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

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Had the Martians aimed only at destruction, they might

on Monday have annihilated the entire population of London,

as it spread itself slowly through the home counties. Not

only along the road through Barnet, but also through Edgware

and Waltham Abbey, and along the roads eastward to South-

end and Shoeburyness, and south of the Thames to Deal and

Broadstairs, poured the same frantic rout. If one could have

hung that June morning in a balloon in the blazing blue

above London every northward and eastward road running out

of the tangled maze of streets would have seemed stippled

black with the streaming fugitives, each dot a human agony

of terror and physical distress. I have set forth at length in

the last chapter my brother's account of the road through

Chipping Barnet, in order that my readers may realise how

that swarming of black dots appeared to one of those con-

cerned. Never before in the history of the world had such a

mass of human beings moved and suffered together. The

legendary hosts of Goths and Huns, the hugest armies Asia

has ever seen, would have been but a drop in that current.

And this was no disciplined march; it was a stampede--a

stampede gigantic and terrible--without order and without

a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving

headlong. It was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of

the massacre of mankind.

Directly below him the balloonist would have seen the

network of streets far and wide, houses, churches, squares,

crescents, gardens--already derelict--spread out like a huge

map, and in the southward BLOTTED. Over Ealing, Richmond,

Wimbledon, it would have seemed as if some monstrous pen

had flung ink upon the chart. Steadily, incessantly, each black

splash grew and spread, shooting out ramifications this way

and that, now banking itself against rising ground, now

pouring swiftly over a crest into a new-found valley, exactly

as a gout of ink would spread itself upon blotting paper.

And beyond, over the blue hills that rise southward of

the river, the glittering Martians went to and fro, calmly

and methodically spreading their poison cloud over this

patch of country and then over that, laying it again with

their steam jets when it had served its purpose, and taking

possession of the conquered country. They do not seem to

have aimed at extermination so much as at complete demoral-

isation and the destruction of any opposition. They exploded

any stores of powder they came upon, cut every telegraph,

and wrecked the railways here and there. They were ham-

stringing mankind. They seemed in no hurry to extend the

field of their operations, and did not come beyond the central

part of London all that day. It is possible that a very con-

siderable number of people in London stuck to their houses

through Monday morning. Certain it is that many died at

home suffocated by the Black Smoke.

Until about midday the Pool of London was an astonishing

scene. Steamboats and shipping of all sorts lay there, tempted

by the enormous sums of money offered by fugitives, and it

is said that many who swam out to these vessels were thrust

off with boathooks and drowned. About one o'clock in the

afternoon the thinning remnant of a cloud of the black vapour

appeared between the arches of Blackfriars Bridge. At that

the Pool became a scene of mad confusion, fighting, and

collision, and for some time a multitude of boats and barges

jammed in the northern arch of the Tower Bridge, and the

sailors and lightermen had to fight savagely against the

people who swarmed upon them from the riverfront. People

were actually clambering down the piers of the bridge from


When, an hour later, a Martian appeared beyond the

Clock Tower and waded down the river, nothing but wreck-

age floated above Limehouse.

Of the falling of the fifth cylinder I have presently to tell.

The sixth star fell at Wimbledon. My brother, keeping watch

beside the women in the chaise in a meadow, saw the green

flash of it far beyond the hills. On Tuesday the little party,

still set upon getting across the sea, made its way through

the swarming country towards Colchester. The news that the

Martians were now in possession of the whole of London was

confirmed. They had been seen at Highgate, and even, it

was said, at Neasden. But they did not come into my brother's

view until the morrow.

That day the scattered multitudes began to realise the

urgent need of provisions. As they grew hungry the rights

of property ceased to be regarded. Farmers were out to

defend their cattle-sheds, granaries, and ripening root crops

with arms in their hands. A number of people now, like my

brother, had their faces eastward, and there were some des-

perate souls even going back towards London to get food.

These were chiefly people from the northern suburbs, whose

knowledge of the Black Smoke came by hearsay. He heard

that about half the members of the government had gathered

at Birmingham, and that enormous quantities of high explo-

sives were being prepared to be used in automatic mines

across the Midland counties.

He was also told that the Midland Railway Company had

replaced the desertions of the first day's panic, had resumed

traffic, and was running northward trains from St. Albans

to relieve the congestion of the home counties. There was

also a placard in Chipping Ongar announcing that large

stores of flour were available in the northern towns and that

within twenty-four hours bread would be distributed among

the starving people in the neighbourhood. But this intelli-

gence did not deter him from the plan of escape he had

formed, and the three pressed eastward all day, and heard

no more of the bread distribution than this promise. Nor, as

a matter of fact, did anyone else hear more of it. That night

fell the seventh star, falling upon Primrose Hill. It fell while

Miss Elphinstone was watching, for she took that duty alter-

nately with my brother. She saw it.

On Wednesday the three fugitives--they had passed the

night in a field of unripe wheat--reached Chelmsford, and

there a body of the inhabitants, calling itself the Committee

of Public Supply, seized the pony as provisions, and would

give nothing in exchange for it but the promise of a share

in it the next day. Here there were rumours of Martians at

Epping, and news of the destruction of Waltham Abbey

Powder Mills in a vain attempt to blow up one of the invaders.

People were watching for Martians here from the church

towers. My brother, very luckily for him as it chanced, pre-

ferred to push on at once to the coast rather than wait for

food, although all three of them were very hungry. By mid-

day they passed through Tillingham, which, strangely enough,

seemed to be quite silent and deserted, save for a few furtive

plunderers hunting for food. Near Tillingham they suddenly

came in sight of the sea, and the most amazing crowd of

shipping of all sorts that it is possible to imagine.

For after the sailors could no longer come up the Thames,

they came on to the Essex coast, to Harwich and Walton

and Clacton, and afterwards to Foulness and Shoebury, to

bring off the people. They lay in a huge sickle-shaped curve

that vanished into mist at last towards the Naze. Close inshore

was a multitude of fishing smacks--English, Scotch, French,

Dutch, and Swedish; steam launches from the Thames, yachts,

electric boats; and beyond were ships of large burden, a

multitude of filthy colliers, trim merchantmen, cattle ships,

passenger boats, petroleum tanks, ocean tramps, an old white

transport even, neat white and grey liners from Southampton

and Hamburg; and along the blue coast across the Blackwater

my brother could make out dimly a dense swarm of boats

chaffering with the people on the beach, a swarm which also

extended up the Blackwater almost to Maldon.

About a couple of miles out lay an ironclad, very low in

the water, almost, to my brother's perception, like a water-

logged ship. This was the ram THUNDER CHILD. It was the

only warship in sight, but far away to the right over the

smooth surface of the sea--for that day there was a dead

calm--lay a serpent of black smoke to mark the next iron-

clads of the Channel Fleet, which hovered in an extended

line, steam up and ready for action, across the Thames estuary

during the course of the Martian conquest, vigilant and yet

powerless to prevent it.

At the sight of the sea, Mrs. Elphinstone, in spite of the

assurances of her sister-in-law, gave way to panic. She had

never been out of England before, she would rather die than

trust herself friendless in a foreign country, and so forth.

She seemed, poor woman, to imagine that the French and the

Martians might prove very similar. She had been growing

increasingly hysterical, fearful, and depressed during the two

days' journeyings. Her great idea was to return to Stanmore.

Things had been always well and safe at Stanmore. They

would find George at Stanmore.

It was with the greatest difficulty they could get her down

to the beach, where presently my brother succeeded in

attracting the attention of some men on a paddle steamer

from the Thames. They sent a boat and drove a bargain for

thirty-six pounds for the three. The steamer was going, these

men said, to Ostend.

It was about two o'clock when my brother, having paid

their fares at the gangway, found himself safely aboard the

steamboat with his charges. There was food aboard, albeit

at exorbitant prices, and the three of them contrived to eat

a meal on one of the seats forward.

