“Stop!” I cried, nettled at his stupidity. “You are confusing another author and myself.”
“Was I?” he said, “that’s rum, but I always mix you up with the man you admire so much—Jools Werne. And,” he added with a sly look, “you do admire him, don’t you?”
In a flash I saw the man plain. He was a critic. I knew my duty at once: I must kill him. I did not want to kill him, because I had already killed enough—the curate in the last book, and the Examiner and the landlord of the “Dog and Measles” in this,—but an author alone with a critic in deserted London! What else could I do?
He seemed to divine my thought.
“There’s some immature champagne in the cellar,” he said.
“No,” I replied, thinking aloud; “too slow, too slow.”
He endeavoured to pacify me.
“Let me teach you a game,” he said.
He taught me one—he taught me several. We began with “Spadille,” we ended with “Halma” and “Snap,” for parliament points. That is to say, instead of counters we used M.Ps. Grotesque and foolish as this will seem to the sober reader, it is absolutely true. Strange mind of man! that, with our species being mashed all around, we could sit following the chance of this painted pasteboard.
Afterwards we tried “Tiddleywinks” and “Squails,” and I beat him so persistently that both sides of the House were mine and my geniality entirely returned. He might have been living to this hour had he not mentioned something about the brutality of The Island of Dr. Moreau. That settled it. I had heard that absurd charge once too often, and raising my Blaisdell binaural stethoscope I leaped upon him. With one last touch of humanity, I turned the orbicular ivory plate towards him and struck him to the earth.
At that moment fell the Fourth Crinoline.
THE TEA-TRAY IN WESTBOURNE GROVE.
My wife’s plan of campaign was simple but masterly. She would enlist an army of enormous bulk, march on the Wenuses in Westbourne Grove, and wipe them from the face of the earth.
Such was my wife’s project. My wife’s first step was to obtain, as the nucleus of attack, those women to whom the total loss of men would be most disastrous. They flocked to my wife’s banner, which was raised in Regent’s Park, in front of the pavilion where tea is provided by a maternal County Council.
My mother, who joined the forces and therefore witnessed the muster, tells me it was a most impressive sight. My wife, in a nickel-plated Russian blouse, trimmed with celluloid pom-pons, aluminium pantaloons, and a pair of Norwegian Skis, looked magnificent.
An old Guard, primed with recent articles from the Queen by Mrs. Lynn Linton, marched in a place of honour; and a small squadron of confirmed misogynists, recruited from the Athenaeum, the Travellers’ and the Senior United Service Clubs, who professed themselves to be completely Mash-proof, were in charge of the ambulance. The members of the Ladies’ Kennel Club, attended by a choice selection of carefully-trained Chows, Schipperkes, Whippets and Griffons, garrisoned various outposts.