The War of the Worlds
by H. G. 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,
and an old omnibus, among other vehicles, were being loaded in the
village street. There were scores of people, most of them
sufficiently sabbatical to have assumed their best clothes. The
soldiers were having the greatest difficulty in making them realise
the gravity of their position. We saw one shrivelled old fellow with
a huge box and a score or more of flower pots containing orchids,
angrily expostulating with the corporal who would leave them behind.
I stopped and gripped his arm.
"Do you know what's over there?" I said, pointing at the pine tops
that hid the Martians.
"Eh?" said he, turning. "I was explainin' these is vallyble."
"Death!" I shouted. "Death is coming! Death!" and leaving him to
digest that if he could, I hurried on after the artillery-man. At the
corner I looked back. The soldier had left him, and he was still
standing by his box, with the pots of orchids on the lid of it, and
staring vaguely over the trees.
No one in Weybridge could tell us where the headquarters were
established; the whole place was in such confusion as I had never seen
in any town before. Carts, carriages everywhere, the most astonishing
miscellany of conveyances and horseflesh. The respectable inhabitants
of the place, men in golf and boating costumes, wives prettily
dressed, were packing, river-side loafers energetically helping,
children excited, and, for the most part, highly delighted at this
astonishing variation of their Sunday experiences. In the midst of it
all the worthy vicar was very pluckily holding an early celebration,
and his bell was jangling out above the excitement.
I and the artilleryman, seated on the step of the drinking
fountain, made a very passable meal upon what we had brought with
us. Patrols of soldiers--here no longer hussars, but grenadiers in
white--were warning people to move now or to take refuge in their
cellars as soon as the firing began. We saw as we crossed the
railway bridge that a growing crowd of people had assembled in and
about the railway station, and the swarming platform was piled with
boxes and packages. The ordinary traffic had been stopped, I believe,
in order to allow of the passage of troops and guns to Chertsey, and
I have heard since that a savage struggle occurred for places in the
special trains that were put on at a later hour.
We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found
ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames
join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a
little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are
to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the
Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of
Shepperton Church--it has been replaced by a spire--rose above the
Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the
flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more
people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross.
People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife
were even carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of
their household goods piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try
to get away from Shepperton station.
There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting. The idea
people seemed to have here was that the Martians were simply
formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be
certainly destroyed in the end. Every now and then people would
glance nervously across the Wey, at the meadows towards Chertsey, but
everything over there was still.
Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed, everything
was quiet, in vivid contrast with the Surrey side. The people who
landed there from the boats went tramping off down the lane. The big
ferryboat had just made a journey. Three or four soldiers stood on
the lawn of the inn, staring and jesting at the fugitives, without
offering to help. The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited
"What's that?" cried a boatman, and "Shut up, you fool!" said a man
near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came again, this time from
the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud--the sound of a gun.
The fighting was beginning. Almost immediately unseen batteries
across the river to our right, unseen because of the trees, took up
the chorus, firing heavily one after the other. A woman screamed.
Everyone stood arrested by the sudden stir of battle, near us and yet
invisible to us. Nothing was to be seen save flat meadows, cows
feeding unconcernedly for the most part, and silvery pollard willows
motionless in the warm sunlight.
"The sojers'll stop 'em," said a woman beside me, doubtfully. A
haziness rose over the treetops.
Then suddenly we saw a rush of smoke far away up the river, a puff
of smoke that jerked up into the air and hung; and forthwith the
ground heaved under foot and a heavy explosion shook the air, smashing
two or three windows in the houses near, and leaving us astonished.
"Here they are!" shouted a man in a blue jersey. "Yonder! D'yer
see them? Yonder!"
Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured
Martians appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat
meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly
towards the river. Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going
with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds.
Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their armoured
bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the
guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer. One on the extreme
left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air,
and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night
smote towards Chertsey, and struck the town.
At sight of these strange, swift, and terrible creatures the crowd
near the water's edge seemed to me to be for a moment horror-struck.
There was no screaming or shouting, but a silence. Then a hoarse
murmur and a movement of feet--a splashing from the water. A man, too
frightened to drop the portmanteau he carried on his shoulder, swung
round and sent me staggering with a blow from the corner of his
burden. A woman thrust at me with her hand and rushed past me. I
turned with the rush of the people, but I was not too terrified for
thought. The terrible Heat-Ray was in my mind. To get under water!
That was it!
"Get under water!" I shouted, unheeded.
I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching Martian,
rushed right down the gravelly beach and headlong into the water.
Others did the same. A boatload of people putting back came leaping
out as I rushed past. The stones under my feet were muddy and
slippery, and the river was so low that I ran perhaps twenty feet
scarcely waist-deep. Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely
a couple of hundred yards away, I flung myself forward under the
surface. The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the
river sounded like thunderclaps in my ears. People were landing
hastily on both sides of the river. But the Martian machine took no
more notice for the moment of the people running this way and that
than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his
foot has kicked. When, half suffocated, I raised my head above water,
the Martian's hood pointed at the batteries that were still firing
across the river, and as it advanced it swung loose what must have
been the generator of the Heat-Ray.
In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wading
halfway across. The knees of its foremost legs bent at the farther
bank, and in another moment it had raised itself to its full height
again, close to the village of Shepperton. Forthwith the six guns
which, unknown to anyone on the right bank, had been hidden behind the
outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near
concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The
monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray as the
first shell burst six yards above the hood.
I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of the
other four Martian monsters; my attention was riveted upon the nearer
incident. Simultaneously two other shells burst in the air near the
body as the hood twisted round in time to receive, but not in time to
dodge, the fourth shell.
The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood bulged,
flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh
and glittering metal.
"Hit!" shouted I, with something between a scream and a cheer.
I heard answering shouts from the people in the water about me. I
could have leaped out of the water with that momentary exultation.
The decapitated colossus reeled like a drunken giant; but it did
not fall over. It recovered its balance by a miracle, and, no longer
heeding its steps and with the camera that fired the Heat-Ray now
rigidly upheld, it reeled swiftly upon Shepperton. The living
intelligence, the Martian within the hood, was slain and splashed to
the four winds of heaven, and the Thing was now but a mere intricate
device of metal whirling to destruction. It drove along in a straight
line, incapable of guidance. It struck the tower of Shepperton
Church, smashing it down as the impact of a battering ram might have
done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with tremendous force
into the river out of my sight.
A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water, steam,
mud, and shattered metal shot far up into the sky. As the camera of
the Heat-Ray hit the water, the latter had immediately flashed into
steam. In another moment a huge wave, like a muddy tidal bore but
almost scaldingly hot, came sweeping round the bend upstream. I saw
people struggling shorewards, and heard their screaming and shouting
faintly above the seething and roar of the Martian's collapse.
For a moment I heeded nothing of the heat, forgot the patent need
of self-preservation. I splashed through the tumultuous water,
pushing aside a man in black to do so, until I could see round the
bend. Half a dozen deserted boats pitched aimlessly upon the
confusion of the waves. The fallen Martian came into sight
downstream, lying across the river, and for the most part submerged.
Thick clouds of steam were pouring off the wreckage, and through
the tumultuously whirling wisps I could see, intermittently and
vaguely, the gigantic limbs churning the water and flinging a splash
and spray of mud and froth into the air. The tentacles swayed and
struck like living arms, and, save for the helpless purposelessness of
these movements, it was as if some wounded thing were struggling for
its life amid the waves. Enormous quantities of a ruddy-brown fluid
were spurting up in noisy jets out of the machine.
My attention was diverted from this death flurry by a furious
yelling, like that of the thing called a siren in our manufacturing
towns. A man, knee-deep near the towing path, shouted inaudibly to me
and pointed. Looking back, I saw the other Martians advancing with
gigantic strides down the riverbank from the direction of Chertsey.
The Shepperton guns spoke this time unavailingly.
At that I ducked at once under water, and, holding my breath until
movement was an agony, blundered painfully ahead under the surface as
long as I could. The water was in a tumult about me, and rapidly
When for a moment I raised my head to take breath and throw the
hair and water from my eyes, the steam was rising in a whirling white
fog that at first hid the Martians altogether. The noise was
deafening. Then I saw them dimly, colossal figures of grey, magnified
by the mist. They had passed by me, and two were stooping over the
frothing, tumultuous ruins of their comrade.
The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one perhaps two
hundred yards from me, the other towards Laleham. The generators of
the Heat-Rays waved high, and the hissing beams smote down this way
The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of
noises--the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling
houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the
crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to
mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and
fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent
white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The
nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint
and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.
For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast-high in the almost
boiling water, dumbfounded at my position, hopeless of escape. Through
the reek I could see the people who had been with me in the river
scrambling out of the water through the reeds, like little frogs
hurrying through grass from the advance of a man, or running to and
fro in utter dismay on the towing path.
Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came leaping
towards me. The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and
darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar. The Ray
flickered up and down the towing path, licking off the people who ran
this way and that, and came down to the water's edge not fifty yards
from where I stood. It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the
water in its track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam. I
In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-point had
rushed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded,
agonised, I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the
shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end. I fell
helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare
gravelly spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames.
I expected nothing but death.
I have a dim memory of the foot of a Martian coming down within a
score of yards of my head, driving straight into the loose gravel,
whirling it this way and that and lifting again; of a long suspense,
and then of the four carrying the debris of their comrade between
them, now clear and then presently faint through a veil of smoke,
receding interminably, as it seemed to me, across a vast space of
river and meadow. And then, very slowly, I realised that by a miracle
I had escaped.
HOW I FELL IN WITH THE CURATE
After getting this sudden lesson in the power of terrestrial
weapons, the Martians retreated to their original position upon
Horsell Common; and in their haste, and encumbered with the debris of
their smashed companion, they no doubt overlooked many such a stray
and negligible victim as myself. Had they left their comrade and
pushed on forthwith, there was nothing at that time between them and
London but batteries of twelve-pounder guns, and they would certainly
have reached the capital in advance of the tidings of their approach;
as sudden, dreadful, and destructive their advent would have been as
the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon a century ago.
But they were in no hurry. Cylinder followed cylinder on its
interplanetary flight; every twenty-four hours brought them
reinforcement. And meanwhile the military and naval authorities, now
fully alive to the tremendous power of their antagonists, worked with
furious energy. Every minute a fresh gun came into position until,
before twilight, every copse, every row of suburban villas on the
hilly slopes about Kingston and Richmond, masked an expectant black
muzzle. And through the charred and desolated area--perhaps twenty
square miles altogether--that encircled the Martian encampment on
Horsell Common, through charred and ruined villages among the green
trees, through the blackened and smoking arcades that had been but a
day ago pine spinneys, crawled the devoted scouts with the heliographs
that were presently to warn the gunners of the Martian approach. But
the Martians now understood our command of artillery and the danger of
human proximity, and not a man ventured within a mile of either
cylinder, save at the price of his life.
It would seem that these giants spent the earlier part of the
afternoon in going to and fro, transferring everything from the second
and third cylinders--the second in Addlestone Golf Links and the third
at Pyrford--to their original pit on Horsell Common. Over that, above
the blackened heather and ruined buildings that stretched far and
wide, stood one as sentinel, while the rest abandoned their vast
fighting-machines and descended into the pit. They were hard at work
there far into the night, and the towering pillar of dense green smoke
that rose therefrom could be seen from the hills about Merrow, and
even, it is said, from Banstead and Epsom Downs.
And while the Martians behind me were thus preparing for their next
sally, and in front of me Humanity gathered for the battle, I made my
way with infinite pains and labour from the fire and smoke of burning
Weybridge towards London.
I saw an abandoned boat, very small and remote, drifting down-stream;
and throwing off the most of my sodden clothes, I went after it,
gained it, and so escaped out of that destruction. There were no
oars in the boat, but I contrived to paddle, as well as my parboiled
hands would allow, down the river towards Halliford and Walton, going
very tediously and continually looking behind me, as you may well
understand. I followed the river, because I considered that the water
gave me my best chance of escape should these giants return.
The hot water from the Martian's overthrow drifted downstream with
me, so that for the best part of a mile I could see little of either
bank. Once, however, I made out a string of black figures hurrying
across the meadows from the direction of Weybridge. Halliford, it
seemed, was deserted, and several of the houses facing the river were
on fire. It was strange to see the place quite tranquil, quite
desolate under the hot blue sky, with the smoke and little threads of
flame going straight up into the heat of the afternoon. Never before
had I seen houses burning without the accompaniment of an obstructive
crowd. A little farther on the dry reeds up the bank were smoking and
glowing, and a line of fire inland was marching steadily across a late
field of hay.
For a long time I drifted, so painful and weary was I after the
violence I had been through, and so intense the heat upon the water.
Then my fears got the better of me again, and I resumed my paddling.
The sun scorched my bare back. At last, as the bridge at Walton was
coming into sight round the bend, my fever and faintness overcame my
fears, and I landed on the Middlesex bank and lay down, deadly sick,
amid the long grass. I suppose the time was then about four or five
o'clock. I got up presently, walked perhaps half a mile without
meeting a soul, and then lay down again in the shadow of a hedge. I
seem to remember talking, wanderingly, to myself during that last
spurt. I was also very thirsty, and bitterly regretful I had drunk no
more water. It is a curious thing that I felt angry with my wife; I
cannot account for it, but my impotent desire to reach Leatherhead
worried me excessively.
I do not clearly remember the arrival of the curate, so that probably
I dozed. I became aware of him as a seated figure in soot-smudged
shirt sleeves, and with his upturned, clean-shaven face staring at
a faint flickering that danced over the sky. The sky was what is
called a mackerel sky--rows and rows of faint down-plumes of
cloud, just tinted with the midsummer sunset.
I sat up, and at the rustle of my motion he looked at me quickly.
"Have you any water?" I asked abruptly.
He shook his head.
"You have been asking for water for the last hour," he said.
For a moment we were silent, taking stock of each other. I
dare say he found me a strange enough figure, naked, save for my
water-soaked trousers and socks, scalded, and my face and shoulders
blackened by the smoke. His face was a fair weakness, his chin
retreated, and his hair lay in crisp, almost flaxen curls on his low
forehead; his eyes were rather large, pale blue, and blankly staring.
He spoke abruptly, looking vacantly away from me.
"What does it mean?" he said. "What do these things mean?"
I stared at him and made no answer.
He extended a thin white hand and spoke in almost a complaining
"Why are these things permitted? What sins have we done? The
morning service was over, I was walking through the roads to clear my
brain for the afternoon, and then--fire, earthquake, death! As if it
were Sodom and Gomorrah! All our work undone, all the work---- What
are these Martians?"
"What are we?" I answered, clearing my throat.
He gripped his knees and turned to look at me again. For half a
minute, perhaps, he stared silently.
"I was walking through the roads to clear my brain," he said. "And
suddenly--fire, earthquake, death!"
He relapsed into silence, with his chin now sunken almost to his
Presently he began waving his hand.
"All the work--all the Sunday schools--What have we done--what has
Weybridge done? Everything gone--everything destroyed. The church!
We rebuilt it only three years ago. Gone! Swept out of existence!
Another pause, and he broke out again like one demented.
"The smoke of her burning goeth up for ever and ever!" he shouted.
His eyes flamed, and he pointed a lean finger in the direction of
By this time I was beginning to take his measure. The tremendous
tragedy in which he had been involved--it was evident he was a
fugitive from Weybridge--had driven him to the very verge of his
"Are we far from Sunbury?" I said, in a matter-of-fact tone.
"What are we to do?" he asked. "Are these creatures everywhere?
Has the earth been given over to them?"
"Are we far from Sunbury?"
"Only this morning I officiated at early celebration----"
"Things have changed," I said, quietly. "You must keep your head.
There is still hope."
"Yes. Plentiful hope--for all this destruction!"
I began to explain my view of our position. He listened at first,
but as I went on the interest dawning in his eyes gave place to their
former stare, and his regard wandered from me.
"This must be the beginning of the end," he said, interrupting me.
"The end! The great and terrible day of the Lord! When men shall
call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall upon them and hide
them--hide them from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne!"
I began to understand the position. I ceased my laboured
reasoning, struggled to my feet, and, standing over him, laid my hand
on his shoulder.
"Be a man!" said I. "You are scared out of your wits! What good
is religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what earthquakes
and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before to men! Did you
think God had exempted Weybridge? He is not an insurance agent."
For a time he sat in blank silence.
"But how can we escape?" he asked, suddenly. "They are
invulnerable, they are pitiless."
"Neither the one nor, perhaps, the other," I answered. "And the
mightier they are the more sane and wary should we be. One of them
was killed yonder not three hours ago."
"Killed!" he said, staring about him. "How can God's ministers be
"I saw it happen." I proceeded to tell him. "We have chanced to
come in for the thick of it," said I, "and that is all."
"What is that flicker in the sky?" he asked abruptly.
I told him it was the heliograph signalling--that it was the sign
of human help and effort in the sky.
"We are in the midst of it," I said, "quiet as it is. That flicker
in the sky tells of the gathering storm. Yonder, I take it are the
Martians, and Londonward, where those hills rise about Richmond and
Kingston and the trees give cover, earthworks are being thrown up and
guns are being placed. Presently the Martians will be coming this way
And even as I spoke he sprang to his feet and stopped me by a
"Listen!" he said.
From beyond the low hills across the water came the dull resonance
of distant guns and a remote weird crying. Then everything was still.
A cockchafer came droning over the hedge and past us. High in the
west the crescent moon hung faint and pale above the smoke of
Weybridge and Shepperton and the hot, still splendour of the sunset.
"We had better follow this path," I said, "northward."
My younger brother was in London when the Martians fell at Woking.
He was a medical student working for an imminent examination, and he
heard nothing of the arrival until Saturday morning. The morning
papers on Saturday contained, in addition to lengthy special articles
on the planet Mars, on life in the planets, and so forth, a brief and
vaguely worded telegram, all the more striking for its brevity.
The Martians, alarmed by the approach of a crowd, had killed a
number of people with a quick-firing gun, so the story ran. The
telegram concluded with the words: "Formidable as they seem to be, the
Martians have not moved from the pit into which they have fallen, and,
indeed, seem incapable of doing so. Probably this is due to the
relative strength of the earth's gravitational energy." On that last
text their leader-writer expanded very comfortingly.
Of course all the students in the crammer's biology class, to which
my brother went that day, were intensely interested, but there were no
signs of any unusual excitement in the streets. The afternoon papers
puffed scraps of news under big headlines. They had nothing to tell
beyond the movements of troops about the common, and the burning of
the pine woods between Woking and Weybridge, until eight. Then the
St. James's Gazette, in an extra-special edition, announced the bare
fact of the interruption of telegraphic communication. This was
thought to be due to the falling of burning pine trees across the
line. Nothing more of the fighting was known that night, the night of
my drive to Leatherhead and back.
My brother felt no anxiety about us, as he knew from the
description in the papers that the cylinder was a good two miles from
my house. He made up his mind to run down that night to me, in order,
as he says, to see the Things before they were killed. He dispatched
a telegram, which never reached me, about four o'clock, and spent the
evening at a music hall.
In London, also, on Saturday night there was a thunderstorm, and my
brother reached Waterloo in a cab. On the platform from which the
midnight train usually starts he learned, after some waiting, that an
accident prevented trains from reaching Woking that night. The nature
of the accident he could not ascertain; indeed, the railway
authorities did not clearly know at that time. There was very little
excitement in the station, as the officials, failing to realise that
anything further than a breakdown between Byfleet and Woking junction
had occurred, were running the theatre trains which usually passed
through Woking round by Virginia Water or Guildford. They were busy
making the necessary arrangements to alter the route of the
Southampton and Portsmouth Sunday League excursions. A nocturnal
newspaper reporter, mistaking my brother for the traffic manager, to
whom he bears a slight resemblance, waylaid and tried to interview
him. Few people, excepting the railway officials, connected the
breakdown with the Martians.
I have read, in another account of these events, that on Sunday
morning "all London was electrified by the news from Woking." As a
matter of fact, there was nothing to justify that very extravagant
phrase. Plenty of Londoners did not hear of the Martians until the
panic of Monday morning. Those who did took some time to realise all
that the hastily worded telegrams in the Sunday papers conveyed. The
majority of people in London do not read Sunday papers.
The habit of personal security, moreover, is so deeply fixed in the
Londoner's mind, and startling intelligence so much a matter of course
in the papers, that they could read without any personal tremors:
"About seven o'clock last night the Martians came out of the cylinder,
and, moving about under an armour of metallic shields, have completely
wrecked Woking station with the adjacent houses, and massacred an
entire battalion of the Cardigan Regiment. No details are known.
Maxims have been absolutely useless against their armour; the field
guns have been disabled by them. Flying hussars have been galloping
into Chertsey. The Martians appear to be moving slowly towards
Chertsey or Windsor. Great anxiety prevails in West Surrey, and
earthworks are being thrown up to check the advance Londonward." That
was how the Sunday Sun put it, and a clever and remarkably prompt
"handbook" article in the Referee compared the affair to a menagerie
suddenly let loose in a village.
No one in London knew positively of the nature of the armoured
Martians, and there was still a fixed idea that these monsters must be
sluggish: "crawling," "creeping painfully"--such expressions occurred
in almost all the earlier reports. None of the telegrams could have
been written by an eyewitness of their advance. The Sunday papers
printed separate editions as further news came to hand, some even in
default of it. But there was practically nothing more to tell people
until late in the afternoon, when the authorities gave the press
agencies the news in their possession. It was stated that the people
of Walton and Weybridge, and all the district were pouring along the
roads Londonward, and that was all.
My brother went to church at the Foundling Hospital in the morning,
still in ignorance of what had happened on the previous night. There
he heard allusions made to the invasion, and a special prayer for
peace. Coming out, he bought a Referee. He became alarmed at the
news in this, and went again to Waterloo station to find out if
communication were restored. The omnibuses, carriages, cyclists, and
innumerable people walking in their best clothes seemed scarcely
affected by the strange intelligence that the news venders were
disseminating. People were interested, or, if alarmed, alarmed only
on account of the local residents. At the station he heard for the
first time that the Windsor and Chertsey lines were now interrupted.
The porters told him that several remarkable telegrams had been
received in the morning from Byfleet and Chertsey stations, but that
these had abruptly ceased. My brother could get very little precise
detail out of them.
"There's fighting going on about Weybridge" was the extent of their
The train service was now very much disorganised. Quite a number
of people who had been expecting friends from places on the
South-Western network were standing about the station. One
grey-headed old gentleman came and abused the South-Western Company
bitterly to my brother. "It wants showing up," he said.
One or two trains came in from Richmond, Putney, and Kingston,
containing people who had gone out for a day's boating and found the
locks closed and a feeling of panic in the air. A man in a blue and
white blazer addressed my brother, full of strange tidings.
"There's hosts of people driving into Kingston in traps and carts
and things, with boxes of valuables and all that," he said. "They
come from Molesey and Weybridge and Walton, and they say there's been
guns heard at Chertsey, heavy firing, and that mounted soldiers have
told them to get off at once because the Martians are coming. We
heard guns firing at Hampton Court station, but we thought it was
thunder. What the dickens does it all mean? The Martians can't get
out of their pit, can they?"
My brother could not tell him.
