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´╗┐Title: In the Sweet Dry and Dry
Author: Haley, Bart, 1876-, Morley, Christopher, 1890-1957
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Sweet Dry and Dry" ***

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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.

"How about another?" said one in a thrilling whisper.

"Take your turn," said Quimbleton. "Who's next?"

One hundred and fifty-three nominated Scotch whiskey. The order was
filled without a slip. Quimbleton's face beamed above his beard like a
full-blown rose. "Magnificent!" he whispered to Bleak, both of them
having partaken in the second round. "If this keeps on we'll have a
charge of the tight brigade."

The next round was ninety-five Jack Rose cocktails, but the audience
was beginning to get out of hand. Those who had not yet been served
grew restive. They saw their companions with brightened eyes and
beaming faces, comparing notes as to this delicious revival of old
sensations. In the impatience of some and the jubilation of others, the
psychic concentration flagged a little. Then, just as Quimbleton was
about to ask for the fourth round, the unforgiveable happened. Some one
at the back shouted, "A glass of buttermilk!"

Miss Chuff shuddered, quivered, and opened her eyes with a tragic gasp.
She slipped from the chair, and fell exhausted to the floor. Bleak ran
to pick her up. Quimbleton screamed out an oath.

"The spell is broken!" he roared. "There's a spy in the room!"

At that instant a battalion of armed chuffs burst into the hall. They
carried a huge hose, and in ten seconds a six-inch stream of cold water
was being poured upon the bewildered psychic tipplers. Quimbleton and
Bleak, seizing the girl's helpless form, escaped by a door at the back
of the platform.

"Heaven help us," cried Bleak, distraught. "What shall we do? This
means the firing squad unless we can escape."

Theodolinda feebly opened her eyes.

"O horrible," she murmured. "The spirit of buttermilk--I saw him--he
threatened me--"

"The horse!" cried Quimbleton, with fierce energy. "The Bishop's
horse--in the stable!"

They ran wildly to the rear quarters of the Home, where they found the
Bishop's famous charger whinneying in his stall. All three leaped upon
his back. In the confusion, amid the screams of the tortured inmates
and the cruel cries of the invading chuffs, they made good their escape.

Every one of the wretched inmates captured at the psychic carouse was
immediately sentenced to six months' hard listening on the Chautauqua
circuit. But even during this brutal punishment their memories returned
with tenderest reminiscence to the experience of that afternoon. As one
of them said, "it was a real treat." And although Quimbleton had
plainly stated the relation in which he stood to Theodolinda Chuff, she
had no less than two hundred and ten proposals of marriage, by mail,
from those who had attended the seance.



CHAPTER VII

THE DECANTERBURY PILGRIMS


Through a dreary waste of devastated country a little group of refugees
plodded in silence. All about them lay fields and orchards which had
been torn and uprooted as though by some unbelievable whirlwind. At a
watering trough along the road they halted, facing the sign:

    COMPULSORY DRINKING STATION

    Adults, 1 quart
    Children, 1 pint

    THIRST FORBIDDEN BETWEEN HERE AND THE NEXT STATION


Under the eye of an armed chuff, who watched them suspiciously, the
wretched wanderers drank the water in silence, but without enthusiasm.
Then they shuffled on down the road.

At the front of the small procession a slender girl, in a much-stained
sports suit, rode on a tall black horse. Beside the horse trudged a
bulky man in a grotesque garb of dirty lavender quilting. A matted
whisk of coarse beard drooped from his chin, but his blue eyes burned
brightly in his sunburnt face. Over his shoulder he carried a six foot
length of brass railing, a small folding table, and a shabby knapsack.

Behind the horse limped a lean, dyspeptic-colored individual in a Palm
Beach suit that would have been a social death-warrant on the shining
sands of its name-place. There is no form of sartorialism that takes on
such utter humility as a Palm Beach suit gone wrong. This particular
vestment was spotted with ink, with mud, with fruit-juices, with every
kind of stain; it was punctured with perforations that might have been
due to fallen tobacco tinder. The individual within this travesty of
clothing was painfully propelling a wheelbarrow, in which rode (not
without complaint) a substantial woman and a baby. An older child
trailed from the Palm Beach coat-tail.

These jovial vagabonds, as the reader will have suspected, were no
other than Theodolinda Chuff, Virgil Quimbleton, and the family of
Bleaks.

Affairs had gone steadily from bad to worse. After the incident--or, as
some blasphemously called it, the miracle--at Cana, Bishop Chuff had
commenced ruthless warfare. Enraged beyond control by the perfidy of
his daughter, he had sent out the armies of the Pan-Antis to wreak
vengeance on every human enterprise that could be suspected of
complicity in the matter of fermentation. Not only had the countryside
been laid waste, but the printing press had been abolished and all
publishing trades were now a thing of the past. This, of course, had
thrown Dunraven Bleak out of a job. He had retrieved his wife and
children from the seashore, and in company with Quimbleton and Miss
Chuff, and the noble and faithful horse John Barleycorn, they had led a
nomad existence for weeks, flying from bands of pursuing chuffs, and
bravely preaching their illicit gospel of good cheer in the face of
terrible dangers.

The girl, who was indeed the Jeanne d'Arc of their cause, was their
sole means of subsistence. It was her psychic powers that made it
possible for them, in a furtive way, to give their little
entertainments. Their method was, on reaching a village where there
were no chuff troops, to distribute certain handbills which Bleak had
been able to get printed by stealth. These read thus:

THE SIX QUIMBLETONS or The Decanterbury Pilgrims In Their Artistic
Revival Of Old and Entertaining Customs, Tableaux Vivants Vanished
Arts, Folklore Games and Conjuring Tricks Such as The Drinking of
Healths, Toasts, Nosepainting, The Lifted Elbow, Let's Match For It,
Say When, Light or Dark? and This One's On Me. COMMUNION WITH DEPARTED
SPIRITS Please Do Not Leave Before the Hat Goes Round

Having taken their station in some not too prominent place, Bleak would
mount the wheelbarrow and play Coming Through the Rye on a jew's-harp.
This, his sole musical accomplishment, was exceedingly distasteful to
him: all his training had been in the anonymity of a newspaper office,
and he felt his public humiliation bitterly.

When a crowd had gathered, Quimbleton would ascend the barrow and make
a brief speech (of a highly inflammatory and treasonable nature) after
which he would set up the small table and the brass rail, produce a
white apron and a tumbler from his knapsack, and introduce Theodolinda
for an alcoholic trance. It was found that the public entered into the
spirit of these seances with great gusto, and often the collection
taken up was gratifyingly large. However, the life was hazardous in the
extreme, and they were in perpetual danger of meeting secret service
agents. It was only by repeated private trances of their own that they
were able to keep up their morale.

Reaching a bend in the way, where a grove of trees cast a grateful
shade, the Decanterbury Pilgrims halted to rest. Quimbleton helped
Theodolinda down from her horse, and they all sat sadly by the roadside.

