The Minister for Fine Arts (to whose Department had been

lately added the new subsection of Electoral Engineering)

paid a business visit to the Grand Vizier. According to

Eastern etiquette they discoursed for a while on indifferent

subjects. The Minister only checked himself in time from

making a passing reference to the Marathon Race, remembering

that the Vizier had a Persian grandmother and might consider

any allusion to Marathon as somewhat tactless. Presently

the Minister touched the subject of his interview.

“Under the new Constitution are women to have votes?” he

asked suddenly.

“To have votes? Women?” exclaimed the Vizier in some

astonishment. “My dear Pasha, the New Departure has a

flavour of the absurd as it is; don’t let’s try and make it

altogether ridiculous. Women have no souls and no

intelligence; why on earth should they have votes?”

“I know it sounds absurd,” said the Minister, “but they

are seriously considering the idea in the West.”

“Then they must have a larger equipment of seriousness

than I gave them credit for. After a lifetime of

specialized effort in maintaining my gravity I can scarcely

restrain an inclination to smile at the suggestion. Why,

our womenfolk in most cases don’t know how to read or write.

How could they perform the operation of voting?”

“They could be shown the names of the candidates and

where to make their cross.”

“I beg your pardon?” interrupted the Vizier.

“Their crescent, I mean,” corrected the Minister, “It

would be to the liking of the Young Turkish Party,” he


“Oh, well,” said the Vizier, “if we are to do the thing

at all we may as well go the whole h—” he pulled up just

as he was uttering the name of an unclean animal, and

continued, “the complete camel. I will issue instructions

that womenfolk are to have votes.”


The poll was drawing to a close in the Lakoumistan

division. The candidate of the Young Turkish Party was

known to be three or four hundred votes ahead, and he was

already drafting his address, returning thanks to the

electors. His victory had been almost a foregone

conclusion, for he had set in motion all the approved

electioneering machinery of the West. He had even employed

motor-cars. Few of his supporters had gone to the poll in

these vehicles, but, thanks to the intelligent driving of

his chauffeurs, many of his opponents had gone to their

graves or to the local hospitals, or otherwise abstained

from voting. And then something unlooked-for happened. The

rival candidate, Ali the Blest, arrived on the scene with

his wives and womenfolk, who numbered, roughly, six hundred.

Ali had wasted little effort on election literature, but had

been heard to remark that every vote given to his opponent

meant another sack thrown into the Bosporus. The Young

Turkish candidate, who had conformed to the Western custom

of one wife and hardly any mistresses, stood by helplessly

while his adversary’s poll swelled to a triumphant majority.

“Cristabel Columbus!” he exclaimed, invoking in some

confusion the name of a distinguished pioneer; “who would

have thought it?”

“Strange,” mused Ali, “that one who harangued so

clamorously about the Secret Ballot should have overlooked

the Veiled Vote.”

And, walking homeward with his constituents, he murmured

in his beard an improvisation on the heretic poet of Persia:

“One, rich in metaphors, his Cause contrives

To urge with edged words, like Kabul knives;

And I, who worst him in this sorry game,

Was never rich in anything but—wives.”