* * * * *
“Just before the battle, mother.”
No one would have believed in the first years of the twentieth century that men and modistes on this planet were being watched by intelligences greater than woman’s and yet as ambitious as her own. With infinite complacency maids and matrons went to and fro over London, serene in the assurance of their empire over man. It is possible that the mysticetus does the same. Not one of them gave a thought to Wenus as a source of danger, or thought of it only to dismiss the idea of active rivalry upon it as impossible or improbable. Yet across the gulf of space astral women, with eyes that are to the eyes of English women as diamonds are to boot-buttons, astral women, with hearts vast and warm and sympathetic, were regarding Butterick’s with envy, Peter Robinson’s with jealousy, and Whiteley’s with insatiable yearning, and slowly and surely maturing their plans for a grand inter-stellar campaign.
The pale pink planet Wenus, as I need hardly inform the sober reader, revolves round the sun at a mean distance of [character: Venus sigil] vermillion miles. More than that, as has been proved by the recent observations of Puits of Paris, its orbit is steadily but surely advancing sunward. That is to say, it is rapidly becoming too hot for clothes to be worn at all; and this, to the Wenuses, was so alarming a prospect that the immediate problem of life became the discovery of new quarters notable for a gentler climate and more copious fashions. The last stage of struggle-for-dress, which is to us still remote, had embellished their charms, heightened their heels and enlarged their hearts. Moreover, the population of Wenus consisted exclusively of Invisible Men—and the Wenuses were about tired of it. Let us, however, not judge them too harshly. Remember what ruthless havoc our own species has wrought, not only on animals such as the Moa and the Maori, but upon its own inferior races such as the Wanishing Lady and the Dodo Bensonii.
The Wenuses seem to have calculated their descent with quite un-feminine accuracy. Had our instruments permitted it, we might have witnessed their preparations. Similarly pigs, had they wings, might fly. Men like Quellen of Dresden watched the pale pink planet—it is odd, by the way, that for countless centuries Wenus has been the star of Eve—evening by evening growing alternately paler and pinker than a literary agent, but failed to interpret the extraordinary phenomena, resembling a series of powder puffs, which he observed issuing from the cardiac penumbra on the night of April 1st, 1902. At the same time a great light was remarked by Idos of Yokohama and Pegadiadis of Athens.
The storm burst upon us six weeks later, about the time of the summer sales. As Wenus approached opposition, Dr. Jelli of Guava set the wires of the astronomical exchange palpitating with the intelligence of a huge explosion of laughing gas moving risibly towards the earth. He compared it to a colossal cosmic cachinnation. And, in the light of subsequent events, the justice of the comparison will commend itself to all but the most sober readers.