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

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It is still a matter of wonder how the Martians are able

to slay men so swiftly and so silently. Many think that in

some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a

chamber of practically absolute non-conductivity. This intense

heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they

choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror of unknown

composition, much as the parabolic mirror of a lighthouse

projects a beam of light. But no one has absolutely proved

these details. However it is done, it is certain that a beam of

heat is the essence of the matter. Heat, and invisible, instead

of visible, light. Whatever is combustible flashes into flame

at its touch, lead runs like water, it softens iron, cracks and

melts glass, and when it falls upon water, incontinently that

explodes into steam.

That night nearly forty people lay under the starlight about

the pit, charred and distorted beyond recognition, and all

night long the common from Horsell to Maybury was deserted

and brightly ablaze.

The news of the massacre probably reached Chobham,

Woking, and Ottershaw about the same time. In Woking the

shops had closed when the tragedy happened, and a number

of people, shop people and so forth, attracted by the stories

they had heard, were walking over the Horsell Bridge and

along the road between the hedges that runs out at last upon

the common. You may imagine the young people brushed up

after the labours of the day, and making this novelty, as they

would make any novelty, the excuse for walking together and

enjoying a trivial flirtation. You may figure to yourself the

hum of voices along the road in the gloaming. . . .

As yet, of course, few people in Woking even knew that

the cylinder had opened, though poor Henderson had sent a

messenger on a bicycle to the post office with a special wire

to an evening paper.

As these folks came out by twos and threes upon the open,

they found little knots of people talking excitedly and peering

at the spinning mirror over the sand pits, and the new-comers

were, no doubt, soon infected by the excitement of the oc-


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


But that crowd of people had a far narrower escape than

mine. Only the fact that a hummock of heathery sand inter-

cepted the lower part of the Heat-Ray saved them. Had the

elevation of the parabolic mirror been a few yards higher,

none could have lived to tell the tale. They saw the flashes

and the men falling and an invisible hand, as it were, lit the

bushes as it hurried towards them through the twilight. Then,

with a whistling note that rose above the droning of the pit,

the beam swung close over their heads, lighting the tops of

the beech trees that line the road, and splitting the bricks,

smashing the windows, firing the window frames, and bring-

ing down in crumbling ruin a portion of the gable of the

house nearest the corner.

In the sudden thud, hiss, and glare of the igniting trees,

the panic-stricken crowd seems to have swayed hesitatingly

for some moments. Sparks and burning twigs began to fall

into the road, and single leaves like puffs of flame. Hats and

dresses caught fire. Then came a crying from the common.

There were shrieks and shouts, and suddenly a mounted

policeman came galloping through the confusion with his

hands clasped over his head, screaming.

"They're coming!" a woman shrieked, and incontinently

everyone was turning and pushing at those behind, in order

to clear their way to Woking again. They must have bolted

as blindly as a flock of sheep. Where the road grows narrow

and black between the high banks the crowd jammed, and a

desperate struggle occurred. All that crowd did not escape;

three persons at least, two women and a little boy, were

crushed and trampled there, and left to die amid the terror

and the darkness.



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