just why. Any one who had to live with Father would be sure to take the opposite side. He's a Pan-Anti. I'm a Pan-Pro. Those poems I have written for him were merely a form of camouflage. Besides, they were so absurd they were sure to do harm to the cause. That's why I wrote them. I'll explain it all to you a little later."

At this moment they were held up by an armed guard of chuffs, stationed at the city limits. These saluted respectfully on seeing the Bishop's daughter, but examined Bleak's passport with care. Then the car passed on into the suburbs.

As they neared the fields of actual battle, Bleak was able to see something of the embittered nature of the conflict. In the hot white sunlight of the summer morning platoons of Pan-Antis could be seen marching across the fields, going up from the rest centers to the firing line. In one place a shallow trench had been dug, from which the chuffs were firing upon a blackberry hedge at long range. One by one the unprincipled berries were being picked off by expert marksmen. The dusty highway was stained with ghastly rivulets and dribbles of scarlet juices. At a crossroads they came upon a group of chuffs who had shown themselves to be conscientious objectors: these were being escorted to an internment camp where they would be horribly punished by confinement to lecture rooms with Chautauqua lecturers. War is always cruel, and even non-combatants did not escape. In the heat of combat, the neutrality of an orchard of plum trees had been violated, and wagonloads of the innocent fruit were being carried away into slavery and worse than death. A young apple tree was standing in front of a firing squad, and Bleak closed his eyes rather than watch the tragic spectacle. The apples were all green, and too young to ferment, but the chuffs were ruthless once their passions were roused.

They passed through the battle zone, and into a strip of country where pine woods flourished on a sandy soil. The fragrant breath of sun-warmed balsam came down about them, and Miss Chuff let out the motor as though to escape from the scene of carnage they had just witnessed.

"Whither are we bound?" asked the editor, with pardonable curiosity, as their tires hummed over a smooth road.

"Cana, New Jersey," said Miss Chuff, "where poor Quimbleton is in hiding. He is in very sore straits. He narrowly escaped capture after the parade the other day. I managed to get him smuggled out of the city in the same ambulance that carried Father's horse. The horse was drunk and Quim was sober. Wasn't that an irony of fate? But I promised to tell you how I became associated with the Happiness Corporation."



CHAPTER V

THE TREACHERY OF MISS CHUFF

"My story," said Miss Chuff, as the car slid along the road, "is rich in pathos. My father, as you can imagine, is an impossible man to live with. My poor mother was taken to an asylum years ago. Her malady takes a curious form: she is never violent, but spends all her time in poring over books, magazines and papers. Every time she finds the word HUSBAND in print she crosses it out with blue pencil.

"From my earliest days I was accustomed to hear very little else but talk about liquor. The fairy tales that most children are allowed to enjoy merely as stories were explained to me by my father as allegories bearing upon the sinister seductions of drink. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, for instance, became a symbol of young womanhood pursued by the devouring Bronx cocktail. The princess from whose mouth came toads and snakes was (of course) a princess under the influence of creme de menthe. Cinderella was a young girl who had been brought low by taking a dash of brandy in her soup. Every dragon, with which good fairy tales are liberally provided, was the Demon Rum. It is really amazing what stirring prohibition propaganda fairy tales contain if you know how to interpret them.

"All this kind of palaver naturally roused my childish curiosity as to the subject of intoxicants. But, like a docile daughter, I fell into the career marked out for me by my father. I became a militant for the Pan-Antis. I distributed tracts by the million; I wrote a little poem on the idea that the gates of hell are swinging doors with slats. I can honestly say that I never felt any real hankering for liquor until it was prohibited altogether. That is a curious feature of human nature, that as soon as you forbid a thing it becomes irresistibly alluring. You remember the story of Mrs. Bluebeard.

"It occurred to me, after booze had gone, that it was a sad thing that I, Bishop Chuff's daughter, who was devoting my life to the prohibition cause, should have not the slightest knowledge of the nature of this hideous evil we had been pursuing. I brooded over this a great deal, and fell into a melancholy state. The thought came to me, there must be some virtue in drink, or why would so many people have stubbornly contested its abolition? It would be too long a story to tell you all the details, but it was at that time that I first became aware of my psychic gift."