"Theo," said Quimbleton, as he wiped his brow, "do you think, dear,
that if I set up the table you could give us a little trance? Upon my
soul, I am nearly done in."

"Darling Virgil," said Theodolinda, "I really can't do it. You know
I've given you four trances already this morning, and you have communed
with the soul of Wurzburger at least a dozen times. Then, as you know,
I have put Mr. Bleak in touch with a julep six or seven times. All that
takes it out of me dreadfully. I really must consider my art a bit: I
don't want to be a mere psychic bartender, a clairvoyant distiller."

"You are quite right, dear girl," said Quimbleton remorsefully. "But I
couldn't help thinking how agreeable a psychical seidel of dark beer
would be just now. You are our little Jeanne Dark, you know," he added,
with an atrocious attempt at pleasantry.

"That's all very well," said Bleak (who preferred julep to beer), "but
if we don't look out Miss Chuff will go into a permanent trance. I've
noticed it has been harder and harder to bring her back from these
states of suspended sobriety. You know, if we crowd these phantasms of
the grape upon her too fast, she might pass over altogether, and stay
behind the bar for good. We are deeply indebted to Miss Chuff for her
adorable willingness to act as a kind of bunghole into the spirit
world, but we don't want her to slip through the hole and evaporate."

"Safety thirst!" cried Quimbleton, raising his loved one to his lips.

"We can't go on like this indefinitely," continued Bleak. "I don't mind
being a mountebank, but mountebanks don't pay much interest. I'd rather
be a safe deposit somewhere out of Chuff's reach. There's too much
drama in this way of living."

"I can stand the drama as long as I get the drams," said the
unrepentant Quimbleton.

"Well, _I_ won't stand it!" exclaimed Mrs. Bleak, shrilly. "Look what
your insane schemes have brought us to! You and my husband seem to find
comfort in your psychical toping, but I don't notice any psychical
millinery being draped about for Miss Chuff or myself. And look at the
children! They're simply in rags. If you really loved Miss Chuff I
should think you'd be ashamed to use her as a spiritual demijohn!
You've alienated her from her father, and reduced my husband from
managing editor of a leading paper to managing jew's-harpist of a gang
of psychic bootleggers." She burst into angry tears.

Quimbleton groaned, and turned a ghastly fade upon Bleak.

"It's quite true," he said.

In the excitement Miss Chuff had turned very pale.

"Virgil," she said faintly, "I believe I feel a trance coming on."

"Great grief!" cried the harassed leader. "Not now, my darling! I think
I see some troops in the distance. Quick, try to concentrate your mind
on lemonade, on buttermilk, on beef tea!"

Happily this crisis passed. Theodolinda had presence of mind enough to
pull out a little photograph of her father from some secret hiding
place, and by putting her mind on it shook off the dominion of the
other world.

Quimbleton spoke with anguished remorse.

"Mrs. Bleak is right. I've been trying to hide it from myself, but I
can do so no longer. This monkey business--what we might call this
gorilla warfare--must stop. We will only land in front of a firing
squad. I have only one idea, which I have been saving in case all else
failed."

The Bleaks were too discouraged to comment, but Theodolinda smiled
bravely.

"Virgil dear," she said, "your ideas are always so original. What is
it?"

Quimbleton stood up, unconsciously putting one foot on the portable
brass rail which rested on its six-inch legs by the roadside. His tired
eyes shone anew with characteristic enthusiasm. It was plain that he
imagined himself before a large and sympathetic audience.

"My friends," he said, "the secret of eloquence is to know your
facts--or, as the all-powerful Chuff would amend it, to know your
tracts. One fact, I think I may say, is plain. The jig is up, or (more
literally), the jag is up. I can see now that alcohol will never be
more than a memory. Principalities and powers are in league against us.
If the malt has lost its favor, wherewith shall it be malted?"

He paused a moment, as though expecting a little applause, and
Theodolinda murmured an encouraging "Here, here."

With rekindled eye he resumed.

"Alcohol, I say, will never be more than a memory. Yet even a memory
must be kept alive. The great tradition must not die. For the very sake
of antiquarian accuracy, for the instruction of posterity, some exact
record must be kept of the influence of alcohol upon the human soul.
How can this be preserved? Not in books, not in the dead mummies of a
museum. No, not in dead mummies, indeed, but in living rummies. That
brings me to my great idea, which I have long cherished.

"I propose, my dear friends, that in some appropriate shrine,
surrounded by all the authentic trappings and utensils, some chosen
individual be maintained at the public charge, to exhibit for the
contemplation of a drouthing world the immortal flame of intoxication.
He will be known, without soft concealments, as the Perpetual Souse. In
his little bar, served by austere attendants, he will be kept in a
state of gentle exhilaration. Nothing gross, nothing unseemly, I
insist! In that state of sweetly glowing mind and heart, in that
ineffable blossoming of all the nobler qualities of human dignity, this
priest of alcohol will represent and perpetuate the virtues of the
grape. Booze, in the general sense, will have gone West, but ah how
fair and ruddy a sunset will it have in the person of this its vicar!
There he will live, visited, studied, revered, a living memorial. There
he will live, perpetually in a mellow fume of bliss, trailing clouds of
glory, as if--as some poet says,

    As if his whole vocation
    Were endless intoxication.

And now, my friends--not to weary you with the minor details of this
far-reaching proposal--let me come to the point. For so gravely
responsible a post, for an office so representative of the ideals and
ambitions of millions, the choice cannot be cast haphazard. The choice
must fall upon one qualified, confirmed, consecrated to this end. This
deeply significant office must be conferred by the people themselves.
It must be conferred by popular election. Candidates must be nominated,
must stump the country explaining their qualifications. And let me say
that, upon looking over the whole field, I see one man, who by the jury
of his peers--or shall I say by the jury of his beers?--is supremely
fitted for this post. It is my intention to nominate Mr. Dunraven Bleak
for the office of Perpetual Souse."

There was a moment of complete silence while his hearers considered the
vast scope of this remarkable suggestion. It is only fair to say that
Mr. Bleak's face had at first lighted up, but then he glanced at his
wife and his countenance grew pinched. He spoke hastily:

"A very generous thought, my dear fellow; but I feel that you would be
far more competent for this form of public service than I could hope to
be."

"Your modesty does you credit," replied Quimbleton, "but you forget
that owing to my relation with Miss Chuff I shall happily be precluded
from the necessity of entering public life for this purpose."

"And what, pray," said Mrs. Bleak with distinct asperity, "is to become
of me and the children if Mr. Bleak is elected to this preposterous
office?"

"I was coming to that," said Quimbleton eagerly. "It would be arranged,
of course, that the Perpetual Souse would be granted a liberal salary
for his family expenses; you and your delightful children would be
maintained at the public expense in a suitable bungalow nearby, with a
private family entrance into the official cellars. Your rank, of
course, would be that of Perpetual Spouse."

"My good Quimbleton," said Bleak, somewhat bitterly, "this is a
fascinating vision indeed, but how can it be accomplished? How would
you ever get such a scheme accepted by Bishop Chuff, who will never
forgive you for kidnaping his daughter? You are building bar-rooms in
Spain, my dear chap; you are blowing mere soap-bubbles."