Afterwards he found that the vague feeling of alarm had spread to
the clients of the underground railway, and that the Sunday
excursionists began to return from all over the South-Western
"lung"--Barnes, Wimbledon, Richmond Park, Kew, and so forth--at
unnaturally early hours; but not a soul had anything more than vague
hearsay to tell of. Everyone connected with the terminus seemed
About five o'clock the gathering crowd in the station was immensely
excited by the opening of the line of communication, which is almost
invariably closed, between the South-Eastern and the South-Western
stations, and the passage of carriage trucks bearing huge guns and
carriages crammed with soldiers. These were the guns that were
brought up from Woolwich and Chatham to cover Kingston. There was
an exchange of pleasantries: "You'll get eaten!" "We're the
beast-tamers!" and so forth. A little while after that a squad of
police came into the station and began to clear the public off the
platforms, and my brother went out into the street again.
The church bells were ringing for evensong, and a squad of
Salvation Army lassies came singing down Waterloo Road. On the bridge
a number of loafers were watching a curious brown scum that came
drifting down the stream in patches. The sun was just setting, and the
Clock Tower and the Houses of Parliament rose against one of the most
peaceful skies it is possible to imagine, a sky of gold, barred with
long transverse stripes of reddish-purple cloud. There was talk of a
floating body. One of the men there, a reservist he said he was, told
my brother he had seen the heliograph flickering in the west.
In Wellington Street my brother met a couple of sturdy roughs who
had just been rushed out of Fleet Street with still-wet newspapers and
staring placards. "Dreadful catastrophe!" they bawled one to the
other down Wellington Street. "Fighting at Weybridge! Full
description! Repulse of the Martians! London in Danger!" He had to
give threepence for a copy of that paper.
Then it was, and then only, that he realised something of the full
power and terror of these monsters. He learned that they were not
merely a handful of small sluggish creatures, but that they were minds
swaying vast mechanical bodies; and that they could move swiftly and
smite with such power that even the mightiest guns could not stand
They were described as "vast spiderlike machines, nearly a hundred
feet high, capable of the speed of an express train, and able to shoot
out a beam of intense heat." Masked batteries, chiefly of field guns,
had been planted in the country about Horsell Common, and especially
between the Woking district and London. Five of the machines had been
seen moving towards the Thames, and one, by a happy chance, had been
destroyed. In the other cases the shells had missed, and the
batteries had been at once annihilated by the Heat-Rays. Heavy
losses of soldiers were mentioned, but the tone of the dispatch was
The Martians had been repulsed; they were not invulnerable. They
had retreated to their triangle of cylinders again, in the circle
about Woking. Signallers with heliographs were pushing forward upon
them from all sides. Guns were in rapid transit from Windsor,
Portsmouth, Aldershot, Woolwich--even from the north; among others,
long wire-guns of ninety-five tons from Woolwich. Altogether one
hundred and sixteen were in position or being hastily placed, chiefly
covering London. Never before in England had there been such a vast
or rapid concentration of military material.
Any further cylinders that fell, it was hoped, could be destroyed
at once by high explosives, which were being rapidly manufactured and
distributed. No doubt, ran the report, the situation was of the
strangest and gravest description, but the public was exhorted to
avoid and discourage panic. No doubt the Martians were strange and
terrible in the extreme, but at the outside there could not be more
than twenty of them against our millions.
The authorities had reason to suppose, from the size of the
cylinders, that at the outside there could not be more than five in
each cylinder--fifteen altogether. And one at least was disposed
of--perhaps more. The public would be fairly warned of the approach
of danger, and elaborate measures were being taken for the protection
of the people in the threatened southwestern suburbs. And so, with
reiterated assurances of the safety of London and the ability of the
authorities to cope with the difficulty, this quasi-proclamation
This was printed in enormous type on paper so fresh that it was
still wet, and there had been no time to add a word of comment. It
was curious, my brother said, to see how ruthlessly the usual contents
of the paper had been hacked and taken out to give this place.
All down Wellington Street people could be seen fluttering out the
pink sheets and reading, and the Strand was suddenly noisy with the
voices of an army of hawkers following these pioneers. Men came
scrambling off buses to secure copies. Certainly this news excited
people intensely, whatever their previous apathy. The shutters of a
map shop in the Strand were being taken down, my brother said, and a
man in his Sunday raiment, lemon-yellow gloves even, was visible
inside the window hastily fastening maps of Surrey to the glass.
Going on along the Strand to Trafalgar Square, the paper in his
hand, my brother saw some of the fugitives from West Surrey. There
was a man with his wife and two boys and some articles of furniture in
a cart such as greengrocers use. He was driving from the direction of
Westminster Bridge; and close behind him came a hay waggon with five
or six respectable-looking people in it, and some boxes and bundles.
The faces of these people were haggard, and their entire appearance
contrasted conspicuously with the Sabbath-best appearance of the
people on the omnibuses. People in fashionable clothing peeped at
them out of cabs. They stopped at the Square as if undecided which
way to take, and finally turned eastward along the Strand. Some way
behind these came a man in workday clothes, riding one of those
old-fashioned tricycles with a small front wheel. He was dirty and
white in the face.
My brother turned down towards Victoria, and met a number of such
people. He had a vague idea that he might see something of me. He
noticed an unusual number of police regulating the traffic. Some of
the refugees were exchanging news with the people on the omnibuses.
One was professing to have seen the Martians. "Boilers on stilts, I
tell you, striding along like men." Most of them were excited and
animated by their strange experience.
Beyond Victoria the public-houses were doing a lively trade with
these arrivals. At all the street corners groups of people were
reading papers, talking excitedly, or staring at these unusual Sunday
visitors. They seemed to increase as night drew on, until at last the
roads, my brother said, were like Epsom High Street on a Derby Day. My
brother addressed several of these fugitives and got unsatisfactory
answers from most.
None of them could tell him any news of Woking except one man, who
assured him that Woking had been entirely destroyed on the previous
"I come from Byfleet," he said; "man on a bicycle came through the
place in the early morning, and ran from door to door warning us to
come away. Then came soldiers. We went out to look, and there were
clouds of smoke to the south--nothing but smoke, and not a soul coming
that way. Then we heard the guns at Chertsey, and folks coming from
Weybridge. So I've locked up my house and come on."
At the time there was a strong feeling in the streets that the
authorities were to blame for their incapacity to dispose of the
invaders without all this inconvenience.
About eight o'clock a noise of heavy firing was distinctly audible
all over the south of London. My brother could not hear it for the
traffic in the main thoroughfares, but by striking through the quiet
back streets to the river he was able to distinguish it quite plainly.
He walked from Westminster to his apartments near Regent's Park,
about two. He was now very anxious on my account, and disturbed at
the evident magnitude of the trouble. His mind was inclined to run,
even as mine had run on Saturday, on military details. He thought of
all those silent, expectant guns, of the suddenly nomadic countryside;
he tried to imagine "boilers on stilts" a hundred feet high.
There were one or two cartloads of refugees passing along Oxford
Street, and several in the Marylebone Road, but so slowly was the news
spreading that Regent Street and Portland Place were full of their
usual Sunday-night promenaders, albeit they talked in groups, and
along the edge of Regent's Park there were as many silent couples
"walking out" together under the scattered gas lamps as ever there had
been. The night was warm and still, and a little oppressive; the
sound of guns continued intermittently, and after midnight there
seemed to be sheet lightning in the south.
He read and re-read the paper, fearing the worst had happened to me.
He was restless, and after supper prowled out again aimlessly. He
returned and tried in vain to divert his attention to his examination
notes. He went to bed a little after midnight, and was awakened from
lurid dreams in the small hours of Monday by the sound of door
knockers, feet running in the street, distant drumming, and a clamour
of bells. Red reflections danced on the ceiling. For a moment he lay
astonished, wondering whether day had come or the world gone mad.
Then he jumped out of bed and ran to the window.
His room was an attic and as he thrust his head out, up and down
the street there were a dozen echoes to the noise of his window sash,
and heads in every kind of night disarray appeared. Enquiries were
being shouted. "They are coming!" bawled a policeman, hammering at
the door; "the Martians are coming!" and hurried to the next door.
The sound of drumming and trumpeting came from the Albany Street
Barracks, and every church within earshot was hard at work killing
sleep with a vehement disorderly tocsin. There was a noise of doors
opening, and window after window in the houses opposite flashed from
darkness into yellow illumination.
Up the street came galloping a closed carriage, bursting abruptly
into noise at the corner, rising to a clattering climax under the
window, and dying away slowly in the distance. Close on the rear of
this came a couple of cabs, the forerunners of a long procession of
flying vehicles, going for the most part to Chalk Farm station, where
the North-Western special trains were loading up, instead of coming
down the gradient into Euston.
For a long time my brother stared out of the window in blank
astonishment, watching the policemen hammering at door after door, and
delivering their incomprehensible message. Then the door behind him
opened, and the man who lodged across the landing came in, dressed
only in shirt, trousers, and slippers, his braces loose about his
waist, his hair disordered from his pillow.
"What the devil is it?" he asked. "A fire? What a devil of a
They both craned their heads out of the window, straining to hear
what the policemen were shouting. People were coming out of the side
streets, and standing in groups at the corners talking.
"What the devil is it all about?" said my brother's fellow lodger.
My brother answered him vaguely and began to dress, running with
each garment to the window in order to miss nothing of the growing
excitement. And presently men selling unnaturally early newspapers
came bawling into the street:
"London in danger of suffocation! The Kingston and Richmond
defences forced! Fearful massacres in the Thames Valley!"
And all about him--in the rooms below, in the houses on each side
and across the road, and behind in the Park Terraces and in the
hundred other streets of that part of Marylebone, and the Westbourne
Park district and St. Pancras, and westward and northward in Kilburn
and St. John's Wood and Hampstead, and eastward in Shoreditch and
Highbury and Haggerston and Hoxton, and, indeed, through all the
vastness of London from Ealing to East Ham--people were rubbing their
eyes, and opening windows to stare out and ask aimless questions,
dressing hastily as the first breath of the coming storm of Fear blew
through the streets. It was the dawn of the great panic. London,
which had gone to bed on Sunday night oblivious and inert, was
awakened, in the small hours of Monday morning, to a vivid sense of
Unable from his window to learn what was happening, my brother went
down and out into the street, just as the sky between the parapets of
the houses grew pink with the early dawn. The flying people on foot
and in vehicles grew more numerous every moment. "Black Smoke!" he
heard people crying, and again "Black Smoke!" The contagion of such
a unanimous fear was inevitable. As my brother hesitated on the
door-step, he saw another news vender approaching, and got a paper
forthwith. The man was running away with the rest, and selling his
papers for a shilling each as he ran--a grotesque mingling of profit
And from this paper my brother read that catastrophic dispatch of
"The Martians are able to discharge enormous clouds of a black and
poisonous vapour by means of rockets. They have smothered our
batteries, destroyed Richmond, Kingston, and Wimbledon, and are
advancing slowly towards London, destroying everything on the way. It
is impossible to stop them. There is no safety from the Black Smoke
but in instant flight."
That was all, but it was enough. The whole population of the great
six-million city was stirring, slipping, running; presently it would
be pouring en masse northward.
"Black Smoke!" the voices cried. "Fire!"
The bells of the neighbouring church made a jangling tumult, a cart
carelessly driven smashed, amid shrieks and curses, against the water
trough up the street. Sickly yellow lights went to and fro in the
houses, and some of the passing cabs flaunted unextinguished lamps.
And overhead the dawn was growing brighter, clear and steady and calm.
He heard footsteps running to and fro in the rooms, and up and down
stairs behind him. His landlady came to the door, loosely wrapped in
dressing gown and shawl; her husband followed ejaculating.
As my brother began to realise the import of all these things, he
turned hastily to his own room, put all his available money--some ten
pounds altogether--into his pockets, and went out again into the
WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN SURREY
It was while the curate had sat and talked so wildly to me under
the hedge in the flat meadows near Halliford, and while my brother was
watching the fugitives stream over Westminster Bridge, that the
Martians had resumed the offensive. So far as one can ascertain from
the conflicting accounts that have been put forth, the majority of
them remained busied with preparations in the Horsell pit until nine
that night, hurrying on some operation that disengaged huge volumes of
But three certainly came out about eight o'clock and, advancing
slowly and cautiously, made their way through Byfleet and Pyrford
towards Ripley and Weybridge, and so came in sight of the expectant
batteries against the setting sun. These Martians did not advance in
a body, but in a line, each perhaps a mile and a half from his nearest
fellow. They communicated with one another by means of sirenlike
howls, running up and down the scale from one note to another.
It was this howling and firing of the guns at Ripley and St.
George's Hill that we had heard at Upper Halliford. The Ripley
gunners, unseasoned artillery volunteers who ought never to have been
placed in such a position, fired one wild, premature, ineffectual
volley, and bolted on horse and foot through the deserted village,
while the Martian, without using his Heat-Ray, walked serenely over
their guns, stepped gingerly among them, passed in front of them, and
so came unexpectedly upon the guns in Painshill Park, which he
The St. George's Hill men, however, were better led or of a better
mettle. Hidden by a pine wood as they were, they seem to have been
quite unsuspected by the Martian nearest to them. They laid their
guns as deliberately as if they had been on parade, and fired at about
a thousand yards' range.
The shells flashed all round him, and he was seen to advance a few
paces, stagger, and go down. Everybody yelled together, and the guns
were reloaded in frantic haste. The overthrown Martian set up a
prolonged ululation, and immediately a second glittering giant,
answering him, appeared over the trees to the south. It would seem
that a leg of the tripod had been smashed by one of the shells. The
whole of the second volley flew wide of the Martian on the ground,
and, simultaneously, both his companions brought their Heat-Rays to
bear on the battery. The ammunition blew up, the pine trees all about
the guns flashed into fire, and only one or two of the men who were
already running over the crest of the hill escaped.
After this it would seem that the three took counsel together and
halted, and the scouts who were watching them report that they
remained absolutely stationary for the next half hour. The Martian
who had been overthrown crawled tediously out of his hood, a small
brown figure, oddly suggestive from that distance of a speck of
blight, and apparently engaged in the repair of his support. About
nine he had finished, for his cowl was then seen above the trees
It was a few minutes past nine that night when these three
sentinels were joined by four other Martians, each carrying a thick
black tube. A similar tube was handed to each of the three, and the
seven proceeded to distribute themselves at equal distances along a
curved line between St. George's Hill, Weybridge, and the village of
Send, southwest of Ripley.
A dozen rockets sprang out of the hills before them so soon as they
began to move, and warned the waiting batteries about Ditton and
Esher. At the same time four of their fighting machines, similarly
armed with tubes, crossed the river, and two of them, black against
the western sky, came into sight of myself and the curate as we
hurried wearily and painfully along the road that runs northward out
of Halliford. They moved, as it seemed to us, upon a cloud, for a
milky mist covered the fields and rose to a third of their height.
At this sight the curate cried faintly in his throat, and began
running; but I knew it was no good running from a Martian, and I
turned aside and crawled through dewy nettles and brambles into the
broad ditch by the side of the road. He looked back, saw what I was
doing, and turned to join me.
The two halted, the nearer to us standing and facing Sunbury, the
remoter being a grey indistinctness towards the evening star, away
The occasional howling of the Martians had ceased; they took up
their positions in the huge crescent about their cylinders in absolute
silence. It was a crescent with twelve miles between its horns. Never
since the devising of gunpowder was the beginning of a battle so
still. To us and to an observer about Ripley it would have had
precisely the same effect--the Martians seemed in solitary possession
of the darkling night, lit only as it was by the slender moon, the
stars, the afterglow of the daylight, and the ruddy glare from St.
George's Hill and the woods of Painshill.
But facing that crescent everywhere--at Staines, Hounslow, Ditton,
Esher, Ockham, behind hills and woods south of the river, and across
the flat grass meadows to the north of it, wherever a cluster of trees
or village houses gave sufficient cover--the guns were waiting. The
signal rockets burst and rained their sparks through the night and
vanished, and the spirit of all those watching batteries rose to a
tense expectation. The Martians had but to advance into the line of
fire, and instantly those motionless black forms of men, those guns
glittering so darkly in the early night, would explode into a
thunderous fury of battle.
No doubt the thought that was uppermost in a thousand of those
vigilant minds, even as it was uppermost in mine, was the riddle--how
much they understood of us. Did they grasp that we in our millions
were organized, disciplined, working together? Or did they interpret
our spurts of fire, the sudden stinging of our shells, our steady
investment of their encampment, as we should the furious unanimity of
onslaught in a disturbed hive of bees? Did they dream they might
exterminate us? (At that time no one knew what food they needed.) A
hundred such questions struggled together in my mind as I watched that
vast sentinel shape. And in the back of my mind was the sense of all
the huge unknown and hidden forces Londonward. Had they prepared
pitfalls? Were the powder mills at Hounslow ready as a snare? Would
the Londoners have the heart and courage to make a greater Moscow of
their mighty province of houses?
Then, after an interminable time, as it seemed to us, crouching and
peering through the hedge, came a sound like the distant concussion of
a gun. Another nearer, and then another. And then the Martian beside
us raised his tube on high and discharged it, gunwise, with a heavy
report that made the ground heave. The one towards Staines answered
him. There was no flash, no smoke, simply that loaded detonation.
I was so excited by these heavy minute-guns following one another
that I so far forgot my personal safety and my scalded hands as to
clamber up into the hedge and stare towards Sunbury. As I did so a
second report followed, and a big projectile hurtled overhead towards
Hounslow. I expected at least to see smoke or fire, or some such
evidence of its work. But all I saw was the deep blue sky above, with
one solitary star, and the white mist spreading wide and low beneath.
And there had been no crash, no answering explosion. The silence was
restored; the minute lengthened to three.
"What has happened?" said the curate, standing up beside me.
"Heaven knows!" said I.
A bat flickered by and vanished. A distant tumult of shouting
began and ceased. I looked again at the Martian, and saw he was now
moving eastward along the riverbank, with a swift, rolling motion.
Every moment I expected the fire of some hidden battery to spring
upon him; but the evening calm was unbroken. The figure of the Martian
grew smaller as he receded, and presently the mist and the gathering
night had swallowed him up. By a common impulse we clambered higher.
Towards Sunbury was a dark appearance, as though a conical hill had
suddenly come into being there, hiding our view of the farther
country; and then, remoter across the river, over Walton, we saw
another such summit. These hill-like forms grew lower and broader
even as we stared.
Moved by a sudden thought, I looked northward, and there I
perceived a third of these cloudy black kopjes had risen.
Everything had suddenly become very still. Far away to the
southeast, marking the quiet, we heard the Martians hooting to one
another, and then the air quivered again with the distant thud of
their guns. But the earthly artillery made no reply.
Now at the time we could not understand these things, but later I
was to learn the meaning of these ominous kopjes that gathered in the
twilight. Each of the Martians, standing in the great crescent I have
described, had discharged, by means of the gunlike tube he carried, a
huge canister over whatever hill, copse, cluster of houses, or other
possible cover for guns, chanced to be in front of him. Some fired
only one of these, some two--as in the case of the one we had seen;
the one at Ripley is said to have discharged no fewer than five at
that time. These canisters smashed on striking the ground--they did
not explode--and incontinently disengaged an enormous volume of heavy,
inky vapour, coiling and pouring upward in a huge and ebony cumulus
cloud, a gaseous hill that sank and spread itself slowly over the
surrounding country. And the touch of that vapour, the inhaling of
its pungent wisps, was death to all that breathes.
It was heavy, this vapour, heavier than the densest smoke, so that,
after the first tumultuous uprush and outflow of its impact, it sank
down through the air and poured over the ground in a manner rather
liquid than gaseous, abandoning the hills, and streaming into the
valleys and ditches and watercourses even as I have heard the
carbonic-acid gas that pours from volcanic clefts is wont to do. And
where it came upon water some chemical action occurred, and the
surface would be instantly covered with a powdery scum that sank
slowly and made way for more. The scum was absolutely insoluble, and
it is a strange thing, seeing the instant effect of the gas, that one
could drink without hurt the water from which it had been strained.
The vapour did not diffuse as a true gas would do. It hung together
in banks, flowing sluggishly down the slope of the land and driving
reluctantly before the wind, and very slowly it combined with the mist
and moisture of the air, and sank to the earth in the form of dust.
Save that an unknown element giving a group of four lines in the blue
of the spectrum is concerned, we are still entirely ignorant of the
nature of this substance.
Once the tumultuous upheaval of its dispersion was over, the black
smoke clung so closely to the ground, even before its precipitation,
that fifty feet up in the air, on the roofs and upper stories of high
houses and on great trees, there was a chance of escaping its poison
altogether, as was proved even that night at Street Cobham and Ditton.
The man who escaped at the former place tells a wonderful story of
the strangeness of its coiling flow, and how he looked down from the
church spire and saw the houses of the village rising like ghosts out
of its inky nothingness. For a day and a half he remained there,
weary, starving and sun-scorched, the earth under the blue sky and
against the prospect of the distant hills a velvet-black expanse, with
red roofs, green trees, and, later, black-veiled shrubs and gates,
barns, outhouses, and walls, rising here and there into the sunlight.
But that was at Street Cobham, where the black vapour was allowed
to remain until it sank of its own accord into the ground. As a rule
the Martians, when it had served its purpose, cleared the air of it
again by wading into it and directing a jet of steam upon it.
This they did with the vapour banks near us, as we saw in the
starlight from the window of a deserted house at Upper Halliford,
whither we had returned. From there we could see the searchlights on
Richmond Hill and Kingston Hill going to and fro, and about eleven the
windows rattled, and we heard the sound of the huge siege guns that
had been put in position there. These continued intermittently for
the space of a quarter of an hour, sending chance shots at the
invisible Martians at Hampton and Ditton, and then the pale beams of
the electric light vanished, and were replaced by a bright red glow.
Then the fourth cylinder fell--a brilliant green meteor--as I
learned afterwards, in Bushey Park. Before the guns on the Richmond
and Kingston line of hills began, there was a fitful cannonade far
away in the southwest, due, I believe, to guns being fired haphazard
before the black vapour could overwhelm the gunners.
So, setting about it as methodically as men might smoke out a
wasps' nest, the Martians spread this strange stifling vapour over the
Londonward country. The horns of the crescent slowly moved apart,
until at last they formed a line from Hanwell to Coombe and Malden.
All night through their destructive tubes advanced. Never once, after
the Martian at St. George's Hill was brought down, did they give the
artillery the ghost of a chance against them. Wherever there was a
possibility of guns being laid for them unseen, a fresh canister of
the black vapour was discharged, and where the guns were openly
displayed the Heat-Ray was brought to bear.
By midnight the blazing trees along the slopes of Richmond Park and
the glare of Kingston Hill threw their light upon a network of black
smoke, blotting out the whole valley of the Thames and extending as
far as the eye could reach. And through this two Martians slowly
waded, and turned their hissing steam jets this way and that.
They were sparing of the Heat-Ray that night, either because they
had but a limited supply of material for its production or because
they did not wish to destroy the country but only to crush and overawe
the opposition they had aroused. In the latter aim they certainly
succeeded. Sunday night was the end of the organised opposition to
their movements. After that no body of men would stand against them,
so hopeless was the enterprise. Even the crews of the torpedo-boats
and destroyers that had brought their quick-firers up the Thames
refused to stop, mutinied, and went down again. The only offensive
operation men ventured upon after that night was the preparation of
mines and pitfalls, and even in that their energies were frantic and
One has to imagine, as well as one may, the fate of those batteries
towards Esher, waiting so tensely in the twilight. Survivors there
were none. One may picture the orderly expectation, the officers
alert and watchful, the gunners ready, the ammunition piled to hand,
the limber gunners with their horses and waggons, the groups of
civilian spectators standing as near as they were permitted, the
evening stillness, the ambulances and hospital tents with the burned
and wounded from Weybridge; then the dull resonance of the shots the
Martians fired, and the clumsy projectile whirling over the trees and
houses and smashing amid the neighbouring fields.