"Your psychic gift?" queried Bleak, wondering.

She turned her bright beer-brown eyes upon him gravely. "Yes," she said, "I am an alcoholic medium. It is the latest and most superior form of spiritualism. By gazing upon crystal—particularly upon an empty tumbler—I am able to throw myself into a trance in which I can communicate with departed spirits. A good drink does not die, you know: its soul hovers radiantly on the twentieth plane, and through the occult power of a medium those who loved it in life can get in touch with it once more. Through these trances of mine I have been privileged to put many bereaved ones in communication with their dear departed spirits. To hear the table-rappings and the shouts of ecstasy you would perceive that a great deal of the anguish of separation is assuaged."

"Do you often have these trances?" said Bleak, with a certain wistfulness.

"They are not hard to induce," she said. "All that is necessary for a seance is a round table, preferably of some highly polished brown wood, a brass rail for the worshipers to put their feet on, and an empty tumbler to concentrate the power of yearning. If those present all wish hard enough there is sure to be a successful reunion with the Beyond."

"But surely," said the fascinated editor, "surely not any—well, actual MATERIALIZATION?"

"Oh, no; but the communion of souls produces quite sufficient results. You see, so many fine spirits passed over at once, suddenly, on that First of July, that the twentieth plane is quite thronged with them, and they are just as eager to come back as their friends could be to welcome them. One good yearn deserves another, as we say. The only time when these seances fail is when some inharmonious soul is present—some personality not completely EN RAPPORT with the spirit of the gathering. I remember, for instance, an occasion when a gentleman from Kentucky had most ardently desired to get into communication with the astrals of some mint juleps he had loved very deeply in life. Everything seemed propitious, but though I struggled hard I simply could not get the julep spirit to descend to our mortal plane. Finally I made inquiry and found that one of the guests was a root-beer manufacturer. Of course you may say that was petty jealousy on the side of the departed, but even these vanished spirits have their human phases."

She was silent for a moment.

"You can imagine," she said, "what a perplexity I was in when I discovered these hitherto unsuspected powers in myself. Was I justified in putting them to use, for the good of humanity? And wasn't there a certain pathetic significance in the fact that I, the daughter of the man who had done so much to put these poor lonely spirits into the Beyond, should be made their sole channel of reunion with their bereaved and sorrowing adorers? In all his harangues, I had never heard my Father attack anything but the actual DRINKING of liquor. This form of communication seemed to me to solve so many problems. And it was in this way that I first met Virgil."

"Virgil?" said Bleak, absent-mindedly, for he was wondering whether he might be privileged to attend one of these seances.

"Virgil Quimbleton," she said. "In the early days of my trances I was much haunted by the spirit of a certain cocktail—blended, I believe, of champagne and angostura—which insisted that it would be inconsolable until it could get in contact with Quimbleton and reassure him as to the certainty of its existence beyond mortal bars. The deep affection and old comradeship evidently cherished between Quimbleton and this cocktail was very touching, and I was more than happy to be able to effect their reunion. It was for this reason that Quimbleton, under a careful disguise, came to live next door to us on Caraway Street. I would go out into the garden and have a trance; Quimbleton, poor bereaved fellow, would sit by me in the dusk and revel with the spirit of his dear comrade. This common bond soon ripened into Jove, and we became betrothed."

She stripped off one of her gloves and showed Bleak a beautiful amethyst ring.

"This is my engagement ring," she said. "It's a very precious symbol, for Quimbleton explained to me that the amethyst is a talisman against drunkenness. I looked it up in the dictionary, and found that he was right. As long as I wear this ring the departed spirits have no ill effect upon me. But I sometimes wonder," she added with a sigh, "whether Virgil really loves me for myself, or only as a kind of swinging door into the spirit world."