"And why not?" cried his friend. "Bishop Chuff has called me a soap-box
orator. At any rate, a man who stands upon a soap-box is nearer heaven
by several inches than the man who stands upon the ground."

Theodolinda's face sparkled with the impact of an idea.

"Come," she said, "it's not impossible after all. I have a thought.
We'll offer Father an armistice and talk things over with him. He
doesn't know what straits we're in, and maybe we can bring him to
terms. He was very badly scared by those gooseberry bombs, and maybe we
can bluff him into a concession."

"If we had had any luck," said Quimbleton, "we would have blown him
into a concussion. But anyway, that's a bonny scheme. We'll grant him a
truce. Bleak, you're a newspaper man, just get hold of the United Press
and let them know the armistice is signed."

Bleak smiled wanly at the thrust.

"All right," he said. "Let's go. But what's your idea, Miss Chuff? We
must have something to base negotiations on."

"Wait and see," she cried gayly. "We'll talk it over as we go along."

Mrs. Bleak aroused her children, who had fallen asleep, and climbed
back into the wheelbarrow.

"I don't know that I approve of that scheme of making Dunraven the
Perpetual Souse," she remarked. "I can imagine what my poor mother
would say about it if she were living. She came of fine old Kentucky
stock, and it would humiliate her deeply to know to what a level we had
been reduced."

"My dear Mrs. Bleak," said Quimbleton, as he hoisted his betrothed into
the saddle and the pilgrims began to move, "I know of a great deal of
good old Kentucky stock that has had a far worse fate than that in
these tragic years."



CHAPTER VIII

WITH BENEFIT OF CLERGY


Through the sullen streets of the terrorized city Miss Chuff,
Quimbleton and Bleak proceeded toward the great building where the
Pan-Antis had their headquarters. They had left Mrs. Bleak, the
children and the horse at a quiet soda-fountain in the suburbs. After
repeated application over the wireless telephone, the terrible
Bishop--the Prohibishop, as Quimbleton called him--had agreed to grant
them an audience, and had accorded them safe-conduct through the chuff
troops. Even so, their progress was difficult. Every few hundred yards
they were halted and subjected to curt inquiry. Men and women who had
heard of their gallant struggle against fearful odds pressed forward in
an attempt to seize their hands, to embrace and applaud them, but these
evidences of enthusiasm were sternly repressed by the chuffs.

Bleak was frankly nervous as they approached the Chuff Building.

"What line of talk are we going to adopt?" he asked.

"Like any self-respecting line," replied Quimbleton, "Ours will be the
shortest distance between two points. The first point is that we want
to obtain something from Chuff. The second is that we have some
information to give him which will be of immense value to him. This we
shall hold over him as a club, to force him to concede what we want."

"And what is this club?" asked Bleak, somewhat suspicious of his
friend's sanguine disposition.

"The admirable plan," said Quimbleton, "is Theodolinda's idea. She
knows her father better than we do. She says that his passion is for
prohibiting things. He thinks he has now prohibited everything
possible. We are in a position to tell him something that still remains
unprohibited. His eagerness to know what that may be will make him
yield to our request."

Bleak pondered gloomily. As far as he could recall, the Prohibition
Government had overlooked nothing. The quaint part of it was that some
of its prohibitions, carried to their logical extreme, had curiously
overleaped their mark. For instance, finding it impossible to enforce
the laws against playing games on Sundays, the Government had concluded
that the only way to make the Sabbath utterly immaculate was to abolish
it altogether, which was done. Other laws, probably based upon genuine
zeal for human welfare, had resulted in odd evasions or legal fictions.
For instance, people were forbidden to miss trains. The penalty for
missing a train was ten days' hard labor splitting infinitives in the
government tract-factory. Rather than impose this harsh punishment on
any one, good-hearted engineers would permit their trains to loiter
about the stations until they felt certain no other passengers would
turn up. Consequently no trains were ever on time, and the Government
was forced to do away with time entirely. Another thing that was
abolished was hot weather. It had been found too tedious to tilt the
axis of the earth, therefore all the thermometers were re-scaled. When
the temperature was really 96 degrees, the mercury registered only 70
degrees, and every one was saying how jolly cool it was for the time of
year. This, of course, was careless, for there was no such thing as
time or year, but still people kept on saying it. Bleak was thinking
over these matters when he suddenly recalled that it was forbidden to
remember things as they had been under the old regime. He pulled
himself up with a start. In order to make his mind a blank he tried to
imagine himself about to write a leading editorial for the Balloon.
This was so successful that he did not come to earth again until they
stood in the ante-room--or as Quimbleton called it, the anti-room--of
the Bishop.

"Who is to be spokesman?" he said apprehensively, gazing with distaste
at the angular females who were pecking at typewriters. "It would be
unseemly for me to present my own claims in this project. Quimbleton,
you are the one--you have the gift of the tongue."

"I would rather have the gift of the bung," whispered Quimbleton
resolutely as they were ushered into the inner sanctum.

The dreaded Bishop sat at an immense ebony flat-topped desk. The room
was furnished like his mind, that is to say, sparsely, and without any
southern exposure. A peculiarly terrifying feature of the scene was
that the top of the desk was completely bare, not a single paper lay on
it. Remembering his own desk in the newspaper office, Bleak felt that
this was unnatural and monstrous. He noticed a breathoscope on the
mantelpiece, with its sensitive needle trembling on the scaled dial
which read thus:--

As he watched the indicator oscillate rapidly on the dial, and finally
subside uncertainly at zero, he thanked heaven that they had indulged
in no psychic grogs that day.

The Bishop's black beard foamed downward upon the desk like a gloomy
cataract. Quimbleton for a moment was almost abashed, and regretted
that he had not thought to whitewash his own dingy thicket.

Bishop Chuff's piercing and cruel gaze stabbed all three. He ignored
Theodolinda with contempt. His disdain was so complete that (as the
unhappy girl said afterward) he seemed more like a younger brother than
a father. There were no chairs: they were forced to stand. In a small
mirror fastened to the edge of his desk the sneering potentate could
note the dial-reading of the instrument without turning. He watched the
reflected needle flicker and come to rest.

"So, Mr. Quimbleton," he said, in a harsh and untuned voice, "You come
comparatively sober. Strange that you should choose to be unintoxicated
when you face the greatest ordeal of your life."

The savage irony of this angered Quimbleton.

"One touch of liquor makes the whole world kin," he said. "I assure you
I have no desire to claim kinship with your bitter and intolerant soul."

"Ah?" said the Bishop, with mock politeness. "You relieve me greatly. I
had thought you desired to claim me as father-in-law."

"Oh, Parent!" cried Theodolinda; "How can you be so cruel? Sarcasm is
such a low form of humor."

"I am not trying to be humorous," said the Bishop grimly. "You, who
were once the apple of my eye, are now only an apple of discord. You,
whom I considered such a promising child, are now a breach of promise.
You have sucked my blood. You are a Vampire."

