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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gay Rebellion - Chapter 15
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The Gay Rebellion - Chapter 15 Post by :JoePace Category :Long Stories Author :Robert W. Chambers Date :May 2012 Read :2076

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The Gay Rebellion - Chapter 15


THE Governor of the great State of New York was now running up Broadway with his borrowed sword between his legs and his borrowed uniform covered with confetti--footing it as earnestly as though he were running behind his ticket with New York County yet to hear from.

After him sped bricks, vegetables, spot-eggs, and several exceedingly fashionable suffragettes, their perfectly gloved hands full of horsewhips, banners, and farm produce.

But his excellency was now running strongly; one by one his eager and beautiful pursuers gave up the chase and fell out, panting and flushed from the exciting and exhilarating sport, until, at Forty-second Street, only one fleet-footed young girl remained at his heels.

The order of precedence then shifted as follows: First, the young and handsome Governor running like a lost dog at a fair and clutching the draft of the obnoxious bill to his gold-laced bosom; second, one distractingly lovely young girl, big, wholesome-looking, athletic, and pink of cheeks, swinging a ci-devant cat by the tail as menacingly as David balanced the loaded sling; third, several agitated policemen whistling and rapping for assistance; fourth, the hoi polloi of the Via Blanca; fifth, a small polychromatic dog; sixth, the idle wind toying carelessly with the dust and refuse and hats and skirts of all Broadway.

(Illustration: "Only one fleet-footed young girl remained at his heels.")

This municipal dust storm, mingling with the brooding metropolitan gasoline fog, produced a sirocco of which no Libyan desert needed to be ashamed; and it alternately blotted out and revealed the interesting Marathonian procession, until one capricious and suffocating flurry, full of whirling newspapers and derbies, completely blotted out the Governor and the young lady at his heels.

And when, a moment later, the miniature tornado had subsided into a series of playful sidewalk eddys, only the policemen, the hoi polloi, and the dog were still going; the Governor and the beautiful suffragette had completely disappeared.

They had, it is true, chosen a very good time and place for such an occult performance; Long Acre at its busiest.

Several mounted policemen had now joined in the frantic festivities. They galloped hurriedly in every direction. The crowd cheered and pursued the police, the small dog barked in eddying circles till he resembled an expiring pinwheel.

Meanwhile a curious thing had occurred; the youthful Governor was now chasing the suffragette. It occurred abruptly, and in the following manner:

No sooner had the dust cloud spread a momentary fog around the radiant young man--like a hurricane eclipse of the sun--than he darted into the narrow and dark hallway of an old-fashioned office building devoted to theatrical agencies, all-night lawyers, and "astrologists," and started up the stairs. But his unaccustomed sword tripped him up, and as he fell flat with a startling outcrash of accoutrements, there came a flurry of delicately perfumed skirts, the type-written papers were snatched from his gloved hands, and the perfumed skirts went scurrying away through the dusky corridor which ought to have opened on the next cross street. And didn't.

After her ran the Governor, now goaded to courage by the loss of his papers, and she, finding herself in a cul-de-sac, turned at bay, launched the cat at his head, and attempted to spring past him. But he caught the whirling feline in one white-gloved hand and barred her way with the other; and she turned once more in desperation to seek an egress which did not exist.

A flight of precipitate and rickety stairs led upward into an obscurity rendered deeper by a single gas jet burning low on the landing above.

Up this she sprang, two at a time, the young man at her heels; up, up, passing floor after floor, until a dirty skylight overhead warned her that the race was ending.

On the top corridor there was a door ajar; she sprang for it, opened it, tried to slam and lock it behind her, then, exhausted, she shrank backward into the room and sank into a red velvet chair, holding the bunch of papers tightly to her heaving breast.

There was another chair--a gilt one. Into it fell his excellency, gasping, speechless, his spurred and booted legs trailing, his borrowed uniform all over confetti and dust from his tumble on the stairs.

Minute after minute elapsed as they lay there, fighting for breath, watching each other.

She was the first to stir; and instantly he dragged himself to his feet, staggered over to the door, locked it, dropped the key into his pocket, returned to his chair, and collapsed once more.

