TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.

| Home | Reading Room The War of the Worlds

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

< BACK    NEXT >





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 im-

penetrably 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, gro-

tesque and strange, moved busily to and fro.

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 conflagra-

tion 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 the line.

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 dis-

gorged 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 ma-

chines, 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 window eagerly.

"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 softly.

"Who's there?" he said, also whispering, standing under

the window and peering up.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"God knows."

"Are you trying to hide?"

"That's it."

"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 was unbuttoned.

"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 and again.

He followed me, almost mechanically, into the dining


"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 com-

mand the sand pits, and its arrival it was that had precipi-

tated 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 the Heat-Ray.

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 artillery-

man, 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 embankment.

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 dis-

tinct. 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 also.

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.



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >

| Home | Reading Room The War of the Worlds





Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 






Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA