Grotesque and foolish as it may seem to the scientific reader, I was entirely unable to answer this simple conundrum. My mind reverted to my school days. I found myself declining musa. Curious to relate, I had entirely forgotten the genitive of ego.... With infinite trouble I managed to break into a vegetarian restaurant, and made a meal off some precocious haricot beans, a brace of Welsh rabbits, and ten bottles of botanic beer.
Working back into Holland Park Avenue and thence keeping steadily along High Street, Notting Hill Gate, I determined to make my way to the Marble Arch, in the hopes of finding some fresh materials for my studies in the Stone Age.
In Bark Place, where the Ladies’ Kennel Club had made their vast grand-stand, were a number of pitiful vestiges of the Waterloo of women-kind. There was a shattered Elswick bicycle, about sixteen yards and a half of nun’s veiling, and fifty-three tortoise-shell side-combs. I gazed on the debris with apathy mingled with contempt. My movements were languid, my plans of the vaguest. I knew that I wished to avoid my wife, but had no clear idea how the avoiding was to be done.
From Orme Square, a lean-faced, unkempt and haggard waif, I drifted to Great Orme’s Head and back again. Senile dementia had already laid its spectral clutch upon my wizened cerebellum when I was rescued by some kindly people, who tell me that they found me scorching down Hays Hill on a cushion-tired ordinary. They have since told me that I was singing “My name is John Wellington Wells, Hurrah!” and other snatches from a pre-Wenusian opera.
These generous folk, though severely harassed by their own anxieties, took me in and cared for me. I was a lonely man and a sad one, and they bored me. In spite of my desire to give public expression to my gratitude, they have refused to allow their names to appear in these pages, and they consequently enjoy the proud prerogative of being the only anonymous persons in this book. I stayed with them at the Bath Club for four days, and with tears parted from them on the spring-board. They would have kept me for ever, but that would have interfered with my literary plans. Besides, I had a morbid desire to gaze on the Wenuses once more.
And so I went out into the streets again, guided by the weird Voice, and via Grafton Street, Albemarle Street, the Royal Arcade, Bond Street, Burlington Gardens, Vigo Street and Sackville Street, Piccadilly, Regent Street, Pall Mall East, Cockspur Street and Whitehall, steadily wheeled my way across Westminster Bridge.
There were few people about and their skins were all yellow. Lessing, presumably in his Laocoon, has attributed this to the effects of sheer panic; but Carver’s explanation, which attributes the ochre-like tint to the hypodermic operation of the Mash-Glance, seems far more plausible. For myself I abstain from casting the weight of my support in either scale, because my particular province is speculative philosophy and not comparative dermatology.