After a few moments he glanced down at the cat which he was still clutching. A slight shiver passed over him, then, as he inspected it more closely, over his features crept an ironical smile.

For the cat was not even a ci-devant cat; it had never been a cat; it was only an imitation of a defunct one made out of floss and chenille, like a teddy-bear; and he smiled at her scornfully and dangled it by its black and white tail.

"Pooh," he panted; "I suppose even your bricks and vegetables and eggs were cotillion favours full of confetti."

"They were," she admitted defiantly. "Which did not prevent their serving their purposes."

"As what?"

"As symbols!"

"Symbols?" he retorted in derision.

"Yes, symbols! The three most ancient symbols of an insulted people's fury--the egg, the turnip, and the cat."

"_Mala gallina, malum ovum_," he laughed, adjusting his sword and picking several streamers of confetti from his tunic. "Did they hurl spot-eggs in ancient Rome, fair maid?"

"They did; and cats--_ex necessitate rei_," she observed with composure.

"_Ex nihilo felis fit_--a cat-fit for nothing," he retorted, flippantly.

Half disdainfully she straightened out the slight disorder of her own apparel, still breathing fast, and keeping tight hold of the bundle of papers.

"How soon are you going to let me have them?" he asked good-humouredly.


"I can't permit you to leave this room until you hand them to me."

"Then I shall never leave this room."

"You certainly shall not leave it until I have those papers."

"Then I'll remain here all my life!" she said defiantly.

"What do you expect to do when the people who live here return?"

She shrugged her pretty shoulders, and presently cast an involuntary and uneasy glance around the room.

It was not a place to reassure any girl; gilt stars were pasted all over walls and ceilings, where also a tinsel sun and moon appeared. The constellations were interspersed with bats.

The remaining decorations consisted of a cozy corner, some pasteboard trophies, red cotton velvet hangings, several plaster casts of human hands, and a frieze of half-burnt cigarettes along the mantel-edge.

"Are you going to give me those papers?" he repeated, secretly amused.


"What do you expect to do with them?"

"Deliver them to Professor Elizabeth Challis, President of the National Federation of Independent Women of America."

"Is this a private enterprise of yours," he asked curiously, "or just a--a playful impulse, or the militant fruition of a vast and feminine conspiracy?"

She smiled slightly.

"I suppose you mean to be impertinent, but I shall not evade answering you, Captain Jones. I am acting under orders."

"Betty's?" he inquired, flippantly.

"The orders of Professor Elizabeth Challis," she said, with heightened colour.

"Exactly. It _is a conspiracy, then, complicated by riot, assault, disorderly conduct, and highway robbery--isn't it?"

"You may call it what you choose."

"Oh, I'll leave that to the courts."

She said disdainfully: "We recognize no laws in the making of which we have had no part."

"There's no use in discussing that," said the Governor blandly; "but I'd like to know what you suffragettes find so distasteful in that proposed bill which the Mayor and--and the Governor of New York have had drafted."

"It is reactionary--a miserable subterfuge--a treacherous attempt to return to the old order of things! A conspiracy to re-shackle, re-enslave American womanhood with the sordid chains of domestic cares! To drive her back into the kitchen, the laundry, the nursery--back into the dark ages of dependence and acquiescence and non-resistance--back into the degraded epochs of sentimental relations with the tyrant man!"

She leaned forward in her excitement and her sable boa slid back as she made a gesture with her expensive muff.

"Once," she said, "woman was so ignorant that she married for love! Now the national revolt has come. Neither sentiment nor impulse nor emotion shall ever again play any part in our relations with man!"

He said, trying to speak ironically: "That's a gay outlook, isn't it?"

"The outlook, Captain Jones, is straight into a glorious millennium. Marriage, in the future, is to mean the regeneration of the human race through cold-blooded selection in mating. Only the physically and mentally perfect will hereafter be selected as specimens for scientific propagation. All others must remain unmated--_pro bono publico_--and so ultimately human imperfection shall utterly disappear from this world!"

Her pretty enthusiasm, her earnestness, the delicious colour in her cheeks, began to fascinate him. Then uneasiness returned.

