I lived in those days at 181a Campden Hill Gardens. It is the house opposite the third lamp-post on the right as you walk east. It was of brick and slate, with a party-wall, and two spikes were wanting to the iron railings. When the telegram came I was sitting in my study writing a discussion on the atomic theory of Krelli of Balmoral. I at once changed the Woking jacket in which I was writing for evening dress—which wanted, I remember, a button—and hastened to the Park. I did not tell my wife anything about it. I did not care to have her with me. In all such adventures I find her more useful as a sentimental figure in the background—I, of course, allow no sentiment in the foreground—than an active participant.
On the way I met Swears, returning from breakfast with our mutual friend, Professor Heat Ray Lankester—they had had Lee-Metford sardines and Cairns marmalade, he told me,—and we sought the meteor together.
Find it we did in Kensington Gardens. An enormous dimple had been made by the impact of the projectile, which lay almost buried in the earth. Two or three trees, broken by its fall, sprawled on the turf. Among this debris was the missile; resembling nothing so much as a huge crinoline. At the moment we reached the spot P.C. A581 was ordering it off; and Henry Pearson, aged 28 (no fixed abode), and Martha Griffin, aged 54, of Maybury Tenements, were circulating among the crowd offering matches for sale. They have nothing to do with this story, but their names and addresses make for verisimilitude; or at least, I hope so. In case they do not, let me add that Mary Griffin wore a blue peignoir which had seen better days, and Herbert Pearson’s matches struck everywhere except on the box.
With a mental flash we linked the Crinoline with the powder puffs on Wenus. Approaching it more nearly, we heard a hissing noise within, such as is made by an ostler, or Mr. Daimler grooming his motor car.
“Good heavens!” said Swears, “there’s a horse in it. Can’t you hear? He must be half-roasted.”
So saying he rushed off, fraught with pity, to inform the Secretary of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; while I hurried away to tell Pendriver the journalist, proposing in my own mind, I recollect, that he should give me half the profits on the article.
Pendriver the journalist, so called to distinguish him from Hoopdriver the cyclist, was working in his garden. He does the horticultural column for one of the large dailies.
“You’ve read about the disturbances in Venus?” I cried.
“What!” said Pendriver. He is as deaf as the Post, the paper he writes for.
“You’ve read about Venus?” I asked again.
“No,” he said, “I’ve never been to Venice.”
“Venus!” I bawled, “Venus!”
“Yes,” said Pendriver, “Venus. What about it?”
“Why,” I said, “there are people from Venus in Kensington Gardens.”