The War of the Worlds
H. G. Wells [Herbert George]
Part 1 out of 4
software or any other related product without express permission.]
The War of the Worlds
by H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells 
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)
THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
THE EVE OF THE WAR
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth
century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by
intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as
men busied themselves about their various concerns they were
scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a
microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and
multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to
and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their
assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the
infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to
the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of
them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or
improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of
those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be
other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to
welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds
that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish,
intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with
envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And
early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.
The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the
sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it
receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world.
It must be, if the nebular hypothesis has any truth, older than our
world; and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its
surface must have begun its course. The fact that it is scarcely one
seventh of the volume of the earth must have accelerated its cooling
to the temperature at which life could begin. It has air and water
and all that is necessary for the support of animated existence.
Yet so vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer,
up to the very end of the nineteenth century, expressed any idea that
intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all,
beyond its earthly level. Nor was it generally understood that since
Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the
superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily follows that
it is not only more distant from time's beginning but nearer its end.
The secular cooling that must someday overtake our planet has
already gone far indeed with our neighbour. Its physical condition is
still largely a mystery, but we know now that even in its equatorial
region the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest
winter. Its air is much more attenuated than ours, its oceans have
shrunk until they cover but a third of its surface, and as its slow
seasons change huge snowcaps gather and melt about either pole and
periodically inundate its temperate zones. That last stage of
exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a
present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate
pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their
powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with
instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of,
they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of
them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with
vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of
fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad
stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.
And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them
at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The
intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant
struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief
of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and
this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they
regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed,
their only escape from the destruction that, generation after
generation, creeps upon them.
And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what
ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only
upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its
inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness,
were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged
by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such
apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same
The Martians seem to have calculated their descent with amazing
subtlety--their mathematical learning is evidently far in excess of
ours--and to have carried out their preparations with a well-nigh
perfect unanimity. Had our instruments permitted it, we might have
seen the gathering trouble far back in the nineteenth century. Men
like Schiaparelli watched the red planet--it is odd, by-the-bye, that
for countless centuries Mars has been the star of war--but failed to
interpret the fluctuating appearances of the markings they mapped so
well. All that time the Martians must have been getting ready.
During the opposition of 1894 a great light was seen on the
illuminated part of the disk, first at the Lick Observatory, then by
Perrotin of Nice, and then by other observers. English readers heard
of it first in the issue of NATURE dated August 2. I am inclined to
think that this blaze may have been the casting of the huge gun, in
the vast pit sunk into their planet, from which their shots were fired
at us. Peculiar markings, as yet unexplained, were seen near the site
of that outbreak during the next two oppositions.
The storm burst upon us six years ago now. As Mars approached
opposition, Lavelle of Java set the wires of the astronomical exchange
palpitating with the amazing intelligence of a huge outbreak of
incandescent gas upon the planet. It had occurred towards midnight of
the twelfth; and the spectroscope, to which he had at once resorted,
indicated a mass of flaming gas, chiefly hydrogen, moving with an
enormous velocity towards this earth. This jet of fire had become
invisible about a quarter past twelve. He compared it to a colossal
puff of flame suddenly and violently squirted out of the planet, "as
flaming gases rushed out of a gun."
A singularly appropriate phrase it proved. Yet the next day there
was nothing of this in the papers except a little note in the DAILY
TELEGRAPH, and the world went in ignorance of one of the gravest
dangers that ever threatened the human race. I might not have heard of
the eruption at all had I not met Ogilvy, the well-known astronomer,
at Ottershaw. He was immensely excited at the news, and in the excess
of his feelings invited me up to take a turn with him that night in a
scrutiny of the red planet.
In spite of all that has happened since, I still remember that
vigil very distinctly: the black and silent observatory, the shadowed
lantern throwing a feeble glow upon the floor in the corner, the
steady ticking of the clockwork of the telescope, the little slit in
the roof--an oblong profundity with the stardust streaked across it.
Ogilvy moved about, invisible but audible. Looking through the
telescope, one saw a circle of deep blue and the little round planet
swimming in the field. It seemed such a little thing, so bright and
small and still, faintly marked with transverse stripes, and slightly
flattened from the perfect round. But so little it was, so silvery
warm--a pin's-head of light! It was as if it quivered, but really this
was the telescope vibrating with the activity of the clockwork that
kept the planet in view.
As I watched, the planet seemed to grow larger and smaller and to
advance and recede, but that was simply that my eye was tired. Forty
millions of miles it was from us--more than forty millions of miles of
void. Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust
of the material universe swims.
Near it in the field, I remember, were three faint points of light,
three telescopic stars infinitely remote, and all around it was the
unfathomable darkness of empty space. You know how that blackness
looks on a frosty starlight night. In a telescope it seems far
profounder. And invisible to me because it was so remote and small,
flying swiftly and steadily towards me across that incredible
distance, drawing nearer every minute by so many thousands of miles,
came the Thing they were sending us, the Thing that was to bring so
much struggle and calamity and death to the earth. I never dreamed of
it then as I watched; no one on earth dreamed of that unerring
That night, too, there was another jetting out of gas from the
distant planet. I saw it. A reddish flash at the edge, the slightest
projection of the outline just as the chronometer struck midnight; and
at that I told Ogilvy and he took my place. The night was warm and I
was thirsty, and I went stretching my legs clumsily and feeling my way
in the darkness, to the little table where the siphon stood, while
Ogilvy exclaimed at the streamer of gas that came out towards us.
That night another invisible missile started on its way to the
earth from Mars, just a second or so under twenty-four hours after the
first one. I remember how I sat on the table there in the blackness,
with patches of green and crimson swimming before my eyes. I wished I
had a light to smoke by, little suspecting the meaning of the minute
gleam I had seen and all that it would presently bring me. Ogilvy
watched till one, and then gave it up; and we lit the lantern and
walked over to his house. Down below in the darkness were Ottershaw
and Chertsey and all their hundreds of people, sleeping in peace.
He was full of speculation that night about the condition of Mars,
and scoffed at the vulgar idea of its having inhabitants who were
signalling us. His idea was that meteorites might be falling in a
heavy shower upon the planet, or that a huge volcanic explosion was in
progress. He pointed out to me how unlikely it was that organic
evolution had taken the same direction in the two adjacent planets.
"The chances against anything manlike on Mars are a million to
one," he said.
Hundreds of observers saw the flame that night and the night after
about midnight, and again the night after; and so for ten nights, a
flame each night. Why the shots ceased after the tenth no one on
earth has attempted to explain. It may be the gases of the firing
caused the Martians inconvenience. Dense clouds of smoke or dust,
visible through a powerful telescope on earth as little grey,
fluctuating patches, spread through the clearness of the planet's
atmosphere and obscured its more familiar features.
Even the daily papers woke up to the disturbances at last, and
popular notes appeared here, there, and everywhere concerning the
volcanoes upon Mars. The seriocomic periodical PUNCH, I remember,
made a happy use of it in the political cartoon. And, all
unsuspected, those missiles the Martians had fired at us drew
earthward, rushing now at a pace of many miles a second through the
empty gulf of space, hour by hour and day by day, nearer and nearer.
It seems to me now almost incredibly wonderful that, with that swift
fate hanging over us, men could go about their petty concerns as they
did. I remember how jubilant Markham was at securing a new photograph
of the planet for the illustrated paper he edited in those days.
People in these latter times scarcely realise the abundance and
enterprise of our nineteenth-century papers. For my own part, I was
much occupied in learning to ride the bicycle, and busy upon a series
of papers discussing the probable developments of moral ideas as
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.