The car was now approaching an open belt of country. Behind them lay the dark line of pine woods; far off, across a wide shimmer of sun and sandy fields sweetened by purple clover; and flowering grasses, was a blue ribbon of sea. But even in this remote shelf of New Jersey the implacable hand of Chuff was at work. From a meadow near by they saw an observation balloon going up and the windlass unwinding its cable. A huge paraboloid breath-detector (or breathoscope) was stationed on a low ridge. This terribly ingenious machine, which had just been invented by the pan-antis, records the vibrations of any alcoholic breath within five miles, and indicates on a sensitive dial the exact direction and distance of the breath. It was only too evident that the search for Quimbleton was going forward with fierce system. In the shelter of an old barn they heard a cork-popping machine-gun going off rapidly. This was one of the most atrocious ruses employed by the chuffs in their search for conscientious drinkers. The gun fires no projectile, but produces a pleasant detonation like the swift and repeated drawing of corks. Set up in the neighborhood of any bottle-habited man, it will invariably lure him into an approach. Near it was an ice-tinkling device, used for the same purposes of stratagem.

"Poor Virgil!" said Miss Chuff with a sigh. "I'm afraid he has had a grievous ordeal. We must run carefully now, so as not to give him away."

Fortunately Miss Chuff's presence at the wheel, and Bleak's credentials as war correspondent, enabled them to pass several scouting parties of chuff uhlans without suspicion. In this way they neared the extensive grounds surrounding the Federal Home for Inebriates, Cana, N. J. This magnificent Gothic building, already showing some signs of decay from two years of vacancy, stands on a slight eminence among what the real estate agents call "old shade," with a fine and carefully calculated view over one of the largest bodies of undrinkable fluid known to man, the Atlantic Ocean.

The car turned into a narrow sandy road skirting one side of the walled park. This byway was completely screened from outside observation by the high bulwark of the Home and by thick masses of rhododendron shrubbery. At a bend in the road Miss Chuff halted the motor, and motioned Bleak to descend.

"Now we will look for the persecuted patriot," she said.

Bleak took charge of the basket of food, and Miss Chuff drew a small rope ladder from a locker under the driver's seat. This she threw deftly up to the top of the wall, hooking it upon the iron spikes. Bleak politely ascended first, and they scaled the wall, dropping down into a tangle of underbrush.

"I left him in here somewhere," said the girl, as they set off along a narrow path. "This was obviously the best place to hide, as, except for Father's horse, the Home hasn't had an inmate for two years. There was some talk of Father making this the headquarters of the Great General Strafe in this campaign, but I don't believe they have done so yet."

"Hush!" said Bleak. "What is that I hear?"

A dull, regular, recurrent sound, a sort of rasping sigh, stole through the thickets. They both listened in some agitation.

"Sounds a little like an airplane, with one engine missing," said Bleak.

"Can it be the sea, the surf breaking on the sand?" asked Miss Chuff.

This seemed probable, and they accepted it as such; but as they pushed on through the tangle of saplings and bushes the sound seemed to localize itself on their left. Bleak peeped cautiously through a leafy screen, and then beckoned the girl to his side. They looked down into a warm sandy hollow, overgrown and sheltered by a large rhododendron with knotted branches and dry, shiny leaves. Curled up on the sand bank, in the unconsciously pathetic posture of sheer exhaustion, lay Quimbleton, asleep. A droning snore buzzed heavily from where he lay.

"Poor Virgil!" said Miss Chuff. "How tired he looks."

He did, indeed. The gray and silver uniform was ragged and soil-stained; his boots were white with dust; his face was unshaved, though a razor lay beside him, and it seemed that he had been trying to strop it on his Sam Browne belt. His pipe, filled but unlit, had fallen from his weary fingers; beside him was an empty match-box and tragic evidence of a number of unsuccessful attempts to get fire from a Swedish tandsticker. Crumpled under the elbow of the indomitable idealist was a much-thumbed copy of The Bartender's Benefactor, or How to Mix 1001 Drinks, in which he had been seeking imaginary solace when he fell asleep. Near his head ticked a pocket alarm clock, which they found set to gong at two o'clock.

"It seems a shame to wake him," said Theodolinda. Her brown eyes liquefied and effervesced with tenderness, until (as Bleak thought to himself) they were quite the color of brandy and soda, without too much soda.

The sleeper stirred, and a radiant smile passed over his unconscious features—a smile of pure and heavenly beatitude.

"Say when, Jerry," he murmured.

"He's dreaming!" cried Theodolinda. "See, his soul is far away!"

