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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gay Rebellion - Chapter 16
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The Gay Rebellion - Chapter 16 Post by :JoePace Category :Long Stories Author :Robert W. Chambers Date :May 2012 Read :1582

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The Gay Rebellion - Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

IT was now growing rather dark in the room.

"I'm terribly sorry you feel this way," he said.

She had averted her eyes and was now seated, chin in hand, looking out of the window.

"Do you know," he said, "this is a rotten condition of affairs."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"This attitude of women."

"Is it more odious than the attitude of men?"

"After all," he said, "man is born with the biceps. He was made to do the fighting."

"Not all of the intellectual fighting."

"No, of course not. But--you don't want him to rock the cradle, do you?"

"Cradles are no longer rocked, Captain Jones. I don't think _you would be qualified to pass this examination with which you menace us."

He began to be interested. She turned from the window, saw he was interested, hesitated, then:

"I wish I could talk to you--to such a man as you seem to be--sensibly, without rancour, without personal enmity or prejudice----"

"Can't you?"

"Why, yes. _I can. But--I am not sure what _your attitude----"

"It is friendly," he said, looking at her. "I am perfectly hap--I mean willing to listen to you. Only, sooner or later, you must return to me those papers."

"Why?"

"The Governor entrusted them to me officially----"

She said smiling: "But you--your Governor I mean--can frame another similar bill."

"I'm a soldier in uniform," he said dramatically. "My duty is to guard those papers with my life!"

"I am a soldier, too," she said proudly, "in the Army of Human Progress."

"Very well," he said, "if you regard it that way."

"I do. Only brute violence can deprive me of these papers."

"That," he said, "is out of the question."

"It is no more shameful than the mental violence to which you have subjected us through centuries. Anyway, you're not strong enough to get them from me."

"Do you expect me to seize you and twist your arm until you drop those papers?"

"You can never have them otherwise. Try it!"

He sat silent for a while, alternately twisting his moustache and the cat's tail. Presently he flung the latter away, rose, inspected the stars on the wall, and then began to pace to and fro, his gloved hands behind his back, spurs and sword clanking.

"It's getting late," he said as he passed her. Continuing his promenade he added as he passed her again. "I've had no luncheon. Have you?"

He poked around the room, examining the fantastic furnishings in all their magnificence of cotton velvet and red cheesecloth.

"If this is Dill's room it's a horrible place," he thought to himself, sitting down by a table and shuffling a pack of cards.

"Shall I cast your horoscope?" he asked amiably. "Here's a chart."

"No, thank you."

Presently he said: "It's getting beastly cold in this room."

"Really!" she murmured.

He came back and sat down in the gilded chair. It was now so dusky in the room that he couldn't see her very plainly.

So he folded his arms and abandoned himself to gloomy patience until the room became very dark. Then he got up, struck a match, and lighted the gas.

"By Jupiter!" he muttered, "I'm hungry."

For nearly five minutes she let the remark go apparently unnoticed. But the complaint he had made is the one general and comprehensive appeal that no woman ever born can altogether ignore. In the depths of her something always responds, however faintly. And in the soul of this young girl it was answering now--the subtle, occult response of woman to the eternal and endless need of man--hunger of one kind or another.

"I'm sorry," she said, so sincerely that the sweetness in her voice startled him.

"Why--why, do you know I believe you really are!" he said in grateful surprise.

"I am a great many things that you have no idea I am," she said, smiling.

"What is one of them?"

"I'm afraid I'm a--a fool."

She came forward and stood looking at him.

"I've been thinking," she said, "that I can do you no kinder service than to destroy those papers and let you go home."

For a moment he thought she was joking, then something in her expression changed his opinion and he took a step forward, eyes fixed on her face.

"Yes," he said, "it would be the kindest thing you can do for me. Shall I tell you why? It's because I'm hopelessly near-sighted. I wear glasses when I'm alone in my study, where nobody can see me."

"What in the world has _that to do with my leaving you?" she asked, colouring up.

"Suffragettes would never marry a near-sighted man, would they?"

"They ought not to."

"_You wouldn't, would you?"

"Why do you ask--such a thing?"

"I want to know."

"But how does your myopia concern _me_?" she said faintly.

"_Couldn't it--ever?" he asked, reddening.

"No," she said, turning pale.

"Then we'd better not stay here; and I'm going to be as generous as you are," he said, advancing toward her. "I'm going to let you go home."

