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

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After getting this sudden lesson in the power of terres-

trial weapons, the Martians retreated to their original position

upon Horsell Common; and in their haste, and encumbered

with the de'bris of their smashed companion, they no doubt

overlooked many such a stray and negligible victim as myself.

Had they left their comrade and pushed on forthwith, there

was nothing at that time between them and London but

batteries of twelve-pounder guns, and they would certainly

have reached the capital in advance of the tidings of their

approach; as sudden, dreadful, and destructive their advent

would have been as the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon a

century ago.

But they were in no hurry. Cylinder followed cylinder on

its interplanetary flight; every twenty-four hours brought

them reinforcement. And meanwhile the military and naval

authorities, now fully alive to the tremendous power of their

antagonists, worked with furious energy. Every minute a

fresh gun came into position until, before twilight, every

copse, every row of suburban villas on the hilly slopes about

Kingston and Richmond, masked an expectant black muzzle.

And through the charred and desolated area--perhaps twenty

square miles altogether--that encircled the Martian encamp-

ment on Horsell Common, through charred and ruined villages

among the green trees, through the blackened and smoking

arcades that had been but a day ago pine spinneys, crawled

the devoted scouts with the heliographs that were presently

to warn the gunners of the Martian approach. But the Mar-

tians now understood our command of artillery and the

danger of human proximity, and not a man ventured within

a mile of either cylinder, save at the price of his life.

It would seem that these giants spent the earlier part of

the afternoon in going to and fro, transferring everything

from the second and third cylinders--the second in Addle-

stone Golf Links and the third at Pyrford--to their original

pit on Horsell Common. Over that, above the blackened

heather and ruined buildings that stretched far and wide,

stood one as sentinel, while the rest abandoned their vast

fighting-machines and descended into the pit. They were

hard at work there far into the night, and the towering pillar

of dense green smoke that rose therefrom could be seen from

the hills about Merrow, and even, it is said, from Banstead

and Epsom Downs.

And while the Martians behind me were thus preparing

for their next sally, and in front of me Humanity gathered

for the battle, I made my way with infinite pains and labour

from the fire and smoke of burning Weybridge towards


I saw an abandoned boat, very small and remote, drifting

down-stream; and throwing off the most of my sodden

clothes, I went after it, gained it, and so escaped out of that

destruction. There were no oars in the boat, but I contrived

to paddle, as well as my parboiled hands would allow, down

the river towards Halliford and Walton, going very tediously

and continually looking behind me, as you may well under-

stand. I followed the river, because I considered that the

water gave me my best chance of escape should these giants


The hot water from the Martian's overthrow drifted down-

stream with me, so that for the best part of a mile I could see

little of either bank. Once, however, I made out a string of

black figures hurrying across the meadows from the direction

of Weybridge. Halliford, it seemed, was deserted, and sev-

eral of the houses facing the river were on fire. It was strange

to see the place quite tranquil, quite desolate under the hot

blue sky, with the smoke and little threads of flame going

straight up into the heat of the afternoon. Never before had

I seen houses burning without the accompaniment of an

obstructive crowd. A little farther on the dry reeds up the

bank were smoking and glowing, and a line of fire inland was

marching steadily across a late field of hay.

For a long time I drifted, so painful and weary was I after

the violence I had been through, and so intense the heat upon

the water. Then my fears got the better of me again, and I

resumed my paddling. The sun scorched my bare back. At

last, as the bridge at Walton was coming into sight round the

bend, my fever and faintness overcame my fears, and I landed

on the Middlesex bank and lay down, deadly sick, amid the

long grass. I suppose the time was then about four or five

o'clock. I got up presently, walked perhaps half a mile with-

out meeting a soul, and then lay down again in the shadow of

a hedge. I seem to remember talking, wanderingly, to myself

during that last spurt. I was also very thirsty, and bitterly

regretful I had drunk no more water. It is a curious thing

that I felt angry with my wife; I cannot account for it,

but my impotent desire to reach Leatherhead worried me


I do not clearly remember the arrival of the curate, so that

probably I dozed. I became aware of him as a seated figure

in soot-smudged shirt sleeves, and with his upturned, clean-

shaven face staring at a faint flickering that danced over the

sky. The sky was what is called a mackerel sky--rows and

rows of faint down-plumes of cloud, just tinted with the

midsummer sunset.

