Part 1 - The War of the Worlds Audiobook by H. G. Wells (Book 1 - Chs 1-12)


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BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER ONE THE EVE OF THE WAR
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this
world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet
as mortal as his own; that as men busied
themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps
almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient
creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.
With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little
affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter.
It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.
No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or
thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.
It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days.
At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to
themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of
the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth
with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.
The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean
distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is
barely half of that received by this world.
It must be, if the nebular hypothesis has any truth, older than our world; and long
before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its surface must have begun its
course.
The fact that it is scarcely one seventh of the volume of the earth must have
accelerated its cooling to the temperature at which life could begin.
It has air and water and all that is necessary for the support of animated
existence.
Yet so vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer, up to the very end
of the nineteenth century, expressed any idea that intelligent life might have
developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level.
Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely
a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily
follows that it is not only more distant from time's beginning but nearer its end.
The secular cooling that must someday overtake our planet has already gone far
indeed with our neighbour.
Its physical condition is still largely a mystery, but we know now that even in its
equatorial region the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest
winter.
Its air is much more attenuated than ours, its oceans have shrunk until they cover but
a third of its surface, and as its slow seasons change huge snowcaps gather and
melt about either pole and periodically inundate its temperate zones.
That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a
present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars.
The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their
powers, and hardened their hearts.
And looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely
dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward
of them, a morning star of hope, our own
warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere
eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad
stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.
And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien
and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us.
The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for
existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars.
Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but
crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals.
To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that,
generation after generation, creeps upon them.
And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter
destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished
bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races.
The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of
existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of
fifty years.
Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same
spirit?
The Martians seem to have calculated their descent with amazing subtlety--their
mathematical learning is evidently far in excess of ours--and to have carried out
their preparations with a well-nigh perfect unanimity.
Had our instruments permitted it, we might have seen the gathering trouble far back in
the nineteenth century.
Men like Schiaparelli watched the red planet--it is odd, by-the-bye, that for
countless centuries Mars has been the star of war--but failed to interpret the
fluctuating appearances of the markings they mapped so well.
All that time the Martians must have been getting ready.
During the opposition of 1894 a great light was seen on the illuminated part of the
disk, first at the Lick Observatory, then by Perrotin of Nice, and then by other
observers.
English readers heard of it first in the issue of Nature dated August 2.
I am inclined to think that this blaze may have been the casting of the huge gun, in
the vast pit sunk into their planet, from which their shots were fired at us.
Peculiar markings, as yet unexplained, were seen near the site of that outbreak during
the next two oppositions. The storm burst upon us six years ago now.
As Mars approached opposition, Lavelle of Java set the wires of the astronomical
exchange palpitating with the amazing intelligence of a huge outbreak of
incandescent gas upon the planet.
It had occurred towards midnight of the twelfth; and the spectroscope, to which he
had at once resorted, indicated a mass of flaming gas, chiefly hydrogen, moving with
an enormous velocity towards this earth.
This jet of fire had become invisible about a quarter past twelve.
He compared it to a colossal puff of flame suddenly and violently squirted out of the
planet, "as flaming gases rushed out of a gun."
A singularly appropriate phrase it proved.
Yet the next day there was nothing of this in the papers except a little note in the
Daily Telegraph, and the world went in ignorance of one of the gravest dangers
that ever threatened the human race.
I might not have heard of the eruption at all had I not met Ogilvy, the well-known
astronomer, at Ottershaw.
He was immensely excited at the news, and in the excess of his feelings invited me up
to take a turn with him that night in a scrutiny of the red planet.
In spite of all that has happened since, I still remember that vigil very distinctly:
the black and silent observatory, the shadowed lantern throwing a feeble glow
upon the floor in the corner, the steady
ticking of the clockwork of the telescope, the little slit in the roof--an oblong
profundity with the stardust streaked across it.
Ogilvy moved about, invisible but audible.
Looking through the telescope, one saw a circle of deep blue and the little round
planet swimming in the field.
It seemed such a little thing, so bright and small and still, faintly marked with
transverse stripes, and slightly flattened from the perfect round.
But so little it was, so silvery warm--a pin's-head of light!
It was as if it quivered, but really this was the telescope vibrating with the
activity of the clockwork that kept the planet in view.
As I watched, the planet seemed to grow larger and smaller and to advance and
recede, but that was simply that my eye was tired.
Forty millions of miles it was from us-- more than forty millions of miles of void.
Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe
swims.
Near it in the field, I remember, were three faint points of light, three
telescopic stars infinitely remote, and all around it was the unfathomable darkness of
empty space.
You know how that blackness looks on a frosty starlight night.
In a telescope it seems far profounder.
And invisible to me because it was so remote and small, flying swiftly and
steadily towards me across that incredible distance, drawing nearer every minute by so
many thousands of miles, came the Thing
they were sending us, the Thing that was to bring so much struggle and calamity and
death to the earth.
I never dreamed of it then as I watched; no one on earth dreamed of that unerring
missile. That night, too, there was another jetting
out of gas from the distant planet.
I saw it. A reddish flash at the edge, the slightest
projection of the outline just as the chronometer struck midnight; and at that I
told Ogilvy and he took my place.
The night was warm and I was thirsty, and I went stretching my legs clumsily and
feeling my way in the darkness, to the little table where the siphon stood, while
Ogilvy exclaimed at the streamer of gas that came out towards us.
That night another invisible missile started on its way to the earth from Mars,
just a second or so under twenty-four hours after the first one.
I remember how I sat on the table there in the blackness, with patches of green and
crimson swimming before my eyes.
I wished I had a light to smoke by, little suspecting the meaning of the minute gleam
I had seen and all that it would presently bring me.
Ogilvy watched till one, and then gave it up; and we lit the lantern and walked over
to his house.
Down below in the darkness were Ottershaw and Chertsey and all their hundreds of
people, sleeping in peace.
He was full of speculation that night about the condition of Mars, and scoffed at the
vulgar idea of its having inhabitants who were signalling us.
His idea was that meteorites might be falling in a heavy shower upon the planet,
or that a huge volcanic explosion was in progress.
He pointed out to me how unlikely it was that organic evolution had taken the same
direction in the two adjacent planets. "The chances against anything manlike on
Mars are a million to one," he said.
Hundreds of observers saw the flame that night and the night after about midnight,
and again the night after; and so for ten nights, a flame each night.
Why the shots ceased after the tenth no one on earth has attempted to explain.
It may be the gases of the firing caused the Martians inconvenience.
Dense clouds of smoke or dust, visible through a powerful telescope on earth as
little grey, fluctuating patches, spread through the clearness of the planet's
atmosphere and obscured its more familiar features.
Even the daily papers woke up to the disturbances at last, and popular notes
appeared here, there, and everywhere concerning the volcanoes upon Mars.
The seriocomic periodical Punch, I remember, made a happy use of it in the
political cartoon.
And, all unsuspected, those missiles the Martians had fired at us drew earthward,
rushing now at a pace of many miles a second through the empty gulf of space,
hour by hour and day by day, nearer and nearer.
It seems to me now almost incredibly wonderful that, with that swift fate
hanging over us, men could go about their petty concerns as they did.
I remember how jubilant Markham was at securing a new photograph of the planet for
the illustrated paper he edited in those days.
People in these latter times scarcely realise the abundance and enterprise of our
nineteenth-century papers.
For my own part, I was much occupied in learning to ride the bicycle, and busy upon
a series of papers discussing the probable developments of moral ideas as civilisation
progressed.
One night (the first missile then could scarcely have been 10,000,000 miles away) I
went for a walk with my wife.
It was starlight and I explained the Signs of the Zodiac to her, and pointed out Mars,
a bright dot of light creeping zenithward, towards which so many telescopes were
pointed.
It was a warm night. Coming home, a party of excursionists from
Chertsey or Isleworth passed us singing and playing music.
There were lights in the upper windows of the houses as the people went to bed.
From the railway station in the distance came the sound of shunting trains, ringing
and rumbling, softened almost into melody by the distance.
My wife pointed out to me the brightness of the red, green, and yellow signal lights
hanging in a framework against the sky. It seemed so safe and tranquil.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER TWO THE FALLING STAR
Then came the night of the first falling star.
It was seen early in the morning, rushing over Winchester eastward, a line of flame
high in the atmosphere.
Hundreds must have seen it, and taken it for an ordinary falling star.
Albin described it as leaving a greenish streak behind it that glowed for some
seconds.
Denning, our greatest authority on meteorites, stated that the height of its
first appearance was about ninety or one hundred miles.
It seemed to him that it fell to earth about one hundred miles east of him.
I was at home at that hour and writing in my study; and although my French windows
face towards Ottershaw and the blind was up (for I loved in those days to look up at
the night sky), I saw nothing of it.
Yet this strangest of all things that ever came to earth from outer space must have
fallen while I was sitting there, visible to me had I only looked up as it passed.
Some of those who saw its flight say it travelled with a hissing sound.
I myself heard nothing of that.
Many people in Berkshire, Surrey, and Middlesex must have seen the fall of it,
and, at most, have thought that another meteorite had descended.
No one seems to have troubled to look for the fallen mass that night.
But very early in the morning poor Ogilvy, who had seen the shooting star and who was
persuaded that a meteorite lay somewhere on the common between Horsell, Ottershaw, and
Woking, rose early with the idea of finding it.
Find it he did, soon after dawn, and not far from the sand pits.
An enormous hole had been made by the impact of the projectile, and the sand and
gravel had been flung violently in every direction over the heath, forming heaps
visible a mile and a half away.
The heather was on fire eastward, and a thin blue smoke rose against the dawn.
The Thing itself lay almost entirely buried in sand, amidst the scattered splinters of
a fir tree it had shivered to fragments in its descent.
The uncovered part had the appearance of a huge cylinder, caked over and its outline
softened by a thick scaly dun-coloured incrustation.
It had a diameter of about thirty yards.
He approached the mass, surprised at the size and more so at the shape, since most
meteorites are rounded more or less completely.
It was, however, still so hot from its flight through the air as to forbid his
near approach.
A stirring noise within its cylinder he ascribed to the unequal cooling of its
surface; for at that time it had not occurred to him that it might be hollow.
He remained standing at the edge of the pit that the Thing had made for itself, staring
at its strange appearance, astonished chiefly at its unusual shape and colour,
and dimly perceiving even then some evidence of design in its arrival.
The early morning was wonderfully still, and the sun, just clearing the pine trees
towards Weybridge, was already warm.
He did not remember hearing any birds that morning, there was certainly no breeze
stirring, and the only sounds were the faint movements from within the cindery
cylinder.
