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The War of the Worlds
by H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells

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I found a little crowd of perhaps twenty people sur-

rounding the huge hole in which the cylinder lay. I have

already described the appearance of that colossal bulk, em-

bedded in the ground. The turf and gravel about it seemed

charred as if by a sudden explosion. No doubt its impact

had caused a flash of fire. Henderson and Ogilvy were not

there. I think they perceived that nothing was to be done for

the present, and had gone away to breakfast at Henderson's


There were four or five boys sitting on the edge of the

Pit, with their feet dangling, and amusing themselves--until

I stopped them--by throwing stones at the giant mass.

After I had spoken to them about it, they began playing at

"touch" in and out of the group of bystanders.

Among these were a couple of cyclists, a jobbing gardener

I employed sometimes, a girl carrying a baby, Gregg the

butcher and his little boy, and two or three loafers and golf

caddies who were accustomed to hang about the railway

station. There was very little talking. Few of the common

people in England had anything but the vaguest astronomical

ideas in those days. Most of them were staring quietly at

the big tablelike end of the cylinder, which was still as

Ogilvy and Henderson had left it. I fancy the popular ex-

pectation of a heap of charred corpses was disappointed at

this inanimate bulk. Some went away while I was there, and

other people came. I clambered into the pit and fancied I

heard a faint movement under my feet. The top had certainly

ceased to rotate.

It was only when I got thus close to it that the strangeness

of this object was at all evident to me. At the first glance

it was really no more exciting than an overturned carriage

or a tree blown across the road. Not so much so, indeed. It

looked like a rusty gas float. It required a certain amount of

scientific education to perceive that the grey scale of the

Thing was no common oxide, that the yellowish-white metal

that gleamed in the crack between the lid and the cylinder

had an unfamiliar hue. "Extra-terrestrial" had no meaning for

most of the onlookers.

At that time it was quite clear in my own mind that the

Thing had come from the planet Mars, but I judged it

improbable that it contained any living creature. I thought

the unscrewing might be automatic. In spite of Ogilvy, I

still believed that there were men in Mars. My mind ran

fancifully on the possibilities of its containing manuscript,

on the difficulties in translation that might arise, whether

we should find coins and models in it, and so forth. Yet it

was a little too large for assurance on this idea. I felt an

impatience to see it opened. About eleven, as nothing

seemed happening, I walked back, full of such thought, to

my home in Maybury. But I found it difficult to get to work

upon my abstract investigations.

In the afternoon the appearance of the common had altered

very much. The early editions of the evening papers had

startled London with enormous headlines:



and so forth. In addition, Ogilvy's wire to the Astronomical

Exchange had roused every observatory in the three kingdoms.

There were half a dozen flies or more from the Woking

station standing in the road by the sand pits, a basket-

chaise from Chobham, and a rather lordly carriage. Besides

that, there was quite a heap of bicycles. In addition, a

large number of people must have walked, in spite of the

heat of the day, from Woking and Chertsey, so that there was

altogether quite a considerable crowd--one or two gaily

dressed ladies among the others.

It was glaringly hot, not a cloud in the sky nor a breath

of wind, and the only shadow was that of the few scattered

pine trees. The burning heather had been extinguished, but

the level ground towards Ottershaw was blackened as far as

one could see, and still giving off vertical streamers of

smoke. An enterprising sweet-stuff dealer in the Chobham

Road had sent up his son with a barrow-load of green

apples and ginger beer.

Going to the edge of the pit, I found it occupied by a

group of about half a dozen men--Henderson, Ogilvy, and

a tall, fair-haired man that I afterwards learned was Stent,

the Astronomer Royal, with several workmen wielding spades

and pickaxes. Stent was giving directions in a clear, high-

pitched voice. He was standing on the cylinder, which was

now evidently much cooler; his face was crimson and stream-

ing with perspiration, and something seemed to have irritated


A large portion of the cylinder had been uncovered,

though its lower end was still embedded. As soon as Ogilvy

saw me among the staring crowd on the edge of the pit

he called to me to come down, and asked me if I would

mind going over to see Lord Hilton, the lord of the manor.

The growing crowd, he said, was becoming a serious

impediment to their excavations, especially the boys. They

wanted a light railing put up, and help to keep the people

back. He told me that a faint stirring was occasionally still

audible within the case, but that the workmen had failed

to unscrew the top, as it afforded no grip to them. The

case appeared to be enormously thick, and it was possible

that the faint sounds we heard represented a noisy tumult

in the interior.

I was very glad to do as he asked, and so become one of

the privileged spectators within the contemplated enclosure.

I failed to find Lord Hilton at his house, but I was told

he was expected from London by the six o'clock train from

Waterloo; and as it was then about a quarter past five, I

went home, had some tea, and walked up to the station

to waylay him.



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