There were already a couple of score of passengers aboard,

some of whom had expended their last money in securing

a passage, but the captain lay off the Blackwater until five

in the afternoon, picking up passengers until the seated decks

were even dangerously crowded. He would probably have

remained longer had it not been for the sound of guns that

began about that hour in the south. As if in answer, the

ironclad seaward fired a small gun and hoisted a string of

flags. A jet of smoke sprang out of her funnels.

Some of the passengers were of opinion that this firing

came from Shoeburyness, until it was noticed that it was

growing louder. At the same time, far away in the southeast

the masts and upperworks of three ironclads rose one after

the other out of the sea, beneath clouds of black smoke. But

my brother's attention speedily reverted to the distant firing

in the south. He fancied he saw a column of smoke rising

out of the distant grey haze.

The little steamer was already flapping her way eastward

of the big crescent of shipping, and the low Essex coast was

growing blue and hazy, when a Martian appeared, small and

faint in the remote distance, advancing along the muddy

coast from the direction of Foulness. At that the captain on

the bridge swore at the top of his voice with fear and anger

at his own delay, and the paddles seemed infected with his

terror. Every soul aboard stood at the bulwarks or on the seats

of the steamer and stared at that distant shape, higher than

the trees or church towers inland, and advancing with a

leisurely parody of a human stride.

It was the first Martian my brother had seen, and he

stood, more amazed than terrified, watching this Titan

advancing deliberately towards the shipping, wading farther

and farther into the water as the coast fell away. Then, far

away beyond the Crouch, came another, striding over some

stunted trees, and then yet another, still farther off, wading

deeply through a shiny mudflat that seemed to hang halfway

up between sea and sky. They were all stalking seaward, as

if to intercept the escape of the multitudinous vessels that

were crowded between Foulness and the Naze. In spite of

the throbbing exertions of the engines of the little paddle-

boat, and the pouring foam that her wheels flung behind

her, she receded with terrifying slowness from this ominous


Glancing northwestward, my brother saw the large crescent

of shipping already writhing with the approaching terror;

one ship passing behind another, another coming round from

broadside to end on, steamships whistling and giving off

volumes of steam, sails being let out, launches rushing hither

and thither. He was so fascinated by this and by the creeping

danger away to the left that he had no eyes for anything

seaward. And then a swift movement of the steamboat (she

had suddenly come round to avoid being run down) flung

him headlong from the seat upon which he was standing.

There was a shouting all about him, a trampling of feet, and

a cheer that seemed to be answered faintly. The steamboat

lurched and rolled him over upon his hands.

He sprang to his feet and saw to starboard, and not a

hundred yards from their heeling, pitching boat, a vast iron

bulk like the blade of a plough tearing through the water,

tossing it on either side in huge waves of foam that leaped

towards the steamer, flinging her paddles helplessly in the

air, and then sucking her deck down almost to the waterline.

A douche of spray blinded my brother for a moment.

When his eyes were clear again he saw the monster had

passed and was rushing landward. Big iron upperworks rose

out of this headlong structure, and from that twin funnels

projected and spat a smoking blast shot with fire. It was the

torpedo ram, THUNDER CHILD, steaming headlong, coming to

the rescue of the threatened shipping.

Keeping his footing on the heaving deck by clutching the

bulwarks, my brother looked past this charging leviathan at

the Martians again, and he saw the three of them now close

together, and standing so far out to sea that their tripod

supports were almost entirely submerged. Thus sunken, and

seen in remote perspective, they appeared far less formidable

than the huge iron bulk in whose wake the steamer was

pitching so helplessly. It would seem they were regarding

this new antagonist with astonishment. To their intelligence,

it may be, the giant was even such another as themselves.

The THUNDER CHILD fired no gun, but simply drove full speed

towards them. It was probably her not firing that enabled

her to get so near the enemy as she did. They did not know

what to make of her. One shell, and they would have sent

her to the bottom forthwith with the Heat-Ray.