He was all alone on the common.
Then suddenly he noticed with a start that some of the grey clinker, the ashy
incrustation that covered the meteorite, was falling off the circular edge of the
end.
It was dropping off in flakes and raining down upon the sand.
A large piece suddenly came off and fell with a sharp noise that brought his heart
into his mouth.
For a minute he scarcely realised what this meant, and, although the heat was
excessive, he clambered down into the pit close to the bulk to see the Thing more
clearly.
He fancied even then that the cooling of the body might account for this, but what
disturbed that idea was the fact that the ash was falling only from the end of the
cylinder.
And then he perceived that, very slowly, the circular top of the cylinder was
rotating on its body.
It was such a gradual movement that he discovered it only through noticing that a
black mark that had been near him five minutes ago was now at the other side of
the circumference.
Even then he scarcely understood what this indicated, until he heard a muffled grating
sound and saw the black mark jerk forward an inch or so.
Then the thing came upon him in a flash.
The cylinder was artificial--hollow--with an end that screwed out!
Something within the cylinder was unscrewing the top!
"Good heavens!" said Ogilvy.
"There's a man in it--men in it! Half roasted to death!
Trying to escape!" At once, with a quick mental leap, he
linked the Thing with the flash upon Mars.
The thought of the confined creature was so dreadful to him that he forgot the heat and
went forward to the cylinder to help turn.
But luckily the dull radiation arrested him before he could burn his hands on the
still-glowing metal.
At that he stood irresolute for a moment, then turned, scrambled out of the pit, and
set off running wildly into Woking. The time then must have been somewhere
about six o'clock.
He met a waggoner and tried to make him understand, but the tale he told and his
appearance were so wild--his hat had fallen off in the pit--that the man simply drove
on.
He was equally unsuccessful with the potman who was just unlocking the doors of the
public-house by Horsell Bridge.
The fellow thought he was a lunatic at large and made an unsuccessful attempt to
shut him into the taproom.
That sobered him a little; and when he saw Henderson, the London journalist, in his
garden, he called over the palings and made himself understood.
"Henderson," he called, "you saw that shooting star last night?"
"Well?" said Henderson. "It's out on Horsell Common now."
"Good Lord!" said Henderson.
"Fallen meteorite! That's good."
"But it's something more than a meteorite. It's a cylinder--an artificial cylinder,
man!
And there's something inside." Henderson stood up with his spade in his
hand. "What's that?" he said.
He was deaf in one ear.
Ogilvy told him all that he had seen. Henderson was a minute or so taking it in.
Then he dropped his spade, snatched up his jacket, and came out into the road.
The two men hurried back at once to the common, and found the cylinder still lying
in the same position.
But now the sounds inside had ceased, and a thin circle of bright metal showed between
the top and the body of the cylinder. Air was either entering or escaping at the
rim with a thin, sizzling sound.
They listened, rapped on the scaly burnt metal with a stick, and, meeting with no
response, they both concluded the man or men inside must be insensible or dead.
Of course the two were quite unable to do anything.
They shouted consolation and promises, and went off back to the town again to get
help.
One can imagine them, covered with sand, excited and disordered, running up the
little street in the bright sunlight just as the shop folks were taking down their
shutters and people were opening their bedroom windows.
Henderson went into the railway station at once, in order to telegraph the news to
London.
The newspaper articles had prepared men's minds for the reception of the idea.
By eight o'clock a number of boys and unemployed men had already started for the
common to see the "dead men from Mars."
That was the form the story took. I heard of it first from my newspaper boy
about a quarter to nine when I went out to get my Daily Chronicle.
I was naturally startled, and lost no time in going out and across the Ottershaw
bridge to the sand pits.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER THREE ON HORSELL COMMON
I found a little crowd of perhaps twenty people surrounding the huge hole in which
the cylinder lay. I have already described the appearance of
that colossal bulk, embedded in the ground.
The turf and gravel about it seemed charred as if by a sudden explosion.
No doubt its impact had caused a flash of fire.
Henderson and Ogilvy were not there.
I think they perceived that nothing was to be done for the present, and had gone away
to breakfast at Henderson's house.
There were four or five boys sitting on the edge of the Pit, with their feet dangling,
and amusing themselves--until I stopped them--by throwing stones at the giant mass.
After I had spoken to them about it, they began playing at "touch" in and out of the
group of bystanders.
Among these were a couple of cyclists, a jobbing gardener I employed sometimes, a
girl carrying a baby, Gregg the butcher and his little boy, and two or three loafers
and golf caddies who were accustomed to hang about the railway station.
There was very little talking.
Few of the common people in England had anything but the vaguest astronomical ideas
in those days.
Most of them were staring quietly at the big table like end of the cylinder, which
was still as Ogilvy and Henderson had left it.
I fancy the popular expectation of a heap of charred corpses was disappointed at this
inanimate bulk. Some went away while I was there, and other
people came.
I clambered into the pit and fancied I heard a faint movement under my feet.
The top had certainly ceased to rotate.
It was only when I got thus close to it that the strangeness of this object was at
all evident to me.
At the first glance it was really no more exciting than an overturned carriage or a
tree blown across the road. Not so much so, indeed.
It looked like a rusty gas float.
It required a certain amount of scientific education to perceive that the grey scale
of the Thing was no common oxide, that the yellowish-white metal that gleamed in the
crack between the lid and the cylinder had an unfamiliar hue.
"Extra-terrestrial" had no meaning for most of the onlookers.
At that time it was quite clear in my own mind that the Thing had come from the
planet Mars, but I judged it improbable that it contained any living creature.
I thought the unscrewing might be automatic.
In spite of Ogilvy, I still believed that there were men in Mars.
My mind ran fancifully on the possibilities of its containing manuscript, on the
difficulties in translation that might arise, whether we should find coins and
models in it, and so forth.
Yet it was a little too large for assurance on this idea.
I felt an impatience to see it opened.
About eleven, as nothing seemed happening, I walked back, full of such thought, to my
home in Maybury. But I found it difficult to get to work
upon my abstract investigations.
In the afternoon the appearance of the common had altered very much.
The early editions of the evening papers had startled London with enormous
headlines:
"A MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM MARS." "REMARKABLE STORY FROM WOKING," and so
forth.
In addition, Ogilvy's wire to the Astronomical Exchange had roused every
observatory in the three kingdoms.
There were half a dozen flies or more from the Woking station standing in the road by
the sand pits, a basket-chaise from Chobham, and a rather lordly carriage.
Besides that, there was quite a heap of bicycles.
In addition, a large number of people must have walked, in spite of the heat of the
day, from Woking and Chertsey, so that there was altogether quite a considerable
crowd--one or two gaily dressed ladies among the others.
It was glaringly hot, not a cloud in the sky nor a breath of wind, and the only
shadow was that of the few scattered pine trees.
The burning heather had been extinguished, but the level ground towards Ottershaw was
blackened as far as one could see, and still giving off vertical streamers of
smoke.
An enterprising sweet-stuff dealer in the Chobham Road had sent up his son with a
barrow-load of green apples and ginger beer.
Going to the edge of the pit, I found it occupied by a group of about half a dozen
men--Henderson, Ogilvy, and a tall, fair- haired man that I afterwards learned was
Stent, the Astronomer Royal, with several workmen wielding spades and pickaxes.
Stent was giving directions in a clear, high-pitched voice.
He was standing on the cylinder, which was now evidently much cooler; his face was
crimson and streaming with perspiration, and something seemed to have irritated him.
A large portion of the cylinder had been uncovered, though its lower end was still
embedded.
As soon as Ogilvy saw me among the staring crowd on the edge of the pit he called to
me to come down, and asked me if I would mind going over to see Lord Hilton, the
lord of the manor.
The growing crowd, he said, was becoming a serious impediment to their excavations,
especially the boys. They wanted a light railing put up, and
help to keep the people back.
He told me that a faint stirring was occasionally still audible within the case,
but that the workmen had failed to unscrew the top, as it afforded no grip to them.
The case appeared to be enormously thick, and it was possible that the faint sounds
we heard represented a noisy tumult in the interior.
I was very glad to do as he asked, and so become one of the privileged spectators
within the contemplated enclosure.
I failed to find Lord Hilton at his house, but I was told he was expected from London
by the six o'clock train from Waterloo; and as it was then about a quarter past five, I
went home, had some tea, and walked up to the station to waylay him.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER FOUR THE CYLINDER OPENS
When I returned to the common the sun was setting.
Scattered groups were hurrying from the direction of Woking, and one or two persons
were returning.
The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon yellow of
the sky--a couple of hundred people, perhaps.
There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on about the
pit. Strange imaginings passed through my mind.
As I drew nearer I heard Stent's voice:
"Keep back! Keep back!"
A boy came running towards me. "It's a-movin'," he said to me as he
passed; "a-screwin' and a-screwin' out.
I don't like it. I'm a-goin' 'ome, I am."
I went on to the crowd.
There were really, I should think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling
one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the least active.
"He's fallen in the pit!" cried some one.
"Keep back!" said several. The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my
way through. Every one seemed greatly excited.
I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
"I say!" said Ogilvy; "help keep these idiots back.
We don't know what's in the confounded thing, you know!"
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was, standing on the
cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again.
The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within.
Nearly two feet of shining screw projected.
Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top
of the screw.
I turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder
fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion.
I stuck my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again.
For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black.
I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge--possibly something a little unlike
us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man.
I know I did.
But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy
movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks--like eyes.
Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking
stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me-
-and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman
behind.
I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still, from which other
tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of the
pit.
I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me.
I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides.
There was a general movement backwards.
I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit.
I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off,
Stent among them.
I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me.
I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and
painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it
glistened like wet leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly.
The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say,
a face.
There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted,
and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated
convulsively.
A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the
air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of
its appearance.
The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow
ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant
quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups
of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the
evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational
energy of the earth--above all, the
extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes--were at once vital, intense, inhuman,
crippled and monstrous.
There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy
deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty.
Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and
dread. Suddenly the monster vanished.
It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a
thud like the fall of a great mass of leather.
I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures
appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred
yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face
from these things.
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped, panting, and
waited further developments.
The common round the sand pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a
half-fascinated terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel
at the edge of the pit in which they lay.
And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on
the edge of the pit.
It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black
object against the hot western sun.
Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until only his
head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have
fancied a faint shriek had reached me.
I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the heap of sand that
the fall of the cylinder had made.
Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the
sight--a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great
irregular circle, in ditches, behind
bushes, behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another and that in short,
excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of sand.
The barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black against the burning sky,
and in the sand pits was a row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of
nosebags or pawing the ground.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER FIVE THE HEAT-RAY
After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging from the cylinder in which they
had come to the earth from their planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions.
I remained standing knee-deep in the heather, staring at the mound that hid
them. I was a battleground of fear and curiosity.
I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a passionate longing to peer
into it.
I began walking, therefore, in a big curve, seeking some point of vantage and
continually looking at the sand heaps that hid these new-comers to our earth.
Once a leash of thin black whips, like the arms of an octopus, flashed across the
sunset and was immediately withdrawn, and afterwards a thin rod rose up, joint by
joint, bearing at its apex a circular disk that spun with a wobbling motion.
What could be going on there?
Most of the spectators had gathered in one or two groups--one a little crowd towards
Woking, the other a knot of people in the direction of Chobham.
Evidently they shared my mental conflict.
There were few near me. One man I approached--he was, I perceived,
a neighbour of mine, though I did not know his name--and accosted.
But it was scarcely a time for articulate conversation.
"What ugly brutes!" he said. "Good God! What ugly brutes!"
He repeated this over and over again.
"Did you see a man in the pit?" I said; but he made no answer to that.
We became silent, and stood watching for a time side by side, deriving, I fancy, a
certain comfort in one another's company.
Then I shifted my position to a little knoll that gave me the advantage of a yard
or more of elevation and when I looked for him presently he was walking towards
Woking.
The sunset faded to twilight before anything further happened.
The crowd far away on the left, towards Woking, seemed to grow, and I heard now a
faint murmur from it.
The little knot of people towards Chobham dispersed.
There was scarcely an intimation of movement from the pit.
It was this, as much as anything, that gave people courage, and I suppose the new
arrivals from Woking also helped to restore confidence.
At any rate, as the dusk came on a slow, intermittent movement upon the sand pits
began, a movement that seemed to gather force as the stillness of the evening about
the cylinder remained unbroken.
Vertical black figures in twos and threes would advance, stop, watch, and advance
again, spreading out as they did so in a thin irregular crescent that promised to
enclose the pit in its attenuated horns.
I, too, on my side began to move towards the pit.
Then I saw some cabmen and others had walked boldly into the sand pits, and heard
the clatter of hoofs and the gride of wheels.
I saw a lad trundling off the barrow of apples.
And then, within thirty yards of the pit, advancing from the direction of Horsell, I
noted a little black knot of men, the foremost of whom was waving a white flag.
This was the Deputation.
There had been a hasty consultation, and since the Martians were evidently, in spite
of their repulsive forms, intelligent creatures, it had been resolved to show
them, by approaching them with signals, that we too were intelligent.
Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then to the left.
It was too far for me to recognise anyone there, but afterwards I learned that
Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were with others in this attempt at communication.
This little group had in its advance dragged inward, so to speak, the
circumference of the now almost complete circle of people, and a number of dim black
figures followed it at discreet distances.
Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of luminous greenish smoke came
out of the pit in three distinct puffs, which drove up, one after the other,
straight into the still air.
This smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be the better word for it) was so bright that the
deep blue sky overhead and the hazy stretches of brown common towards Chertsey,
set with black pine trees, seemed to darken
abruptly as these puffs arose, and to remain the darker after their dispersal.
At the same time a faint hissing sound became audible.
Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the white flag at its apex,
arrested by these phenomena, a little knot of small vertical black shapes upon the
black ground.
As the green smoke arose, their faces flashed out pallid green, and faded again
as it vanished. Then slowly the hissing passed into a
humming, into a long, loud, droning noise.
Slowly a humped shape rose out of the pit, and the ghost of a beam of light seemed to
flicker out from it.
Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang
from the scattered group of men. It was as if some invisible jet impinged
upon them and flashed into white flame.
It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire.
Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering and
falling, and their supporters turning to run.
I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death leaping from man to man in
that little distant crowd. All I felt was that it was something very
strange.
An almost noiseless and blinding flash of light, and a man fell headlong and lay
still; and as the unseen shaft of heat passed over them, pine trees burst into
fire, and every dry furze bush became with one dull thud a mass of flames.
And far away towards Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden
buildings suddenly set alight.
It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming death, this invisible,
inevitable sword of heat.
I perceived it coming towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and was too
astounded and stupefied to stir.
I heard the crackle of fire in the sand pits and the sudden squeal of a horse that
was as suddenly stilled.
Then it was as if an invisible yet intensely heated finger were drawn through
the heather between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line beyond the
sand pits the dark ground smoked and crackled.
Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the road from Woking station
opens out on the common.
Forth-with the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, dome-like object sank slowly
out of sight into the pit.
All this had happened with such swiftness that I had stood motionless, dumbfounded
and dazzled by the flashes of light.
Had that death swept through a full circle, it must inevitably have slain me in my
surprise.
But it passed and spared me, and left the night about me suddenly dark and
unfamiliar.
The undulating common seemed now dark almost to blackness, except where its
roadways lay grey and pale under the deep blue sky of the early night.
It was dark, and suddenly void of men.
Overhead the stars were mustering, and in the west the sky was still a pale, bright,
almost greenish blue.
The tops of the pine trees and the roofs of Horsell came out sharp and black against
the western afterglow.
The Martians and their appliances were altogether invisible, save for that thin
mast upon which their restless mirror wobbled.
Patches of bush and isolated trees here and there smoked and glowed still, and the
houses towards Woking station were sending up spires of flame into the stillness of
the evening air.
Nothing was changed save for that and a terrible astonishment.
The little group of black specks with the flag of white had been swept out of
existence, and the stillness of the evening, so it seemed to me, had scarcely
been broken.
It came to me that I was upon this dark common, helpless, unprotected, and alone.
Suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from without, came--fear.
With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through the heather.
The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror not only of the Martians, but
of the dusk and stillness all about me.
Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it had that I ran weeping silently as a
child might do. Once I had turned, I did not dare to look
back.
I remember I felt an extraordinary persuasion that I was being played with,
that presently, when I was upon the very verge of safety, this mysterious death--as
swift as the passage of light--would leap
after me from the pit about the cylinder and strike me down.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER SIX THE HEAT-RAY IN THE CHOBHAM
ROAD
It is still a matter of wonder how the Martians are able to slay men so swiftly
and so silently.
Many think that in some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of
practically absolute non-conductivity.
This intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they
choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror of unknown composition, much as the
parabolic mirror of a lighthouse projects a beam of light.
But no one has absolutely proved these details.
However it is done, it is certain that a beam of heat is the essence of the matter.
Heat, and invisible, instead of visible, light.
Whatever is combustible flashes into flame at its touch, lead runs like water, it
softens iron, cracks and melts glass, and when it falls upon water, incontinently
that explodes into steam.
That night nearly forty people lay under the starlight about the pit, charred and
distorted beyond recognition, and all night long the common from Horsell to Maybury was
deserted and brightly ablaze.
The news of the massacre probably reached Chobham, Woking, and Ottershaw about the
same time.
In Woking the shops had closed when the tragedy happened, and a number of people,
shop people and so forth, attracted by the stories they had heard, were walking over
the Horsell Bridge and along the road
between the hedges that runs out at last upon the common.
You may imagine the young people brushed up after the labours of the day, and making
this novelty, as they would make any novelty, the excuse for walking together
and enjoying a trivial flirtation.
You may figure to yourself the hum of voices along the road in the gloaming.
As yet, of course, few people in Woking even knew that the cylinder had opened,
though poor Henderson had sent a messenger on a bicycle to the post office with a
special wire to an evening paper.
As these folks came out by twos and threes upon the open, they found little knots of
people talking excitedly and peering at the spinning mirror over the sand pits, and the
newcomers were, no doubt, soon infected by the excitement of the occasion.
By half past eight, when the Deputation was destroyed, there may have been a crowd of
three hundred people or more at this place, besides those who had left the road to
approach the Martians nearer.
There were three policemen too, one of whom was mounted, doing their best, under
instructions from Stent, to keep the people back and deter them from approaching the
cylinder.
There was some booing from those more thoughtless and excitable souls to whom a
crowd is always an occasion for noise and horse-play.
Stent and Ogilvy, anticipating some possibilities of a collision, had
telegraphed from Horsell to the barracks as soon as the Martians emerged, for the help
of a company of soldiers to protect these strange creatures from violence.
After that they returned to lead that ill- fated advance.
The description of their death, as it was seen by the crowd, tallies very closely
with my own impressions: the three puffs of green smoke, the deep humming note, and the
flashes of flame.
But that crowd of people had a far narrower escape than mine.
Only the fact that a hummock of heathery sand intercepted the lower part of the
Heat-Ray saved them.
Had the elevation of the parabolic mirror been a few yards higher, none could have
lived to tell the tale.
They saw the flashes and the men falling and an invisible hand, as it were, lit the
bushes as it hurried towards them through the twilight.
Then, with a whistling note that rose above the droning of the pit, the beam swung
close over their heads, lighting the tops of the beech trees that line the road, and
splitting the bricks, smashing the windows,
firing the window frames, and bringing down in crumbling ruin a portion of the gable of
the house nearest the corner.
In the sudden thud, hiss, and glare of the igniting trees, the panic-stricken crowd
seems to have swayed hesitatingly for some moments.
Sparks and burning twigs began to fall into the road, and single leaves like puffs of
flame. Hats and dresses caught fire.
Then came a crying from the common.
There were shrieks and shouts, and suddenly a mounted policeman came galloping through
the confusion with his hands clasped over his head, screaming.
"They're coming!" a woman shrieked, and incontinently everyone was turning and
pushing at those behind, in order to clear their way to Woking again.
They must have bolted as blindly as a flock of sheep.
Where the road grows narrow and black between the high banks the crowd jammed,
and a desperate struggle occurred.
All that crowd did not escape; three persons at least, two women and a little
boy, were crushed and trampled there, and left to die amid the terror and the
darkness.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER SEVEN HOW I REACHED HOME
For my own part, I remember nothing of my flight except the stress of blundering
against trees and stumbling through the heather.
All about me gathered the invisible terrors of the Martians; that pitiless sword of
heat seemed whirling to and fro, flourishing overhead before it descended
and smote me out of life.
I came into the road between the crossroads and Horsell, and ran along this to the
crossroads.
At last I could go no further; I was exhausted with the violence of my emotion
and of my flight, and I staggered and fell by the wayside.
That was near the bridge that crosses the canal by the gasworks.
I fell and lay still. I must have remained there some time.
I sat up, strangely perplexed.
For a moment, perhaps, I could not clearly understand how I came there.
My terror had fallen from me like a garment.
My hat had gone, and my collar had burst away from its fastener.
