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The War of the Worlds, by H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells [1898]

But who shall dwell in these worlds if they be
inhabited? . . . Are we or they Lords of the
World? . . . And how are all things made for man?--
KEPLER (quoted in The Anatomy of Melancholy)



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 scru-
tinise 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 mis-
sionary 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, re-
volves 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, ex-
pressed 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 gener-
ation, creeps upon them.

And before we judge of them too harshly we must remem-
ber 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 immi-
grants, 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 prepara-
tions with a well-nigh perfect unanimity. Had our instru-
ments 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 count-
less 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 intelli-
gence 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 feel-
ings 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 tele-
scope, 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 im-
mensity 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 tele-
scope 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 min-
ute 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 dark-
ness, 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 in-
habitants 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 in-
convenience. 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 atmos-
phere 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 periodi-
cal 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.



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 de-
scribed it as leaving a greenish streak behind it that glowed
for some seconds. Denning, our greatest authority on meteor-
ites, 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 frag-
ments 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 re-
ception 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.





CHAPTER THREE


ON HORSELL COMMON



I found a little crowd of perhaps twenty people sur-
rounding the huge hole in which the cylinder lay. I have
already described the appearance of that colossal bulk, em-
bedded 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 tablelike end of the cylinder, which was still as
Ogilvy and Henderson had left it. I fancy the popular ex-
pectation 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 stream-
ing 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.





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 an-
other, 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 hum-
ming 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 blun-
dered 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 essen-
tials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw some-
thing 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 exclama-
tions 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 petri-
fied 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 stead-
fastly. 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 tedi-
ous movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first en-
counter, 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, stand-
ing 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 van-
ished, 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 Wo-
king would have been amazed at the sight--a dwindling mul-
titude 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.



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 pas-
sionate 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 with-
drawn, 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 eleva-
tion and when I looked for him presently he was walking
towards Woking.

The sunset faded to twilight before anything further hap-
pened. 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 move-
ment that seemed to gather force as the stillness of the eve-
ning 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 consulta-
tion, 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 noise-
less 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 un-
familiar.

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 sud-
denly 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 Mar-
tians 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 astonish-
ment. 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.





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 new-comers
were, no doubt, soon infected by the excitement of the oc-
casion.

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 inter-
cepted 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 bring-
ing 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.




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 feeble-
ness 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 some-
where 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 estab-
lishing 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 influ-
ences.

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, temper-
ing 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.




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, stu-
dents 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 count-
less 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 after-
wards 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 busi-
ness. 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.




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 un-
exceptional 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 straw-
berries, for his gardening was as generous as it was enthusi-
astic. 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 stereo-
typed 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 bel-
ligerent, 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 cylin-
der 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 peo-
ple 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 By-
fleet 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 Mar-
tians 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.




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 peace-
ful 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 thunder-
storm 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 broad-
cloth 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 drench-
ing 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.




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 im-
penetrably 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, gro-
tesque 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 conflagra-
tion 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 dis-
gorged 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 ma-
chines, 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 com-
mand the sand pits, and its arrival it was that had precipi-
tated 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 artillery-
man, 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 dis-
tinct. 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.




CHAPTER TWELVE



WHAT I SAW OF THE DESTRUCTION

OF WEYBRIDGE AND SHEPPERTON


As the dawn grew brighter we withdrew from the win-
dow 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 Leather-
head; and so greatly had the strength of the Martians im-
pressed me that I had determined to take my wife to New-
haven, 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 cylin-
der, 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 our-
selves, 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 tem-
porary 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 Hus-
sars, 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 morn-
ing," 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 non-
sense!"

"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 south-
ward. 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 cot-
tage. 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 sun-
light. 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 direc-
tion.

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 wag-
gons, 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 every-
where, the most astonishing miscellany of conveyances and
horseflesh. The respectable inhabitants of the place, men in
golf and boating costumes, wives prettily dressed, were pack-
ing, 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 celebra-
tion, 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 bur-
dens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small out-
house 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, doubt-
fully. 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, flour-
ished 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 sur-
face. 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 wad-
ing 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 frag-
ments 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 Shep-
perton. 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, smash-
ing it down as the impact of a battering ram might have
done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with tre-
mendous 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 tu-
multuous 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, inter-
mittently 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 alto-
gether. 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, tu-
multuous ruins of their comrade.

The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one
perhaps two hundred yards from me, the other towards Lale-
ham. 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 con-
flict 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, hiss-
ing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would
have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Mar-
tians, 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 carry-
ing 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.




CHAPTER THIRTEEN



HOW I FELL IN WITH THE CURATE



After getting this sudden lesson in the power of terres-
trial weapons, the Martians retreated to their original position
upon Horsell Common; and in their haste, and encumbered
with the de'bris of their smashed companion, they no doubt
overlooked many such a stray and negligible victim as myself.
Had they left their comrade and pushed on forthwith, there
was nothing at that time between them and London but
batteries of twelve-pounder guns, and they would certainly
have reached the capital in advance of the tidings of their
approach; as sudden, dreadful, and destructive their advent
would have been as the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon a
century ago.

But they were in no hurry. Cylinder followed cylinder on
its interplanetary flight; every twenty-four hours brought
them reinforcement. And meanwhile the military and naval
authorities, now fully alive to the tremendous power of their
antagonists, worked with furious energy. Every minute a
fresh gun came into position until, before twilight, every
copse, every row of suburban villas on the hilly slopes about
Kingston and Richmond, masked an expectant black muzzle.
And through the charred and desolated area--perhaps twenty
square miles altogether--that encircled the Martian encamp-
ment on Horsell Common, through charred and ruined villages
among the green trees, through the blackened and smoking
arcades that had been but a day ago pine spinneys, crawled
the devoted scouts with the heliographs that were presently
to warn the gunners of the Martian approach. But the Mar-
tians now understood our command of artillery and the
danger of human proximity, and not a man ventured within
a mile of either cylinder, save at the price of his life.

It would seem that these giants spent the earlier part of
the afternoon in going to and fro, transferring everything
from the second and third cylinders--the second in Addle-
stone Golf Links and the third at Pyrford--to their original
pit on Horsell Common. Over that, above the blackened
heather and ruined buildings that stretched far and wide,
stood one as sentinel, while the rest abandoned their vast
fighting-machines and descended into the pit. They were
hard at work there far into the night, and the towering pillar
of dense green smoke that rose therefrom could be seen from
the hills about Merrow, and even, it is said, from Banstead
and Epsom Downs.

And while the Martians behind me were thus preparing
for their next sally, and in front of me Humanity gathered
for the battle, I made my way with infinite pains and labour
from the fire and smoke of burning Weybridge towards
London.

I saw an abandoned boat, very small and remote, drifting
down-stream; and throwing off the most of my sodden
clothes, I went after it, gained it, and so escaped out of that
destruction. There were no oars in the boat, but I contrived
to paddle, as well as my parboiled hands would allow, down
the river towards Halliford and Walton, going very tediously
and continually looking behind me, as you may well under-
stand. I followed the river, because I considered that the
water gave me my best chance of escape should these giants
return.

The hot water from the Martian's overthrow drifted down-
stream with me, so that for the best part of a mile I could see
little of either bank. Once, however, I made out a string of
black figures hurrying across the meadows from the direction
of Weybridge. Halliford, it seemed, was deserted, and sev-
eral of the houses facing the river were on fire. It was strange
to see the place quite tranquil, quite desolate under the hot
blue sky, with the smoke and little threads of flame going
straight up into the heat of the afternoon. Never before had
I seen houses burning without the accompaniment of an
obstructive crowd. A little farther on the dry reeds up the
bank were smoking and glowing, and a line of fire inland was
marching steadily across a late field of hay.

For a long time I drifted, so painful and weary was I after
the violence I had been through, and so intense the heat upon
the water. Then my fears got the better of me again, and I
resumed my paddling. The sun scorched my bare back. At
last, as the bridge at Walton was coming into sight round the
bend, my fever and faintness overcame my fears, and I landed
on the Middlesex bank and lay down, deadly sick, amid the
long grass. I suppose the time was then about four or five
o'clock. I got up presently, walked perhaps half a mile with-
out meeting a soul, and then lay down again in the shadow of
a hedge. I seem to remember talking, wanderingly, to myself
during that last spurt. I was also very thirsty, and bitterly
regretful I had drunk no more water. It is a curious thing
that I felt angry with my wife; I cannot account for it,
but my impotent desire to reach Leatherhead worried me
excessively.

I do not clearly remember the arrival of the curate, so that
probably I dozed. I became aware of him as a seated figure
in soot-smudged shirt sleeves, and with his upturned, clean-
shaven face staring at a faint flickering that danced over the
sky. The sky was what is called a mackerel sky--rows and
rows of faint down-plumes of cloud, just tinted with the
midsummer sunset.

I sat up, and at the rustle of my motion he looked at me
quickly.

"Have you any water?" I asked abruptly.

He shook his head.

"You have been asking for water for the last hour," he said.

For a moment we were silent, taking stock of each other. I
dare say he found me a strange enough figure, naked, save
for my water-soaked trousers and socks, scalded, and my face
and shoulders blackened by the smoke. His face was a fair
weakness, his chin retreated, and his hair lay in crisp, almost
flaxen curls on his low forehead; his eyes were rather large,
pale blue, and blankly staring. He spoke abruptly, looking
vacantly away from me.

"What does it mean?" he said. "What do these things
mean?"

I stared at him and made no answer.

He extended a thin white hand and spoke in almost a
complaining tone.

"Why are these things permitted? What sins have we
done? The morning service was over, I was walking through
the roads to clear my brain for the afternoon, and then--fire,
earthquake, death! As if it were Sodom and Gomorrah! All
our work undone, all the work---- What are these Mar-
tians?"

"What are we?" I answered, clearing my throat.

He gripped his knees and turned to look at me again. For
half a minute, perhaps, he stared silently.

"I was walking through the roads to clear my brain," he
said. "And suddenly--fire, earthquake, death!"

He relapsed into silence, with his chin now sunken almost
to his knees.

Presently he began waving his hand.

"All the work--all the Sunday schools---- What have we
done--what has Weybridge done? Everything gone--every-
thing destroyed. The church! We rebuilt it only three years
ago. Gone! Swept out of existence! Why?"

Another pause, and he broke out again like one de-
mented.

"The smoke of her burning goeth up for ever and ever!"
he shouted.

His eyes flamed, and he pointed a lean finger in the direc-
tion of Weybridge.

By this time I was beginning to take his measure. The
tremendous tragedy in which he had been involved--it was
evident he was a fugitive from Weybridge--had driven him
to the very verge of his reason.

"Are we far from Sunbury?" I said, in a matter-of-fact tone.

"What are we to do?" he asked. "Are these creatures every-
where? Has the earth been given over to them?"

"Are we far from Sunbury?"

"Only this morning I officiated at early celebration----"

"Things have changed," I said, quietly. "You must keep
your head. There is still hope."

"Hope!"

"Yes. Plentiful hope--for all this destruction!"

I began to explain my view of our position. He listened at
first, but as I went on the interest dawning in his eyes gave
place to their former stare, and his regard wandered from
me.

"This must be the beginning of the end," he said, inter-
rupting me. "The end! The great and terrible day of the
Lord! When men shall call upon the mountains and the rocks
to fall upon them and hide them--hide them from the face
of Him that sitteth upon the throne!"

I began to understand the position. I ceased my laboured
reasoning, struggled to my feet, and, standing over him, laid
my hand on his shoulder.

"Be a man!" said I. "You are scared out of your wits! What
good is religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what
earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before
to men! Did you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is
not an insurance agent."

For a time he sat in blank silence.

"But how can we escape?" he asked, suddenly. "They are
invulnerable, they are pitiless."

"Neither the one nor, perhaps, the other," I answered.
"And the mightier they are the more sane and wary should
we be. One of them was killed yonder not three hours ago."

"Killed!" he said, staring about him. "How can God's min-
isters be killed?"

"I saw it happen." I proceeded to tell him. "We have
chanced to come in for the thick of it," said I, "and that is
all."

"What is that flicker in the sky?" he asked abruptly.

I told him it was the heliograph signalling--that it was the
sign of human help and effort in the sky.

"We are in the midst of it," I said, "quiet as it is. That
flicker in the sky tells of the gathering storm. Yonder, I take
it are the Martians, and Londonward, where those hills rise
about Richmond and Kingston and the trees give cover, earth-
works are being thrown up and guns are being placed. Pres-
ently the Martians will be coming this way again."

And even as I spoke he sprang to his feet and stopped me
by a gesture.

"Listen!" he said.

From beyond the low hills across the water came the dull
resonance of distant guns and a remote weird crying. Then
everything was still. A cockchafer came droning over the
hedge and past us. High in the west the crescent moon hung
faint and pale above the smoke of Weybridge and Shepper-
ton and the hot, still splendour of the sunset.

"We had better follow this path," I said, "northward."




CHAPTER FOURTEEN



IN LONDON



My younger brother was in London when the Martians
fell at Woking. He was a medical student working for an
imminent examination, and he heard nothing of the arrival
until Saturday morning. The morning papers on Saturday
contained, in addition to lengthy special articles on the planet
Mars, on life in the planets, and so forth, a brief and vaguely
worded telegram, all the more striking for its brevity.

The Martians, alarmed by the approach of a crowd, had
killed a number of people with a quick-firing gun, so the
story ran. The telegram concluded with the words: "Formi-
dable as they seem to be, the Martians have not moved from
the pit into which they have fallen, and, indeed, seem incapa-
ble of doing so. Probably this is due to the relative strength
of the earth's gravitational energy." On that last text their
leader-writer expanded very comfortingly.

Of course all the students in the crammer's biology class,
to which my brother went that day, were intensely interested,
but there were no signs of any unusual excitement in the
streets. The afternoon papers puffed scraps of news under big
headlines. They had nothing to tell beyond the movements
of troops about the common, and the burning of the pine
woods between Woking and Weybridge, until eight. Then
the ST. JAMES'S GAZETTE, in an extra-special edition, announced
the bare fact of the interruption of telegraphic communica-
tion. This was thought to be due to the falling of burning pine
trees across the line. Nothing more of the fighting was known
that night, the night of my drive to Leatherhead and
back.

My brother felt no anxiety about us, as he knew from the
description in the papers that the cylinder was a good two
miles from my house. He made up his mind to run down that
night to me, in order, as he says, to see the Things before
they were killed. He despatched a telegram, which never
reached me, about four o'clock, and spent the evening at a
music hall.

In London, also, on Saturday night there was a thunder-
storm, and my brother reached Waterloo in a cab. On the
platform from which the midnight train usually starts he
learned, after some waiting, that an accident prevented trains
from reaching Woking that night. The nature of the accident
he could not ascertain; indeed, the railway authorities did not
clearly know at that time. There was very little excitement
in the station, as the officials, failing to realise that
anything further than a breakdown between Byfleet and Woking
junction had occurred, were running the theatre trains which
usually passed through Woking round by Virginia Water or
Guildford. They were busy making the necessary arrange-
ments to alter the route of the Southampton and Portsmouth
Sunday League excursions. A nocturnal newspaper reporter,
mistaking my brother for the traffic manager, to whom he
bears a slight resemblance, waylaid and tried to interview
him. Few people, excepting the railway officials, connected
the breakdown with the Martians.

I have read, in another account of these events, that on
Sunday morning "all London was electrified by the news
from Woking." As a matter of fact, there was nothing to
justify that very extravagant phrase. Plenty of Londoners
did not hear of the Martians until the panic of Monday morn-
ing. Those who did took some time to realise all that the
hastily worded telegrams in the Sunday papers conveyed.
The majority of people in London do not read Sunday
papers.

The habit of personal security, moreover, is so deeply fixed
in the Londoner's mind, and startling intelligence so much a
matter of course in the papers, that they could read without
any personal tremors: "About seven o'clock last night the
Martians came out of the cylinder, and, moving about under
an armour of metallic shields, have completely wrecked
Woking station with the adjacent houses, and massacred an
entire battalion of the Cardigan Regiment. No details are
known. Maxims have been absolutely useless against their
armour; the field guns have been disabled by them. Flying
hussars have been galloping into Chertsey. The Martians
appear to be moving slowly towards Chertsey or Windsor.
Great anxiety prevails in West Surrey, and earthworks are
being thrown up to check the advance Londonward." That
was how the Sunday SUN put it, and a clever and remarkably
prompt "handbook" article in the REFEREE compared the affair
to a menagerie suddenly let loose in a village.

No one in London knew positively of the nature of the
armoured Martians, and there was still a fixed idea that these
monsters must be sluggish: "crawling," "creeping painfully"
--such expressions occurred in almost all the earlier reports.
None of the telegrams could have been written by an eye-
witness of their advance. The Sunday papers printed separate
editions as further news came to hand, some even in default
of it. But there was practically nothing more to tell people
until late in the afternoon, when the authorities gave the
press agencies the news in their possession. It was stated that
the people of Walton and Weybridge, and all the district
were pouring along the roads Londonward, and that was all.

My brother went to church at the Foundling Hospital in
the morning, still in ignorance of what had happened on the
previous night. There he heard allusions made to the invasion,
and a special prayer for peace. Coming out, he bought a
REFEREE. He became alarmed at the news in this, and went
again to Waterloo station to find out if communication were
restored. The omnibuses, carriages, cyclists, and innumerable
people walking in their best clothes seemed scarcely affected
by the strange intelligence that the news venders were dis-
seminating. People were interested, or, if alarmed, alarmed
only on account of the local residents. At the station he heard
for the first time that the Windsor and Chertsey lines were
now interrupted. The porters told him that several remark-
able telegrams had been received in the morning from Byfleet
and Chertsey stations, but that these had abruptly ceased. My
brother could get very little precise detail out of them.

"There's fighting going on about Weybridge" was the
extent of their information.

The train service was now very much disorganised. Quite
a number of people who had been expecting friends from
places on the South-Western network were standing about
the station. One grey-headed old gentleman came and abused
the South-Western Company bitterly to my brother. "It wants
showing up," he said.

One or two trains came in from Richmond, Putney, and
Kingston, containing people who had gone out for a day's
boating and found the locks closed and a feeling of panic in
the air. A man in a blue and white blazer addressed my
brother, full of strange tidings.

"There's hosts of people driving into Kingston in traps and
carts and things, with boxes of valuables and all that," he
said. "They come from Molesey and Weybridge and Walton,
and they say there's been guns heard at Chertsey, heavy
firing, and that mounted soldiers have told them to get off at
once because the Martians are coming. We heard guns firing
at Hampton Court station, but we thought it was thunder.
What the dickens does it all mean? The Martians can't get
out of their pit, can they?"

My brother could not tell him.

Afterwards he found that the vague feeling of alarm had
spread to the clients of the underground railway, and that
the Sunday excursionists began to return from all over the
South-Western "lung"--Barnes, Wimbledon, Richmond Park,
Kew, and so forth--at unnaturally early hours; but not a
soul had anything more than vague hearsay to tell of. Every-
one connected with the terminus seemed ill-tempered.

About five o'clock the gathering crowd in the station was
immensely excited by the opening of the line of communica-
tion, which is almost invariably closed, between the South-
Eastern and the South-Western stations, and the passage of
carriage trucks bearing huge guns and carriages crammed
with soldiers. These were the guns that were brought up
from Woolwich and Chatham to cover Kingston. There was
an exchange of pleasantries: "You'll get eaten!" "We're the
beast-tamers!" and so forth. A little while after that a squad
of police came into the station and began to clear the public off
the platforms, and my brother went out into the street again.

The church bells were ringing for evensong, and a squad of
Salvation Army lassies came singing down Waterloo Road.
On the bridge a number of loafers were watching a curious
brown scum that came drifting down the stream in patches.
The sun was just setting, and the Clock Tower and the Houses
of Parliament rose against one of the most peaceful skies it
is possible to imagine, a sky of gold, barred with long trans-
verse stripes of reddish-purple cloud. There was talk of a
floating body. One of the men there, a reservist he said he
was, told my brother he had seen the heliograph flickering
in the west.

In Wellington Street my brother met a couple of sturdy
roughs who had just been rushed out of Fleet Street with still-
wet newspapers and staring placards. "Dreadful catastrophe!"
they bawled one to the other down Wellington Street. "Fight
ing at Weybridge! Full description! Repulse of the Martians!
London in Danger!" He had to give threepence for a copy of
that paper.

Then it was, and then only, that he realised something of
the full power and terror of these monsters. He learned that
they were not merely a handful of small sluggish creatures,
but that they were minds swaying vast mechanical bodies;
and that they could move swiftly and smite with such power
that even the mightiest guns could not stand against them.

They were described as "vast spiderlike machines, nearly
a hundred feet high, capable of the speed of an express train,
and able to shoot out a beam of intense heat." Masked batter-
ies, chiefly of field guns, had been planted in the country
about Horsell Common, and especially between the Woking
district and London. Five of the machines had been seen
moving towards the Thames, and one, by a happy chance,
had been destroyed. In the other cases the shells had missed,
and the batteries had been at once annihilated by the Heat-
Rays. Heavy losses of soldiers were mentioned, but the tone
of the despatch was optimistic.

The Martians had been repulsed; they were not invulnera-
ble. They had retreated to their triangle of cylinders again, in
the circle about Woking. Signallers with heliographs were
pushing forward upon them from all sides. Guns were in rapid
transit from Windsor, Portsmouth, Aldershot, Woolwich--
even from the north; among others, long wire-guns of ninety-
five tons from Woolwich. Altogether one hundred and sixteen
were in position or being hastily placed, chiefly covering Lon-
don. Never before in England had there been such a vast or
rapid concentration of military material.

Any further cylinders that fell, it was hoped, could be
destroyed at once by high explosives, which were being rap-
idly manufactured and distributed. No doubt, ran the report,
the situation was of the strangest and gravest description, but
the public was exhorted to avoid and discourage panic. No
doubt the Martians were strange and terrible in the extreme,
but at the outside there could not be more than twenty of
them against our millions.

The authorities had reason to suppose, from the size of the
cylinders, that at the outside there could not be more than
five in each cylinder--fifteen altogether. And one at least was
disposed of--perhaps more. The public would be fairly
warned of the approach of danger, and elaborate measures
were being taken for the protection of the people in the
threatened southwestern suburbs. And so, with reiterated
assurances of the safety of London and the ability of the
authorities to cope with the difficulty, this quasi-proclamation
closed.

This was printed in enormous type on paper so fresh that it
was still wet, and there had been no time to add a word of
comment. It was curious, my brother said, to see how ruth-
lessly the usual contents of the paper had been hacked and
taken out to give this place.

All down Wellington Street people could be seen fluttering
out the pink sheets and reading, and the Strand was suddenly
noisy with the voices of an army of hawkers following these
pioneers. Men came scrambling off buses to secure copies.
Certainly this news excited people intensely, whatever
their previous apathy. The shutters of a map shop in the
Strand were being taken down, my brother said, and a man
in his Sunday raiment, lemon-yellow gloves even, was visi-
ble inside the window hastily fastening maps of Surrey to
the glass.