THE FALLING STAR
Then came the night of the first falling star. It was seen early
in the morning, rushing over Winchester eastward, a line of flame high
in the atmosphere. Hundreds must have seen it, and taken it for an
ordinary falling star. Albin described it as leaving a greenish
streak behind it that glowed for some seconds. Denning, our greatest
authority on meteorites, stated that the height of its first
appearance was about ninety or one hundred miles. It seemed to him
that it fell to earth about one hundred miles east of him.
I was at home at that hour and writing in my study; and although my
French windows face towards Ottershaw and the blind was up (for I
loved in those days to look up at the night sky), I saw nothing of it.
Yet this strangest of all things that ever came to earth from outer
space must have fallen while I was sitting there, visible to me had I
only looked up as it passed. Some of those who saw its flight say it
travelled with a hissing sound. I myself heard nothing of that. Many
people in Berkshire, Surrey, and Middlesex must have seen the fall of
it, and, at most, have thought that another meteorite had descended.
No one seems to have troubled to look for the fallen mass that night.
But very early in the morning poor Ogilvy, who had seen the
shooting star and who was persuaded that a meteorite lay somewhere on
the common between Horsell, Ottershaw, and Woking, rose early with the
idea of finding it. Find it he did, soon after dawn, and not far from
the sand pits. An enormous hole had been made by the impact of the
projectile, and the sand and gravel had been flung violently in every
direction over the heath, forming heaps visible a mile and a half
away. The heather was on fire eastward, and a thin blue smoke rose
against the dawn.
The Thing itself lay almost entirely buried in sand, amidst the
scattered splinters of a fir tree it had shivered to fragments in its
descent. The uncovered part had the appearance of a huge cylinder,
caked over and its outline softened by a thick scaly dun-coloured
incrustation. It had a diameter of about thirty yards. He approached
the mass, surprised at the size and more so at the shape, since most
meteorites are rounded more or less completely. It was, however,
still so hot from its flight through the air as to forbid his near
approach. A stirring noise within its cylinder he ascribed to the
unequal cooling of its surface; for at that time it had not occurred
to him that it might be hollow.
He remained standing at the edge of the pit that the Thing had made
for itself, staring at its strange appearance, astonished chiefly at
its unusual shape and colour, and dimly perceiving even then some
evidence of design in its arrival. The early morning was wonderfully
still, and the sun, just clearing the pine trees towards Weybridge,
was already warm. He did not remember hearing any birds that morning,
there was certainly no breeze stirring, and the only sounds were the
faint movements from within the cindery cylinder. He was all alone on
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
And then he perceived that, very slowly, the circular top of the
cylinder was rotating on its body. It was such a gradual movement
that he discovered it only through noticing that a black mark that had
been near him five minutes ago was now at the other side of the
circumference. Even then he scarcely understood what this indicated,
until he heard a muffled grating sound and saw the black mark jerk
forward an inch or so. Then the thing came upon him in a flash. The
cylinder was artificial--hollow--with an end that screwed out!
Something within the cylinder was unscrewing the top!
"Good heavens!" said Ogilvy. "There's a man in it--men in it! Half
roasted to death! Trying to escape!"
At once, with a quick mental leap, he linked the Thing with the
flash upon Mars.
The thought of the confined creature was so dreadful to him that he
forgot the heat and went forward to the cylinder to help turn. But
luckily the dull radiation arrested him before he could burn his hands
on the still-glowing metal. At that he stood irresolute for a moment,
then turned, scrambled out of the pit, and set off running wildly into
Woking. The time then must have been somewhere about six o'clock. He
met a waggoner and tried to make him understand, but the tale he told
and his appearance were so wild--his hat had fallen off in the pit--
that the man simply drove on. He was equally unsuccessful with the
potman who was just unlocking the doors of the public-house by Horsell
Bridge. The fellow thought he was a lunatic at large and made an
unsuccessful attempt to shut him into the taproom. That sobered him a
little; and when he saw Henderson, the London journalist, in his
garden, he called over the palings and made himself understood.
"Henderson," he called, "you saw that shooting star last night?"
"Well?" said Henderson.
"It's out on Horsell Common now."
"Good Lord!" said Henderson. "Fallen meteorite! That's good."
"But it's something more than a meteorite. It's a cylinder--an
artificial cylinder, man! And there's something inside."
Henderson stood up with his spade in his hand.
"What's that?" he said. He was deaf in one ear.
Ogilvy told him all that he had seen. Henderson was a minute or so
taking it in. Then he dropped his spade, snatched up his jacket, and
came out into the road. The two men hurried back at once to the
common, and found the cylinder still lying in the same position. But
now the sounds inside had ceased, and a thin circle of bright metal
showed between the top and the body of the cylinder. Air was either
entering or escaping at the rim with a thin, sizzling sound.
They listened, rapped on the scaly burnt metal with a stick, and,
meeting with no response, they both concluded the man or men inside
must be insensible or dead.
Of course the two were quite unable to do anything. They shouted
consolation and promises, and went off back to the town again to get
help. One can imagine them, covered with sand, excited and
disordered, running up the little street in the bright sunlight just
as the shop folks were taking down their shutters and people were
opening their bedroom windows. Henderson went into the railway
station at once, in order to telegraph the news to London. The
newspaper articles had prepared men's minds for the reception of the
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.
ON HORSELL COMMON
I found a little crowd of perhaps twenty people surrounding the
huge hole in which the cylinder lay. I have already described the
appearance of that colossal bulk, embedded in the ground. The turf
and gravel about it seemed charred as if by a sudden explosion. No
doubt its impact had caused a flash of fire. Henderson and Ogilvy
were not there. I think they perceived that nothing was to be done
for the present, and had gone away to breakfast at Henderson's house.
There were four or five boys sitting on the edge of the Pit, with
their feet dangling, and amusing themselves--until I stopped them--by
throwing stones at the giant mass. After I had spoken to them about
it, they began playing at "touch" in and out of the group of
Among these were a couple of cyclists, a jobbing gardener I
employed sometimes, a girl carrying a baby, Gregg the butcher and his
little boy, and two or three loafers and golf caddies who were
accustomed to hang about the railway station. There was very little
talking. Few of the common people in England had anything but the
vaguest astronomical ideas in those days. Most of them were staring
quietly at the big table like end of the cylinder, which was still as
Ogilvy and Henderson had left it. I fancy the popular expectation of
a heap of charred corpses was disappointed at this inanimate bulk.
Some went away while I was there, and other people came. I clambered
into the pit and fancied I heard a faint movement under my feet. The
top had certainly ceased to rotate.
It was only when I got thus close to it that the strangeness of
this object was at all evident to me. At the first glance it was
really no more exciting than an overturned carriage or a tree blown
across the road. Not so much so, indeed. It looked like a rusty gas
float. It required a certain amount of scientific education to
perceive that the grey scale of the Thing was no common oxide, that
the yellowish-white metal that gleamed in the crack between the lid
and the cylinder had an unfamiliar hue. "Extra-terrestrial" had no
meaning for most of the onlookers.
At that time it was quite clear in my own mind that the Thing had
come from the planet Mars, but I judged it improbable that it
contained any living creature. I thought the unscrewing might be
automatic. In spite of Ogilvy, I still believed that there were men
in Mars. My mind ran fancifully on the possibilities of its
containing manuscript, on the difficulties in translation that might
arise, whether we should find coins and models in it, and so forth.
Yet it was a little too large for assurance on this idea. I felt an
impatience to see it opened. About eleven, as nothing seemed
happening, I walked back, full of such thought, to my home in Maybury.
But I found it difficult to get to work upon my abstract
In the afternoon the appearance of the common had altered very
much. The early editions of the evening papers had startled London
with enormous headlines:
"A MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM MARS."
"REMARKABLE STORY FROM WOKING,"
and so forth. In addition, Ogilvy's wire to the Astronomical Exchange
had roused every observatory in the three kingdoms.