A few minutes before, there had only been three real things before me--the immensity
of the night and space and nature, my own feebleness and anguish, and the near
approach of death.
Now it was as if something turned over, and the point of view altered abruptly.
There was no sensible transition from one state of mind to the other.
I was immediately the self of every day again--a decent, ordinary citizen.
The silent common, the impulse of my flight, the starting flames, were as if
they had been in a dream.
I asked myself had these latter things indeed happened?
I could not credit it. I rose and walked unsteadily up the steep
incline of the bridge.
My mind was blank wonder. My muscles and nerves seemed drained of
their strength. I dare say I staggered drunkenly.
A head rose over the arch, and the figure of a workman carrying a basket appeared.
Beside him ran a little boy. He passed me, wishing me good night.
I was minded to speak to him, but did not.
I answered his greeting with a meaningless mumble and went on over the bridge.
Over the Maybury arch a train, a billowing tumult of white, firelit smoke, and a long
caterpillar of lighted windows, went flying south--clatter, clatter, clap, rap, and it
had gone.
A dim group of people talked in the gate of one of the houses in the pretty little row
of gables that was called Oriental Terrace. It was all so real and so familiar.
And that behind me!
It was frantic, fantastic! Such things, I told myself, could not be.
Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my experience is
common.
At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world
about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably
remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all.
This feeling was very strong upon me that night.
Here was another side to my dream.
But the trouble was the blank incongruity of this serenity and the swift death flying
yonder, not two miles away.
There was a noise of business from the gasworks, and the electric lamps were all
alight. I stopped at the group of people.
"What news from the common?" said I.
There were two men and a woman at the gate. "Eh?" said one of the men, turning.
"What news from the common?" I said.
"'Ain't yer just been there?" asked the men.
"People seem fair silly about the common," said the woman over the gate.
"What's it all abart?"
"Haven't you heard of the men from Mars?" said I; "the creatures from Mars?"
"Quite enough," said the woman over the gate.
"Thenks"; and all three of them laughed.
I felt foolish and angry. I tried and found I could not tell them
what I had seen. They laughed again at my broken sentences.
"You'll hear more yet," I said, and went on to my home.
I startled my wife at the doorway, so haggard was I.
I went into the dining room, sat down, drank some wine, and so soon as I could
collect myself sufficiently I told her the things I had seen.
The dinner, which was a cold one, had already been served, and remained neglected
on the table while I told my story.
"There is one thing," I said, to allay the fears I had aroused; "they are the most
sluggish things I ever saw crawl.
They may keep the pit and kill people who come near them, but they cannot get out of
it. But the horror of them!"
"Don't, dear!" said my wife, knitting her brows and putting her hand on mine.
"Poor Ogilvy!" I said.
"To think he may be lying dead there!"
My wife at least did not find my experience incredible.
When I saw how deadly white her face was, I ceased abruptly.
"They may come here," she said again and again.
I pressed her to take wine, and tried to reassure her.
"They can scarcely move," I said.
I began to comfort her and myself by repeating all that Ogilvy had told me of
the impossibility of the Martians establishing themselves on the earth.
In particular I laid stress on the gravitational difficulty.
On the surface of the earth the force of gravity is three times what it is on the
surface of Mars.
A Martian, therefore, would weigh three times more than on Mars, albeit his
muscular strength would be the same. His own body would be a cope of lead to
him.
That, indeed, was the general opinion. Both The Times and the Daily Telegraph, for
instance, insisted on it the next morning, and both overlooked, just as I did, two
obvious modifying influences.
The atmosphere of the earth, we now know, contains far more oxygen or far less argon
(whichever way one likes to put it) than does Mars.
The invigorating influences of this excess of oxygen upon the Martians indisputably
did much to counterbalance the increased weight of their bodies.
And, in the second place, we all overlooked the fact that such mechanical intelligence
as the Martian possessed was quite able to dispense with muscular exertion at a pinch.
But I did not consider these points at the time, and so my reasoning was dead against
the chances of the invaders.
With wine and food, the confidence of my own table, and the necessity of reassuring
my wife, I grew by insensible degrees courageous and secure.
"They have done a foolish thing," said I, fingering my wineglass.
"They are dangerous because, no doubt, they are mad with terror.
Perhaps they expected to find no living things--certainly no intelligent living
things." "A shell in the pit" said I, "if the worst
comes to the worst will kill them all."
The intense excitement of the events had no doubt left my perceptive powers in a state
of erethism. I remember that dinner table with
extraordinary vividness even now.
My dear wife's sweet anxious face peering at me from under the pink lamp shade, the
white cloth with its silver and glass table furniture--for in those days even
philosophical writers had many little
luxuries--the crimson-purple wine in my glass, are photographically distinct.
At the end of it I sat, tempering nuts with a cigarette, regretting Ogilvy's rashness,
and denouncing the shortsighted timidity of the Martians.
So some respectable dodo in the Mauritius might have lorded it in his nest, and
discussed the arrival of that shipful of pitiless sailors in want of animal food.
"We will peck them to death tomorrow, my dear."
I did not know it, but that was the last civilised dinner I was to eat for very many
strange and terrible days.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER EIGHT FRIDAY NIGHT
The most extraordinary thing to my mind, of all the strange and wonderful things that
happened upon that Friday, was the dovetailing of the commonplace habits of
our social order with the first beginnings
of the series of events that was to topple that social order headlong.
If on Friday night you had taken a pair of compasses and drawn a circle with a radius
of five miles round the Woking sand pits, I doubt if you would have had one human being
outside it, unless it were some relation of
Stent or of the three or four cyclists or London people lying dead on the common,
whose emotions or habits were at all affected by the new-comers.
Many people had heard of the cylinder, of course, and talked about it in their
leisure, but it certainly did not make the sensation that an ultimatum to Germany
would have done.
In London that night poor Henderson's telegram describing the gradual unscrewing
of the shot was judged to be a canard, and his evening paper, after wiring for
authentication from him and receiving no
reply--the man was killed--decided not to print a special edition.
Even within the five-mile circle the great majority of people were inert.
I have already described the behaviour of the men and women to whom I spoke.
All over the district people were dining and supping; working men were gardening
after the labours of the day, children were being put to bed, young people were
wandering through the lanes love-making, students sat over their books.
Maybe there was a murmur in the village streets, a novel and dominant topic in the
public-houses, and here and there a messenger, or even an eye-witness of the
later occurrences, caused a whirl of
excitement, a shouting, and a running to and fro; but for the most part the daily
routine of working, eating, drinking, sleeping, went on as it had done for
countless years--as though no planet Mars existed in the sky.
Even at Woking station and Horsell and Chobham that was the case.
In Woking junction, until a late hour, trains were stopping and going on, others
were shunting on the sidings, passengers were alighting and waiting, and everything
was proceeding in the most ordinary way.
A boy from the town, trenching on Smith's monopoly, was selling papers with the
afternoon's news.
The ringing impact of trucks, the sharp whistle of the engines from the junction,
mingled with their shouts of "Men from Mars!"
Excited men came into the station about nine o'clock with incredible tidings, and
caused no more disturbance than drunkards might have done.
People rattling Londonwards peered into the darkness outside the carriage windows, and
saw only a rare, flickering, vanishing spark dance up from the direction of
Horsell, a red glow and a thin veil of
smoke driving across the stars, and thought that nothing more serious than a heath fire
was happening. It was only round the edge of the common
that any disturbance was perceptible.
There were half a dozen villas burning on the Woking border.
There were lights in all the houses on the common side of the three villages, and the
people there kept awake till dawn.
A curious crowd lingered restlessly, people coming and going but the crowd remaining,
both on the Chobham and Horsell bridges.
One or two adventurous souls, it was afterwards found, went into the darkness
and crawled quite near the Martians; but they never returned, for now and again a
light-ray, like the beam of a warship's
searchlight swept the common, and the Heat- Ray was ready to follow.
Save for such, that big area of common was silent and desolate, and the charred bodies
lay about on it all night under the stars, and all the next day.
A noise of hammering from the pit was heard by many people.
So you have the state of things on Friday night.
In the centre, sticking into the skin of our old planet Earth like a poisoned dart,
was this cylinder. But the poison was scarcely working yet.
Around it was a patch of silent common, smouldering in places, and with a few dark,
dimly seen objects lying in contorted attitudes here and there.
Here and there was a burning bush or tree.
Beyond was a fringe of excitement, and farther than that fringe the inflammation
had not crept as yet.
In the rest of the world the stream of life still flowed as it had flowed for
immemorial years.
The fever of war that would presently clog vein and artery, deaden nerve and destroy
brain, had still to develop.
All night long the Martians were hammering and stirring, sleepless, indefatigable, at
work upon the machines they were making ready, and ever and again a puff of
greenish-white smoke whirled up to the starlit sky.
About eleven a company of soldiers came through Horsell, and deployed along the
edge of the common to form a cordon.
Later a second company marched through Chobham to deploy on the north side of the
common.
Several officers from the Inkerman barracks had been on the common earlier in the day,
and one, Major Eden, was reported to be missing.
The colonel of the regiment came to the Chobham bridge and was busy questioning the
crowd at midnight. The military authorities were certainly
alive to the seriousness of the business.
About eleven, the next morning's papers were able to say, a squadron of hussars,
two Maxims, and about four hundred men of the Cardigan regiment started from
Aldershot.
A few seconds after midnight the crowd in the Chertsey road, Woking, saw a star fall
from heaven into the pine woods to the northwest.
It had a greenish colour, and caused a silent brightness like summer lightning.
This was the second cylinder.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER NINE THE FIGHTING BEGINS
Saturday lives in my memory as a day of suspense.
It was a day of lassitude too, hot and close, with, I am told, a rapidly
fluctuating barometer.
I had slept but little, though my wife had succeeded in sleeping, and I rose early.
I went into my garden before breakfast and stood listening, but towards the common
there was nothing stirring but a lark.
The milkman came as usual. I heard the rattle of his chariot and I
went round to the side gate to ask the latest news.
He told me that during the night the Martians had been surrounded by troops, and
that guns were expected. Then--a familiar, reassuring note--I heard
a train running towards Woking.
"They aren't to be killed," said the milkman, "if that can possibly be avoided."
I saw my neighbour gardening, chatted with him for a time, and then strolled in to
breakfast.
It was a most unexceptional morning. My neighbour was of opinion that the troops
would be able to capture or to destroy the Martians during the day.
"It's a pity they make themselves so unapproachable," he said.
"It would be curious to know how they live on another planet; we might learn a thing
or two."
He came up to the fence and extended a handful of strawberries, for his gardening
was as generous as it was enthusiastic.
At the same time he told me of the burning of the pine woods about the Byfleet Golf
Links.