"Do you know," he said cautiously, "that the Governor of New York has received anonymous letters informing him that Professor Elizabeth Challis considers him a proper specimen for the--the t-t-terrible purposes of s-s-scientific p-p-propagation?"

"Some traitor in our camp," she said, "wrote those letters."

"It--it isn't true, then, is it?"

"What isn't true?"

"That the Governor of the great State of New York is in any danger of being seized for any such purpose?"

She looked at him with a curious veiled expression in her pretty eyes, as though she were near-sighted.

"I think," she said, "Professor Challis means to seize him."

The Governor gazed at her, horrified for a moment, then his political craft came to his aid, and he laughed.

"What does she look like?" he inquired. "Is she rather a tough old lady?"

"No; she's young and--athletic."


"Oh, she's as tall as the Governor is--about six feet, I believe."

"Nonsense!" he exclaimed, paling.

"Six feet," she repeated carelessly; "rowed stroke at Vassar; carried off the standing long jump, pole vault, and ten-mile swimming----"

"This--this is terrible," murmured the young man, passing one gloved hand over his dampening brow. Then, with a desperate attempt at a smile, he leaned forward and said confidentially:

"As a matter of fact, just between you and me, the Governor is an invalid."

"Impossible!" she retorted, her clear blue eyes on his.

"Alas! It is only too true. He's got a very, very rare disease," said the young man sadly. "Promise you won't tell?"

"Y-yes," said the girl. Her face had lost some of its colour.

"Then I will confide in you," said the young man impressively. "The Governor is threatened with a serious cardiac affection, known as Lamour's disease."

She looked down, remained silent for a moment, then lifted her pure gaze to him.

"Is that true--Captain Jones?"

"As true as that I am his Military Secretary."

Her features remained expressionless, but the colour came back as though the worst of the shock were over.

"I see," she said seriously. "Professor Challis ought to know of this sad condition of affairs. I have heard of Lamour's disease."

"Indeed, she ought to be told at once," he said, delighted. "You'll inform her, won't you?"

"If you wish."

"Thank you! _Thank you!" he said fervently. "You are certainly the most charmingly reasonable of your delightful sex. The Governor will be tremendously obliged to you----"

"Is the Governor--are his--his affections--to use an obsolete expression--fixed upon any particular----"

"Oh, no!" he said, smiling; "the Governor isn't in love--except--er--generally. He's a gay bird. The Governor never, in all his career, saw a single specimen of your sex which--well, which interested him as much--well, for example," he added in a burst of confidence, "as much even as you interest me!"

"Which, of course, is not at all," she said, laughing.

"Oh, no--no, not at all----" he hesitated, biting his moustache and looking at her.

"I'll tell you one thing," he said; "if the Governor ever did get entirely well--er--recovered--you know what I mean?"

"Cured of his cardiac trouble?--this disease known as Lamour's disease?"

"Exactly. If he ever did recover, he--I'm quite sure he would be----" and here he hesitated, gazing at her in silence. As for her, she had turned her head and was gazing out of the window.

"I wonder what your name is?" he said, so naively that the colour tinted even the tip of the small ear turned toward him.

"My name," she said, "is Mary Smith. Like you, I am Militant Secretary to Professor Elizabeth Challis, President of the Federation of American Women."

"I hope we will remain on pleasant terms," he ventured.

"I hope so, Captain Jones."


"I trust so."

"Even f-friends?"

She bent her distractingly pretty head in acquiescence.

"Then you'll give me back the papers?"

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for taking them?"

"No, sorry for keeping them."

"You don't mean to say that you are going to keep them, Miss Smith?"

"I'm afraid I must. My duty forces me to deliver them to Professor Challis."

"But why does this terrible and strapping young lady desire to swipe the draft of this bill?"

"Because it contains the evidence of a wicked conspiracy between the Governor of New York, the Mayor of this city, and an abandoned legislature. The women of America ought to know what threatens them before this bill is perfected and introduced. And before they will permit it to be debated and passed they are determined to march on Albany, half a million strong, as did the heroines of Versailles!"

She stretched out her white gloved hand with an excited but graceful gesture; he eyed her moodily, swinging the chenille cat by its fluffy tail.

