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The Club of Queer Trades Gilbert K. Chesterton

The Awful Reason of the Vicar's Visit

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"My head went round and round. Was it really true, as I had suddenly fancied a moment before, that unmarried ladies had some dreadful riotous society of their own from which all others were excluded? I remembered dimly in my classical days (I was a scholar in a small way once, but now, alas! rusty), I remembered the mysteries of the Bona Dea and their strange female freemasonry. I remembered the witches' Sabbaths. I was just, in my absurd lightheadedness, trying to remember a line of verse about Diana's nymphs, when Miss Mowbray threw her arm round me from behind. The moment it held me I knew it was not a woman's arm.

"Miss Brett--or what I had called Miss Brett--was standing in front of me with a big revolver in her hand and a broad grin on her face. Miss James was still leaning against the door, but had fallen into an attitude so totally new, and so totally unfeminine, that it gave one a shock. She was kicking her heels, with her hands in her pockets and her cap on one side. She was a man. I mean he was a wo--no, that is I saw that instead of being a woman she--he, I mean--that is, it was a man."

Mr Shorter became indescribably flurried and flapping in endeavouring to arrange these genders and his plaid shawl at the same time. He resumed with a higher fever of nervousness:

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"As for Miss Mowbray, she--he, held me in a ring of iron. He had her arm--that is she had his arm--round her neck--my neck I mean-- and I could not cry out. Miss Brett--that is, Mr Brett, at least Mr something who was not Miss Brett--had the revolver pointed at me. The other two ladies--or er--gentlemen, were rummaging in some bag in the background. It was all clear at last: they were criminals dressed up as women, to kidnap me! To kidnap the Vicar of Chuntsey, in Essex. But why? Was it to be Nonconformists?

"The brute leaning against the door called out carelessly, `'Urry up, 'Arry. Show the old bloke what the game is, and let's get off.'

"`Curse 'is eyes,' said Miss Brett--I mean the man with the revolver--`why should we show 'im the game?'

"`If you take my advice you bloomin' well will,' said the man at the door, whom they called Bill. `A man wot knows wet 'e's doin' is worth ten wot don't, even if 'e's a potty old parson.'

"`Bill's right enough,' said the coarse voice of the man who held me (it had been Miss Mowbray's). `Bring out the picture, 'Arry.'

"The man with the revolver walked across the room to where the other two women--I mean men--were turning over baggage, and asked them for something which they gave him. He came back with it across the room and held it out in front of me. And compared to the surprise of that display, all the previous surprises of this awful day shrank suddenly.

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The Club of Queer Trades
Gilbert K. Chesterton

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