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

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As the dawn grew brighter we withdrew from the win-

dow from which we had watched the Martians, and went

very quietly downstairs.

The artilleryman agreed with me that the house was no

place to stay in. He proposed, he said, to make his way

Londonward, and thence rejoin his battery--No. 12, of the

Horse Artillery. My plan was to return at once to Leather-

head; and so greatly had the strength of the Martians im-

pressed me that I had determined to take my wife to New-

haven, and go with her out of the country forthwith. For I

already perceived clearly that the country about London

must inevitably be the scene of a disastrous struggle before

such creatures as these could be destroyed.

Between us and Leatherhead, however, lay the third cylin-

der, with its guarding giants. Had I been alone, I think I

should have taken my chance and struck across country. But

the artilleryman dissuaded me: "It's no kindness to the right

sort of wife," he said, "to make her a widow"; and in the end

I agreed to go with him, under cover of the woods, northward

as far as Street Cobham before I parted with him. Thence I

would make a big detour by Epsom to reach Leatherhead.

I should have started at once, but my companion had been

in active service and he knew better than that. He made me

ransack the house for a flask, which he filled with whiskey;

and we lined every available pocket with packets of biscuits

and slices of meat. Then we crept out of the house, and ran

as quickly as we could down the ill-made road by which I

had come overnight. The houses seemed deserted. In the

road lay a group of three charred bodies close together,

struck dead by the Heat-Ray; and here and there were things

that people had dropped--a clock, a slipper, a silver spoon,

and the like poor valuables. At the corner turning up towards

the post office a little cart, filled with boxes and furniture,

and horseless, heeled over on a broken wheel. A cash box had

been hastily smashed open and thrown under the debris.

Except the lodge at the Orphanage, which was still on fire,

none of the houses had suffered very greatly here. The Heat-

Ray had shaved the chimney tops and passed. Yet, save our-

selves, there did not seem to be a living soul on Maybury

Hill. The majority of the inhabitants had escaped, I suppose,

by way of the Old Woking road--the road I had taken when

I drove to Leatherhead--or they had hidden.

We went down the lane, by the body of the man in black,

sodden now from the overnight hail, and broke into the

woods at the foot of the hill. We pushed through these

towards the railway without meeting a soul. The woods

across the line were but the scarred and blackened ruins of

woods; for the most part the trees had fallen, but a certain

proportion still stood, dismal grey stems, with dark brown

foliage instead of green.

On our side the fire had done no more than scorch the

nearer trees; it had failed to secure its footing. In one place

the woodmen had been at work on Saturday; trees, felled

and freshly trimmed, lay in a clearing, with heaps of sawdust

by the sawing-machine and its engine. Hard by was a tem-

porary hut, deserted. There was not a breath of wind this

morning, and everything was strangely still. Even the birds

were hushed, and as we hurried along I and the artilleryman

talked in whispers and looked now and again over our

shoulders. Once or twice we stopped to listen.

After a time we drew near the road, and as we did so we

heard the clatter of hoofs and saw through the tree stems

three cavalry soldiers riding slowly towards Woking. We

hailed them, and they halted while we hurried towards them.

It was a lieutenant and a couple of privates of the 8th Hus-

sars, with a stand like a theodolite, which the artilleryman

told me was a heliograph.

"You are the first men I've seen coming this way this morn-

ing," said the lieutenant. "What's brewing?"

His voice and face were eager. The men behind him stared

curiously. The artilleryman jumped down the bank into the

road and saluted.

"Gun destroyed last night, sir. Have been hiding. Trying

to rejoin battery, sir. You'll come in sight of the Martians, I

expect, about half a mile along this road."

"What the dickens are they like?" asked the lieutenant.

"Giants in armour, sir. Hundred feet high. Three legs and

a body like 'luminium, with a mighty great head in a hood,


"Get out!" said the lieutenant. "What confounded non-


"You'll see, sir. They carry a kind of box, sir, that shoots

fire and strikes you dead."

"What d'ye mean--a gun?"

"No, sir," and the artilleryman began a vivid account of

the Heat-Ray. Halfway through, the lieutenant interrupted

him and looked up at me. I was still standing on the bank by

the side of the road.

"It's perfectly true," I said.

"Well," said the lieutenant, "I suppose it's my business to

see it too. Look here"--to the artilleryman--"we're detailed

here clearing people out of their houses. You'd better go

along and report yourself to Brigadier-General Marvin, and

tell him all you know. He's at Weybridge. Know the way?"

"I do," I said; and he turned his horse southward again.

"Half a mile, you say?" said he.

"At most," I answered, and pointed over the treetops south-

ward. He thanked me and rode on, and we saw them no


Farther along we came upon a group of three women and

two children in the road, busy clearing out a labourer's cot-

tage. They had got hold of a little hand truck, and were piling

it up with unclean-looking bundles and shabby furniture.

They were all too assiduously engaged to talk to us as we


By Byfleet station we emerged from the pine trees, and

found the country calm and peaceful under the morning sun-

light. We were far beyond the range of the Heat-Ray there,

and had it not been for the silent desertion of some of the

houses, the stirring movement of packing in others, and the

knot of soldiers standing on the bridge over the railway and

staring down the line towards Woking, the day would have

seemed very like any other Sunday.

Several farm waggons and carts were moving creakily

along the road to Addlestone, and suddenly through the gate

of a field we saw, across a stretch of flat meadow, six twelve-

pounders standing neatly at equal distances pointing towards

Woking. The gunners stood by the guns waiting, and the

ammunition waggons were at a business-like distance. The

men stood almost as if under inspection.

"That's good!" said I. "They will get one fair shot, at any


The artilleryman hesitated at the gate.

"I shall go on," he said.

Farther on towards Weybridge, just over the bridge, there

were a number of men in white fatigue jackets throwing up

a long rampart, and more guns behind.

"It's bows and arrows against the lightning, anyhow," said

the artilleryman. "They 'aven't seen that fire-beam yet."

The officers who were not actively engaged stood and

stared over the treetops southwestward, and the men digging

would stop every now and again to stare in the same direc-


Byfleet was in a tumult; people packing, and a score of

hussars, some of them dismounted, some on horseback, were

hunting them about. Three or four black government wag-

gons, with crosses in white circles, and an old omnibus, among

other vehicles, were being loaded in the village street. There

were scores of people, most of them sufficiently sabbatical to

have assumed their best clothes. The soldiers were having

the greatest difficulty in making them realise the gravity of

their position. We saw one shrivelled old fellow with a huge

box and a score or more of flower pots containing orchids,

angrily expostulating with the corporal who would leave them

behind. I stopped and gripped his arm.

"Do you know what's over there?" I said, pointing at the

pine tops that hid the Martians.

"Eh?" said he, turning. "I was explainin" these is vallyble."

"Death!" I shouted. "Death is coming! Death!" and leaving

him to digest that if he could, I hurried on after the artillery-

man. At the corner I looked back. The soldier had left him,

and he was still standing by his box, with the pots of orchids

on the lid of it, and staring vaguely over the trees.

No one in Weybridge could tell us where the headquarters

were established; the whole place was in such confusion as I

had never seen in any town before. Carts, carriages every-

where, the most astonishing miscellany of conveyances and

horseflesh. The respectable inhabitants of the place, men in

golf and boating costumes, wives prettily dressed, were pack-

ing, river-side loafers energetically helping, children excited,

and, for the most part, highly delighted at this astonishing

variation of their Sunday experiences. In the midst of it all

the worthy vicar was very pluckily holding an early celebra-

tion, and his bell was jangling out above the excitement.

I and the artilleryman, seated on the step of the drinking

fountain, made a very passable meal upon what we had

brought with us. Patrols of soldiers--here no longer hussars,

but grenadiers in white--were warning people to move now

or to take refuge in their cellars as soon as the firing began.

We saw as we crossed the railway bridge that a growing

crowd of people had assembled in and about the railway

station, and the swarming platform was piled with boxes and

packages. The ordinary traffic had been stopped, I believe, in

order to allow of the passage of troops and guns to Chertsey,

and I have heard since that a savage struggle occurred for

places in the special trains that were put on at a later hour.

