‘Who are these Suffragetæ?’ asked the Emperor. ‘Since I came back from my Pannonian expedition I have heard of nothing else but their excesses and demonstrations.’

‘They are a political sect of very recent origin, and their aim seems to be to get a big share of political authority into their hands. The means they are taking to convince us of their fitness to help in making and administering the laws consist of wild indulgence in tumult, destruction, and defiance of all authority. They have already damaged some of the most historically valuable of our public treasures, which can never be replaced.’

‘Is it possible that the sex which we hold in such honour and for which we feel such admiration can produce such hordes of Furies?’ asked the Emperor.

‘It takes all sorts to make a sex,’ observed the Master of the Ceremonies, who possessed a certain amount of worldly wisdom; ‘also,’ he continued anxiously, ‘it takes very little to upset a gala programme.’

‘Perhaps the disturbance that you anticipate will turn out to be an idle threat,’ said the Emperor consolingly.

‘But if they should carry out their intention,’ said the official, ‘the programme will be utterly ruined.’

The Emperor said nothing.

Five minutes later the trumpets rang out for the commencement of the entertainment. A hum of excited anticipation ran through the ranks of the spectators, and final bets on the issue of the great race were hurriedly shouted. The gates leading from the stables were slowly swung open, and a troop of mounted attendants rode round the track to ascertain that everything was clear for the momentous contest. Again the trumpets rang out, and then, before the foremost chariot had appeared, there arose a wild tumult of shouting, laughing, angry protests, and shrill screams of defiance. Hundreds of women were being lowered by their accomplices into the arena. A moment later they were running and dancing in frenzied troops across the track where the chariots were supposed to compete. No team of arena-trained horses would have faced such a frantic mob; the race was clearly an impossibility. Howls of disappointment and rage rose from the spectators, howls of triumph echoed back from the women in possession. The vain efforts of the circus attendants to drive out the invading horde merely added to the uproar and confusion; as fast as the Suffragetæ were thrust away from one portion of the track they swarmed on to another.

The Master of the Ceremonies was nearly delirious from rage and mortification. Placidus Superbus, who remained calm and unruffled as ever, beckoned to him and spoke a word or two in his ear. For the first time that afternoon the sorely tried official was seen to smile.

A trumpet rang out from the Imperial Box; an instant hush fell over the excited throng. Perhaps the Emperor, as a last resort, was going to announce some concession to the Suffragetæ.

‘Close the stable gates,’ commanded the Master of the Ceremonies, ‘and open all the menagerie dens. It is the Imperial pleasure that the second portion of the programme be taken first.’

It turned out that the Master of the Ceremonies had in no wise exaggerated the probable brilliancy of this portion of the spectacle. The wild bulls were really wild, and the hyæna reputed to be mad thoroughly lived up to its reputation.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous page Back Home Email this Search Discuss  
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.