"They say," said he, "that there's another of those blessed things fallen there--
number two. But one's enough, surely.
This lot'll cost the insurance people a pretty penny before everything's settled."
He laughed with an air of the greatest good humour as he said this.
The woods, he said, were still burning, and pointed out a haze of smoke to me.
"They will be hot under foot for days, on account of the thick soil of pine needles
and turf," he said, and then grew serious over "poor Ogilvy."
After breakfast, instead of working, I decided to walk down towards the common.
Under the railway bridge I found a group of soldiers--sappers, I think, men in small
round caps, dirty red jackets unbuttoned, and showing their blue shirts, dark
trousers, and boots coming to the calf.
They told me no one was allowed over the canal, and, looking along the road towards
the bridge, I saw one of the Cardigan men standing sentinel there.
I talked with these soldiers for a time; I told them of my sight of the Martians on
the previous evening.
None of them had seen the Martians, and they had but the vaguest ideas of them, so
that they plied me with questions.
They said that they did not know who had authorised the movements of the troops;
their idea was that a dispute had arisen at the Horse Guards.
The ordinary sapper is a great deal better educated than the common soldier, and they
discussed the peculiar conditions of the possible fight with some acuteness.
I described the Heat-Ray to them, and they began to argue among themselves.
"Crawl up under cover and rush 'em, say I," said one.
"Get aht!" said another.
"What's cover against this 'ere 'eat? Sticks to cook yer!
What we got to do is to go as near as the ground'll let us, and then drive a trench."
"Blow yer trenches!
You always want trenches; you ought to ha' been born a rabbit Snippy."
"Ain't they got any necks, then?" said a third, abruptly--a little, contemplative,
dark man, smoking a pipe.
I repeated my description. "Octopuses," said he, "that's what I calls
'em. Talk about fishers of men--fighters of fish
it is this time!"
"It ain't no murder killing beasts like that," said the first speaker.
"Why not shell the darned things strite off and finish 'em?" said the little dark man.
"You carn tell what they might do."
"Where's your shells?" said the first speaker.
"There ain't no time. Do it in a rush, that's my tip, and do it
at once."
So they discussed it. After a while I left them, and went on to
the railway station to get as many morning papers as I could.
But I will not weary the reader with a description of that long morning and of the
longer afternoon.
I did not succeed in getting a glimpse of the common, for even Horsell and Chobham
church towers were in the hands of the military authorities.
The soldiers I addressed didn't know anything; the officers were mysterious as
well as busy.
I found people in the town quite secure again in the presence of the military, and
I heard for the first time from Marshall, the tobacconist, that his son was among the
dead on the common.
The soldiers had made the people on the outskirts of Horsell lock up and leave
their houses.
I got back to lunch about two, very tired for, as I have said, the day was extremely
hot and dull; and in order to refresh myself I took a cold bath in the afternoon.
About half past four I went up to the railway station to get an evening paper,
for the morning papers had contained only a very inaccurate description of the killing
of Stent, Henderson, Ogilvy, and the others.
But there was little I didn't know. The Martians did not show an inch of
themselves.
They seemed busy in their pit, and there was a sound of hammering and an almost
continuous streamer of smoke. Apparently they were busy getting ready for
a struggle.
"Fresh attempts have been made to signal, but without success," was the stereotyped
formula of the papers. A sapper told me it was done by a man in a
ditch with a flag on a long pole.
The Martians took as much notice of such advances as we should of the lowing of a
cow.
I must confess the sight of all this armament, all this preparation, greatly
excited me.
My imagination became belligerent, and defeated the invaders in a dozen striking
ways; something of my schoolboy dreams of battle and heroism came back.
It hardly seemed a fair fight to me at that time.
They seemed very helpless in that pit of theirs.
About three o'clock there began the thud of a gun at measured intervals from Chertsey
or Addlestone.
I learned that the smouldering pine wood into which the second cylinder had fallen
was being shelled, in the hope of destroying that object before it opened.
It was only about five, however, that a field gun reached Chobham for use against
the first body of Martians.
About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in the summerhouse talking
vigorously about the battle that was lowering upon us, I heard a muffled
detonation from the common, and immediately after a gust of firing.
Close on the heels of that came a violent rattling crash, quite close to us, that
shook the ground; and, starting out upon the lawn, I saw the tops of the trees about
the Oriental College burst into smoky red
flame, and the tower of the little church beside it slide down into ruin.
The pinnacle of the mosque had vanished, and the roof line of the college itself
looked as if a hundred-ton gun had been at work upon it.
One of our chimneys cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece of it came
clattering down the tiles and made a heap of broken red fragments upon the flower bed
by my study window.
I and my wife stood amazed. Then I realised that the crest of Maybury
Hill must be within range of the Martians' Heat-Ray now that the college was cleared
out of the way.
At that I gripped my wife's arm, and without ceremony ran her out into the road.
Then I fetched out the servant, telling her I would go upstairs myself for the box she
was clamouring for.
"We can't possibly stay here," I said; and as I spoke the firing reopened for a moment
upon the common. "But where are we to go?" said my wife in
terror.
I thought perplexed. Then I remembered her cousins at
Leatherhead. "Leatherhead!"
I shouted above the sudden noise.
She looked away from me downhill. The people were coming out of their houses,
astonished. "How are we to get to Leatherhead?" she
said.
Down the hill I saw a bevy of hussars ride under the railway bridge; three galloped
through the open gates of the Oriental College; two others dismounted, and began
running from house to house.
The sun, shining through the smoke that drove up from the tops of the trees, seemed
blood red, and threw an unfamiliar lurid light upon everything.
"Stop here," said I; "you are safe here"; and I started off at once for the Spotted
Dog, for I knew the landlord had a horse and dog cart.
I ran, for I perceived that in a moment everyone upon this side of the hill would
be moving. I found him in his bar, quite unaware of
what was going on behind his house.
A man stood with his back to me, talking to him.
"I must have a pound," said the landlord, "and I've no one to drive it."
"I'll give you two," said I, over the stranger's shoulder.
"What for?" "And I'll bring it back by midnight," I
said.
"Lord!" said the landlord; "what's the hurry?
I'm selling my bit of a pig. Two pounds, and you bring it back?
What's going on now?"
I explained hastily that I had to leave my home, and so secured the dog cart.
At the time it did not seem to me nearly so urgent that the landlord should leave his.
I took care to have the cart there and then, drove it off down the road, and,
leaving it in charge of my wife and servant, rushed into my house and packed a
few valuables, such plate as we had, and so forth.
The beech trees below the house were burning while I did this, and the palings
up the road glowed red.
While I was occupied in this way, one of the dismounted hussars came running up.
He was going from house to house, warning people to leave.
He was going on as I came out of my front door, lugging my treasures, done up in a
tablecloth. I shouted after him:
"What news?"
He turned, stared, bawled something about "crawling out in a thing like a dish
cover," and ran on to the gate of the house at the crest.
A sudden whirl of black smoke driving across the road hid him for a moment.
I ran to my neighbour's door and rapped to satisfy myself of what I already knew, that
his wife had gone to London with him and had locked up their house.
I went in again, according to my promise, to get my servant's box, lugged it out,
clapped it beside her on the tail of the dog cart, and then caught the reins and
jumped up into the driver's seat beside my wife.
In another moment we were clear of the smoke and noise, and spanking down the
opposite slope of Maybury Hill towards Old Woking.
In front was a quiet sunny landscape, a wheat field ahead on either side of the
road, and the Maybury Inn with its swinging sign.
I saw the doctor's cart ahead of me.
At the bottom of the hill I turned my head to look at the hillside I was leaving.
Thick streamers of black smoke shot with threads of red fire were driving up into
the still air, and throwing dark shadows upon the green treetops eastward.
The smoke already extended far away to the east and west--to the Byfleet pine woods
eastward, and to Woking on the west. The road was dotted with people running
towards us.
And very faint now, but very distinct through the hot, quiet air, one heard the
whirr of a machine-gun that was presently stilled, and an intermittent cracking of
rifles.
Apparently the Martians were setting fire to everything within range of their Heat-
Ray.
I am not an expert driver, and I had immediately to turn my attention to the
horse. When I looked back again the second hill
had hidden the black smoke.
I slashed the horse with the whip, and gave him a loose rein until Woking and Send lay
between us and that quivering tumult. I overtook and passed the doctor between
Woking and Send.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER TEN IN THE STORM
Leatherhead is about twelve miles from Maybury Hill.
The scent of hay was in the air through the lush meadows beyond Pyrford, and the hedges
on either side were sweet and gay with multitudes of dog-roses.
The heavy firing that had broken out while we were driving down Maybury Hill ceased as
abruptly as it began, leaving the evening very peaceful and still.
We got to Leatherhead without misadventure about nine o'clock, and the horse had an
hour's rest while I took supper with my cousins and commended my wife to their
care.
My wife was curiously silent throughout the drive, and seemed oppressed with
forebodings of evil.
I talked to her reassuringly, pointing out that the Martians were tied to the Pit by
sheer heaviness, and at the utmost could but crawl a little out of it; but she
answered only in monosyllables.
Had it not been for my promise to the innkeeper, she would, I think, have urged
me to stay in Leatherhead that night. Would that I had!
Her face, I remember, was very white as we parted.
For my own part, I had been feverishly excited all day.
Something very like the war fever that occasionally runs through a civilised
community had got into my blood, and in my heart I was not so very sorry that I had to
return to Maybury that night.
I was even afraid that that last fusillade I had heard might mean the extermination of
our invaders from Mars. I can best express my state of mind by
saying that I wanted to be in at the death.
It was nearly eleven when I started to return.
The night was unexpectedly dark; to me, walking out of the lighted passage of my
cousins' house, it seemed indeed black, and it was as hot and close as the day.
Overhead the clouds were driving fast, albeit not a breath stirred the shrubs
about us. My cousins' man lit both lamps.
Happily, I knew the road intimately.
My wife stood in the light of the doorway, and watched me until I jumped up into the
dog cart.
Then abruptly she turned and went in, leaving my cousins side by side wishing me
good hap.
I was a little depressed at first with the contagion of my wife's fears, but very soon
my thoughts reverted to the Martians. At that time I was absolutely in the dark
as to the course of the evening's fighting.
I did not know even the circumstances that had precipitated the conflict.
As I came through Ockham (for that was the way I returned, and not through Send and
Old Woking) I saw along the western horizon a blood-red glow, which as I drew nearer,
crept slowly up the sky.
The driving clouds of the gathering thunderstorm mingled there with masses of
black and red smoke.