We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour

we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where

the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping

two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble

mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was

a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn

with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church

--it has been replaced by a spire--rose above the trees.

Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As

yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already

far more people than all the boats going to and fro could

enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy bur-

dens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small out-

house door between them, with some of their household goods

piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try to get away

from Shepperton station.

There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting.

The idea people seemed to have here was that the Martians

were simply formidable human beings, who might attack and

sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end. Every

now and then people would glance nervously across the Wey,

at the meadows towards Chertsey, but everything over there

was still.

Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed,

everything was quiet, in vivid contrast with the Surrey side.

The people who landed there from the boats went tramping

off down the lane. The big ferryboat had just made a

journey. Three or four soldiers stood on the lawn of the inn,

staring and jesting at the fugitives, without offering to help.

The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited hours.

"What's that?" cried a boatman, and "Shut up, you fool!"

said a man near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came

again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled

thud--the sound of a gun.

The fighting was beginning. Almost immediately unseen

batteries across the river to our right, unseen because of the

trees, took up the chorus, firing heavily one after the other.

A woman screamed. Everyone stood arrested by the sudden

stir of battle, near us and yet invisible to us. Nothing was to

be seen save flat meadows, cows feeding unconcernedly for

the most part, and silvery pollard willows motionless in the

warm sunlight.

"The sojers'll stop 'em," said a woman beside me, doubt-

fully. A haziness rose over the treetops.

Then suddenly we saw a rush of smoke far away up the

river, a puff of smoke that jerked up into the air and hung;

and forthwith the ground heaved under foot and a heavy

explosion shook the air, smashing two or three windows in

the houses near, and leaving us astonished.

"Here they are!" shouted a man in a blue jersey. "Yonder!

D'yer see them? Yonder!"

Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the

armoured Martians appeared, far away over the little trees,

across the flat meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and

striding hurriedly towards the river. Little cowled figures they

seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as

flying birds.

Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their

armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly

forward upon the guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew

nearer. One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flour-

ished a huge case high in the air, and the ghostly, terrible

Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards

Chertsey, and struck the town.

At sight of these strange, swift, and terrible creatures the

crowd near the water's edge seemed to me to be for a moment

horror-struck. There was no screaming or shouting, but a

silence. Then a hoarse murmur and a movement of feet--a

splashing from the water. A man, too frightened to drop the

portmanteau he carried on his shoulder, swung round and

sent me staggering with a blow from the corner of his burden.

A woman thrust at me with her hand and rushed past me. I

turned with the rush of the people, but I was not too terrified

for thought. The terrible Heat-Ray was in my mind. To get

under water! That was it!

"Get under water!" I shouted, unheeded.

I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching

Martian, rushed right down the gravelly beach and headlong

into the water. Others did the same. A boatload of people

putting back came leaping out as I rushed past. The stones

under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was

so low that I ran perhaps twenty feet scarcely waist-deep.

Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely a couple of

hundred yards away, I flung myself forward under the sur-

face. The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the

river sounded like thunderclaps in my ears. People were

landing hastily on both sides of the river.

But the Martian machine took no more notice for the

moment of the people running this way and that than a man

would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his

foot has kicked. When, half suffocated, I raised my head

above water, the Martian's hood pointed at the batteries that

were still firing across the river, and as it advanced it swung

loose what must have been the generator of the Heat-Ray.

In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wad-

ing halfway across. The knees of its foremost legs bent at

the farther bank, and in another moment it had raised itself

to its full height again, close to the village of Shepperton.

Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the

right bank, had been hidden behind the outskirts of that

village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near concussion,

the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The

monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray

as the first shell burst six yards above the hood.

I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of

the other four Martian monsters; my attention was riveted

upon the nearer incident. Simultaneously two other shells

burst in the air near the body as the hood twisted round in

time to receive, but not in time to dodge, the fourth shell.

The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood

bulged, flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered frag-

ments of red flesh and glittering metal.

"Hit!" shouted I, with something between a scream and a


I heard answering shouts from the people in the water

about me. I could have leaped out of the water with that

momentary exultation.

