E.V. Lucas.

The War of the Wenuses online

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E-text prepared by David Starner, Edna Badalian, and the Project Gutenberg
Online Distributed Proofreading Team




Reprint of the 1898 ed. published by J. W. Arrowsmith
Bristol, Eng.

(From a Negative by THE SPECTROSCOPIC Co.)]


Translated from the Artesian of H. G. Pozzuoli

Author of _The Treadmill_, _The Isthmus of Dr. Day_, _The Vanishing
Lady_, etc., etc.



"Not novels and poetry swipes, but ideas, science, books"
_The Artilleryman_

[Illustration: Arrowsmith colophon]





BOOK I. - The Coming of the Wenuses.






BOOK II. - London Under the Wenuses.









The Coming of the Wenuses.

The Coming of the Wenuses.

* * * * *



No one would have believed in the first years of the twentieth century
that men and modistes on this planet were being watched by intelligences
greater than woman's and yet as ambitious as her own. With infinite
complacency maids and matrons went to and fro over London, serene in the
assurance of their empire over man. It is possible that the mysticetus
does the same. Not one of them gave a thought to Wenus as a source of
danger, or thought of it only to dismiss the idea of active rivalry upon
it as impossible or improbable. Yet across the gulf of space astral
women, with eyes that are to the eyes of English women as diamonds are
to boot-buttons, astral women, with hearts vast and warm and
sympathetic, were regarding Butterick's with envy, Peter Robinson's with
jealousy, and Whiteley's with insatiable yearning, and slowly and surely
maturing their plans for a grand inter-stellar campaign.

The pale pink planet Wenus, as I need hardly inform the sober reader,
revolves round the sun at a mean distance of [character: Venus sigil]
vermillion miles. More than that, as has been proved by the recent
observations of Puits of Paris, its orbit is steadily but surely
advancing sunward. That is to say, it is rapidly becoming too hot for
clothes to be worn at all; and this, to the Wenuses, was so alarming a
prospect that the immediate problem of life became the discovery of new
quarters notable for a gentler climate and more copious fashions. The
last stage of struggle-for-dress, which is to us still remote, had
embellished their charms, heightened their heels and enlarged their
hearts. Moreover, the population of Wenus consisted exclusively of
Invisible Men - and the Wenuses were about tired of it. Let us, however,
not judge them too harshly. Remember what ruthless havoc our own species
has wrought, not only on animals such as the Moa and the Maori, but upon
its own inferior races such as the Wanishing Lady and the Dodo Bensonii.

The Wenuses seem to have calculated their descent with quite un-feminine
accuracy. Had our instruments permitted it, we might have witnessed
their preparations. Similarly pigs, had they wings, might fly. Men like
Quellen of Dresden watched the pale pink planet - it is odd, by the way,
that for countless centuries Wenus has been the star of Eve - evening by
evening growing alternately paler and pinker than a literary agent, but
failed to interpret the extraordinary phenomena, resembling a series of
powder puffs, which he observed issuing from the cardiac penumbra on the
night of April 1st, 1902. At the same time a great light was remarked by
Idos of Yokohama and Pegadiadis of Athens.

The storm burst upon us six weeks later, about the time of the summer
sales. As Wenus approached opposition, Dr. Jelli of Guava set the wires
of the astronomical exchange palpitating with the intelligence of a huge
explosion of laughing gas moving risibly towards the earth. He compared
it to a colossal cosmic cachinnation. And, in the light of subsequent
events, the justice of the comparison will commend itself to all but the
most sober readers.

Had it not been for my chance meeting with Swears, the eminent
astronomer and objurgationist, this book would never have been written.
He asked me down to our basement, which he rents from me as an
observatory, and in spite of all that has happened since I still
remember our wigil very distinctly. (I spell it with a "w" from an
inordinate affection for that letter.) Swears moved about, invisible but
painfully audible to my naked ear. The night was very warm, and I was
very thirsty. As I gazed through the syphon, the little star seemed
alternately to expand and contract, and finally to assume a sort of dual
skirt, but that was simply because my eye was tired. I remember how I
sat under the table with patches of green and crimson swimming before my
eyes. Grotesque and foolish as this may seem to the sober reader, it is
absolutely true.