One may picture, too, the sudden shifting of the attention, the
swiftly spreading coils and bellyings of that blackness advancing
headlong, towering heavenward, turning the twilight to a palpable
darkness, a strange and horrible antagonist of vapour striding upon
its victims, men and horses near it seen dimly, running, shrieking,
falling headlong, shouts of dismay, the guns suddenly abandoned, men
choking and writhing on the ground, and the swift broadening-out of
the opaque cone of smoke. And then night and extinction--nothing but
a silent mass of impenetrable vapour hiding its dead.
Before dawn the black vapour was pouring through the streets of
Richmond, and the disintegrating organism of government was, with a
last expiring effort, rousing the population of London to the
necessity of flight.
THE EXODUS FROM LONDON
So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept through the
greatest city in the world just as Monday was dawning--the stream of
flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lashing in a foaming tumult round
the railway stations, banked up into a horrible struggle about the
shipping in the Thames, and hurrying by every available channel
northward and eastward. By ten o'clock the police organisation, and
by midday even the railway organisations, were losing coherency,
losing shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at last in
that swift liquefaction of the social body.
All the railway lines north of the Thames and the South-Eastern
people at Cannon Street had been warned by midnight on Sunday, and
trains were being filled. People were fighting savagely for
standing-room in the carriages even at two o'clock. By three, people
were being trampled and crushed even in Bishopsgate Street, a couple
of hundred yards or more from Liverpool Street station; revolvers were
fired, people stabbed, and the policemen who had been sent to direct
the traffic, exhausted and infuriated, were breaking the heads of the
people they were called out to protect.
And as the day advanced and the engine drivers and stokers refused
to return to London, the pressure of the flight drove the people in an
ever-thickening multitude away from the stations and along the
northward-running roads. By midday a Martian had been seen at Barnes,
and a cloud of slowly sinking black vapour drove along the Thames and
across the flats of Lambeth, cutting off all escape over the bridges
in its sluggish advance. Another bank drove over Ealing, and
surrounded a little island of survivors on Castle Hill, alive, but
unable to escape.
After a fruitless struggle to get aboard a North-Western train at
Chalk Farm--the engines of the trains that had loaded in the goods
yard there ploughed through shrieking people, and a dozen stalwart men
fought to keep the crowd from crushing the driver against his
furnace--my brother emerged upon the Chalk Farm road, dodged across
through a hurrying swarm of vehicles, and had the luck to be foremost
in the sack of a cycle shop. The front tire of the machine he got was
punctured in dragging it through the window, but he got up and off,
notwithstanding, with no further injury than a cut wrist. The steep
foot of Haverstock Hill was impassable owing to several overturned
horses, and my brother struck into Belsize Road.
So he got out of the fury of the panic, and, skirting the Edgware
Road, reached Edgware about seven, fasting and wearied, but well ahead
of the crowd. Along the road people were standing in the roadway,
curious, wondering. He was passed by a number of cyclists, some
horsemen, and two motor cars. A mile from Edgware the rim of the
wheel broke, and the machine became unridable. He left it by the
roadside and trudged through the village. There were shops half
opened in the main street of the place, and people crowded on the
pavement and in the doorways and windows, staring astonished at this
extraordinary procession of fugitives that was beginning. He
succeeded in getting some food at an inn.
For a time he remained in Edgware not knowing what next to do. The
flying people increased in number. Many of them, like my brother,
seemed inclined to loiter in the place. There was no fresh news of
the invaders from Mars.
At that time the road was crowded, but as yet far from congested.
Most of the fugitives at that hour were mounted on cycles, but there
were soon motor cars, hansom cabs, and carriages hurrying along, and
the dust hung in heavy clouds along the road to St. Albans.
It was perhaps a vague idea of making his way to Chelmsford, where
some friends of his lived, that at last induced my brother to strike
into a quiet lane running eastward. Presently he came upon a stile,
and, crossing it, followed a footpath northeastward. He passed near
several farmhouses and some little places whose names he did not
learn. He saw few fugitives until, in a grass lane towards High
Barnet, he happened upon two ladies who became his fellow travellers.
He came upon them just in time to save them.
He heard their screams, and, hurrying round the corner, saw a
couple of men struggling to drag them out of the little pony-chaise in
which they had been driving, while a third with difficulty held the
frightened pony's head. One of the ladies, a short woman dressed in
white, was simply screaming; the other, a dark, slender figure,
slashed at the man who gripped her arm with a whip she held in her
My brother immediately grasped the situation, shouted, and hurried
towards the struggle. One of the men desisted and turned towards him,
and my brother, realising from his antagonist's face that a fight was
unavoidable, and being an expert boxer, went into him forthwith and
sent him down against the wheel of the chaise.
It was no time for pugilistic chivalry and my brother laid him
quiet with a kick, and gripped the collar of the man who pulled at the
slender lady's arm. He heard the clatter of hoofs, the whip stung
across his face, a third antagonist struck him between the eyes, and
the man he held wrenched himself free and made off down the lane in
the direction from which he had come.
Partly stunned, he found himself facing the man who had held the
horse's head, and became aware of the chaise receding from him down
the lane, swaying from side to side, and with the women in it looking
back. The man before him, a burly rough, tried to close, and he
stopped him with a blow in the face. Then, realising that he was
deserted, he dodged round and made off down the lane after the chaise,
with the sturdy man close behind him, and the fugitive, who had turned
now, following remotely.
Suddenly he stumbled and fell; his immediate pursuer went headlong,
and he rose to his feet to find himself with a couple of antagonists
again. He would have had little chance against them had not the
slender lady very pluckily pulled up and returned to his help. It
seems she had had a revolver all this time, but it had been under the
seat when she and her companion were attacked. She fired at six
yards' distance, narrowly missing my brother. The less courageous of
the robbers made off, and his companion followed him, cursing his
cowardice. They both stopped in sight down the lane, where the third
man lay insensible.
"Take this!" said the slender lady, and she gave my brother her
"Go back to the chaise," said my brother, wiping the blood from his
She turned without a word--they were both panting--and they went
back to where the lady in white struggled to hold back the frightened
The robbers had evidently had enough of it. When my brother looked
again they were retreating.
"I'll sit here," said my brother, "if I may"; and he got upon the
empty front seat. The lady looked over her shoulder.
"Give me the reins," she said, and laid the whip along the pony's
side. In another moment a bend in the road hid the three men from my
So, quite unexpectedly, my brother found himself, panting, with a
cut mouth, a bruised jaw, and bloodstained knuckles, driving along an
unknown lane with these two women.
He learned they were the wife and the younger sister of a surgeon
living at Stanmore, who had come in the small hours from a dangerous
case at Pinner, and heard at some railway station on his way of the
Martian advance. He had hurried home, roused the women--their servant
had left them two days before--packed some provisions, put his
revolver under the seat--luckily for my brother--and told them to
drive on to Edgware, with the idea of getting a train there. He
stopped behind to tell the neighbours. He would overtake them, he
said, at about half past four in the morning, and now it was nearly
nine and they had seen nothing of him. They could not stop in Edgware
because of the growing traffic through the place, and so they had come
into this side lane.
That was the story they told my brother in fragments when presently
they stopped again, nearer to New Barnet. He promised to stay with
them, at least until they could determine what to do, or until the
missing man arrived, and professed to be an expert shot with the
revolver--a weapon strange to him--in order to give them confidence.
They made a sort of encampment by the wayside, and the pony became
happy in the hedge. He told them of his own escape out of London, and
all that he knew of these Martians and their ways. The sun crept
higher in the sky, and after a time their talk died out and gave place
to an uneasy state of anticipation. Several wayfarers came along the
lane, and of these my brother gathered such news as he could. Every
broken answer he had deepened his impression of the great disaster
that had come on humanity, deepened his persuasion of the immediate
necessity for prosecuting this flight. He urged the matter upon them.
"We have money," said the slender woman, and hesitated.
Her eyes met my brother's, and her hesitation ended.
"So have I," said my brother.
She explained that they had as much as thirty pounds in gold,
besides a five-pound note, and suggested that with that they might get
upon a train at St. Albans or New Barnet. My brother thought that was
hopeless, seeing the fury of the Londoners to crowd upon the trains,
and broached his own idea of striking across Essex towards Harwich and
thence escaping from the country altogether.
Mrs. Elphinstone--that was the name of the woman in white--would
listen to no reasoning, and kept calling upon "George"; but her
sister-in-law was astonishingly quiet and deliberate, and at last
agreed to my brother's suggestion. So, designing to cross the Great
North Road, they went on towards Barnet, my brother leading the pony
to save it as much as possible. As the sun crept up the sky the day
became excessively hot, and under foot a thick, whitish sand grew
burning and blinding, so that they travelled only very slowly. The
hedges were grey with dust. And as they advanced towards Barnet a
tumultuous murmuring grew stronger.
They began to meet more people. For the most part these were
staring before them, murmuring indistinct questions, jaded, haggard,
unclean. One man in evening dress passed them on foot, his eyes on
the ground. They heard his voice, and, looking back at him, saw one
hand clutched in his hair and the other beating invisible things. His
paroxysm of rage over, he went on his way without once looking back.
As my brother's party went on towards the crossroads to the south
of Barnet they saw a woman approaching the road across some fields on
their left, carrying a child and with two other children; and then
passed a man in dirty black, with a thick stick in one hand and a
small portmanteau in the other. Then round the corner of the lane,
from between the villas that guarded it at its confluence with the
high road, came a little cart drawn by a sweating black pony and
driven by a sallow youth in a bowler hat, grey with dust. There were
three girls, East End factory girls, and a couple of little children
crowded in the cart.
"This'll tike us rahnd Edgware?" asked the driver, wild-eyed,
white-faced; and when my brother told him it would if he turned to the
left, he whipped up at once without the formality of thanks.
My brother noticed a pale grey smoke or haze rising among the
houses in front of them, and veiling the white facade of a terrace
beyond the road that appeared between the backs of the villas. Mrs.
Elphinstone suddenly cried out at a number of tongues of smoky red
flame leaping up above the houses in front of them against the hot,
blue sky. The tumultuous noise resolved itself now into the
disorderly mingling of many voices, the gride of many wheels, the
creaking of waggons, and the staccato of hoofs. The lane came round
sharply not fifty yards from the crossroads.
"Good heavens!" cried Mrs. Elphinstone. "What is this you are
driving us into?"
My brother stopped.
For the main road was a boiling stream of people, a torrent of
human beings rushing northward, one pressing on another. A great bank
of dust, white and luminous in the blaze of the sun, made everything
within twenty feet of the ground grey and indistinct and was
perpetually renewed by the hurrying feet of a dense crowd of horses
and of men and women on foot, and by the wheels of vehicles of every
"Way!" my brother heard voices crying. "Make way!"
It was like riding into the smoke of a fire to approach the meeting
point of the lane and road; the crowd roared like a fire, and the dust
was hot and pungent. And, indeed, a little way up the road a villa
was burning and sending rolling masses of black smoke across the road
to add to the confusion.
Two men came past them. Then a dirty woman, carrying a heavy
bundle and weeping. A lost retriever dog, with hanging tongue,
circled dubiously round them, scared and wretched, and fled at my
So much as they could see of the road Londonward between the houses
to the right was a tumultuous stream of dirty, hurrying people, pent
in between the villas on either side; the black heads, the crowded
forms, grew into distinctness as they rushed towards the corner,
hurried past, and merged their individuality again in a receding
multitude that was swallowed up at last in a cloud of dust.
"Go on! Go on!" cried the voices. "Way! Way!"
One man's hands pressed on the back of another. My brother stood
at the pony's head. Irresistibly attracted, he advanced slowly, pace
by pace, down the lane.
Edgware had been a scene of confusion, Chalk Farm a riotous tumult,
but this was a whole population in movement. It is hard to imagine
that host. It had no character of its own. The figures poured out
past the corner, and receded with their backs to the group in the
lane. Along the margin came those who were on foot threatened by the
wheels, stumbling in the ditches, blundering into one another.
The carts and carriages crowded close upon one another, making
little way for those swifter and more impatient vehicles that darted
forward every now and then when an opportunity showed itself of doing
so, sending the people scattering against the fences and gates of the
"Push on!" was the cry. "Push on! They are coming!"
In one cart stood a blind man in the uniform of the Salvation Army,
gesticulating with his crooked fingers and bawling, "Eternity!
Eternity!" His voice was hoarse and very loud so that my brother
could hear him long after he was lost to sight in the dust. Some of
the people who crowded in the carts whipped stupidly at their horses
and quarrelled with other drivers; some sat motionless, staring at
nothing with miserable eyes; some gnawed their hands with thirst, or
lay prostrate in the bottoms of their conveyances. The horses' bits
were covered with foam, their eyes bloodshot.
There were cabs, carriages, shop cars, waggons, beyond counting; a
mail cart, a road-cleaner's cart marked "Vestry of St. Pancras," a
huge timber waggon crowded with roughs. A brewer's dray rumbled by
with its two near wheels splashed with fresh blood.
"Clear the way!" cried the voices. "Clear the way!"
"Eter-nity! Eter-nity!" came echoing down the road.
There were sad, haggard women tramping by, well dressed, with
children that cried and stumbled, their dainty clothes smothered in
dust, their weary faces smeared with tears. With many of these came
men, sometimes helpful, sometimes lowering and savage. Fighting side
by side with them pushed some weary street outcast in faded black
rags, wide-eyed, loud-voiced, and foul-mouthed. There were sturdy
workmen thrusting their way along, wretched, unkempt men, clothed like
clerks or shopmen, struggling spasmodically; a wounded soldier my
brother noticed, men dressed in the clothes of railway porters, one
wretched creature in a nightshirt with a coat thrown over it.
But varied as its composition was, certain things all that host had
in common. There were fear and pain on their faces, and fear behind
them. A tumult up the road, a quarrel for a place in a waggon, sent
the whole host of them quickening their pace; even a man so scared and
broken that his knees bent under him was galvanised for a moment into
renewed activity. The heat and dust had already been at work upon
this multitude. Their skins were dry, their lips black and cracked.
They were all thirsty, weary, and footsore. And amid the various
cries one heard disputes, reproaches, groans of weariness and fatigue;
the voices of most of them were hoarse and weak. Through it all ran a
"Way! Way! The Martians are coming!"
Few stopped and came aside from that flood. The lane opened
slantingly into the main road with a narrow opening, and had a
delusive appearance of coming from the direction of London. Yet a
kind of eddy of people drove into its mouth; weaklings elbowed out of
the stream, who for the most part rested but a moment before plunging
into it again. A little way down the lane, with two friends bending
over him, lay a man with a bare leg, wrapped about with bloody rags.
He was a lucky man to have friends.
A little old man, with a grey military moustache and a filthy black
frock coat, limped out and sat down beside the trap, removed his
boot--his sock was blood-stained--shook out a pebble, and hobbled on
again; and then a little girl of eight or nine, all alone, threw
herself under the hedge close by my brother, weeping.
"I can't go on! I can't go on!"
My brother woke from his torpor of astonishment and lifted her up,
speaking gently to her, and carried her to Miss Elphinstone. So soon
as my brother touched her she became quite still, as if frightened.
"Ellen!" shrieked a woman in the crowd, with tears in her
voice--"Ellen!" And the child suddenly darted away from my brother,
"They are coming," said a man on horseback, riding past along the
"Out of the way, there!" bawled a coachman, towering high; and my
brother saw a closed carriage turning into the lane.
The people crushed back on one another to avoid the horse. My
brother pushed the pony and chaise back into the hedge, and the man
drove by and stopped at the turn of the way. It was a carriage, with
a pole for a pair of horses, but only one was in the traces. My
brother saw dimly through the dust that two men lifted out something
on a white stretcher and put it gently on the grass beneath the privet
One of the men came running to my brother.
"Where is there any water?" he said. "He is dying fast, and very
thirsty. It is Lord Garrick."
"Lord Garrick!" said my brother; "the Chief Justice?"
"The water?" he said.
"There may be a tap," said my brother, "in some of the houses. We
have no water. I dare not leave my people."
The man pushed against the crowd towards the gate of the corner
"Go on!" said the people, thrusting at him. "They are coming! Go
Then my brother's attention was distracted by a bearded, eagle-faced
man lugging a small handbag, which split even as my brother's
eyes rested on it and disgorged a mass of sovereigns that seemed to
break up into separate coins as it struck the ground. They rolled
hither and thither among the struggling feet of men and horses. The
man stopped and looked stupidly at the heap, and the shaft of a cab
struck his shoulder and sent him reeling. He gave a shriek and dodged
back, and a cartwheel shaved him narrowly.
"Way!" cried the men all about him. "Make way!"
So soon as the cab had passed, he flung himself, with both hands
open, upon the heap of coins, and began thrusting handfuls in his
pocket. A horse rose close upon him, and in another moment, half
rising, he had been borne down under the horse's hoofs.
"Stop!" screamed my brother, and pushing a woman out of his way,
tried to clutch the bit of the horse.
Before he could get to it, he heard a scream under the wheels, and
saw through the dust the rim passing over the poor wretch's back. The
driver of the cart slashed his whip at my brother, who ran round
behind the cart. The multitudinous shouting confused his ears. The
man was writhing in the dust among his scattered money, unable to
rise, for the wheel had broken his back, and his lower limbs lay limp
and dead. My brother stood up and yelled at the next driver, and a
man on a black horse came to his assistance.
"Get him out of the road," said he; and, clutching the man's collar
with his free hand, my brother lugged him sideways. But he still
clutched after his money, and regarded my brother fiercely, hammering
at his arm with a handful of gold. "Go on! Go on!" shouted angry
There was a smash as the pole of a carriage crashed into the cart
that the man on horseback stopped. My brother looked up, and the man
with the gold twisted his head round and bit the wrist that held his
collar. There was a concussion, and the black horse came staggering
sideways, and the carthorse pushed beside it. A hoof missed my
brother's foot by a hair's breadth. He released his grip on the
fallen man and jumped back. He saw anger change to terror on the face
of the poor wretch on the ground, and in a moment he was hidden and my
brother was borne backward and carried past the entrance of the lane,
and had to fight hard in the torrent to recover it.
He saw Miss Elphinstone covering her eyes, and a little child, with
all a child's want of sympathetic imagination, staring with dilated
eyes at a dusty something that lay black and still, ground and crushed
under the rolling wheels. "Let us go back!" he shouted, and began
turning the pony round. "We cannot cross this--hell," he said and they
went back a hundred yards the way they had come, until the fighting
crowd was hidden. As they passed the bend in the lane my brother saw
the face of the dying man in the ditch under the privet, deadly white
and drawn, and shining with perspiration. The two women sat silent,
crouching in their seat and shivering.
Then beyond the bend my brother stopped again. Miss Elphinstone
was white and pale, and her sister-in-law sat weeping, too wretched
even to call upon "George." My brother was horrified and perplexed.
So soon as they had retreated he realised how urgent and unavoidable
it was to attempt this crossing. He turned to Miss Elphinstone,
"We must go that way," he said, and led the pony round again.
For the second time that day this girl proved her quality. To force
their way into the torrent of people, my brother plunged into the
traffic and held back a cab horse, while she drove the pony across its
head. A waggon locked wheels for a moment and ripped a long splinter
from the chaise. In another moment they were caught and swept forward
by the stream. My brother, with the cabman's whip marks red across
his face and hands, scrambled into the chaise and took the reins from
"Point the revolver at the man behind," he said, giving it to her,
"if he presses us too hard. No!--point it at his horse."
Then he began to look out for a chance of edging to the right
across the road. But once in the stream he seemed to lose volition,
to become a part of that dusty rout. They swept through Chipping
Barnet with the torrent; they were nearly a mile beyond the centre of
the town before they had fought across to the opposite side of the
way. It was din and confusion indescribable; but in and beyond the
town the road forks repeatedly, and this to some extent relieved the
They struck eastward through Hadley, and there on either side of
the road, and at another place farther on they came upon a great
multitude of people drinking at the stream, some fighting to come at
the water. And farther on, from a lull near East Barnet, they saw
two trains running slowly one after the other without signal or
order--trains swarming with people, with men even among the coals
behind the engines--going northward along the Great Northern Railway.
My brother supposes they must have filled outside London, for at that
time the furious terror of the people had rendered the central
Near this place they halted for the rest of the afternoon, for the
violence of the day had already utterly exhausted all three of them.
They began to suffer the beginnings of hunger; the night was cold, and
none of them dared to sleep. And in the evening many people came
hurrying along the road nearby their stopping place, fleeing from
unknown dangers before them, and going in the direction from which my
brother had come.
THE "THUNDER CHILD"
Had the Martians aimed only at destruction, they might on Monday
have annihilated the entire population of London, as it spread itself
slowly through the home counties. Not only along the road through
Barnet, but also through Edgware and Waltham Abbey, and along the
roads eastward to Southend and Shoeburyness, and south of the Thames
to Deal and Broadstairs, poured the same frantic rout. If one could
have hung that June morning in a balloon in the blazing blue above
London every northward and eastward road running out of the tangled
maze of streets would have seemed stippled black with the streaming
fugitives, each dot a human agony of terror and physical distress. I
have set forth at length in the last chapter my brother's account of
the road through Chipping Barnet, in order that my readers may realise
how that swarming of black dots appeared to one of those concerned.
Never before in the history of the world had such a mass of human
beings moved and suffered together. The legendary hosts of Goths and
Huns, the hugest armies Asia has ever seen, would have been but a drop
in that current. And this was no disciplined march; it was a
stampede--a stampede gigantic and terrible--without order and without
a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving
headlong. It was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of the
massacre of mankind.
Directly below him the balloonist would have seen the network of
streets far and wide, houses, churches, squares, crescents,
gardens--already derelict--spread out like a huge map, and in the
southward blotted. Over Ealing, Richmond, Wimbledon, it would
have seemed as if some monstrous pen had flung ink upon the chart.
Steadily, incessantly, each black splash grew and spread, shooting out
ramifications this way and that, now banking itself against rising
ground, now pouring swiftly over a crest into a new-found valley,
exactly as a gout of ink would spread itself upon blotting paper.
And beyond, over the blue hills that rise southward of the river,
the glittering Martians went to and fro, calmly and methodically
spreading their poison cloud over this patch of country and then over
that, laying it again with their steam jets when it had served its
purpose, and taking possession of the conquered country. They do not
seem to have aimed at extermination so much as at complete
demoralisation and the destruction of any opposition. They exploded
any stores of powder they came upon, cut every telegraph, and wrecked
the railways here and there. They were hamstringing mankind. They
seemed in no hurry to extend the field of their operations, and did
not come beyond the central part of London all that day. It is
possible that a very considerable number of people in London stuck to
their houses through Monday morning. Certain it is that many died at
home suffocated by the Black Smoke.
Until about midday the Pool of London was an astonishing scene.