There were half a dozen flies or more from the Woking station
standing in the road by the sand pits, a basket-chaise from Chobham,
and a rather lordly carriage. Besides that, there was quite a heap of
bicycles. In addition, a large number of people must have walked, in
spite of the heat of the day, from Woking and Chertsey, so that there
was altogether quite a considerable crowd--one or two gaily dressed
ladies among the others.
It was glaringly hot, not a cloud in the sky nor a breath of wind,
and the only shadow was that of the few scattered pine trees. The
burning heather had been extinguished, but the level ground towards
Ottershaw was blackened as far as one could see, and still giving off
vertical streamers of smoke. An enterprising sweet-stuff dealer in
the Chobham Road had sent up his son with a barrow-load of green
apples and ginger beer.
Going to the edge of the pit, I found it occupied by a group of
about half a dozen men--Henderson, Ogilvy, and a tall, fair-haired man
that I afterwards learned was Stent, the Astronomer Royal, with
several workmen wielding spades and pickaxes. Stent was giving
directions in a clear, high-pitched voice. He was standing on the
cylinder, which was now evidently much cooler; his face was crimson
and streaming with perspiration, and something seemed to have
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 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.
THE CYLINDER OPENS
When I returned to the common the sun was setting. Scattered groups
were hurrying from the direction of Woking, and one or two persons
were returning. The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out
black against the lemon yellow of the sky--a couple of hundred people,
perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared
to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed through my
mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent's voice:
"Keep back! Keep back!"
A boy came running towards me.
"It's a-movin'," he said to me as he passed; "a-screwin' and a-
screwin' out. I don't like it. I'm a-goin' 'ome, I am."
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think, two or
three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two
ladies there being by no means the least active.
"He's fallen in the pit!" cried some one.
"Keep back!" said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through. Every one
seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the
"I say!" said Ogilvy; "help keep these idiots back. We don't know
what's in the confounded thing, you know!"
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was,
standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again.
The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly
two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me,
and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top of the screw. I
turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of
the cylinder fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck
my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the
Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black.
I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge--possibly something a
little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know
I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the
shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two
luminous disks--like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey
snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the
writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me--and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman
behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still,
from which other tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my
way back from the edge of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to
horror on the faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate
exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement backwards. I
saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I found
myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running
off, Stent among them. I looked again at the cylinder, and
ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was
rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and
caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The
mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had,
one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless
brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole
creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular
appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the
strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with
its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a
chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this
mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the
lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness
of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth--
above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes--were at
once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was
something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy
deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this
first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and
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
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees,
perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for
I could not avert my face from these things.
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped,
panting, and waited further developments. The common round the sand
pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated
terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at
the edge of the pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed
horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of
the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but
showing as a little black object against the hot western sun. Now he
got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until
only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have
fancied a faint shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to
go back and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the
heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had made. Anyone coming
along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the
sight--a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more
standing in a great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes,
behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another and that in
short, excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of
sand. The barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black
against the burning sky, and in the sand pits was a row of deserted
vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags or pawing the
After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging from the
cylinder in which they had come to the earth from their planet, a kind
of fascination paralysed my actions. I remained standing knee-deep in
the heather, staring at the mound that hid them. I was a battleground
of fear and curiosity.
I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a passionate
longing to peer into it. I began walking, therefore, in a big curve,
seeking some point of vantage and continually looking at the sand
heaps that hid these new-comers to our earth. Once a leash of thin
black whips, like the arms of an octopus, flashed across the sunset
and was immediately withdrawn, and afterwards a thin rod rose up,
joint by joint, bearing at its apex a circular disk that spun with a
wobbling motion. What could be going on there?
Most of the spectators had gathered in one or two groups--one a
little crowd towards Woking, the other a knot of people in the
direction of Chobham. Evidently they shared my mental conflict. There
were few near me. One man I approached--he was, I perceived, a
neighbour of mine, though I did not know his name--and accosted. But
it was scarcely a time for articulate conversation.
"What ugly brutes!" he said. "Good God! What ugly brutes!" He
repeated this over and over again.
"Did you see a man in the pit?" I said; but he made no answer to
that. We became silent, and stood watching for a time side by side,
deriving, I fancy, a certain comfort in one another's company. Then I
shifted my position to a little knoll that gave me the advantage of a
yard or more of elevation and when I looked for him presently he was
walking towards Woking.
The sunset faded to twilight before anything further happened. The
crowd far away on the left, towards Woking, seemed to grow, and I
heard now a faint murmur from it. The little knot of people towards
Chobham dispersed. There was scarcely an intimation of movement from
It was this, as much as anything, that gave people courage, and I
suppose the new arrivals from Woking also helped to restore
confidence. At any rate, as the dusk came on a slow, intermittent
movement upon the sand pits began, a movement that seemed to gather
force as the stillness of the evening about the cylinder remained
unbroken. Vertical black figures in twos and threes would advance,
stop, watch, and advance again, spreading out as they did so in a thin
irregular crescent that promised to enclose the pit in its attenuated
horns. I, too, on my side began to move towards the pit.
Then I saw some cabmen and others had walked boldly into the sand
pits, and heard the clatter of hoofs and the gride of wheels. I saw a
lad trundling off the barrow of apples. And then, within thirty yards
of the pit, advancing from the direction of Horsell, I noted a little
black knot of men, the foremost of whom was waving a white flag.
This was the Deputation. There had been a hasty consultation, and
since the Martians were evidently, in spite of their repulsive forms,
intelligent creatures, it had been resolved to show them, by
approaching them with signals, that we too were intelligent.
Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then to the
left. It was too far for me to recognise anyone there, but afterwards
I learned that Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were with others in this
attempt at communication. This little group had in its advance
dragged inward, so to speak, the circumference of the now almost
complete circle of people, and a number of dim black figures followed
it at discreet distances.
Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of luminous
greenish smoke came out of the pit in three distinct puffs, which
drove up, one after the other, straight into the still air.
This smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be the better word for it) was
so bright that the deep blue sky overhead and the hazy stretches of
brown common towards Chertsey, set with black pine trees, seemed to
darken abruptly as these puffs arose, and to remain the darker after
their dispersal. At the same time a faint hissing sound became
Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the white flag
at its apex, arrested by these phenomena, a little knot of small
vertical black shapes upon the black ground. As the green smoke arose,
their faces flashed out pallid green, and faded again as it vanished.
Then slowly the hissing passed into a humming, into a long, loud,
droning noise. Slowly a humped shape rose out of the pit, and the
ghost of a beam of light seemed to flicker out from it.
Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one
to another, sprang from the scattered group of men. It was as if some
invisible jet impinged upon them and flashed into white flame. It was
as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire.
Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering
and falling, and their supporters turning to run.
I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death leaping
from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I felt was that it
was something very strange. An almost noiseless and blinding flash of
light, and a man fell headlong and lay still; and as the unseen shaft
of heat passed over them, pine trees burst into fire, and every dry
furze bush became with one dull thud a mass of flames. And far away
towards Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden
buildings suddenly set alight.
It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming death,
this invisible, inevitable sword of heat. I perceived it coming
towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and was too astounded
and stupefied to stir. I heard the crackle of fire in the sand pits
and the sudden squeal of a horse that was as suddenly stilled. Then
it was as if an invisible yet intensely heated finger were drawn
through the heather between me and the Martians, and all along a
curving line beyond the sand pits the dark ground smoked and crackled.
Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the road from
Woking station opens out on the common. Forth-with the hissing and
humming ceased, and the black, dome-like object sank slowly out of
sight into the pit.
All this had happened with such swiftness that I had stood
motionless, dumbfounded and dazzled by the flashes of light. Had that
death swept through a full circle, it must inevitably have slain me in
my surprise. But it passed and spared me, and left the night about me
suddenly dark and unfamiliar.