The decapitated colossus reeled like a drunken giant; but

it did not fall over. It recovered its balance by a miracle,

and, no longer heeding its steps and with the camera that fired

the Heat-Ray now rigidly upheld, it reeled swiftly upon Shep-

perton. The living intelligence, the Martian within the hood,

was slain and splashed to the four winds of heaven, and the

Thing was now but a mere intricate device of metal whirling

to destruction. It drove along in a straight line, incapable of

guidance. It struck the tower of Shepperton Church, smash-

ing it down as the impact of a battering ram might have

done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with tre-

mendous force into the river out of my sight.

A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water,

steam, mud, and shattered metal shot far up into the sky.

As the camera of the Heat-Ray hit the water, the latter had

immediately flashed into steam. In another moment a huge

wave, like a muddy tidal bore but almost scaldingly hot, came

sweeping round the bend upstream. I saw people struggling

shorewards, and heard their screaming and shouting faintly

above the seething and roar of the Martian's collapse.

For a moment I heeded nothing of the heat, forgot the

patent need of self-preservation. I splashed through the tu-

multuous water, pushing aside a man in black to do so, until

I could see round the bend. Half a dozen deserted boats

pitched aimlessly upon the confusion of the waves. The fallen

Martian came into sight downstream, lying across the river,

and for the most part submerged.

Thick clouds of steam were pouring off the wreckage, and

through the tumultuously whirling wisps I could see, inter-

mittently and vaguely, the gigantic limbs churning the water

and flinging a splash and spray of mud and froth into the air.

The tentacles swayed and struck like living arms, and, save

for the helpless purposelessness of these movements, it was

as if some wounded thing were struggling for its life amid

the waves. Enormous quantities of a ruddy-brown fluid were

spurting up in noisy jets out of the machine.

My attention was diverted from this death flurry by a

furious yelling, like that of the thing called a siren in our

manufacturing towns. A man, knee-deep near the towing

path, shouted inaudibly to me and pointed. Looking back,

I saw the other Martians advancing with gigantic strides down

the riverbank from the direction of Chertsey. The Shepperton

guns spoke this time unavailingly.

At that I ducked at once under water, and, holding my

breath until movement was an agony, blundered painfully

ahead under the surface as long as I could. The water was in

a tumult about me, and rapidly growing hotter.

When for a moment I raised my head to take breath and

throw the hair and water from my eyes, the steam was rising

in a whirling white fog that at first hid the Martians alto-

gether. The noise was deafening. Then I saw them dimly,

colossal figures of grey, magnified by the mist. They had

passed by me, and two were stooping over the frothing, tu-

multuous ruins of their comrade.

The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one

perhaps two hundred yards from me, the other towards Lale-

ham. The generators of the Heat-Rays waved high, and the

hissing beams smote down this way and that.

The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing con-

flict of noises--the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash

of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into

flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black

smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the

river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge

its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that

gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The

nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy,

faint and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them

going to and fro.

For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast-high in the

almost boiling water, dumbfounded at my position, hopeless

of escape. Through the reek I could see the people who had

been with me in the river scrambling out of the water

through the reeds, like little frogs hurrying through grass

from the advance of a man, or running to and fro in utter

dismay on the towing path.

Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came

leaping towards me. The houses caved in as they dissolved at

its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with

a roar. The Ray flickered up and down the towing path,

licking off the people who ran this way and that, and came

down to the water's edge not fifty yards from where I stood.

It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its

track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam. I turned


In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-

point had rushed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded,

half blinded, agonised, I staggered through the leaping, hiss-

ing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would

have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Mar-

tians, upon the broad, bare gravelly spit that runs down to

mark the angle of the Wey and Thames. I expected nothing

but death.

I have a dim memory of the foot of a Martian coming

down within a score of yards of my head, driving straight

into the loose gravel, whirling it this way and that and

lifting again; of a long suspense, and then of the four carry-

ing the debris of their comrade between them, now clear

and then presently faint through a veil of smoke, receding

interminably, as it seemed to me, across a vast space of river

and meadow. And then, very slowly, I realised that by a

miracle I had escaped.



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