"What do they suspect is in that bill?" he said at last.

"We are not yet perfectly sure. We believe it is an insidious attempt to sow dissension in the ranks of our sex--a bill cunningly devised to create jealousy and unworthy distrust among us--an ingenious and inhuman conspiracy to disorganize the National Federation of Free and Independent Women."

"Nonsense," he said. "The bill, when perfected, is designed to give you what you want."


"Certainly; votes for women."

"On what terms?" she asked, incredulously.

"Terms? Oh, no particular terms. I wouldn't call them 'terms,'" he said craftily; "that sounds like masculine dictation."

"It certainly does."

"Of course. There are no terms in it. It's a--a sort of a civil service idea--a kind of a qualification for the franchise----"


"Yes," he continued pleasantly, "it a--er--suggests that a vote be accorded to any woman who, in competition with others of that election district, passes the examinations----"

"_What examinations?"

He twirled the cat carelessly.

"Oh, the examination papers are on various subjects. One is chemistry."


"Yes--that part of organic chemistry which includes the scientific preparation of--er--food."

Her eyes flashed; he twirled the cat absently.

"Yes," he said, "chemistry is one of the subjects. Physics is another--physical phenomena."

"What kind?"

"Oh, the--the proposition that nature abhors a vacuum. You're to prove it--you're given a certain area--say a bed-room full of dust. Then you apply to it----"

"I see," she said; "you mean we apply to it a vacuum cleaner, don't you?"

"Or," he admitted courteously, "you may solve it through the science of dynamics----"

"Of course--using a broom." Her eyes were beautiful but frosty.

"Do you know," he said, as pleasantly as he dared, "that you, for instance, would be sure to pass."

"Because I'm intelligent enough to comprehend the subtleties of this--bill?"

"Exactly." He swung the cat in a circle.

"Thank you. And what else do these examination papers contain?"

"Physics mostly--the properties of solid bodies. For example, you choose a button--any ordinary button," he explained frankly, as though taking her into his confidence; "say, for instance, the plain bone button of commerce----"

"And sew it onto some masculine shirt," she nodded as he sank back apparently overcome with admiration at her intelligence. "And that," she added, "no doubt is intended to illustrate the phenomenon of adhesion."

"You are perfectly correct," he said with enthusiasm.

"What else is there?" she asked.

"Oh, nothing--nothing very much. A few experiments in bacteriology----"

"Sterilizing nursing bottles?"

"How on earth did you ever guess?" he cried, overwhelmed, but perfectly alert to the kindling anger in her blue eyes. "Why, of course that is it. It is included in the science of embryotics--"

"What science?"

"Embryotics. For instance, you take an embryo of any kind--say a--a baby. Then you show exactly how to dress, undress, wash, feed, and finally bring that baby to triumphant maturity. It's interesting, isn't it, Miss Smith?"

She said nothing. He twirled the cat furiously until its tail gave way and it flew into a corner.

"Captain Jones," she said, "as I understand it, this bill is a codified conspiracy to turn every woman of this State into a--a washer of clothes, a cleaner of floors, a bearer of children--and a Haus-frau!"

"I--I would not put it _that way," he protested.

"And her reward," she went on, not noticing his interruption, "is permission to vote--to use the inalienable liberty with which already Heaven has endowed her."

Tears flashed in her eyes; she held her small head proudly and not one fell.

"Captain Jones," she said, "do you realize what centuries of suppression are doing to my sex? Do you understand that woman is degenerating into an immobility--an inertia--a molluskular condition of receptive passivity which is rendering us, year by year, more unfitted to either think or act for ourselves? Even in the matter of marriage we are not permitted by custom to assume the initiative. We may only shake our heads until the man we are inclined toward asks us, when he is entirely ready to ask. Then, like a row of Chinese dolls, we nod our heads. I tell you," she said, tremulously, "we are becoming like that horrid, degenerate, wingless moth which is born, mates, and dies in one spot--a living mechanical incubator--a poor, deformed, senseless thing that has through generations lost not only the use, but even the rudiments of the wings which she once possessed. But the male moth flies more strongly and frivolously than ever. There is nothing the matter with the development of _his wings, Captain Jones."

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