I sat up, and at the rustle of my motion he looked at me


"Have you any water?" I asked abruptly.

He shook his head.

"You have been asking for water for the last hour," he said.

For a moment we were silent, taking stock of each other. I

dare say he found me a strange enough figure, naked, save

for my water-soaked trousers and socks, scalded, and my face

and shoulders blackened by the smoke. His face was a fair

weakness, his chin retreated, and his hair lay in crisp, almost

flaxen curls on his low forehead; his eyes were rather large,

pale blue, and blankly staring. He spoke abruptly, looking

vacantly away from me.

"What does it mean?" he said. "What do these things


I stared at him and made no answer.

He extended a thin white hand and spoke in almost a

complaining tone.

"Why are these things permitted? What sins have we

done? The morning service was over, I was walking through

the roads to clear my brain for the afternoon, and then--fire,

earthquake, death! As if it were Sodom and Gomorrah! All

our work undone, all the work---- What are these Mar-


"What are we?" I answered, clearing my throat.

He gripped his knees and turned to look at me again. For

half a minute, perhaps, he stared silently.

"I was walking through the roads to clear my brain," he

said. "And suddenly--fire, earthquake, death!"

He relapsed into silence, with his chin now sunken almost

to his knees.

Presently he began waving his hand.

"All the work--all the Sunday schools---- What have we

done--what has Weybridge done? Everything gone--every-

thing destroyed. The church! We rebuilt it only three years

ago. Gone! Swept out of existence! Why?"

Another pause, and he broke out again like one de-


"The smoke of her burning goeth up for ever and ever!"

he shouted.

His eyes flamed, and he pointed a lean finger in the direc-

tion of Weybridge.

By this time I was beginning to take his measure. The

tremendous tragedy in which he had been involved--it was

evident he was a fugitive from Weybridge--had driven him

to the very verge of his reason.

"Are we far from Sunbury?" I said, in a matter-of-fact tone.

"What are we to do?" he asked. "Are these creatures every-

where? Has the earth been given over to them?"

"Are we far from Sunbury?"

"Only this morning I officiated at early celebration----"

"Things have changed," I said, quietly. "You must keep

your head. There is still hope."


"Yes. Plentiful hope--for all this destruction!"

I began to explain my view of our position. He listened at

first, but as I went on the interest dawning in his eyes gave

place to their former stare, and his regard wandered from


"This must be the beginning of the end," he said, inter-

rupting me. "The end! The great and terrible day of the

Lord! When men shall call upon the mountains and the rocks

to fall upon them and hide them--hide them from the face

of Him that sitteth upon the throne!"

I began to understand the position. I ceased my laboured

reasoning, struggled to my feet, and, standing over him, laid

my hand on his shoulder.

"Be a man!" said I. "You are scared out of your wits! What

good is religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what

earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before

to men! Did you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is

not an insurance agent."

For a time he sat in blank silence.

"But how can we escape?" he asked, suddenly. "They are

invulnerable, they are pitiless."

"Neither the one nor, perhaps, the other," I answered.

"And the mightier they are the more sane and wary should

we be. One of them was killed yonder not three hours ago."

"Killed!" he said, staring about him. "How can God's min-

isters be killed?"

"I saw it happen." I proceeded to tell him. "We have

chanced to come in for the thick of it," said I, "and that is


"What is that flicker in the sky?" he asked abruptly.

I told him it was the heliograph signalling--that it was the

sign of human help and effort in the sky.

"We are in the midst of it," I said, "quiet as it is. That

flicker in the sky tells of the gathering storm. Yonder, I take

it are the Martians, and Londonward, where those hills rise

about Richmond and Kingston and the trees give cover, earth-

works are being thrown up and guns are being placed. Pres-

ently the Martians will be coming this way again."

And even as I spoke he sprang to his feet and stopped me

by a gesture.

"Listen!" he said.

From beyond the low hills across the water came the dull

resonance of distant guns and a remote weird crying. Then

everything was still. A cockchafer came droning over the

hedge and past us. High in the west the crescent moon hung

faint and pale above the smoke of Weybridge and Shepper-

ton and the hot, still splendour of the sunset.

"We had better follow this path," I said, "northward."



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