The undulating common seemed now dark almost to blackness, except
where its roadways lay grey and pale under the deep blue sky of the
early night. It was dark, and suddenly void of men. Overhead the
stars were mustering, and in the west the sky was still a pale,
bright, almost greenish blue. The tops of the pine trees and the
roofs of Horsell came out sharp and black against the western
afterglow. The Martians and their appliances were altogether
invisible, save for that thin mast upon which their restless mirror
wobbled. Patches of bush and isolated trees here and there smoked and
glowed still, and the houses towards Woking station were sending up
spires of flame into the stillness of the evening air.
Nothing was changed save for that and a terrible astonishment. The
little group of black specks with the flag of white had been swept out
of existence, and the stillness of the evening, so it seemed to me,
had scarcely been broken.
It came to me that I was upon this dark common, helpless,
unprotected, and alone. Suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from
With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through the
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
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.
THE HEAT-RAY IN THE CHOBHAM ROAD
It is still a matter of wonder how the Martians are able to slay
men so swiftly and so silently. Many think that in some way they are
able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute
non-conductivity. This intense heat they project in a parallel beam
against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic
mirror of unknown composition, much as the parabolic mirror of a
lighthouse projects a beam of light. But no one has absolutely proved
these details. However it is done, it is certain that a beam of heat
is the essence of the matter. Heat, and invisible, instead of
visible, light. Whatever is combustible flashes into flame at its
touch, lead runs like water, it softens iron, cracks and melts glass,
and when it falls upon water, incontinently that explodes into steam.
That night nearly forty people lay under the starlight about the
pit, charred and distorted beyond recognition, and all night long the
common from Horsell to Maybury was deserted and brightly ablaze.
The news of the massacre probably reached Chobham, Woking, and
Ottershaw about the same time. In Woking the shops had closed when
the tragedy happened, and a number of people, shop people and so
forth, attracted by the stories they had heard, were walking over the
Horsell Bridge and along the road between the hedges that runs out at
last upon the common. You may imagine the young people brushed up
after the labours of the day, and making this novelty, as they would
make any novelty, the excuse for walking together and enjoying a
trivial flirtation. You may figure to yourself the hum of voices
along the road in the gloaming. . . .
As yet, of course, few people in Woking even knew that the cylinder
had opened, though poor Henderson had sent a messenger on a bicycle to
the post office with a special wire to an evening paper.
As these folks came out by twos and threes upon the open, they
found little knots of people talking excitedly and peering at the
spinning mirror over the sand pits, and the newcomers were, no doubt,
soon infected by the excitement of the occasion.
By half past eight, when the Deputation was destroyed, there may
have been a crowd of three hundred people or more at this place,
besides those who had left the road to approach the Martians nearer.
There were three policemen too, one of whom was mounted, doing their
best, under instructions from Stent, to keep the people back and deter
them from approaching the cylinder. There was some booing from those
more thoughtless and excitable souls to whom a crowd is always an
occasion for noise and horse-play.
Stent and Ogilvy, anticipating some possibilities of a collision,
had telegraphed from Horsell to the barracks as soon as the Martians
emerged, for the help of a company of soldiers to protect these
strange creatures from violence. After that they returned to lead that
ill-fated advance. The description of their death, as it was seen by
the crowd, tallies very closely with my own impressions: the three
puffs of green smoke, the deep humming note, and the flashes of flame.
But that crowd of people had a far narrower escape than mine. Only
the fact that a hummock of heathery sand intercepted the lower part of
the Heat-Ray saved them. Had the elevation of the parabolic mirror
been a few yards higher, none could have lived to tell the tale. They
saw the flashes and the men falling and an invisible hand, as it were,
lit the bushes as it hurried towards them through the twilight. Then,
with a whistling note that rose above the droning of the pit, the beam
swung close over their heads, lighting the tops of the beech trees
that line the road, and splitting the bricks, smashing the windows,
firing the window frames, and bringing down in crumbling ruin a
portion of the gable of the house nearest the corner.
In the sudden thud, hiss, and glare of the igniting trees, the
panic-stricken crowd seems to have swayed hesitatingly for some
moments. Sparks and burning twigs began to fall into the road, and
single leaves like puffs of flame. Hats and dresses caught fire. Then
came a crying from the common. There were shrieks and shouts, and
suddenly a mounted policeman came galloping through the confusion with
his hands clasped over his head, screaming.
"They're coming!" a woman shrieked, and incontinently everyone was
turning and pushing at those behind, in order to clear their way to
Woking again. They must have bolted as blindly as a flock of sheep.
Where the road grows narrow and black between the high banks the crowd
jammed, and a desperate struggle occurred. All that crowd did not
escape; three persons at least, two women and a little boy, were
crushed and trampled there, and left to die amid the terror and the
HOW I REACHED HOME
For my own part, I remember nothing of my flight except the stress
of blundering against trees and stumbling through the heather. All
about me gathered the invisible terrors of the Martians; that pitiless
sword of heat seemed whirling to and fro, flourishing overhead before
it descended and smote me out of life. I came into the road between
the crossroads and Horsell, and ran along this to the crossroads.
At last I could go no further; I was exhausted with the violence of
my emotion and of my flight, and I staggered and fell by the wayside.
That was near the bridge that crosses the canal by the gasworks. I
fell and lay still.
I must have remained there some time.
I sat up, strangely perplexed. For a moment, perhaps, I could not
clearly understand how I came there. My terror had fallen from me
like a garment. My hat had gone, and my collar had burst away from
its fastener. A few minutes before, there had only been three real
things before me--the immensity of the night and space and nature, my
own feebleness and anguish, and the near approach of death. Now it
was as if something turned over, and the point of view altered
abruptly. There was no sensible transition from one state of mind to
the other. I was immediately the self of every day again--a decent,
ordinary citizen. The silent common, the impulse of my flight, the
starting flames, were as if they had been in a dream. I asked myself
had these latter things indeed happened? I could not credit it.
I rose and walked unsteadily up the steep incline of the bridge. My
mind was blank wonder. My muscles and nerves seemed drained of their
strength. I dare say I staggered drunkenly. A head rose over the
arch, and the figure of a workman carrying a basket appeared. Beside
him ran a little boy. He passed me, wishing me good night. I was
minded to speak to him, but did not. I answered his greeting with a
meaningless mumble and went on over the bridge.
Over the Maybury arch a train, a billowing tumult of white, firelit
smoke, and a long caterpillar of lighted windows, went flying south--
clatter, clatter, clap, rap, and it had gone. A dim group of people
talked in the gate of one of the houses in the pretty little row of
gables that was called Oriental Terrace. It was all so real and so
familiar. And that behind me! It was frantic, fantastic! Such
things, I told myself, could not be.
Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my
experience is common. At times I suffer from the strangest sense of
detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all
from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time,
out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all. This feeling
was very strong upon me that night. Here was another side to my
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
"Quite enough," said the woman over the gate. "Thenks"; and all
three of them laughed.
I felt foolish and angry. I tried and found I could not tell them
what I had seen. They laughed again at my broken sentences.
"You'll hear more yet," I said, and went on to my home.
I startled my wife at the doorway, so haggard was I. I went into
the dining room, sat down, drank some wine, and so soon as I could
collect myself sufficiently I told her the things I had seen. The
dinner, which was a cold one, had already been served, and remained
neglected on the table while I told my story.
"There is one thing," I said, to allay the fears I had aroused;
"they are the most sluggish things I ever saw crawl. They may keep the
pit and kill people who come near them, but they cannot get out of it.
. . . But the horror of them!"
"Don't, dear!" said my wife, knitting her brows and putting her
hand on mine.
"Poor Ogilvy!" I said. "To think he may be lying dead there!"
My wife at least did not find my experience incredible. When I saw
how deadly white her face was, I ceased abruptly.