She was steaming at such a pace that in a minute she

seemed halfway between the steamboat and the Martians--

a diminishing black bulk against the receding horizontal

expanse of the Essex coast.

Suddenly the foremost Martian lowered his tube and dis-

charged a canister of the black gas at the ironclad. It hit her

larboard side and glanced off in an inky jet that rolled away

to seaward, an unfolding torrent of Black Smoke, from which

the ironclad drove clear. To the watchers from the steamer,

low in the water and with the sun in their eyes, it seemed

as though she were already among the Martians.

They saw the gaunt figures separating and rising out of

the water as they retreated shoreward, and one of them

raised the camera-like generator of the Heat-Ray. He held it

pointing obliquely downward, and a bank of steam sprang

from the water at its touch. It must have driven through the

iron of the ship's side like a white-hot iron rod through paper.

A flicker of flame went up through the rising steam, and

then the Martian reeled and staggered. In another moment

he was cut down, and a great body of water and steam shot

high in the air. The guns of the THUNDER CHILD sounded

through the reek, going off one after the other, and one shot

splashed the water high close by the steamer, ricocheted

towards the other flying ships to the north, and smashed a

smack to matchwood.

But no one heeded that very much. At the sight of the

Martian's collapse the captain on the bridge yelled inarticu-

lately, and all the crowding passengers on the steamer's stern

shouted together. And then they yelled again. For, surging

out beyond the white tumult, drove something long and

black, the flames streaming from its middle parts, its ventila-

tors and funnels spouting fire.

She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact

and her engines working. She headed straight for a second

Martian, and was within a hundred yards of him when the

Heat-Ray came to bear. Then with a violent thud, a blinding

flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped upward. The Martian

staggered with the violence of her explosion, and in another

moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the

impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up

like a thing of cardboard. My brother shouted involuntarily.

A boiling tumult of steam hid everything again.

"Two!," yelled the captain.

Everyone was shouting. The whole steamer from end to

end rang with frantic cheering that was taken up first by one

and then by all in the crowding multitude of ships and boats

that was driving out to sea.

The steam hung upon the water for many minutes, hiding

the third Martian and the coast altogether. And all this time

the boat was paddling steadily out to sea and away from the

fight; and when at last the confusion cleared, the drifting

bank of black vapour intervened, and nothing of the

THUNDER CHILD could be made out, nor could the third

Martian be seen. But the ironclads to seaward were now

quite close and standing in towards shore past the steamboat.

The little vessel continued to beat its way seaward, and

the ironclads receded slowly towards the coast, which was

hidden still by a marbled bank of vapour, part steam, part

black gas, eddying and combining in the strangest way. The

fleet of refugees was scattering to the northeast; several

smacks were sailing between the ironclads and the steamboat.

After a time, and before they reached the sinking cloud bank,

the warships turned northward, and then abruptly went

about and passed into the thickening haze of evening south-

ward. The coast grew faint, and at last indistinguishable amid

the low banks of clouds that were gathering about the

sinking sun.

Then suddenly out of the golden haze of the sunset came

the vibration of guns, and a form of black shadows moving.

Everyone struggled to the rail of the steamer and peered into

the blinding furnace of the west, but nothing was to be dis-

tinguished clearly. A mass of smoke rose slanting and barred

the face of the sun. The steamboat throbbed on its way

through an interminable suspense.

The sun sank into grey clouds, the sky flushed and dark-

ened, the evening star trembled into sight. It was deep

twilight when the captain cried out and pointed. My brother

strained his eyes. Something rushed up into the sky out of

the greyness--rushed slantingly upward and very swiftly

into the luminous clearness above the clouds in the western

sky; something flat and broad, and very large, that swept

round in a vast curve, grew smaller, sank slowly, and van-

ished again into the grey mystery of the night. And as it

flew it rained down darkness upon the land.



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