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- In the Sweet Dry and Dry - 1/17 -


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.


In the Sweet Dry and Dry - 1/17

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