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   Chapter 12 No.12

The Wisdom of Father Brown By G. K. Chesterton Characters: 6203

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


Gisela stepped into the machine and it glided downward and skimmed lightly over the great length of the Maximilianstrasse.

The compact ranks, which had listened unmoved to the roar of dynamite and the detonations of bursting shells, raised their faces at the humming of the machine and broke into harsh abrupt cheering. Then they leaned their rifles against their powerful bodies and unfurled their flags and waved them in the faces of the half paralyzed people in the windows. It was a white flag with a curious device sketched in crimson: a hen in successive stages of evolution. The final phase was an eagle. The body was modeled after the Prussian emblem of might, but the face, grim, leering, vengeful, pitiless, was unmistakably that of a woman. However humor may be lacking in the rest of that grandiose Empire it was grafted into the Bavarians by Satan himself.

Gisela nodded. "The hens are eagles-all over Germany," she announced in her full carrying voice. "Word has come through from every quarter."

She flew down the Leopoldstrasse. It was packed with women from the Feldherrnhalle to the Siegesthor, cheering women, waving their flags, armed to the teeth. So was the great Park of the Residenz, the Hofgarten, where the guards were either bound or dead. It took her but a few moments to fly all over Munich. The narrow streets were deserted, save for the prostrate policemen bound suddenly from ambush; but in all the beautiful squares, with their pompous statues, and in all the wider streets, and out in the wide Theresien Field before the colossal figure of Bavaria, the women were gathered; relapsing into phlegmatic calm as soon as she had given her message and passed.

But it was by no means a scene of unbroken dignity and silence. Here and there groups of men in uniform lay dead, sword or pistol in hand. Once Gisela flew low and discharged her revolver into the shoulder of a big officer, half dressed and barely recovered from his wounds, who was keeping off half a dozen women with magnificent sword play. The women gave one another first aid, then lifted and pitched him into his house.

There was sniping, of course, from the windows, but the women made a concerted rush and disposed of the terrified offender as remorselessly as their own men had punished the desperate civilians of the lands they had invaded. They had heard their men brag for too many years about their admirable policy of Schrecklichkeit to forget the lesson in this fateful hour.

The most exciting scenes and the only ones in which any of the women were killed were in the vicinity of the garrison. These interior garrisons of the country had been one of the long debated problems. As no women entered them and as it was not safe to attempt the corruption of any of the men, there were but two alternatives: blow them up and sacrifice the men wholesale or meet them with a superior force as they rushed out to ascertain the nature of the explosions, and fight them in open battle. Gisela had finally decided to give them a chance for their lives, as she had no mind to shed any more blo

od than was unavoidable; and these men, being no longer in their prime, must be overcome eventually, no matter what their fury.

When she hovered over the Marztplatz in front of the garrison a few moments after the last of the explosions, and while fire was still raging in this military quarter of magazines, arsenals and laboratories, men and women were mixed in a hideous confusion, shooting and slashing indiscriminately. But there were thousands of women and only a few hundred men, all of whom at one time or another had been wounded. Finally the captain of this regiment of women ordered a swift retreat, and simultaneously three machine guns opened fire from innocent looking windows, but on the garrison building, not on the square. They ceased after one round, and the captain of the women gave such men as were alive and unwounded their choice between death and surrender. They chose the sensible alternative, were driven within, and placed under a heavy guard.

It was not safe to venture too close to the still exploding and blazing structures, but it was quite apparent that the work had been done thoroughly. The fire brigades were busy, and there was little danger of Munich, one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world, falling a victim to the revolution. Many lives had been sacrificed, no doubt. The women night-workers in the factories, fifteen minutes before the signal from the Frauenkirche, had pretended to strike, seized all the hand arms available and shot down the men who attempted to control them. The men in the secret had gone with them and were already about their business.

The officers in charge of the Class of 1920 were too few in number to make any resistance, too dazed to grasp a situation for which there was no precedent; they had surrendered to the Amazons grimly awaiting their decision. The poor boys in the Kadettenkorps had run home to their mothers, and, finding them in the streets, had either taken refuge in the cellars, or joined those formidable warriors in gray, promising obedience and yielding their arms.

Other aeroplanes were darting about the city. The greater number were driven by women, directing the fire brigades, but now and again a man, whose monoplane had been in his private shed, flew upward primed for battle. After a few parleys he retired to await events, one only shooting a woman, and crashing to earth riddled with avenging bullets.

Such air men as were in Munich were too callous to danger of all sorts, too accustomed to the horrors of the battlefield, to take this outpouring of women and mere civilians seriously; even in spite of the explosions, which, to be sure, denoted an appalling amount of destruction. Any attempt to sally forth on foot and ascertain the extent of the damage was met by bayonets and pistols in the hands of brigades of women whose like they had never seen in Germany. They inferred they were Russians, who had managed to cross the frontier with the infernal subtlety of their race. At all events they would be exterminated with no effort of men lacking authority to act.

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