Going on along the Strand to Trafalgar Square, the paper
in his hand, my brother saw some of the fugitives from West
Surrey. There was a man with his wife and two boys and
some articles of furniture in a cart such as greengrocers use.
He was driving from the direction of Westminster Bridge;
and close behind him came a hay waggon with five or six
respectable-looking people in it, and some boxes and bundles.
The faces of these people were haggard, and their entire
appearance contrasted conspicuously with the Sabbath-best
appearance of the people on the omnibuses. People in fash-
ionable clothing peeped at them out of cabs. They stopped at
the Square as if undecided which way to take, and finally
turned eastward along the Strand. Some way behind these
came a man in workday clothes, riding one of those old-
fashioned tricycles with a small front wheel. He was dirty and
white in the face.

My brother turned down towards Victoria, and met a num-
ber of such people. He had a vague idea that he might see
something of me. He noticed an unusual number of police
regulating the traffic. Some of the refugees were exchanging
news with the people on the omnibuses. One was professing
to have seen the Martians. "Boilers on stilts, I tell you,
striding along like men." Most of them were excited and
animated by their strange experience.

Beyond Victoria the public-houses were doing a lively trade
with these arrivals. At all the street corners groups of people
were reading papers, talking excitedly, or staring at these
unusual Sunday visitors. They seemed to increase as night
drew on, until at last the roads, my brother said, were like
Epsom High Street on a Derby Day. My brother addressed
several of these fugitives and got unsatisfactory answers from
most.

None of them could tell him any news of Woking except
one man, who assured him that Woking had been entirely
destroyed on the previous night.

"I come from Byfleet," he said; "man on a bicycle came
through the place in the early morning, and ran from door to
door warning us to come away. Then came soldiers. We went
out to look, and there were clouds of smoke to the south--
nothing but smoke, and not a soul coming that way. Then
we heard the guns at Chertsey, and folks coming from Wey-
bridge. So I've locked up my house and come on."

At the time there was a strong feeling in the streets that the
authorities were to blame for their incapacity to dispose of
the invaders without all this inconvenience.

About eight o'clock a noise of heavy firing was distinctly
audible all over the south of London. My brother could not
hear it for the traffic in the main thoroughfares, but by strik-
ing through the quiet back streets to the river he was able to
distinguish it quite plainly.

He walked from Westminster to his apartments near Re-
gent's Park, about two. He was now very anxious on my
account, and disturbed at the evident magnitude of the
trouble. His mind was inclined to run, even as mine had run
on Saturday, on military details. He thought of all those
silent, expectant guns, of the suddenly nomadic countryside;
he tried to imagine "boilers on stilts" a hundred feet high.

There were one or two cartloads of refugees passing along
Oxford Street, and several in the Marylebone Road, but so
slowly was the news spreading that Regent Street and Port-
land Place were full of their usual Sunday-night promenaders,
albeit they talked in groups, and along the edge of Regent's
Park there were as many silent couples "walking out" together
under the scattered gas lamps as ever there had been. The
night was warm and still, and a little oppressive; the sound
of guns continued intermittently, and after midnight there
seemed to be sheet lightning in the south.

He read and re-read the paper, fearing the worst had hap-
pened to me. He was restless, and after supper prowled out
again aimlessly. He returned and tried in vain to divert his
attention to his examination notes. He went to bed a little
after midnight, and was awakened from lurid dreams in the
small hours of Monday by the sound of door knockers, feet
running in the street, distant drumming, and a clamour
of bells. Red reflections danced on the ceiling. For a moment
he lay astonished, wondering whether day had come or the
world gone mad. Then he jumped out of bed and ran to the
window.

His room was an attic and as he thrust his head out, up
and down the street there were a dozen echoes to the noise
of his window sash, and heads in every kind of night disarray
appeared. Enquiries were being shouted. "They are coming!"
bawled a policeman, hammering at the door; "the Martians
are coming!" and hurried to the next door.

The sound of drumming and trumpeting came from the
Albany Street Barracks, and every church within earshot was
hard at work killing sleep with a vehement disorderly tocsin.
There was a noise of doors opening, and window after win-
dow in the houses opposite flashed from darkness into yellow
illumination.

Up the street came galloping a closed carriage, bursting
abruptly into noise at the corner, rising to a clattering climax
under the window, and dying away slowly in the distance.
Close on the rear of this came a couple of cabs, the forerun-
ners of a long procession of flying vehicles, going for the most
part to Chalk Farm station, where the North-Western special
trains were loading up, instead of coming down the gradient
into Euston.

For a long time my brother stared out of the window in
blank astonishment, watching the policemen hammering at
door after door, and delivering their incomprehensible mes-
sage. Then the door behind him opened, and the man who
lodged across the landing came in, dressed only in shirt,
trousers, and slippers, his braces loose about his waist, his
hair disordered from his pillow.

"What the devil is it?" he asked. "A fire? What a devil of a
row!"

They both craned their heads out of the window, straining
to hear what the policemen were shouting. People were com-
ing out of the side streets, and standing in groups at the
corners talking.

"What the devil is it all about?" said my brother's fellow
lodger.

My brother answered him vaguely and began to dress,
running with each garment to the window in order to miss
nothing of the growing excitement. And presently men selling
unnaturally early newspapers came bawling into the street:

"London in danger of suffocation! The Kingston and Rich-
mond defences forced! Fearful massacres in the Thames
Valley!"

And all about him--in the rooms below, in the houses on
each side and across the road, and behind in the Park Ter-
races and in the hundred other streets of that part of Maryle-
bone, and the Westbourne Park district and St. Pancras, and
westward and northward in Kilburn and St. John's Wood and
Hampstead, and eastward in Shoreditch and Highbury and
Haggerston and Hoxton, and, indeed, through all the vastness
of London from Ealing to East Ham--people were rubbing
their eyes, and opening windows to stare out and ask aimless
questions, dressing hastily as the first breath of the coming
storm of Fear blew through the streets. It was the dawn of
the great panic. London, which had gone to bed on Sunday
night oblivious and inert, was awakened, in the small hours
of Monday morning, to a vivid sense of danger.

Unable from his window to learn what was happening, my
brother went down and out into the street, just as the sky
between the parapets of the houses grew pink with the early
dawn. The flying people on foot and in vehicles grew more
numerous every moment. "Black Smoke!" he heard people
crying, and again "Black Smoke!" The contagion of such a
unanimous fear was inevitable. As my brother hesitated on
the door-step, he saw another news vender approaching, and
got a paper forthwith. The man was running away with the
rest, and selling his papers for a shilling each as he ran--a
grotesque mingling of profit and panic.

And from this paper my brother read that catastrophic
despatch of the Commander-in-Chief:

"The Martians are able to discharge enormous clouds of a
black and poisonous vapour by means of rockets. They have
smothered our batteries, destroyed Richmond, Kingston, and
Wimbledon, and are advancing slowly towards London, de-
stroying everything on the way. It is impossible to stop them.
There is no safety from the Black Smoke but in instant flight."

That was all, but it was enough. The whole population of
the great six-million city was stirring, slipping, running; pres-
ently it would be pouring EN MASSE northward.

"Black Smoke!" the voices cried. "Fire!"

The bells of the neighbouring church made a jangling
tumult, a cart carelessly driven smashed, amid shrieks and
curses, against the water trough up the street. Sickly yellow
lights went to and fro in the houses, and some of the passing
cabs flaunted unextinguished lamps. And overhead the dawn
was growing brighter, clear and steady and calm.

He heard footsteps running to and fro in the rooms, and
up and down stairs behind him. His landlady came to the
door, loosely wrapped in dressing gown and shawl; her hus-
band followed ejaculating.

As my brother began to realise the import of all these
things, he turned hastily to his own room, put all his available
money--some ten pounds altogether--into his pockets, and
went out again into the streets.




CHAPTER FIFTEEN



WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN SURREY



It was while the curate had sat and talked so wildly to
me under the hedge in the flat meadows near Halliford, and
while my brother was watching the fugitives stream over
Westminster Bridge, that the Martians had resumed the of-
fensive. So far as one can ascertain from the conflicting
accounts that have been put forth, the majority of them
remained busied with preparations in the Horsell pit until
nine that night, hurrying on some operation that disengaged
huge volumes of green smoke.

But three certainly came out about eight o'clock and,
advancing slowly and cautiously, made their way through
Byfleet and Pyrford towards Ripley and Weybridge, and so
came in sight of the expectant batteries against the setting
sun. These Martians did not advance in a body, but in a line,
each perhaps a mile and a half from his nearest fellow. They
communicated with one another by means of sirenlike howls,
running up and down the scale from one note to another.

It was this howling and firing of the guns at Ripley and
St. George's Hill that we had heard at Upper Halliford. The
Ripley gunners, unseasoned artillery volunteers who ought
never to have been placed in such a position, fired one wild,
premature, ineffectual volley, and bolted on horse and foot
through the deserted village, while the Martian, without using
his Heat-Ray, walked serenely over their guns, stepped gin-
gerly among them, passed in front of them, and so came
unexpectedly upon the guns in Painshill Park, which he
destroyed.

The St. George's Hill men, however, were better led or of
a better mettle. Hidden by a pine wood as they were, they
seem to have been quite unsuspected by the Martian nearest
to them. They laid their guns as deliberately as if they had
been on parade, and fired at about a thousand yards' range.

The shells flashed all round him, and he was seen to
advance a few paces, stagger, and go down. Everybody yelled
together, and the guns were reloaded in frantic haste. The
overthrown Martian set up a prolonged ululation, and imme-
diately a second glittering giant, answering him, appeared
over the trees to the south. It would seem that a leg of the
tripod had been smashed by one of the shells. The whole of
the second volley flew wide of the Martian on the ground,
and, simultaneously, both his companions brought their Heat-
Rays to bear on the battery. The ammunition blew up, the
pine trees all about the guns flashed into fire, and only one or
two of the men who were already running over the crest of
the hill escaped.

After this it would seem that the three took counsel to-
gether and halted, and the scouts who were watching them
report that they remained absolutely stationary for the next
half hour. The Martian who had been overthrown crawled
tediously out of his hood, a small brown figure, oddly sugges-
tive from that distance of a speck of blight, and apparently
engaged in the repair of his support. About nine he had
finished, for his cowl was then seen above the trees again.

It was a few minutes past nine that night when these three
sentinels were joined by four other Martians, each carrying
a thick black tube. A similar tube was handed to each of the
three, and the seven proceeded to distribute themselves at
equal distances along a curved line between St. George's Hill,
Weybridge, and the village of Send, southwest of Ripley.

A dozen rockets sprang out of the hills before them so soon
as they began to move, and warned the waiting batteries
about Ditton and Esher. At the same time four of their
fighting machines, similarly armed with tubes, crossed the
river, and two of them, black against the western sky, came
into sight of myself and the curate as we hurried wearily and
painfully along the road that runs northward out of Halliford.
They moved, as it seemed to us, upon a cloud, for a milky
mist covered the fields and rose to a third of their height.

At this sight the curate cried faintly in his throat, and
began running; but I knew it was no good running from a
Martian, and I turned aside and crawled through dewy nettles
and brambles into the broad ditch by the side of the road.
He looked back, saw what I was doing, and turned to join
me.

The two halted, the nearer to us standing and facing Sun-
bury, the remoter being a grey indistinctness towards the
evening star, away towards Staines.

The occasional howling of the Martians had ceased; they
took up their positions in the huge crescent about their
cylinders in absolute silence. It was a crescent with twelve
miles between its horns. Never since the devising of gun-
powder was the beginning of a battle so still. To us and to
an observer about Ripley it would have had precisely the
same effect--the Martians seemed in solitary possession of
the darkling night, lit only as it was by the slender moon, the
stars, the afterglow of the daylight, and the ruddy glare from
St. George's Hill and the woods of Painshill.

But facing that crescent everywhere--at Staines, Hounslow,
Ditton, Esher, Ockham, behind hills and woods south of the
river, and across the flat grass meadows to the north of it,
wherever a cluster of trees or village houses gave sufficient
cover--the guns were waiting. The signal rockets burst and
rained their sparks through the night and vanished, and the
spirit of all those watching batteries rose to a tense expecta-
tion. The Martians had but to advance into the line of fire,
and instantly those motionless black forms of men, those
guns glittering so darkly in the early night, would explode
into a thunderous fury of battle.

No doubt the thought that was uppermost in a thousand
of those vigilant minds, even as it was uppermost in mine,
was the riddle--how much they understood of us. Did they
grasp that we in our millions were organized, disciplined,
working together? Or did they interpret our spurts of fire,
the sudden stinging of our shells, our steady investment of
their encampment, as we should the furious unanimity of
onslaught in a disturbed hive of bees? Did they dream they
might exterminate us? (At that time no one knew what food
they needed.) A hundred such questions struggled together
in my mind as I watched that vast sentinel shape. And in
the back of my mind was the sense of all the huge unknown
and hidden forces Londonward. Had they prepared pitfalls?
Were the powder mills at Hounslow ready as a snare? Would
the Londoners have the heart and courage to make a greater
Moscow of their mighty province of houses?

Then, after an interminable time, as it seemed to us,
crouching and peering through the hedge, came a sound
like the distant concussion of a gun. Another nearer, and
then another. And then the Martian beside us raised his tube
on high and discharged it, gunwise, with a heavy report that
made the ground heave. The one towards Staines answered
him. There was no flash, no smoke, simply that loaded
detonation.

I was so excited by these heavy minute-guns following one
another that I so far forgot my personal safety and my
scalded hands as to clamber up into the hedge and stare
towards Sunbury. As I did so a second report followed, and
a big projectile hurtled overhead towards Hounslow. I ex-
pected at least to see smoke or fire, or some such evidence
of its work. But all I saw was the deep blue sky above, with
one solitary star, and the white mist spreading wide and low
beneath. And there had been no crash, no answering ex-
plosion. The silence was restored; the minute lengthened to
three.

"What has happened?" said the curate, standing up beside
me.

"Heaven knows!" said I.

A bat flickered by and vanished. A distant tumult of
shouting began and ceased. I looked again at the Martian,
and saw he was now moving eastward along the riverbank,
with a swift, rolling motion,

Every moment I expected the fire of some hidden battery
to spring upon him; but the evening calm was unbroken.
The figure of the Martian grew smaller as he receded, and
presently the mist and the gathering night had swallowed
him up. By a common impulse we clambered higher. Towards
Sunbury was a dark appearance, as though a conical hill
had suddenly come into being there, hiding our view of the
farther country; and then, remoter across the river, over
Walton, we saw another such summit. These hill-like forms
grew lower and broader even as we stared.

Moved by a sudden thought, I looked northward, and
there I perceived a third of these cloudy black kopjes had
risen.

Everything had suddenly become very still. Far away to
the southeast, marking the quiet, we heard the Martians
hooting to one another, and then the air quivered again with
the distant thud of their guns. But the earthly artillery made
no reply.

Now at the time we could not understand these things, but
later I was to learn the meaning of these ominous kopjes that
gathered in the twilight. Each of the Martians, standing in
the great crescent I have described, had discharged, by
means of the gunlike tube he carried, a huge canister over
whatever hill, copse, cluster of houses, or other possible cover
for guns, chanced to be in front of him. Some fired only one
of these, some two--as in the case of the one we had seen;
the one at Ripley is said to have discharged no fewer than
five at that time. These canisters smashed on striking the
ground--they did not explode--and incontinently disengaged
an enormous volume of heavy, inky vapour, coiling and pour-
ing upward in a huge and ebony cumulus cloud, a gaseous
hill that sank and spread itself slowly over the surrounding
country. And the touch of that vapour, the inhaling of its
pungent wisps, was death to all that breathes.

It was heavy, this vapour, heavier than the densest smoke,
so that, after the first tumultuous uprush and outflow of its
impact, it sank down through the air and poured over the
ground in a manner rather liquid than gaseous, abandoning
the hills, and streaming into the valleys and ditches and
watercourses even as I have heard the carbonic-acid gas that
pours from volcanic clefts is wont to do. And where it came
upon water some chemical action occurred, and the surface
would be instantly covered with a powdery scum that sank
slowly and made way for more. The scum was absolutely
insoluble, and it is a strange thing, seeing the instant effect
of the gas, that one could drink without hurt the water from
which it had been strained. The vapour did not diffuse as a
true gas would do. It hung together in banks, flowing slug-
gishly down the slope of the land and driving reluctantly
before the wind, and very slowly it combined with the mist
and moisture of the air, and sank to the earth in the form
of dust. Save that an unknown element giving a group of
four lines in the blue of the spectrum is concerned, we are
still entirely ignorant of the nature of this substance.

Once the tumultuous upheaval of its dispersion was over,
the black smoke clung so closely to the ground, even before
its precipitation, that fifty feet up in the air, on the roofs
and upper stories of high houses and on great trees, there was
a chance of escaping its poison altogether, as was proved even
that night at Street Cobham and Ditton.

The man who escaped at the former place tells a wonderful
story of the strangeness of its coiling flow, and how he looked
down from the church spire and saw the houses of the village
rising like ghosts out of its inky nothingness. For a day and
a half he remained there, weary, starving and sun-scorched,
the earth under the blue sky and against the prospect of the
distant hills a velvet-black expanse, with red roofs, green
trees, and, later, black-veiled shrubs and gates, barns, out-
houses, and walls, rising here and there into the sunlight.

But that was at Street Cobham, where the black vapour
was allowed to remain until it sank of its own accord into
the ground. As a rule the Martians, when it had served its
purpose, cleared the air of it again by wading into it and
directing a jet of steam upon it.

This they did with the vapour banks near us, as we saw
in the starlight from the window of a deserted house at Upper
Halliford, whither we had returned. From there we could
see the searchlights on Richmond Hill and Kingston Hill
going to and fro, and about eleven the windows rattled, and
we heard the sound of the huge siege guns that had been put
in position there. These continued intermittently for the space
of a quarter of an hour, sending chance shots at the invisible
Martians at Hampton and Ditton, and then the pale beams
of the electric light vanished, and were replaced by a bright
red glow.

Then the fourth cylinder fell--a brilliant green meteor--as
I learned afterwards, in Bushey Park. Before the guns on the
Richmond and Kingston line of hills began, there was a fitful
cannonade far away in the southwest, due, I believe, to guns
being fired haphazard before the black vapour could over-
whelm the gunners.

So, setting about it as methodically as men might smoke
out a wasps' nest, the Martians spread this strange stifling
vapour over the Londonward country. The horns of the
crescent slowly moved apart, until at last they formed a line
from Hanwell to Coombe and Malden. All night through their
destructive tubes advanced. Never once, after the Martian
at St. George's Hill was brought down, did they give the
artillery the ghost of a chance against them. Wherever there
was a possibility of guns being laid for them unseen, a fresh
canister of the black vapour was discharged, and where the
guns were openly displayed the Heat-Ray was brought to
bear.

By midnight the blazing trees along the slopes of Rich-
mond Park and the glare of Kingston Hill threw their light
upon a network of black smoke, blotting out the whole valley
of the Thames and extending as far as the eye could reach.
And through this two Martians slowly waded, and turned
their hissing steam jets this way and that.

They were sparing of the Heat-Ray that night, either be-
cause they had but a limited supply of material for its
production or because they did not wish to destroy the
country but only to crush and overawe the opposition they
had aroused. In the latter aim they certainly succeeded. Sun-
day night was the end of the organised opposition to their
movements. After that no body of men would stand against
them, so hopeless was the enterprise. Even the crews of the
torpedo-boats and destroyers that had brought their quick-
firers up the Thames refused to stop, mutinied, and went
down again. The only offensive operation men ventured upon
after that night was the preparation of mines and pitfalls,
and even in that their energies were frantic and spasmodic.

One has to imagine, as well as one may, the fate of those
batteries towards Esher, waiting so tensely in the twilight.
Survivors there were none. One may picture the orderly
expectation, the officers alert and watchful, the gunners ready,
the ammunition piled to hand, the limber gunners with their
horses and waggons, the groups of civilian spectators standing
as near as they were permitted, the evening stillness, the
ambulances and hospital tents with the burned and wounded
from Weybridge; then the dull resonance of the shots the
Martians fired, and the clumsy projectile whirling over the
trees and houses and smashing amid the neighbouring fields.

One may picture, too, the sudden shifting of the attention,
the swiftly spreading coils and bellyings of that blackness
advancing headlong, towering heavenward, turning the twi-
light to a palpable darkness, a strange and horrible antagonist
of vapour striding upon its victims, men and horses near it
seen dimly, running, shrieking, falling headlong, shouts of
dismay, the guns suddenly abandoned, men choking and
writhing on the ground, and the swift broadening-out of the
opaque cone of smoke. And then night and extinction--
nothing but a silent mass of impenetrable vapour hiding its
dead.

Before dawn the black vapour was pouring through the
streets of Richmond, and the disintegrating organism of
government was, with a last expiring effort, rousing the
population of London to the necessity of flight.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN



THE EXODUS FROM LONDON


So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept
through the greatest city in the world just as Monday was
dawning--the stream of flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lash-
ing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations, banked
up into a horrible struggle about the shipping in the Thames,
and hurrying by every available channel northward and east-
ward. By ten o'clock the police organisation, and by midday
even the railway organisations, were losing coherency, losing
shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at last in
that swift liquefaction of the social body.

All the railway lines north of the Thames and the South-
Eastern people at Cannon Street had been warned by mid-
night on Sunday, and trains were being filled. People were
fighting savagely for standing-room in the carriages even at
two o'clock. By three, people were being trampled and
crushed even in Bishopsgate Street, a couple of hundred
yards or more from Liverpool Street station; revolvers were
fired, people stabbed, and the policemen who had been sent
to direct the traffic, exhausted and infuriated, were breaking
the heads of the people they were called out to protect.

And as the day advanced and the engine drivers and
stokers refused to return to London, the pressure of the flight
drove the people in an ever-thickening multitude away from
the stations and along the northward-running roads. By mid-
day a Martian had been seen at Barnes, and a cloud of slowly
sinking black vapour drove along the Thames and across the
flats of Lambeth, cutting off all escape over the bridges in its
sluggish advance. Another bank drove over Ealing, and sur-
rounded a little island of survivors on Castle Hill, alive, but
unable to escape.

After a fruitless struggle to get aboard a North-Western
train at Chalk Farm--the engines of the trains that had loaded
in the goods yard there PLOUGHED through shrieking people,
and a dozen stalwart men fought to keep the crowd from
crushing the driver against his furnace--my brother emerged
upon the Chalk Farm road, dodged across through a hurrying
swarm of vehicles, and had the luck to be foremost in the
sack of a cycle shop. The front tire of the machine he got
was punctured in dragging it through the window, but he got
up and off, notwithstanding, with no further injury than a
cut wrist. The steep foot of Haverstock Hill was impassable
owing to several overturned horses, and my brother struck
into Belsize Road.

So he got out of the fury of the panic, and, skirting the
Edgware Road, reached Edgware about seven, fasting and
wearied, but well ahead of the crowd. Along the road people
were standing in the roadway, curious, wondering. He was
passed by a number of cyclists, some horsemen, and two
motor cars. A mile from Edgware the rim of the wheel broke,
and the machine became unridable. He left it by the roadside
and trudged through the village. There were shops half
opened in the main street of the place, and people crowded
on the pavement and in the doorways and windows, staring
astonished at this extraordinary procession of fugitives that
was beginning. He succeeded in getting some food at an
inn.

For a time he remained in Edgware not knowing what next
to do. The flying people increased in number. Many of them,
like my brother, seemed inclined to loiter in the place. There
was no fresh news of the invaders from Mars.