Swears watched till one, and then he gave it up. He was full of
speculations about the condition of Wenus. Swears' language was
extremely sultry.

"The chances against anything lady-like on Wenus," he said, "are a
million to one."

Even _Pearson's Weekly_ woke up to the disturbance at last, and Mrs.
Lynn Linton contributed an article entitled "What Women Might Do" to the
_Queen_. A paper called _Punch_, if I remember the name aright, made a
pun on the subject, which was partially intelligible with the aid of
italics and the laryngoscope. For my own part, I was too much occupied
in teaching my wife to ride a Bantam, and too busy upon a series of
papers in _Nature_ on the turpitude of the classical professoriate of
the University of London, to give my undivided attention to the
impending disaster. I cannot divide things easily; I am an indivisible
man. But one night I went for a bicycle ride with my wife. She _was_ a
Bantam of delight, I can tell you, but she rode very badly. It was
starlight, and I was attempting to explain the joke in the paper called,
if I recollect aright, _Punch_. It was an extraordinarily sultry night,
and I told her the names of all the stars she saw as she fell off her
machine. She had a good bulk of falls. There were lights in the upper
windows of the houses as the people went to bed. Grotesque and foolish
as this will seem to the sober reader, it is absolutely true. Coming
home, a party of bean-feasters from Wimbledon, Wormwood Scrubs, or
Woking passed us, singing and playing concertinas. It all seemed so safe
and tranquil. But the Wenuses were even then on their milky way.



Then came the night of the first star. It was seen early in the morning
rushing over Winchester; leaving a gentle frou-frou behind it. Trelawny,
of the Wells' Observatory, the greatest authority on Meteoric
Crinolines, watched it anxiously. Winymann, the publisher, who sprang to
fame by the publication of _The War of the Worlds_, saw it from his
office window, and at once telegraphed to me: "Materials for new book in
the air." That was the first hint I received of the wonderful wisit.

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
_débris_ 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

"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."

"Venus in Kensington Gardens!" he replied. "No, it's not Venus; it's the

I began to get angry.

"Not the statue," I shouted. "Wisitors from Wenus. Make copy. Come and
see! Copy! Copy!"

The word "copy" galvanised him, and he came, spade and all. We quickly
crossed the Park once more. Pendriver lives to the west of it, in
Strathmore Gardens, and has a special permit from his landlord to dig.
We did not, for sufficient reasons, converse much. Many persons were now
hastening towards the strange object. Among them I noticed Jubal Gregg
the butcher (who fortunately did not observe me - we owed him a trifle of
eighteen shillings, and had since taken to Canterbury lamb from the
Colonial Meat Stores), and a jobbing gardener, whom I had not recently
paid. I forget his name, but he was lame in the left leg: a ruddy man.

Quite a crowd surrounded the Crinoline when we arrived, and in addition
to the match-vendors already mentioned, there was now Giuseppe
Mandolini, from Leather Lane, with an accordion and a monkey. Monkeys
are of course forbidden in Kensington Gardens, and how he eluded the
police I cannot imagine. Most of the people were staring quietly at the
Crinoline, totally unaware of its significance. Scientific knowledge has
not progressed at Kensington by the same leaps and bounds as at Woking.
Extra-terrestrial had less meaning for them than extra-special.

We found Swears hard at work keeping the crowd from touching the
Crinoline. With him was a tall, red-haired man, who I afterwards learnt
was Lee-Bigge, the Secretary of the Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals. He had a summons and several officials with him, and
was standing on the Crinoline, bellowing directions in a clear, rich
voice, occasionally impeded by emotion, like an ox with a hiccough.

