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

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Saturday lives in my memory as a day of suspense. It

was a day of lassitude too, hot and close, with, I am told, a

rapidly fluctuating barometer. I had slept but little, though

my wife had succeeded in sleeping, and I rose early. I went

into my garden before breakfast and stood listening, but

towards the common there was nothing stirring but a lark.

The milkman came as usual. I heard the rattle of his

chariot and I went round to the side gate to ask the latest

news. He told me that during the night the Martians had

been surrounded by troops, and that guns were expected.

Then--a familiar, reassuring note--I heard a train running

towards Woking.

"They aren't to be killed," said the milkman, "if that can

possibly be avoided."

I saw my neighbour gardening, chatted with him for a

time, and then strolled in to breakfast. It was a most un-

exceptional morning. My neighbour was of opinion that the

troops would be able to capture or to destroy the Martians

during the day.

"It's a pity they make themselves so unapproachable," he

said. "It would be curious to know how they live on another

planet; we might learn a thing or two."

He came up to the fence and extended a handful of straw-

berries, for his gardening was as generous as it was enthusi-

astic. At the same time he told me of the burning of the pine

woods about the Byfleet Golf Links.

"They say," said he, "that there's another of those blessed

things fallen there--number two. But one's enough, surely.

This lot'll cost the insurance people a pretty penny before

everything's settled." He laughed with an air of the greatest

good humour as he said this. The woods, he said, were still

burning, and pointed out a haze of smoke to me. "They will

be hot under foot for days, on account of the thick soil of

pine needles and turf," he said, and then grew serious over

"poor Ogilvy."

After breakfast, instead of working, I decided to walk

down towards the common. Under the railway bridge I found

a group of soldiers--sappers, I think, men in small round

caps, dirty red jackets unbuttoned, and showing their blue

shirts, dark trousers, and boots coming to the calf. They told

me no one was allowed over the canal, and, looking along the

road towards the bridge, I saw one of the Cardigan men

standing sentinel there. I talked with these soldiers for a

time; I told them of my sight of the Martians on the previous

evening. None of them had seen the Martians, and they had

but the vaguest ideas of them, so that they plied me with

questions. They said that they did not know who had

authorised the movements of the troops; their idea was that

a dispute had arisen at the Horse Guards. The ordinary

sapper is a great deal better educated than the common

soldier, and they discussed the peculiar conditions of the

possible fight with some acuteness. I described the Heat-Ray

to them, and they began to argue among themselves.

"Crawl up under cover and rush 'em, say I," said one.

"Get aht!," said another. "What's cover against this 'ere

'eat? Sticks to cook yer! What we got to do is to go as near

as the ground'll let us, and then drive a trench."

"Blow yer trenches! You always want trenches; you ought

to ha" been born a rabbit Snippy."

"'Ain't they got any necks, then?" said a third, abruptly--

a little, contemplative, dark man, smoking a pipe.

I repeated my description.

"Octopuses," said he, "that's what I calls 'em. Talk about

fishers of men--fighters of fish it is this time!"

"It ain't no murder killing beasts like that," said the first


"Why not shell the darned things strite off and finish 'em?"

said the little dark man. "You carn tell what they might do."

"Where's your shells?" said the first speaker. "There ain't

no time. Do it in a rush, that's my tip, and do it at once."

So they discussed it. After a while I left them, and went

on to the railway station to get as many morning papers as

I could.

But I will not weary the reader with a description of that

long morning and of the longer afternoon. I did not succeed

in getting a glimpse of the common, for even Horsell and

Chobham church towers were in the hands of the military

authorities. The soldiers I addressed didn't know anything;

the officers were mysterious as well as busy. I found people

in the town quite secure again in the presence of the military,

and I heard for the first time from Marshall, the tobacconist,

that his son was among the dead on the common. The soldiers

had made the people on the outskirts of Horsell lock up and

leave their houses.

I got back to lunch about two, very tired for, as I have

said, the day was extremely hot and dull; and in order to

refresh myself I took a cold bath in the afternoon. About half

past four I went up to the railway station to get an evening

paper, for the morning papers had contained only a very

inaccurate description of the killing of Stent, Henderson,

Ogilvy, and the others. But there was little I didn't know.

The Martians did not show an inch of themselves. They

seemed busy in their pit, and there was a sound of hammering

and an almost continuous streamer of smoke. Apparently they

were busy getting ready for a struggle. "Fresh attempts have

been made to signal, but without success," was the stereo-

typed formula of the papers. A sapper told me it was done by

a man in a ditch with a flag on a long pole. The Martians

took as much notice of such advances as we should of the

lowing of a cow.

I must confess the sight of all this armament, all this

preparation, greatly excited me. My imagination became bel-

ligerent, and defeated the invaders in a dozen striking ways;

something of my schoolboy dreams of battle and heroism

came back. It hardly seemed a fair fight to me at that time.

They seemed very helpless in that pit of theirs.

About three o'clock there began the thud of a gun at

measured intervals from Chertsey or Addlestone. I learned

that the smouldering pine wood into which the second cylin-

der had fallen was being shelled, in the hope of destroying

that object before it opened. It was only about five, however,

that a field gun reached Chobham for use against the first

body of Martians.

About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in

the summerhouse talking vigorously about the battle that was

lowering upon us, I heard a muffled detonation from the

common, and immediately after a gust of firing. Close on

the heels of that came a violent rattling crash, quite close

to us, that shook the ground; and, starting out upon the lawn,

I saw the tops of the trees about the Oriental College burst

into smoky red flame, and the tower of the little church beside

it slide down into ruin. The pinnacle of the mosque had

vanished, and the roof line of the college itself looked as if

a hundred-ton gun had been at work upon it. One of our

chimneys cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece

of it came clattering down the tiles and made a heap of

broken red fragments upon the flower bed by my study


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!" I shouted above the sudden noise.

She looked away from me downhill. The people were

coming out of their houses, astonished.

"How are we to get to Leatherhead?" she said.

Down the hill I saw a bevy of hussars ride under the

railway bridge; three galloped through the open gates of

the Oriental College; two others dismounted, and began

running from house to house. The sun, shining through the

smoke that drove up from the tops of the trees, seemed blood

red, and threw an unfamiliar lurid light upon everything.

"Stop here," said I; "you are safe here"; and I started off

at once for the Spotted Dog, for I knew the landlord had a

horse and dog cart. I ran, for I perceived that in a moment

everyone upon this side of the hill would be moving. I found

him in his bar, quite unaware of what was going on behind

his house. A man stood with his back to me, talking to him.

"I must have a pound," said the landlord, "and I've no

one to drive it."

"I'll give you two," said I, over the stranger's shoulder.

"What for?"

"And I'll bring it back by midnight," I said.

"Lord!" said the landlord; "what's the hurry? I'm selling

my bit of a pig. Two pounds, and you bring it back? What's

going on now?"

I explained hastily that I had to leave my home, and so

secured the dog cart. At the time it did not seem to me nearly

so urgent that the landlord should leave his. I took care to

have the cart there and then, drove it off down the road, and,

leaving it in charge of my wife and servant, rushed into my

house and packed a few valuables, such plate as we had, and

so forth. The beech trees below the house were burning while

I did this, and the palings up the road glowed red. While I

was occupied in this way, one of the dismounted hussars came

running up. He was going from house to house, warning peo-

ple to leave. He was going on as I came out of my front

door, lugging my treasures, done up in a tablecloth. I shouted

after him:

"What news?"

He turned, stared, bawled something about "crawling out

in a thing like a dish cover," and ran on to the gate of the

house at the crest. A sudden whirl of black smoke driving

across the road hid him for a moment. I ran to my neighbour's

door and rapped to satisfy myself of what I already knew, that

his wife had gone to London with him and had locked up

their house. I went in again, according to my promise, to get

my servant's box, lugged it out, clapped it beside her on the

tail of the dog cart, and then caught the reins and jumped

up into the driver's seat beside my wife. In another moment

we were clear of the smoke and noise, and spanking down the

opposite slope of Maybury Hill towards Old Woking.

In front was a quiet sunny landscape, a wheat field ahead

on either side of the road, and the Maybury Inn with its

swinging sign. I saw the doctor's cart ahead of me. At the

bottom of the hill I turned my head to look at the hillside I

was leaving. Thick streamers of black smoke shot with threads

of red fire were driving up into the still air, and throwing

dark shadows upon the green treetops eastward. The smoke

already extended far away to the east and west--to the By-

fleet pine woods eastward, and to Woking on the west. The

road was dotted with people running towards us. And very

faint now, but very distinct through the hot, quiet air, one

heard the whirr of a machine-gun that was presently stilled,

and an intermittent cracking of rifles. Apparently the Mar-

tians were setting fire to everything within range of their


I am not an expert driver, and I had immediately to turn

my attention to the horse. When I looked back again the

second hill had hidden the black smoke. I slashed the horse

with the whip, and gave him a loose rein until Woking and

Send lay between us and that quivering tumult. I overtook

and passed the doctor between Woking and Send.



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