"They may come here," she said again and again.
I pressed her to take wine, and tried to reassure her.
"They can scarcely move," I said.
I began to comfort her and myself by repeating all that Ogilvy had
told me of the impossibility of the Martians establishing themselves
on the earth. In particular I laid stress on the gravitational
difficulty. On the surface of the earth the force of gravity is three
times what it is on the surface of Mars. A Martian, therefore, would
weigh three times more than on Mars, albeit his muscular strength
would be the same. His own body would be a cope of lead to him. That,
indeed, was the general opinion. Both THE TIMES and the DAILY
TELEGRAPH, for instance, insisted on it the next morning, and both
overlooked, just as I did, two obvious modifying influences.
The atmosphere of the earth, we now know, contains far more oxygen
or far less argon (whichever way one likes to put it) than does Mars.
The invigorating influences of this excess of oxygen upon the Martians
indisputably did much to counterbalance the increased weight of their
bodies. And, in the second place, we all overlooked the fact that
such mechanical intelligence as the Martian possessed was quite able
to dispense with muscular exertion at a pinch.
But I did not consider these points at the time, and so my
reasoning was dead against the chances of the invaders. With wine and
food, the confidence of my own table, and the necessity of reassuring
my wife, I grew by insensible degrees courageous and secure.
"They have done a foolish thing," said I, fingering my wineglass.
"They are dangerous because, no doubt, they are mad with terror.
Perhaps they expected to find no living things--certainly no
intelligent living things."
"A shell in the pit" said I, "if the worst comes to the worst will
kill them all."
The intense excitement of the events had no doubt left my
perceptive powers in a state of erethism. I remember that dinner
table with extraordinary vividness even now. My dear wife's sweet
anxious face peering at me from under the pink lamp shade, the white
cloth with its silver and glass table furniture--for in those days
even philosophical writers had many little luxuries--the crimson-
purple wine in my glass, are photographically distinct. At the end of
it I sat, tempering nuts with a cigarette, regretting Ogilvy's
rashness, and denouncing the shortsighted timidity of the Martians.
So some respectable dodo in the Mauritius might have lorded it in
his nest, and discussed the arrival of that shipful of pitiless
sailors in want of animal food. "We will peck them to death tomorrow,
I did not know it, but that was the last civilised dinner I was to
eat for very many strange and terrible days.
The most extraordinary thing to my mind, of all the strange and
wonderful things that happened upon that Friday, was the dovetailing
of the commonplace habits of our social order with the first
beginnings of the series of events that was to topple that social
order headlong. If on Friday night you had taken a pair of compasses
and drawn a circle with a radius of five miles round the Woking sand
pits, I doubt if you would have had one human being outside it, unless
it were some relation of Stent or of the three or four cyclists or
London people lying dead on the common, whose emotions or habits were
at all affected by the new-comers. Many people had heard of the
cylinder, of course, and talked about it in their leisure, but it
certainly did not make the sensation that an ultimatum to Germany
would have done.
In London that night poor Henderson's telegram describing the
gradual unscrewing of the shot was judged to be a canard, and his
evening paper, after wiring for authentication from him and receiving
no reply--the man was killed--decided not to print a special edition.
Even within the five-mile circle the great majority of people were
inert. I have already described the behaviour of the men and women to
whom I spoke. All over the district people were dining and supping;
working men were gardening after the labours of the day, children were
being put to bed, young people were wandering through the lanes love-
making, students sat over their books.
Maybe there was a murmur in the village streets, a novel and
dominant topic in the public-houses, and here and there a messenger,
or even an eye-witness of the later occurrences, caused a whirl of
excitement, a shouting, and a running to and fro; but for the most
part the daily routine of working, eating, drinking, sleeping, went on
as it had done for countless years--as though no planet Mars existed
in the sky. Even at Woking station and Horsell and Chobham that was
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
A curious crowd lingered restlessly, people coming and going but
the crowd remaining, both on the Chobham and Horsell bridges. One or
two adventurous souls, it was afterwards found, went into the darkness
and crawled quite near the Martians; but they never returned, for now
and again a light-ray, like the beam of a warship's searchlight swept
the common, and the Heat-Ray was ready to follow. Save for such, that
big area of common was silent and desolate, and the charred bodies lay
about on it all night under the stars, and all the next day. A noise
of hammering from the pit was heard by many people.
So you have the state of things on Friday night. In the centre,
sticking into the skin of our old planet Earth like a poisoned dart,
was this cylinder. But the poison was scarcely working yet. Around
it was a patch of silent common, smouldering in places, and with a few
dark, dimly seen objects lying in contorted attitudes here and there.
Here and there was a burning bush or tree. Beyond was a fringe of
excitement, and farther than that fringe the inflammation had not
crept as yet. In the rest of the world the stream of life still
flowed as it had flowed for immemorial years. The fever of war that
would presently clog vein and artery, deaden nerve and destroy brain,
had still to develop.
All night long the Martians were hammering and stirring, sleepless,
indefatigable, at work upon the machines they were making ready, and
ever and again a puff of greenish-white smoke whirled up to the
About eleven a company of soldiers came through Horsell, and
deployed along the edge of the common to form a cordon. Later a
second company marched through Chobham to deploy on the north side of
the common. Several officers from the Inkerman barracks had been on
the common earlier in the day, and one, Major Eden, was reported to be
missing. The colonel of the regiment came to the Chobham bridge and
was busy questioning the crowd at midnight. The military authorities
were certainly alive to the seriousness of the business. About
eleven, the next morning's papers were able to say, a squadron of
hussars, two Maxims, and about four hundred men of the Cardigan
regiment started from Aldershot.
A few seconds after midnight the crowd in the Chertsey road,
Woking, saw a star fall from heaven into the pine woods to the
northwest. It had a greenish colour, and caused a silent brightness
like summer lightning. This was the second cylinder.
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
I saw my neighbour gardening, chatted with him for a time, and then
strolled in to breakfast. It was a most unexceptional morning. My
neighbour was of opinion that the troops would be able to capture or
to destroy the Martians during the day.
"It's a pity they make themselves so unapproachable," he said. "It
would be curious to know how they live on another planet; we might
learn a thing or two."
He came up to the fence and extended a handful of strawberries, for
his gardening was as generous as it was enthusiastic. At the same
time he told me of the burning of the pine woods about the Byfleet
"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
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
"Why not shell the darned things strite off and finish 'em?" said
the little dark man. "You carn tell what they might do."
"Where's your shells?" said the first speaker. "There ain't no
time. Do it in a rush, that's my tip, and do it at once."
So they discussed it. After a while I left them, and went on to
the railway station to get as many morning papers as I could.
But I will not weary the reader with a description of that long
morning and of the longer afternoon. I did not succeed in getting a
glimpse of the common, for even Horsell and Chobham church towers were
in the hands of the military authorities. The soldiers I addressed
didn't know anything; the officers were mysterious as well as busy. I
found people in the town quite secure again in the presence of the
military, and I heard for the first time from Marshall, the
tobacconist, that his son was among the dead on the common. The
soldiers had made the people on the outskirts of Horsell lock up and
leave their houses.
I got back to lunch about two, very tired for, as I have said, the
day was extremely hot and dull; and in order to refresh myself I took
a cold bath in the afternoon. About half past four I went up to the
railway station to get an evening paper, for the morning papers had
contained only a very inaccurate description of the killing of Stent,
Henderson, Ogilvy, and the others. But there was little I didn't
know. The Martians did not show an inch of themselves. They seemed
busy in their pit, and there was a sound of hammering and an almost
continuous streamer of smoke. Apparently they were busy getting ready
for a struggle. "Fresh attempts have been made to signal, but without
success," was the stereotyped formula of the papers. A sapper told me
it was done by a man in a ditch with a flag on a long pole. The
Martians took as much notice of such advances as we should of the
lowing of a cow.
I must confess the sight of all this armament, all this
preparation, greatly excited me. My imagination became belligerent,
and defeated the invaders in a dozen striking ways; something of my
schoolboy dreams of battle and heroism came back. It hardly seemed a
fair fight to me at that time. They seemed very helpless in that pit
About three o'clock there began the thud of a gun at measured
intervals from Chertsey or Addlestone. I learned that the smouldering
pine wood into which the second cylinder had fallen was being shelled,
in the hope of destroying that object before it opened. It was only
about five, however, that a field gun reached Chobham for use against
the first body of Martians.
About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in the
summerhouse talking vigorously about the battle that was lowering upon
us, I heard a muffled detonation from the common, and immediately
after a gust of firing. Close on the heels of that came a violent
rattling crash, quite close to us, that shook the ground; and,
starting out upon the lawn, I saw the tops of the trees about the
Oriental College burst into smoky red flame, and the tower of the
little church beside it slide down into ruin. The pinnacle of the
mosque had vanished, and the roof line of the college itself looked as
if a hundred-ton gun had been at work upon it. One of our chimneys
cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece of it came
clattering down the tiles and made a heap of broken red fragments upon
the flower bed by my study window.
I and my wife stood amazed. Then I realised that the crest of
Maybury Hill must be within range of the Martians' Heat-Ray now that
the college was cleared out of the way.
At that I gripped my wife's arm, and without ceremony ran her out
into the road. Then I fetched out the servant, telling her I would go
upstairs myself for the box she was clamouring for.
"We can't possibly stay here," I said; and as I spoke the firing
reopened for a moment upon the common.
"But where are we to go?" said my wife in terror.
I thought perplexed. Then I remembered her cousins at Leatherhead.
"Leatherhead!" I shouted above the sudden noise.
She looked away from me downhill. The people were coming out of
their houses, astonished.
"How are we to get to Leatherhead?" she said.
Down the hill I saw a bevy of hussars ride under the railway
bridge; three galloped through the open gates of the Oriental College;
two others dismounted, and began running from house to house. The
sun, shining through the smoke that drove up from the tops of the
trees, seemed blood red, and threw an unfamiliar lurid light upon
"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
"I'll give you two," said I, over the stranger's shoulder.
"And I'll bring it back by midnight," I said.
"Lord!" said the landlord; "what's the hurry? I'm selling my bit
of a pig. Two pounds, and you bring it back? What's going on now?"
I explained hastily that I had to leave my home, and so secured the
dog cart. At the time it did not seem to me nearly so urgent that the
landlord should leave his. I took care to have the cart there and
then, drove it off down the road, and, leaving it in charge of my wife
and servant, rushed into my house and packed a few valuables, such
plate as we had, and so forth. The beech trees below the house were
burning while I did this, and the palings up the road glowed red.
While I was occupied in this way, one of the dismounted hussars came
running up. He was going from house to house, warning people to
leave. He was going on as I came out of my front door, lugging my
treasures, done up in a tablecloth. I shouted after him:
He turned, stared, bawled something about "crawling out in a thing
like a dish cover," and ran on to the gate of the house at the crest.
A sudden whirl of black smoke driving across the road hid him for a
moment. I ran to my neighbour's door and rapped to satisfy myself of
what I already knew, that his wife had gone to London with him and had
locked up their house. I went in again, according to my promise, to
get my servant's box, lugged it out, clapped it beside her on the tail
of the dog cart, and then caught the reins and jumped up into the
driver's seat beside my wife. In another moment we were clear of the
smoke and noise, and spanking down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill
towards Old Woking.
In front was a quiet sunny landscape, a wheat field ahead on either
side of the road, and the Maybury Inn with its swinging sign. I saw
the doctor's cart ahead of me. At the bottom of the hill I turned my
head to look at the hillside I was leaving. Thick streamers of black
smoke shot with threads of red fire were driving up into the still
air, and throwing dark shadows upon the green treetops eastward. The
smoke already extended far away to the east and west--to the Byfleet
pine woods eastward, and to Woking on the west. The road was dotted
with people running towards us. And very faint now, but very distinct
through the hot, quiet air, one heard the whirr of a machine-gun that
was presently stilled, and an intermittent cracking of rifles.
Apparently the Martians were setting fire to everything within range
of their Heat-Ray.
I am not an expert driver, and I had immediately to turn my
attention to the horse. When I looked back again the second hill had
hidden the black smoke. I slashed the horse with the whip, and gave
him a loose rein until Woking and Send lay between us and that
quivering tumult. I overtook and passed the doctor between Woking and
IN THE STORM
Leatherhead is about twelve miles from Maybury Hill. The scent of
hay was in the air through the lush meadows beyond Pyrford, and the
hedges on either side were sweet and gay with multitudes of dog-roses.
The heavy firing that had broken out while we were driving down
Maybury Hill ceased as abruptly as it began, leaving the evening very
peaceful and still. We got to Leatherhead without misadventure about
nine o'clock, and the horse had an hour's rest while I took supper
with my cousins and commended my wife to their care.
My wife was curiously silent throughout the drive, and seemed
oppressed with forebodings of evil. I talked to her reassuringly,
pointing out that the Martians were tied to the Pit by sheer
heaviness, and at the utmost could but crawl a little out of it; but
she answered only in monosyllables. Had it not been for my promise to
the innkeeper, she would, I think, have urged me to stay in
Leatherhead that night. Would that I had! Her face, I remember, was
very white as we parted.
For my own part, I had been feverishly excited all day. Something
very like the war fever that occasionally runs through a civilised
community had got into my blood, and in my heart I was not so very
sorry that I had to return to Maybury that night. I was even afraid
that that last fusillade I had heard might mean the extermination of
our invaders from Mars. I can best express my state of mind by saying
that I wanted to be in at the death.
It was nearly eleven when I started to return. The night was
unexpectedly dark; to me, walking out of the lighted passage of my
cousins' house, it seemed indeed black, and it was as hot and close as
the day. Overhead the clouds were driving fast, albeit not a breath
stirred the shrubs about us. My cousins' man lit both lamps. Happily,
I knew the road intimately. My wife stood in the light of the
doorway, and watched me until I jumped up into the dog cart. Then
abruptly she turned and went in, leaving my cousins side by side
wishing me good hap.
I was a little depressed at first with the contagion of my wife's
fears, but very soon my thoughts reverted to the Martians. At that
time I was absolutely in the dark as to the course of the evening's
fighting. I did not know even the circumstances that had precipitated
the conflict. As I came through Ockham (for that was the way I
returned, and not through Send and Old Woking) I saw along the western
horizon a blood-red glow, which as I drew nearer, crept slowly up the
sky. The driving clouds of the gathering thunderstorm mingled there
with masses of black and red smoke.
Ripley Street was deserted, and except for a lighted window or so
the village showed not a sign of life; but I narrowly escaped an
accident at the corner of the road to Pyrford, where a knot of people
stood with their backs to me. They said nothing to me as I passed. I
do not know what they knew of the things happening beyond the hill,
nor do I know if the silent houses I passed on my way were sleeping
securely, or deserted and empty, or harassed and watching against the
terror of the night.
From Ripley until I came through Pyrford I was in the valley of the
Wey, and the red glare was hidden from me. As I ascended the little
hill beyond Pyrford Church the glare came into view again, and the
trees about me shivered with the first intimation of the storm that
was upon me. Then I heard midnight pealing out from Pyrford Church
behind me, and then came the silhouette of Maybury Hill, with its
tree-tops and roofs black and sharp against the red.
Even as I beheld this a lurid green glare lit the road about me and
showed the distant woods towards Addlestone. I felt a tug at the
reins. I saw that the driving clouds had been pierced as it were by a
thread of green fire, suddenly lighting their confusion and falling
into the field to my left. It was the third falling star!