As soon as Swears saw me, he asked me to bring a policeman to assist him
to keep back the crowd; and I went away, proud to be so honoured, to
find one. I was unsuccessful. P.C. A581 had gone off duty; but another
constable, I was told, had been seen, an hour or so earlier, asleep
against the railings, - it was a baker's boy who told me, just back from
delivering muffins in St. Mary Abbot's Terrace, - and had since wandered
in the direction of the Albert Hall. I followed, but could not see him
in any of the areas, and therefore returned slowly by way of Queen's
Gate, Cromwell Road, Earl's Court Road, and Kensington High Street,
hoping to meet another; and as it was then about noon, I entered an
A.B.C. and had half a pork-pie and a bucket of Dr. Jaeger's Vi-cocolate.
I remember the circumstance distinctly, because feeling rather hungry
and wishing to vary the _menu_, I asked the girl for half a veal-and-ham
pie and she brought me the balance of the original pasty; and when I
remonstrated, she said that her directors recognised no essential
difference between veal-and-ham and pork.



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

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.

The news of our visitors seemed to have spread by some subtle magic, for
in every direction I could see nothing but running men, some with women
pulling at their sleeves and coat-tails to detain them, advancing by
great strides towards us. Even a policeman was among them, rubbing his
eyes. My wife broke through the crowd and grasped me firmly by the arm.

"Pozzy," she said, "this is my opportunity and I mean to use it. I was
kept doing nothing between pages 68 and 296 of the other book, and this
time I mean to work. Look at these fools rushing to their doom. In
another moment they will be mashed, mashed to jelly; and you too, unless
I prevent it. I know what these Wenuses are. Haven't I had a scientific
training? You will be mashed, I tell you - mashed!"

So saying she banged on the ground with her umbrella, which, I remember
now with sorrow, we had bought the week before at Derry and Toms' for

Meanwhile a few of the men had to some extent recovered, and headed by
the R.S.P.C.A. Secretary had formed a deputation, and were busy talking
on their fingers to the Wenuses. But the Wenuses were too much occupied
in dropping into each other's eyes something from a bright flask, which
I took to be Beggarstaffs' Elect Belladonna, to heed them.

I turned in response to a tug at my swallow-tails from my wife, and when
I looked again a row of Wenuses with closed lids stood before the
Crinoline. Suddenly they opened their eyes and flashed them on the men
before them. The effect was instantaneous. The deputation, as the glance
touched them, fell like skittles - viscous, protoplasmic masses, victims
of the terrible Mash-Glance of the Wenuses.

I attributed my own escape to the prompt action of my wife, who stood
before and shielded me, for upon women the Mash-Glance had no effect.
The ray must have missed me only by a second, for my elbow which was not
wholly covered by my wife's bulk was scorched, and my hat has never
since recovered its pristine gloss. Turning, I saw a bus-driver in
Knightsbridge leap up and explode, while his conductor clutched at the
rail, missed it and fell overboard; farther still, on the distant
horizon, the bricklayers on a gigantic scaffolding went off bang against
the lemon-yellow of the sky as the glance reached them, and the
Bachelors' Club at Albert Gate fell with a crash. All this had happened
with such swiftness, that I was dumbfounded. Then, after a few moments,
my wife slowly and reluctantly stepped aside and allowed me to survey
the scene. The Wenuses, having scored their first victory, once more had
retired into the recesses of the Crinoline. The ground for some distance
was littered with the bodies of the mashed; I alone among men stood
erect, my conscious companions being a sprinkling of women, pictures of
ungovernable fury.

Yet my feeling was not one of joy at my escape. Strange mind of
man! - instead, even with the Wenuses' victims lying all around me, my
heart went out to the Crinoline and its astral occupants. I, too, wished
to be mashed. And suddenly I was aware that my wife knew that I was
thinking thus. With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through
the Park.



I remember nothing of my flight, except the stress of blundering against
trees and stumbling over the railings. To blunder against some trees is
very stressful. At last I could go no further: I had run full tilt into
a gasworks. I fell and lay still.

I must have remained there some time.

Suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from without, came - Beer. It was
being poured down my throat by my cousin's man, and I recollect thinking
that he must have used the same can with which he filled the lamps. How
he got there I cannot pretend to tell.

"What news from the park?" said I.

"Eh!" said my cousin's man.

"What news from the Park?" I said.