"The Vampire on whom the sun never sets," whispered Quimbleton to the
terrified girl, encouraging her as she shrank against him.

"This is no time for jest," said the Bishop angrily. "You said you had
a matter of vital import to lay before me. Make haste. And remember
that you are here only on sufferance. I shall be pitiless. I shall
scourge the evil principle you represent from the face of the earth."

"We do not fear your threats," said Quimbleton stoutly. "We are not
alarmed by your frown."

He was, greatly, but he was sparring for time to put his thoughts in
order. He started to say "Uneasy lies the head that wears a frown,"
which was an aphorism of his own he thought highly of, but Theodolinda
checked him. She knew that her father detested puns. It was perhaps his
only virtue.

"Bishop Chuff," said Quimbleton, "perhaps you are not aware of the
strength and tenacity of the sentiment we represent. I assure you that
if you underestimate the power of the millions of thirsty mouths that
speak through us, you will rue the consequences. Trouble is brewing--"

"Neither trouble, nor anything else, is brewing nowadays," said the
terrible Bishop.

Theodolinda saw that Quimbleton was losing ground by his incorrigible
habit of talking before he said anything. She broke in impetuously, and
explained the plan for the Perpetual Souse. Her father listened to the
end with his cold, forbidding gaze, while the sensitive needle of the
recording instrument on the mantel danced and wagged in agitation.

"So this is your scheme, is it?" he said. "Abandoned offspring, you
deserve the gallows."

"Wait a moment," said Quimbleton. "Now comes the other side of the
argument. If you grant us this concession we in turn will put you in
possession of a magnificent idea. You think that you have prohibited
everything. Your vetoes cumber the earth. But there is still one thing
you have forgotten to prohibit."

"What is it?" said the Bishop coldly. His hard face was unmoved, but
his eyes brightened a trifle.

"There is one thing you have forgotten to prohibit," said Quimbleton
solemnly. "I can hardly conceive how it escaped you. The one thing that
harasses human beings over the whole civilized world. The one thing
which, if you were to abolish it, would make your name, foul as that
now is, blessed in the ears of men. Oh, the joy of still having
something to prohibit! The unmixed bliss and high privilege of the
vetoing function! I envy you, from my heart, in still having something
to forbid."

The Bishop stirred uneasily in his chair. "What is it?" he said.

Quimbleton watched him with a steady and slightly annoying smile.

"I like to dwell in imagination upon your surprise when you realize
what you have overlooked. It seems so simple! To abolish, prohibit,
banish, and remove, at one swoop, the chief preoccupation of mankind!
The simple and high-minded felicity of still having something
prohibitable subject to your omnipotent legislation! But there, I dare
say I am wrong. Probably you are weary of prohibiting things."

Quimbleton made a motion to his companions as though to leave the room.
The Bishop leaped to his feet, with curiously mingled anger and
eagerness on his face. "Stop!" he cried. "You can't mean laughter? I
abolished that some weeks ago. I don't believe there is anything left--"

"How quaint it is," said Quimbleton (as though talking to himself),
"that it is always the plainly obvious that eludes! But, of course, the
reason you have not abolished this matter before is that to do so would
wholly alter and undermine the habits of the race. Nothing would be the
same as before. I daresay a good deal of misery would be caused in the
long run, who knows? Ah well, it seems a pity you forgot it--"

"Hell's bells!" roared the Bishop, bringing his fist down on the desk
with fury--"What is it? Let me get at it!"

"I should be sorry to marry into a profane family," was Quimbleton's
reply, moving toward the door.

The Bishop chewed the end of his beard with a crunching sound. This
unpleasant gesture caused a tingle to pass along Bleak's sensitive
spine, already strained to painful nervous tension. The office of the
Perpetual Souse hung in the balance.

"Look here," said Bishop Chuff, "If I let you have your way about
the--the Permanent Exhibit, will you tell me what it is I have
forgotten to prohibit?"

"With pleasure," said Quimbleton. "Will you put it down in black and
white, please?"

He secured the Bishop's signature to a document giving instructions for
the necessary legislation to be passed. Folding the precious paper in
his pocket, Quimbleton faced the black-browed Bishop. He held
Theodolinda by the hand.

"I am sorry," he said, "that I should have forgotten to bring a ring
with me. If I had done so, you might have married us here and now. At
least you will not refuse us your blessing?"

"Blessings have been abolished," said Chuff in a voice of exasperation.
"Now inform me what it is that I have forgotten to condemn."

"Work!" cried Quimbleton, and the three ran hastily from the room.



CHAPTER IX

THE ELECTION


In the days following Quimbleton's coup Chuff was in seclusion. It was
rumored that he was ill; it was rumored that the sounds of breaking
furniture had been heard by the neighbors on Caraway Street. But at any
rate the Bishop lived up to his word. Orders over his signature went to
Congress, and vast sums of money were appropriated immediately for

The establishment and maintenance of a national park with suitable
buildings and appurtenances wherein might be maintained an elected
individual in a state of freedom, with access to alcoholic beverages,
in order that successive generations might view for themselves the
devastating effects of alcohol upon the human system.

No political campaign was ever contested with more zeal and zest than
that which led up to the election of the Perpetual Souse. Life had
grown rather dreary under the innumerable prohibitions of the Chuff
regime, and the citizens welcomed the excitement of the campaign as a
notable diversion. Quimbleton appointed himself chairman of the
committee to nominate Bleak, and the editor (acting under his friend's
instructions) had hardly begun to deny vigorously that he had any
intention of being a candidate before he found himself plunged into a
bewildering vortex of meetings, speeches, and confessions of faith.
Marching clubs, properly outfitted with two-quart silk tiles and frock
coats, were spatting their way plumply down the Boulevard. Torchlight
processions tinted the night; ward picnics strewed the shells of
hard-boiled eggs on the lawns of suburban amusement parks, while Bleak,
very ill at ease, was kissing adhesive babies and autographing tissue
napkins and smiling horribly as he whirled about with the grandmothers
in the agony of the carrousel. More than once, reeling with the endless
circuit of a painted merry-go-round charger, the perplexed candidate
became so confused that he kissed the paper napkin and autographed the
baby.

He found Quimbleton a stern ringleader. Virgil was not satisfied with
the old-fashioned method of stumping the country from the taff-rail of
a Pullman car, and insisted on strapping Bleak into the cockpit of a
biplane and flying him from city to city. They would land in some
central square, and the candidate, deafened and half-frozen, would
stammer a few halting remarks. He felt it rather keenly that Quimbleton
looked down on his lack of oratorical gift, and it was a frequent
humiliation that when words did not prosper on his tongue his impatient
pilot would turn on the motors and zoom off into space in the very
middle of a sentence.