She backed away, thrusting the papers behind her; his arm slipped around her, after them, strove to grasp them, to hold and restrain her, but there was a strength in her tall, firm young body which matched his own; she resisted, turned, twisted, confronted him with high colour, and lips compressed, and they came to a deadlock, breathing fast and irregularly.

Again, coolly, dexterously, he pitted his adroitness, then his sheer strength against hers; and it came again to a deadlock.

Suddenly she crook'd one smooth knee inside of his; her arms slid around him like lightning; he felt himself rising into the air, descending--there came a crash, a magnificent display of ocular fireworks, and nothing further concerned him until he discovered himself lying flat on the floor and heard somebody sobbing incoherencies beside him.

He was mean enough to keep his eyes shut while she, on her knees beside him, slopped water on his forehead and begged him to speak to her, and told him her heart was broken and she desired to die and repose in mortuary simplicity beside him forever.

Certain terms she employed in addressing what she feared were only his mortal remains caused him to prick up his ears. He certainly was one of the meanest of men.

"Dear," she sobbed, "I--I have l-loved you ever since your lithographs were displayed during the election! Only speak to me! Only open those beloved eyes! I don't care whether they are near-sighted! Oh, please, please wake up!" she cried brokenly. "I'll give you back your papers. What do I care about that old bill? I'm p-perfectly willing to do all those things! Oh, oh, oh! How conscience does make Haus-fraus of us all!"

His meanness now became contemptible; he felt her trembling hands on his brow; the fragrant, tearful face nearer, nearer, until her hot, flushed cheeks and quivering lips touched his. And yet, incredible as it seems, and to the everlasting shame of all his sex, he kept eyes and mouth shut until a lively knocking on the door brought him bolt upright.

She uttered a little cry and shrank away from him on her knees, the tears glimmering in her startled and wide open eyes.

"Good heavens, darling!" he said seriously; "how on earth are we going to explain this?"

They scrambled hastily to their feet and gazed at each other while kicks and blows began to rain on the door.

"I believe it's Dill," he whispered; "and I seem to hear the Mayor's voice, too."

"Help! Help! For heaven's sake!" screamed the Mayor, "let us in, George! There's a mob of suffragettes coming up the stairs!"

The Governor unlocked the door and jerked it open, just as several unusually beautiful girls seized Mr. Dill and the Military Secretary.

The Mayor, however, rushed blindly into the room, his turban-swirl was over one eye, his skirt was missing, his apron hung by one pin.

He ran headlong for a sofa and tried to scramble under it, but lovely and vigorous arms seized his shins and drew him triumphantly forth.

"Hurrah!" they cried delightedly, "we have carried the entire ticket!"

"Hurrah!" echoed a sweet but tremulous voice, and a firm young arm was slipped through the Governor's.

He turned to meet her beautiful, level gaze.

"Check!" she said.

"Make it check-mate," he said steadily.

"Mate _you_?"

"Will you?"

She bent her superb head a moment, then lifted her splendid eyes to his.

"Of course I will," she said, as steadily as her quickening heart permitted. "Why do you suppose I ran after you?"

"Why?" whispered that infatuated man.

"Because," she said, naively, "I was afraid some other girl would get you. . . . A girl never can be sure what another girl might do to a man. . . . And I wanted you for myself."

"Thank God," he said, "that six-foot Professor Challis will never get me, anyway."

She bent her adorable face close to his.

"Your excellency," she murmured, "_I am Professor Challis!"

At that instant a pretty and excited suffragette dashed up the stairs and saluted.

"Professor," she cried, "all over the city desirable young men are being pursued and married by the thousands! We have swept the State, with Brooklyn and West Point yet to hear from!" Her glance fell upon the Governor; she laughed glee-fully.

"Shall I call a taxi, Professor?" she asked.

An exquisite and modest pride transformed the features of Professor Betty Challis to a beauty almost celestial.

"Let George do it," she said tenderly.

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CHAPTER XVIIA FEW minutes later, amid a hideous scene of riot young men were fleeing distractedly in every direction excited young girls were dragging them, struggling and screaming, into cabs even the police were rushing hither and thither in desperate search for a place to hide in, the Governor of New York and Professor Elizabeth Challis might have been seen whirling downtown in a taxicab toward the marriage license bureau. Her golden head lay close to his; his moustache rested against her delicately flushed cheek. A moment later she sat up straight in dire consternation. "Oh, those papers!
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CHAPTER XVTHE 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,
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