Steamboats and shipping of all sorts lay there, tempted by the
enormous sums of money offered by fugitives, and it is said that many
who swam out to these vessels were thrust off with boathooks and
drowned. About one o'clock in the afternoon the thinning remnant of a
cloud of the black vapour appeared between the arches of Blackfriars
Bridge. At that the Pool became a scene of mad confusion, fighting,
and collision, and for some time a multitude of boats and barges
jammed in the northern arch of the Tower Bridge, and the sailors and
lightermen had to fight savagely against the people who swarmed upon
them from the riverfront. People were actually clambering down the
piers of the bridge from above.
When, an hour later, a Martian appeared beyond the Clock Tower and
waded down the river, nothing but wreckage floated above Limehouse.
Of the falling of the fifth cylinder I have presently to tell. The
sixth star fell at Wimbledon. My brother, keeping watch beside the
women in the chaise in a meadow, saw the green flash of it far beyond
the hills. On Tuesday the little party, still set upon getting across
the sea, made its way through the swarming country towards Colchester.
The news that the Martians were now in possession of the whole of
London was confirmed. They had been seen at Highgate, and even, it
was said, at Neasden. But they did not come into my brother's view
until the morrow.
That day the scattered multitudes began to realise the urgent need
of provisions. As they grew hungry the rights of property ceased to
be regarded. Farmers were out to defend their cattle-sheds,
granaries, and ripening root crops with arms in their hands. A number
of people now, like my brother, had their faces eastward, and there
were some desperate souls even going back towards London to get food.
These were chiefly people from the northern suburbs, whose knowledge
of the Black Smoke came by hearsay. He heard that about half the
members of the government had gathered at Birmingham, and that
enormous quantities of high explosives were being prepared to be used
in automatic mines across the Midland counties.
He was also told that the Midland Railway Company had replaced the
desertions of the first day's panic, had resumed traffic, and was
running northward trains from St. Albans to relieve the congestion of
the home counties. There was also a placard in Chipping Ongar
announcing that large stores of flour were available in the northern
towns and that within twenty-four hours bread would be distributed
among the starving people in the neighbourhood. But this intelligence
did not deter him from the plan of escape he had formed, and the three
pressed eastward all day, and heard no more of the bread distribution
than this promise. Nor, as a matter of fact, did anyone else hear
more of it. That night fell the seventh star, falling upon Primrose
Hill. It fell while Miss Elphinstone was watching, for she took that
duty alternately with my brother. She saw it.
On Wednesday the three fugitives--they had passed the night in a
field of unripe wheat--reached Chelmsford, and there a body of the
inhabitants, calling itself the Committee of Public Supply, seized the
pony as provisions, and would give nothing in exchange for it but the
promise of a share in it the next day. Here there were rumours of
Martians at Epping, and news of the destruction of Waltham Abbey
Powder Mills in a vain attempt to blow up one of the invaders.
People were watching for Martians here from the church towers. My
brother, very luckily for him as it chanced, preferred to push on at
once to the coast rather than wait for food, although all three of
them were very hungry. By midday they passed through Tillingham,
which, strangely enough, seemed to be quite silent and deserted, save
for a few furtive plunderers hunting for food. Near Tillingham they
suddenly came in sight of the sea, and the most amazing crowd of
shipping of all sorts that it is possible to imagine.
For after the sailors could no longer come up the Thames, they came
on to the Essex coast, to Harwich and Walton and Clacton, and
afterwards to Foulness and Shoebury, to bring off the people. They
lay in a huge sickle-shaped curve that vanished into mist at last
towards the Naze. Close inshore was a multitude of fishing
smacks--English, Scotch, French, Dutch, and Swedish; steam launches
from the Thames, yachts, electric boats; and beyond were ships of large
burden, a multitude of filthy colliers, trim merchantmen, cattle ships,
passenger boats, petroleum tanks, ocean tramps, an old white transport
even, neat white and grey liners from Southampton and Hamburg; and
along the blue coast across the Blackwater my brother could make out
dimly a dense swarm of boats chaffering with the people on the beach,
a swarm which also extended up the Blackwater almost to Maldon.
About a couple of miles out lay an ironclad, very low in the water,
almost, to my brother's perception, like a water-logged ship. This
was the ram Thunder Child. It was the only warship in sight, but far
away to the right over the smooth surface of the sea--for that day
there was a dead calm--lay a serpent of black smoke to mark the next
ironclads of the Channel Fleet, which hovered in an extended line,
steam up and ready for action, across the Thames estuary during the
course of the Martian conquest, vigilant and yet powerless to prevent
At the sight of the sea, Mrs. Elphinstone, in spite of the
assurances of her sister-in-law, gave way to panic. She had never
been out of England before, she would rather die than trust herself
friendless in a foreign country, and so forth. She seemed, poor woman,
to imagine that the French and the Martians might prove very similar.
She had been growing increasingly hysterical, fearful, and depressed
during the two days' journeyings. Her great idea was to return to
Stanmore. Things had been always well and safe at Stanmore. They
would find George at Stanmore.
It was with the greatest difficulty they could get her down to the
beach, where presently my brother succeeded in attracting the
attention of some men on a paddle steamer from the Thames. They sent
a boat and drove a bargain for thirty-six pounds for the three. The
steamer was going, these men said, to Ostend.
It was about two o'clock when my brother, having paid their fares
at the gangway, found himself safely aboard the steamboat with his
charges. There was food aboard, albeit at exorbitant prices, and the
three of them contrived to eat a meal on one of the seats forward.
There were already a couple of score of passengers aboard, some of
whom had expended their last money in securing a passage, but the
captain lay off the Blackwater until five in the afternoon, picking up
passengers until the seated decks were even dangerously crowded. He
would probably have remained longer had it not been for the sound of
guns that began about that hour in the south. As if in answer, the
ironclad seaward fired a small gun and hoisted a string of flags. A
jet of smoke sprang out of her funnels.
Some of the passengers were of opinion that this firing came from
Shoeburyness, until it was noticed that it was growing louder. At the
same time, far away in the southeast the masts and upperworks of three
ironclads rose one after the other out of the sea, beneath clouds of
black smoke. But my brother's attention speedily reverted to the
distant firing in the south. He fancied he saw a column of smoke
rising out of the distant grey haze.
The little steamer was already flapping her way eastward of the big
crescent of shipping, and the low Essex coast was growing blue and
hazy, when a Martian appeared, small and faint in the remote distance,
advancing along the muddy coast from the direction of Foulness. At
that the captain on the bridge swore at the top of his voice with fear
and anger at his own delay, and the paddles seemed infected with his
terror. Every soul aboard stood at the bulwarks or on the seats of
the steamer and stared at that distant shape, higher than the trees or
church towers inland, and advancing with a leisurely parody of a human
It was the first Martian my brother had seen, and he stood, more
amazed than terrified, watching this Titan advancing deliberately
towards the shipping, wading farther and farther into the water as the
coast fell away. Then, far away beyond the Crouch, came another,
striding over some stunted trees, and then yet another, still farther
off, wading deeply through a shiny mudflat that seemed to hang halfway
up between sea and sky. They were all stalking seaward, as if to
intercept the escape of the multitudinous vessels that were crowded
between Foulness and the Naze. In spite of the throbbing exertions of
the engines of the little paddle-boat, and the pouring foam that her
wheels flung behind her, she receded with terrifying slowness from
this ominous advance.
Glancing northwestward, my brother saw the large crescent of
shipping already writhing with the approaching terror; one ship
passing behind another, another coming round from broadside to end on,
steamships whistling and giving off volumes of steam, sails being let
out, launches rushing hither and thither. He was so fascinated by
this and by the creeping danger away to the left that he had no eyes
for anything seaward. And then a swift movement of the steamboat (she
had suddenly come round to avoid being run down) flung him headlong
from the seat upon which he was standing. There was a shouting all
about him, a trampling of feet, and a cheer that seemed to be answered
faintly. The steamboat lurched and rolled him over upon his hands.
He sprang to his feet and saw to starboard, and not a hundred yards
from their heeling, pitching boat, a vast iron bulk like the blade of
a plough tearing through the water, tossing it on either side in huge
waves of foam that leaped towards the steamer, flinging her paddles
helplessly in the air, and then sucking her deck down almost to the
A douche of spray blinded my brother for a moment. When his eyes
were clear again he saw the monster had passed and was rushing
landward. Big iron upperworks rose out of this headlong structure,
and from that twin funnels projected and spat a smoking blast shot
with fire. It was the torpedo ram, Thunder Child, steaming headlong,
coming to the rescue of the threatened shipping.
Keeping his footing on the heaving deck by clutching the bulwarks,
my brother looked past this charging leviathan at the Martians again,
and he saw the three of them now close together, and standing so far
out to sea that their tripod supports were almost entirely submerged.
Thus sunken, and seen in remote perspective, they appeared far less
formidable than the huge iron bulk in whose wake the steamer was
pitching so helplessly. It would seem they were regarding this new
antagonist with astonishment. To their intelligence, it may be, the
giant was even such another as themselves. The Thunder Child fired no
gun, but simply drove full speed towards them. It was probably her
not firing that enabled her to get so near the enemy as she did. They
did not know what to make of her. One shell, and they would have sent
her to the bottom forthwith with the Heat-Ray.
She was steaming at such a pace that in a minute she seemed halfway
between the steamboat and the Martians--a diminishing black bulk
against the receding horizontal expanse of the Essex coast.
Suddenly the foremost Martian lowered his tube and discharged a
canister of the black gas at the ironclad. It hit her larboard side
and glanced off in an inky jet that rolled away to seaward, an
unfolding torrent of Black Smoke, from which the ironclad drove clear.
To the watchers from the steamer, low in the water and with the sun in
their eyes, it seemed as though she were already among the Martians.
They saw the gaunt figures separating and rising out of the water
as they retreated shoreward, and one of them raised the camera-like
generator of the Heat-Ray. He held it pointing obliquely downward,
and a bank of steam sprang from the water at its touch. It must have
driven through the iron of the ship's side like a white-hot iron rod
A flicker of flame went up through the rising steam, and then the
Martian reeled and staggered. In another moment he was cut down, and
a great body of water and steam shot high in the air. The guns of the
Thunder Child sounded through the reek, going off one after the other,
and one shot splashed the water high close by the steamer, ricocheted
towards the other flying ships to the north, and smashed a smack to
But no one heeded that very much. At the sight of the Martian's
collapse the captain on the bridge yelled inarticulately, and all the
crowding passengers on the steamer's stern shouted together. And then
they yelled again. For, surging out beyond the white tumult, drove
something long and black, the flames streaming from its middle parts,
its ventilators and funnels spouting fire.
She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact and
her engines working. She headed straight for a second Martian, and
was within a hundred yards of him when the Heat-Ray came to bear. Then
with a violent thud, a blinding flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped
upward. The Martian staggered with the violence of her explosion, and
in another moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the
impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up like a thing
of cardboard. My brother shouted involuntarily. A boiling tumult of
steam hid everything again.
"Two!" yelled the captain.
Everyone was shouting. The whole steamer from end to end rang with
frantic cheering that was taken up first by one and then by all in the
crowding multitude of ships and boats that was driving out to sea.
The steam hung upon the water for many minutes, hiding the third
Martian and the coast altogether. And all this time the boat was
paddling steadily out to sea and away from the fight; and when at last
the confusion cleared, the drifting bank of black vapour intervened,
and nothing of the Thunder Child could be made out, nor could the
third Martian be seen. But the ironclads to seaward were now quite
close and standing in towards shore past the steamboat.
The little vessel continued to beat its way seaward, and the
ironclads receded slowly towards the coast, which was hidden still by
a marbled bank of vapour, part steam, part black gas, eddying and
combining in the strangest way. The fleet of refugees was scattering
to the northeast; several smacks were sailing between the ironclads
and the steamboat. After a time, and before they reached the sinking
cloud bank, the warships turned northward, and then abruptly went
about and passed into the thickening haze of evening southward. The
coast grew faint, and at last indistinguishable amid the low banks of
clouds that were gathering about the sinking sun.
Then suddenly out of the golden haze of the sunset came the
vibration of guns, and a form of black shadows moving. Everyone
struggled to the rail of the steamer and peered into the blinding
furnace of the west, but nothing was to be distinguished clearly. A
mass of smoke rose slanting and barred the face of the sun. The
steamboat throbbed on its way through an interminable suspense.
The sun sank into grey clouds, the sky flushed and darkened, the
evening star trembled into sight. It was deep twilight when the
captain cried out and pointed. My brother strained his eyes.
Something rushed up into the sky out of the greyness--rushed
slantingly upward and very swiftly into the luminous clearness above
the clouds in the western sky; something flat and broad, and very
large, that swept round in a vast curve, grew smaller, sank slowly,
and vanished again into the grey mystery of the night. And as it flew
it rained down darkness upon the land.
THE EARTH UNDER THE MARTIANS
In the first book I have wandered so much from my own adventures to
tell of the experiences of my brother that all through the last two
chapters I and the curate have been lurking in the empty house at
Halliford whither we fled to escape the Black Smoke. There I will
resume. We stopped there all Sunday night and all the next day--the
day of the panic--in a little island of daylight, cut off by the Black
Smoke from the rest of the world. We could do nothing but wait in
aching inactivity during those two weary days.
My mind was occupied by anxiety for my wife. I figured her at
Leatherhead, terrified, in danger, mourning me already as a dead man.
I paced the rooms and cried aloud when I thought of how I was cut off
from her, of all that might happen to her in my absence. My cousin I
knew was brave enough for any emergency, but he was not the sort of
man to realise danger quickly, to rise promptly. What was needed now
was not bravery, but circumspection. My only consolation was to
believe that the Martians were moving London-ward and away from her.
Such vague anxieties keep the mind sensitive and painful. I grew very
weary and irritable with the curate's perpetual ejaculations; I tired
of the sight of his selfish despair. After some ineffectual
remonstrance I kept away from him, staying in a room--evidently a
children's schoolroom--containing globes, forms, and copybooks. When
he followed me thither, I went to a box room at the top of the house
and, in order to be alone with my aching miseries, locked myself in.
We were hopelessly hemmed in by the Black Smoke all that day and
the morning of the next. There were signs of people in the next house
on Sunday evening--a face at a window and moving lights, and later the
slamming of a door. But I do not know who these people were, nor what
became of them. We saw nothing of them next day. The Black Smoke
drifted slowly riverward all through Monday morning, creeping nearer
and nearer to us, driving at last along the roadway outside the house
that hid us.
A Martian came across the fields about midday, laying the stuff
with a jet of superheated steam that hissed against the walls, smashed
all the windows it touched, and scalded the curate's hand as he fled
out of the front room. When at last we crept across the sodden rooms
and looked out again, the country northward was as though a black
snowstorm had passed over it. Looking towards the river, we were
astonished to see an unaccountable redness mingling with the black of
the scorched meadows.
For a time we did not see how this change affected our position,
save that we were relieved of our fear of the Black Smoke. But later
I perceived that we were no longer hemmed in, that now we might get
away. So soon as I realised that the way of escape was open, my dream
of action returned. But the curate was lethargic, unreasonable.
"We are safe here," he repeated; "safe here."
I resolved to leave him--would that I had! Wiser now for the
artilleryman's teaching, I sought out food and drink. I had found oil
and rags for my burns, and I also took a hat and a flannel shirt that
I found in one of the bedrooms. When it was clear to him that I meant
to go alone--had reconciled myself to going alone--he suddenly roused
himself to come. And all being quiet throughout the afternoon, we
started about five o'clock, as I should judge, along the blackened
road to Sunbury.
In Sunbury, and at intervals along the road, were dead bodies lying
in contorted attitudes, horses as well as men, overturned carts and
luggage, all covered thickly with black dust. That pall of cindery
powder made me think of what I had read of the destruction of Pompeii.
We got to Hampton Court without misadventure, our minds full of
strange and unfamiliar appearances, and at Hampton Court our eyes were
relieved to find a patch of green that had escaped the suffocating
drift. We went through Bushey Park, with its deer going to and fro
under the chestnuts, and some men and women hurrying in the distance
towards Hampton, and so we came to Twickenham. These were the first
people we saw.
Away across the road the woods beyond Ham and Petersham were still
afire. Twickenham was uninjured by either Heat-Ray or Black Smoke,
and there were more people about here, though none could give us news.
For the most part they were like ourselves, taking advantage of a lull
to shift their quarters. I have an impression that many of the houses
here were still occupied by scared inhabitants, too frightened even
for flight. Here too the evidence of a hasty rout was abundant along
the road. I remember most vividly three smashed bicycles in a heap,
pounded into the road by the wheels of subsequent carts. We crossed
Richmond Bridge about half past eight. We hurried across the exposed
bridge, of course, but I noticed floating down the stream a number
of red masses, some many feet across. I did not know what these
were--there was no time for scrutiny--and I put a more horrible
interpretation on them than they deserved. Here again on the Surrey
side were black dust that had once been smoke, and dead bodies--a heap
near the approach to the station; but we had no glimpse of the
Martians until we were some way towards Barnes.
We saw in the blackened distance a group of three people running
down a side street towards the river, but otherwise it seemed
deserted. Up the hill Richmond town was burning briskly; outside the
town of Richmond there was no trace of the Black Smoke.
Then suddenly, as we approached Kew, came a number of people
running, and the upperworks of a Martian fighting-machine loomed in
sight over the housetops, not a hundred yards away from us. We stood
aghast at our danger, and had the Martian looked down we must
immediately have perished. We were so terrified that we dared not go
on, but turned aside and hid in a shed in a garden. There the curate
crouched, weeping silently, and refusing to stir again.
But my fixed idea of reaching Leatherhead would not let me rest,
and in the twilight I ventured out again. I went through a shrubbery,
and along a passage beside a big house standing in its own grounds,
and so emerged upon the road towards Kew. The curate I left in the
shed, but he came hurrying after me.
That second start was the most foolhardy thing I ever did. For it
was manifest the Martians were about us. No sooner had the curate
overtaken me than we saw either the fighting-machine we had seen
before or another, far away across the meadows in the direction of Kew
Lodge. Four or five little black figures hurried before it across the
green-grey of the field, and in a moment it was evident this Martian
pursued them. In three strides he was among them, and they ran
radiating from his feet in all directions. He used no Heat-Ray to
destroy them, but picked them up one by one. Apparently he tossed
them into the great metallic carrier which projected behind him, much
as a workman's basket hangs over his shoulder.
It was the first time I realised that the Martians might have any
other purpose than destruction with defeated humanity. We stood for a
moment petrified, then turned and fled through a gate behind us into a
walled garden, fell into, rather than found, a fortunate ditch, and
lay there, scarce daring to whisper to each other until the stars were
I suppose it was nearly eleven o'clock before we gathered courage
to start again, no longer venturing into the road, but sneaking along
hedgerows and through plantations, and watching keenly through the
darkness, he on the right and I on the left, for the Martians, who
seemed to be all about us. In one place we blundered upon a scorched
and blackened area, now cooling and ashen, and a number of scattered
dead bodies of men, burned horribly about the heads and trunks but
with their legs and boots mostly intact; and of dead horses, fifty
feet, perhaps, behind a line of four ripped guns and smashed gun
Sheen, it seemed, had escaped destruction, but the place was silent
and deserted. Here we happened on no dead, though the night was too
dark for us to see into the side roads of the place. In Sheen my
companion suddenly complained of faintness and thirst, and we decided
to try one of the houses.
The first house we entered, after a little difficulty with the
window, was a small semi-detached villa, and I found nothing eatable
left in the place but some mouldy cheese. There was, however, water
to drink; and I took a hatchet, which promised to be useful in our
We then crossed to a place where the road turns towards Mortlake.
Here there stood a white house within a walled garden, and in the
pantry of this domicile we found a store of food--two loaves of bread
in a pan, an uncooked steak, and the half of a ham. I give this
catalogue so precisely because, as it happened, we were destined to
subsist upon this store for the next fortnight. Bottled beer stood
under a shelf, and there were two bags of haricot beans and some limp
lettuces. This pantry opened into a kind of wash-up kitchen, and in
this was firewood; there was also a cupboard, in which we found nearly
a dozen of burgundy, tinned soups and salmon, and two tins of
We sat in the adjacent kitchen in the dark--for we dared not strike
a light--and ate bread and ham, and drank beer out of the same bottle.
The curate, who was still timorous and restless, was now, oddly
enough, for pushing on, and I was urging him to keep up his strength
by eating when the thing happened that was to imprison us.
"It can't be midnight yet," I said, and then came a blinding glare
of vivid green light. Everything in the kitchen leaped out, clearly
visible in green and black, and vanished again. And then followed such
a concussion as I have never heard before or since. So close on the
heels of this as to seem instantaneous came a thud behind me, a clash
of glass, a crash and rattle of falling masonry all about us, and the
plaster of the ceiling came down upon us, smashing into a multitude of
fragments upon our heads. I was knocked headlong across the floor
against the oven handle and stunned. I was insensible for a long
time, the curate told me, and when I came to we were in darkness
again, and he, with a face wet, as I found afterwards, with blood from
a cut forehead, was dabbing water over me.
For some time I could not recollect what had happened. Then things
came to me slowly. A bruise on my temple asserted itself.
"Are you better?" asked the curate in a whisper.
At last I answered him. I sat up.
"Don't move," he said. "The floor is covered with smashed crockery
from the dresser. You can't possibly move without making a noise, and
I fancy they are outside."
We both sat quite silent, so that we could scarcely hear each other
breathing. Everything seemed deadly still, but once something near
us, some plaster or broken brickwork, slid down with a rumbling sound.
Outside and very near was an intermittent, metallic rattle.
"That!" said the curate, when presently it happened again.
"Yes," I said. "But what is it?"
"A Martian!" said the curate.
I listened again.
"It was not like the Heat-Ray," I said, and for a time I was
inclined to think one of the great fighting-machines had stumbled
against the house, as I had seen one stumble against the tower of
Our situation was so strange and incomprehensible that for three or
four hours, until the dawn came, we scarcely moved. And then the light
filtered in, not through the window, which remained black, but through
a triangular aperture between a beam and a heap of broken bricks in
the wall behind us. The interior of the kitchen we now saw greyly for
the first time.
The window had been burst in by a mass of garden mould, which
flowed over the table upon which we had been sitting and lay about our
feet. Outside, the soil was banked high against the house. At the
top of the window frame we could see an uprooted drainpipe. The floor
was littered with smashed hardware; the end of the kitchen towards the
house was broken into, and since the daylight shone in there, it was
evident the greater part of the house had collapsed. Contrasting
vividly with this ruin was the neat dresser, stained in the fashion,
pale green, and with a number of copper and tin vessels below it, the
wallpaper imitating blue and white tiles, and a couple of coloured
supplements fluttering from the walls above the kitchen range.
As the dawn grew clearer, we saw through the gap in the wall the
body of a Martian, standing sentinel, I suppose, over the still
glowing cylinder. At the sight of that we crawled as circumspectly as
possible out of the twilight of the kitchen into the darkness of the
Abruptly the right interpretation dawned upon my mind.
"The fifth cylinder," I whispered, "the fifth shot from Mars, has
struck this house and buried us under the ruins!"
For a time the curate was silent, and then he whispered:
"God have mercy upon us!"
I heard him presently whimpering to himself.
Save for that sound we lay quite still in the scullery; I for my
part scarce dared breathe, and sat with my eyes fixed on the faint
light of the kitchen door. I could just see the curate's face, a dim,
oval shape, and his collar and cuffs. Outside there began a metallic
hammering, then a violent hooting, and then again, after a quiet
interval, a hissing like the hissing of an engine. These noises, for
the most part problematical, continued intermittently, and seemed if
anything to increase in number as time wore on. Presently a measured
thudding and a vibration that made everything about us quiver and the
vessels in the pantry ring and shift, began and continued. Once the
light was eclipsed, and the ghostly kitchen doorway became absolutely
dark. For many hours we must have crouched there, silent and
shivering, until our tired attention failed. . . .
At last I found myself awake and very hungry. I am inclined to
believe we must have spent the greater portion of a day before that
awakening. My hunger was at a stride so insistent that it moved me to
action. I told the curate I was going to seek food, and felt my way
towards the pantry. He made me no answer, but so soon as I began
eating the faint noise I made stirred him up and I heard him crawling
WHAT WE SAW FROM THE RUINED HOUSE
After eating we crept back to the scullery, and there I must have
dozed again, for when presently I looked round I was alone. The
thudding vibration continued with wearisome persistence. I whispered
for the curate several times, and at last felt my way to the door of
the kitchen. It was still daylight, and I perceived him across the
room, lying against the triangular hole that looked out upon the
Martians. His shoulders were hunched, so that his head was hidden
I could hear a number of noises almost like those in an engine
shed; and the place rocked with that beating thud. Through the
aperture in the wall I could see the top of a tree touched with gold
and the warm blue of a tranquil evening sky. For a minute or so I
remained watching the curate, and then I advanced, crouching and
stepping with extreme care amid the broken crockery that littered the
I touched the curate's leg, and he started so violently that a mass
of plaster went sliding down outside and fell with a loud impact. I
gripped his arm, fearing he might cry out, and for a long time we
crouched motionless. Then I turned to see how much of our rampart
remained. The detachment of the plaster had left a vertical slit open
in the debris, and by raising myself cautiously across a beam I was
able to see out of this gap into what had been overnight a quiet
suburban roadway. Vast, indeed, was the change that we beheld.
The fifth cylinder must have fallen right into the midst of the
house we had first visited. The building had vanished, completely
smashed, pulverised, and dispersed by the blow. The cylinder lay now
far beneath the original foundations--deep in a hole, already vastly
larger than the pit I had looked into at Woking. The earth all round
it had splashed under that tremendous impact--"splashed" is the only
word--and lay in heaped piles that hid the masses of the adjacent
houses. It had behaved exactly like mud under the violent blow of a
hammer. Our house had collapsed backward; the front portion, even on
the ground floor, had been destroyed completely; by a chance the
kitchen and scullery had escaped, and stood buried now under soil and
ruins, closed in by tons of earth on every side save towards the
cylinder. Over that aspect we hung now on the very edge of the great
circular pit the Martians were engaged in making. The heavy beating
sound was evidently just behind us, and ever and again a bright green
vapour drove up like a veil across our peephole.
The cylinder was already opened in the centre of the pit, and on
the farther edge of the pit, amid the smashed and gravel-heaped
shrubbery, one of the great fighting-machines, deserted by its
occupant, stood stiff and tall against the evening sky. At first I
scarcely noticed the pit and the cylinder, although it has been
convenient to describe them first, on account of the extraordinary
glittering mechanism I saw busy in the excavation, and on account of
the strange creatures that were crawling slowly and painfully across
the heaped mould near it.
The mechanism it certainly was that held my attention first. It
was one of those complicated fabrics that have since been called
handling-machines, and the study of which has already given such an
enormous impetus to terrestrial invention. As it dawned upon me
first, it presented a sort of metallic spider with five jointed,
agile legs, and with an extraordinary number of jointed levers, bars,
and reaching and clutching tentacles about its body. Most of its
arms were retracted, but with three long tentacles it was fishing
out a number of rods, plates, and bars which lined the covering and
apparently strengthened the walls of the cylinder. These, as it
extracted them, were lifted out and deposited upon a level surface
of earth behind it.
Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did
not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter. The
fighting-machines were coordinated and animated to an extraordinary
pitch, but nothing to compare with this. People who have never seen
these structures, and have only the ill-imagined efforts of artists or
the imperfect descriptions of such eye-witnesses as myself to go upon,
scarcely realise that living quality.
I recall particularly the illustration of one of the first
pamphlets to give a consecutive account of the war. The artist had
evidently made a hasty study of one of the fighting-machines, and
there his knowledge ended. He presented them as tilted, stiff
tripods, without either flexibility or subtlety, and with an
altogether misleading monotony of effect. The pamphlet containing
these renderings had a considerable vogue, and I mention them here
simply to warn the reader against the impression they may have
created. They were no more like the Martians I saw in action than a
Dutch doll is like a human being. To my mind, the pamphlet would have
been much better without them.
At first, I say, the handling-machine did not impress me as a
machine, but as a crablike creature with a glittering integument, the
controlling Martian whose delicate tentacles actuated its movements
seeming to be simply the equivalent of the crab's cerebral portion.
But then I perceived the resemblance of its grey-brown, shiny,
leathery integument to that of the other sprawling bodies beyond, and
the true nature of this dexterous workman dawned upon me. With that
realisation my interest shifted to those other creatures, the real
Martians. Already I had had a transient impression of these, and the
first nausea no longer obscured my observation. Moreover, I was
concealed and motionless, and under no urgency of action.
They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it is possible
to conceive. They were huge round bodies--or, rather, heads--about
four feet in diameter, each body having in front of it a face. This
face had no nostrils--indeed, the Martians do not seem to have had any
sense of smell, but it had a pair of very large dark-coloured eyes,
and just beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. In the back of this head
or body--I scarcely know how to speak of it--was the single tight
tympanic surface, since known to be anatomically an ear, though it
must have been almost useless in our dense air. In a group round the
mouth were sixteen slender, almost whiplike tentacles, arranged in two
bunches of eight each. These bunches have since been named rather
aptly, by that distinguished anatomist, Professor Howes, the hands.
Even as I saw these Martians for the first time they seemed to be
endeavouring to raise themselves on these hands, but of course, with
the increased weight of terrestrial conditions, this was impossible.
There is reason to suppose that on Mars they may have progressed upon
them with some facility.
The internal anatomy, I may remark here, as dissection has since
shown, was almost equally simple. The greater part of the structure
was the brain, sending enormous nerves to the eyes, ear, and tactile
tentacles. Besides this were the bulky lungs, into which the mouth
opened, and the heart and its vessels. The pulmonary distress caused
by the denser atmosphere and greater gravitational attraction was only
too evident in the convulsive movements of the outer skin.
And this was the sum of the Martian organs. Strange as it may seem
to a human being, all the complex apparatus of digestion, which makes
up the bulk of our bodies, did not exist in the Martians. They were
heads--merely heads. Entrails they had none. They did not eat, much
less digest. Instead, they took the fresh, living blood of other
creatures, and injected it into their own veins. I have myself seen
this being done, as I shall mention in its place. But, squeamish as I
may seem, I cannot bring myself to describe what I could not endure
even to continue watching. Let it suffice to say, blood obtained from
a still living animal, in most cases from a human being, was run
directly by means of a little pipette into the recipient canal. . . .
The bare idea of this is no doubt horribly repulsive to us, but at
the same time I think that we should remember how repulsive our
carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent rabbit.
The physiological advantages of the practice of injection are
undeniable, if one thinks of the tremendous waste of human time and
energy occasioned by eating and the digestive process. Our bodies are
half made up of glands and tubes and organs, occupied in turning
heterogeneous food into blood. The digestive processes and their
reaction upon the nervous system sap our strength and colour our
minds. Men go happy or miserable as they have healthy or unhealthy
livers, or sound gastric glands. But the Martians were lifted above
all these organic fluctuations of mood and emotion.
Their undeniable preference for men as their source of nourishment
is partly explained by the nature of the remains of the victims they
had brought with them as provisions from Mars. These creatures, to
judge from the shrivelled remains that have fallen into human hands,
were bipeds with flimsy, silicious skeletons (almost like those of the
silicious sponges) and feeble musculature, standing about six feet
high and having round, erect heads, and large eyes in flinty sockets.
Two or three of these seem to have been brought in each cylinder, and
all were killed before earth was reached. It was just as well for
them, for the mere attempt to stand upright upon our planet would have
broken every bone in their bodies.
And while I am engaged in this description, I may add in this place
certain further details which, although they were not all evident to
us at the time, will enable the reader who is unacquainted with them
to form a clearer picture of these offensive creatures.
In three other points their physiology differed strangely from
ours. Their organisms did not sleep, any more than the heart of man
sleeps. Since they had no extensive muscular mechanism to recuperate,
that periodical extinction was unknown to them. They had little or
no sense of fatigue, it would seem. On earth they could never have
moved without effort, yet even to the last they kept in action. In
twenty-four hours they did twenty-four hours of work, as even on earth
is perhaps the case with the ants.
In the next place, wonderful as it seems in a sexual world, the
Martians were absolutely without sex, and therefore without any of the
tumultuous emotions that arise from that difference among men. A
young Martian, there can now be no dispute, was really born upon earth
during the war, and it was found attached to its parent, partially
budded off, just as young lilybulbs bud off, or like the young animals
in the fresh-water polyp.
In man, in all the higher terrestrial animals, such a method of
increase has disappeared; but even on this earth it was certainly the
primitive method. Among the lower animals, up even to those first
cousins of the vertebrated animals, the Tunicates, the two processes
occur side by side, but finally the sexual method superseded its
competitor altogether. On Mars, however, just the reverse has
apparently been the case.
It is worthy of remark that a certain speculative writer of
quasi-scientific repute, writing long before the Martian invasion, did
forecast for man a final structure not unlike the actual Martian
condition. His prophecy, I remember, appeared in November or
December, 1893, in a long-defunct publication, the Pall Mall Budget,
and I recall a caricature of it in a pre-Martian periodical called
Punch. He pointed out--writing in a foolish, facetious tone--that the
perfection of mechanical appliances must ultimately supersede limbs;
the perfection of chemical devices, digestion; that such organs as
hair, external nose, teeth, ears, and chin were no longer essential
parts of the human being, and that the tendency of natural selection
would lie in the direction of their steady diminution through the
coming ages. The brain alone remained a cardinal necessity. Only one
other part of the body had a strong case for survival, and that was
the hand, "teacher and agent of the brain." While the rest of the
body dwindled, the hands would grow larger.
There is many a true word written in jest, and here in the Martians
we have beyond dispute the actual accomplishment of such a suppression
of the animal side of the organism by the intelligence. To me it is
quite credible that the Martians may be descended from beings not
unlike ourselves, by a gradual development of brain and hands (the
latter giving rise to the two bunches of delicate tentacles at last)
at the expense of the rest of the body. Without the body the brain
would, of course, become a mere selfish intelligence, without any of
the emotional substratum of the human being.
The last salient point in which the systems of these creatures
differed from ours was in what one might have thought a very trivial
particular. Micro-organisms, which cause so much disease and pain on
earth, have either never appeared upon Mars or Martian sanitary
science eliminated them ages ago. A hundred diseases, all the fevers
and contagions of human life, consumption, cancers, tumours and such
morbidities, never enter the scheme of their life. And speaking of
the differences between the life on Mars and terrestrial life, I may
allude here to the curious suggestions of the red weed.
Apparently the vegetable kingdom in Mars, instead of having green
for a dominant colour, is of a vivid blood-red tint. At any rate, the
seeds which the Martians (intentionally or accidentally) brought with
them gave rise in all cases to red-coloured growths. Only that known
popularly as the red weed, however, gained any footing in competition
with terrestrial forms. The red creeper was quite a transitory
growth, and few people have seen it growing. For a time, however, the
red weed grew with astonishing vigour and luxuriance. It spread up
the sides of the pit by the third or fourth day of our imprisonment,
and its cactus-like branches formed a carmine fringe to the edges of
our triangular window. And afterwards I found it broadcast throughout
the country, and especially wherever there was a stream of water.
The Martians had what appears to have been an auditory organ, a
single round drum at the back of the head-body, and eyes with a visual
range not very different from ours except that, according to Philips,
blue and violet were as black to them. It is commonly supposed that
they communicated by sounds and tentacular gesticulations; this is
asserted, for instance, in the able but hastily compiled pamphlet
(written evidently by someone not an eye-witness of Martian actions)
to which I have already alluded, and which, so far, has been the chief
source of information concerning them. Now no surviving human being
saw so much of the Martians in action as I did. I take no credit to
myself for an accident, but the fact is so. And I assert that I
watched them closely time after time, and that I have seen four, five,
and (once) six of them sluggishly performing the most elaborately
complicated operations together without either sound or gesture. Their
peculiar hooting invariably preceded feeding; it had no modulation,
and was, I believe, in no sense a signal, but merely the expiration of
air preparatory to the suctional operation. I have a certain claim to
at least an elementary knowledge of psychology, and in this matter I
am convinced--as firmly as I am convinced of anything--that the
Martians interchanged thoughts without any physical intermediation.
And I have been convinced of this in spite of strong preconceptions.
Before the Martian invasion, as an occasional reader here or there may
remember, I had written with some little vehemence against the
The Martians wore no clothing. Their conceptions of ornament and
decorum were necessarily different from ours; and not only were they
evidently much less sensible of changes of temperature than we are,
but changes of pressure do not seem to have affected their health at
all seriously. Yet though they wore no clothing, it was in the other
artificial additions to their bodily resources that their great
superiority over man lay. We men, with our bicycles and road-skates,
our Lilienthal soaring-machines, our guns and sticks and so forth, are
just in the beginning of the evolution that the Martians have worked
out. They have become practically mere brains, wearing different
bodies according to their needs just as men wear suits of clothes and
take a bicycle in a hurry or an umbrella in the wet. And of their
appliances, perhaps nothing is more wonderful to a man than the
curious fact that what is the dominant feature of almost all human
devices in mechanism is absent--the wheel is absent; among all the
things they brought to earth there is no trace or suggestion of their
use of wheels. One would have at least expected it in locomotion. And
in this connection it is curious to remark that even on this earth
Nature has never hit upon the wheel, or has preferred other expedients
to its development. And not only did the Martians either not know of
(which is incredible), or abstain from, the wheel, but in their
apparatus singularly little use is made of the fixed pivot or
relatively fixed pivot, with circular motions thereabout confined
to one plane. Almost all the joints of the machinery present a
complicated system of sliding parts moving over small but beautifully
curved friction bearings. And while upon this matter of detail, it is
remarkable that the long leverages of their machines are in most cases
actuated by a sort of sham musculature of the disks in an elastic
sheath; these disks become polarised and drawn closely and powerfully
together when traversed by a current of electricity. In this way the
curious parallelism to animal motions, which was so striking and
disturbing to the human beholder, was attained. Such quasi-muscles
abounded in the crablike handling-machine which, on my first peeping
out of the slit, I watched unpacking the cylinder. It seemed
infinitely more alive than the actual Martians lying beyond it in the
sunset light, panting, stirring ineffectual tentacles, and moving
feebly after their vast journey across space.
While I was still watching their sluggish motions in the sunlight,
and noting each strange detail of their form, the curate reminded me
of his presence by pulling violently at my arm. I turned to a
scowling face, and silent, eloquent lips. He wanted the slit, which
permitted only one of us to peep through; and so I had to forego
watching them for a time while he enjoyed that privilege.
When I looked again, the busy handling-machine had already put
together several of the pieces of apparatus it had taken out of the
cylinder into a shape having an unmistakable likeness to its own; and
down on the left a busy little digging mechanism had come into view,
emitting jets of green vapour and working its way round the pit,
excavating and embanking in a methodical and discriminating manner.
This it was which had caused the regular beating noise, and the
rhythmic shocks that had kept our ruinous refuge quivering. It piped
and whistled as it worked. So far as I could see, the thing was
without a directing Martian at all.
THE DAYS OF IMPRISONMENT
The arrival of a second fighting-machine drove us from our peephole
into the scullery, for we feared that from his elevation the Martian
might see down upon us behind our barrier. At a later date we began
to feel less in danger of their eyes, for to an eye in the dazzle of
the sunlight outside our refuge must have been blank blackness, but at
first the slightest suggestion of approach drove us into the scullery
in heart-throbbing retreat. Yet terrible as was the danger we
incurred, the attraction of peeping was for both of us irresistible.
And I recall now with a sort of wonder that, in spite of the infinite
danger in which we were between starvation and a still more terrible
death, we could yet struggle bitterly for that horrible privilege of
sight. We would race across the kitchen in a grotesque way between
eagerness and the dread of making a noise, and strike each other, and
thrust and kick, within a few inches of exposure.
The fact is that we had absolutely incompatible dispositions and
habits of thought and action, and our danger and isolation only
accentuated the incompatibility. At Halliford I had already come to
hate the curate's trick of helpless exclamation, his stupid rigidity
of mind. His endless muttering monologue vitiated every effort I made
to think out a line of action, and drove me at times, thus pent up and
intensified, almost to the verge of craziness. He was as lacking in
restraint as a silly woman. He would weep for hours together, and I
verily believe that to the very end this spoiled child of life thought
his weak tears in some way efficacious. And I would sit in the
darkness unable to keep my mind off him by reason of his
importunities. He ate more than I did, and it was in vain I pointed
out that our only chance of life was to stop in the house until the
Martians had done with their pit, that in that long patience a time
might presently come when we should need food. He ate and drank
impulsively in heavy meals at long intervals. He slept little.
As the days wore on, his utter carelessness of any consideration so
intensified our distress and danger that I had, much as I loathed
doing it, to resort to threats, and at last to blows. That brought him
to reason for a time. But he was one of those weak creatures, void of
pride, timorous, anaemic, hateful souls, full of shifty cunning, who
face neither God nor man, who face not even themselves.
It is disagreeable for me to recall and write these things, but I
set them down that my story may lack nothing. Those who have escaped
the dark and terrible aspects of life will find my brutality, my flash
of rage in our final tragedy, easy enough to blame; for they know what
is wrong as well as any, but not what is possible to tortured men. But
those who have been under the shadow, who have gone down at last to
elemental things, will have a wider charity.
And while within we fought out our dark, dim contest of whispers,
snatched food and drink, and gripping hands and blows, without, in the
pitiless sunlight of that terrible June, was the strange wonder, the
unfamiliar routine of the Martians in the pit. Let me return to those
first new experiences of mine. After a long time I ventured back to
the peephole, to find that the new-comers had been reinforced by the
occupants of no fewer than three of the fighting-machines. These last
had brought with them certain fresh appliances that stood in an
orderly manner about the cylinder. The second handling-machine was now
completed, and was busied in serving one of the novel contrivances the
big machine had brought. This was a body resembling a milk can in its
general form, above which oscillated a pear-shaped receptacle, and
from which a stream of white powder flowed into a circular basin
The oscillatory motion was imparted to this by one tentacle of the
handling-machine. With two spatulate hands the handling-machine was
digging out and flinging masses of clay into the pear-shaped
receptacle above, while with another arm it periodically opened a door
and removed rusty and blackened clinkers from the middle part of the
machine. Another steely tentacle directed the powder from the basin
along a ribbed channel towards some receiver that was hidden from me
by the mound of bluish dust. From this unseen receiver a little
thread of green smoke rose vertically into the quiet air. As I looked,
the handling-machine, with a faint and musical clinking, extended,
telescopic fashion, a tentacle that had been a moment before a mere
blunt projection, until its end was hidden behind the mound of clay.
In another second it had lifted a bar of white aluminium into sight,
untarnished as yet, and shining dazzlingly, and deposited it in a
growing stack of bars that stood at the side of the pit. Between
sunset and starlight this dexterous machine must have made more than a
hundred such bars out of the crude clay, and the mound of bluish dust
rose steadily until it topped the side of the pit.
The contrast between the swift and complex movements of these
contrivances and the inert panting clumsiness of their masters was
acute, and for days I had to tell myself repeatedly that these latter
were indeed the living of the two things.
The curate had possession of the slit when the first men were
brought to the pit. I was sitting below, huddled up, listening with
all my ears. He made a sudden movement backward, and I, fearful that
we were observed, crouched in a spasm of terror. He came sliding down
the rubbish and crept beside me in the darkness, inarticulate,
gesticulating, and for a moment I shared his panic. His gesture
suggested a resignation of the slit, and after a little while my
curiosity gave me courage, and I rose up, stepped across him, and
clambered up to it. At first I could see no reason for his frantic
behaviour. The twilight had now come, the stars were little and
faint, but the pit was illuminated by the flickering green fire that
came from the aluminium-making. The whole picture was a flickering
scheme of green gleams and shifting rusty black shadows, strangely
trying to the eyes. Over and through it all went the bats, heeding it
not at all. The sprawling Martians were no longer to be seen, the
mound of blue-green powder had risen to cover them from sight, and a
fighting-machine, with its legs contracted, crumpled, and abbreviated,
stood across the corner of the pit. And then, amid the clangour of
the machinery, came a drifting suspicion of human voices, that I
entertained at first only to dismiss.
I crouched, watching this fighting-machine closely, satisfying
myself now for the first time that the hood did indeed contain a
Martian. As the green flames lifted I could see the oily gleam of
his integument and the brightness of his eyes. And suddenly I heard
a yell, and saw a long tentacle reaching over the shoulder of the
machine to the little cage that hunched upon its back. Then
something--something struggling violently--was lifted high against the
sky, a black, vague enigma against the starlight; and as this black
object came down again, I saw by the green brightness that it was a
man. For an instant he was clearly visible. He was a stout, ruddy,
middle-aged man, well dressed; three days before, he must have been
walking the world, a man of considerable consequence. I could see his
staring eyes and gleams of light on his studs and watch chain. He
vanished behind the mound, and for a moment there was silence. And
then began a shrieking and a sustained and cheerful hooting from the
I slid down the rubbish, struggled to my feet, clapped my hands
over my ears, and bolted into the scullery. The curate, who had been
crouching silently with his arms over his head, looked up as I passed,
cried out quite loudly at my desertion of him, and came running after
That night, as we lurked in the scullery, balanced between our
horror and the terrible fascination this peeping had, although I felt
an urgent need of action I tried in vain to conceive some plan of
escape; but afterwards, during the second day, I was able to consider
our position with great clearness. The curate, I found, was quite
incapable of discussion; this new and culminating atrocity had robbed
him of all vestiges of reason or forethought. Practically he had
already sunk to the level of an animal. But as the saying goes, I
gripped myself with both hands. It grew upon my mind, once I could
face the facts, that terrible as our position was, there was as yet
no justification for absolute despair. Our chief chance lay in the
possibility of the Martians making the pit nothing more than a
temporary encampment. Or even if they kept it permanently, they might
not consider it necessary to guard it, and a chance of escape might be
afforded us. I also weighed very carefully the possibility of our
digging a way out in a direction away from the pit, but the chances of
our emerging within sight of some sentinel fighting-machine seemed at
first too great. And I should have had to do all the digging myself.
The curate would certainly have failed me.
It was on the third day, if my memory serves me right, that I saw
the lad killed. It was the only occasion on which I actually saw the
Martians feed. After that experience I avoided the hole in the wall
for the better part of a day. I went into the scullery, removed the
door, and spent some hours digging with my hatchet as silently as
possible; but when I had made a hole about a couple of feet deep the
loose earth collapsed noisily, and I did not dare continue. I lost
heart, and lay down on the scullery floor for a long time, having no
spirit even to move. And after that I abandoned altogether the idea
of escaping by excavation.
It says much for the impression the Martians had made upon me that
at first I entertained little or no hope of our escape being brought
about by their overthrow through any human effort. But on the fourth
or fifth night I heard a sound like heavy guns.
It was very late in the night, and the moon was shining brightly.
The Martians had taken away the excavating-machine, and, save for a
fighting-machine that stood in the remoter bank of the pit and a
handling-machine that was buried out of my sight in a corner of the
pit immediately beneath my peephole, the place was deserted by them.
Except for the pale glow from the handling-machine and the bars and
patches of white moonlight the pit was in darkness, and, except for
the clinking of the handling-machine, quite still. That night was a
beautiful serenity; save for one planet, the moon seemed to have the
sky to herself. I heard a dog howling, and that familiar sound it was
that made me listen. Then I heard quite distinctly a booming exactly
like the sound of great guns. Six distinct reports I counted, and
after a long interval six again. And that was all.
THE DEATH OF THE CURATE
It was on the sixth day of our imprisonment that I peeped for the
last time, and presently found myself alone. Instead of keeping close
to me and trying to oust me from the slit, the curate had gone back
into the scullery. I was struck by a sudden thought. I went back
quickly and quietly into the scullery. In the darkness I heard the
curate drinking. I snatched in the darkness, and my fingers caught a
bottle of burgundy.
For a few minutes there was a tussle. The bottle struck the floor
and broke, and I desisted and rose. We stood panting and threatening
each other. In the end I planted myself between him and the food, and
told him of my determination to begin a discipline. I divided the
food in the pantry, into rations to last us ten days. I would not let
him eat any more that day. In the afternoon he made a feeble effort
to get at the food. I had been dozing, but in an instant I was awake.
All day and all night we sat face to face, I weary but resolute, and
he weeping and complaining of his immediate hunger. It was, I know, a
night and a day, but to me it seemed--it seems now--an interminable
length of time.
And so our widened incompatibility ended at last in open conflict.
For two vast days we struggled in undertones and wrestling contests.
There were times when I beat and kicked him madly, times when I
cajoled and persuaded him, and once I tried to bribe him with the last
bottle of burgundy, for there was a rain-water pump from which I could
get water. But neither force nor kindness availed; he was indeed
beyond reason. He would neither desist from his attacks on the food
nor from his noisy babbling to himself. The rudimentary precautions
to keep our imprisonment endurable he would not observe. Slowly I
began to realise the complete overthrow of his intelligence, to
perceive that my sole companion in this close and sickly darkness was
a man insane.
From certain vague memories I am inclined to think my own mind
wandered at times. I had strange and hideous dreams whenever I slept.
It sounds paradoxical, but I am inclined to think that the weakness
and insanity of the curate warned me, braced me, and kept me a sane
On the eighth day he began to talk aloud instead of whispering, and
nothing I could do would moderate his speech.
"It is just, O God!" he would say, over and over again. "It is
just. On me and mine be the punishment laid. We have sinned, we have
fallen short. There was poverty, sorrow; the poor were trodden in
the dust, and I held my peace. I preached acceptable folly--my God,
what folly!--when I should have stood up, though I died for it, and
called upon them to repent-repent! . . . Oppressors of the poor and
needy . . . ! The wine press of God!"
Then he would suddenly revert to the matter of the food I withheld
from him, praying, begging, weeping, at last threatening. He began to
raise his voice--I prayed him not to. He perceived a hold on me--he
threatened he would shout and bring the Martians upon us. For a time
that scared me; but any concession would have shortened our chance of
escape beyond estimating. I defied him, although I felt no assurance
that he might not do this thing. But that day, at any rate, he did
not. He talked with his voice rising slowly, through the greater part
of the eighth and ninth days--threats, entreaties, mingled with a
torrent of half-sane and always frothy repentance for his vacant sham
of God's service, such as made me pity him. Then he slept awhile, and
began again with renewed strength, so loudly that I must needs make
"Be still!" I implored.
He rose to his knees, for he had been sitting in the darkness near
"I have been still too long," he said, in a tone that must have
reached the pit, "and now I must bear my witness. Woe unto this
unfaithful city! Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe! To the inhabitants of
the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet----"
"Shut up!" I said, rising to my feet, and in a terror lest the
Martians should hear us. "For God's sake----"
"Nay," shouted the curate, at the top of his voice, standing
likewise and extending his arms. "Speak! The word of the Lord is
In three strides he was at the door leading into the kitchen.
"I must bear my witness! I go! It has already been too long
I put out my hand and felt the meat chopper hanging to the wall.
In a flash I was after him. I was fierce with fear. Before he was
halfway across the kitchen I had overtaken him. With one last touch
of humanity I turned the blade back and struck him with the butt. He
went headlong forward and lay stretched on the ground. I stumbled
over him and stood panting. He lay still.
Suddenly I heard a noise without, the run and smash of slipping
plaster, and the triangular aperture in the wall was darkened. I
looked up and saw the lower surface of a handling-machine coming
slowly across the hole. One of its gripping limbs curled amid the
debris; another limb appeared, feeling its way over the fallen beams.
I stood petrified, staring. Then I saw through a sort of glass plate
near the edge of the body the face, as we may call it, and the large
dark eyes of a Martian, peering, and then a long metallic snake of
tentacle came feeling slowly through the hole.
I turned by an effort, stumbled over the curate, and stopped at the
scullery door. The tentacle was now some way, two yards or more, in
the room, and twisting and turning, with queer sudden movements, this
way and that. For a while I stood fascinated by that slow, fitful
advance. Then, with a faint, hoarse cry, I forced myself across the
scullery. I trembled violently; I could scarcely stand upright. I
opened the door of the coal cellar, and stood there in the darkness
staring at the faintly lit doorway into the kitchen, and listening.
Had the Martian seen me? What was it doing now?
Something was moving to and fro there, very quietly; every now and
then it tapped against the wall, or started on its movements with a
faint metallic ringing, like the movements of keys on a split-ring.
Then a heavy body--I knew too well what--was dragged across the floor
of the kitchen towards the opening. Irresistibly attracted, I crept
to the door and peeped into the kitchen. In the triangle of bright
outer sunlight I saw the Martian, in its Briareus of a handling-machine,
scrutinizing the curate's head. I thought at once that it would infer
my presence from the mark of the blow I had given him.
I crept back to the coal cellar, shut the door, and began to cover
myself up as much as I could, and as noiselessly as possible in the
darkness, among the firewood and coal therein. Every now and then I
paused, rigid, to hear if the Martian had thrust its tentacles through
the opening again.
Then the faint metallic jingle returned. I traced it slowly
feeling over the kitchen. Presently I heard it nearer--in the
scullery, as I judged. I thought that its length might be
insufficient to reach me. I prayed copiously. It passed, scraping
faintly across the cellar door. An age of almost intolerable suspense
intervened; then I heard it fumbling at the latch! It had found the
door! The Martians understood doors!
It worried at the catch for a minute, perhaps, and then the door
In the darkness I could just see the thing--like an elephant's
trunk more than anything else--waving towards me and touching and
examining the wall, coals, wood and ceiling. It was like a black worm
swaying its blind head to and fro.
Once, even, it touched the heel of my boot. I was on the verge of
screaming; I bit my hand. For a time the tentacle was silent. I
could have fancied it had been withdrawn. Presently, with an abrupt
click, it gripped something--I thought it had me!--and seemed to go
out of the cellar again. For a minute I was not sure. Apparently it
had taken a lump of coal to examine.
I seized the opportunity of slightly shifting my position, which
had become cramped, and then listened. I whispered passionate prayers
Then I heard the slow, deliberate sound creeping towards me again.
Slowly, slowly it drew near, scratching against the walls and tapping
While I was still doubtful, it rapped smartly against the cellar
door and closed it. I heard it go into the pantry, and the biscuit-tins
rattled and a bottle smashed, and then came a heavy bump against
the cellar door. Then silence that passed into an infinity of
Had it gone?
At last I decided that it had.
It came into the scullery no more; but I lay all the tenth day in
the close darkness, buried among coals and firewood, not daring even
to crawl out for the drink for which I craved. It was the eleventh day
before I ventured so far from my security.
My first act before I went into the pantry was to fasten the door
between the kitchen and the scullery. But the pantry was empty; every
scrap of food had gone. Apparently, the Martian had taken it all on
the previous day. At that discovery I despaired for the first time. I
took no food, or no drink either, on the eleventh or the twelfth day.
At first my mouth and throat were parched, and my strength ebbed
sensibly. I sat about in the darkness of the scullery, in a state of
despondent wretchedness. My mind ran on eating. I thought I had
become deaf, for the noises of movement I had been accustomed to hear
from the pit had ceased absolutely. I did not feel strong enough to
crawl noiselessly to the peephole, or I would have gone there.
On the twelfth day my throat was so painful that, taking the chance
of alarming the Martians, I attacked the creaking rain-water pump that
stood by the sink, and got a couple of glassfuls of blackened and
tainted rain water. I was greatly refreshed by this, and emboldened
by the fact that no enquiring tentacle followed the noise of my
During these days, in a rambling, inconclusive way, I thought much
of the curate and of the manner of his death.
On the thirteenth day I drank some more water, and dozed and
thought disjointedly of eating and of vague impossible plans of
escape. Whenever I dozed I dreamt of horrible phantasms, of the death
of the curate, or of sumptuous dinners; but, asleep or awake, I felt a
keen pain that urged me to drink again and again. The light that came
into the scullery was no longer grey, but red. To my disordered
imagination it seemed the colour of blood.
On the fourteenth day I went into the kitchen, and I was surprised
to find that the fronds of the red weed had grown right across
the hole in the wall, turning the half-light of the place into a
It was early on the fifteenth day that I heard a curious, familiar
sequence of sounds in the kitchen, and, listening, identified it as
the snuffing and scratching of a dog. Going into the kitchen, I saw a
dog's nose peering in through a break among the ruddy fronds. This
greatly surprised me. At the scent of me he barked shortly.
I thought if I could induce him to come into the place quietly I
should be able, perhaps, to kill and eat him; and in any case, it
would be advisable to kill him, lest his actions attracted the
attention of the Martians.
I crept forward, saying "Good dog!" very softly; but he suddenly
withdrew his head and disappeared.
I listened--I was not deaf--but certainly the pit was still. I
heard a sound like the flutter of a bird's wings, and a hoarse
croaking, but that was all.
For a long while I lay close to the peephole, but not daring to
move aside the red plants that obscured it. Once or twice I heard a
faint pitter-patter like the feet of the dog going hither and thither
on the sand far below me, and there were more birdlike sounds, but
that was all. At length, encouraged by the silence, I looked out.
Except in the corner, where a multitude of crows hopped and fought
over the skeletons of the dead the Martians had consumed, there was
not a living thing in the pit.
I stared about me, scarcely believing my eyes. All the machinery
had gone. Save for the big mound of greyish-blue powder in one
corner, certain bars of aluminium in another, the black birds, and the
skeletons of the killed, the place was merely an empty circular pit in
Slowly I thrust myself out through the red weed, and stood upon the
mound of rubble. I could see in any direction save behind me, to the
north, and neither Martians nor sign of Martians were to be seen. The
pit dropped sheerly from my feet, but a little way along the rubbish
afforded a practicable slope to the summit of the ruins. My chance of
escape had come. I began to tremble.
I hesitated for some time, and then, in a gust of desperate
resolution, and with a heart that throbbed violently, I scrambled to
the top of the mound in which I had been buried so long.
I looked about again. To the northward, too, no Martian was
When I had last seen this part of Sheen in the daylight it had been
a straggling street of comfortable white and red houses, interspersed
with abundant shady trees. Now I stood on a mound of smashed
brickwork, clay, and gravel, over which spread a multitude of red
cactus-shaped plants, knee-high, without a solitary terrestrial growth
to dispute their footing. The trees near me were dead and brown, but
further a network of red thread scaled the still living stems.
The neighbouring houses had all been wrecked, but none had been
burned; their walls stood, sometimes to the second story, with smashed
windows and shattered doors. The red weed grew tumultuously in their
roofless rooms. Below me was the great pit, with the crows struggling
for its refuse. A number of other birds hopped about among the ruins.
Far away I saw a gaunt cat slink crouchingly along a wall, but traces
of men there were none.
The day seemed, by contrast with my recent confinement, dazzlingly
bright, the sky a glowing blue. A gentle breeze kept the red weed
that covered every scrap of unoccupied ground gently swaying. And oh!
the sweetness of the air!
THE WORK OF FIFTEEN DAYS
For some time I stood tottering on the mound regardless of my
safety. Within that noisome den from which I had emerged I had
thought with a narrow intensity only of our immediate security. I had
not realised what had been happening to the world, had not anticipated
this startling vision of unfamiliar things. I had expected to see
Sheen in ruins--I found about me the landscape, weird and lurid, of
For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common range of
men, yet one that the poor brutes we dominate know only too well. I
felt as a rabbit might feel returning to his burrow and suddenly
confronted by the work of a dozen busy navvies digging the foundations
of a house. I felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew
quite clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense of
dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer a master, but an
animal among the animals, under the Martian heel. With us it would be
as with them, to lurk and watch, to run and hide; the fear and empire
of man had passed away.
But so soon as this strangeness had been realised it passed, and my
dominant motive became the hunger of my long and dismal fast. In the
direction away from the pit I saw, beyond a red-covered wall, a patch
of garden ground unburied. This gave me a hint, and I went knee-deep,
and sometimes neck-deep, in the red weed. The density of the
weed gave me a reassuring sense of hiding. The wall was some six feet
high, and when I attempted to clamber it I found I could not lift my
feet to the crest. So I went along by the side of it, and came to a
corner and a rockwork that enabled me to get to the top, and tumble
into the garden I coveted. Here I found some young onions, a couple
of gladiolus bulbs, and a quantity of immature carrots, all of which I
secured, and, scrambling over a ruined wall, went on my way through
scarlet and crimson trees towards Kew--it was like walking through an
avenue of gigantic blood drops--possessed with two ideas: to get more
food, and to limp, as soon and as far as my strength permitted, out of
this accursed unearthly region of the pit.
Some way farther, in a grassy place, was a group of mushrooms which
also I devoured, and then I came upon a brown sheet of flowing shallow
water, where meadows used to be. These fragments of nourishment served
only to whet my hunger. At first I was surprised at this flood in a
hot, dry summer, but afterwards I discovered that it was caused by the
tropical exuberance of the red weed. Directly this extraordinary
growth encountered water it straightway became gigantic and of
unparalleled fecundity. Its seeds were simply poured down into the
water of the Wey and Thames, and its swiftly growing and Titanic water
fronds speedily choked both those rivers.
At Putney, as I afterwards saw, the bridge was almost lost in a
tangle of this weed, and at Richmond, too, the Thames water poured in
a broad and shallow stream across the meadows of Hampton and
Twickenham. As the water spread the weed followed them, until the
ruined villas of the Thames valley were for a time lost in this red
swamp, whose margin I explored, and much of the desolation the
Martians had caused was concealed.
In the end the red weed succumbed almost as quickly as it had
spread. A cankering disease, due, it is believed, to the action of
certain bacteria, presently seized upon it. Now by the action of
natural selection, all terrestrial plants have acquired a resisting
power against bacterial diseases--they never succumb without a severe
struggle, but the red weed rotted like a thing already dead. The
fronds became bleached, and then shrivelled and brittle. They broke
off at the least touch, and the waters that had stimulated their early
growth carried their last vestiges out to sea.
My first act on coming to this water was, of course, to slake my
thirst. I drank a great deal of it and, moved by an impulse, gnawed
some fronds of red weed; but they were watery, and had a sickly,
metallic taste. I found the water was sufficiently shallow for me to
wade securely, although the red weed impeded my feet a little; but the
flood evidently got deeper towards the river, and I turned back to
Mortlake. I managed to make out the road by means of occasional ruins
of its villas and fences and lamps, and so presently I got out of this
spate and made my way to the hill going up towards Roehampton and came
out on Putney Common.
Here the scenery changed from the strange and unfamiliar to the
wreckage of the familiar: patches of ground exhibited the devastation
of a cyclone, and in a few score yards I would come upon perfectly
undisturbed spaces, houses with their blinds trimly drawn and doors
closed, as if they had been left for a day by the owners, or as if
their inhabitants slept within. The red weed was less abundant; the
tall trees along the lane were free from the red creeper. I hunted
for food among the trees, finding nothing, and I also raided a couple
of silent houses, but they had already been broken into and ransacked.
I rested for the remainder of the daylight in a shrubbery, being, in
my enfeebled condition, too fatigued to push on.
All this time I saw no human beings, and no signs of the Martians.
I encountered a couple of hungry-looking dogs, but both hurried
circuitously away from the advances I made them. Near Roehampton I
had seen two human skeletons--not bodies, but skeletons, picked
clean--and in the wood by me I found the crushed and scattered bones
of several cats and rabbits and the skull of a sheep. But though I
gnawed parts of these in my mouth, there was nothing to be got from
After sunset I struggled on along the road towards Putney, where I
think the Heat-Ray must have been used for some reason. And in the
garden beyond Roehampton I got a quantity of immature potatoes,
sufficient to stay my hunger. From this garden one looked down upon
Putney and the river. The aspect of the place in the dusk was
singularly desolate: blackened trees, blackened, desolate ruins, and
down the hill the sheets of the flooded river, red-tinged with the
weed. And over all--silence. It filled me with indescribable terror
to think how swiftly that desolating change had come.
For a time I believed that mankind had been swept out of existence,
and that I stood there alone, the last man left alive. Hard by the
top of Putney Hill I came upon another skeleton, with the arms
dislocated and removed several yards from the rest of the body. As I
proceeded I became more and more convinced that the extermination of
mankind was, save for such stragglers as myself, already accomplished
in this part of the world. The Martians, I thought, had gone on and
left the country desolated, seeking food elsewhere. Perhaps even now
they were destroying Berlin or Paris, or it might be they had gone
THE MAN ON PUTNEY HILL
I spent that night in the inn that stands at the top of Putney
Hill, sleeping in a made bed for the first time since my flight to
Leatherhead. I will not tell the needless trouble I had breaking into
that house--afterwards I found the front door was on the latch--nor
how I ransacked every room for food, until just on the verge of
despair, in what seemed to me to be a servant's bedroom, I found a
rat-gnawed crust and two tins of pineapple. The place had been
already searched and emptied. In the bar I afterwards found some
biscuits and sandwiches that had been overlooked. The latter I could
not eat, they were too rotten, but the former not only stayed my
hunger, but filled my pockets. I lit no lamps, fearing some Martian
might come beating that part of London for food in the night. Before
I went to bed I had an interval of restlessness, and prowled from
window to window, peering out for some sign of these monsters. I
slept little. As I lay in bed I found myself thinking consecutively--a
thing I do not remember to have done since my last argument with the
curate. During all the intervening time my mental condition had been
a hurrying succession of vague emotional states or a sort of stupid
receptivity. But in the night my brain, reinforced, I suppose, by the
food I had eaten, grew clear again, and I thought.
Three things struggled for possession of my mind: the killing of
the curate, the whereabouts of the Martians, and the possible fate of
my wife. The former gave me no sensation of horror or remorse to
recall; I saw it simply as a thing done, a memory infinitely
disagreeable but quite without the quality of remorse. I saw myself
then as I see myself now, driven step by step towards that hasty blow,
the creature of a sequence of accidents leading inevitably to that. I
felt no condemnation; yet the memory, static, unprogressive, haunted
me. In the silence of the night, with that sense of the nearness of
God that sometimes comes into the stillness and the darkness, I stood
my trial, my only trial, for that moment of wrath and fear. I
retraced every step of our conversation from the moment when I had
found him crouching beside me, heedless of my thirst, and pointing to
the fire and smoke that streamed up from the ruins of Weybridge. We
had been incapable of co-operation--grim chance had taken no heed of
that. Had I foreseen, I should have left him at Halliford. But I did
not foresee; and crime is to foresee and do. And I set this down as I
have set all this story down, as it was. There were no witnesses--all
these things I might have concealed. But I set it down, and the
reader must form his judgment as he will.
And when, by an effort, I had set aside that picture of a prostrate
body, I faced the problem of the Martians and the fate of my wife. For
the former I had no data; I could imagine a hundred things, and so,
unhappily, I could for the latter. And suddenly that night became
terrible. I found myself sitting up in bed, staring at the dark. I
found myself praying that the Heat-Ray might have suddenly and
painlessly struck her out of being. Since the night of my return from
Leatherhead I had not prayed. I had uttered prayers, fetish prayers,
had prayed as heathens mutter charms when I was in extremity; but now
I prayed indeed, pleading steadfastly and sanely, face to face with
the darkness of God. Strange night! Strangest in this, that so soon
as dawn had come, I, who had talked with God, crept out of the house
like a rat leaving its hiding place--a creature scarcely larger, an
inferior animal, a thing that for any passing whim of our masters
might be hunted and killed. Perhaps they also prayed confidently to
God. Surely, if we have learned nothing else, this war has taught us
pity--pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion.
The morning was bright and fine, and the eastern sky glowed pink,
and was fretted with little golden clouds. In the road that runs from
the top of Putney Hill to Wimbledon was a number of poor vestiges of
the panic torrent that must have poured Londonward on the Sunday night
after the fighting began. There was a little two-wheeled cart
inscribed with the name of Thomas Lobb, Greengrocer, New Malden, with
a smashed wheel and an abandoned tin trunk; there was a straw hat
trampled into the now hardened mud, and at the top of West Hill a lot
of blood-stained glass about the overturned water trough. My
movements were languid, my plans of the vaguest. I had an idea of
going to Leatherhead, though I knew that there I had the poorest
chance of finding my wife. Certainly, unless death had overtaken them
suddenly, my cousins and she would have fled thence; but it seemed to
me I might find or learn there whither the Surrey people had fled. I
knew I wanted to find my wife, that my heart ached for her and the
world of men, but I had no clear idea how the finding might be done. I
was also sharply aware now of my intense loneliness. From the corner
I went, under cover of a thicket of trees and bushes, to the edge of
Wimbledon Common, stretching wide and far.
That dark expanse was lit in patches by yellow gorse and broom;
there was no red weed to be seen, and as I prowled, hesitating, on the
verge of the open, the sun rose, flooding it all with light and
vitality. I came upon a busy swarm of little frogs in a swampy place
among the trees. I stopped to look at them, drawing a lesson from
their stout resolve to live. And presently, turning suddenly, with an
odd feeling of being watched, I beheld something crouching amid a
clump of bushes. I stood regarding this. I made a step towards it,
and it rose up and became a man armed with a cutlass. I approached
him slowly. He stood silent and motionless, regarding me.
As I drew nearer I perceived he was dressed in clothes as dusty and
filthy as my own; he looked, indeed, as though he had been dragged
through a culvert. Nearer, I distinguished the green slime of ditches
mixing with the pale drab of dried clay and shiny, coaly patches. His
black hair fell over his eyes, and his face was dark and dirty and
sunken, so that at first I did not recognise him. There was a red cut
across the lower part of his face.
"Stop!" he cried, when I was within ten yards of him, and I
stopped. His voice was hoarse. "Where do you come from?" he said.
I thought, surveying him.
"I come from Mortlake," I said. "I was buried near the pit the
Martians made about their cylinder. I have worked my way out and
"There is no food about here," he said. "This is my country. All
this hill down to the river, and back to Clapham, and up to the edge
of the common. There is only food for one. Which way are you going?"
I answered slowly.
"I don't know," I said. "I have been buried in the ruins of a
house thirteen or fourteen days. I don't know what has happened."
He looked at me doubtfully, then started, and looked with a changed
"I've no wish to stop about here," said I. "I think I shall go to
Leatherhead, for my wife was there."
He shot out a pointing finger.
"It is you," said he; "the man from Woking. And you weren't killed
I recognised him at the same moment.
"You are the artilleryman who came into my garden."
"Good luck!" he said. "We are lucky ones! Fancy you!" He put out
a hand, and I took it. "I crawled up a drain," he said. "But they
didn't kill everyone. And after they went away I got off towards
Walton across the fields. But---- It's not sixteen days altogether--and
your hair is grey." He looked over his shoulder suddenly. "Only
a rook," he said. "One gets to know that birds have shadows these
days. This is a bit open. Let us crawl under those bushes and talk."
"Have you seen any Martians?" I said. "Since I crawled out----"
"They've gone away across London," he said. "I guess they've got a
bigger camp there. Of a night, all over there, Hampstead way, the sky
is alive with their lights. It's like a great city, and in the glare
you can just see them moving. By daylight you can't. But nearer--I
haven't seen them--" (he counted on his fingers) "five days. Then I
saw a couple across Hammersmith way carrying something big. And the
night before last"--he stopped and spoke impressively--"it was just a
matter of lights, but it was something up in the air. I believe
they've built a flying-machine, and are learning to fly."
I stopped, on hands and knees, for we had come to the bushes.
"Yes," he said, "fly."
I went on into a little bower, and sat down.
"It is all over with humanity," I said. "If they can do that they
will simply go round the world."
"They will. But---- It will relieve things over here a bit. And
besides----" He looked at me. "Aren't you satisfied it is up with
humanity? I am. We're down; we're beat."
I stared. Strange as it may seem, I had not arrived at this fact--a
fact perfectly obvious so soon as he spoke. I had still held a
vague hope; rather, I had kept a lifelong habit of mind. He repeated
his words, "We're beat." They carried absolute conviction.
"It's all over," he said. "They've lost one--just one. And they've
made their footing good and crippled the greatest power in the world.
They've walked over us. The death of that one at Weybridge was an
accident. And these are only pioneers. They kept on coming. These
green stars--I've seen none these five or six days, but I've no doubt
they're falling somewhere every night. Nothing's to be done. We're
under! We're beat!"
I made him no answer. I sat staring before me, trying in vain to
devise some countervailing thought.
"This isn't a war," said the artilleryman. "It never was a war,
any more than there's war between man and ants."
Suddenly I recalled the night in the observatory.
"After the tenth shot they fired no more--at least, until the first
"How do you know?" said the artilleryman. I explained. He thought.
"Something wrong with the gun," he said. "But what if there is?
They'll get it right again. And even if there's a delay, how can it
alter the end? It's just men and ants. There's the ants builds their
cities, live their lives, have wars, revolutions, until the men want
them out of the way, and then they go out of the way. That's what we
are now--just ants. Only----"
"Yes," I said.
"We're eatable ants."
We sat looking at each other.
"And what will they do with us?" I said.
"That's what I've been thinking," he said; "that's what I've been
thinking. After Weybridge I went south--thinking. I saw what was up.
Most of the people were hard at it squealing and exciting themselves.
But I'm not so fond of squealing. I've been in sight of death once or
twice; I'm not an ornamental soldier, and at the best and worst,
death--it's just death. And it's the man that keeps on thinking comes
through. I saw everyone tracking away south. Says I, 'Food won't
last this way,' and I turned right back. I went for the Martians like
a sparrow goes for man. All round"--he waved a hand to the
horizon--"they're starving in heaps, bolting, treading on each other.
. . ."
He saw my face, and halted awkwardly.
"No doubt lots who had money have gone away to France," he said. He
seemed to hesitate whether to apologise, met my eyes, and went on:
"There's food all about here. Canned things in shops; wines, spirits,
mineral waters; and the water mains and drains are empty. Well, I was
telling you what I was thinking. 'Here's intelligent things,' I said,
'and it seems they want us for food. First, they'll smash us up--ships,
machines, guns, cities, all the order and organisation. All
that will go. If we were the size of ants we might pull through. But
we're not. It's all too bulky to stop. That's the first certainty.'
"It is; I've thought it out. Very well, then--next; at present
we're caught as we're wanted. A Martian has only to go a few miles to
get a crowd on the run. And I saw one, one day, out by Wandsworth,
picking houses to pieces and routing among the wreckage. But they
won't keep on doing that. So soon as they've settled all our guns and
ships, and smashed our railways, and done all the things they are
doing over there, they will begin catching us systematic, picking the
best and storing us in cages and things. That's what they will start
doing in a bit. Lord! They haven't begun on us yet. Don't you see
"Not begun!" I exclaimed.
"Not begun. All that's happened so far is through our not having
the sense to keep quiet--worrying them with guns and such foolery. And
losing our heads, and rushing off in crowds to where there wasn't any
more safety than where we were. They don't want to bother us yet.
They're making their things--making all the things they couldn't bring
with them, getting things ready for the rest of their people. Very
likely that's why the cylinders have stopped for a bit, for fear of
hitting those who are here. And instead of our rushing about blind,
on the howl, or getting dynamite on the chance of busting them up,
we've got to fix ourselves up according to the new state of affairs.
That's how I figure it out. It isn't quite according to what a man
wants for his species, but it's about what the facts point to. And
that's the principle I acted upon. Cities, nations, civilisation,
progress--it's all over. That game's up. We're beat."
"But if that is so, what is there to live for?"
The artilleryman looked at me for a moment.
"There won't be any more blessed concerts for a million years or
so; there won't be any Royal Academy of Arts, and no nice little feeds
at restaurants. If it's amusement you're after, I reckon the game is
up. If you've got any drawing-room manners or a dislike to eating
peas with a knife or dropping aitches, you'd better chuck 'em away.
They ain't no further use."
"I mean that men like me are going on living--for the sake of the
breed. I tell you, I'm grim set on living. And if I'm not mistaken,
you'll show what insides you've got, too, before long. We aren't
going to be exterminated. And I don't mean to be caught either, and
tamed and fattened and bred like a thundering ox. Ugh! Fancy those
"You don't mean to say----"
"I do. I'm going on, under their feet. I've got it planned; I've
thought it out. We men are beat. We don't know enough. We've got to
learn before we've got a chance. And we've got to live and keep
independent while we learn. See! That's what has to be done."
I stared, astonished, and stirred profoundly by the man's
"Great God!" cried I. "But you are a man indeed!" And suddenly I
gripped his hand.
"Eh!" he said, with his eyes shining. "I've thought it out, eh?"
"Go on," I said.
"Well, those who mean to escape their catching must get ready. I'm
getting ready. Mind you, it isn't all of us that are made for wild
beasts; and that's what it's got to be. That's why I watched you. I
had my doubts. You're slender. I didn't know that it was you, you
see, or just how you'd been buried. All these--the sort of people
that lived in these houses, and all those damn little clerks that used
to live down that way--they'd be no good. They haven't any spirit in
them--no proud dreams and no proud lusts; and a man who hasn't one or
the other--Lord! What is he but funk and precautions? They just used
to skedaddle off to work--I've seen hundreds of 'em, bit of breakfast
in hand, running wild and shining to catch their little season-ticket
train, for fear they'd get dismissed if they didn't; working at
businesses they were afraid to take the trouble to understand;
skedaddling back for fear they wouldn't be in time for dinner; keeping
indoors after dinner for fear of the back streets, and sleeping with
the wives they married, not because they wanted them, but because they
had a bit of money that would make for safety in their one little
miserable skedaddle through the world. Lives insured and a bit
invested for fear of accidents. And on Sundays--fear of the
hereafter. As if hell was built for rabbits! Well, the Martians will
just be a godsend to these. Nice roomy cages, fattening food, careful
breeding, no worry. After a week or so chasing about the fields and
lands on empty stomachs, they'll come and be caught cheerful. They'll
be quite glad after a bit. They'll wonder what people did before
there were Martians to take care of them. And the bar loafers, and
mashers, and singers--I can imagine them. I can imagine them," he
said, with a sort of sombre gratification. "There'll be any amount of
sentiment and religion loose among them. There's hundreds of things I
saw with my eyes that I've only begun to see clearly these last few
days. There's lots will take things as they are--fat and stupid; and
lots will be worried by a sort of feeling that it's all wrong, and
that they ought to be doing something. Now whenever things are so
that a lot of people feel they ought to be doing something, the weak,
and those who go weak with a lot of complicated thinking, always make
for a sort of do-nothing religion, very pious and superior, and
submit to persecution and the will of the Lord. Very likely you've
seen the same thing. It's energy in a gale of funk, and turned clean
inside out. These cages will be full of psalms and hymns and piety.
And those of a less simple sort will work in a bit of--what is
"Very likely these Martians will make pets of some of them; train
them to do tricks--who knows?--get sentimental over the pet boy who
grew up and had to be killed. And some, maybe, they will train to
"No," I cried, "that's impossible! No human being----"
"What's the good of going on with such lies?" said the
artilleryman. "There's men who'd do it cheerful. What nonsense to
pretend there isn't!"
And I succumbed to his conviction.
"If they come after me," he said; "Lord, if they come after me!"
and subsided into a grim meditation.
I sat contemplating these things. I could find nothing to bring
against this man's reasoning. In the days before the invasion no one
would have questioned my intellectual superiority to his--I, a
professed and recognised writer on philosophical themes, and he, a
common soldier; and yet he had already formulated a situation that I
had scarcely realised.
"What are you doing?" I said presently. "What plans have you
"Well, it's like this," he said. "What have we to do? We have to
invent a sort of life where men can live and breed, and be
sufficiently secure to bring the children up. Yes--wait a bit, and
I'll make it clearer what I think ought to be done. The tame ones
will go like all tame beasts; in a few generations they'll be big,
beautiful, rich-blooded, stupid--rubbish! The risk is that we who keep
wild will go savage--degenerate into a sort of big, savage rat. . . .
You see, how I mean to live is underground. I've been thinking about
the drains. Of course those who don't know drains think horrible
things; but under this London are miles and miles--hundreds of
miles--and a few days rain and London empty will leave them sweet and
clean. The main drains are big enough and airy enough for anyone.
Then there's cellars, vaults, stores, from which bolting passages may
be made to the drains. And the railway tunnels and subways. Eh? You
begin to see? And we form a band--able-bodied, clean-minded men.
We're not going to pick up any rubbish that drifts in. Weaklings
go out again."
"As you meant me to go?"
"Well--I parleyed, didn't I?"
"We won't quarrel about that. Go on."
"Those who stop obey orders. Able-bodied, clean-minded women we
want also--mothers and teachers. No lackadaisical ladies--no blasted
rolling eyes. We can't have any weak or silly. Life is real again,
and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die. They
ought to die. They ought to be willing to die. It's a sort of
disloyalty, after all, to live and taint the race. And they can't be
happy. Moreover, dying's none so dreadful; it's the funking makes it
bad. And in all those places we shall gather. Our district will be
London. And we may even be able to keep a watch, and run about in the
open when the Martians keep away. Play cricket, perhaps. That's how
we shall save the race. Eh? It's a possible thing? But saving the
race is nothing in itself. As I say, that's only being rats. It's
saving our knowledge and adding to it is the thing. There men like
you come in. There's books, there's models. We must make great safe
places down deep, and get all the books we can; not novels and poetry
swipes, but ideas, science books. That's where men like you come in.
We must go to the British Museum and pick all those books through.
Especially we must keep up our science--learn more. We must watch
these Martians. Some of us must go as spies. When it's all working,
perhaps I will. Get caught, I mean. And the great thing is, we must
leave the Martians alone. We mustn't even steal. If we get in their
way, we clear out. We must show them we mean no harm. Yes, I know.
But they're intelligent things, and they won't hunt us down if they
have all they want, and think we're just harmless vermin."
The artilleryman paused and laid a brown hand upon my arm.
"After all, it may not be so much we may have to learn before--Just
imagine this: four or five of their fighting machines suddenly
starting off--Heat-Rays right and left, and not a Martian in 'em. Not
a Martian in 'em, but men--men who have learned the way how. It may
be in my time, even--those men. Fancy having one of them lovely
things, with its Heat-Ray wide and free! Fancy having it in control!
What would it matter if you smashed to smithereens at the end of the
run, after a bust like that? I reckon the Martians'll open their
beautiful eyes! Can't you see them, man? Can't you see them
hurrying, hurrying--puffing and blowing and hooting to their other
mechanical affairs? Something out of gear in every case. And swish,
bang, rattle, swish! Just as they are fumbling over it, swish comes
the Heat-Ray, and, behold! man has come back to his own."
For a while the imaginative daring of the artilleryman, and the
tone of assurance and courage he assumed, completely dominated my
mind. I believed unhesitatingly both in his forecast of human destiny
and in the practicability of his astonishing scheme, and the reader
who thinks me susceptible and foolish must contrast his position,
reading steadily with all his thoughts about his subject, and mine,
crouching fearfully in the bushes and listening, distracted by
apprehension. We talked in this manner through the early morning
time, and later crept out of the bushes, and, after scanning the sky
for Martians, hurried precipitately to the house on Putney Hill where
he had made his lair. It was the coal cellar of the place, and when I
saw the work he had spent a week upon--it was a burrow scarcely ten
yards long, which he designed to reach to the main drain on Putney
Hill--I had my first inkling of the gulf between his dreams and his
powers. Such a hole I could have dug in a day. But I believed in him
sufficiently to work with him all that morning until past midday at
his digging. We had a garden barrow and shot the earth we removed
against the kitchen range. We refreshed ourselves with a tin of
mock-turtle soup and wine from the neighbouring pantry. I found a
curious relief from the aching strangeness of the world in this steady
labour. As we worked, I turned his project over in my mind, and
presently objections and doubts began to arise; but I worked there all
the morning, so glad was I to find myself with a purpose again. After
working an hour I began to speculate on the distance one had to go
before the cloaca was reached, the chances we had of missing it
altogether. My immediate trouble was why we should dig this long
tunnel, when it was possible to get into the drain at once down one of
the manholes, and work back to the house. It seemed to me, too, that
the house was inconveniently chosen, and required a needless length of
tunnel. And just as I was beginning to face these things, the
artilleryman stopped digging, and looked at me.
"We're working well," he said. He put down his spade. "Let us
knock off a bit" he said. "I think it's time we reconnoitred from the
roof of the house."
I was for going on, and after a little hesitation he resumed his
spade; and then suddenly I was struck by a thought. I stopped, and so
did he at once.
"Why were you walking about the common," I said, "instead of being
"Taking the air," he said. "I was coming back. It's safer by
"But the work?"
"Oh, one can't always work," he said, and in a flash I saw the man
plain. He hesitated, holding his spade. "We ought to reconnoitre
now," he said, "because if any come near they may hear the spades and
drop upon us unawares."
I was no longer disposed to object. We went together to the roof
and stood on a ladder peeping out of the roof door. No Martians were
to be seen, and we ventured out on the tiles, and slipped down under
shelter of the parapet.
From this position a shrubbery hid the greater portion of Putney,
but we could see the river below, a bubbly mass of red weed, and the
low parts of Lambeth flooded and red. The red creeper swarmed up the
trees about the old palace, and their branches stretched gaunt and
dead, and set with shrivelled leaves, from amid its clusters. It was
strange how entirely dependent both these things were upon flowing
water for their propagation. About us neither had gained a footing;
laburnums, pink mays, snowballs, and trees of arbor-vitae, rose out of
laurels and hydrangeas, green and brilliant into the sunlight. Beyond
Kensington dense smoke was rising, and that and a blue haze hid the
The artilleryman began to tell me of the sort of people who still
remained in London.
"One night last week," he said, "some fools got the electric light
in order, and there was all Regent Street and the Circus ablaze,
crowded with painted and ragged drunkards, men and women, dancing and
shouting till dawn. A man who was there told me. And as the day came
they became aware of a fighting-machine standing near by the Langham
and looking down at them. Heaven knows how long he had been there.
It must have given some of them a nasty turn. He came down the road
towards them, and picked up nearly a hundred too drunk or frightened
to run away."
Grotesque gleam of a time no history will ever fully describe!
From that, in answer to my questions, he came round to his
grandiose plans again. He grew enthusiastic. He talked so eloquently
of the possibility of capturing a fighting-machine that I more than
half believed in him again. But now that I was beginning to
understand something of his quality, I could divine the stress he laid
on doing nothing precipitately. And I noted that now there was no
question that he personally was to capture and fight the great
After a time we went down to the cellar. Neither of us seemed
disposed to resume digging, and when he suggested a meal, I was
nothing loath. He became suddenly very generous, and when we had
eaten he went away and returned with some excellent cigars. We lit
these, and his optimism glowed. He was inclined to regard my coming
as a great occasion.
"There's some champagne in the cellar," he said.
"We can dig better on this Thames-side burgundy," said I.
"No," said he; "I am host today. Champagne! Great God! We've a
heavy enough task before us! Let us take a rest and gather strength
while we may. Look at these blistered hands!"
And pursuant to this idea of a holiday, he insisted upon playing
cards after we had eaten. He taught me euchre, and after dividing
London between us, I taking the northern side and he the southern, we
played for parish points. Grotesque and foolish as this will seem to
the sober reader, it is absolutely true, and what is more remarkable,
I found the card game and several others we played extremely
Strange mind of man! that, with our species upon the edge of
extermination or appalling degradation, with no clear prospect before
us but the chance of a horrible death, we could sit following the
chance of this painted pasteboard, and playing the "joker" with vivid
delight. Afterwards he taught me poker, and I beat him at three tough
chess games. When dark came we decided to take the risk, and lit a
After an interminable string of games, we supped, and the
artilleryman finished the champagne. We went on smoking the cigars.
He was no longer the energetic regenerator of his species I had
encountered in the morning. He was still optimistic, but it was a
less kinetic, a more thoughtful optimism. I remember he wound up with
my health, proposed in a speech of small variety and considerable
intermittence. I took a cigar, and went upstairs to look at the
lights of which he had spoken that blazed so greenly along the
At first I stared unintelligently across the London valley. The
northern hills were shrouded in darkness; the fires near Kensington
glowed redly, and now and then an orange-red tongue of flame flashed
up and vanished in the deep blue night. All the rest of London
was black. Then, nearer, I perceived a strange light, a pale,
violet-purple fluorescent glow, quivering under the night breeze. For
a space I could not understand it, and then I knew that it must be
the red weed from which this faint irradiation proceeded. With that
realisation my dormant sense of wonder, my sense of the proportion of
things, awoke again. I glanced from that to Mars, red and clear,
glowing high in the west, and then gazed long and earnestly at the
darkness of Hampstead and Highgate.
I remained a very long time upon the roof, wondering at the
grotesque changes of the day. I recalled my mental states from the
midnight prayer to the foolish card-playing. I had a violent
revulsion of feeling. I remember I flung away the cigar with a
certain wasteful symbolism. My folly came to me with glaring
exaggeration. I seemed a traitor to my wife and to my kind; I was
filled with remorse. I resolved to leave this strange undisciplined
dreamer of great things to his drink and gluttony, and to go on into
London. There, it seemed to me, I had the best chance of learning
what the Martians and my fellowmen were doing. I was still upon the
roof when the late moon rose.
After I had parted from the artilleryman, I went down the hill, and
by the High Street across the bridge to Fulham. The red weed was
tumultuous at that time, and nearly choked the bridge roadway; but its
fronds were already whitened in patches by the spreading disease that
presently removed it so swiftly.
At the corner of the lane that runs to Putney Bridge station I
found a man lying. He was as black as a sweep with the black dust,
alive, but helplessly and speechlessly drunk. I could get nothing
from him but curses and furious lunges at my head. I think I should
have stayed by him but for the brutal expression of his face.
There was black dust along the roadway from the bridge onwards, and
it grew thicker in Fulham. The streets were horribly quiet. I got
food--sour, hard, and mouldy, but quite eatable--in a baker's shop
here. Some way towards Walham Green the streets became clear of
powder, and I passed a white terrace of houses on fire; the noise of
the burning was an absolute relief. Going on towards Brompton, the
streets were quiet again.
Here I came once more upon the black powder in the streets and upon
dead bodies. I saw altogether about a dozen in the length of the
Fulham Road. They had been dead many days, so that I hurried quickly
past them. The black powder covered them over, and softened their
outlines. One or two had been disturbed by dogs.
Where there was no black powder, it was curiously like a Sunday in
the City, with the closed shops, the houses locked up and the blinds
drawn, the desertion, and the stillness. In some places plunderers
had been at work, but rarely at other than the provision and wine
shops. A jeweller's window had been broken open in one place, but
apparently the thief had been disturbed, and a number of gold chains
and a watch lay scattered on the pavement. I did not trouble to touch
them. Farther on was a tattered woman in a heap on a doorstep; the
hand that hung over her knee was gashed and bled down her rusty brown
dress, and a smashed magnum of champagne formed a pool across the
pavement. She seemed asleep, but she was dead.
The farther I penetrated into London, the profounder grew the
stillness. But it was not so much the stillness of death--it was the
stillness of suspense, of expectation. At any time the destruction
that had already singed the northwestern borders of the metropolis,
and had annihilated Ealing and Kilburn, might strike among these
houses and leave them smoking ruins. It was a city condemned and
derelict. . . .
In South Kensington the streets were clear of dead and of black
powder. It was near South Kensington that I first heard the howling.
It crept almost imperceptibly upon my senses. It was a sobbing
alternation of two notes, "Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," keeping on
perpetually. When I passed streets that ran northward it grew in
volume, and houses and buildings seemed to deaden and cut it off
again. It came in a full tide down Exhibition Road. I stopped,
staring towards Kensington Gardens, wondering at this strange, remote
wailing. It was as if that mighty desert of houses had found a voice
for its fear and solitude.
"Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," wailed that superhuman note--great waves
of sound sweeping down the broad, sunlit roadway, between the tall
buildings on each side. I turned northwards, marvelling, towards the
iron gates of Hyde Park. I had half a mind to break into the Natural
History Museum and find my way up to the summits of the towers, in
order to see across the park. But I decided to keep to the ground,
where quick hiding was possible, and so went on up the Exhibition
Road. All the large mansions on each side of the road were empty and
still, and my footsteps echoed against the sides of the houses. At
the top, near the park gate, I came upon a strange sight--a bus
overturned, and the skeleton of a horse picked clean. I puzzled over
this for a time, and then went on to the bridge over the Serpentine.
The voice grew stronger and stronger, though I could see nothing above
the housetops on the north side of the park, save a haze of smoke to
"Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," cried the voice, coming, as it seemed to
me, from the district about Regent's Park. The desolating cry worked
upon my mind. The mood that had sustained me passed. The wailing
took possession of me. I found I was intensely weary, footsore, and
now again hungry and thirsty.
It was already past noon. Why was I wandering alone in this city
of the dead? Why was I alone when all London was lying in state, and
in its black shroud? I felt intolerably lonely. My mind ran on old
friends that I had forgotten for years. I thought of the poisons in
the chemists' shops, of the liquors the wine merchants stored; I
recalled the two sodden creatures of despair, who so far as I knew,
shared the city with myself. . . .
