The Pioneers joined my wife’s ranks with some hesitation. The prospects of a world depleted of men did not seem (says my mother) to fill them with that consternation which was evident in my wife and her more zealous lieutenants. But after a heated discussion at the Club-house, which was marked by several resignations, it was decided to join in the attack. A regiment of Pioneers therefore, marching to the battle-chant of Walt Whitman’s “Pioneers, O Pioneers!” brought up (says my mother) the rear.
The march of my wife’s troops was a most impressive sight. Leaving Regent’s Park by the Clarence Gate, they passed down Upper Baker Street, along Marylebone Road into Edgware Road. Here the troops divided. One detachment hastened to Queen’s Road, by way of Praed Street, Craven Road, Craven Hill, Leinster Terrace and the Bayswater Road, with the purpose of approaching Whiteley’s from the South; the other half marched direct to Westbourne Grove, along Paddington Green Road to Bishop’s Road.
Thus, according to my wife’s plan, the Wenuses would be between the two wings of the army and escape would be impossible.
Everything was done as my wife had planned. The two detachments reached their destination almost simultaneously. My wife, with the northern wing, was encamped in Bishop’s Road, Westbourne Grove and Pickering Place. My mother, with the southern wing (my wife shrewdly kept the command in the family), filled Queen’s Road from Whiteley’s to Moscow Road. My mother, who has exquisite taste in armour, had donned a superb Cinque-Cento cuirass, a short Zouave jacket embroidered with sequins, accordion-pleated bloomers, luminous leggings, brown Botticelli boots and one tiger-skin spat.
Between the two hosts was the empty road before the Universal Provider’s Emporium. The Wenuses were within the building. By the time my wife’s warriors were settled and had completed the renovation of their toilets it was high noon.
My wife had never imagined that any delay would occur: she had expected to engage with the enemy at once and have done with it, and consequently brought no provisions and no protection from the sun, which poured down a great bulk of pitiless beams.
The absence of Wenuses and of any sound betokening their activity was disconcerting. However, my wife thought it best to lay siege to Whiteley’s rather than to enter the establishment.
The army therefore waited.
The heat became intense. My wife and her soldiers began to feel the necessity for refreshment. My wife is accustomed to regular meals. The sun grew in strength as the time went on, and my wife gave the order to sit at ease, which was signalled to my mother. My mother tells me that she was never so pleased in her life.
One o’clock struck; two o’clock; three o’clock; and still no Wenuses. Faint sounds were now audible from the crockery department, and then a hissing, which passed by degrees into a humming, a long, loud droning noise. It resembled as nearly as anything the boiling of an urn at a tea-meeting, and awoke in the breasts of my wife and her army an intense and unconquerable longing for tea, which was accentuated as four o’clock was reached. Still no Wenuses. Another hour dragged wearily on, and the craving for tea had become positively excruciating when five o’clock rang out.