In the Sweet Dry and DryChristopher Morley and Bart Haley / Humor
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IN THE SWEET DRY AND DRY
CHRISTOPHER MORLEY AND BART HALEY
ILLUSTRATED BY GLUYAS WILLIAMS
DEDICATED TO G. K. CHESTERTON
MOST DELIGHTFUL OF MODERN DECANTERBURY PILGRIMS
As far as this book is concerned, the public may Take It, or the publicmay Let It Alone. But the authors feel it their duty to say that nodeductions as to their own private habits are to be made from the storyhere offered. With its composition they have beguiled the moments ofthe valley of the shadow.
Acknowledgement should be made to the Evening Public Ledger ofPhiladelphia for permission to reprint the ditty included in Chapter VI.
The public will forgive this being only a brief preface, for at themoment 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
MYSTERY OF THE UNEXPECTED JULEP
Dunraven Bleak, the managing editor of The Evening Balloon, sat at hisdesk in the center of the local-room, under a furious cone of electriclight. It was six o'clock of a warm summer afternoon: he was fillinghis 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 theday the room had quieted, most of the reporters had left, and theshaded lamps shone upon empty tables and a floor strewn ankle-deep withpapers. Nearby sat the city editor, checking over the list ofassignments for the next morning. From an adjoining kennel issuedoccasional deep groans and a strong whiff of savage shag tobacco, blownoutward by the droning gust of an electric fan. These proved that thecartoonist (a man whose sprightly drawings were born to an obbligato ofvehement blasphemy) was at work within.
Mr. Bleak was just beginning to recuperate from the incessant vigilanceof the day's work. There was an unconscious pathos in his lean,desiccated figure as he rose and crossed the room to the green glassdrinking-fountain. After the custom of experienced newspapermen, herapidly twirled a makeshift cup out of a sheet of copy paper. He pouredhimself a draught of clear but rather tepid water, and drank it withoutnoticeable relish. His lifted head betrayed only the automaticthankfulness of the domestic fowl. There had been a time when sixo'clock meant something better than a paper goblet of lukewarmfiltration.
He sat down at his desk again. He had loaded his pipe sedulously withan extra fine blend which he kept in his desk drawer for smoking duringrare moments of relaxation when he had leisure to savor it. As hereached for a match he was meditating a genial remark to the cityeditor, when he discovered that there was only one tandsticker in thebox. He struck it, and the blazing head flew off upon the cream-coloredthigh of his Palm Beach suit. His naturally placid temper, underminedby thirty years of newspaper work and two years of prohibition, flamedup also. With a loud scream of rage and a curse against Sweden, heleaped to his feet and shook the glowing cinder from his person. Facinghim 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 silverbuttons and silver braid. A Sam Browne belt of wide blue leathermarched across his extensive diagonal in a gentle curve. The band ofhis vizored military cap showed the initials C.P.H. in silverembroidery. His face, broad and clean-shaven, shone with a lustre whichwas partly warmth and partly simple friendliness. Save for a certainhumility of bearing, he might have been taken for the liveried door-manof 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 someone had died and left him a legacy which would enable him to retirefrom newspaper work. (This is the unacknowledged dream that haunts manyjournalists.) Mr. Bleak was wondering whether this was the way in whichlegacies were announced.
The man in the gray uniform set the bag down with great care on thelarge flat desk. He drew out a key and unlocked it. Before opening ithe looked round the room. The city editor and three reporters werewatching curiously. A shy gayety twinkled in his clear blue eyes.
Mr. Bleak, he said, you and these other gentlemen present are men ofdiscretion--?
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 startlededitor beheld a nest of tall glasses; in another, a number ofinteresting flasks lying in a porcelain container among chipped ice. Inthe lid was an array of straws, napkins, a flat tray labeled CLOVES,and a bunch of what looked uncommonly like mint leaves. Mr. Bleak didnot 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 ofpouring, a clink of ice, and beneath the spellbound gaze of thewatchers the glasses fumed and bubbled with a volatile potion. A glassmixing rod tinkled in the thin crystal shells, and the man of mysterydeftly thrust a clump of foliage into each. A well known fragranceexhaled upon the tobacco-thickened air.
Shades of the Grail! cried Bleak. Mint julep!
The visitor bowed and pushed the glasses forward. With the complimentsof 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 partof the Department of Justice, trying to get us into trouble.
Bleak gazed angrily at the stranger. If this was indeed a federalstratagem, what an intolerably cruel one! In front of him the glassessparkled alluringly: a delicate mist gathered on their ice-chilledcurves: a pungent sweetness wavered in his nostrils.
See here! he blurted with shrill excitement. Are you a damnedgovernment 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 themisunderstood idealist grieved his features. Have you forgotten themiracle of Cana? From his pocket he took a card and laid it on thedesk.
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 cityeditor.
Meanwhile the three reporters had drawn near. Light-hearted andirresponsible souls, unoppressed by the embittered suspicion of theirsuperiors, 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 thesemarks of honest appreciation. He waved an encouraging arm over thecrystals. 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 wentout to the nearest glass. He raised it to his lips. An almost-forgottenformula recurred to him. Down the rat-hole! he cried, and tilted hisarm. The others followed suit, and the associate director watched themwith a glow of perfect altruism.
The glasses were still in air when the cartoonist emerged from hisroom. Holy cat! he cried in amazement. What's going on? He seizedone 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 whereQuimbleton had been standing. But the mysterious visitor had leff theroom.
You're too late, Bill, said the city editor genially. There was akind 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 warmthpervaded his mental fabric. A story? he said. Forget it! This is nostory. It's a legend of the dear dead past. I'll cover this assignmentmyself.
He borrowed a match and lit his pipe. Then he put on his coat and hatand left the office.
It was remarked by faithful readers of the Balloon that the next day'scartoon was one of the least successful in the history of thatbrilliant newspaper.