Ripley Street was deserted, and except for a lighted window or so the village showed
not a sign of life; but I narrowly escaped an accident at the corner of the road to
Pyrford, where a knot of people stood with their backs to me.
They said nothing to me as I passed.
I do not know what they knew of the things happening beyond the hill, nor do I know if
the silent houses I passed on my way were sleeping securely, or deserted and empty,
or harassed and watching against the terror of the night.
From Ripley until I came through Pyrford I was in the valley of the Wey, and the red
glare was hidden from me.
As I ascended the little hill beyond Pyrford Church the glare came into view
again, and the trees about me shivered with the first intimation of the storm that was
upon me.
Then I heard midnight pealing out from Pyrford Church behind me, and then came the
silhouette of Maybury Hill, with its tree- tops and roofs black and sharp against the
red.
Even as I beheld this a lurid green glare lit the road about me and showed the
distant woods towards Addlestone. I felt a tug at the reins.
I saw that the driving clouds had been pierced as it were by a thread of green
fire, suddenly lighting their confusion and falling into the field to my left.
It was the third falling star!
Close on its apparition, and blindingly violet by contrast, danced out the first
lightning of the gathering storm, and the thunder burst like a rocket overhead.
The horse took the bit between his teeth and bolted.
A moderate incline runs towards the foot of Maybury Hill, and down this we clattered.
Once the lightning had begun, it went on in as rapid a succession of flashes as I have
ever seen.
The thunderclaps, treading one on the heels of another and with a strange crackling
accompaniment, sounded more like the working of a gigantic electric machine than
the usual detonating reverberations.
The flickering light was blinding and confusing, and a thin hail smote gustily at
my face as I drove down the slope.
At first I regarded little but the road before me, and then abruptly my attention
was arrested by something that was moving rapidly down the opposite slope of Maybury
Hill.
At first I took it for the wet roof of a house, but one flash following another
showed it to be in swift rolling movement.
It was an elusive vision--a moment of bewildering darkness, and then, in a flash
like daylight, the red masses of the Orphanage near the crest of the hill, the
green tops of the pine trees, and this
problematical object came out clear and sharp and bright.
And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it?
A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees,
and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal,
striding now across the heather; articulate
ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling
with the riot of the thunder.
A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to
vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred
yards nearer.
Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground?
That was the impression those instant flashes gave.
But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.
Then suddenly the trees in the pine wood ahead of me were parted, as brittle reeds
are parted by a man thrusting through them; they were snapped off and driven headlong,
and a second huge tripod appeared, rushing, as it seemed, headlong towards me.
And I was galloping hard to meet it! At the sight of the second monster my nerve
went altogether.
Not stopping to look again, I wrenched the horse's head hard round to the right and in
another moment the dog cart had heeled over upon the horse; the shafts smashed noisily,
and I was flung sideways and fell heavily into a shallow pool of water.
I crawled out almost immediately, and crouched, my feet still in the water, under
a clump of furze.
The horse lay motionless (his neck was broken, poor brute!) and by the lightning
flashes I saw the black bulk of the overturned dog cart and the silhouette of
the wheel still spinning slowly.
In another moment the colossal mechanism went striding by me, and passed uphill
towards Pyrford.
Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate
machine driving on its way.
Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering
tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging and rattling about its
strange body.
It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted
it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about.
Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman's
basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the
monster swept by me.
And in an instant it was gone. So much I saw then, all vaguely for the
flickering of the lightning, in blinding highlights and dense black shadows.
As it passed it set up an exultant deafening howl that drowned the thunder--
"Aloo!
Aloo!"--and in another minute it was with its companion, half a mile away, stooping
over something in the field.
I have no doubt this Thing in the field was the third of the ten cylinders they had
fired at us from Mars.
For some minutes I lay there in the rain and darkness watching, by the intermittent
light, these monstrous beings of metal moving about in the distance over the hedge
tops.
A thin hail was now beginning, and as it came and went their figures grew misty and
then flashed into clearness again. Now and then came a gap in the lightning,
and the night swallowed them up.
I was soaked with hail above and puddle water below.
It was some time before my blank astonishment would let me struggle up the
bank to a drier position, or think at all of my imminent peril.
Not far from me was a little one-roomed squatter's hut of wood, surrounded by a
patch of potato garden.
I struggled to my feet at last, and, crouching and making use of every chance of
cover, I made a run for this.
I hammered at the door, but I could not make the people hear (if there were any
people inside), and after a time I desisted, and, availing myself of a ditch
for the greater part of the way, succeeded
in crawling, unobserved by these monstrous machines, into the pine woods towards
Maybury. Under cover of this I pushed on, wet and
shivering now, towards my own house.
I walked among the trees trying to find the footpath.
It was very dark indeed in the wood, for the lightning was now becoming infrequent,
and the hail, which was pouring down in a torrent, fell in columns through the gaps
in the heavy foliage.
If I had fully realised the meaning of all the things I had seen I should have
immediately worked my way round through Byfleet to Street Cobham, and so gone back
to rejoin my wife at Leatherhead.
But that night the strangeness of things about me, and my physical wretchedness,
prevented me, for I was bruised, weary, wet to the skin, deafened and blinded by the
storm.
I had a vague idea of going on to my own house, and that was as much motive as I
had.
I staggered through the trees, fell into a ditch and bruised my knees against a plank,
and finally splashed out into the lane that ran down from the College Arms.
I say splashed, for the storm water was sweeping the sand down the hill in a muddy
torrent. There in the darkness a man blundered into
me and sent me reeling back.
He gave a cry of terror, sprang sideways, and rushed on before I could gather my wits
sufficiently to speak to him.
So heavy was the stress of the storm just at this place that I had the hardest task
to win my way up the hill. I went close up to the fence on the left
and worked my way along its palings.
Near the top I stumbled upon something soft, and, by a flash of lightning, saw
between my feet a heap of black broadcloth and a pair of boots.
Before I could distinguish clearly how the man lay, the flicker of light had passed.
I stood over him waiting for the next flash.
When it came, I saw that he was a sturdy man, cheaply but not shabbily dressed; his
head was bent under his body, and he lay crumpled up close to the fence, as though
he had been flung violently against it.
Overcoming the repugnance natural to one who had never before touched a dead body, I
stooped and turned him over to feel for his heart.
He was quite dead.
Apparently his neck had been broken. The lightning flashed for a third time, and
his face leaped upon me. I sprang to my feet.
It was the landlord of the Spotted Dog, whose conveyance I had taken.
I stepped over him gingerly and pushed on up the hill.
I made my way by the police station and the College Arms towards my own house.
Nothing was burning on the hillside, though from the common there still came a red
glare and a rolling tumult of ruddy smoke beating up against the drenching hail.
So far as I could see by the flashes, the houses about me were mostly uninjured.
By the College Arms a dark heap lay in the road.
Down the road towards Maybury Bridge there were voices and the sound of feet, but I
had not the courage to shout or to go to them.
I let myself in with my latchkey, closed, locked and bolted the door, staggered to
the foot of the staircase, and sat down.
My imagination was full of those striding metallic monsters, and of the dead body
smashed against the fence.
I crouched at the foot of the staircase with my back to the wall, shivering
violently.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER ELEVEN AT THE WINDOW
I have already said that my storms of emotion have a trick of exhausting
themselves.
After a time I discovered that I was cold and wet, and with little pools of water
about me on the stair carpet.
I got up almost mechanically, went into the dining room and drank some whiskey, and
then I was moved to change my clothes. After I had done that I went upstairs to my
study, but why I did so I do not know.
The window of my study looks over the trees and the railway towards Horsell Common.
In the hurry of our departure this window had been left open.
The passage was dark, and, by contrast with the picture the window frame enclosed, the
side of the room seemed impenetrably dark. I stopped short in the doorway.
The thunderstorm had passed.
The towers of the Oriental College and the pine trees about it had gone, and very far
away, lit by a vivid red glare, the common about the sand pits was visible.
Across the light huge black shapes, grotesque and strange, moved busily to and
fro.
It seemed indeed as if the whole country in that direction was on fire--a broad
hillside set with minute tongues of flame, swaying and writhing with the gusts of the
dying storm, and throwing a red reflection upon the cloud-scud above.
Every now and then a haze of smoke from some nearer conflagration drove across the
window and hid the Martian shapes.
I could not see what they were doing, nor the clear form of them, nor recognise the
black objects they were busied upon.
Neither could I see the nearer fire, though the reflections of it danced on the wall
and ceiling of the study. A sharp, resinous tang of burning was in
the air.
I closed the door noiselessly and crept towards the window.
As I did so, the view opened out until, on the one hand, it reached to the houses
about Woking station, and on the other to the charred and blackened pine woods of
Byfleet.
There was a light down below the hill, on the railway, near the arch, and several of
the houses along the Maybury road and the streets near the station were glowing
ruins.
The light upon the railway puzzled me at first; there were a black heap and a vivid
glare, and to the right of that a row of yellow oblongs.
Then I perceived this was a wrecked train, the fore part smashed and on fire, the
hinder carriages still upon the rails.
Between these three main centres of light-- the houses, the train, and the burning
county towards Chobham--stretched irregular patches of dark country, broken here and
there by intervals of dimly glowing and smoking ground.
It was the strangest spectacle, that black expanse set with fire.
It reminded me, more than anything else, of the Potteries at night.
At first I could distinguish no people at all, though I peered intently for them.
Later I saw against the light of Woking station a number of black figures hurrying
one after the other across the line.
And this was the little world in which I had been living securely for years, this
fiery chaos!
What had happened in the last seven hours I still did not know; nor did I know, though
I was beginning to guess, the relation between these mechanical colossi and the
sluggish lumps I had seen disgorged from the cylinder.
With a queer feeling of impersonal interest I turned my desk chair to the window, sat
down, and stared at the blackened country, and particularly at the three gigantic
black things that were going to and fro in the glare about the sand pits.
They seemed amazingly busy. I began to ask myself what they could be.
Were they intelligent mechanisms?
Such a thing I felt was impossible. Or did a Martian sit within each, ruling,
directing, using, much as a man's brain sits and rules in his body?
I began to compare the things to human machines, to ask myself for the first time
in my life how an ironclad or a steam engine would seem to an intelligent lower
animal.
The storm had left the sky clear, and over the smoke of the burning land the little
fading pinpoint of Mars was dropping into the west, when a soldier came into my
garden.
I heard a slight scraping at the fence, and rousing myself from the lethargy that had
fallen upon me, I looked down and saw him dimly, clambering over the palings.
At the sight of another human being my torpor passed, and I leaned out of the
window eagerly. "Hist!" said I, in a whisper.
He stopped astride of the fence in doubt.
Then he came over and across the lawn to the corner of the house.