Close on its apparition, and blindingly violet by contrast, danced
out the first lightning of the gathering storm, and the thunder burst
like a rocket overhead. The horse took the bit between his teeth and
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 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
He gave a cry of terror, sprang sideways, and rushed on before I
could gather my wits sufficiently to speak to him. So heavy was the
stress of the storm just at this place that I had the hardest task to
win my way up the hill. I went close up to the fence on the left and
worked my way along its palings.
Near the top I stumbled upon something soft, and, by a flash of
lightning, saw between my feet a heap of black broadcloth and a pair
of boots. Before I could distinguish clearly how the man lay, the
flicker of light had passed. I stood over him waiting for the next
flash. When it came, I saw that he was a sturdy man, cheaply but not
shabbily dressed; his head was bent under his body, and he lay
crumpled up close to the fence, as though he had been flung violently
Overcoming the repugnance natural to one who had never before
touched a dead body, I stooped and turned him over to feel for his
heart. He was quite dead. Apparently his neck had been broken. The
lightning flashed for a third time, and his face leaped upon me. I
sprang to my feet. It was the landlord of the Spotted Dog, whose
conveyance I had taken.
I stepped over him gingerly and pushed on up the hill. I made my
way by the police station and the College Arms towards my own house.
Nothing was burning on the hillside, though from the common there
still came a red glare and a rolling tumult of ruddy smoke beating up
against the drenching hail. So far as I could see by the flashes, the
houses about me were mostly uninjured. By the College Arms a dark
heap lay in the road.
Down the road towards Maybury Bridge there were voices and the
sound of feet, but I had not the courage to shout or to go to them. I
let myself in with my latchkey, closed, locked and bolted the door,
staggered to the foot of the staircase, and sat down. My imagination
was full of those striding metallic monsters, and of the dead body
smashed against the fence.
I crouched at the foot of the staircase with my back to the wall,
AT THE WINDOW
I have already said that my storms of emotion have a trick of
exhausting themselves. After a time I discovered that I was cold and
wet, and with little pools of water about me on the stair carpet. I
got up almost mechanically, went into the dining room and drank some
whiskey, and then I was moved to change my clothes.
After I had done that I went upstairs to my study, but why I did so
I do not know. The window of my study looks over the trees and the
railway towards Horsell Common. In the hurry of our departure this
window had been left open. The passage was dark, and, by contrast with
the picture the window frame enclosed, the side of the room seemed
impenetrably dark. I stopped short in the doorway.
The thunderstorm had passed. The towers of the Oriental College
and the pine trees about it had gone, and very far away, lit by a
vivid red glare, the common about the sand pits was visible. Across
the light huge black shapes, grotesque and strange, moved busily to
It seemed indeed as if the whole country in that direction was on
fire--a broad hillside set with minute tongues of flame, swaying and
writhing with the gusts of the dying storm, and throwing a red
reflection upon the cloud scud above. Every now and then a haze of
smoke from some nearer conflagration drove across the window and hid
the Martian shapes. I could not see what they were doing, nor the
clear form of them, nor recognise the black objects they were busied
upon. Neither could I see the nearer fire, though the reflections of
it danced on the wall and ceiling of the study. A sharp, resinous
tang of burning was in the air.
I closed the door noiselessly and crept towards the window. As I
did so, the view opened out until, on the one hand, it reached to the
houses about Woking station, and on the other to the charred and
blackened pine woods of Byfleet. There was a light down below the
hill, on the railway, near the arch, and several of the houses along
the Maybury road and the streets near the station were glowing ruins.
The light upon the railway puzzled me at first; there were a black
heap and a vivid glare, and to the right of that a row of yellow
oblongs. Then I perceived this was a wrecked train, the fore part
smashed and on fire, the hinder carriages still upon the rails.
Between these three main centres of light--the houses, the train,
and the burning county towards Chobham--stretched irregular patches of
dark country, broken here and there by intervals of dimly glowing and
smoking ground. It was the strangest spectacle, that black expanse set
with fire. It reminded me, more than anything else, of the Potteries
at night. At first I could distinguish no people at all, though I
peered intently for them. Later I saw against the light of Woking
station a number of black figures hurrying one after the other across
And this was the little world in which I had been living securely
for years, this fiery chaos! What had happened in the last seven
hours I still did not know; nor did I know, though I was beginning to
guess, the relation between these mechanical colossi and the sluggish
lumps I had seen disgorged from the cylinder. With a queer feeling of
impersonal interest I turned my desk chair to the window, sat down,
and stared at the blackened country, and particularly at the three
gigantic black things that were going to and fro in the glare about
the sand pits.
They seemed amazingly busy. I began to ask myself what they could
be. Were they intelligent mechanisms? Such a thing I felt was
impossible. Or did a Martian sit within each, ruling, directing,
using, much as a man's brain sits and rules in his body? I began to
compare the things to human machines, to ask myself for the first time
in my life how an ironclad or a steam engine would seem to an
intelligent lower animal.
The storm had left the sky clear, and over the smoke of the burning
land the little fading pinpoint of Mars was dropping into the west,
when a soldier came into my garden. I heard a slight scraping at the
fence, and rousing myself from the lethargy that had fallen upon me, I
looked down and saw him dimly, clambering over the palings. At the
sight of another human being my torpor passed, and I leaned out of the
"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
"Who's there?" he said, also whispering, standing under the window
and peering up.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Are you trying to hide?"
"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
"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
He followed me, almost mechanically, into the dining room.
"Take some whiskey," I said, pouring out a stiff dose.
He drank it. Then abruptly he sat down before the table, put his
head on his arms, and began to sob and weep like a little boy, in a
perfect passion of emotion, while I, with a curious forgetfulness of
my own recent despair, stood beside him, wondering.
It was a long time before he could steady his nerves to answer my
questions, and then he answered perplexingly and brokenly. He was a
driver in the artillery, and had only come into action about seven. At
that time firing was going on across the common, and it was said the
first party of Martians were crawling slowly towards their second
cylinder under cover of a metal shield.
Later this shield staggered up on tripod legs and became the first
of the fighting-machines I had seen. The gun he drove had been
unlimbered near Horsell, in order to command the sand pits, and its
arrival it was that had precipitated the action. As the limber
gunners went to the rear, his horse trod in a rabbit hole and came
down, throwing him into a depression of the ground. At the same
moment the gun exploded behind him, the ammunition blew up, there was
fire all about him, and he found himself lying under a heap of charred
dead men and dead horses.
"I lay still," he said, "scared out of my wits, with the fore
quarter of a horse atop of me. We'd been wiped out. And the smell--
good God! Like burnt meat! I was hurt across the back by the fall of
the horse, and there I had to lie until I felt better. Just like
parade it had been a minute before--then stumble, bang, swish!"
"Wiped out!" he said.
He had hid under the dead horse for a long time, peeping out
furtively across the common. The Cardigan men had tried a rush, in
skirmishing order, at the pit, simply to be swept out of existence.
Then the monster had risen to its feet and had begun to walk leisurely
to and fro across the common among the few fugitives, with its
headlike hood turning about exactly like the head of a cowled human
being. A kind of arm carried a complicated metallic case, about which
green flashes scintillated, and out of the funnel of this there smoked
In a few minutes there was, so far as the soldier could see, not a
living thing left upon the common, and every bush and tree upon it
that was not already a blackened skeleton was burning. The hussars
had been on the road beyond the curvature of the ground, and he saw
nothing of them. He heard the Martians rattle for a time and then
become still. The giant saved Woking station and its cluster of houses
until the last; then in a moment the Heat-Ray was brought to bear, and
the town became a heap of fiery ruins. Then the Thing shut off the
Heat-Ray, and turning its back upon the artilleryman, began to waddle
away towards the smouldering pine woods that sheltered the second
cylinder. As it did so a second glittering Titan built itself up out
of the pit.