Nevertheless, the campaign went famously. Bleak had one considerable
advantage in being comparatively unknown. He had never permitted
himself the luxury of making enemies: except for a few ex-reporters who
had once worked on the Balloon he had not a foe in the world.
Quimbleton had been eager to import a covey of gunmen from other
cities, but when these arrived there was really nothing for them to do.
They were glad to accept jobs from Bishop Chuff, and were well paid for
waylaying and sniping the few grapes and apples that had escaped
previous pogroms.

There was only one plank in Bleak's modest platform, but he walked it
so happily that it began to look like a gangplank leading onto the Ship
of State. He expressed his doctrine very agreeably in his speech
accepting the party nomination; though credit should be given to
Theodolinda, who had assisted him by a little private seance before he
addressed the convention.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said (looking as he spoke at one of the
handbills announcing his candidacy for the dignity of mouthpiece of the
nation)--"I issue dodgers, but I never dodge the issue. I can Take It
or Let It Alone, but frankly, I prefer to Take It. I hope I speak
modestly: yet candor insists that both by past training and present
inclination I feel myself fitted to deal with the problems of this
exalted office. If elected to this high place of trust I shall regard
myself solely as the servant of the public, solely as the
representative of your sovereign will. As I raise the glass or peel the
lemon, I shall not act in any individual capacity. My own good cheer (I
beg you to believe) will be my last thought. I shall remember, in every
gesture and every gulp, that my thirst is in reality the Thirst of a
Nation, delegated to me by ballot; that my laughter and song (if things
should go so far) are truly the mirth and music of a proud people
expressing themselves through me. I shall be at all times accessible to
my fellow-men, solicitous to hear their counsel and command. Believing
(as I do) in moderation, yet I should not dream of permitting private
sentiment to interfere with public interest when more violent measures
should seem desirable.

"I like to think, my fellow-citizens, that you have conferred this
nomination upon me not wholly at random. I like to think that I am only
expressing your thought when I say that many drinkers have been the
worst enemies of the cause we all hold dear. The alcoholshevik and the
I.W.W.--the I Wallow in Wine faction--have done much to discredit the
old bland Jeffersonian toper who carried tippling to the level of a
fine art. I have no patience with the doctrine of complete immersion.
Ever since I was first admitted to the bar I have deplored the conduct
of those violent and vulgar revelers who have brought discredit upon
the loveliest, most delicate art known to man. Now, at last, by supreme
wisdom, drinking is to be elevated to the dignity of a career. I like
to think that I express your sentiment when I say that drinking is too
precious, too subtle, too fragile a function to be entrusted to the
common crowd. Therefore I heartily applaud your admirable intention of
entrusting it entirely to me, and look forward with profound
satisfaction to the privilege of enshrining and perpetuating in my own
person the genial traditions that have clustered round the institution
of Liquor. If elected, I shall endeavor to carry on the fine old
rituals and pass them down unimpaired to the next incumbent. I shall
endeavor to make duty a pleasure, and pleasure a duty. I shall remind
myself that I am only performing the service to humanity that each one
of you would willingly render if you were in my place.

"My fellow-citizens, I thank you for your amiable confidence, and am
happy to accept the nomination."

There were some who criticized this speech on the ground that it was
too academic. It was remembered that Mr. Bleak had at one time been a
school-teacher, and his opponents were quick to raise the cry "What can
a schoolmaster know about liquor?" It was said that Mr. Bleak was too
scholarly, too aloof, too cold-blooded: that his interest in booze was
merely philosophical, that he would be incompetent to deal with the
practical problems of actual drinking: that he would surround himself
with drinks that would be mere puppets, subservient entirely to his own
purposes. The adherents of Jerry Purplevein, the nominee of the other
party, made haste to assert that Bleak was not a drinker at all but was
a tool of the Chuff machine. Jerry was a former bartender who had been
pining away in the ice-cream cone business. Huge banners appeared
across the streets, showing highly colored pictures of Mr. Purplevein
plying his original profession, with the legend:

    RALLY ROUND THE FLAGON

    VOTE FOR

    PURPLEVEIN

    THE PRACTICAL MAN


One of the exciting features of the campaign was the sudden appearance
of a Woman's Party, which launched an ably-conducted boom for a Woman
Souse and nominated Miss Cynthia Absinthe as its candidate. The idea of
having a woman elected to this responsible office was disconcerting to
many citizens, but Miss Absinthe's record (as outlined by her publicity
headquarters) compelled respect. She was reputed to have been a
passionate and tumultuous consumer of sloe gin, and thousands of women
in white bartenders' coats marched with banners announcing:

    ABSINTHE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER VOTE FOR CYNTHIA

and

    OUR SLOGAN IS SLOE GIN


For a while there was quite a probability that the male vote would be
so split by Bleak and Purplevein that Miss Absinthe would come in
ahead. But at the height of the campaign she was found in a pharmacy
drinking a maple nut foam. After this her cause declined rapidly, and
even her most ardent partisans admitted that she would never be more
than an Intermittent Souse.

Purplevein's followers, in their desperate efforts to discredit Bleak,
overplayed their hand (as "practical politicians" always do). The
sagacious Quimbleton outmaneuvered them at every turn. Moderate
drinkers rallied round Bleak. Moreover, the Bleak party had an
irresistible assistant in the person of Miss Chuff, who put her trances
unreservedly at Dunraven's disposal. In this way Quimbleton was able to
produce his candidate before a monster mass meeting at the Opera House
in a state of becoming exhilaration. This forever put an end to the
rumor that Bleak was not a practical man. Miss Chuff also campaigned
strenuously among the women, where Purplevein (being a bachelor) was at
a disadvantage. "Vote for Bleak," cried Miss Chuff--"He has a wife to
help him." Purplevein's argument that the office of Perpetual Souse
should be an entirely stag affair fell dead before Theodolinda's
glowing description of the Hostess House which Mrs. Bleak would conduct
next door to the little temple which was to be erected by the
government for the successful candidate.

Despite the exhaustion of the campaign, Bleak stood it well.
Quimbleton, knowing the disastrous effects of over-confidence, kept his
man at fighting edge by a little judicious pessimism now and then, and
rumors of the popularity of Purplevein among the hard drinkers. Day
after day Quimbleton and Miss Chuff, after a little psychic communing,
would prop the editor among cushions in the big gray limousine and spin
him about the city and suburbs to bow, smile, say a few automatic words
and pass on. Over the car floated a big banner with the words: Let
Bleak Do Your Drinking For You: He Knows How. The unhappy Purplevein,
who had to do his electioneering in a state of chill sobriety, was
aghast to see the beaming and gently flushed face of his rival
radiating cheer. At the eleventh hour he tried to change his tactics
and plastered the billboards with immense posters:

    BLEAK DOESN'T NEED THE JOB--HE'S SOUSED ALREADY

This line of argument might perhaps have been powerful if adopted
earlier, but by that time the agreeable vision of Bleak's ascetic
features wreathed in a faintly spiritual benignance was already firmly
fixed in the public imagination. The little celluloid button showing
his transfigured and endearing smile was worn on millions of lapels. As
one walked down the street one met that little badge hundreds of times,
and the mere repetition of the tenderly exhilarated face seemed to many
a citizen a beautiful and significant thing. Men are altruistic at
heart. They saw that Bleak would make of this high office a richly
eloquent and appealing stewardship. They were reconciled to their own
abstinence in the thought that the dreams and desires of their own
hearts would be so nobly fulfilled by him. Alcohol was gone forever,
and perhaps it was as well. They themselves were conscious of having
abused its sacred powers. But now, in the person of this chosen
representative, all that was lovely and laughable in the old customs
would be consecrated and enshrined forever. Men who had known Bleak in
the days of his employment on the Balloon recollected that even during
the cares and efforts of his profession little incidents had occurred
that might have shown (had they been shrewd enough to notice) how
faithfully he was preparing himself for the great responsibility
destiny held concealed.