"Two years away," said Bleak enviously. "Let him go to it while we reconnoiter. I believe in the Prevention of Cruelty to Sleep. He didn't intend to wake up just yet, you can see by the alarm clock."

"That's a good idea," she agreed. "I'd like to find out whether we're in any immediate danger of pursuit."

They set the basket of food beside Quimbleton, and carefully moved on through the strip of young trees until they neared the broad lawns that surround the Home for Inebriates. Miss Chuff, spying delicately through a leafy chink, gave a cry of alarm.

"Heavens!" she said. "The place is full of people!"

To their amazement, they saw the white banner of the Pan-Antis floating on one of the towers of the building, and the grounds about the Home blackened with a moving throng. Though they were too far distant to discern any details of the crowd, it was plain (from the curious to-and-fro of the gathering, like the seething of an ant-hill) that its units were imbued with some strong emotion. At that distance it might have been anger, or fear, or (more appropriate to the surroundings) drink.

They hurried back to Quimbleton's hiding place, and found him already sitting up and attacking the shrimp salad. Bleak courteously averted his eyes from the affectionate embrace of the lovers.

"Bless your heart for this grub," said Quimbleton to Bleak. "As soon as I smelt that shrimp salad I woke up. Do you know, I haven't eaten for two days."

"Oh Virgil!" cried Theodolinda, "what does this mean—all the crowd round the Home? Mr. Bleak and I looked up there, and the place is simply packed. You can't stay undiscovered long with all those people around. Who are they, anyway?"

Quimbleton had to delay his reply until deglutition had mastered a bulky consignment of shrimp. His large, resolute face, while somewhat marred by hardships, showed no trace of panic.

"I know all about it," he said. "It is the latest step on the route of all evil taken by that fanatical person whom I shall presently call father-in-law. He is not content with arresting people found drinking. This morning they began to seize people who THINK about drinking. Any one who is guilty of thinking, in an affirmative way, about liquor, is to be interned in the Federal Home for a course in mental healing."

"But how can they tell?" asked Bleak, nervously.

"I don't know," said Quimbleton. "Perhaps they have a kind of Third Degree, flash a seidel of beer on you suddenly, and if you make an involuntary gesture of pleasure, you're convicted. Perhaps they've invented an instrument that tells what you think about. Perhaps they just arrest you on suspicion. At any rate all the folks who have been thinking about booze are being collected and sent over here. I know because I've seen most of my friends arriving all morning. I suppose they'll get me next. I don't much care as long as I've had something to eat."

"Virgil, dear," said Miss Chuff, "you MUSTN'T give up hope now, after being so brave. You know I'll stand by you to the end—to the very dregs."

"If only I had some disguise," said Quimbleton sadly, "it wouldn't be so bad. But I must confess that these breath detectors and other unscrupulous instruments they use have rather unnerved me."

Bleak suddenly remembered, and thrust his hand in his hip-pocket. He pulled out the hank of white beard that had floated down from the airplane a few days before. It was much crumpled, but intact.

"Good man!" cried Quimbleton. "My jolly old beard!" He clapped it onto his face and beamed hopefully. "Now, if there were some way of getting rid of this tell-tale uniform—"

They discussed this problem at some length, sitting in the sheltered bowl of sand, while Quimbleton finished his lunch. Bleak's suggestion of stitching together a sort of Robinson Crusoe suit of rhododendron leaves did not meet Quimbleton's approval.

"No Robinson trousseau for me," he said. "I thought of pasting together the leaves of The Bartender's Benefactor, but I'm afraid that would be rather damning. No, I don't see what to do."

"I have it!" said Theodolinda, gleefully. "I've got a sewing kit in the car—we'll unrip the upholstery and I can stitch you up a suit in no time. At least it will be better than the C. P. H. get-up, which would take you in front of a firing squad if it were seen."

This seemed a good idea. Bleak volunteered to escort Miss Chuff back to the car and help her rip the covers off the cushions. This was done, and they carried back to Quimbleton's hiding place many yards of pale lilac colored twill (or whatever it is) and a flask of iced tea. In spite of distant sounds of warfare, the time passed pleasantly enough. Miss Chuff cut out and stitched assiduously; Quimbleton and Bleak, under her directions, sewed on the buttons snipped from the uniform. Birds twittered in the greenery about them, and they all felt something of the elation of a picnic when the garments were done and Quimbleton retired to a neighboring copse to make the change. The other two were too seriously concerned for his welfare to laugh when they saw him.