The second monster followed the first, and at that the artilleryman
began to crawl very cautiously across the hot heather ash towards
Horsell. He managed to get alive into the ditch by the side of the
road, and so escaped to Woking. There his story became ejaculatory.
The place was impassable. It seems there were a few people alive
there, frantic for the most part and many burned and scalded. He was
turned aside by the fire, and hid among some almost scorching heaps of
broken wall as one of the Martian giants returned. He saw this one
pursue a man, catch him up in one of its steely tentacles, and knock
his head against the trunk of a pine tree. At last, after nightfall,
the artilleryman made a rush for it and got over the railway
Since then he had been skulking along towards Maybury, in the hope
of getting out of danger Londonward. People were hiding in trenches
and cellars, and many of the survivors had made off towards Woking
village and Send. He had been consumed with thirst until he found one
of the water mains near the railway arch smashed, and the water
bubbling out like a spring upon the road.
That was the story I got from him, bit by bit. He grew calmer
telling me and trying to make me see the things he had seen. He had
eaten no food since midday, he told me early in his narrative, and I
found some mutton and bread in the pantry and brought it into the
room. We lit no lamp for fear of attracting the Martians, and ever
and again our hands would touch upon bread or meat. As he talked,
things about us came darkly out of the darkness, and the trampled
bushes and broken rose trees outside the window grew distinct. It
would seem that a number of men or animals had rushed across the lawn.
I began to see his face, blackened and haggard, as no doubt mine was
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.
WHAT I SAW OF THE DESTRUCTION
OF WEYBRIDGE AND SHEPPERTON
As the dawn grew brighter we withdrew from the window from which we
had watched the Martians, and went very quietly downstairs.
The artilleryman agreed with me that the house was no place to stay
in. He proposed, he said, to make his way Londonward, and thence
rejoin his battery--No. 12, of the Horse Artillery. My plan was to
return at once to Leatherhead; and so greatly had the strength of the
Martians impressed me that I had determined to take my wife to
Newhaven, and go with her out of the country forthwith. For I already
perceived clearly that the country about London must inevitably be the
scene of a disastrous struggle before such creatures as these could be
Between us and Leatherhead, however, lay the third cylinder, with
its guarding giants. Had I been alone, I think I should have taken my
chance and struck across country. But the artilleryman dissuaded me:
"It's no kindness to the right sort of wife," he said, "to make her a
widow"; and in the end I agreed to go with him, under cover of the
woods, northward as far as Street Cobham before I parted with him.
Thence I would make a big detour by Epsom to reach Leatherhead.
I should have started at once, but my companion had been in active
service and he knew better than that. He made me ransack the house
for a flask, which he filled with whiskey; and we lined every
available pocket with packets of biscuits and slices of meat. Then we
crept out of the house, and ran as quickly as we could down the ill-
made road by which I had come overnight. The houses seemed deserted.
In the road lay a group of three charred bodies close together, struck
dead by the Heat-Ray; and here and there were things that people had
dropped--a clock, a slipper, a silver spoon, and the like poor
valuables. At the corner turning up towards the post office a little
cart, filled with boxes and furniture, and horseless, heeled over on a
broken wheel. A cash box had been hastily smashed open and thrown
under the debris.
Except the lodge at the Orphanage, which was still on fire, none of
the houses had suffered very greatly here. The Heat-Ray had shaved
the chimney tops and passed. Yet, save ourselves, there did not seem
to be a living soul on Maybury Hill. The majority of the inhabitants
had escaped, I suppose, by way of the Old Woking road--the road I had
taken when I drove to Leatherhead--or they had hidden.
We went down the lane, by the body of the man in black, sodden now
from the overnight hail, and broke into the woods at the foot of the
hill. We pushed through these towards the railway without meeting a
soul. The woods across the line were but the scarred and blackened
ruins of woods; for the most part the trees had fallen, but a certain
proportion still stood, dismal grey stems, with dark brown foliage
instead of green.
On our side the fire had done no more than scorch the nearer trees;
it had failed to secure its footing. In one place the woodmen had
been at work on Saturday; trees, felled and freshly trimmed, lay in a
clearing, with heaps of sawdust by the sawing-machine and its engine.
Hard by was a temporary hut, deserted. There was not a breath of wind
this morning, and everything was strangely still. Even the birds were
hushed, and as we hurried along I and the artilleryman talked in
whispers and looked now and again over our shoulders. Once or twice
we stopped to listen.
After a time we drew near the road, and as we did so we heard the
clatter of hoofs and saw through the tree stems three cavalry soldiers
riding slowly towards Woking. We hailed them, and they halted while
we hurried towards them. It was a lieutenant and a couple of privates
of the 8th Hussars, with a stand like a theodolite, which the
artilleryman told me was a heliograph.
"You are the first men I've seen coming this way this morning,"
said the lieutenant. "What's brewing?"
His voice and face were eager. The men behind him stared
curiously. The artilleryman jumped down the bank into the road and
"Gun destroyed last night, sir. Have been hiding. Trying to
rejoin battery, sir. You'll come in sight of the Martians, I expect,
about half a mile along this road."
"What the dickens are they like?" asked the lieutenant.
"Giants in armour, sir. Hundred feet high. Three legs and a body
like 'luminium, with a mighty great head in a hood, sir."
"Get out!" said the lieutenant. "What confounded nonsense!"
"You'll see, sir. They carry a kind of box, sir, that shoots fire
and strikes you dead."
"What d'ye mean--a gun?"
"No, sir," and the artilleryman began a vivid account of the Heat-
Ray. Halfway through, the lieutenant interrupted him and looked up at
me. I was still standing on the bank by the side of the road.
"It's perfectly true," I said.
"Well," said the lieutenant, "I suppose it's my business to see it
too. Look here"--to the artilleryman--"we're detailed here clearing
people out of their houses. You'd better go along and report yourself
to Brigadier-General Marvin, and tell him all you know. He's at
Weybridge. Know the way?"
"I do," I said; and he turned his horse southward again.
"Half a mile, you say?" said he.
"At most," I answered, and pointed over the treetops southward. He
thanked me and rode on, and we saw them no more.
Farther along we came upon a group of three women and two children
in the road, busy clearing out a labourer's cottage. They had got
hold of a little hand truck, and were piling it up with unclean-
looking bundles and shabby furniture. They were all too assiduously
engaged to talk to us as we passed.
By Byfleet station we emerged from the pine trees, and found the
country calm and peaceful under the morning sunlight. We were far
beyond the range of the Heat-Ray there, and had it not been for the
silent desertion of some of the houses, the stirring movement of
packing in others, and the knot of soldiers standing on the bridge
over the railway and staring down the line towards Woking, the day
would have seemed very like any other Sunday.
Several farm waggons and carts were moving creakily along the road
to Addlestone, and suddenly through the gate of a field we saw, across
a stretch of flat meadow, six twelve-pounders standing neatly at equal
distances pointing towards Woking. The gunners stood by the guns
waiting, and the ammunition waggons were at a business-like distance.
The men stood almost as if under inspection.
"That's good!" said I. "They will get one fair shot, at any rate."
The artilleryman hesitated at the gate.
"I shall go on," he said.
Farther on towards Weybridge, just over the bridge, there were a
number of men in white fatigue jackets throwing up a long rampart, and
more guns behind.
"It's bows and arrows against the lightning, anyhow," said the
artilleryman. "They 'aven't seen that fire-beam yet."
The officers who were not actively engaged stood and stared over
the treetops southwestward, and the men digging would stop every now
and again to stare in the same direction.
Byfleet was in a tumult; people packing, and a score of hussars,
some of them dismounted, some on horseback, were hunting them about.
Three or four black government waggons, with crosses in white circles,
Back to Full Books