The day of the election was declared a national festival. The Chuff
government, a good deal startled by the universal seriousness and
enthusiasm shown in the enrollment at the primaries, was disposed (in
secret) to regard the office of Perpetual Souse as a helpful compromise
on a vexed question. The war against Nature had been only partially
successful: indeed the chuff chief-of-staff declared that Nature had
not learned her lesson yet, and that some irreconcilable berries and
fruits were still waging a guerilla fermentation, thus rupturing the
armistice terms. The countryside had been ravaged, all the Chautauqua
lecturers were hoarse, industry was at a standstill, misery and despair
were widespread. Even the indomitable Chuff himself was a little
nonplussed. Better (he thought) one man indubitably, decorously,
publicly, and legally drunk, than millions of citizens privily
attempting to cajole raisins and apples into illicit sprightliness.

The citizens went to the polls in a mood of exalted self-denial. They
knew that they were voting away their own rights, but they also knew
that their private ideals would be more than realized in the legalized
frenzy of their representative. Bleak, appearing on the balcony of his
hotel, smiled affectionately on the loyal faces that cheered him from
below. He was deeply moved. To Quimbleton (who was supporting him from
behind) he said: "Their generosity is wonderful. I shall try to be
worthy of their confidence. I hope I may have strength to put into
practice the frustrated desires of these noble people."

The result of the polling was to be announced by a searchlight from the
City Hall. A white beam sweeping eastward would mean the election of
Purplevein. A white beam sweeping westward would mean the triumph of
Miss Absinthe. A steady red beam cast upward toward the zenith would
indicate the victory of Bleak.

At ten o'clock that night a scream of cheers burst from millions of
people packed along the city streets. A clear, glowing shaft of red
light leaped upward into the sky. Dunraven Bleak had been elected
Perpetual Souse.

Purplevein, who was rather a decent sort, hastened to Bleak's hotel to
offer his congratulations. Bleak, who was sitting quietly with Mrs.
Bleak, Quimbleton and Theodolinda, greeted him calmly. Poor Purplevein
was very much broken up, and Quimbleton and Theodolinda, in the
goodness of their hearts, arranged a quiet little seance for his
benefit. They all sat their drinking psychic Three-Star in honor of the
event. As Quimbleton said, helping Purplevein back to his motor--"Hitch
your flagon to a Star."



CHAPTER X

E PLURIBUS UNUM!


Virgil and Theodolinda were returning from their honeymoon, which they
had spent touring in Quimbleton's Spad plane. They had been in South
America most of the time, where they found charming hosts eager to
console them for the tragical developments in the northern continent.

It was a superb morning in early autumn when they were flying homeward.
Beneath them lay the green and level meadows of New Jersey, and the
dusky violet blue of the ocean shading to a translucent olive where
long ridges of foam crumbled upon pale beaches. They turned inland,
flying leisurely to admire the beauty of the scene. The mounting sun
spread a golden shimmer over woods and corn-stubble. White roads ran
like ribbons across the landscape. Quimbleton glided gently downward,
intending to skim low over the treetops so that his bride might enjoy
the rich loveliness of the view.

Suddenly the great plane dipped sharply, tilted, and very nearly fell
into a side-slip. Quimbleton was just able to pull her up again and
climbed steeply to a safer altitude. He looked at his dashboard dials
and indicators with a puzzled face. "Very queer," he said to
Theodolinda through the speaking tube, "the air here has very little
carrying power. It seems extraordinarily thin. You might think we were
flying in a partial vacuum."

From the behavior of the plane it was evident that some curious
atmospheric condition was prevailing. There seemed to be a large hole
or pocket in the air, and in spite of his best efforts the pilot was
unable to get on even wing. Finally, fearing to lapse into a tail spin,
he planed down to make a landing. Beneath them was a beautiful green
lawn surrounded by groves of trees. In the middle of this lawn they
struck gently, taxied across the smooth turf, and came to a stop
beneath a splendid oak. Quimbleton assisted his wife to get out, and
they sat down for a few minutes' rest under the tree.

"What a heavenly spot!" cried Theodolinda, "I wonder where we are?"

"Somewhere in New Jersey," said her husband. "I don't understand what
was the matter with the air. It didn't act according to Hoyle."

They gazed about them in some surprise at the opulent beauty of the
scene. It seemed to be a kind of park, laid out in lawns, gardens and
shrubbery, with groves of old trees here and there. A little artificial
lake twinkled in a hollow.

They happened to be gazing upward when a small round ball of tawny
color fell from the tree. It was a robin. Folded solidly for sleep, he
fell unresisting by the flutter of a wing, turning over and over gently
until he struck the turf with the tiniest of soft thuds. He bounced
slightly, rolled a little distance, and settled motionless in the grass.

Quimbleton, amazed, stooped over the fallen bird, supposing it to be
dead. Without lifting it from the ground he withdrew its head from
under its wing. The bright eye unlidded and gazed at him sleepily. Then
the bird closed its eye with a certain weary resignation, put its head
back under its wing, and relaxed comfortably in the grass.

Quimbleton was no very acute student of nature, but this seemed very
odd to him. And then, examining the lower limbs of the tree, he uttered
an exclamation. He swung himself up into the oak and shook one of the
branches. Five other birds plopped comfortably into the grass and
rested as easily as the first. He examined them one by one. They were
all sound asleep.

"Most amazing!" he said. "My dear, we will have to take up nature
study. I am really ashamed of my ignorance. I always thought that owls
were the only birds that slept by day."

Theodolinda was looking at the five small bodies. She raised one of
them gently, and sniffed gingerly.

"Virgil," she said solemnly, "this is not mere slumber. These birds are
drunk!"

Quimbleton was about to speak when a grasshopper went by like an
airplane, zooming in a twenty-foot leap. A bee sagged along heavily in
an irregular zig-zag, and a caterpillar, more agile and purposeful than
any caterpillar they had ever seen, staggered swiftly across a carpet
of moss.

The same thought struck them simultaneously, and at that moment
Theodolinda noticed a small white signboard affixed to a tree-trunk in
the grove. They ran to it, and saw in neat lettering:

    TO THE PERPETUAL SOUSE, ONE MILE

"Bless me!" cried Quimbleton. "What a stroke of luck! You know old
Bleak wrote us when we were in Rio that he had been installed in his
temple, but he didn't say where it was. Let's toddle up and have a look
at him. That's why the bus acted so queerly. No wonder: we were
probably flying in alcohol vapor."

They walked through the grove and emerged upon a lawn that sloped
gently upward. At the brow stood a beautiful little temple of Greek
architecture. As they approached they read, carved into the marble
architrave:

    AEDES TEMULENTI PERPETUI
    E PLURIBUS UNUM

The little porch, under the marble columns, was cool and shady. A
signboard said: Visiting Hours, Noon to Midnight. Quimbleton looked at
his watch. "It's not noon yet," he said, "but as we're old friends I
dare say he'll be willing to see us."

Pushing through a slatted swinging door of beautifully carved bronze,
they found themselves in a charmingly furnished reference library.
There were lounges and deep leather chairs, and ash trays for smokers.
Quimbleton, who was something of a bookworm, ran his eye along the
shelves. "A very neat idea," he said. "They have collected a little
library of all the standard works on drink. This should be of great
value to future historians and researchers."

Through another swinging door they found the central shrine.

It was circular in shape, illuminated through a clear skylight. Under
the rotunda was a low, broad marble counter, surmounted by a gleaming
mirror and a noble array of bottles, flasks, decanters, goblets and
glasses of every size. The pale yellow of white wines, the ruby of
claret, the tawny brown of port, the green and violet and rose of
various liqueurs, sparkled in their appointed vessels. In front of this
altar stood a three-foot mahogany bar, with its scrolled rim and
diminutive brass rail, all complete. A red velvet cord hung from brass
posts separated it from the open floor.

A series of mural paintings, in the vivid coloring and superb technique
of Maxfield Parrish, adorned the walls of the room. They portrayed the
history of Alcohol from the dawn of time down to the summer of 1919. A
space for one more painting was left blank, and Mr. and Mrs. Quimbleton
concluded that the artist was still at work upon the final panel.

An attendant in white was polishing glasses behind the tiny bar. He was
an elderly man with a pink clean-shaven face and the initials P. S.
were embroidered on the collar of his starched jacket. There was an air
of evident pride in his bearing as he listened to their exclamations of
admiration.

"Your first visit, sir?" he said.

"Yes," said Quimbleton. "I must confess I had no idea it would be as
fine as this. What time does Mr. Bleak get in?"

"He usually opens up with a nip of Scotch about eleven-thirty," said
the bartender. "Just so as to get up a little circulation before
opening time. He's got a hard afternoon before him to-day," he added.

"How do you mean?" said Quimbleton.

"One of the excursion trains coming. The railroad runs cheap excursions
here three days a week, and the crowds is enormous. When there's a
bunch like that there's always a lot wants Mr. Bleak to take some
special drink they used to be partial to, just to recall old times. Of
course, being what you might call a servant of the public, he doesn't
like not to oblige. But I doubt whether he's got the constitution to
stand it long. The other day the Mint Julep Veterans of Kentucky held a
memorial day here, and Mr. Bleak had to sink fifteen juleps to satisfy
them. I tell him not to push himself too far, but he's still pretty new
at the job. He likes to go over the top every day."

"Your face is very familiar," said Theodolinda. "Where have we seen you
before?"

"I wondered if you'd recognize me," said the bartender. "I've shaved
off my mustache. I'm Jerry Purplevein. When I was turned down in that
election I thought this would be the next best thing. As a matter of
fact, it's better. I don't really care for the stuff; I just like to
see it around. Miss Absinthe felt the same way. She's head stewardess
up to the Hostess House."

"It seems to me I used to see you somewhere in New York," said
Quimbleton.

"I was head bar at the Hotel Pennsylvania," said Jerry. "We had the
finest bar in the world, had only been running a couple of months when
prohibition come in. They turned it into a soda fountain. Ah, that was
a tragedy! But this is a grand job. Government service, you see: sure
pay, tony surroundings, and what you might call steady custom. Mr.
Bleak is as nice a gentleman to mix 'em for as I ever see."

"But what is this for?" asked Theodolinda, pointing to a beautiful
marble cash register. "Surely Mr. Bleak doesn't have to BUY his drinks?"

"No, ma'am," said Jerry, "but he likes to have 'em rung up same as
customary. He says it makes it seem more natural. Here he is now!"

Jerry flew to attention behind the three-foot bar, and they turned to
see their friend enter through the bronze swinging doors.

"Well, well!" cried Bleak. "This is a delightful surprise!"

He was dressed in a lounging suit of fine texture, and while he seemed
a little thinner and paler, and his eyes a little weary, he was in
excellent spirits.

"Come," he said, "you're just in time for a bite of lunch. Jerry,
what's on the counter to-day?"

Jerry bustled proudly over to the free-lunch counter, whipped off the
steam-covers, and disclosed a fragrant joint of corned beef nestling
among cabbages and boiled potatoes. With the delight of the true artist
he seized a long narrow carving knife, gave it a few passes along a
steel, and sliced off generous portions of the beef onto plates bearing
the P. S. monogram. This they supplemented with other selections from
the liberally supplied free-lunch counter. Soft, crumbling orange
cheese, pickles, smoked sardines, chopped liver, olives, pretzels--all
the now-forgotten appetizers were laid out on broad silver platters.

"I wish I could offer you a drink," said Bleak, "but as you know, it
would be unconstitutional. With your permission, I shall have to have
something. My office hours begin shortly, and some one might come in."

He took up his station at the little bar behind the velvet cord, and
slid his left foot onto the miniature rail. Jerry, with the air of an
artist about to resume work on his favorite masterpiece, stood
expectant.

"A little Scotch, Jerry," said Bleak.

In the manner reminiscent of an elder day Jerry wiped away imaginary
moisture from the mahogany with a deft circular movement of a white
cloth. Turning to the gleaming pyramid of glassware, he set out the
decanter of whiskey, a small empty glass, and a twin glass two-thirds
full of water. His motions were elaborately careless and automatic, but
he was plainly bursting with joy to be undergoing such expert and
affectionate scrutiny.

Bleak poured out three fingers of whiskey, and held up the baby tumbler.

"Here's to the happy couple!" he cried, and drank it in one swift,
practiced gesture. He then swallowed about a tablespoonful of the
water. Jerry removed the utensils, again wiped the immaculate bar, and
rang the cashless cash-register. The Perpetual Souse smiled happily.

"That's how it's done," he said. "Do you remember?"

"We're just back from South America," said Quimbleton.

"Some of the boys from the old Balloon office were in here the other
day," said Bleak. "I'm afraid it was rather too much for them--in an
emotional way, I mean. I tossed off a few for their benefit, and one of
them--the cartoonist he used to be, perhaps you remember him--fainted
with excitement."

"Well, how do you like the job?" said Quimbleton.

Bleak did not answer this directly. Making an apology to Jerry and
promising to be back in a few minutes, he escorted his visitors round
the temple and gave them some of the picture postcards of himself that
were sold to souvenir hunters at five cents each. He showed them the
cafeteria for the convenience of visitors, the Hostess House (where
they found Mrs. Bleak comfortably installed), the ice-making machinery,
the private brewery, and the motor-truck used to transport supplies. In
a corner of the garden they found the children playing.

"It's a good thing the children enjoy playing with empty bottles," said
Bleak. "It's getting to be quite a problem to know what to do with
them. I'm using some of them to make a path across the lawn, bury them
bottom up, you know.

"But you ask how I like it? I would never admit it before Jerry,
because the good fellow expects more of me than I am able to fulfill,
but as a matter of fact this is hardly a one-man job. There ought to be
at least seven of us, each to go on duty one day a week. No--you see,
being a kind of government museum, I don't even get Sundays off because
lots of people can only get here that day. Next after Mount Vernon and
Independence Hall, I get more visitors than any other national shrine.
And almost all of them expect me to have a go at their favorite drink
while they're watching me. Being what you might call the most public
spirited man in the country, I have to oblige them as much as possible.
But I doubt whether I shall be a candidate for reelection.

"I think the government has rather overestimated my capacity," he
continued. "They import a shipload of stuff from abroad every month,
and send an auditor here to check over my empties. I've been hard put
to it to get away with all the stuff. I've had to fall back on your old
plan of using wine to irrigate the garden. It's had rather a
dissipating effect on the birds and insects, though. Really, you ought
to spend an evening here some time. The birds sing all night long: they
have to sleep it off in the morning. A robin with a hang-over is one of
the funniest things in the world."

"We saw one!" cried Theodolinda. "He was more than hanging over--he had
fallen right off!"

"There's a butterfly here," said Bleak--"Rather a friend of mine, who
can give a bumble bee the knock-out after he gets his drop of rum. I've
seen him chase a wasp all over the lot."

From the temple came the sound of chimes striking twelve, and down in
the valley they heard the whistle of a train.

"There's the excursion train leaving Souse Junction," said Bleak. "I
must get back to the bar!"

They returned to the shrine, and Bleak entered his little enclosure.

"Jerry," he said, "the crowd will soon be here. I must get busy. What
do you recommend?"

"Better stick to the Scotch," said Jerry, and put the decanter on the
mahogany. Bleak drank two slugs hastily, and turned to his friends with
an almost wistful air.

"Come again and stay longer," he said. "I see so many strangers, I get
homesick for a friendly face." He called Quimbleton aside. "Does Mrs.
Quimbleton keep up her trances?" he whispered.

"Not recently," said Virgil. "You see, in South America there was no
necessity--but when we get settled--"

"You are a lucky fellow," whispered Bleak. "All the enjoyment without
any of the formalities!" And he added aloud, grasping their hands,
"Next time, come in the evening. A man in my line of work is hardly at
his best before nightfall."

As they walked back to the plane, Mr. and Mrs. Quimbleton saw the
excursionists, a thousand or so, hastening through the park on foot and
in huge sight-seeing cars where men with megaphones were roaring
comments. One group of pedestrians bore a large banner lettered EGG NOG
MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION OF CAMDEN, N. J.

"Poor Mr. Bleak!" said Theodolinda. "On top of all that Scotch!"

When they took the air again they circled over the temple at a safe
height. They could see the crowd gathered densely round the little
white columns. Virgil shut off the motor for a moment, and even at that
distance they could hear the sound of cheers.



CHAPTER XI

IT'S A LONG WORM THAT HAS NO TURNING


Bishop Chuff sat sourly in his office and sighed for more worlds to
canker. Round the room stood the tall filing cases containing card
indexes of prohibited offences, and he looked gloomily over the crowded
drawers in the vain hope of finding something that had been overlooked.
He pulled out a drawer at random--Schedule K-36, Minor Social
Offenses--and ran his embittered eye over a card. It was marked
Conversational Felonies, and began thus:

    Arguing
    Blandishing
    Buffoonery
    Contradicting
    Demurring
    Ejaculating
    Exaggerating
    Facetiousness
    Giggling
    Hemming and Hawing
    Implying
    Insisting
    Jesting

Each item also referred to another card on which the penalty was noted
and legal test cases summarized.

"No," he brooded, "there is nothing left."

Even the most loyal of the Bishop's Staff admitted that he was far from
well, and it was decided that he ought to take a vacation. He himself
concurred in this, and as the home resorts were no longer places of
mirth and glee, he determined to go to Europe. This would have the
added advantage of enabling him to spend some time conferring with
prohibition leaders abroad as to ways and means of converting Europe to
his schemes of reform. Everyone in the office showed genuine
unselfishness in making plans for the Bishop's vacation, and he was
urged to stay away as long as he felt he could be spared. Europe, too,
was much excited over the prospect of his coming, and the British prime
minister was questioned on the subject in the House of Commons. For his
entertainment on the voyage a set of twelve beautiful folio volumes,
bound in black morocco, were prepared. They contained a digest of
prohibition legislation which Chuff had been instrumental in having put
on the statutes. For the first time in years the Bishop was cheered as
he passed about the streets, and he realized that he had never known
how popular he was until it was announced that he was going away.

But still he was not content. One morning, not long before the date set
for his sailing, he sat gloomily at his desk. He was engaged in making
his will, and had found to his secret bitterness that after bequeathing
a few personal trinkets to the office staff there was really no one to
whom he could leave the bulk of his misfortune. Theodolinda, of course,
he had quite cut off from his estate. He only knew that she was living
somewhere with the degraded Quimbleton, carrying on a little psychic
tavern which no laws could reach, in a state of criminal happiness.

From the street, far beneath his open window, he heard the clamor of a
police patrol and leaned eagerly over the sill in the hope of seeing
something that would cheer his black mood. But it was only a man being
arrested for leaning against a lamp-post--a rather common offence at
that time, for most of the normal occupations of the citizens had been
prohibited, and they mooned about the highways in a state of listless
discontent. But then, farther down the channel of the street, he saw
something that caught his eye. A group of people were marching with
flags and signs toward the railway station. SATURDAY SCHOOL PICNIC TO
SOUSE TEMPLE, he read on a banner. He noticed that in spite of all the
laws against smiling in public, these people bore a look of suppressed
merriment. They were obviously out for a good time. A sudden thought
struck him.

That afternoon, in impenetrable disguise, the Bishop paid his first
visit to the Temple of Dunraven Bleak.

The next morning, when his subordinates came to see him about the final
plans for his departure, they were horrified to find him sitting at his
desk wearing in the recesses of his beard what would have been called
(on any other man) a smile.

"I have changed my mind," he said. "I am not going away."

They cried out in amazement, and pointed out to him how sorely in need
of relaxation he was.

"I am planning relaxation," he said, and that was all they could get
out of him.

Later in the day a confidential messenger was dispatched to the private
printing press of the Chuff Organization, bearing the text of a poster
which was found broadcast over the whole country a few days later. It
ran thus:

  AT THE NEXT ELECTION

  For Perpetual Souse

  VOTE FOR CHUFF

  The People's Friend



THE END





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