He bent down and stepped softly. "Who's there?" he said, also whispering,
standing under the window and peering up.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"God knows." "Are you trying to hide?"
"That's it."
"Come into the house," I said. I went down, unfastened the door, and let
him in, and locked the door again. I could not see his face.
He was hatless, and his coat was unbuttoned.
"My God!" he said, as I drew him in. "What has happened?"
I asked.
"What hasn't?" In the obscurity I could see he made a
gesture of despair. "They wiped us out--simply wiped us out,"
he repeated again and again.
He followed me, almost mechanically, into the dining room.
"Take some whiskey," I said, pouring out a stiff dose.
He drank it.
Then abruptly he sat down before the table, put his head on his arms, and began to sob
and weep like a little boy, in a perfect passion of emotion, while I, with a curious
forgetfulness of my own recent despair, stood beside him, wondering.
It was a long time before he could steady his nerves to answer my questions, and then
he answered perplexingly and brokenly.
He was a driver in the artillery, and had only come into action about seven.
At that time firing was going on across the common, and it was said the first party of
Martians were crawling slowly towards their second cylinder under cover of a metal
shield.
Later this shield staggered up on tripod legs and became the first of the fighting-
machines I had seen.
The gun he drove had been unlimbered near Horsell, in order to command the sand pits,
and its arrival it was that had precipitated the action.
As the limber gunners went to the rear, his horse trod in a rabbit hole and came down,
throwing him into a depression of the ground.
At the same moment the gun exploded behind him, the ammunition blew up, there was fire
all about him, and he found himself lying under a heap of charred dead men and dead
horses.
"I lay still," he said, "scared out of my wits, with the fore quarter of a horse atop
of me. We'd been wiped out.
And the smell--good God!
Like burnt meat! I was hurt across the back by the fall of
the horse, and there I had to lie until I felt better.
Just like parade it had been a minute before--then stumble, bang, swish!"
"Wiped out!" he said.
He had hid under the dead horse for a long time, peeping out furtively across the
common.
The Cardigan men had tried a rush, in skirmishing order, at the pit, simply to be
swept out of existence.
Then the monster had risen to its feet and had begun to walk leisurely to and fro
across the common among the few fugitives, with its headlike hood turning about
exactly like the head of a cowled human being.
A kind of arm carried a complicated metallic case, about which green flashes
scintillated, and out of the funnel of this there smoked the Heat-Ray.
In a few minutes there was, so far as the soldier could see, not a living thing left
upon the common, and every bush and tree upon it that was not already a blackened
skeleton was burning.
The hussars had been on the road beyond the curvature of the ground, and he saw nothing
of them. He heard the Martians rattle for a time and
then become still.
The giant saved Woking station and its cluster of houses until the last; then in a
moment the Heat-Ray was brought to bear, and the town became a heap of fiery ruins.
Then the Thing shut off the Heat-Ray, and turning its back upon the artilleryman,
began to waddle away towards the smouldering pine woods that sheltered the
second cylinder.
As it did so a second glittering Titan built itself up out of the pit.
The second monster followed the first, and at that the artilleryman began to crawl
very cautiously across the hot heather ash towards Horsell.
He managed to get alive into the ditch by the side of the road, and so escaped to
Woking. There his story became ejaculatory.
The place was impassable.
It seems there were a few people alive there, frantic for the most part and many
burned and scalded.
He was turned aside by the fire, and hid among some almost scorching heaps of broken
wall as one of the Martian giants returned.
He saw this one pursue a man, catch him up in one of its steely tentacles, and knock
his head against the trunk of a pine tree.
At last, after nightfall, the artilleryman made a rush for it and got over the railway
embankment.
Since then he had been skulking along towards Maybury, in the hope of getting out
of danger Londonward.
People were hiding in trenches and cellars, and many of the survivors had made off
towards Woking village and Send.
He had been consumed with thirst until he found one of the water mains near the
railway arch smashed, and the water bubbling out like a spring upon the road.
That was the story I got from him, bit by bit.
He grew calmer telling me and trying to make me see the things he had seen.
He had eaten no food since midday, he told me early in his narrative, and I found some
mutton and bread in the pantry and brought it into the room.
We lit no lamp for fear of attracting the Martians, and ever and again our hands
would touch upon bread or meat.
As he talked, things about us came darkly out of the darkness, and the trampled
bushes and broken rose trees outside the window grew distinct.
It would seem that a number of men or animals had rushed across the lawn.
I began to see his face, blackened and haggard, as no doubt mine was also.
When we had finished eating we went softly upstairs to my study, and I looked again
out of the open window. In one night the valley had become a valley
of ashes.
The fires had dwindled now.
Where flames had been there were now streamers of smoke; but the countless ruins
of shattered and gutted houses and blasted and blackened trees that the night had
hidden stood out now gaunt and terrible in the pitiless light of dawn.
Yet here and there some object had had the luck to escape--a white railway signal
here, the end of a greenhouse there, white and fresh amid the wreckage.
Never before in the history of warfare had destruction been so indiscriminate and so
universal.
And shining with the growing light of the east, three of the metallic giants stood
about the pit, their cowls rotating as though they were surveying the desolation
they had made.
It seemed to me that the pit had been enlarged, and ever and again puffs of vivid
green vapour streamed up and out of it towards the brightening dawn--streamed up,
whirled, broke, and vanished.
Beyond were the pillars of fire about Chobham.
They became pillars of bloodshot smoke at the first touch of day.
>
BOOK ONE THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS CHAPTER TWELVE
WHAT I SAW OF THE DESTRUCTION OF WEYBRIDGE AND SHEPPERTON
As the dawn grew brighter we withdrew from the window from which we had watched the
Martians, and went very quietly downstairs. The artilleryman agreed with me that the
house was no place to stay in.
He proposed, he said, to make his way Londonward, and thence rejoin his battery--
No. 12, of the Horse Artillery.
My plan was to return at once to Leatherhead; and so greatly had the
strength of the Martians impressed me that I had determined to take my wife to
Newhaven, and go with her out of the country forthwith.
For I already perceived clearly that the country about London must inevitably be the
scene of a disastrous struggle before such creatures as these could be destroyed.
Between us and Leatherhead, however, lay the third cylinder, with its guarding
giants. Had I been alone, I think I should have
taken my chance and struck across country.
But the artilleryman dissuaded me: "It's no kindness to the right sort of wife," he
said, "to make her a widow"; and in the end I agreed to go with him, under cover of the
woods, northward as far as Street Cobham before I parted with him.
Thence I would make a big detour by Epsom to reach Leatherhead.
I should have started at once, but my companion had been in active service and he
knew better than that.
He made me ransack the house for a flask, which he filled with whiskey; and we lined
every available pocket with packets of biscuits and slices of meat.
Then we crept out of the house, and ran as quickly as we could down the ill-made road
by which I had come overnight. The houses seemed deserted.
In the road lay a group of three charred bodies close together, struck dead by the
Heat-Ray; and here and there were things that people had dropped--a clock, a
slipper, a silver spoon, and the like poor valuables.
At the corner turning up towards the post office a little cart, filled with boxes and
furniture, and horseless, heeled over on a broken wheel.
A cash box had been hastily smashed open and thrown under the debris.
Except the lodge at the Orphanage, which was still on fire, none of the houses had
suffered very greatly here.
The Heat-Ray had shaved the chimney tops and passed.
Yet, save ourselves, there did not seem to be a living soul on Maybury Hill.
The majority of the inhabitants had escaped, I suppose, by way of the Old
Woking road--the road I had taken when I drove to Leatherhead--or they had hidden.
We went down the lane, by the body of the man in black, sodden now from the overnight
hail, and broke into the woods at the foot of the hill.
We pushed through these towards the railway without meeting a soul.
The woods across the line were but the scarred and blackened ruins of woods; for
the most part the trees had fallen, but a certain proportion still stood, dismal grey
stems, with dark brown foliage instead of green.
On our side the fire had done no more than scorch the nearer trees; it had failed to
secure its footing.
In one place the woodmen had been at work on Saturday; trees, felled and freshly
trimmed, lay in a clearing, with heaps of sawdust by the sawing-machine and its
engine.
Hard by was a temporary hut, deserted. There was not a breath of wind this
morning, and everything was strangely still.
Even the birds were hushed, and as we hurried along I and the artilleryman talked
in whispers and looked now and again over our shoulders.
Once or twice we stopped to listen.
After a time we drew near the road, and as we did so we heard the clatter of hoofs and
saw through the tree stems three cavalry soldiers riding slowly towards Woking.
We hailed them, and they halted while we hurried towards them.
It was a lieutenant and a couple of privates of the 8th Hussars, with a stand
like a theodolite, which the artilleryman told me was a heliograph.
"You are the first men I've seen coming this way this morning," said the
lieutenant. "What's brewing?"
His voice and face were eager.
The men behind him stared curiously. The artilleryman jumped down the bank into
the road and saluted. "Gun destroyed last night, sir.
Have been hiding.
Trying to rejoin battery, sir. You'll come in sight of the Martians, I
expect, about half a mile along this road." "What the dickens are they like?" asked the
lieutenant.
"Giants in armour, sir. Hundred feet high.
Three legs and a body like 'luminium, with a mighty great head in a hood, sir."
"Get out!" said the lieutenant.
"What confounded nonsense!" "You'll see, sir.
They carry a kind of box, sir, that shoots fire and strikes you dead."
"What d'ye mean--a gun?"
"No, sir," and the artilleryman began a vivid account of the Heat-Ray.
Halfway through, the lieutenant interrupted him and looked up at me.
I was still standing on the bank by the side of the road.
"It's perfectly true," I said. "Well," said the lieutenant, "I suppose
it's my business to see it too.
Look here"--to the artilleryman--"we're detailed here clearing people out of their
houses.
You'd better go along and report yourself to Brigadier-General Marvin, and tell him
all you know. He's at Weybridge.
Know the way?"
"I do," I said; and he turned his horse southward again.
"Half a mile, you say?" said he. "At most," I answered, and pointed over the
treetops southward.
He thanked me and rode on, and we saw them no more.
Farther along we came upon a group of three women and two children in the road, busy
clearing out a labourer's cottage.
They had got hold of a little hand truck, and were piling it up with unclean-looking
bundles and shabby furniture. They were all too assiduously engaged to
talk to us as we passed.
By Byfleet station we emerged from the pine trees, and found the country calm and
peaceful under the morning sunlight.
We were far beyond the range of the Heat- Ray there, and had it not been for the
silent desertion of some of the houses, the stirring movement of packing in others, and
the knot of soldiers standing on the bridge
over the railway and staring down the line towards Woking, the day would have seemed
very like any other Sunday.
