As I passed St. Thomas’s Hospital, the tullululation grew ever louder and louder. At last the source of the sound could no longer be disguised. It proceeded without doubt from the interior of some soap works just opposite Doulton’s. The gate was open and a faint saponaceous exhalation struck upon my dilated nostrils. I have always been peculiarly susceptible to odours, though my particular province is not Osmetics but speculative philosophy, and I at once resolved to enter. Leaning my bicycle against the wall of the archway, I walked in, and was immediately confronted by the object of my long search.
There, grouped picturesquely round a quantity of large tanks, stood the Wenuses, blowing assiduously through pellucid pipettes and simultaneously chanting in tones of unearthly gravity a strain poignantly suggestive of baffled hopes, thwarted aspirations and impending departure. So absorbed were they in their strange preparations, that they were entirely unconscious of my presence. Grotesque and foolish as this may seem to the infatuated reader, it is absolutely true.
Gradually from out the troubled surface of the tanks there rose a succession of transparent iridescent globules, steadily waxing in bulk until they had attained a diameter of about sixteen feet. The Wenuses then desisted from their labours of inflation, and suddenly plunging into the tanks, reappeared inside these opalescent globules. I can only repeat that speculative philosophy, and not sapoleaginous hydro-dynamics, is my particular forte, and would refer doubtful readers, in search of further information, to the luminous hypothesis advanced by Professor Cleaver of Washington to account for the imbullification of the Wenuses.
Never shall I forget the touching scene that now unfolded itself before my bewildered eyes. Against a back ground of lemon-coloured sky, with the stars shedding their spiritual lustre through the purple twilight, these gorgeous creatures, each ensphered in her beatific bubble, floated tremulously upward on the balmy breeze. In a moment it all flashed upon me. They were passing away from the scene of their brief triumph, and I, a lonely and dejected scientist, saw myself doomed to expiate a moment’s madness in long years of ineffectual speculation on the probable development of Moral Ideas.
My mind reverted to my abandoned arguments, embodied in the article which lay beneath the selenite paperweight in my study in Campden Hill Gardens. Frenzied with despair, I shot out an arm to arrest the upward transit of the nearest Wenus, when a strange thing occurred.
“At last!” said a voice.
I was startled. It was my wife, accompanied by Mrs. Elphinstone, my cousin’s man, my mother, the widow of the landlord of the “Dog and Measles,” Master Herodotus Tibbles in deep mourning, and the Artillery-man’s brother from Beauchamp’s little livery stables.
I shot an appealing glance to the disappearing Wenus. She threw me a kiss. I threw her another.