"Splendid!" cried Bleak. "Now you can lie down in Miss Chuff's car and if any one looks in they'll just think you're part of the furnishings."

"And I think we'd better get back to the car without delay," said Theodolinda. "I'd like to get you out of this danger zone as soon as possible."

They hastened back to the wall, scaled it with the rope ladder—and stared in dismay. The car had gone. They could see it far down the road, guarded by a group of Pan-Antis. A cordon of the enemy had been thrown completely round the Home and escape was impossible. Worse still, the treachery of Miss Chuff must have been discovered, and they trembled to think what retaliation the Bishop might devise.

In this moment of crisis Quimbleton regained his customary hardihood. Quilted in his lilac garments, with the white hedge of beard tossing in the breeze, he looked the dashing leader.

"There's only one thing to do," he said. "We're surrounded in this place. We must go to the Home, make common cause with the prisoners there, and lead them in a sudden sally of escape."



CHAPTER VI

DEPARTED SPIRITS

If Bishop Chuff desired to make people stop thinking about alcohol, his plan of seizing them and shutting them up in the grounds of the Federal Home at Cana was a quaint way of attaining this purpose. For all the victims, who had been suddenly arrested in the course of their daily concerns, accused (before a rum-head court martial) of harboring illicit alcoholic desires, and driven over to Cana in crowded motor-trucks, now had very little else to brood about. In the golden light and fragrance of a summer afternoon, here they were surrounded by all the apparatus to restrain alcoholic excess, and not even the slightest exhilaration of spirit to justify the depressing scene. It was annoying to see frequent notices such as: This Entrance for Brandy-Topers; or Vodka Patients in This Ward; or Inmates Must Not Bite Off the Door-Knobs. It seemed carrying a jest too far when these citizens, most of whom had not even smelt a drink in two years, found themselves billeted into padded cells and confronted by rows of strait-jackets. Moreover, the Home had lain unused for many months: it was dusty, dilapidated, and of a moldy savor. Some of the unwilling visitors, finding that the grounds included a strip of sandy beach, took their ordeal with reasonable philosophy. "Since we are to be slaves," they said, "at least let's have some serf bathing." And donning (with a shudder) the rather gruesome padded bathing suits they found in the lockers, they went off for a swim. Others, of a humorous turn, derived a certain rudimentary amusement in studying the garden marked Reserved for Patients with Insane Delusions, where they found a very excellent relief-model of the battleground of the Marne, laid out by a former inmate who had imagined himself to be General Joffre. But most of them stood about in groups, talking bitterly.

Quimbleton, therefore, found a receptive audience for his Spartacus scheme of organizing this band of downtrodden victims into a fighting force. He gathered them into the dining-hall of the Home and addressed them in spirited language.

"My friends" (he said), "unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I feel it my duty to administer a few remarks on the subject of our present situation.

"And the first thought that comes to my mind, candidly, is this, that we must give Bishop Chuff credit for a quality we never imagined him to possess. That quality, gentlemen, is a sense of humor. I hear some dissent; and yet it seems to me to be somewhat humorous that this gathering, composed of men who were accustomed, in the good old days, to carry their liquor like gentlemen, should now, when they have been cold sober for two years, be incarcerated in this humiliating place, surrounded by the morbid relics of those weaker souls who found their grog too strong for them.

"I say therefore that we must give Bishop Chuff credit for a sense of humor. It makes him all the more deadly enemy. Yet I think we will have the laugh on him yet, in a manner I shall presently describe. For the Bishop has what may be denominated a single-tract mind. He undoubtedly imagines that we will submit tamely to this outrage. He has surrounded us with guards. He expects us to be meek. In my experience, the meek inherit the dearth. Let us not be meek!"

There was a shout of applause, and Quimbleton's salient of horse-hair beard waved triumphantly as he gathered strength. His burly figure in the lilac upholstering dominated the audience. He went on:

"And what is our crime? That we have nourished, in the privacy of our own intellects, treasonable thoughts or desires concerning alcohol! Gentlemen, it is the first principle of common law that a man cannot be indicted for thinking a crime. There must be some overt act, some evidence of illegal intention. Can a man be deprived of freedom for carrying concealed thoughts? If so, we might as well abolish the human mind itself. Which Bishop Chuff and his flunkeys would gladly do, I doubt not, for they themselves would lose nothing thereby."

Vigorous clapping greeted this sally.

"Now, gentlemen," cried Quimbleton, "though we follow a lost cause, and even though the gooseberry and the raisin and the apple be doomed, let us see it through with gallantry! The enemy has mobilized dreadful engines of war against us. Let us retort in kind. He has tanks in the field—let us retort with tankards. They tell me there is a warship in the offing, to shell us into submission. Very well: if he has gobs, let us retort with goblets. If he has deacons, let us parry him with decanters. Chuff has put us here under the pretext of being drunk. Very well: then let us BE drunk. Let us go down in our cups, not in our saucers. Where there's a swill, there's a way! Let us be sot in our ways," he added, sotto voce.

Terrific uproar followed this fine outburst. Quimbleton had to calm the frenzy by gesturing for silence.

"I hear some natural queries," he said. "Some one asks 'How?' To this I shall presently explain 'Here's how.' Bear with me a moment.

"My friends, it would be idle for us to attempt the great task before us relying merely on ourselves. In such great crises it is necessary to call upon a Higher Power for strength and succor. This is no mere brawl, no haphazard scuffle: it is the battle-ground—if I were jocosely minded I might say it is the bottle-ground—of a great principle. If, gentlemen, I wished to harrow your souls, I would ask you to hark back in memory to the fine old days when brave men and lovely women sat down at the same table with a glass of wine, or a mug of ale, and no one thought any the worse. I would ask you to remember the color of the wine in the goblet, how it caught the light, how merrily it twinkled with beaded bubbles winking at the brim, as some poet has observed. If I wanted to harrow you, gentlemen, I would recall to you little tables, little round tables, set out under the trees on the lawn of some country inn, where the enchanting music of harp and fiddle twangled on the summer air, where great bowls of punch chimed gently as the lumps of ice knocked on the thin crystal. The little tables were spread tinder the trees, and then, later on, perhaps, the customers were spread under the tables.—I would ask you to recall the manly seidel of dark beer as you knew it, the bitter chill of it as it went down, the simple felicity it induced in the care-burdened mind. I could quote to you poet after poet who has nourished his song upon honest malt liquor. I need only think of Mr. Masefield, who has put these manly words in the mouth of his pirate mate:

Oh some are fond of Spanish wine, and some are fond of French, And some'll swallow tea and stuff fit only for a wench, But I'm for right Jamaica till I roll beneath the bench!

Oh some are fond of fiddles and a song well sung, And some are all for music for to lilt upon the tongue; But mouths were made for tankards, and for sucking at the bung!"

This apparently artless oratory was beginning to have its effect. Loud huzzas filled the hall. These touching words had evoked wistful memories hidden deep in every heart. Old wounds were reopened and bled afresh.

Again Quimbleton had to call for silence.

"I will recite to you," he said, "a ditty that I have composed myself. It is called A Chanty of Departed Spirits."

In a voice tremulous with emotion he began:

The earth is grown puny and pallid, The earth is grown gouty and gray, For whiskey no longer is valid And wine has been voted away— As for beer, we no longer will swill it In riotous rollicking spree; The little hot dogs in the skillet Will have to be sluiced down with tea.

O ales that were creamy like lather! O beers that were foamy like suds! O fizz that I loved like a father! O fie on the drinks that are duds! I sat by the doors that were slatted And the stuff had a surf like the sea— No vintage was anywhere vatted Too strong for ventripotent me!

I wallowed in waves that were tidal, But yet I was never unmoored; And after the twentieth seidel My syllables still were assured. I never was forced to cut cable And drift upon perilous shores, To get home I was perfectly able, Erect, or at least on all fours.

Although I was often some swiller, I never was fuddled or blowsed; My hand was still firm on the tiller, No matter how deep I caroused; But now they have put an embargo On jazz-juice that tingles the spine,

We can't even cozen a cargo Of harmless old gooseberry wine!

But no legislation can daunt us: The drinks that we knew never die: Their spirits will come back to haunt us And whimper and hover near by. The spookists insist that communion Exists with the souls that we lose— And so we may count on reunion With all that's immortal of Booze.

Those spirits we loved have departed To some psychical twentieth plane; But still we will not be downhearted, We'll soon greet our loved ones again— To lighten our drouth and our tedium Whenever our moments would sag, We'll call in a spiritist medium And go on a psychical jag!

As the frenzy of cheering died away, Quimbleton's face took on the glow of simple benignance that Bleak had first observed at the time of the julep incident in the Balloon office. The flush of a warm, impulsive idealism over-spread his genial features. It was the face of one who deeply loved his fellow-men.

"My friends," he said, "now I am able to say, in all sincerity, Here's How. I have great honor in presenting to you my betrothed fiancee, Miss Theodolinda Chuff. Do not be startled by the name, gentlemen. Miss Chuff, the daughter of our arch-enemy, is wholly in sympathy with us. She is the possessor (happily for us) of extraordinary psychic powers. I have persuaded her to demonstrate them for our benefit. If you will follow my instructions implicitly, you will have the good fortune of witnessing an alcoholic seance."

Miss Chuff, very pale, but obviously glad to put her spiritual gift at the disposal of her lover, was escorted to the platform by Bleak. The editor had been coached beforehand by Quimbleton as to the routine of the seance.

"The first requirement," said Quimbleton to the awe-struck gathering, "is to put yourselves in the proper frame of mind. For that purpose I will ask you all to stand up, placing one foot on the rung of a chair. Kindly imagine yourselves standing with one foot on a brass rail. You will then summon to mind, with all possible accuracy and vividness, the scenes of some bar-room which was once dear to you. I will also ask you to concentrate your mental faculties upon some beverage which was once your favorite. Please rehearse in imagination the entire ritual which was once so familiar, from the inquiring look of the bartender down to the final clang of the cash-register. A visualization of the old free lunch counter is also advisable. All these details will assist the medium to trance herself."

Bleak in the meantime had carried a small table on the platform, and placed an empty glass upon it. Miss Chuff sat down at this table, and gazed intently at the glass. Quimbleton produced a white apron from somewhere, and tied it round his burly form. With Bleak playing the role of customer he then went through a pantomime of serving imaginary drinks. His representation of the now vanished type of the bartender was so admirably realistic that it brought tears to the eyes of more than one in the gathering. The editor, with appropriate countenance and gesture, dramatized the motions of ordering, drinking, and paying for his invisible refreshment. His pantomime was also accurate and satisfying, evidently based upon seasoned experience. The argument as to who should pay, the gesture conveying the generous sentiment "This one's on me," the spinning of a coin on the bar, the raising of the elbow, the final toss that dispatched the fluid—all these were done to the life. The audience followed suit with a will. A whispering rustle ran through the dingy hall as each man murmured his favorite catchwords. "Give it a name," "Set 'em up again," "Here's luck," and such archaic phrases were faintly audible. Miss Chuff kept her gaze fastened on the empty tumbler.

Suddenly her rigid pose relaxed. She drooped forward in her chair, with her head sunk and hands limp. Tenderly and reverently Quimbleton bent over her. Then, his face shining with triumph, he spoke to the hushed watchers.

"She is in the trance," he said. "Gentlemen, her happy soul is in touch with the departed spirits. What'll you have? Don't all speak at once."

Fifty-nine, in hushed voices, petitioned for a Bronx. Quimbleton turned to the unconscious girl.

"Fifty-nine devotees," he said, "ask that the spirit of the Bronx cocktail vouchsafe his presence among us."

Miss Chuff's slender figure stiffened again. Her hand went out to the glass beside her, and raised it to her lips. Some of the more eagerly credulous afterwards asserted that they had seen a cloudy yellow liquid appear in the vessel, but it is not improbable that the wish was father to the vision. At any rate, the fifty-nine suppliants experienced at that instant a gush of sweet coolness down their throats, and the unmistakable subsequent tingle. They gazed at each other with a wild surmise.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse