THE CRINOLINE EXPANDS.
When I returned to the Gardens the sun was at his zenith. The crowd around the Crinoline had increased and some sort of a struggle seemed to be going on. As I drew near I heard Lee-Bigge’s voice:
“Keep back! keep back!”
A boy came running towards me.
“It’s a-movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-blowin’ and a-blowin’ out. Now we shan’t be long!” Passing on, I saw that it was indeed expanding. The ribs were more distended and the covering more tightly stretched. The hissing had ceased and a creaking noise had taken its place. There was evidently great pressure within. Once something resembling an en tout cas was thrust through the top, making what was presumably an attempt to dislodge Lee-Bigge, and then suddenly the Crinoline burst, revealing a wision of ultra-mundane loveliness.
I shall not attempt exhaustively to describe the indescribable. It is enough to assure the sober reader that, grotesque and foolish as it may seem, this is absolutely true, and to record that after the glimpse I had of the Wenuses emerging from the Crinoline in which they had come to the earth from their planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions. All other men in the crowd seemed to be similarly affected. We were battle-grounds of love and curiosity. For the Wenuses were gorgeous: that is the sum of the matter.
Those who have never seen a living Wenus (there is a specimen in fairly good spirits in the Natural History Museum) can scarcely imagine the strange beauty of their appearance. The peculiar W-shaped mouth, the incessant nictitation of the sinister eyelid, the naughty little twinkle in the eye itself, the glistening glory of the arms, each terminating in a fleshy digitated Handling Machine resembling more than anything else a Number 6 glove inflated with air (these members, by the way, have since been named rather aptly by that distinguished anatomist and original dog, Professor Howes, the hands)—all combined to produce an effect akin to stupefaction. I stood there ecstatic, unprogressive, immoderate; while swiftly and surely ungovernable affection for all Wenuses gripped me.
Meanwhile I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides.
“Shameless hussies!” cried a woman near me.
“By Jove, that’s something like!” said a young man who had been reading Captain Coe’s finals, swinging round towards the Crinoline, with one foot arrested in mid-air.
My inclination when I recovered partial self-possession was to make instantly for the Crinoline and avow my devotion and allegiance, but at that moment I caught the eye of my wife, who had followed me to the Park, and I hastily turned my back on the centre of attraction. I saw, however, that Pendriver was using his spade to cleave his way to the Wenuses; and Swears was standing on the brink of the pit transfixed with adoration; while a young shopman from Woking, in town for the day, completely lost his head. It came bobbing over the grass to my very feet; but I remembered the experiences of Pollock and the Porroh man and let it go.