The Imperial Engineer by Judith B. Glad

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Tony Dewitt, his reputation in tatters, is hired to install a newfangled telephone system in Hailey, Idaho. Racial prejudice is rampant, so Tony, who is Chinese, passing as white, conceals his ancestry.

Lulu King is of mixed race and proud of it. Having seen firsthand what misery bigotry can cause, she has devoted her life to the campaigns for women's suffrage and equal rights for all.

They were childhood friends, but conflicting goals drove them apart. Now fate has brought them to the same small town and the old attraction is difficult to deny.

Sabotage to the telephone system and a wave of Anti-Chinese hysteria threaten Tony's career and Lulu's convictions. The consequences of their one night of love shadow their future. How long before their very lives are endangered?


"The vision of our founding fathers was of a nation free from tyranny, free from oppression," Lulu said. "A woman who cannot vote is a slave, subject to the whims of her master. She has no rights, save what her father or her brother or her husband grants her. She has no say in her fate, no choice of residence, no opportun--"

A tomato hit her on the cheek. A very ripe, somewhat spoiled tomato.

She gripped the edge of the lectern and forced herself to remain outwardly calm. This was not the first time she'd been a target of assorted missiles thrown by less sympathetic members of her audience, but the experience was one she'd never grow used to. After a couple of deep breaths, she pulled a lacy handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped away the dripping juice with a shaking hand.

"No opportunity to determine how the city, the state, the nation she lives in will care for its citizens, will educate its children, and will conduct itself when--"

She saw the next fruit launched, and nimbly stepped aside to let it sail past. "...when dealing with the rest of the world.

"I ask you, fellow Americans, will you allow this inequity to--"

"That is quite enough of this nonsense. Sheriff, I demand that you stop this...this person from spreading her seditious doctrine."

Glancing back over her shoulder, she saw a large woman dressed in black ascending the steps as she brandished a furled parasol.

"Now then, Mrs. Axminster, I don't reckon you want to make a fuss," the sheriff said, blocking her advance. His interference earned him a swat on the shoulder as the woman tried to force her way past.

The sheriff clearly didn't want to lay hands on the woman, who must be someone of consequence. Lulu was wondering if she'd have to run for her life, when a lithe young man in a linen suit leapt to the edge of the platform.

His outstretched hand warded off the parasol as it whistled past the sheriff's head. Grabbing Lulu's hand, he said, "We're getting out of here. Now!"

"This is none of your affair," she said, keeping her voice low. "Let me go!" She jerked her hand free.

Turning to face the audience, she said, "Thomas Paine, one of our Founding Fathers, said, 'The only ground upon which exclusion from the right of voting is consistent with justice would be to inflict it as a punishment for a certain time upon those who should propose to take away that right from others. The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.'" Her voice, shaking at first, strengthened as she spoke.

"'To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case, a slave.'

"Is there among you anyone who would not fight to keep your right to vote?"

The reply started as a murmur, but it soon grew to a roar. Clearly the men in the audience valued their right to vote and would indeed fight to retain it.

Lulu leaned forward. "Then why are you not fighting for us?" she cried. "Do you seek to keep us enslaved forever?"

She heard a yes from far back in the crowd. Then another, from closer. Again the audience roared, the majority clearly in favor of the subjugation of their women. Another tomato came her way, splatting against the lectern, then a rotten potato. She smelled its fetid odor as it disintegrated. Sick and scared, she stood still, listening to the sheriff yelling for silence. An egg broke at her feet, releasing sulfurous gas. Then the lectern rocked as something heavy and hard struck it. Lulu saw a good-sized cobble roll across the stage. What if that had struck me? But she could not move, for there was no safety anywhere.

This time Tao Ni simply tossed her over his shoulder and pushed his way past the sheriff, who was urging Mrs. Axminster down the steps to safety.

  • Published by: Uncial Press

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