Do unto others…
Edward Galway looked at the postcard in his hand and quirked his thin lips into a sour smile. The cartoon of a suffragette flinging herself at a startled man was, in his opinion, wholly accurate. Harpies, mentally deficient – and above all – sluts! They’d do anything to win the right to vote – preposterous!
He placed the postcard on a small table at the side of his chair, then picked up the newspaper. This time he clicked his tongue at the front page photograph of a group of men kicking at a woman, lying prone on the pavement. The headline, in large black letters, proclaimed: WOMAN ATTACKED BY ANTI SUFFERAGE PROTESTORS!
The article accompanying the image seemed to imply the attack was a disgrace, particularly the participation of an officer of the law. Edward shook the paper, crumpled it into a ball, and flung it down. What rubbish! The stupid bitch deserved every kick, every blow. He wished he’d been there, he’d have shown her what’s what. She should’ve been at home, tending to her husband and children, not gadding about like some demonic, crazed creature.
He looked around the parlour with its numerous pictures, oil lamps, and anti-macassar strewn chairs. It was rather dusty and the grate had not been cleaned for days. Emily, once an obedient, dutiful wife, had become increasingly opinionated and, one might say, rebellious since the advent of this “votes for women” nonsense. Of course he’d chastised and disciplined her, until one day she’d had the temerity to smash a vase over his head! When he’d come round, it was to find her gone without so much as a by-your-leave.
Well, he’d get round to finding her and when he did… Edward shrugged aside his anger. Time to treat himself and relax a little. He rose from his chair, made his way out into the hall, and began to climb the stairs. Somewhat out of breath, he finally reached the attic. He paused to regard the large, mahogany wardrobe, pushed up against the far wall. It stood resplendent, guarding its secret contents with sterling fortitude.
Edward fished a small key from the pocket of his waistcoat, and mouth watering in anticipation, approached the imposing piece of furniture. His hand shook a little, as he inserted the key into the lock. Today was the day – today he was going to venture into the outside world in the guise of his alter ego. The very thought of it sent a thrill through him.
The door swung open, revealing the treasure trove within…
“Votes for women! Votes for women!” The pavement was crowded with placard carrying females from every walk in life. Their voices rang out, drowning the catcalls and jeers from the mostly male watchers. Police officers did their best to keep the mob back as the suffragettes strode along the street, heads up, shoulders back.
A lone woman, dressed in a royal blue gown and matching, flower bedecked hat, regarded the marchers with undisguised contempt. She shook her head and glowered at the women, until suddenly she realised she knew one of them. The bitch! How dare she join this bunch of ludicrous troublemakers! Well Emily’d rue this day for a very long time. Forgetting for a moment the need for caution, the blue gowned woman felt her face heat up with rage. Gathering up her skirts, she began to force her way through the watching men, until one of them grabbed her arm. “‘ere, who d’yer think yer shovin'”
She glared at the blackened features of a common chimney sweep, and snapped, “Let go of me, you oaf! How dare you touch me?”
Unperturbed, he grinned at her. “I’ll let yer go darlin’ if yer give us a kiss. C’mon now, it’s lucky to kiss a sweep.” He reached out a filthy hand, his fingers closing over her left breast.
She began to struggle, lashing out with unladylike ferocity. Enraged, the sweep retaliated with a roundhouse punch that felled her to the ground. Spurred on by their anger at the suffragettes, and the sweep’s fury, other men gathered around her prone body.
As he saw booted feet swing towards him, Edward closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around his head. Pain flooded through him, as the blows rained down. Oh God, why had he been so stupid to venture out dressed like this?
“Oi! Stop that! Clear the way!” A bunch of police officers forced their way through the bestial mob; one of them knelt down beside Edward, and grabbing his shoulder, rolled him over.
“You alright, love?” Gingerly the policeman peeled back the hat’s veil. Through blurred vision, Edward saw his astonished expression. He groaned.
“‘ere sarge,’ the man called over his shoulder, “this ain’t a woman!”
“Wot the hell d’yer mean?” the sergeant called back.
Red faced, the constable pushed back his helmet and replied, “Well for a start, ‘e’s got a moustache.”
Another face came into Edward’s increasingly blurred view, but he ignored it’s horrified expression. Everything was going dark. His heartbeat slowed… and then there was nothing.
“Votes for women! Votes for women!” Emily yelled, feeling liberated and joyful, totally unaware that on the other side of the street, her husband was no longer in a position to deny her the right to voice her opinion.