by Emily Chesley
Minnie Chesterton used a felt brush to wipe the words “British Empire” off the blackboard.
The last history lesson of the year was done, the children had left, and Minnie sighed heavily. She took out her embroidered handkerchief, and dabbed at a trickle of sweat that rolled off her temple. A tight whalebone corset, a layer of undergarments, and her best wool dress made the early June warmth quite unbearable.
The corset was giving her a bit more pain than usual, because she’d forgone her morning pip, wanting to be at her sharpest on this most important of days. She gave her parasol a quick glance, wondering if she would be able to use it today.
The one-room schoolhouse was empty. The only school in Rava, the chief village in East Nissouri, had until quite recently been filled with children in a state of great excitement. Not only was the school-year over, but the Afrikaner Army was going to pass through Rava on its way to fight the last British holdouts on the Bruce Peninsula. To many, the march through town would signify the final defeat of the Empire, and to Minnie, she might have once described it as a day of liberation — not that she would ever share that sentiment with anyone she knew.
None would want to miss the Afrikaners, and their new terror-weapons. The boys in Minnie’s class talked endlessly of the automatic repeaters, the moving fortresses, the flying machines, though they never mentioned the dread Afrikaner persecution squads. They had an unhealthy fascination with the modern weapons and tactics of the Boers that thankfully, the girls didn’t share.
Emily Chesley (1856-1948)
Emily Chesley was a little-known speculative fiction writer who lived for some time in the region of London, Ontario in Canada. Chesley is best known as a writer of the Edwardian period, penning such works as The Afrikaans of East Nissouri and The Brain Beasts of Blenheim Township. “The Afrikaners of East Nissouri” is one of Chesley’s unpublished short stories and the precursor to her infamous novel. You can learn more about Chesley at the website for the Emily Chesley Reading Circle (emilychesley.com), where you can also sample some of her works and the inventions of her “uncle”, Michael Flannigan. Her uncle was quite influential in her life, and his bullet brolly is clearly important to this work.