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

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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 peace-

ful 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


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 thunder-

storm 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 bolted.

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


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


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


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 reeling


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


Near the top I stumbled upon something soft, and, by a

flash of lightning, saw between my feet a heap of black broad-

cloth 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 against it.

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 drench-

ing 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, shivering violently.



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