At that time the road was crowded, but as yet far from
congested. Most of the fugitives at that hour were mounted
on cycles, but there were soon motor cars, hansom cabs, and
carriages hurrying along, and the dust hung in heavy clouds
along the road to St. Albans.

It was perhaps a vague idea of making his way to Chelms-
ford, where some friends of his lived, that at last induced my
brother to strike into a quiet lane running eastward. Presently
he came upon a stile, and, crossing it, followed a footpath
northeastward. He passed near several farmhouses and some
little places whose names he did not learn. He saw few
fugitives until, in a grass lane towards High Barnet, he hap-
pened upon two ladies who became his fellow travellers. He
came upon them just in time to save them.

He heard their screams, and, hurrying round the corner,
saw a couple of men struggling to drag them out of the little
pony-chaise in which they had been driving, while a third
with difficulty held the frightened pony's head. One of the
ladies, a short woman dressed in white, was simply screaming;
the other, a dark, slender figure, slashed at the man who
gripped her arm with a whip she held in her disengaged
hand.

My brother immediately grasped the situation, shouted, and
hurried towards the struggle. One of the men desisted and
turned towards him, and my brother, realising from his an-
tagonist's face that a fight was unavoidable, and being an
expert boxer, went into him forthwith and sent him down
against the wheel of the chaise.

It was no time for pugilistic chivalry and my brother laid
him quiet with a kick, and gripped the collar of the man
who pulled at the slender lady's arm. He heard the clatter
of hoofs, the whip stung across his face, a third antagonist
struck him between the eyes, and the man he held wrenched
himself free and made off down the lane in the direction from
which he had come.

Partly stunned, he found himself facing the man who had
held the horse's head, and became aware of the chaise
receding from him down the lane, swaying from side to side,
and with the women in it looking back. The man before him,
a burly rough, tried to close, and he stopped him with a
blow in the face. Then, realising that he was deserted, he
dodged round and made off down the lane after the chaise,
with the sturdy man close behind him, and the fugitive, who
had turned now, following remotely.

Suddenly he stumbled and fell; his immediate pursuer
went headlong, and he rose to his feet to find himself with
a couple of antagonists again. He would have had little
chance against them had not the slender lady very pluckily
pulled up and returned to his help. It seems she had had a
revolver all this time, but it had been under the seat when
she and her companion were attacked. She fired at six yards'
distance, narrowly missing my brother. The less courageous
of the robbers made off, and his companion followed him,
cursing his cowardice. They both stopped in sight down the
lane, where the third man lay insensible.

"Take this!" said the slender lady, and she gave my brother
her revolver.

"Go back to the chaise," said my brother, wiping the blood
from his split lip.

She turned without a word--they were both panting--and
they went back to where the lady in white struggled to hold
back the frightened pony.

The robbers had evidently had enough of it. When my
brother looked again they were retreating.

"I'll sit here," said my brother, "if I may"; and he got upon
the empty front seat. The lady looked over her shoulder.

"Give me the reins," she said, and laid the whip along the
pony's side. In another moment a bend in the road hid
the three men from my brother's eyes.

So, quite unexpectedly, my brother found himself, panting,
with a cut mouth, a bruised jaw, and bloodstained knuckles,
driving along an unknown lane with these two women.

He learned they were the wife and the younger sister of
a surgeon living at Stanmore, who had come in the small
hours from a dangerous case at Pinner, and heard at some
railway station on his way of the Martian advance. He had
hurried home, roused the women--their servant had left them
two days before--packed some provisions, put his revolver
under the seat--luckily for my brother--and told them to
drive on to Edgware, with the idea of getting a train there.
He stopped behind to tell the neighbours. He would overtake
them, he said, at about half past four in the morning, and
now it was nearly nine and they had seen nothing of him.
They could not stop in Edgware because of the growing
traffic through the place, and so they had come into this
side lane.

That was the story they told my brother in fragments when
presently they stopped again, nearer to New Barnet. He
promised to stay with them, at least until they could deter-
mine what to do, or until the missing man arrived, and pro-
fessed to be an expert shot with the revolver--a weapon
strange to him--in order to give them confidence.

They made a sort of encampment by the wayside, and the
pony became happy in the hedge. He told them of his own
escape out of London, and all that he knew of these Martians
and their ways. The sun crept higher in the sky, and after a
time their talk died out and gave place to an uneasy state of
anticipation. Several wayfarers came along the lane, and of
these my brother gathered such news as he could. Every
broken answer he had deepened his impression of the great
disaster that had come on humanity, deepened his persuasion
of the immediate necessity for prosecuting this flight. He
urged the matter upon them.

"We have money," said the slender woman, and hesitated.

Her eyes met my brother's, and her hesitation ended.

"So have I," said my brother.

She explained that they had as much as thirty pounds in
gold, besides a five-pound note, and suggested that with that
they might get upon a train at St. Albans or New Barnet. My
brother thought that was hopeless, seeing the fury of the
Londoners to crowd upon the trains, and broached his own
idea of striking across Essex towards Harwich and thence
escaping from the country altogether.

Mrs. Elphinstone--that was the name of the woman in
white--would listen to no reasoning, and kept calling upon
"George"; but her sister-in-law was astonishingly quiet and
deliberate, and at last agreed to my brother's suggestion. So,
designing to cross the Great North Road, they went on
towards Barnet, my brother leading the pony to save it as
much as possible.
As the sun crept up the sky the day became excessively
hot, and under foot a thick, whitish sand grew burning and
blinding, so that they travelled only very slowly. The hedges
were grey with dust. And as they advanced towards Barnet
a tumultuous murmuring grew stronger.

They began to meet more people. For the most part these
were staring before them, murmuring indistinct questions,
jaded, haggard, unclean. One man in evening dress passed
them on foot, his eyes on the ground. They heard his voice,
and, looking back at him, saw one hand clutched in his hair
and the other beating invisible things. His paroxysm of rage
over, he went on his way without once looking back.

As my brother's party went on towards the crossroads to
the south of Barnet they saw a woman approaching the road
across some fields on their left, carrying a child and with two
other children; and then passed a man in dirty black, with a
thick stick in one hand and a small portmanteau in the other.
Then round the corner of the lane, from between the villas
that guarded it at its confluence with the high road, came a
little cart drawn by a sweating black pony and driven by a
sallow youth in a bowler hat, grey with dust. There were
three girls, East End factory girls, and a couple of little chil-
dren crowded in the cart.

"This'll tike us rahnd Edgware?" asked the driver, wild-
eyed, white-faced; and when my brother told him it would
if he turned to the left, he whipped up at once without the
formality of thanks.

My brother noticed a pale grey smoke or haze rising among
the houses in front of them, and veiling the white
facade of a terrace beyond the road that appeared
between the backs of the villas. Mrs. Elphinstone suddenly cried
out at a number of tongues of smoky red flame leaping up above
the houses in front of them against the hot, blue sky. The
tumultuous noise resolved itself now into the disorderly mingling
of many voices, the gride of many wheels, the creaking of
waggons, and the staccato of hoofs. The lane came round sharply
not fifty yards from the crossroads.

"Good heavens!" cried Mrs. Elphinstone. "What is this
you are driving us into?"

My brother stopped.

For the main road was a boiling stream of people, a tor-
rent of human beings rushing northward, one pressing on
another. A great bank of dust, white and luminous in the
blaze of the sun, made everything within twenty feet of the
ground grey and indistinct and was perpetually renewed by
the hurrying feet of a dense crowd of horses and of men and
women on foot, and by the wheels of vehicles of every de-
scription.

"Way!" my brother heard voices crying. "Make way!"

It was like riding into the smoke of a fire to approach the
meeting point of the lane and road; the crowd roared like
a fire, and the dust was hot and pungent. And, indeed, a
little way up the road a villa was burning and sending rolling
masses of black smoke across the road to add to the con-
fusion.

Two men came past them. Then a dirty woman, carrying a
heavy bundle and weeping. A lost retriever dog, with hanging
tongue, circled dubiously round them, scared and wretched,
and fled at my brother's threat.

So much as they could see of the road Londonward
between the houses to the right was a tumultuous stream of
dirty, hurrying people, pent in between the villas on either
side; the black heads, the crowded forms, grew into distinct-
ness as they rushed towards the corner, hurried past, and
merged their individuality again in a receding multitude that
was swallowed up at last in a cloud of dust.

"Go on! Go on!" cried the voices. "Way! Way!"

One man's hands pressed on the back of another. My
brother stood at the pony's head. Irresistibly attracted, he
advanced slowly, pace by pace, down the lane.

Edgware had been a scene of confusion, Chalk Farm a
riotous tumult, but this was a whole population in movement.
It is hard to imagine that host. It had no character of its own.
The figures poured out past the corner, and receded with their
backs to the group in the lane. Along the margin came those
who were on foot threatened by the wheels, stumbling in the
ditches, blundering into one another.

The carts and carriages crowded close upon one another,
making little way for those swifter and more impatient vehi-
cles that darted forward every now and then when an
opportunity showed itself of doing so, sending the people
scattering against the fences and gates of the villas.

"Push on!" was the cry. "Push on! They are coming!"

In one cart stood a blind man in the uniform of the Salva-
tion Army, gesticulating with his crooked fingers and bawling,
"Eternity! Eternity!" His voice was hoarse and very loud so
that my brother could hear him long after he was lost to
sight in the dust. Some of the people who crowded in the
carts whipped stupidly at their horses and quarrelled with
other drivers; some sat motionless, staring at nothing with
miserable eyes; some gnawed their hands with thirst, or lay
prostrate in the bottoms of their conveyances. The horses" bits
were covered with foam, their eyes bloodshot.

There were cabs, carriages, shop cars, waggons, beyond
counting; a mail cart, a road-cleaner's cart marked "Vestry of
St. Pancras," a huge timber waggon crowded with roughs.
A brewer's dray rumbled by with its two near wheels splashed
with fresh blood.

"Clear the way!" cried the voices. "Clear the way!"

"Eter-nity! Eter-nity!" came echoing down the road.

There were sad, haggard women tramping by, well dressed,
with children that cried and stumbled, their dainty clothes
smothered in dust, their weary faces smeared with tears. With
many of these came men, sometimes helpful, sometimes low-
ering and savage. Fighting side by side with them pushed
some weary street outcast in faded black rags, wide-eyed,
loud-voiced, and foul-mouthed. There were sturdy workmen
thrusting their way along, wretched, unkempt men, clothed
like clerks or shopmen, struggling spasmodically; a wounded
soldier my brother noticed, men dressed in the clothes of
railway porters, one wretched creature in a nightshirt with
a coat thrown over it.

But varied as its composition was, certain things all that
host had in common. There were fear and pain on their faces,
and fear behind them. A tumult up the road, a quarrel for a
place in a waggon, sent the whole host of them quickening
their pace; even a man so scared and broken that his knees
bent under him was galvanised for a moment into renewed
activity. The heat and dust had already been at work upon
this multitude. Their skins were dry, their lips black and
cracked. They were all thirsty, weary, and footsore. And amid
the various cries one heard disputes, reproaches, groans of
weariness and fatigue; the voices of most of them were
hoarse and weak. Through it all ran a refrain:

"Way! Way! The Martians are coming!"

Few stopped and came aside from that flood. The lane
opened slantingly into the main road with a narrow opening,
and had a delusive appearance of coming from the direction
of London. Yet a kind of eddy of people drove into its mouth;
weaklings elbowed out of the stream, who for the most part
rested but a moment before plunging into it again. A little
way down the lane, with two friends bending over him, lay
a man with a bare leg, wrapped about with bloody rags. He
was a lucky man to have friends.

A little old man, with a grey military moustache and a
filthy black frock coat, limped out and sat down beside the
trap, removed his boot--his sock was blood-stained--shook
out a pebble, and hobbled on again; and then a little girl of
eight or nine, all alone, threw herself under the hedge close
by my brother, weeping.

"I can't go on! I can't go on!"

My brother woke from his torpor of astonishment and lifted
her up, speaking gently to her, and carried her to Miss Elphin-
stone. So soon as my brother touched her she became quite
still, as if frightened.

"Ellen!" shrieked a woman in the crowd, with tears in her
voice--"Ellen!" And the child suddenly darted away from
my brother, crying "Mother!"

"They are coming," said a man on horseback, riding past
along the lane.

"Out of the way, there!" bawled a coachman, towering
high; and my brother saw a closed carriage turning into the
lane.

The people crushed back on one another to avoid the
horse. My brother pushed the pony and chaise back into
the hedge, and the man drove by and stopped at the turn
of the way. It was a carriage, with a pole for a pair of horses,
but only one was in the traces. My brother saw dimly through
the dust that two men lifted out something on a white
stretcher and put it gently on the grass beneath the privet
hedge.

One of the men came running to my brother.

"Where is there any water?" he said. "He is dying fast,
and very thirsty. It is Lord Garrick."

"Lord Garrick!" said my brother; "the Chief Justice?"

"The water?" he said.

"There may be a tap," said my brother, "in some of the
houses. We have no water. I dare not leave my people."

The man pushed against the crowd towards the gate of the
corner house.

"Go on!" said the people, thrusting at him. "They are
coming! Go on!"

Then my brother's attention was distracted by a bearded,
eagle-faced man lugging a small handbag, which split even
as my brother's eyes rested on it and disgorged a mass of
sovereigns that seemed to break up into separate coins as it
struck the ground. They rolled hither and thither among the
struggling feet of men and horses. The man stopped and
looked stupidly at the heap, and the shaft of a cab struck
his shoulder and sent him reeling. He gave a shriek and
dodged back, and a cartwheel shaved him narrowly.

"Way!" cried the men all about him. "Make way!"

So soon as the cab had passed, he flung himself, with both
hands open, upon the heap of coins, and began thrusting
handfuls in his pocket. A horse rose close upon him, and in
another moment, half rising, he had been borne down under
the horse's hoofs.

"Stop!" screamed my brother, and pushing a woman out
of his way, tried to clutch the bit of the horse.

Before he could get to it, he heard a scream under the
wheels, and saw through the dust the rim passing over the
poor wretch's back. The driver of the cart slashed his whip
at my brother, who ran round behind the cart. The multi-
tudinous shouting confused his ears. The man was writhing
in the dust among his scattered money, unable to rise, for
the wheel had broken his back, and his lower limbs lay limp
and dead. My brother stood up and yelled at the next driver,
and a man on a black horse came to his assistance.

"Get him out of the road," said he; and, clutching the
man's collar with his free hand, my brother lugged him
sideways. But he still clutched after his money, and regarded
my brother fiercely, hammering at his arm with a handful
of gold. "Go on! Go on!" shouted angry voices behind.

"Way! Way!"

There was a smash as the pole of a carriage crashed into
the cart that the man on horseback stopped. My brother
looked up, and the man with the gold twisted his head round
and bit the wrist that held his collar. There was a concussion,
and the black horse came staggering sideways, and the
carthorse pushed beside it. A hoof missed my brother's foot
by a hair's breadth. He released his grip on the fallen man
and jumped back. He saw anger change to terror on the face
of the poor wretch on the ground, and in a moment he was
hidden and my brother was borne backward and carried past
the entrance of the lane, and had to fight hard in the torrent
to recover it.

He saw Miss Elphinstone covering her eyes, and a little
child, with all a child's want of sympathetic imagination,
staring with dilated eyes at a dusty something that lay black
and still, ground and crushed under the rolling wheels. "Let
us go back!" he shouted, and began turning the pony round.
"We cannot cross this--hell," he said and they went back a
hundred yards the way they had come, until the fighting
crowd was hidden. As they passed the bend in the lane my
brother saw the face of the dying man in the ditch under
the privet, deadly white and drawn, and shining with perspi-
ration. The two women sat silent, crouching in their seat
and shivering.

Then beyond the bend my brother stopped again. Miss
Elphinstone was white and pale, and her sister-in-law sat
weeping, too wretched even to call upon "George." My
brother was horrified and perplexed. So soon as they had
retreated he realised how urgent and unavoidable it was to
attempt this crossing. He turned to Miss Elphinstone, sud-
denly resolute.

"We must go that way," he said, and led the pony round
again.

For the second time that day this girl proved her quality.
To force their way into the torrent of people, my brother
plunged into the traffic and held back a cab horse, while
she drove the pony across its head. A waggon locked wheels
for a moment and ripped a long splinter from the chaise.
In another moment they were caught and swept forward by
the stream. My brother, with the cabman's whip marks red
across his face and hands, scrambled into the chaise and
took the reins from her.

"Point the revolver at the man behind," he said, giving it
to her, "if he presses us too hard. No!--point it at his horse."

Then he began to look out for a chance of edging to the
right across the road. But once in the stream he seemed to
lose volition, to become a part of that dusty rout. They swept
through Chipping Barnet with the torrent; they were nearly
a mile beyond the centre of the town before they had fought
across to the opposite side of the way. It was din and con-
fusion indescribable; but in and beyond the town the road
forks repeatedly, and this to some extent relieved the stress.

They struck eastward through Hadley, and there on either
side of the road, and at another place farther on they came
upon a great multitude of people drinking at the stream,
some fighting to come at the water. And farther on, from a
lull near East Barnet, they saw two trains running slowly
one after the other without signal or order--trains swarming
with people, with men even among the coals behind the
engines--going northward along the Great Northern Railway.
My brother supposes they must have filled outside London,
for at that time the furious terror of the people had rendered
the central termini impossible.


Near this place they halted for the rest of the afternoon,
for the violence of the day had already utterly exhausted all
three of them. They began to suffer the beginnings of hunger;
the night was cold, and none of them dared to sleep. And in
the evening many people came hurrying along the road near-
by their stopping place, fleeing from unknown dangers before
them, and going in the direction from which my brother
had come.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN


THE "THUNDER CHILD"


Had the Martians aimed only at destruction, they might
on Monday have annihilated the entire population of London,
as it spread itself slowly through the home counties. Not
only along the road through Barnet, but also through Edgware
and Waltham Abbey, and along the roads eastward to South-
end and Shoeburyness, and south of the Thames to Deal and
Broadstairs, poured the same frantic rout. If one could have
hung that June morning in a balloon in the blazing blue
above London every northward and eastward road running out
of the tangled maze of streets would have seemed stippled
black with the streaming fugitives, each dot a human agony
of terror and physical distress. I have set forth at length in
the last chapter my brother's account of the road through
Chipping Barnet, in order that my readers may realise how
that swarming of black dots appeared to one of those con-
cerned. Never before in the history of the world had such a
mass of human beings moved and suffered together. The
legendary hosts of Goths and Huns, the hugest armies Asia
has ever seen, would have been but a drop in that current.
And this was no disciplined march; it was a stampede--a
stampede gigantic and terrible--without order and without
a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving
headlong. It was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of
the massacre of mankind.

Directly below him the balloonist would have seen the
network of streets far and wide, houses, churches, squares,
crescents, gardens--already derelict--spread out like a huge
map, and in the southward BLOTTED. Over Ealing, Richmond,
Wimbledon, it would have seemed as if some monstrous pen
had flung ink upon the chart. Steadily, incessantly, each black
splash grew and spread, shooting out ramifications this way
and that, now banking itself against rising ground, now
pouring swiftly over a crest into a new-found valley, exactly
as a gout of ink would spread itself upon blotting paper.

And beyond, over the blue hills that rise southward of
the river, the glittering Martians went to and fro, calmly
and methodically spreading their poison cloud over this
patch of country and then over that, laying it again with
their steam jets when it had served its purpose, and taking
possession of the conquered country. They do not seem to
have aimed at extermination so much as at complete demoral-
isation and the destruction of any opposition. They exploded
any stores of powder they came upon, cut every telegraph,
and wrecked the railways here and there. They were ham-
stringing mankind. They seemed in no hurry to extend the
field of their operations, and did not come beyond the central
part of London all that day. It is possible that a very con-
siderable number of people in London stuck to their houses
through Monday morning. Certain it is that many died at
home suffocated by the Black Smoke.

Until about midday the Pool of London was an astonishing
scene. Steamboats and shipping of all sorts lay there, tempted
by the enormous sums of money offered by fugitives, and it
is said that many who swam out to these vessels were thrust
off with boathooks and drowned. About one o'clock in the
afternoon the thinning remnant of a cloud of the black vapour
appeared between the arches of Blackfriars Bridge. At that
the Pool became a scene of mad confusion, fighting, and
collision, and for some time a multitude of boats and barges
jammed in the northern arch of the Tower Bridge, and the
sailors and lightermen had to fight savagely against the
people who swarmed upon them from the riverfront. People
were actually clambering down the piers of the bridge from
above.

When, an hour later, a Martian appeared beyond the
Clock Tower and waded down the river, nothing but wreck-
age floated above Limehouse.

Of the falling of the fifth cylinder I have presently to tell.
The sixth star fell at Wimbledon. My brother, keeping watch
beside the women in the chaise in a meadow, saw the green
flash of it far beyond the hills. On Tuesday the little party,
still set upon getting across the sea, made its way through
the swarming country towards Colchester. The news that the
Martians were now in possession of the whole of London was
confirmed. They had been seen at Highgate, and even, it
was said, at Neasden. But they did not come into my brother's
view until the morrow.

That day the scattered multitudes began to realise the
urgent need of provisions. As they grew hungry the rights
of property ceased to be regarded. Farmers were out to
defend their cattle-sheds, granaries, and ripening root crops
with arms in their hands. A number of people now, like my
brother, had their faces eastward, and there were some des-
perate souls even going back towards London to get food.
These were chiefly people from the northern suburbs, whose
knowledge of the Black Smoke came by hearsay. He heard
that about half the members of the government had gathered
at Birmingham, and that enormous quantities of high explo-
sives were being prepared to be used in automatic mines
across the Midland counties.

He was also told that the Midland Railway Company had
replaced the desertions of the first day's panic, had resumed
traffic, and was running northward trains from St. Albans
to relieve the congestion of the home counties. There was
also a placard in Chipping Ongar announcing that large
stores of flour were available in the northern towns and that
within twenty-four hours bread would be distributed among
the starving people in the neighbourhood. But this intelli-
gence did not deter him from the plan of escape he had
formed, and the three pressed eastward all day, and heard
no more of the bread distribution than this promise. Nor, as
a matter of fact, did anyone else hear more of it. That night
fell the seventh star, falling upon Primrose Hill. It fell while
Miss Elphinstone was watching, for she took that duty alter-
nately with my brother. She saw it.

On Wednesday the three fugitives--they had passed the
night in a field of unripe wheat--reached Chelmsford, and
there a body of the inhabitants, calling itself the Committee
of Public Supply, seized the pony as provisions, and would
give nothing in exchange for it but the promise of a share
in it the next day. Here there were rumours of Martians at
Epping, and news of the destruction of Waltham Abbey
Powder Mills in a vain attempt to blow up one of the invaders.

People were watching for Martians here from the church
towers. My brother, very luckily for him as it chanced, pre-
ferred to push on at once to the coast rather than wait for
food, although all three of them were very hungry. By mid-
day they passed through Tillingham, which, strangely enough,
seemed to be quite silent and deserted, save for a few furtive
plunderers hunting for food. Near Tillingham they suddenly
came in sight of the sea, and the most amazing crowd of
shipping of all sorts that it is possible to imagine.

For after the sailors could no longer come up the Thames,
they came on to the Essex coast, to Harwich and Walton
and Clacton, and afterwards to Foulness and Shoebury, to
bring off the people. They lay in a huge sickle-shaped curve
that vanished into mist at last towards the Naze. Close inshore
was a multitude of fishing smacks--English, Scotch, French,
Dutch, and Swedish; steam launches from the Thames, yachts,
electric boats; and beyond were ships of large burden, a
multitude of filthy colliers, trim merchantmen, cattle ships,
passenger boats, petroleum tanks, ocean tramps, an old white
transport even, neat white and grey liners from Southampton
and Hamburg; and along the blue coast across the Blackwater
my brother could make out dimly a dense swarm of boats
chaffering with the people on the beach, a swarm which also
extended up the Blackwater almost to Maldon.

About a couple of miles out lay an ironclad, very low in
the water, almost, to my brother's perception, like a water-
logged ship. This was the ram THUNDER CHILD. It was the
only warship in sight, but far away to the right over the
smooth surface of the sea--for that day there was a dead
calm--lay a serpent of black smoke to mark the next iron-
clads of the Channel Fleet, which hovered in an extended
line, steam up and ready for action, across the Thames estuary
during the course of the Martian conquest, vigilant and yet
powerless to prevent it.

At the sight of the sea, Mrs. Elphinstone, in spite of the
assurances of her sister-in-law, gave way to panic. She had
never been out of England before, she would rather die than
trust herself friendless in a foreign country, and so forth.
She seemed, poor woman, to imagine that the French and the
Martians might prove very similar. She had been growing
increasingly hysterical, fearful, and depressed during the two
days' journeyings. Her great idea was to return to Stanmore.
Things had been always well and safe at Stanmore. They
would find George at Stanmore.

It was with the greatest difficulty they could get her down
to the beach, where presently my brother succeeded in
attracting the attention of some men on a paddle steamer
from the Thames. They sent a boat and drove a bargain for
thirty-six pounds for the three. The steamer was going, these
men said, to Ostend.

It was about two o'clock when my brother, having paid
their fares at the gangway, found himself safely aboard the
steamboat with his charges. There was food aboard, albeit
at exorbitant prices, and the three of them contrived to eat
a meal on one of the seats forward.

There were already a couple of score of passengers aboard,
some of whom had expended their last money in securing
a passage, but the captain lay off the Blackwater until five
in the afternoon, picking up passengers until the seated decks
were even dangerously crowded. He would probably have
remained longer had it not been for the sound of guns that
began about that hour in the south. As if in answer, the
ironclad seaward fired a small gun and hoisted a string of
flags. A jet of smoke sprang out of her funnels.

Some of the passengers were of opinion that this firing
came from Shoeburyness, until it was noticed that it was
growing louder. At the same time, far away in the southeast
the masts and upperworks of three ironclads rose one after
the other out of the sea, beneath clouds of black smoke. But
my brother's attention speedily reverted to the distant firing
in the south. He fancied he saw a column of smoke rising
out of the distant grey haze.

The little steamer was already flapping her way eastward
of the big crescent of shipping, and the low Essex coast was
growing blue and hazy, when a Martian appeared, small and
faint in the remote distance, advancing along the muddy
coast from the direction of Foulness. At that the captain on
the bridge swore at the top of his voice with fear and anger
at his own delay, and the paddles seemed infected with his
terror. Every soul aboard stood at the bulwarks or on the seats
of the steamer and stared at that distant shape, higher than
the trees or church towers inland, and advancing with a
leisurely parody of a human stride.

It was the first Martian my brother had seen, and he
stood, more amazed than terrified, watching this Titan
advancing deliberately towards the shipping, wading farther
and farther into the water as the coast fell away. Then, far
away beyond the Crouch, came another, striding over some
stunted trees, and then yet another, still farther off, wading
deeply through a shiny mudflat that seemed to hang halfway
up between sea and sky. They were all stalking seaward, as
if to intercept the escape of the multitudinous vessels that
were crowded between Foulness and the Naze. In spite of
the throbbing exertions of the engines of the little paddle-
boat, and the pouring foam that her wheels flung behind
her, she receded with terrifying slowness from this ominous
advance.

Glancing northwestward, my brother saw the large crescent
of shipping already writhing with the approaching terror;
one ship passing behind another, another coming round from
broadside to end on, steamships whistling and giving off
volumes of steam, sails being let out, launches rushing hither
and thither. He was so fascinated by this and by the creeping
danger away to the left that he had no eyes for anything
seaward. And then a swift movement of the steamboat (she
had suddenly come round to avoid being run down) flung
him headlong from the seat upon which he was standing.
There was a shouting all about him, a trampling of feet, and
a cheer that seemed to be answered faintly. The steamboat
lurched and rolled him over upon his hands.

He sprang to his feet and saw to starboard, and not a
hundred yards from their heeling, pitching boat, a vast iron
bulk like the blade of a plough tearing through the water,
tossing it on either side in huge waves of foam that leaped
towards the steamer, flinging her paddles helplessly in the
air, and then sucking her deck down almost to the waterline.

A douche of spray blinded my brother for a moment.
When his eyes were clear again he saw the monster had
passed and was rushing landward. Big iron upperworks rose
out of this headlong structure, and from that twin funnels
projected and spat a smoking blast shot with fire. It was the
torpedo ram, THUNDER CHILD, steaming headlong, coming to
the rescue of the threatened shipping.

Keeping his footing on the heaving deck by clutching the
bulwarks, my brother looked past this charging leviathan at
the Martians again, and he saw the three of them now close
together, and standing so far out to sea that their tripod
supports were almost entirely submerged. Thus sunken, and
seen in remote perspective, they appeared far less formidable
than the huge iron bulk in whose wake the steamer was
pitching so helplessly. It would seem they were regarding
this new antagonist with astonishment. To their intelligence,
it may be, the giant was even such another as themselves.
The THUNDER CHILD fired no gun, but simply drove full speed
towards them. It was probably her not firing that enabled
her to get so near the enemy as she did. They did not know
what to make of her. One shell, and they would have sent
her to the bottom forthwith with the Heat-Ray.

She was steaming at such a pace that in a minute she
seemed halfway between the steamboat and the Martians--
a diminishing black bulk against the receding horizontal
expanse of the Essex coast.

Suddenly the foremost Martian lowered his tube and dis-
charged a canister of the black gas at the ironclad. It hit her
larboard side and glanced off in an inky jet that rolled away
to seaward, an unfolding torrent of Black Smoke, from which
the ironclad drove clear. To the watchers from the steamer,
low in the water and with the sun in their eyes, it seemed
as though she were already among the Martians.

They saw the gaunt figures separating and rising out of
the water as they retreated shoreward, and one of them
raised the camera-like generator of the Heat-Ray. He held it
pointing obliquely downward, and a bank of steam sprang
from the water at its touch. It must have driven through the
iron of the ship's side like a white-hot iron rod through paper.

A flicker of flame went up through the rising steam, and
then the Martian reeled and staggered. In another moment
he was cut down, and a great body of water and steam shot
high in the air. The guns of the THUNDER CHILD sounded
through the reek, going off one after the other, and one shot
splashed the water high close by the steamer, ricocheted
towards the other flying ships to the north, and smashed a
smack to matchwood.

But no one heeded that very much. At the sight of the
Martian's collapse the captain on the bridge yelled inarticu-
lately, and all the crowding passengers on the steamer's stern
shouted together. And then they yelled again. For, surging
out beyond the white tumult, drove something long and
black, the flames streaming from its middle parts, its ventila-
tors and funnels spouting fire.

She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact
and her engines working. She headed straight for a second
Martian, and was within a hundred yards of him when the
Heat-Ray came to bear. Then with a violent thud, a blinding
flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped upward. The Martian
staggered with the violence of her explosion, and in another
moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the
impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up
like a thing of cardboard. My brother shouted involuntarily.
A boiling tumult of steam hid everything again.

"Two!," yelled the captain.

Everyone was shouting. The whole steamer from end to
end rang with frantic cheering that was taken up first by one
and then by all in the crowding multitude of ships and boats
that was driving out to sea.

The steam hung upon the water for many minutes, hiding
the third Martian and the coast altogether. And all this time
the boat was paddling steadily out to sea and away from the
fight; and when at last the confusion cleared, the drifting
bank of black vapour intervened, and nothing of the
THUNDER CHILD could be made out, nor could the third
Martian be seen. But the ironclads to seaward were now
quite close and standing in towards shore past the steamboat.

The little vessel continued to beat its way seaward, and
the ironclads receded slowly towards the coast, which was
hidden still by a marbled bank of vapour, part steam, part
black gas, eddying and combining in the strangest way. The
fleet of refugees was scattering to the northeast; several
smacks were sailing between the ironclads and the steamboat.
After a time, and before they reached the sinking cloud bank,
the warships turned northward, and then abruptly went
about and passed into the thickening haze of evening south-
ward. The coast grew faint, and at last indistinguishable amid
the low banks of clouds that were gathering about the
sinking sun.

Then suddenly out of the golden haze of the sunset came
the vibration of guns, and a form of black shadows moving.
Everyone struggled to the rail of the steamer and peered into
the blinding furnace of the west, but nothing was to be dis-
tinguished clearly. A mass of smoke rose slanting and barred
the face of the sun. The steamboat throbbed on its way
through an interminable suspense.

The sun sank into grey clouds, the sky flushed and dark-
ened, the evening star trembled into sight. It was deep
twilight when the captain cried out and pointed. My brother
strained his eyes. Something rushed up into the sky out of
the greyness--rushed slantingly upward and very swiftly
into the luminous clearness above the clouds in the western
sky; something flat and broad, and very large, that swept
round in a vast curve, grew smaller, sank slowly, and van-
ished again into the grey mystery of the night. And as it
flew it rained down darkness upon the land.





BOOK TWO



THE EARTH UNDER THE MARTIANS



CHAPTER ONE


UNDER FOOT


In the first book I have wandered so much from my own
adventures to tell of the experiences of my brother that all
through the last two chapters I and the curate have been
lurking in the empty house at Halliford whither we fled to
escape the Black Smoke. There I will resume. We stopped
there all Sunday night and all the next day--the day of the
panic--in a little island of daylight, cut off by the Black
Smoke from the rest of the world. We could do nothing but
wait in aching inactivity during those two weary days.

My mind was occupied by anxiety for my wife. I figured
her at Leatherhead, terrified, in danger, mourning me already
as a dead man. I paced the rooms and cried aloud when I
thought of how I was cut off from her, of all that might hap-
pen to her in my absence. My cousin I knew was brave
enough for any emergency, but he was not the sort of man to
realise danger quickly, to rise promptly. What was needed
now was not bravery, but circumspection. My only consola-
tion was to believe that the Martians were moving London-
ward and away from her. Such vague anxieties keep the mind
sensitive and painful. I grew very weary and irritable with
the curate's perpetual ejaculations; I tired of the sight of his
selfish despair. After some ineffectual remonstrance I kept
away from him, staying in a room--evidently a children's
schoolroom--containing globes, forms, and copybooks. When
he followed me thither, I went to a box room at the top of the
house and, in order to be alone with my aching miseries,
locked myself in.

We were hopelessly hemmed in by the Black Smoke all
that day and the morning of the next. There were signs of
people in the next house on Sunday evening--a face at a
window and moving lights, and later the slamming of a door.
But I do not know who these people were, nor what became
of them. We saw nothing of them next day. The Black Smoke
drifted slowly riverward all through Monday morning, creep-
ing nearer and nearer to us, driving at last along the roadway
outside the house that hid us.

A Martian came across the fields about midday, laying
the stuff with a jet of superheated steam that hissed against
the walls, smashed all the windows it touched, and scalded
the curate's hand as he fled out of the front room. When at

last we crept across the sodden rooms and looked out again,
the country northward was as though a black snowstorm had
passed over it. Looking towards the river, we were astonished
to see an unaccountable redness mingling with the black of
the scorched meadows.

For a time we did not see how this change affected our
position, save that we were relieved of our fear of the Black
Smoke. But later I perceived that we were no longer hemmed
in, that now we might get away. So soon as I realised that
the way of escape was open, my dream of action returned. But
the curate was lethargic, unreasonable.

"We are safe here," he repeated; "safe here."

I resolved to leave him--would that I had! Wiser now for
the artilleryman's teaching, I sought out food and drink. I
had found oil and rags for my burns, and I also took a hat
and a flannel shirt that I found in one of the bedrooms. When
it was clear to him that I meant to go alone--had reconciled
myself to going alone--he suddenly roused himself to come.
And all being quiet throughout the afternoon, we started
about five o'clock, as I should judge, along the blackened
road to Sunbury.

In Sunbury, and at intervals along the road, were dead
bodies lying in contorted attitudes, horses as well as men,
overturned carts and luggage, all covered thickly with black
dust. That pall of cindery powder made me think of what I
had read of the destruction of Pompeii. We got to Hampton
Court without misadventure, our minds full of strange and
unfamiliar appearances, and at Hampton Court our eyes were
relieved to find a patch of green that had escaped the suf-
focating drift. We went through Bushey Park, with its deer
going to and fro under the chestnuts, and some men and
women hurrying in the distance towards Hampton, and so we
came to Twickenham. These were the first people we saw.

Away across the road the woods beyond Ham and Peter-
sham were still afire. Twickenham was uninjured by either
Heat-Ray or Black Smoke, and there were more people about
here, though none could give us news. For the most part
they were like ourselves, taking advantage of a lull to shift
their quarters. I have an impression that many of the houses
here were still occupied by scared inhabitants, too frightened
even for flight. Here too the evidence of a hasty rout was
abundant along the road. I remember most vividly three
smashed bicycles in a heap, pounded into the road by the
wheels of subsequent carts. We crossed Richmond Bridge
about half past eight. We hurried across the exposed bridge,
of course, but I noticed floating down the stream a number of
red masses, some many feet across. I did not know what these
were--there was no time for scrutiny--and I put a more
horrible interpretation on them than they deserved. Here again
on the Surrey side were black dust that had once been smoke,
and dead bodies--a heap near the approach to the station;
but we had no glimpse of the Martians until we were some
way towards Barnes.

We saw in the blackened distance a group of three people
running down a side street towards the river, but otherwise it
seemed deserted. Up the hill Richmond town was burning
briskly; outside the town of Richmond there was no trace of
the Black Smoke.

Then suddenly, as we approached Kew, came a number
of people running, and the upperworks of a Martian fighting-
machine loomed in sight over the housetops, not a hundred
yards away from us. We stood aghast at our danger, and had
the Martian looked down we must immediately have perished.
We were so terrified that we dared not go on, but turned
aside and hid in a shed in a garden. There the curate
crouched, weeping silently, and refusing to stir again.

But my fixed idea of reaching Leatherhead would not let
me rest, and in the twilight I ventured out again. I went
through a shrubbery, and along a passage beside a big house
standing in its own grounds, and so emerged upon the road
towards Kew. The curate I left in the shed, but he came
hurrying after me.

That second start was the most foolhardy thing I ever did.
For it was manifest the Martians were about us. No sooner
had the curate overtaken me than we saw either the fighting-
machine we had seen before or another, far away across the
meadows in the direction of Kew Lodge. Four or five little
black figures hurried before it across the green-grey of the
field, and in a moment it was evident this Martian pursued
them. In three strides he was among them, and they ran
radiating from his feet in all directions. He used no Heat-Ray
to destroy them, but picked them up one by one. Apparently
he tossed them into the great metallic carrier which projected
behind him, much as a workman's basket hangs over his
shoulder.

It was the first time I realised that the Martians might have
any other purpose than destruction with defeated humanity.
We stood for a moment petrified, then turned and fled through
a gate behind us into a walled garden, fell into, rather than
found, a fortunate ditch, and lay there, scarce daring to
whisper to each other until the stars were out.

I suppose it was nearly eleven o'clock before we gathered
courage to start again, no longer venturing into the road, but
sneaking along hedgerows and through plantations, and
watching keenly through the darkness, he on the right and I
on the left, for the Martians, who seemed to be all about us.
In one place we blundered upon a scorched and blackened
area, now cooling and ashen, and a number of scattered dead
bodies of men, burned horribly about the heads and trunks
but with their legs and boots mostly intact; and of dead
horses, fifty feet, perhaps, behind a line of four ripped guns
and smashed gun carriages.

Sheen, it seemed, had escaped destruction, but the place
was silent and deserted. Here we happened on no dead,
though the night was too dark for us to see into the side
roads of the place. In Sheen my companion suddenly com-
plained of faintness and thirst, and we decided to try one of
the houses.

The first house we entered, after a little difficulty with
the window, was a small semi-detached villa, and I found
nothing eatable left in the place but some mouldy
cheese. There was, however, water to drink; and I took a
hatchet, which promised to be useful in our next house-
breaking.

We then crossed to a place where the road turns towards
Mortlake. Here there stood a white house within a walled
garden, and in the pantry of this domicile we found a store
of food--two loaves of bread in a pan, an uncooked steak, and
the half of a ham. I give this catalogue so precisely because,
as it happened, we were destined to subsist upon this store
for the next fortnight. Bottled beer stood under a shelf, and
there were two bags of haricot beans and some limp lettuces.
This pantry opened into a kind of wash-up kitchen, and in
this was firewood; there was also a cupboard, in which we
found nearly a dozen of burgundy, tinned soups and salmon,
and two tins of biscuits.

We sat in the adjacent kitchen in the dark--for we dared
not strike a light--and ate bread and ham, and drank beer
out of the same bottle. The curate, who was still timorous
and restless, was now, oddly enough, for pushing on, and I
was urging him to keep up his strength by eating when the
thing happened that was to imprison us.

"It can't be midnight yet," I said, and then came a blinding
glare of vivid green light. Everything in the kitchen leaped
out, clearly visible in green and black, and vanished again.
And then followed such a concussion as I have never heard
before or since. So close on the heels of this as to seem in-
stantaneous came a thud behind me, a clash of glass, a crash
and rattle of falling masonry all about us, and the plaster of
the ceiling came down upon us, smashing into a multitude
of fragments upon our heads. I was knocked headlong across
the floor against the oven handle and stunned. I was insensible
for a long time, the curate told me, and when I came to we
were in darkness again, and he, with a face wet, as I found
afterwards, with blood from a cut forehead, was dabbing
water over me.

For some time I could not recollect what had happened.
Then things came to me slowly. A bruise on my temple as-
serted itself.

"Are you better?" asked the curate in a whisper.

At last I answered him. I sat up.

"Don't move," he said. "The floor is covered with smashed
crockery from the dresser. You can't possibly move without
making a noise, and I fancy THEY are outside."

We both sat quite silent, so that we could scarcely hear
each other breathing. Everything seemed deadly still, but
once something near us, some plaster or broken brickwork,
slid down with a rumbling sound. Outside and very near was
an intermittent, metallic rattle.

"That!" said the curate, when presently it happened
again.

"Yes," I said. "But what is it?"

"A Martian!" said the curate.

I listened again.

"It was not like the Heat-Ray," I said, and for a time I was
inclined to think one of the great fighting-machines had
stumbled against the house, as I had seen one stumble against
the tower of Shepperton Church.

Our situation was so strange and incomprehensible that for
three or four hours, until the dawn came, we scarcely moved.
And then the light filtered in, not through the window, which
remained black, but through a triangular aperture between
a beam and a heap of broken bricks in the wall behind us.
The interior of the kitchen we now saw greyly for the first
time.

The window had been burst in by a mass of garden mould,
which flowed over the table upon which we had been sitting
and lay about our feet. Outside, the soil was banked high
against the house. At the top of the window frame we could
see an uprooted drainpipe. The floor was littered with
smashed hardware; the end of the kitchen towards the house
was broken into, and since the daylight shone in there, it was
evident the greater part of the house had collapsed. Con-
trasting vividly with this ruin was the neat dresser, stained
in the fashion, pale green, and with a number of copper and
tin vessels below it, the wallpaper imitating blue and white
tiles, and a couple of coloured supplements fluttering from the
walls above the kitchen range.

As the dawn grew clearer, we saw through the gap in the
wall the body of a Martian, standing sentinel, I suppose, over
the still glowing cylinder. At the sight of that we crawled as
circumspectly as possible out of the twilight of the kitchen
into the darkness of the scullery.

Abruptly the right interpretation dawned upon my mind.

"The fifth cylinder," I whispered, "the fifth shot from
Mars, has struck this house and buried us under the ruins!"

For a time the curate was silent, and then he whispered:

"God have mercy upon us!"

I heard him presently whimpering to himself.

Save for that sound we lay quite still in the scullery; I
for my part scarce dared breathe, and sat with my eyes
fixed on the faint light of the kitchen door. I could just see
the curate's face, a dim, oval shape, and his collar and cuffs.
Outside there began a metallic hammering, then a violent
hooting, and then again, after a quiet interval, a hissing like
the hissing of an engine. These noises, for the most part
problematical, continued intermittently, and seemed if any-
thing to increase in number as time wore on. Presently a
measured thudding and a vibration that made everything
about us quiver and the vessels in the pantry ring and shift,
began and continued. Once the light was eclipsed, and the
ghostly kitchen doorway became absolutely dark. For many
hours we must have crouched there, silent and shivering,
until our tired attention failed. . . .

At last I found myself awake and very hungry. I am in-
clined to believe we must have spent the greater portion of
a day before that awakening. My hunger was at a stride
so insistent that it moved me to action. I told the curate I
was going to seek food, and felt my way towards the pantry.
He made me no answer, but so soon as I began eating the
faint noise I made stirred him up and I heard him crawling
after me.



CHAPTER TWO



WHAT WE SAW FROM THE RUINED HOUSE


After eating we crept back to the scullery, and there I
must have dozed again, for when presently I looked round I
was alone. The thudding vibration continued with wearisome
persistence. I whispered for the curate several times, and at
last felt my way to the door of the kitchen. It was still day-
light, and I perceived him across the room, lying against
the triangular hole that looked out upon the Martians. His
shoulders were hunched, so that his head was hidden from me.

I could hear a number of noises almost like those in an
engine shed; and the place rocked with that beating thud.
Through the aperture in the wall I could see the top of a
tree touched with gold and the warm blue of a tranquil
evening sky. For a minute or so I remained watching the
curate, and then I advanced, crouching and stepping with
extreme care amid the broken crockery that littered the floor.

I touched the curate's leg, and he started so violently that
a mass of plaster went sliding down outside and fell with a
loud impact. I gripped his arm, fearing he might cry out,
and for a long time we crouched motionless. Then I turned
to see how much of our rampart remained. The detachment
of the plaster had left a vertical slit open in the debris, and
by raising myself cautiously across a beam I was able to see
out of this gap into what had been overnight a quiet suburban
roadway. Vast, indeed, was the change that we beheld.

The fifth cylinder must have fallen right into the midst
of the house we had first visited. The building had vanished,
completely smashed, pulverised, and dispersed by the blow.
The cylinder lay now far beneath the original foundations--
deep in a hole, already vastly larger than the pit I had
looked into at Woking. The earth all round it had splashed
under that tremendous impact--"splashed" is the only word
--and lay in heaped piles that hid the masses of the adjacent
houses. It had behaved exactly like mud under the violent
blow of a hammer. Our house had collapsed backward; the
front portion, even on the ground floor, had been destroyed
completely; by a chance the kitchen and scullery had escaped,
and stood buried now under soil and ruins, closed in by
tons of earth on every side save towards the cylinder. Over
that aspect we hung now on the very edge of the great
circular pit the Martians were engaged in making. The heavy
beating sound was evidently just behind us, and ever and
again a bright green vapour drove up like a veil across our
peephole.

The cylinder was already opened in the centre of the pit,
and on the farther edge of the pit, amid the smashed and
gravel-heaped shrubbery, one of the great fighting-machines,
deserted by its occupant, stood stiff and tall against the
evening sky. At first I scarcely noticed the pit and the
cylinder, although it has been convenient to describe them
first, on account of the extraordinary glittering mechanism I
saw busy in the excavation, and on account of the strange
creatures that were crawling slowly and painfully across the
heaped mould near it.

The mechanism it certainly was that held my attention first.
It was one of those complicated fabrics that have since been
called handling-machines, and the study of which has already
given such an enormous impetus to terrestrial invention. As
it dawned upon me first, it presented a sort of metallic spider
with five jointed, agile legs, and with an extraordinary number
of jointed levers, bars, and reaching and clutching tentacles
about its body. Most of its arms were retracted, but with
three long tentacles it was fishing out a number of rods,
plates, and bars which lined the covering and apparently
strengthened the walls of the cylinder. These, as it ex-
tracted them, were lifted out and deposited upon a level
surface of earth behind it.

Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first
I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.
The fighting-machines were co-ordinated and animated to
an extraordinary pitch, but nothing to compare with this.
People who have never seen these structures, and have only
the ill-imagined efforts of artists or the imperfect descriptions
of such eye-witnesses as myself to go upon, scarcely realise
that living quality.

I recall particularly the illustration of one of the first
pamphlets to give a consecutive account of the war. The
artist had evidently made a hasty study of one of the
fighting-machines, and there his knowledge ended. He pre-
sented them as tilted, stiff tripods, without either flexibility
or subtlety, and with an altogether misleading monotony of
effect. The pamphlet containing these renderings had a con-
siderable vogue, and I mention them here simply to warn
the reader against the impression they may have created.
They were no more like the Martians I saw in action than
a Dutch doll is like a human being. To my mind, the pamphlet
would have been much better without them.

At first, I say, the handling-machine did not impress me
as a machine, but as a crablike creature with a glittering
integument, the controlling Martian whose delicate tentacles
actuated its movements seeming to be simply the equivalent
of the crab's cerebral portion. But then I perceived the re-
semblance of its grey-brown, shiny, leathery integument to
that of the other sprawling bodies beyond, and the true
nature of this dexterous workman dawned upon me. With
that realisation my interest shifted to those other creatures,
the real Martians. Already I had had a transient impression of
these, and the first nausea no longer obscured my observa-
tion. Moreover, I was concealed and motionless, and under
no urgency of action.

They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it
is possible to conceive. They were huge round bodies--or,
rather, heads--about four feet in diameter, each body having
in front of it a face. This face had no nostrils--indeed, the
Martians do not seem to have had any sense of smell, but
it had a pair of very large dark-coloured eyes, and just
beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. In the back of this head or
body--I scarcely know how to speak of it--was the single
tight tympanic surface, since known to be anatomically an ear,
though it must have been almost useless in our dense air.
In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost
whiplike tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each.
These bunches have since been named rather aptly, by that
distinguished anatomist, Professor Howes, the HANDS. Even
as I saw these Martians for the first time they seemed to
be endeavouring to raise themselves on these hands, but of
course, with the increased weight of terrestrial conditions,
this was impossible. There is reason to suppose that on Mars
they may have progressed upon them with some facility.

The internal anatomy, I may remark here, as dissection
has since shown, was almost equally simple. The greater
part of the structure was the brain, sending enormous nerves
to the eyes, ear, and tactile tentacles. Besides this were the
bulky lungs, into which the mouth opened, and the heart
and its vessels. The pulmonary distress caused by the denser
atmosphere and greater gravitational attraction was only too
evident in the convulsive movements of the outer skin.

And this was the sum of the Martian organs. Strange as it
may seem to a human being, all the complex apparatus of
digestion, which makes up the bulk of our bodies, did not
exist in the Martians. They were heads--merely heads.
Entrails they had none. They did not eat, much less digest.
Instead, they took the fresh, living blood of other creatures,
and INJECTED it into their own veins. I have myself seen this
being done, as I shall mention in its place. But, squeamish
as I may seem, I cannot bring myself to describe what I
could not endure even to continue watching. Let it suffice
to say, blood obtained from a still living animal, in most
cases from a human being, was run directly by means of a
little pipette into the recipient canal. . . .

The bare idea of this is no doubt horribly repulsive to us,
but at the same time I think that we should remember how
repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent
rabbit.

The physiological advantages of the practice of injection
are undeniable, if one thinks of the tremendous waste of
human time and energy occasioned by eating and the
digestive process. Our bodies are half made up of glands
and tubes and organs, occupied in turning heterogeneous
food into blood. The digestive processes and their reaction
upon the nervous system sap our strength and colour our
minds. Men go happy or miserable as they have healthy or
unhealthy livers, or sound gastric glands. But the Martians
were lifted above all these organic fluctuations of mood and
emotion.

Their undeniable preference for men as their source of
nourishment is partly explained by the nature of the remains
of the victims they had brought with them as provisions
from Mars. These creatures, to judge from the shrivelled
remains that have fallen into human hands, were bipeds
with flimsy, silicious skeletons (almost like those of the
silicious sponges) and feeble musculature, standing about
six feet high and having round, erect heads, and large eyes
in flinty sockets. Two or three of these seem to have been
brought in each cylinder, and all were killed before earth
was reached. It was just as well for them, for the mere
attempt to stand upright upon our planet would have broken
every bone in their bodies.

And while I am engaged in this description, I may add
in this place certain further details which, although they
were not all evident to us at the time, will enable the
reader who is unacquainted with them to form a clearer
picture of these offensive creatures.

In three other points their physiology differed strangely
from ours. Their organisms did not sleep, any more than the
heart of man sleeps. Since they had no extensive muscular
mechanism to recuperate, that periodical extinction was
unknown to them. They had little or no sense of fatigue, it
would seem. On earth they could never have moved without
effort, yet even to the last they kept in action. In twenty-four
hours they did twenty-four hours of work, as even on earth
is perhaps the case with the ants.

In the next place, wonderful as it seems in a sexual world,
the Martians were absolutely without sex, and therefore
without any of the tumultuous emotions that arise from that
difference among men. A young Martian, there can now be
no dispute, was really born upon earth during the war, and
it was found attached to its parent, partially BUDDED off, just
as young lilybulbs bud off, or like the young animals in the
fresh-water polyp.

In man, in all the higher terrestrial animals, such a method
of increase has disappeared; but even on this earth it was
certainly the primitive method. Among the lower animals,
up even to those first cousins of the vertebrated animals, the
Tunicates, the two processes occur side by side, but finally
the sexual method superseded its competitor altogether. On
Mars, however, just the reverse has apparently been the case.

It is worthy of remark that a certain speculative writer of
quasi-scientific repute, writing long before the Martian inva-
sion, did forecast for man a final structure not unlike the
actual Martian condition. His prophecy, I remember, appeared
in November or December, 1893, in a long-defunct publica-
tion, the PALL MALL BUDGET, and I recall a caricature of it in
a pre-Martian periodical called PUNCH. He pointed out--
writing in a foolish, facetious tone--that the perfection of
mechanical appliances must ultimately supersede limbs; the
perfection of chemical devices, digestion; that such organs
as hair, external nose, teeth, ears, and chin were no longer
essential parts of the human being, and that the tendency
of natural selection would lie in the direction of their steady
diminution through the coming ages. The brain alone re-
mained a cardinal necessity. Only one other part of the
body had a strong case for survival, and that was the hand,
"teacher and agent of the brain." While the rest of the body
dwindled, the hands would grow larger.

There is many a true word written in jest, and here in
the Martians we have beyond dispute the actual accomplish-
ment of such a suppression of the animal side of the organism
by the intelligence. To me it is quite credible that the
Martians may be descended from beings not unlike ourselves,
by a gradual development of brain and hands (the latter
giving rise to the two bunches of delicate tentacles at last)
at the expense of the rest of the body. Without the body the
brain would, of course, become a mere selfish intelligence,
without any of the emotional substratum of the human being.

The last salient point in which the systems of these
creatures differed from ours was in what one might have
thought a very trivial particular. Micro-organisms, which
cause so much disease and pain on earth, have either never
appeared upon Mars or Martian sanitary science eliminated
them ages ago. A hundred diseases, all the fevers and con-
tagions of human life, consumption, cancers, tumours and
such morbidities, never enter the scheme of their life. And
speaking of the differences between the life on Mars and
terrestrial life, I may allude here to the curious suggestions
of the red weed.

Apparently the vegetable kingdom in Mars, instead of
having green for a dominant colour, is of a vivid blood-red
tint. At any rate, the seeds which the Martians (intentionally
or accidentally) brought with them gave rise in all cases to
red-coloured growths. Only that known popularly as the red
weed, however, gained any footing in competition with
terrestrial forms. The red creeper was quite a transitory
growth, and few people have seen it growing. For a time,
however, the red weed grew with astonishing vigour and
luxuriance. It spread up the sides of the pit by the third or
fourth day of our imprisonment, and its cactus-like branches
formed a carmine fringe to the edges of our triangular
window. And afterwards I found it broadcast throughout the
country, and especially wherever there was a stream of water.

The Martians had what appears to have been an auditory
organ, a single round drum at the back of the head-body,
and eyes with a visual range not very different from ours
except that, according to Philips, blue and violet were as
black to them. It is commonly supposed that they com-
municated by sounds and tentacular gesticulations; this is
asserted, for instance, in the able but hastily compiled
pamphlet (written evidently by someone not an eye-witness
of Martian actions) to which I have already alluded, and
which, so far, has been the chief source of information con-
cerning them. Now no surviving human being saw so much
of the Martians in action as I did. I take no credit to myself
for an accident, but the fact is so. And I assert that I watched
them closely time after time, and that I have seen four, five,
and (once) six of them sluggishly performing the most elabo-
rately complicated operations together without either sound
or gesture. Their peculiar hooting invariably preceded feed-
ing; it had no modulation, and was, I believe, in no sense
a signal, but merely the expiration of air preparatory to the
suctional operation. I have a certain claim to at least an
elementary knowledge of psychology, and in this matter I
am convinced--as firmly as I am convinced of anything--that
the Martians interchanged thoughts without any physical
intermediation. And I have been convinced of this in spite
of strong preconceptions. Before the Martian invasion, as an
occasional reader here or there may remember, I had written
with some little vehemence against the telepathic theory.

The Martians wore no clothing. Their conceptions of orna-
ment and decorum were necessarily different from ours; and
not only were they evidently much less sensible of changes of
temperature than we are, but changes of pressure do not
seem to have affected their health at all seriously. Yet though
they wore no clothing, it was in the other artificial additions
to their bodily resources that their great superiority over man
lay. We men, with our bicycles and road-skates, our Lilienthal
soaring-machines, our guns and sticks and so forth, are just
in the beginning of the evolution that the Martians have
worked out. They have become practically mere brains,
wearing different bodies according to their needs just as
men wear suits of clothes and take a bicycle in a hurry or an
umbrella in the wet. And of their appliances, perhaps nothing
is more wonderful to a man than the curious fact that what
is the dominant feature of almost all human devices in
mechanism is absent--the WHEEL is absent; among all the
things they brought to earth there is no trace or suggestion
of their use of wheels. One would have at least expected it
in locomotion. And in this connection it is curious to remark
that even on this earth Nature has never hit upon the wheel,
or has preferred other expedients to its development. And
not only did the Martians either not know of (which is
incredible), or abstain from, the wheel, but in their apparatus
singularly little use is made of the fixed pivot or relatively
fixed pivot, with circular motions thereabout confined to one
plane. Almost all the joints of the machinery present a com-
plicated system of sliding parts moving over small but beauti-
fully curved friction bearings. And while upon this matter
of detail, it is remarkable that the long leverages of their
machines are in most cases actuated by a sort of sham
musculature of the disks in an elastic sheath; these disks
become polarised and drawn closely and powerfully together
when traversed by a current of electricity. In this way the
curious parallelism to animal motions, which was so striking
and disturbing to the human beholder, was attained. Such
quasi-muscles abounded in the crablike handling-machine
which, on my first peeping out of the slit, I watched un-
packing the cylinder. It seemed infinitely more alive than the
actual Martians lying beyond it in the sunset light, panting,
stirring ineffectual tentacles, and moving feebly after their
vast journey across space.

While I was still watching their sluggish motions in the
sunlight, and noting each strange detail of their form, the
curate reminded me of his presence by pulling violently at
my arm. I turned to a scowling face, and silent, eloquent
lips. He wanted the slit, which permitted only one of us
to peep through; and so I had to forego watching them for a
time while he enjoyed that privilege.

When I looked again, the busy handling-machine had
already put together several of the pieces of apparatus it
had taken out of the cylinder into a shape having an un-
mistakable likeness to its own; and down on the left a busy
little digging mechanism had come into view, emitting jets
of green vapour and working its way round the pit, excavating
and embanking in a methodical and discriminating manner.
This it was which had caused the regular beating noise, and
the rhythmic shocks that had kept our ruinous refuge quiver-
ing. It piped and whistled as it worked. So far as I could
see, the thing was without a directing Martian at all.



CHAPTER THREE


THE DAYS OF IMPRISONMENT



The arrival of a second fighting-machine drove us from
our peephole into the scullery, for we feared that from his
elevation the Martian might see down upon us behind our
barrier. At a later date we began to feel less in danger of
their eyes, for to an eye in the dazzle of the sunlight outside
our refuge must have been blank blackness, but at first the
slightest suggestion of approach drove us into the scullery
in heart-throbbing retreat. Yet terrible as was the danger we
incurred, the attraction of peeping was for both of us irresist-
ible. And I recall now with a sort of wonder that, in spite
of the infinite danger in which we were between starvation
and a still more terrible death, we could yet struggle bitterly
for that horrible privilege of sight. We would race across the
kitchen in a grotesque way between eagerness and the dread
of making a noise, and strike each other, and thrust add kick,
within a few inches of exposure.

The fact is that we had absolutely incompatible dispositions
and habits of thought and action, and our danger and isolation
only accentuated the incompatibility. At Halliford I had al-
ready come to hate the curate's trick of helpless exclamation,
his stupid rigidity of mind. His endless muttering monologue
vitiated every effort I made to think out a line of action, and
drove me at times, thus pent up and intensified, almost to the
verge of craziness. He was as lacking in restraint as a silly
woman. He would weep for hours together, and I verily
believe that to the very end this spoiled child of life thought
his weak tears in some way efficacious. And I would sit in
the darkness unable to keep my mind off him by reason of
his importunities. He ate more than I did, and it was in vain
I pointed out that our only chance of life was to stop in the
house until the Martians had done with their pit, that in that
long patience a time might presently come when we should
need food. He ate and drank impulsively in heavy meals at
long intervals. He slept little.

As the days wore on, his utter carelessness of any considera-
tion so intensified our distress and danger that I had, much as
I loathed doing it, to resort to threats, and at last to blows.
That brought him to reason for a time. But he was one of
those weak creatures, void of pride, timorous, anaemic, hateful
souls, full of shifty cunning, who face neither God nor man,
who face not even themselves.

It is disagreeable for me to recall and write these things,
but I set them down that my story may lack nothing. Those
who have escaped the dark and terrible aspects of life will
find my brutality, my flash of rage in our final tragedy, easy
enough to blame; for they know what is wrong as well as
any, but not what is possible to tortured men. But those who
have been under the shadow, who have gone down at last to
elemental things, will have a wider charity.

And while within we fought out our dark, dim contest of
whispers, snatched food and drink, and gripping hands and
blows, without, in the pitiless sunlight of that terrible June,
was the strange wonder, the unfamiliar routine of the
Martians in the pit. Let me return to those first new experi-
ences of mine. After a long time I ventured back to the
peephole, to find that the new-comers had been reinforced
by the occupants of no fewer than three of the fighting-
machines. These last had brought with them certain fresh
appliances that stood in an orderly manner about the cylinder.
The second handling-machine was now completed, and was
busied in serving one of the novel contrivances the big
machine had brought. This was a body resembling a milk can
in its general form, above which oscillated a pear-shaped
receptacle, and from which a stream of white powder flowed
into a circular basin below.

The oscillatory motion was imparted to this by one tentacle
of the handling-machine. With two spatulate hands the
handling-machine was digging out and flinging masses of clay
into the pear-shaped receptacle above, while with another arm
it periodically opened a door and removed rusty and black-
ened clinkers from the middle part of the machine. Another
steely tentacle directed the powder from the basin along a
ribbed channel towards some receiver that was hidden from
me by the mound of bluish dust. From this unseen receiver a
little thread of green smoke rose vertically into the quiet air.
As I looked, the handling-machine, with a faint and musical
clinking, extended, telescopic fashion, a tentacle that had
been a moment before a mere blunt projection, until its end
was hidden behind the mound of clay. In another second it
had lifted a bar of white aluminium into sight, untarnished as
yet, and shining dazzlingly, and deposited it in a growing stack
of bars that stood at the side of the pit. Between sunset and
starlight this dexterous machine must have made more than
a hundred such bars out of the crude clay, and the mound
of bluish dust rose steadily until it topped the side of the
pit.

The contrast between the swift and complex movements
of these contrivances and the inert panting clumsiness of
their masters was acute, and for days I had to tell myself
repeatedly that these latter were indeed the living of the two
things.


The curate had possession of the slit when the first men
were brought to the pit. I was sitting below, huddled up,
listening with all my ears. He made a sudden movement
backward, and I, fearful that we were observed, crouched
in a spasm of terror. He came sliding down the rubbish and
crept beside me in the darkness, inarticulate, gesticulating,
and for a moment I shared his panic. His gesture suggested
a resignation of the slit, and after a little while my curiosity
gave me courage, and I rose up, stepped across him, and
clambered up to it. At first I could see no reason for his
frantic behaviour. The twilight had now come, the stars were
little and faint, but the pit was illuminated by the flickering
green fire that came from the aluminium-making. The whole
picture was a flickering scheme of green gleams and shifting
rusty black shadows, strangely trying to the eyes. Over and
through it all went the bats, heeding it not at all. The
sprawling Martians were no longer to be seen, the mound
of blue-green powder had risen to cover them from sight,
and a fighting-machine, with its legs contracted, crumpled,
and abbreviated, stood across the corner of the pit. And
then, amid the clangour of the machinery, came a drifting
suspicion of human voices, that I entertained at first only
to dismiss.

I crouched, watching this fighting-machine closely, satisfy-
ing myself now for the first time that the hood did indeed
contain a Martian. As the green flames lifted I could see the
oily gleam of his integument and the brightness of his eyes.
And suddenly I heard a yell, and saw a long tentacle reach-
ing over the shoulder of the machine to the little cage that
hunched upon its back. Then something--something strug-
gling violently--was lifted high against the sky, a black,
vague enigma against the starlight; and as this black object
came down again, I saw by the green brightness that it was
a man. For an instant he was clearly visible. He was a stout,
ruddy, middle-aged man, well dressed; three days before,
he must have been walking the world, a man of considerable
consequence. I could see his staring eyes and gleams of light
on his studs and watch chain. He vanished behind the
mound, and for a moment there was silence. And then began
a shrieking and a sustained and cheerful hooting from the
Martians.

I slid down the rubbish, struggled to my feet, clapped
my hands over my ears, and bolted into the scullery. The
curate, who had been crouching silently with his arms
over his head, looked up as I passed, cried out quite loudly
at my desertion of him, and came running after me.

That night, as we lurked in the scullery, balanced between
our horror and the terrible fascination this peeping had, al-
though I felt an urgent need of action I tried in vain to
conceive some plan of escape; but afterwards, during the
second day, I was able to consider our position with great
clearness. The curate, I found, was quite incapable of dis-
cussion; this new and culminating atrocity had robbed him
of all vestiges of reason or forethought. Practically he had
already sunk to the level of an animal. But as the saying
goes, I gripped myself with both hands. It grew upon my
mind, once I could face the facts, that terrible as our posi-
tion was, there was as yet no justification for absolute despair.
Our chief chance lay in the possibility of the Martians making
the pit nothing more than a temporary encampment. Or
even if they kept it permanently, they might not consider
it necessary to guard it, and a chance of escape might be
afforded us. I also weighed very carefully the possibility of
our digging a way out in a direction away from the pit,
but the chances of our emerging within sight of some
sentinel fighting-machine seemed at first too great. And I
should have had to do all the digging myself. The curate
would certainly have failed me.

It was on the third day, if my memory serves me right,
that I saw the lad killed. It was the only occasion on which
I actually saw the Martians feed. After that experience I
avoided the hole in the wall for the better part of a day.
I went into the scullery, removed the door, and spent some
hours digging with my hatchet as silently as possible; but
when I had made a hole about a couple of feet deep the
loose earth collapsed noisily, and I did not dare continue. I
lost heart, and lay down on the scullery floor for a long time,
having no spirit even to move. And after that I abandoned
altogether the idea of escaping by excavation.

It says much for the impression the Martians had made
upon me that at first I entertained little or no hope of our
escape being brought about by their overthrow through any
human effort. But on the fourth or fifth night I heard a
sound like heavy guns.

It was very late in the night, and the moon was shining
brightly. The Martians had taken away the excavating-
machine, and, save for a fighting-machine that stood in
the remoter bank of the pit and a handling-machine that
was buried out of my sight in a corner of the pit immedi-
ately beneath my peephole, the place was deserted by them.
Except for the pale glow from the handling-machine and the
bars and patches of white moonlight the pit was in dark-
ness, and, except for the clinking of the handling-machine,
quite still. That night was a beautiful serenity; save for one
planet, the moon seemed to have the sky to herself. I heard
a dog howling, and that familiar sound it was that made
me listen. Then I heard quite distinctly a booming ex-
actly like the sound of great guns. Six distinct reports I
counted, and after a long interval six again. And that was
all.



CHAPTER FOUR



THE DEATH OF THE CURATE


It was on the sixth day of our imprisonment that I
peeped for the last time, and presently found myself alone.
Instead of keeping close to me and trying to oust me from
the slit, the curate had gone back into the scullery. I was
struck by a sudden thought. I went back quickly and quietly
into the scullery. In the darkness I heard the curate drink-
ing. I snatched in the darkness, and my fingers caught a
bottle of burgundy.

For a few minutes there was a tussle. The bottle struck
the floor and broke, and I desisted and rose. We stood
panting and threatening each other. In the end I planted
myself between him and the food, and told him of my
determination to begin a discipline. I divided the food in
the pantry, into rations to last us ten days. I would not
let him eat any more that day. In the afternoon he made
a feeble effort to get at the food. I had been dozing, but
in an instant I was awake. All day and all night we sat
face to face, I weary but resolute, and he weeping and com-
plaining of his immediate hunger. It was, I know, a night
and a day, but to me it seemed--it seems now--an inter-
minable length of time.

And so our widened incompatibility ended at last in open
conflict. For two vast days we struggled in undertones and
wrestling contests. There were times when I beat and kicked
him madly, times when I cajoled and persuaded him, and
once I tried to bribe him with the last bottle of burgundy,
for there was a rain-water pump from which I could get
water. But neither force nor kindness availed; he was indeed
beyond reason. He would neither desist from his attacks on
the food nor from his noisy babbling to himself. The rudi-
mentary precautions to keep our imprisonment endurable
he would not observe. Slowly I began to realise the complete
overthrow of his intelligence, to perceive that my sole com-
panion in this close and sickly darkness was a man insane.

From certain vague memories I am inclined to think my
own mind wandered at times. I had strange and hideous
dreams whenever I slept. It sounds paradoxical, but I am
inclined to think that the weakness and insanity of the
curate warned me, braced me, and kept me a sane man.

On the eighth day he began to talk aloud instead of whis-
pering, and nothing I could do would moderate his speech.

"It is just, O God!" he would say, over and over again.
"It is just. On me and mine be the punishment laid. We
have sinned, we have fallen short. There was poverty,
sorrow; the poor were trodden in the dust, and I held my
peace. I preached acceptable folly--my God, what folly!
--when I should have stood up, though I died for it, and
called upon them to repent-repent! . . . Oppressors of the
poor and needy . . . ! The wine press of God!"

Then he would suddenly revert to the matter of the food
I withheld from him, praying, begging, weeping, at last
threatening. He began to raise his voice--I prayed him not
to. He perceived a hold on me--he threatened he would
shout and bring the Martians upon us. For a time that scared
me; but any concession would have shortened our chance
of escape beyond estimating. I defied him, although I felt
no assurance that he might not do this thing. But that day,
at any rate, he did not. He talked with his voice rising slowly,
through the greater part of the eighth and ninth days--
threats, entreaties, mingled with a torrent of half-sane and
always frothy repentance for his vacant sham of God's
service, such as made me pity him. Then he slept awhile, and
began again with renewed strength, so loudly that I must
needs make him desist.

"Be still!" I implored.

He rose to his knees, for he had been sitting in the dark-
ness near the copper.

"I have been still too long," he said, in a tone that must
have reached the pit, "and now I must bear my witness.
Woe unto this unfaithful city! Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe!
To the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices
of the trumpet----"

"Shut up!" I said, rising to my feet, and in a terror lest
the Martians should hear us. "For God's sake----"

"Nay," shouted the curate, at the top of his voice, stand-
ing likewise and extending his arms. "Speak! The word of the
Lord is upon me!"

In three strides he was at the door leading into the kitchen.

"I must bear my witness! I go! It has already been too long
delayed."

I put out my hand and felt the meat chopper hanging to
the wall. In a flash I was after him. I was fierce with fear.
Before he was halfway across the kitchen I had overtaken
him. With one last touch of humanity I turned the blade
back and struck him with the butt. He went headlong for-
ward and lay stretched on the ground. I stumbled over him
and stood panting. He lay still.

Suddenly I heard a noise without, the run and smash of
slipping plaster, and the triangular aperture in the wall was
darkened. I looked up and saw the lower surface of a
handling-machine coming slowly across the hole. One of its
gripping limbs curled amid the debris; another limb ap-
peared, feeling its way over the fallen beams. I stood
petrified, staring. Then I saw through a sort of glass plate
near the edge of the body the face, as we may call it, and
the large dark eyes of a Martian, peering, and then a long
metallic snake of tentacle came feeling slowly through the
hole.

I turned by an effort, stumbled over the curate, and
stopped at the scullery door. The tentacle was now some
way, two yards or more, in the room, and twisting and turn-
ing, with queer sudden movements, this way and that. For
a while I stood fascinated by that slow, fitful advance. Then,
with a faint, hoarse cry, I forced myself across the scullery.
I trembled violently; I could scarcely stand upright. I opened
the door of the coal cellar, and stood there in the darkness
staring at the faintly lit doorway into the kitchen, and listen-
ing. Had the Martian seen me? What was it doing now?

Something was moving to and fro there, very quietly;
every now and then it tapped against the wall, or started
on its movements with a faint metallic ringing, like the
movements of keys on a split-ring. Then a heavy body--I
knew too well what--was dragged across the floor of the
kitchen towards the opening. Irresistibly attracted, I crept
to the door and peeped into the kitchen. In the triangle of
bright outer sunlight I saw the Martian, in its Briareus of a
handling-machine, scrutinizing the curate's head. I thought
at once that it would infer my presence from the mark of
the blow I had given him.

I crept back to the coal cellar, shut the door, and began
to cover myself up as much as I could, and as noiselessly as
possible in the darkness, among the firewood and coal
therein. Every now and then I paused, rigid, to hear if the
Martian had thrust its tentacles through the opening again.

Then the faint metallic jingle returned. I traced it slowly
feeling over the kitchen. Presently I heard it nearer--in the
scullery, as I judged. I thought that its length might be in-
sufficient to reach me. I prayed copiously. It passed, scrap-
ing faintly across the cellar door. An age of almost intolerable
suspense intervened; then I heard it fumbling at the latch!
It had found the door! The Martians understood doors!

It worried at the catch for a minute, perhaps, and then
the door opened.

In the darkness I could just see the thing--like an ele-
phant's trunk more than anything else--waving towards me
and touching and examining the wall, coals, wood and ceil-
ing. It was like a black worm swaying its blind head to
and fro.

Once, even, it touched the heel of my boot. I was on the
verge of screaming; I bit my hand. For a time the tentacle
was silent. I could have fancied it had been withdrawn.
Presently, with an abrupt click, it gripped something--I
thought it had me!--and seemed to go out of the cellar again.
For a minute I was not sure. Apparently it had taken a lump
of coal to examine.

I seized the opportunity of slightly shifting my position,
which had become cramped, and then listened. I whispered
passionate prayers for safety.

Then I heard the slow, deliberate sound creeping towards
me again. Slowly, slowly it drew near, scratching against the
walls and tapping the furniture.

While I was still doubtful, it rapped smartly against the
cellar door and closed it. I heard it go into the pantry, and
the biscuit-tins rattled and a bottle smashed, and then came
a heavy bump against the cellar door. Then silence that
passed into an infinity of suspense.

Had it gone?

At last I decided that it had.

It came into the scullery no more; but I lay all the tenth
day in the close darkness, buried among coals and firewood,
not daring even to crawl out for the drink for which I craved.
It was the eleventh day before I ventured so far from my
security.




CHAPTER FIVE


THE STILLNESS


My first act before I went into the pantry was to fasten
the door between the kitchen and the scullery. But the
pantry was empty; every scrap of food had gone. Appar-
ently, the Martian had taken it all on the previous day. At
that discovery I despaired for the first time. I took no food,
or no drink either, on the eleventh or the twelfth day.

At first my mouth and throat were parched, and my
strength ebbed sensibly. I sat about in the darkness of the
scullery, in a state of despondent wretchedness. My mind
ran on eating. I thought I had become deaf, for the noises
of movement I had been accustomed to hear from the pit
had ceased absolutely. I did not feel strong enough to crawl
noiselessly to the peephole, or I would have gone there.

On the twelfth day my throat was so painful that, taking
the chance of alarming the Martians, I attacked the creaking
rain-water pump that stood by the sink, and got a couple
of glassfuls of blackened and tainted rain water. I was
greatly refreshed by this, and emboldened by the fact that
no enquiring tentacle followed the noise of my pumping.

During these days, in a rambling, inconclusive way, I
thought much of the curate and of the manner of his death.

On the thirteenth day I drank some more water, and
dozed and thought disjointedly of eating and of vague im-
possible plans of escape. Whenever I dozed I dreamt of
horrible phantasms, of the death of the curate, or of sump-
tuous dinners; but, asleep or awake, I felt a keen pain that
urged me to drink again and again. The light that came into
the scullery was no longer grey, but red. To my disordered
imagination it seemed the colour of blood.

On the fourteenth day I went into the kitchen, and I was
surprised to find that the fronds of the red weed had grown
right across the hole in the wall, turning the half-light of the
place into a crimson-coloured obscurity.

It was early on the fifteenth day that I heard a curious,
familiar sequence of sounds in the kitchen, and, listening,
identified it as the snuffing and scratching of a dog. Going
into the kitchen, I saw a dog's nose peering in through a
break among the ruddy fronds. This greatly surprised me.
At the scent of me he barked shortly.

I thought if I could induce him to come into the place
quietly I should be able, perhaps, to kill and eat him; and
in any case, it would be advisable to kill him, lest his actions
attracted the attention of the Martians.

I crept forward, saying "Good dog!" very softly; but he
suddenly withdrew his head and disappeared.

I listened--I was not deaf--but certainly the pit was still.
I heard a sound like the flutter of a bird's wings, and a hoarse
croaking, but that was all.

For a long while I lay close to the peephole, but not daring
to move aside the red plants that obscured it. Once or twice
I heard a faint pitter-patter like the feet of the dog going
hither and thither on the sand far below me, and there were
more birdlike sounds, but that was all. At length, encouraged
by the silence, I looked out.

Except in the corner, where a multitude of crows hopped
and fought over the skeletons of the dead the Martians had
consumed, there was not a living thing in the pit.

I stared about me, scarcely believing my eyes. All the
machinery had gone. Save for the big mound of greyish-blue
powder in one corner, certain bars of aluminium in another,
the black birds, and the skeletons of the killed, the place
was merely an empty circular pit in the sand.

Slowly I thrust myself out through the red weed, and
stood upon the mound of rubble. I could see in any direction
save behind me, to the north, and neither Martians nor sign
of Martians were to be seen. The pit dropped sheerly from
my feet, but a little way along the rubbish afforded a prac-
ticable slope to the summit of the ruins. My chance of escape
had come. I began to tremble.

I hesitated for some time, and then, in a gust of desperate
resolution, and with a heart that throbbed violently, I
scrambled to the top of the mound in which I had been
buried so long.

I looked about again. To the northward, too, no Martian
was visible.

When I had last seen this part of Sheen in the daylight
it had been a straggling street of comfortable white and
red houses, interspersed with abundant shady trees. Now
I stood on a mound of smashed brickwork, clay, and gravel,
over which spread a multitude of red cactus-shaped plants,
knee-high, without a solitary terrestrial growth to dispute
their footing. The trees near me were dead and brown, but
further a network of red thread scaled the still living stems.

The neighbouring houses had all been wrecked, but none
had been burned; their walls stood, sometimes to the second
story, with smashed windows and shattered doors. The red
weed grew tumultuously in their roofless rooms. Below me
was the great pit, with the crows struggling for its refuse.
A number of other birds hopped about among the ruins. Far
away I saw a gaunt cat slink crouchingly along a wall, but
traces of men there were none.

The day seemed, by contrast with my recent confinement,
dazzlingly bright, the sky a glowing blue. A gentle breeze
kept the red weed that covered every scrap of unoccupied
ground gently swaying. And oh! the sweetness of the air!



CHAPTER SIX



THE WORK OF FIFTEEN DAYS


For some time I stood tottering on the mound regardless
of my safety. Within that noisome den from which I had
emerged I had thought with a narrow intensity only of our
immediate security. I had not realised what had been hap-
pening to the world, had not anticipated this startling vision
of unfamiliar things. I had expected to see Sheen in ruins--
I found about me the landscape, weird and lurid, of another
planet.

For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common
range of men, yet one that the poor brutes we dominate
know only too well. I felt as a rabbit might feel returning
to his burrow and suddenly confronted by the work of a
dozen busy navvies digging the foundations of a house. I
felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew quite
clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense
of dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer a master,
but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel.
With us it would be as with them, to lurk and watch, to run
and hide; the fear and empire of man had passed away.

But so soon as this strangeness had been realised it passed,
and my dominant motive became the hunger of my long
and dismal fast. In the direction away from the pit I saw,
beyond a red-covered wall, a patch of garden ground un-
buried. This gave me a hint, and I went knee-deep, and
sometimes neck-deep, in the red weed. The density of the
weed gave me a reassuring sense of hiding. The wall was
some six feet high, and when I attempted to clamber it I
found I could not lift my feet to the crest. So I went along
by the side of it, and came to a corner and a rockwork that
enabled me to get to the top, and tumble into the garden
I coveted. Here I found some young onions, a couple of
gladiolus bulbs, and a quantity of immature carrots, all of
which I secured, and, scrambling over a ruined wall, went
on my way through scarlet and crimson trees towards Kew--
it was like walking through an avenue of gigantic blood
drops--possessed with two ideas: to get more food, and to
limp, as soon and as far as my strength permitted, out of
this accursed unearthly region of the pit.

Some way farther, in a grassy place, was a group of mush-
rooms which also I devoured, and then I came upon a brown
sheet of flowing shallow water, where meadows used to be.
These fragments of nourishment served only to whet my
hunger. At first I was surprised at this flood in a hot, dry
summer, but afterwards I discovered that it was caused by
the tropical exuberance of the red weed. Directly this extraor-
dinary growth encountered water it straightway became
gigantic and of unparalleled fecundity. Its seeds were simply
poured down into the water of the Wey and Thames, and
its swiftly growing and Titanic water fronds speedily choked
both those rivers.

At Putney, as I afterwards saw, the bridge was almost
lost in a tangle of this weed, and at Richmond, too, the
Thames water poured in a broad and shallow stream across
the meadows of Hampton and Twickenham. As the water
spread the weed followed them, until the ruined villas of
the Thames valley were for a time lost in this red swamp,
whose margin I explored, and much of the desolation the
Martians had caused was concealed.

In the end the red weed succumbed almost as quickly as
it had spread. A cankering disease, due, it is believed, to the
action of certain bacteria, presently seized upon it. Now by
the action of natural selection, all terrestrial plants have
acquired a resisting power against bacterial diseases--they
never succumb without a severe struggle, but the red weed
rotted like a thing already dead. The fronds became bleached,
and then shrivelled and brittle. They broke off at the least
touch, and the waters that had stimulated their early growth
carried their last vestiges out to sea.

My first act on coming to this water was, of course, to
slake my thirst. I drank a great deal of it and, moved by an
impulse, gnawed some fronds of red weed; but they were
watery, and had a sickly, metallic taste. I found the water
was sufficiently shallow for me to wade securely, although
the red weed impeded my feet a little; but the flood evidently
got deeper towards the river, and I turned back to Mortlake.
I managed to make out the road by means of occasional
ruins of its villas and fences and lamps, and so presently I
got out of this spate and made my way to the hill going up
towards Roehampton and came out on Putney Common.

Here the scenery changed from the strange and unfamiliar
to the wreckage of the familiar: patches of ground exhibited
the devastation of a cyclone, and in a few score yards I
would come upon perfectly undisturbed spaces, houses with
their blinds trimly drawn and doors closed, as if they had
been left for a day by the owners, or as if their inhabitants
slept within. The red weed was less abundant; the tall trees
along the lane were free from the red creeper. I hunted for
food among the trees, finding nothing, and I also raided a
couple of silent houses, but they had already been broken
into and ransacked. I rested for the remainder of the day-
light in a shrubbery, being, in my enfeebled condition, too
fatigued to push on.

All this time I saw no human beings, and no signs of the
Martians. I encountered a couple of hungry-looking dogs,
but both hurried circuitously away from the advances I made
them. Near Roehampton I had seen two human skeletons--
not bodies, but skeletons, picked clean--and in the wood
by me I found the crushed and scattered bones of several
cats and rabbits and the skull of a sheep. But though I
gnawed parts of these in my mouth, there was nothing to
be got from them.

After sunset I struggled on along the road towards Putney,
where I think the Heat-Ray must have been used for some
reason. And in the garden beyond Roehampton I got a quan-
tity of immature potatoes, sufficient to stay my hunger. From
this garden one looked down upon Putney and the river. The
aspect of the place in the dusk was singularly desolate:
blackened trees, blackened, desolate ruins, and down the
hill the sheets of the flooded river, red-tinged with the weed.
And over all--silence. It filled me with indescribable terror
to think how swiftly that desolating change had come.

For a time I believed that mankind had been swept out
of existence, and that I stood there alone, the last man left
alive. Hard by the top of Putney Hill I came upon another
skeleton, with the arms dislocated and removed several
yards from the rest of the body. As I proceeded I became
more and more convinced that the extermination of mankind
was, save for such stragglers as myself, already accomplished
in this part of the world. The Martians, I thought, had gone
on and left the country desolated, seeking food elsewhere.
Perhaps even now they were destroying Berlin or Paris, or
it might be they had gone northward.



CHAPTER SEVEN


THE MAN ON PUTNEY HILL


I spent that night in the inn that stands at the top of
Putney Hill, sleeping in a made bed for the first time since
my flight to Leatherhead. I will not tell the needless trouble
I had breaking into that house--afterwards I found the
front door was on the latch--nor how I ransacked every
room for food, until just on the verge of despair, in what
seemed to me to be a servant's bedroom, I found a rat-
gnawed crust and two tins of pineapple. The place had
been already searched and emptied. In the bar I afterwards
found some biscuits and sandwiches that had been over-
looked. The latter I could not eat, they were too rotten, but
the former not only stayed my hunger, but filled my pockets.
I lit no lamps, fearing some Martian might come beating
that part of London for food in the night. Before I went to
bed I had an interval of restlessness, and prowled from
window to window, peering out for some sign of these
monsters. I slept little. As I lay in bed I found myself think-
ing consecutively--a thing I do not remember to have done
since my last argument with the curate. During all the inter-
vening time my mental condition had been a hurrying suc-
cession of vague emotional states or a sort of stupid recep-
tivity. But in the night my brain, reinforced, I suppose, by
the food I had eaten, grew clear again, and I thought.

Three things struggled for possession of my mind: the
killing of the curate, the whereabouts of the Martians, and
the possible fate of my wife. The former gave me no sensa-
tion of horror or remorse to recall; I saw it simply as a thing
done, a memory infinitely disagreeable but quite without the
quality of remorse. I saw myself then as I see myself now,
driven step by step towards that hasty blow, the creature of
a sequence of accidents leading inevitably to that. I felt no
condemnation; yet the memory, static, unprogressive, haunted
me. In the silence of the night, with that sense of the near-
ness of God that sometimes comes into the stillness and the
darkness, I stood my trial, my only trial, for that moment of
wrath and fear. I retraced every step of our conversation from
the moment when I had found him crouching beside me,
heedless of my thirst, and pointing to the fire and smoke
that streamed up from the ruins of Weybridge. We had been
incapable of co-operation--grim chance had taken no heed
of that. Had I foreseen, I should have left him at Halliford.
But I did not foresee; and crime is to foresee and do. And
I set this down as I have set all this story down, as it was.
There were no witnesses--all these things I might have con-
cealed. But I set it down, and the reader must form his
judgment as he will.

And when, by an effort, I had set aside that picture of a
prostrate body, I faced the problem of the Martians and the
fate of my wife. For the former I had no data; I could
imagine a hundred things, and so, unhappily, I could for the
latter. And suddenly that night became terrible. I found
myself sitting up in bed, staring at the dark. I found my-
self praying that the Heat-Ray might have suddenly and
painlessly struck her out of being. Since the night of my
return from Leatherhead I had not prayed. I had uttered
prayers, fetish prayers, had prayed as heathens mutter charms
when I was in extremity; but now I prayed indeed, plead-
ing steadfastly and sanely, face to face with the darkness
of God. Strange night! Strangest in this, that so soon as dawn
had come, I, who had talked with God, crept out of the house
like a rat leaving its hiding place--a creature scarcely larger,
an inferior animal, a thing that for any passing whim of our
masters might be hunted and killed. Perhaps they also
prayed confidently to God. Surely, if we have learned noth-
ing else, this war has taught us pity--pity for those witless
souls that suffer our dominion.

The morning was bright and fine, and the eastern sky
glowed pink, and was fretted with little golden clouds. In
the road that runs from the top of Putney Hill to Wimbledon
was a number of poor vestiges of the panic torrent that must
have poured Londonward on the Sunday night after the
fighting began. There was a little two-wheeled cart inscribed
with the name of Thomas Lobb, Greengrocer, New Malden,
with a smashed wheel and an abandoned tin trunk; there
was a straw hat trampled into the now hardened mud, and
at the top of West Hill a lot of blood-stained glass about the
overturned water trough. My movements were languid, my
plans of the vaguest. I had an idea of going to Leatherhead,
though I knew that there I had the poorest chance of finding
my wife. Certainly, unless death had overtaken them sud-
denly, my cousins and she would have fled thence; but it
seemed to me I might find or learn there whither the Surrey
people had fled. I knew I wanted to find my wife, that my
heart ached for her and the world of men, but I had no
clear idea how the finding might be done. I was also sharply
aware now of my intense loneliness. From the corner I went,
under cover of a thicket of trees and bushes, to the edge of
Wimbledon Common, stretching wide and far.

That dark expanse was lit in patches by yellow gorse and
broom; there was no red weed to be seen, and as I prowled,
hesitating, on the verge of the open, the sun rose, flooding
it all with light and vitality. I came upon a busy swarm of
little frogs in a swampy place among the trees. I stopped
to look at them, drawing a lesson from their stout resolve
to live. And presently, turning suddenly, with an odd
feeling of being watched, I beheld something crouching
amid a clump of bushes. I stood regarding this. I made a
step towards it, and it rose up and became a man armed
with a cutlass. I approached him slowly. He stood silent and
motionless, regarding me.

As I drew nearer I perceived he was dressed in clothes
as dusty and filthy as my own; he looked, indeed, as though
he had been dragged through a culvert. Nearer, I distin-
guished the green slime of ditches mixing with the pale drab
of dried clay and shiny, coaly patches. His black hair fell over
his eyes, and his face was dark and dirty and sunken, so
that at first I did not recognise him. There was a red cut
across the lower part of his face.

"Stop!" he cried, when I was within ten yards of him, and
I stopped. His voice was hoarse. "Where do you come from?"
he said.

I thought, surveying him.

"I come from Mortlake," I said. "I was buried near the
pit the Martians made about their cylinder. I have worked
my way out and escaped."

"There is no food about here," he said. "This is my coun-
try. All this hill down to the river, and back to Clapham,
and up to the edge of the common. There is only food for one.
Which way are you going?"

I answered slowly.

"I don't know," I said. "I have been buried in the ruins
of a house thirteen or fourteen days. I don't know what has
happened."

He looked at me doubtfully, then started, and looked with
a changed expression.

"I've no wish to stop about here," said I. "I think I shall
go to Leatherhead, for my wife was there."

He shot out a pointing finger.

"It is you," said he; "the man from Woking. And you
weren't killed at Weybridge?"

I recognised him at the same moment.

"You are the artilleryman who came into my garden."

"Good luck!" he said. "We are lucky ones! Fancy YOU!" He
put out a hand, and I took it. "I crawled up a drain," he said.
"But they didn't kill everyone. And after they went away I
got off towards Walton across the fields. But---- It's not
sixteen days altogether--and your hair is grey." He looked
over his shoulder suddenly. "Only a rook," he said. "One
gets to know that birds have shadows these days. This is a
bit open. Let us crawl under those bushes and talk."

"Have you seen any Martians?" I said. "Since I crawled
out----"

"They've gone away across London," he said. "I guess
they've got a bigger camp there. Of a night, all over there,
Hampstead way, the sky is alive with their lights. It's like
a great city, and in the glare you can just see them moving.
By daylight you can't. But nearer--I haven't seen them--"
(he counted on his fingers) "five days. Then I saw a couple
across Hammersmith way carrying something big. And the
night before last"--he stopped and spoke impressively--"it
was just a matter of lights, but it was something up in the
air. I believe they've built a flying-machine, and are learn-
ing to fly."

I stopped, on hands and knees, for we had come to the
bushes.

"Fly!"

"Yes," he said, "fly."

I went on into a little bower, and sat down.

"It is all over with humanity," I said. "If they can do that
they will simply go round the world."

He nodded.

"They will. But---- It will relieve things over here a bit.
And besides----" He looked at me. "Aren't you satisfied it IS
up with humanity? I am. We're down; we're beat."

I stared. Strange as it may seem, I had not arrived at this
fact--a fact perfectly obvious so soon as he spoke. I had
still held a vague hope; rather, I had kept a lifelong habit
of mind. He repeated his words, "We're beat." They carried
absolute conviction.

"It's all over," he said. "They've lost ONE--just ONE.
And they've made their footing good and crippled the greatest
power in the world. They've walked over us. The death of
that one at Weybridge was an accident. And these are only
pioneers. They kept on coming. These green stars--I've seen
none these five or six days, but I've no doubt they're falling
somewhere every night. Nothing's to be done. We're under!
We're beat!"

I made him no answer. I sat staring before me, trying in
vain to devise some countervailing thought.

"This isn't a war," said the artilleryman. "It never was a
war, any more than there's war between man and ants."

Suddenly I recalled the night in the observatory.

"After the tenth shot they fired no more--at least, until
the first cylinder came."

"How do you know?" said the artilleryman. I explained.
He thought. "Something wrong with the gun," he said. "But
what if there is? They'll get it right again. And even if
there's a delay, how can it alter the end? It's just men and
ants. There's the ants builds their cities, live their lives,
have wars, revolutions, until the men want them out of the way,
and then they go out of the way. That's what we are now--just
ants. Only----"

"Yes," I said.

"We're eatable ants."

We sat looking at each other.

"And what will they do with us?" I said.

"That's what I've been thinking," he said; "that's what I've
been thinking. After Weybridge I went south--thinking. I
saw what was up. Most of the people were hard at it
squealing and exciting themselves. But I'm not so fond of
squealing. I've been in sight of death once or twice; I'm
not an ornamental soldier, and at the best and worst, death--
it's just death. And it's the man that keeps on thinking comes
through. I saw everyone tracking away south. Says I, "Food
won't last this way," and I turned right back. I went for
the Martians like a sparrow goes for man. All round"--he
waved a hand to the horizon--"they're starving in heaps,
bolting, treading on each other. . . ."

He saw my face, and halted awkwardly.

"No doubt lots who had money have gone away to
France," he said. He seemed to hesitate whether to apolo-
gise, met my eyes, and went on: "There's food all about here.
Canned things in shops; wines, spirits, mineral waters; and
the water mains and drains are empty. Well, I was telling
you what I was thinking. "Here's intelligent things," I said,
"and it seems they want us for food. First, they'll smash us
up--ships, machines, guns, cities, all the order and organisa-
tion. All that will go. If we were the size of ants we might
pull through. But we're not. It's all too bulky to stop.
That's the first certainty." Eh?"

I assented.

"It is; I've thought it out. Very well, then--next; at
present we're caught as we're wanted. A Martian has only to go
a few miles to get a crowd on the run. And I saw one, one day,
out by Wandsworth, picking houses to pieces and routing
among the wreckage. But they won't keep on doing that.
So soon as they've settled all our guns and ships, and
smashed our railways, and done all the things they are
doing over there, they will begin catching us systematic, pick-
ing the best and storing us in cages and things. That's what
they will start doing in a bit. Lord! They haven't begun on
us yet. Don't you see that?"

"Not begun!" I exclaimed.

"Not begun. All that's happened so far is through our not
having the sense to keep quiet--worrying them with guns
and such foolery. And losing our heads, and rushing off in
crowds to where there wasn't any more safety than where
we were. They don't want to bother us yet. They're making
their things--making all the things they couldn't bring with
them, getting things ready for the rest of their people. Very
likely that's why the cylinders have stopped for a bit, for
fear of hitting those who are here. And instead of our rush-
ing about blind, on the howl, or getting dynamite on the
chance of busting them up, we've got to fix ourselves up
according to the new state of affairs. That's how I figure it
out. It isn't quite according to what a man wants for his
species, but it's about what the facts point to. And that's the
principle I acted upon. Cities, nations, civilisation,
progress--it's all over. That game's up. We're beat."

"But if that is so, what is there to live for?"

The artilleryman looked at me for a moment.

"There won't be any more blessed concerts for a million
years or so; there won't be any Royal Academy of Arts, and
no nice little feeds at restaurants. If it's amusement you're
after, I reckon the game is up. If you've got any drawing-
room manners or a dislike to eating peas with a knife or
dropping aitches, you'd better chuck 'em away. They ain't
no further use."

"You mean----"

"I mean that men like me are going on living--for the
sake of the breed. I tell you, I'm grim set on living. And if
I'm not mistaken, you'll show what insides YOU'VE got, too,
before long. We aren't going to be exterminated. And I don't
mean to be caught either, and tamed and fattened and bred
like a thundering ox. Ugh! Fancy those brown creepers!"

"You don't mean to say----"

"I do. I'm going on, under their feet. I've got it planned;
I've thought it out. We men are beat. We don't know
enough. We've got to learn before we've got a chance. And
we've got to live and keep independent while we learn. See!
That's what has to be done."

I stared, astonished, and stirred profoundly by the man's
resolution.

"Great God!," cried I. "But you are a man indeed!" And
suddenly I gripped his hand.

"Eh!" he said, with his eyes shining. "I've thought it out,
eh?"

"Go on," I said.

"Well, those who mean to escape their catching must get
ready. I'm getting ready. Mind you, it isn't all of us that
are made for wild beasts; and that's what it's got to be.
That's why I watched you. I had my doubts. You're slender.
I didn't know that it was you, you see, or just how you'd
been buried. All these--the sort of people that lived in
these houses, and all those damn little clerks that used to
live down that way--they'd be no good. They haven't any
spirit in them--no proud dreams and no proud lusts; and a
man who hasn't one or the other--Lord! What is he but
funk and precautions? They just used to skedaddle off to
work--I've seen hundreds of 'em, bit of breakfast in hand,
running wild and shining to catch their little season-ticket
train, for fear they'd get dismissed if they didn't; working
at businesses they were afraid to take the trouble to under-
stand; skedaddling back for fear they wouldn't be in time
for dinner; keeping indoors after dinner for fear of the back
streets, and sleeping with the wives they married, not be-
cause they wanted them, but because they had a bit of
money that would make for safety in their one little mis-
erable skedaddle through the world. Lives insured and a
bit invested for fear of accidents. And on Sundays--fear of
the hereafter. As if hell was built for rabbits! Well, the Mar-
tians will just be a godsend to these. Nice roomy cages, fat-
tening food, careful breeding, no worry. After a week or so
chasing about the fields and lands on empty stomachs, they'll
come and be caught cheerful. They'll be quite glad after a
bit. They'll wonder what people did before there were
Martians to take care of them. And the bar loafers, and
mashers, and singers--I can imagine them. I can imagine
them," he said, with a sort of sombre gratification. "There'll
be any amount of sentiment and religion loose among them.
There's hundreds of things I saw with my eyes that I've
only begun to see clearly these last few days. There's lots
will take things as they are--fat and stupid; and lots will
be worried by a sort of feeling that it's all wrong, and that
they ought to be doing something. Now whenever things are
so that a lot of people feel they ought to be doing some-
thing, the weak, and those who go weak with a lot of com-
plicated thinking, always make for a sort of do-nothing
religion, very pious and superior, and submit to persecution
and the will of the Lord. Very likely you've seen the same
thing. It's energy in a gale of funk, and turned clean inside
out. These cages will be full of psalms and hymns and piety.
And those of a less simple sort will work in a bit of--what
is it?--eroticism."

He paused.

"Very likely these Martians will make pets of some of them;
train them to do tricks--who knows?--get sentimental over
the pet boy who grew up and had to be killed. And some,
maybe, they will train to hunt us."

"No," I cried, "that's impossible! No human being----"

"What's the good of going on with such lies?" said the
artilleryman. "There's men who'd do it cheerful. What non-
sense to pretend there isn't!"

And I succumbed to his conviction.

"If they come after me," he said; "Lord, if they come
after me!" and subsided into a grim meditation.

I sat contemplating these things. I could find nothing
to bring against this man's reasoning. In the days before
the invasion no one would have questioned my intellectual
superiority to his--I, a professed and recognised writer on
philosophical themes, and he, a common soldier; and yet
he had already formulated a situation that I had scarcely
realised.

"What are you doing?" I said presently. "What plans
have you made?"

He hesitated.

"Well, it's like this," he said. "What have we to do? We
have to invent a sort of life where men can live and breed,
and be sufficiently secure to bring the children up. Yes--wait
a bit, and I'll make it clearer what I think ought to be done.
The tame ones will go like all tame beasts; in a few genera-
tions they'll be big, beautiful, rich-blooded, stupid--rubbish!
The risk is that we who keep wild will go savage--de-
generate into a sort of big, savage rat. . . . You see, how I
mean to live is underground. I've been thinking about the
drains. Of course those who don't know drains think horrible
things; but under this London are miles and miles--hundreds
of miles--and a few days" rain and London empty will leave
them sweet and clean. The main drains are big enough and
airy enough for anyone. Then there's cellars, vaults, stores,
from which bolting passages may be made to the drains.
And the railway tunnels and subways. Eh? You begin to see?
And we form a band--able-bodied, clean-minded men. We're
not going to pick up any rubbish that drifts in. Weaklings
go out again."

"As you meant me to go?"

"Well--l parleyed, didn't I?"

"We won't quarrel about that. Go on."

"Those who stop obey orders. Able-bodied, clean-minded
women we want also--mothers and teachers. No lackadaisical
ladies--no blasted rolling eyes. We can't have any weak or
silly. Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and
mischievous have to die. They ought to die. They ought to
be willing to die. It's a sort of disloyalty, after all, to live
and taint the race. And they can't be happy. Moreover, dying's
none so dreadful; it's the funking makes it bad. And in all
those places we shall gather. Our district will be London.
And we may even be able to keep a watch, and run about
in the open when the Martians keep away. Play cricket, per-
haps. That's how we shall save the race. Eh? It's a possible
thing? But saving the race is nothing in itself. As I say,
that's only being rats. It's saving our knowledge and adding
to it is the thing. There men like you come in. There's books,
there's models. We must make great safe places down deep,
and get all the books we can; not novels and poetry swipes,
but ideas, science books. That's where men like you come
in. We must go to the British Museum and pick all those
books through. Especially we must keep up our science--
learn more. We must watch these Martians. Some of us
must go as spies. When it's all working, perhaps I will. Get
caught, I mean. And the great thing is, we must leave the
Martians alone. We mustn't even steal. If we get in their
way, we clear out. We must show them we mean no harm.
Yes, I know. But they're intelligent things, and they won't
hunt us down if they have all they want, and think we're
just harmless vermin."

The artilleryman paused and laid a brown hand upon
my arm.

"After all, it may not be so much we may have to learn
before-- Just imagine this: four or five of their fighting
machines suddenly starting off--Heat-Rays right and left, and
not a Martian in 'em. Not a Martian in 'em, but men--men
who have learned the way how. It may be in my time, even--
those men. Fancy having one of them lovely things, with its
Heat-Ray wide and free! Fancy having it in control! What
would it matter if you smashed to smithereens at the end of
the run, after a bust like that? I reckon the Martians'll open
their beautiful eyes! Can't you see them, man? Can't you see
them hurrying, hurrying--puffing and blowing and hooting to
their other mechanical affairs? Something out of gear in every
case. And swish, bang, rattle, swish! Just as they are fum-
bling over it, SWISH comes the Heat-Ray, and, behold! man
has come back to his own."

For a while the imaginative daring of the artilleryman,
and the tone of assurance and courage he assumed, com-
pletely dominated my mind. I believed unhesitatingly both
in his forecast of human destiny and in the practicability of
his astonishing scheme, and the reader who thinks me sus-
ceptible and foolish must contrast his position, reading
steadily with all his thoughts about his subject, and mine,
crouching fearfully in the bushes and listening, distracted
by apprehension. We talked in this manner through the early
morning time, and later crept out of the bushes, and, after
scanning the sky for Martians, hurried precipitately to the
house on Putney Hill where he had made his lair. It was the
coal cellar of the place, and when I saw the work he had
spent a week upon--it was a burrow scarcely ten yards
long, which he designed to reach to the main drain on
Putney Hill--I had my first inkling of the gulf between his
dreams and his powers. Such a hole I could have dug in a
day. But I believed in him sufficiently to work with him all
that morning until past midday at his digging. We had a
garden barrow and shot the earth we removed against the
kitchen range. We refreshed ourselves with a tin of mock-
turtle soup and wine from the neighbouring pantry. I
found a curious relief from the aching strangeness of the
world in this steady labour. As we worked, I turned his
project over in my mind, and presently objections and
doubts began to arise; but I worked there all the morning,
so glad was I to find myself with a purpose again. After
working an hour I began to speculate on the distance one
had to go before the cloaca was reached, the chances we had
of missing it altogether. My immediate trouble was why
we should dig this long tunnel, when it was possible to get
into the drain at once down one of the manholes, and work
back to the house. It seemed to me, too, that the house was
inconveniently chosen, and required a needless length of
tunnel. And just as I was beginning to face these things, the
artilleryman stopped digging, and looked at me.

"We're working well," he said. He put down his spade.
"Let us knock off a bit" he said. "I think it's time we recon-
noitred from the roof of the house."

I was for going on, and after a little hesitation he resumed
his spade; and then suddenly I was struck by a thought.
I stopped, and so did he at once.

"Why were you walking about the common," I said,
"instead of being here?"

"Taking the air," he said. "I was coming back. It's safer
by night."

"But the work?"

"Oh, one can't always work," he said, and in a flash I saw
the man plain. He hesitated, holding his spade. "We ought
to reconnoitre now," he said, "because if any come near they
may hear the spades and drop upon us unawares."

I was no longer disposed to object. We went together to
the roof and stood on a ladder peeping out of the roof door.
No Martians were to be seen, and we ventured out on the
tiles, and slipped down under shelter of the parapet.

From this position a shrubbery hid the greater portion of
Putney, but we could see the river below, a bubbly mass
of red weed, and the low parts of Lambeth flooded and red.
The red creeper swarmed up the trees about the old palace,
and their branches stretched gaunt and dead, and set with
shrivelled leaves, from amid its clusters. It was strange how
entirely dependent both these things were upon flowing
water for their propagation. About us neither had gained a
footing; laburnums, pink mays, snowballs, and trees of arbor-
vitae, rose out of laurels and hydrangeas, green and brilliant
into the sunlight. Beyond Kensington dense smoke was rising,
and that and a blue haze hid the northward hills.

The artilleryman began to tell me of the sort of people
who still remained in London.

"One night last week," he said, "some fools got the electric
light in order, and there was all Regent Street and the Circus
ablaze, crowded with painted and ragged drunkards, men
and women, dancing and shouting till dawn. A man who was
there told me. And as the day came they became aware of
a fighting-machine standing near by the Langham and look-
ing down at them. Heaven knows how long he had been
there. It must have given some of them a nasty turn. He
came down the road towards them, and picked up nearly a
hundred too drunk or frightened to run away."

Grotesque gleam of a time no history will ever fully
describe!

From that, in answer to my questions, he came round to
his grandiose plans again. He grew enthusiastic. He talked
so eloquently of the possibility of capturing a fighting-
machine that I more than half believed in him again. But
now that I was beginning to understand something of his
quality, I could divine the stress he laid on doing nothing
precipitately. And I noted that now there was no question
that he personally was to capture and fight the great machine.

After a time we went down to the cellar. Neither of us
seemed disposed to resume digging, and when he suggested
a meal, I was nothing loath. He became suddenly very
generous, and when we had eaten he went away and returned
with some excellent cigars. We lit these, and his optimism
glowed. He was inclined to regard my coming as a great
occasion.

"There's some champagne in the cellar," he said.

"We can dig better on this Thames-side burgundy," said I.

"No," said he; "I am host today. Champagne! Great God!
We've a heavy enough task before us! Let us take a rest
and gather strength while we may. Look at these blistered
hands!"

And pursuant to this idea of a holiday, he insisted upon
playing cards after we had eaten. He taught me euchre, and
after dividing London between us, I taking the northern side
and he the southern, we played for parish points. Grotesque
and foolish as this will seem to the sober reader, it is abso-
lutely true, and what is more remarkable, I found the card
game and several others we played extremely interesting.

Strange mind of man! that, with our species upon the
edge of extermination or appalling degradation, with no clear
prospect before us but the chance of a horrible death, we
could sit following the chance of this painted pasteboard,
and playing the "joker" with vivid delight. Afterwards
he taught me poker, and I beat him at three tough chess
games. When dark came we decided to take the risk, and lit
a lamp.

After an interminable string of games, we supped, and the
artilleryman finished the champagne. We went on smoking
the cigars. He was no longer the energetic regenerator of
his species I had encountered in the morning. He was still
optimistic, but it was a less kinetic, a more thoughtful
optimism. I remember he wound up with my health, proposed
in a speech of small variety and considerable intermittence.
I took a cigar, and went upstairs to look at the lights of
which he had spoken that blazed so greenly along the
Highgate hills.

At first I stared unintelligently across the London valley.
The northern hills were shrouded in darkness; the fires near
Kensington glowed redly, and now and then an orange-red
tongue of flame flashed up and vanished in the deep blue
night. All the rest of London was black. Then, nearer, I
perceived a strange light, a pale, violet-purple fluorescent
glow, quivering under the night breeze. For a space I could
not understand it, and then I knew that it must be the red
weed from which this faint irradiation proceeded. With that
realisation my dormant sense of wonder, my sense of the
proportion of things, awoke again. I glanced from that to
Mars, red and clear, glowing high in the west, and then
gazed long and earnestly at the darkness of Hampstead and
Highgate.

I remained a very long time upon the roof, wondering at
the grotesque changes of the day. I recalled my mental states
from the midnight prayer to the foolish card-playing. I had a
violent revulsion of feeling. I remember I flung away the
cigar with a certain wasteful symbolism. My folly came to
me with glaring exaggeration. I seemed a traitor to my wife
and to my kind; I was filled with remorse. I resolved to leave
this strange undisciplined dreamer of great things to his drink
and gluttony, and to go on into London. There, it seemed
to me, I had the best chance of learning what the Martians
and my fellowmen were doing. I was still upon the roof when
the late moon rose.



CHAPTER EIGHT


DEAD LONDON



After I had parted from the artilleryman, I went down
the hill, and by the High Street across the bridge to Fulham.
The red weed was tumultuous at that time, and nearly
choked the bridge roadway; but its fronds were already
whitened in patches by the spreading disease that presently
removed it so swiftly.

At the corner of the lane that runs to Putney Bridge
station I found a man lying. He was as black as a sweep
with the black dust, alive, but helplessly and speechlessly
drunk. I could get nothing from him but curses and furious
lunges at my head. I think I should have stayed by him but
for the brutal expression of his face.

There was black dust along the roadway from the bridge
onwards, and it grew thicker in Fulham. The streets were
horribly quiet. I got food--sour, hard, and mouldy, but quite
eatable--in a baker's shop here. Some way towards Walham
Green the streets became clear of powder, and I passed a
white terrace of houses on fire; the noise of the burning was
an absolute relief. Going on towards Brompton, the streets
were quiet again.

Here I came once more upon the black powder in the
streets and upon dead bodies. I saw altogether about a dozen
in the length of the Fulham Road. They had been dead many
days, so that I hurried quickly past them. The black powder
covered them over, and softened their outlines. One or two
had been disturbed by dogs.

Where there was no black powder, it was curiously like
a Sunday in the City, with the closed shops, the houses
locked up and the blinds drawn, the desertion, and the
stillness. In some places plunderers had been at work, but
rarely at other than the provision and wine shops. A jeweller's
window had been broken open in one place, but apparently
the thief had been disturbed, and a number of gold chains
and a watch lay scattered on the pavement. I did not trouble
to touch them. Farther on was a tattered woman in a heap
on a doorstep; the hand that hung over her knee was gashed
and bled down her rusty brown dress, and a smashed magnum
of champagne formed a pool across the pavement. She seemed
asleep, but she was dead.

The farther I penetrated into London, the profounder grew
the stillness. But it was not so much the stillness of death--
it was the stillness of suspense, of expectation. At any time
the destruction that had already singed the northwestern
borders of the metropolis, and had annihilated Ealing and
Kilburn, might strike among these houses and leave them
smoking ruins. It was a city condemned and derelict. . . .

In South Kensington the streets were clear of dead and of
black powder. It was near South Kensington that I first heard
the howling. It crept almost imperceptibly upon my senses.
It was a sobbing alternation of two notes, "Ulla, ulla, ulla,
ulla," keeping on perpetually. When I passed streets that ran
northward it grew in volume, and houses and buildings
seemed to deaden and cut it off again. It came in a full tide
down Exhibition Road. I stopped, staring towards Kensington
Gardens, wondering at this strange, remote wailing. It was as
if that mighty desert of houses had found a voice for its fear
and solitude.

"Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," wailed that superhuman note--
great waves of sound sweeping down the broad, sunlit road-
way, between the tall buildings on each side. I turned north-
wards, marvelling, towards the iron gates of Hyde Park. I had
half a mind to break into the Natural History Museum and
find my way up to the summits of the towers, in order to see
across the park. But I decided to keep to the ground, where
quick hiding was possible, and so went on up the Exhibition
Road. All the large mansions on each side of the road were
empty and still, and my footsteps echoed against the sides
of the houses. At the top, near the park gate, I came upon
a strange sight--a bus overturned, and the skeleton of a
horse picked clean. I puzzled over this for a time, and then
went on to the bridge over the Serpentine. The voice grew
stronger and stronger, though I could see nothing above the
housetops on the north side of the park, save a haze of smoke
to the northwest.

"Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," cried the voice, coming, as it
seemed to me, from the district about Regent's Park. The
desolating cry worked upon my mind. The mood that had
sustained me passed. The wailing took possession of me. I
found I was intensely weary, footsore, and now again hungry
and thirsty.

It was already past noon. Why was I wandering alone in
this city of the dead? Why was I alone when all London was
lying in state, and in its black shroud? I felt intolerably
lonely. My mind ran on old friends that I had forgotten for
years. I thought of the poisons in the chemists" shops, of the
liquors the wine merchants stored; I recalled the two sodden
creatures of despair, who so far as I knew, shared the city
with myself. . . .

I came into Oxford Street by the Marble Arch, and here
again were black powder and several bodies, and an evil,
ominous smell from the gratings of the cellars of some of the
houses. I grew very thirsty after the heat of my long walk.
With infinite trouble I managed to break into a public-house
and get food and drink. I was weary after eating, and went
into the parlour behind the bar, and slept on a black horse-
hair sofa I found there.

I awoke to find that dismal howling still in my ears,
"Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla." It was now dusk, and after I had
routed out some biscuits and a cheese in the bar--there was
a meat safe, but it contained nothing but maggots--I wan-
dered on through the silent residential squares to Baker Street
--Portman Square is the only one I can name--and so came
out at last upon Regent's Park. And as I emerged from the
top of Baker Street, I saw far away over the trees in the
clearness of the sunset the hood of the Martian giant from
which this howling proceeded. I was not terrified. I came
upon him as if it were a matter of course. I watched him for
some time, but he did not move. He appeared to be standing
and yelling, for no reason that I could discover.

I tried to formulate a plan of action. That perpetual sound
of "Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," confused my mind. Perhaps I was
too tired to be very fearful. Certainly I was more curious to
know the reason of this monotonous crying than afraid. I
turned back away from the park and struck into Park Road,
intending to skirt the park, went along under the shelter of
the terraces, and got a view of this stationary, howling
Martian from the direction of St. John's Wood. A couple of
hundred yards out of Baker Street I heard a yelping chorus,
and saw, first a dog with a piece of putrescent red meat in
his jaws coming headlong towards me, and then a pack of
starving mongrels in pursuit of him. He made a wide curve
to avoid me, as though he feared I might prove a fresh
competitor. As the yelping died away down the silent road,
the wailing sound of "Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," reasserted itself.

I came upon the wrecked handling-machine halfway to
St. John's Wood station. At first I thought a house had fallen
across the road. It was only as I clambered among the ruins
that I saw, with a start, this mechanical Samson lying, with
its tentacles bent and smashed and twisted, among the ruins
it had made. The forepart was shattered. It seemed as if it
had driven blindly straight at the house, and had been over-
whelmed in its overthrow. It seemed to me then that this
might have happened by a handling-machine escaping from
the guidance of its Martian. I could not clamber among the
ruins to see it, and the twilight was now so far advanced
that the blood with which its seat was smeared, and the
gnawed gristle of the Martian that the dogs had left, were
invisible to me.

Wondering still more at all that I had seen, I pushed on
towards Primrose Hill. Far away, through a gap in the trees,
I saw a second Martian, as motionless as the first, standing
in the park towards the Zoological Gardens, and silent. A
little beyond the ruins about the smashed handling-machine
I came upon the red weed again, and found the Regent's
Canal, a spongy mass of dark-red vegetation.

As I crossed the bridge, the sound of "Ulla, ulla, ulla,
ulla," ceased. It was, as it were, cut off. The silence came
like a thunderclap.

The dusky houses about me stood faint and tall and dim;
the trees towards the park were growing black. All about
me the red weed clambered among the ruins, writhing to
get above me in the dimness. Night, the mother of fear and
mystery, was coming upon me. But while that voice sounded
the solitude, the desolation, had been endurable; by virtue
of it London had still seemed alive, and the sense of life
about me had upheld me. Then suddenly a change, the
passing of something--I knew not what--and then a stillness
that could be felt. Nothing but this gaunt quiet.

London about me gazed at me spectrally. The windows
in the white houses were like the eye sockets of skulls. About
me my imagination found a thousand noiseless enemies
moving. Terror seized me, a horror of my temerity. In front
of me the road became pitchy black as though it was tarred,
and I saw a contorted shape lying across the pathway. I
could not bring myself to go on. I turned down St. John's
Wood Road, and ran headlong from this unendurable stillness
towards Kilburn. I hid from the night and the silence, until
long after midnight, in a cabmen's shelter in Harrow Road.
But before the dawn my courage returned, and while the
stars were still in the sky I turned once more towards
Regent's Park. I missed my way among the streets, and
presently saw down a long avenue, in the half-light of the
early dawn, the curve of Primrose Hill. On the summit,
towering up to the fading stars, was a third Martian, erect
and motionless like the others.

An insane resolve possessed me. I would die and end it.
And I would save myself even the trouble of killing myself.
I marched on recklessly towards this Titan, and then, as I
drew nearer and the light grew, I saw that a multitude of
black birds was circling and clustering about the hood. At
that my heart gave a bound, and I began running along
the road.

I hurried through the red weed that choked St. Edmund's
Terrace (I waded breast-high across a torrent of water that
was rushing down from the waterworks towards the Albert
Road), and emerged upon the grass before the rising of the
sun. Great mounds had been heaped about the crest of the
hill, making a huge redoubt of it--it was the final and
largest place the Martians had made--and from behind
these heaps there rose a thin smoke against the sky. Against
the sky line an eager dog ran and disappeared. The thought
that had flashed into my mind grew real, grew credible. I felt
no fear, only a wild, trembling exultation, as I ran up the hill
towards the motionless monster. Out of the hood hung
lank shreds of brown, at which the hungry birds pecked and
tore.

In another moment I had scrambled up the earthen ram-
part and stood upon its crest, and the interior of the redoubt
was below me. A mighty space it was, with gigantic machines
here and there within it, huge mounds of material and strange
shelter places. And scattered about it, some in their over-
turned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-
machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in
a row, were the Martians--DEAD!--slain by the putrefactive
and disease bacteria against which their systems were unpre-
pared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all
man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God,
in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.

For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men
might have foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our
minds. These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity
since the beginning of things--taken toll of our prehuman
ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural
selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to
no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to many--
those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance
--our living frames are altogether immune. But there are no
bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly
they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work
their overthrow. Already when I watched them they were
irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting even as they went to
and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion deaths
man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against
all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten
times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in
vain.

Here and there they were scattered, nearly fifty altogether,
in that great gulf they had made, overtaken by a death that
must have seemed to them as incomprehensible as any death
could be. To me also at that time this death was incompre-
hensible. All I knew was that these things that had been alive
and so terrible to men were dead. For a moment I believed
that the destruction of Sennacherib had been repeated, that
God had repented, that the Angel of Death had slain them
in the night.

I stood staring into the pit, and my heart lightened glori-
ously, even as the rising sun struck the world to fire about
me with his rays. The pit was still in darkness; the mighty
engines, so great and wonderful in their power and com-
plexity, so unearthly in their tortuous forms, rose weird and
vague and strange out of the shadows towards the light. A
multitude of dogs, I could hear, fought over the bodies that
lay darkly in the depth of the pit, far below me. Across the
pit on its farther lip, flat and vast and strange, lay the great
flying-machine with which they had been experimenting
upon our denser atmosphere when decay and death arrested
them. Death had come not a day too soon. At the sound of
a cawing overhead I looked up at the huge fighting-machine
that would fight no more for ever, at the tattered red shreds
of flesh that dripped down upon the overturned seats on the
summit of Primrose Hill.

I turned and looked down the slope of the hill to where,
enhaloed now in birds, stood those other two Martians that
I had seen overnight, just as death had overtaken them. The
one had died, even as it had been crying to its companions;
perhaps it was the last to die, and its voice had gone on
perpetually until the force of its machinery was exhausted.
They glittered now, harmless tripod towers of shining metal,
in the brightness of the rising sun.

All about the pit, and saved as by a miracle from ever-
lasting destruction, stretched the great Mother of Cities.
Those who have only seen London veiled in her sombre robes
of smoke can scarcely imagine the naked clearness and beauty
of the silent wilderness of houses.

Eastward, over the blackened ruins of the Albert Terrace
and the splintered spire of the church, the sun blazed daz-
zling in a clear sky, and here and there some facet in the
great wilderness of roofs caught the light and glared with
a white intensity.

Northward were Kilburn and Hampsted, blue and crowded
with houses; westward the great city was dimmed; and
southward, beyond the Martians, the green waves of Regent's
Park, the Langham Hotel, the dome of the Albert Hall, the
Imperial Institute, and the giant mansions of the Brompton
Road came out clear and little in the sunrise, the jagged
ruins of Westminster rising hazily beyond. Far away
and blue were the Surrey hills, and the towers of the
Crystal Palace glittered like two silver rods. The dome of
St. Paul's was dark against the sunrise, and injured, I saw for
the first time, by a huge gaping cavity on its western
side.

And as I looked at this wide expanse of houses and fac-
tories and churches, silent and abandoned; as I thought of
the multitudinous hopes and efforts, the innumerable hosts
of lives that had gone to build this human reef, and of the
swift and ruthless destruction that had hung over it all; when
I realised that the shadow had been rolled back, and that
men might still live in the streets, and this dear vast dead
city of mine be once more alive and powerful, I felt a wave
of emotion that was near akin to tears.

The torment was over. Even that day the healing would
begin. The survivors of the people scattered over the coun-
try--leaderless, lawless, foodless, like sheep without a shep-
herd--the thousands who had fled by sea, would begin to
return; the pulse of life, growing stronger and stronger,
would beat again in the empty streets and pour across the
vacant squares. Whatever destruction was done, the hand
of the destroyer was stayed. All the gaunt wrecks, the black-
ened skeletons of houses that stared so dismally at the sunlit
grass of the hill, would presently be echoing with the ham-
mers of the restorers and ringing with the tapping of their
trowels. At the thought I extended my hands towards the
sky and began thanking God. In a year, thought I--in a
year. . .

With overwhelming force came the thought of myself,
of my wife, and the old life of hope and tender helpfulness
that had ceased for ever.



CHAPTER NINE


WRECKAGE



And now comes the strangest thing in my story. Yet,
perhaps, it is not altogether strange. I remember, clearly and
coldly and vividly, all that I did that day until the time that
I stood weeping and praising God upon the summit of Prim-
rose Hill. And then I forget.

Of the next three days I know nothing. I have learned
since that, so far from my being the first discoverer of the
Martian overthrow, several such wanderers as myself had
already discovered this on the previous night. One man--
the first--had gone to St. Martin's-le-Grand, and, while I
sheltered in the cabmen's hut, had contrived to telegraph to
Paris. Thence the joyful news had flashed all over the world;
a thousand cities, chilled by ghastly apprehensions, sud-
denly flashed into frantic illuminations; they knew of it in
Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, at the time
when I stood upon the verge of the pit. Already men, weep-
ing with joy, as I have heard, shouting and staying their
work to shake hands and shout, were making up trains, even
as near as Crewe, to descend upon London. The church bells
that had ceased a fortnight since suddenly caught the news,
until all England was bell-ringing. Men on cycles, lean-faced,
unkempt, scorched along every country lane shouting of
unhoped deliverance, shouting to gaunt, staring figures of
despair. And for the food! Across the Channel, across the
Irish Sea, across the Atlantic, corn, bread, and meat were
tearing to our relief. All the shipping in the world seemed
going Londonward in those days. But of all this I have no
memory. I drifted--a demented man. I found myself in a
house of kindly people, who had found me on the third day
wandering, weeping, and raving through the streets of St.
John's Wood. They have told me since that I was singing
some insane doggerel about "The Last Man Left Alive!
Hurrah! The Last Man Left Alive!" Troubled as they were
with their own affairs, these people, whose name, much as
I would like to express my gratitude to them, I may not
even give here, nevertheless cumbered themselves with me,
sheltered me, and protected me from myself. Apparently they
had learned something of my story from me during the days
of my lapse.

Very gently, when my mind was assured again, did they
break to me what they had learned of the fate of Leather-
head. Two days after I was imprisoned it had been destroyed,
with every soul in it, by a Martian. He had swept it out
of existence, as it seemed, without any provocation, as a boy
might crush an ant hill, in the mere wantonness of power.

I was a lonely man, and they were very kind to me. I
was a lonely man and a sad one, and they bore with me. I
remained with them four days after my recovery. All that
time I felt a vague, a growing craving to look once more
on whatever remained of the little life that seemed so happy
and bright in my past. It was a mere hopeless desire to feast
upon my misery. They dissuaded me. They did all they
could to divert me from this morbidity. But at last I could
resist the impulse no longer, and, promising faithfully to
return to them, and parting, as I will confess, from these
four-day friends with tears, I went out again into the streets
that had lately been so dark and strange and empty.

Already they were busy with returning people; in places
even there were shops open, and I saw a drinking fountain
running water.

I remember how mockingly bright the day seemed as I
went back on my melancholy pilgrimage to the little house
at Woking, how busy the streets and vivid the moving life
about me. So many people were abroad everywhere, busied
in a thousand activities, that it seemed incredible that any
great proportion of the population could have been slain.
But then I noticed how yellow were the skins of the people
I met, how shaggy the hair of the men, how large and bright
their eyes, and that every other man still wore his dirty
rags. Their faces seemed all with one of two expressions--a
leaping exultation and energy or a grim resolution. Save
for the expression of the faces, London seemed a city of
tramps. The vestries were indiscriminately distributing bread
sent us by the French government. The ribs of the few horses
showed dismally. Haggard special constables with white
badges stood at the corners of every street. I saw little of
the mischief wrought by the Martians until I reached Welling-
ton Street, and there I saw the red weed clambering over
the buttresses of Waterloo Bridge.

At the corner of the bridge, too, I saw one of the common
contrasts of that grotesque time--a sheet of paper flaunting
against a thicket of the red weed, transfixed by a stick that
kept it in place. It was the placard of the first newspaper
to resume publication--the DAILY MAIL. I bought a copy
for a blackened shilling I found in my pocket. Most of it
was in blank, but the solitary compositor who did the thing
had amused himself by making a grotesque scheme of ad-
vertisement stereo on the back page. The matter he printed
was emotional; the news organisation had not as yet found
its way back. I learned nothing fresh except that already
in one week the examination of the Martian mechanisms had
yielded astonishing results. Among other things, the article
assured me what I did not believe at the time, that the
"Secret of Flying," was discovered. At Waterloo I found the
free trains that were taking people to their homes. The first
rush was already over. There were few people in the train,
and I was in no mood for casual conversation. I got a com-
partment to myself, and sat with folded arms, looking greyly
at the sunlit devastation that flowed past the windows. And
just outside the terminus the train jolted over temporary
rails, and on either side of the railway the houses were
blackened ruins. To Clapham Junction the face of London
was grimy with powder of the Black Smoke, in spite of
two days of thunderstorms and rain, and at Clapham Junc-
tion the line had been wrecked again; there were hundreds
of out-of-work clerks and shopmen working side by side
with the customary navvies, and we were jolted over a hasty
relaying.

All down the line from there the aspect of the country
was gaunt and unfamiliar; Wimbledon particularly had suf-
fered. Walton, by virtue of its unburned pine woods, seemed
the least hurt of any place along the line. The Wandle, the
Mole, every little stream, was a heaped mass of red weed,
in appearance between butcher's meat and pickled cabbage.
The Surrey pine woods were too dry, however, for the festoons
of the red climber. Beyond Wimbledon, within sight of the
line, in certain nursery grounds, were the heaped masses
of earth about the sixth cylinder. A number of people were
standing about it, and some sappers were busy in the midst
of it. Over it flaunted a Union Jack, flapping cheerfully in
the morning breeze. The nursery grounds were everywhere
crimson with the weed, a wide expanse of livid colour cut
with purple shadows, and very painful to the eye. One's
gaze went with infinite relief from the scorched greys and
sullen reds of the foreground to the blue-green softness of
the eastward hills.

The line on the London side of Woking station was still
undergoing repair, so I descended at Byfleet station and
took the road to Maybury, past the place where I and the
artilleryman had talked to the hussars, and on by the spot
where the Martian had appeared to me in the thunderstorm.
Here, moved by curiosity, I turned aside to find, among a
tangle of red fronds, the warped and broken dog cart with
the whitened bones of the horse scattered and gnawed. For
a time I stood regarding these vestiges. . . .

Then I returned through the pine wood, neck-high with
red weed here and there, to find the landlord of the Spotted
Dog had already found burial, and so came home past the
College Arms. A man standing at an open cottage door
greeted me by name as I passed.

I looked at my house with a quick flash of hope that
faded immediately. The door had been forced; it was unfast
and was opening slowly as I approached.

It slammed again. The curtains of my study fluttered
out of the open window from which I and the artilleryman
had watched the dawn. No one had closed it since. The
smashed bushes were just as I had left them nearly four
weeks ago. I stumbled into the hall, and the house felt
empty. The stair carpet was ruffled and discoloured where
I had crouched, soaked to the skin from the thunderstorm
the night of the catastrophe. Our muddy footsteps I saw still
went up the stairs.

I followed them to my study, and found lying on my
writing-table still, with the selenite paper weight upon it,
the sheet of work I had left on the afternoon of the opening
of the cylinder. For a space I stood reading over my aban-
doned arguments. It was a paper on the probable develop-
ment of Moral Ideas with the development of the civilising
process; and the last sentence was the opening of a prophecy:
"In about two hundred years," I had written, "we may
expect----" The sentence ended abruptly. I remembered
my inability to fix my mind that morning, scarcely a month
gone by, and how I had broken off to get my DAILY CHRONICLE
from the newsboy. I remembered how I went down to the
garden gate as he came along, and how I had listened to his
odd story of "Men from Mars."

I came down and went into the dining room. There
were the mutton and the bread, both far gone now in decay,
and a beer bottle overturned, just as I and the artilleryman
had left them. My home was desolate. I perceived the folly
of the faint hope I had cherished so long. And then a strange
thing occurred. "It is no use," said a voice. "The house is
deserted. No one has been here these ten days. Do not stay
here to torment yourself. No one escaped but you."

I was startled. Had I spoken my thought aloud? I turned,
and the French window was open behind me. I made a
step to it, and stood looking out.

And there, amazed and afraid, even as I stood amazed
and afraid, were my cousin and my wife--my wife white
and tearless. She gave a faint cry.

"I came," she said. "I knew--knew----"

She put her hand to her throat--swayed. I made a step
forward, and caught her in my arms.





CHAPTER TEN


THE EPILOGUE



I cannot but regret, now that I am concluding my story,
how little I am able to contribute to the discussion of the
many debatable questions which are still unsettled. In one
respect I shall certainly provoke criticism. My particular
province is speculative philosophy. My knowledge of com-
parative physiology is confined to a book or two, but it
seems to me that Carver's suggestions as to the reason of
the rapid death of the Martians is so probable as to be
regarded almost as a proven conclusion. I have assumed
that in the body of my narrative.

At any rate, in all the bodies of the Martians that were
examined after the war, no bacteria except those already
known as terrestrial species were found. That they did not
bury any of their dead, and the reckless slaughter they per-
petrated, point also to an entire ignorance of the putrefactive
process. But probable as this seems, it is by no means a
proven conclusion.

Neither is the composition of the Black Smoke known,
which the Martians used with such deadly effect, and the
generator of the Heat-Rays remains a puzzle. The terrible
disasters at the Ealing and South Kensington laboratories
have disinclined analysts for further investigations upon
the latter. Spectrum analysis of the black powder points
unmistakably to the presence of an unknown element with
a brilliant group of three lines in the green, and it is pos-
sible that it combines with argon to form a compound
which acts at once with deadly effect upon some constituent
in the blood. But such unproven speculations will scarcely
be of interest to the general reader, to whom this story is
addressed. None of the brown scum that drifted down the
Thames after the destruction of Shepperton was examined
at the time, and now none is forthcoming.

The results of an anatomical examination of the Martians,
so far as the prowling dogs had left such an examination
possible, I have already given. But everyone is familiar with
the magnificent and almost complete specimen in spirits at
the Natural History Museum, and the countless drawings
that have been made from it; and beyond that the interest
of their physiology and structure is purely scientific.

A question of graver and universal interest is the possi-
bility of another attack from the Martians. I do not think
that nearly enough attention is being given to this aspect
of the matter. At present the planet Mars is in conjunction,
but with every return to opposition I, for one, anticipate
a renewal of their adventure. In any case, we should be
prepared. It seems to me that it should be possible to define
the position of the gun from which the shots are discharged,
to keep a sustained watch upon this part of the planet, and
to anticipate the arrival of the next attack.

In that case the cylinder might be destroyed with dyna-
mite or artillery before it was sufficiently cool for the Mar-
tians to emerge, or they might be butchered by means of
guns so soon as the screw opened. It seems to me that they
have lost a vast advantage in the failure of their first
surprise. Possibly they see it in the same light.

Lessing has advanced excellent reasons for supposing that
the Martians have actually succeeded in effecting a landing
on the planet Venus. Seven months ago now, Venus and
Mars were in alignment with the sun; that is to say, Mars
was in opposition from the point of view of an observer on
Venus. Subsequently a peculiar luminous and sinuous mark-
ing appeared on the unillumined half of the inner planet,
and almost simultaneously a faint dark mark of a similar
sinuous character was detected upon a photograph of the
Martian disk. One needs to see the drawings of these ap-
pearances in order to appreciate fully their remarkable
resemblance in character.

At any rate, whether we expect another invasion or not,
our views of the human future must be greatly modified
by these events. We have learned now that we cannot regard
this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding place for
Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that
may come upon us suddenly out of space. It may be that in
the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars
is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed
us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most
fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human science it
has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote
the conception of the commonweal of mankind. It may be
that across the immensity of space the Martians have watched
the fate of these pioneers of theirs and learned their lesson,
and that on the planet Venus they have found a securer
settlement. Be that as it may, for many years yet there will
certainly be no relaxation of the eager scrutiny of the Martian
disk, and those fiery darts of the sky, the shooting stars, will
bring with them as they fall an unavoidable apprehension to
all the sons of men.

The broadening of men's views that has resulted can
scarcely be exaggerated. Before the cylinder fell there was
a general persuasion that through all the deep of space no
life existed beyond the petty surface of our minute sphere.
Now we see further. If the Martians can reach Venus, there
is no reason to suppose that the thing is impossible for men,
and when the slow cooling of the sun makes this earth
uninhabitable, as at last it must do, it may be that the thread
of life that has begun here will have streamed out and caught
our sister planet within its toils.

Dim and wonderful is the vision I have conjured up in
my mind of life spreading slowly from this little seed bed
of the solar system throughout the inanimate vastness of
sidereal space. But that is a remote dream. It may be, on
the other hand, that the destruction of the Martians is only
a reprieve. To them, and not to us, perhaps, is the future
ordained.

I must confess the stress and danger of the time have left
an abiding sense of doubt and insecurity in my mind. I sit
in my study writing by lamplight, and suddenly I see again
the healing valley below set with writhing flames, and feel
the house behind and about me empty and desolate. I go
out into the Byfleet Road, and vehicles pass me, a butcher
boy in a cart, a cabful of visitors, a workman on a bicycle,
children going to school, and suddenly they become vague
and unreal, and I hurry again with the artilleryman through
the hot, brooding silence. Of a night I see the black powder
darkening the silent streets, and the contorted bodies
shrouded in that layer; they rise upon me tattered and
dog-bitten. They gibber and grow fiercer, paler, uglier, mad
distortions of humanity at last, and I wake, cold and wretched,
in the darkness of the night.

I go to London and see the busy multitudes in Fleet
Street and the Strand, and it comes across my mind that
they are but the ghosts of the past, haunting the streets that
I have seen silent and wretched, going to and fro, phan-
tasms in a dead city, the mockery of life in a galvanised
body. And strange, too, it is to stand on Primrose Hill, as
I did but a day before writing this last chapter, to see the
great province of houses, dim and blue through the haze
of the smoke and mist, vanishing at last into the vague
lower sky, to see the people walking to and fro among the
flower beds on the hill, to see the sight-seers about the Mar-
tian machine that stands there still, to hear the tumult of
playing children, and to recall the time when I saw it all
bright and clear-cut, hard and silent, under the dawn of
that last great day. . . .

And strangest of all is it to hold my wife's hand again,
and to think that I have counted her, and that she has
counted me, among the dead.



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