"Garn! 'oo yer getting at?" said my cousin's man. "Aint yer just _been_
there?" (The italics are his own.) "People seem fair silly abart the
Pawk. Wot's it all abart?"

"Haven't you heard of the Wenuses?" said I. "The women from Wenus?"
"Quite enough," said my cousin's man, and laughed.

I felt foolish and angry.

"You'll hear more yet," I said, and went on my way.

Judging by the names of the streets, I seemed to be at Kennington, and
it was an hour after dawn, and my collar had burst away from its stud.
But I had ceased to feel fear. My terror had fallen from me like a bath
towel. Three things struggled for the possession of my mind: the beauty
of Kennington, the whereabouts of the Wenuses, and the wengeance of my
wife. In spite of my cousin's man's beer, which I could still taste, I
was ravenously hungry; so, seeing no one about, I broke into a chemist's
shop and stayed the pangs on a cake of petroleum soap, some Parrish's
food, and a box of menthol pastilles, which I washed down with a split
ammoniated quinine and Condy. I then stole across the road, and dragging
the cushions from a deserted cab (No. 8648) into the cab shelter, I
snatched a few more hours of restless sleep.

When I woke I found myself thinking consecutively, a thing I do not
remember to have done since I killed the curate in the other book. In
the interim my mental condition had been chaotic, asymptotic. But during
slumber my brain, incredible as it may seem, stimulated and clarified by
the condiments of which I had partaken, had resumed its normal activity.
I determined to go home.

Resolving at any cost to reach Campden Hill Gardens by a sufficiently
circuitous route, I traversed Kennington Park Road, Newington Butts,
Newington Causeway, Blackman Street, and the Borough High Street, to
London Bridge. Crossing the bridge, I met a newspaper boy with a bundle
of papers, still wet from the press. They were halfpenny copies of the
_Star_, but he charged me a penny for mine. The imposition still

From it I learned that a huge cordon of police, which had been drawn
round the Crinoline, had been mashed beyond recognition, and two
regiments of Life Guards razed to the ground, by the devastating Glance
of the Wenuses. I passed along King William Street and Prince's Street
to Moorgate Street. Here I met another newspaper boy, carrying the _Pall
Mall Gazette_. I handed him a threepenny bit; but though I waited for
twenty minutes, he offered me no change. This will give some idea of the
excitement then beginning to prevail. The _Pall Mall_ had an article on
the situation, which I read as I climbed the City Road to Islington. It
stated that Mrs. Pozzuoli, my wife, had constituted herself
Commander-in-Chief, and was busy marshalling her forces. I was relieved
by the news, for it suggested that my wife was fully occupied. Already a
good bulk of nursemaids and cooks, enraged at the destruction of the
Scotland Yard and Knightsbridge heroes by the Wenuses' Mash-Glance, had
joined her flag. It was, said the _Pall Mall,_ high time that such an
attack was undertaken, and since women had been proved to be immune to
the Mash-Glance, it was clearly their business to undertake it.

Meanwhile, said the _Pall Mall_, nothing could check the folly of the
men. Like moths to a candle, so were they hastening to Kensington
Gardens, only to be added to the heap of mashed that already had
accumulated there.

So far, the _P.M.G._ But my mother, who was in the thick of events at
the time, has since given me fuller particulars. Notwithstanding, my
mother tells me, the fate of their companions, the remainder of the
constabulary and military forces stationed in London hastened to the
Park, impelled by the fearful fascination, and were added to the piles
of mashed.

Afterwards came the Volunteers, to a man, and then the Cloth. The haste
of most of the curates, and a few bishops whose names have escaped me,
was, said my mother, cataclysmic. Old dandies with creaking joints
tottered along Piccadilly to their certain doom; young clerks in the
city, explaining that they wished to attend their aunt's funeral,
crowded the omnibuses for Kensington and were seen no more; while my
mother tells me that excursion trains from the country were arriving at
the principal stations throughout the day, bearing huge loads of
provincial inamorati.

A constant stream of infatuated men, flowing from east to west, set in,

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Online LibraryE.V. LucasThe War of the Wenuses → online text (page 1 of 3)