Several farm waggons and carts were moving creakily along the road to Addlestone, and
suddenly through the gate of a field we saw, across a stretch of flat meadow, six
twelve-pounders standing neatly at equal distances pointing towards Woking.
The gunners stood by the guns waiting, and the ammunition waggons were at a business-
like distance.
The men stood almost as if under inspection.
"That's good!" said I. "They will get one fair shot, at any rate."
The artilleryman hesitated at the gate.
"I shall go on," he said. Farther on towards Weybridge, just over the
bridge, there were a number of men in white fatigue jackets throwing up a long rampart,
and more guns behind.
"It's bows and arrows against the lightning, anyhow," said the artilleryman.
"They 'aven't seen that fire-beam yet."
The officers who were not actively engaged stood and stared over the treetops
southwestward, and the men digging would stop every now and again to stare in the
same direction.
Byfleet was in a tumult; people packing, and a score of hussars, some of them
dismounted, some on horseback, were hunting them about.
Three or four black government waggons, with crosses in white circles, and an old
omnibus, among other vehicles, were being loaded in the village street.
There were scores of people, most of them sufficiently sabbatical to have assumed
their best clothes.
The soldiers were having the greatest difficulty in making them realise the
gravity of their position.
We saw one shrivelled old fellow with a huge box and a score or more of flower pots
containing orchids, angrily expostulating with the corporal who would leave them
behind.
I stopped and gripped his arm. "Do you know what's over there?"
I said, pointing at the pine tops that hid the Martians.
"Eh?" said he, turning.
"I was explainin' these is vallyble." "Death!"
I shouted. "Death is coming!
Death!" and leaving him to digest that if he could, I hurried on after the artillery-
man. At the corner I looked back.
The soldier had left him, and he was still standing by his box, with the pots of
orchids on the lid of it, and staring vaguely over the trees.
No one in Weybridge could tell us where the headquarters were established; the whole
place was in such confusion as I had never seen in any town before.
Carts, carriages everywhere, the most astonishing miscellany of conveyances and
horseflesh.
The respectable inhabitants of the place, men in golf and boating costumes, wives
prettily dressed, were packing, river-side loafers energetically helping, children
excited, and, for the most part, highly
delighted at this astonishing variation of their Sunday experiences.
In the midst of it all the worthy vicar was very pluckily holding an early celebration,
and his bell was jangling out above the excitement.
I and the artilleryman, seated on the step of the drinking fountain, made a very
passable meal upon what we had brought with us.
Patrols of soldiers--here no longer hussars, but grenadiers in white--were
warning people to move now or to take refuge in their cellars as soon as the
firing began.
We saw as we crossed the railway bridge that a growing crowd of people had
assembled in and about the railway station, and the swarming platform was piled with
boxes and packages.
The ordinary traffic had been stopped, I believe, in order to allow of the passage
of troops and guns to Chertsey, and I have heard since that a savage struggle occurred
for places in the special trains that were put on at a later hour.
We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the
place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join.
Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart.
The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was
a ferry across the river.
On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of
Shepperton Church--it has been replaced by a spire--rose above the trees.
Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives.
As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than
all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross.
People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even
carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of their household goods
piled thereon.
One man told us he meant to try to get away from Shepperton station.
There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting.
The idea people seemed to have here was that the Martians were simply formidable
human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end.
Every now and then people would glance nervously across the Wey, at the meadows
towards Chertsey, but everything over there was still.
Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed, everything was quiet, in
vivid contrast with the Surrey side. The people who landed there from the boats
went tramping off down the lane.
The big ferryboat had just made a journey. Three or four soldiers stood on the lawn of
the inn, staring and jesting at the fugitives, without offering to help.
The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited hours.
"What's that?" cried a boatman, and "Shut up, you fool!" said a man near me to a
yelping dog.
Then the sound came again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud--
the sound of a gun. The fighting was beginning.
Almost immediately unseen batteries across the river to our right, unseen because of
the trees, took up the chorus, firing heavily one after the other.
A woman screamed.
Everyone stood arrested by the sudden stir of battle, near us and yet invisible to us.
Nothing was to be seen save flat meadows, cows feeding unconcernedly for the most
part, and silvery pollard willows motionless in the warm sunlight.
"The sojers'll stop 'em," said a woman beside me, doubtfully.
A haziness rose over the treetops.
Then suddenly we saw a rush of smoke far away up the river, a puff of smoke that
jerked up into the air and hung; and forthwith the ground heaved under foot and
a heavy explosion shook the air, smashing
two or three windows in the houses near, and leaving us astonished.
"Here they are!" shouted a man in a blue jersey.
"Yonder!
D'yer see them? Yonder!"
Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured Martians
appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat meadows that stretched
towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly towards the river.
Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as
flying birds.
Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth.
Their armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the
guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer.
One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air,
and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards
Chertsey, and struck the town.
At sight of these strange, swift, and terrible creatures the crowd near the
water's edge seemed to me to be for a moment horror-struck.
There was no screaming or shouting, but a silence.
Then a hoarse murmur and a movement of feet--a splashing from the water.
A man, too frightened to drop the portmanteau he carried on his shoulder,
swung round and sent me staggering with a blow from the corner of his burden.
A woman thrust at me with her hand and rushed past me.
I turned with the rush of the people, but I was not too terrified for thought.
The terrible Heat-Ray was in my mind.
To get under water! That was it!
"Get under water!" I shouted, unheeded.
I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching Martian, rushed right down the
gravelly beach and headlong into the water. Others did the same.
A boatload of people putting back came leaping out as I rushed past.
The stones under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was so low that I
ran perhaps twenty feet scarcely waist- deep.
Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely a couple of hundred yards away, I
flung myself forward under the surface.
The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the river sounded like
thunderclaps in my ears. People were landing hastily on both sides
of the river.
But the Martian machine took no more notice for the moment of the people running this
way and that than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which
his foot has kicked.
When, half suffocated, I raised my head above water, the Martian's hood pointed at
the batteries that were still firing across the river, and as it advanced it swung
loose what must have been the generator of the Heat-Ray.
In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wading halfway across.
The knees of its foremost legs bent at the farther bank, and in another moment it had
raised itself to its full height again, close to the village of Shepperton.
Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the right bank, had been hidden
behind the outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously.
The sudden near concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump.
The monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray as the first shell
burst six yards above the hood.
I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of the other four
Martian monsters; my attention was riveted upon the nearer incident.
Simultaneously two other shells burst in the air near the body as the hood twisted
round in time to receive, but not in time to dodge, the fourth shell.
The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing.
The hood bulged, flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh
and glittering metal.
"Hit!" shouted I, with something between a scream and a cheer.
I heard answering shouts from the people in the water about me.
I could have leaped out of the water with that momentary exultation.
The decapitated colossus reeled like a drunken giant; but it did not fall over.
It recovered its balance by a miracle, and, no longer heeding its steps and with the
camera that fired the Heat-Ray now rigidly upheld, it reeled swiftly upon Shepperton.
The living intelligence, the Martian within the hood, was slain and splashed to the
four winds of heaven, and the Thing was now but a mere intricate device of metal
whirling to destruction.
It drove along in a straight line, incapable of guidance.
It struck the tower of Shepperton Church, smashing it down as the impact of a
battering ram might have done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with
tremendous force into the river out of my sight.
A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water, steam, mud, and shattered
metal shot far up into the sky.
As the camera of the Heat-Ray hit the water, the latter had immediately flashed
into steam.
In another moment a huge wave, like a muddy tidal bore but almost scaldingly hot, came
sweeping round the bend upstream.
I saw people struggling shorewards, and heard their screaming and shouting faintly
above the seething and roar of the Martian's collapse.
For a moment I heeded nothing of the heat, forgot the patent need of self-
preservation.
I splashed through the tumultuous water, pushing aside a man in black to do so,
until I could see round the bend. Half a dozen deserted boats pitched
aimlessly upon the confusion of the waves.
The fallen Martian came into sight downstream, lying across the river, and for
the most part submerged.
Thick clouds of steam were pouring off the wreckage, and through the tumultuously
whirling wisps I could see, intermittently and vaguely, the gigantic limbs churning
the water and flinging a splash and spray of mud and froth into the air.
The tentacles swayed and struck like living arms, and, save for the helpless
purposelessness of these movements, it was as if some wounded thing were struggling
for its life amid the waves.
Enormous quantities of a ruddy-brown fluid were spurting up in noisy jets out of the
machine.
My attention was diverted from this death flurry by a furious yelling, like that of
the thing called a siren in our manufacturing towns.
A man, knee-deep near the towing path, shouted inaudibly to me and pointed.
Looking back, I saw the other Martians advancing with gigantic strides down the
riverbank from the direction of Chertsey.
The Shepperton guns spoke this time unavailingly.
At that I ducked at once under water, and, holding my breath until movement was an
agony, blundered painfully ahead under the surface as long as I could.
The water was in a tumult about me, and rapidly growing hotter.
When for a moment I raised my head to take breath and throw the hair and water from my
eyes, the steam was rising in a whirling white fog that at first hid the Martians
altogether.
The noise was deafening. Then I saw them dimly, colossal figures of
grey, magnified by the mist.
They had passed by me, and two were stooping over the frothing, tumultuous
ruins of their comrade.
The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one perhaps two hundred yards
from me, the other towards Laleham.
The generators of the Heat-Rays waved high, and the hissing beams smote down this way
and that.
The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises--the
clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees,
fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire.
Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the
Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of
incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames.
The nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint and
pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.
For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast- high in the almost boiling water,
dumbfounded at my position, hopeless of escape.
Through the reek I could see the people who had been with me in the river scrambling
out of the water through the reeds, like little frogs hurrying through grass from
the advance of a man, or running to and fro in utter dismay on the towing path.
Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came leaping towards me.
The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees
changed to fire with a roar.
The Ray flickered up and down the towing path, licking off the people who ran this
way and that, and came down to the water's edge not fifty yards from where I stood.
It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its track rose in a
boiling weal crested with steam. I turned shoreward.
In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-point had rushed upon me.
I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded, agonised, I staggered through the
leaping, hissing water towards the shore.
Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end.
I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare gravelly
spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames.
I expected nothing but death.
I have a dim memory of the foot of a Martian coming down within a score of yards
of my head, driving straight into the loose gravel, whirling it this way and that and
lifting again; of a long suspense, and then
of the four carrying the debris of their comrade between them, now clear and then
presently faint through a veil of smoke, receding interminably, as it seemed to me,
across a vast space of river and meadow.
And then, very slowly, I realised that by a miracle I had escaped.
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