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- In the Sweet Dry and Dry - 5/17 -
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.
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
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