I came into Oxford Street by the Marble Arch, and here again were
black powder and several bodies, and an evil, ominous smell from the
gratings of the cellars of some of the houses. I grew very thirsty
after the heat of my long walk. With infinite trouble I managed to
break into a public-house and get food and drink. I was weary after
eating, and went into the parlour behind the bar, and slept on a black
horsehair sofa I found there.
I awoke to find that dismal howling still in my ears, "Ulla, ulla,
ulla, ulla." It was now dusk, and after I had routed out some
biscuits and a cheese in the bar--there was a meat safe, but it
contained nothing but maggots--I wandered on through the silent
residential squares to Baker Street--Portman Square is the only one I
can name--and so came out at last upon Regent's Park. And as I
emerged from the top of Baker Street, I saw far away over the trees in
the clearness of the sunset the hood of the Martian giant from which
this howling proceeded. I was not terrified. I came upon him as if
it were a matter of course. I watched him for some time, but he did
not move. He appeared to be standing and yelling, for no reason that
I could discover.
I tried to formulate a plan of action. That perpetual sound of
"Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," confused my mind. Perhaps I was too tired
to be very fearful. Certainly I was more curious to know the reason
of this monotonous crying than afraid. I turned back away from the
park and struck into Park Road, intending to skirt the park, went
along under the shelter of the terraces, and got a view of this
stationary, howling Martian from the direction of St. John's Wood. A
couple of hundred yards out of Baker Street I heard a yelping chorus,
and saw, first a dog with a piece of putrescent red meat in his jaws
coming headlong towards me, and then a pack of starving mongrels in
pursuit of him. He made a wide curve to avoid me, as though he feared
I might prove a fresh competitor. As the yelping died away down the
silent road, the wailing sound of "Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla," reasserted
I came upon the wrecked handling-machine halfway to St. John's Wood
station. At first I thought a house had fallen across the road. It
was only as I clambered among the ruins that I saw, with a start, this
mechanical Samson lying, with its tentacles bent and smashed and
twisted, among the ruins it had made. The forepart was shattered. It
seemed as if it had driven blindly straight at the house, and had been
overwhelmed in its overthrow. It seemed to me then that this might
have happened by a handling-machine escaping from the guidance of its
Martian. I could not clamber among the ruins to see it, and the
twilight was now so far advanced that the blood with which its seat
was smeared, and the gnawed gristle of the Martian that the dogs had
left, were invisible to me.
Wondering still more at all that I had seen, I pushed on towards
Primrose Hill. Far away, through a gap in the trees, I saw a second
Martian, as motionless as the first, standing in the park towards the
Zoological Gardens, and silent. A little beyond the ruins about the
smashed handling-machine I came upon the red weed again, and found the
Regent's Canal, a spongy mass of dark-red vegetation.
As I crossed the bridge, the sound of "Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla,"
ceased. It was, as it were, cut off. The silence came like a
The dusky houses about me stood faint and tall and dim; the trees
towards the park were growing black. All about me the red weed
clambered among the ruins, writhing to get above me in the dimness.
Night, the mother of fear and mystery, was coming upon me. But while
that voice sounded the solitude, the desolation, had been endurable;
by virtue of it London had still seemed alive, and the sense of life
about me had upheld me. Then suddenly a change, the passing of
something--I knew not what--and then a stillness that could be felt.
Nothing but this gaunt quiet.
London about me gazed at me spectrally. The windows in the white
houses were like the eye sockets of skulls. About me my imagination
found a thousand noiseless enemies moving. Terror seized me, a horror
of my temerity. In front of me the road became pitchy black as though
it was tarred, and I saw a contorted shape lying across the pathway. I
could not bring myself to go on. I turned down St. John's Wood Road,
and ran headlong from this unendurable stillness towards Kilburn. I
hid from the night and the silence, until long after midnight, in a
cabmen's shelter in Harrow Road. But before the dawn my courage
returned, and while the stars were still in the sky I turned once more
towards Regent's Park. I missed my way among the streets, and
presently saw down a long avenue, in the half-light of the early dawn,
the curve of Primrose Hill. On the summit, towering up to the fading
stars, was a third Martian, erect and motionless like the others.
An insane resolve possessed me. I would die and end it. And I
would save myself even the trouble of killing myself. I marched on
recklessly towards this Titan, and then, as I drew nearer and the
light grew, I saw that a multitude of black birds was circling and
clustering about the hood. At that my heart gave a bound, and I began
running along the road.
I hurried through the red weed that choked St. Edmund's Terrace (I
waded breast-high across a torrent of water that was rushing down from
the waterworks towards the Albert Road), and emerged upon the grass
before the rising of the sun. Great mounds had been heaped about the
crest of the hill, making a huge redoubt of it--it was the final and
largest place the Martians had made--and from behind these heaps there
rose a thin smoke against the sky. Against the sky line an eager dog
ran and disappeared. The thought that had flashed into my mind grew
real, grew credible. I felt no fear, only a wild, trembling
exultation, as I ran up the hill towards the motionless monster. Out
of the hood hung lank shreds of brown, at which the hungry birds
pecked and tore.
In another moment I had scrambled up the earthen rampart and stood
upon its crest, and the interior of the redoubt was below me. A
mighty space it was, with gigantic machines here and there within it,
huge mounds of material and strange shelter places. And scattered
about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid
handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a
row, were the Martians--dead!--slain by the putrefactive and disease
bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red
weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by
the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.
For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have
foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our minds. These
germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of
things--taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here.
But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed
resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to
many--those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance--our
living frames are altogether immune. But there are no bacteria in
Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and
fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow. Already
when I watched them they were irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting
even as they went to and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a
billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is
his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten
times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.
Here and there they were scattered, nearly fifty altogether, in
that great gulf they had made, overtaken by a death that must have
seemed to them as incomprehensible as any death could be. To me also
at that time this death was incomprehensible. All I knew was that
these things that had been alive and so terrible to men were dead.
For a moment I believed that the destruction of Sennacherib had been
repeated, that God had repented, that the Angel of Death had slain
them in the night.
I stood staring into the pit, and my heart lightened gloriously,
even as the rising sun struck the world to fire about me with his
rays. The pit was still in darkness; the mighty engines, so great and
wonderful in their power and complexity, so unearthly in their
tortuous forms, rose weird and vague and strange out of the shadows
towards the light. A multitude of dogs, I could hear, fought over the
bodies that lay darkly in the depth of the pit, far below me. Across
the pit on its farther lip, flat and vast and strange, lay the great
flying-machine with which they had been experimenting upon our denser
atmosphere when decay and death arrested them. Death had come not a
day too soon. At the sound of a cawing overhead I looked up at the
huge fighting-machine that would fight no more for ever, at the
tattered red shreds of flesh that dripped down upon the overturned
seats on the summit of Primrose Hill.
I turned and looked down the slope of the hill to where, enhaloed
now in birds, stood those other two Martians that I had seen
overnight, just as death had overtaken them. The one had died, even
as it had been crying to its companions; perhaps it was the last to
die, and its voice had gone on perpetually until the force of its
machinery was exhausted. They glittered now, harmless tripod towers
of shining metal, in the brightness of the rising sun.
All about the pit, and saved as by a miracle from everlasting
destruction, stretched the great Mother of Cities. Those who have only
seen London veiled in her sombre robes of smoke can scarcely imagine
the naked clearness and beauty of the silent wilderness of houses.
Eastward, over the blackened ruins of the Albert Terrace and the
splintered spire of the church, the sun blazed dazzling in a clear
sky, and here and there some facet in the great wilderness of roofs
caught the light and glared with a white intensity.
Northward were Kilburn and Hampsted, blue and crowded with houses;
westward the great city was dimmed; and southward, beyond the
Martians, the green waves of Regent's Park, the Langham Hotel, the
dome of the Albert Hall, the Imperial Institute, and the giant
mansions of the Brompton Road came out clear and little in the
sunrise, the jagged ruins of Westminster rising hazily beyond. Far
away and blue were the Surrey hills, and the towers of the Crystal
Palace glittered like two silver rods. The dome of St. Paul's was
dark against the sunrise, and injured, I saw for the first time, by a
huge gaping cavity on its western side.
And as I looked at this wide expanse of houses and factories and
churches, silent and abandoned; as I thought of the multitudinous
hopes and efforts, the innumerable hosts of lives that had gone to
build this human reef, and of the swift and ruthless destruction that
had hung over it all; when I realised that the shadow had been rolled
back, and that men might still live in the streets, and this dear vast
dead city of mine be once more alive and powerful, I felt a wave of
emotion that was near akin to tears.
The torment was over. Even that day the healing would begin. The
survivors of the people scattered over the country--leaderless,
lawless, foodless, like sheep without a shepherd--the thousands who
had fled by sea, would begin to return; the pulse of life, growing
stronger and stronger, would beat again in the empty streets and pour
across the vacant squares. Whatever destruction was done, the hand of
the destroyer was stayed. All the gaunt wrecks, the blackened
skeletons of houses that stared so dismally at the sunlit grass of the
hill, would presently be echoing with the hammers of the restorers and
ringing with the tapping of their trowels. At the thought I extended
my hands towards the sky and began thanking God. In a year, thought
I--in a year. . .
With overwhelming force came the thought of myself, of my wife, and
the old life of hope and tender helpfulness that had ceased for ever.
And now comes the strangest thing in my story. Yet, perhaps, it is
not altogether strange. I remember, clearly and coldly and vividly,
all that I did that day until the time that I stood weeping and
praising God upon the summit of Primrose Hill. And then I forget.
Of the next three days I know nothing. I have learned since that,
so far from my being the first discoverer of the Martian overthrow,
several such wanderers as myself had already discovered this on the
previous night. One man--the first--had gone to St. Martin's-le-Grand,
and, while I sheltered in the cabmen's hut, had contrived to
telegraph to Paris. Thence the joyful news had flashed all over the
world; a thousand cities, chilled by ghastly apprehensions, suddenly
flashed into frantic illuminations; they knew of it in Dublin,
Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, at the time when I stood upon the
verge of the pit. Already men, weeping with joy, as I have heard,
shouting and staying their work to shake hands and shout, were making
up trains, even as near as Crewe, to descend upon London. The church
bells that had ceased a fortnight since suddenly caught the news,
until all England was bell-ringing. Men on cycles, lean-faced,
unkempt, scorched along every country lane shouting of unhoped
deliverance, shouting to gaunt, staring figures of despair. And for
the food! Across the Channel, across the Irish Sea, across the
Atlantic, corn, bread, and meat were tearing to our relief. All the
shipping in the world seemed going Londonward in those days. But of
all this I have no memory. I drifted--a demented man. I found myself
in a house of kindly people, who had found me on the third day
wandering, weeping, and raving through the streets of St. John's Wood.
They have told me since that I was singing some insane doggerel about
"The Last Man Left Alive! Hurrah! The Last Man Left Alive!" Troubled
as they were with their own affairs, these people, whose name, much as
I would like to express my gratitude to them, I may not even give
here, nevertheless cumbered themselves with me, sheltered me, and
protected me from myself. Apparently they had learned something of my
story from me during the days of my lapse.
Very gently, when my mind was assured again, did they break to me
what they had learned of the fate of Leatherhead. Two days after I
was imprisoned it had been destroyed, with every soul in it, by a
Martian. He had swept it out of existence, as it seemed, without any
provocation, as a boy might crush an ant hill, in the mere wantonness
I was a lonely man, and they were very kind to me. I was a lonely
man and a sad one, and they bore with me. I remained with them four
days after my recovery. All that time I felt a vague, a growing
craving to look once more on whatever remained of the little life that
seemed so happy and bright in my past. It was a mere hopeless desire
to feast upon my misery. They dissuaded me. They did all they could
to divert me from this morbidity. But at last I could resist the
impulse no longer, and, promising faithfully to return to them, and
parting, as I will confess, from these four-day friends with tears, I
went out again into the streets that had lately been so dark and
strange and empty.
Already they were busy with returning people; in places even there
were shops open, and I saw a drinking fountain running water.
I remember how mockingly bright the day seemed as I went back on my
melancholy pilgrimage to the little house at Woking, how busy the
streets and vivid the moving life about me. So many people were
abroad everywhere, busied in a thousand activities, that it seemed
incredible that any great proportion of the population could have been
slain. But then I noticed how yellow were the skins of the people I
met, how shaggy the hair of the men, how large and bright their eyes,
and that every other man still wore his dirty rags. Their faces
seemed all with one of two expressions--a leaping exultation and
energy or a grim resolution. Save for the expression of the faces,
London seemed a city of tramps. The vestries were indiscriminately
distributing bread sent us by the French government. The ribs of the
few horses showed dismally. Haggard special constables with white
badges stood at the corners of every street. I saw little of the
mischief wrought by the Martians until I reached Wellington Street,
and there I saw the red weed clambering over the buttresses of
At the corner of the bridge, too, I saw one of the common contrasts
of that grotesque time--a sheet of paper flaunting against a thicket
of the red weed, transfixed by a stick that kept it in place. It was
the placard of the first newspaper to resume publication--the Daily
Mail. I bought a copy for a blackened shilling I found in my pocket.
Most of it was in blank, but the solitary compositor who did the thing
had amused himself by making a grotesque scheme of advertisement
stereo on the back page. The matter he printed was emotional; the
news organisation had not as yet found its way back. I learned
nothing fresh except that already in one week the examination of the
Martian mechanisms had yielded astonishing results. Among other
things, the article assured me what I did not believe at the time,
that the "Secret of Flying," was discovered. At Waterloo I found the
free trains that were taking people to their homes. The first rush
was already over. There were few people in the train, and I was in no
mood for casual conversation. I got a compartment to myself, and sat
with folded arms, looking greyly at the sunlit devastation that flowed
past the windows. And just outside the terminus the train jolted over
temporary rails, and on either side of the railway the houses were
blackened ruins. To Clapham Junction the face of London was grimy
with powder of the Black Smoke, in spite of two days of thunderstorms
and rain, and at Clapham Junction the line had been wrecked again;
there were hundreds of out-of-work clerks and shopmen working side by
side with the customary navvies, and we were jolted over a hasty
All down the line from there the aspect of the country was gaunt
and unfamiliar; Wimbledon particularly had suffered. Walton, by virtue
of its unburned pine woods, seemed the least hurt of any place along
the line. The Wandle, the Mole, every little stream, was a heaped
mass of red weed, in appearance between butcher's meat and pickled
cabbage. The Surrey pine woods were too dry, however, for the festoons
of the red climber. Beyond Wimbledon, within sight of the line, in
certain nursery grounds, were the heaped masses of earth about the
sixth cylinder. A number of people were standing about it, and some
sappers were busy in the midst of it. Over it flaunted a Union Jack,
flapping cheerfully in the morning breeze. The nursery grounds were
everywhere crimson with the weed, a wide expanse of livid colour cut
with purple shadows, and very painful to the eye. One's gaze went
with infinite relief from the scorched greys and sullen reds of the
foreground to the blue-green softness of the eastward hills.
The line on the London side of Woking station was still undergoing
repair, so I descended at Byfleet station and took the road to
Maybury, past the place where I and the artilleryman had talked to the
hussars, and on by the spot where the Martian had appeared to me in
the thunderstorm. Here, moved by curiosity, I turned aside to find,
among a tangle of red fronds, the warped and broken dog cart with the
whitened bones of the horse scattered and gnawed. For a time I stood
regarding these vestiges. . . .
Then I returned through the pine wood, neck-high with red weed here
and there, to find the landlord of the Spotted Dog had already found
burial, and so came home past the College Arms. A man standing at an
open cottage door greeted me by name as I passed.
I looked at my house with a quick flash of hope that faded
immediately. The door had been forced; it was unfast and was opening
slowly as I approached.
It slammed again. The curtains of my study fluttered out of the
open window from which I and the artilleryman had watched the dawn. No
one had closed it since. The smashed bushes were just as I had left
them nearly four weeks ago. I stumbled into the hall, and the house
felt empty. The stair carpet was ruffled and discoloured where I had
crouched, soaked to the skin from the thunderstorm the night of the
catastrophe. Our muddy footsteps I saw still went up the stairs.
I followed them to my study, and found lying on my writing-table
still, with the selenite paper weight upon it, the sheet of work I had
left on the afternoon of the opening of the cylinder. For a space I
stood reading over my abandoned arguments. It was a paper on the
probable development of Moral Ideas with the development of the
civilising process; and the last sentence was the opening of a
prophecy: "In about two hundred years," I had written, "we may
expect----" The sentence ended abruptly. I remembered my inability
to fix my mind that morning, scarcely a month gone by, and how I had
broken off to get my Daily Chronicle from the newsboy. I remembered
how I went down to the garden gate as he came along, and how I had
listened to his odd story of "Men from Mars."
I came down and went into the dining room. There were the mutton
and the bread, both far gone now in decay, and a beer bottle
overturned, just as I and the artilleryman had left them. My home was
desolate. I perceived the folly of the faint hope I had cherished so
long. And then a strange thing occurred. "It is no use," said a
voice. "The house is deserted. No one has been here these ten days.
Do not stay here to torment yourself. No one escaped but you."
I was startled. Had I spoken my thought aloud? I turned, and the
French window was open behind me. I made a step to it, and stood
And there, amazed and afraid, even as I stood amazed and afraid,
were my cousin and my wife--my wife white and tearless. She gave a
"I came," she said. "I knew--knew----"
She put her hand to her throat--swayed. I made a step forward, and
caught her in my arms.
I cannot but regret, now that I am concluding my story, how little
I am able to contribute to the discussion of the many debatable
questions which are still unsettled. In one respect I shall certainly
provoke criticism. My particular province is speculative philosophy.
My knowledge of comparative physiology is confined to a book or two,
but it seems to me that Carver's suggestions as to the reason of the
rapid death of the Martians is so probable as to be regarded almost as
a proven conclusion. I have assumed that in the body of my narrative.
At any rate, in all the bodies of the Martians that were examined
after the war, no bacteria except those already known as terrestrial
species were found. That they did not bury any of their dead, and the
reckless slaughter they perpetrated, point also to an entire ignorance
of the putrefactive process. But probable as this seems, it is by no
means a proven conclusion.
Neither is the composition of the Black Smoke known, which the
Martians used with such deadly effect, and the generator of the
Heat-Rays remains a puzzle. The terrible disasters at the Ealing
and South Kensington laboratories have disinclined analysts for further
investigations upon the latter. Spectrum analysis of the black powder
points unmistakably to the presence of an unknown element with a
brilliant group of three lines in the green, and it is possible that
it combines with argon to form a compound which acts at once with
deadly effect upon some constituent in the blood. But such unproven
speculations will scarcely be of interest to the general reader, to
whom this story is addressed. None of the brown scum that drifted
down the Thames after the destruction of Shepperton was examined at
the time, and now none is forthcoming.
The results of an anatomical examination of the Martians, so far
as the prowling dogs had left such an examination possible, I have
already given. But everyone is familiar with the magnificent and
almost complete specimen in spirits at the Natural History Museum, and
the countless drawings that have been made from it; and beyond that
the interest of their physiology and structure is purely scientific.
A question of graver and universal interest is the possibility of
another attack from the Martians. I do not think that nearly enough
attention is being given to this aspect of the matter. At present the
planet Mars is in conjunction, but with every return to opposition I,
for one, anticipate a renewal of their adventure. In any case, we
should be prepared. It seems to me that it should be possible to
define the position of the gun from which the shots are discharged, to
keep a sustained watch upon this part of the planet, and to anticipate
the arrival of the next attack.
In that case the cylinder might be destroyed with dynamite or
artillery before it was sufficiently cool for the Martians to emerge,
or they might be butchered by means of guns so soon as the screw
opened. It seems to me that they have lost a vast advantage in the
failure of their first surprise. Possibly they see it in the same
Lessing has advanced excellent reasons for supposing that the
Martians have actually succeeded in effecting a landing on the planet
Venus. Seven months ago now, Venus and Mars were in alignment with
the sun; that is to say, Mars was in opposition from the point of view
of an observer on Venus. Subsequently a peculiar luminous and sinuous
marking appeared on the unillumined half of the inner planet, and
almost simultaneously a faint dark mark of a similar sinuous character
was detected upon a photograph of the Martian disk. One needs to see
the drawings of these appearances in order to appreciate fully their
remarkable resemblance in character.
At any rate, whether we expect another invasion or not, our views
of the human future must be greatly modified by these events. We have
learned now that we cannot regard this planet as being fenced in and a
secure abiding place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good
or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space. It may be that
in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not
without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene
confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of
decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous, and
it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of
mankind. It may be that across the immensity of space the Martians
have watched the fate of these pioneers of theirs and learned their
lesson, and that on the planet Venus they have found a securer
settlement. Be that as it may, for many years yet there will
certainly be no relaxation of the eager scrutiny of the Martian disk,
and those fiery darts of the sky, the shooting stars, will bring with
them as they fall an unavoidable apprehension to all the sons of men.
The broadening of men's views that has resulted can scarcely be
exaggerated. Before the cylinder fell there was a general persuasion
that through all the deep of space no life existed beyond the petty
surface of our minute sphere. Now we see further. If the Martians
can reach Venus, there is no reason to suppose that the thing is
impossible for men, and when the slow cooling of the sun makes this
earth uninhabitable, as at last it must do, it may be that the thread
of life that has begun here will have streamed out and caught our
sister planet within its toils.
Dim and wonderful is the vision I have conjured up in my mind of
life spreading slowly from this little seed bed of the solar system
throughout the inanimate vastness of sidereal space. But that is a
remote dream. It may be, on the other hand, that the destruction of
the Martians is only a reprieve. To them, and not to us, perhaps, is
the future ordained.
I must confess the stress and danger of the time have left an
abiding sense of doubt and insecurity in my mind. I sit in my study
writing by lamplight, and suddenly I see again the healing valley
below set with writhing flames, and feel the house behind and about me
empty and desolate. I go out into the Byfleet Road, and vehicles pass
me, a butcher boy in a cart, a cabful of visitors, a workman on a
bicycle, children going to school, and suddenly they become vague and
unreal, and I hurry again with the artilleryman through the hot,
brooding silence. Of a night I see the black powder darkening the
silent streets, and the contorted bodies shrouded in that layer; they
rise upon me tattered and dog-bitten. They gibber and grow fiercer,
paler, uglier, mad distortions of humanity at last, and I wake, cold
and wretched, in the darkness of the night.
I go to London and see the busy multitudes in Fleet Street and the
Strand, and it comes across my mind that they are but the ghosts of
the past, haunting the streets that I have seen silent and wretched,
going to and fro, phantasms in a dead city, the mockery of life in a
galvanised body. And strange, too, it is to stand on Primrose Hill,
as I did but a day before writing this last chapter, to see the great
province of houses, dim and blue through the haze of the smoke and
mist, vanishing at last into the vague lower sky, to see the people
walking to and fro among the flower beds on the hill, to see the
sight-seers about the Martian machine that stands there still, to hear
the tumult of playing children, and to recall the time when I saw it
all bright and clear-cut, hard and silent, under the dawn of that last
great day. . . .
And strangest of all is it to hold my wife's hand again, and to think
that I have counted her, and that she has counted me, among the dead.
The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells