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

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The Earth under the Martians



In the first book I have wandered so much from my own

adventures to tell of the experiences of my brother that all

through the last two chapters I and the curate have been

lurking in the empty house at Halliford whither we fled to

escape the Black Smoke. There I will resume. We stopped

there all Sunday night and all the next day--the day of the

panic--in a little island of daylight, cut off by the Black

Smoke from the rest of the world. We could do nothing but

wait in aching inactivity during those two weary days.

My mind was occupied by anxiety for my wife. I figured

her at Leatherhead, terrified, in danger, mourning me already

as a dead man. I paced the rooms and cried aloud when I

thought of how I was cut off from her, of all that might hap-

pen to her in my absence. My cousin I knew was brave

enough for any emergency, but he was not the sort of man to

realise danger quickly, to rise promptly. What was needed

now was not bravery, but circumspection. My only consola-

tion was to believe that the Martians were moving London-

ward and away from her. Such vague anxieties keep the mind

sensitive and painful. I grew very weary and irritable with

the curate's perpetual ejaculations; I tired of the sight of his

selfish despair. After some ineffectual remonstrance I kept

away from him, staying in a room--evidently a children's

schoolroom--containing globes, forms, and copybooks. When

he followed me thither, I went to a box room at the top of the

house and, in order to be alone with my aching miseries,

locked myself in.

We were hopelessly hemmed in by the Black Smoke all

that day and the morning of the next. There were signs of

people in the next house on Sunday evening--a face at a

window and moving lights, and later the slamming of a door.

But I do not know who these people were, nor what became

of them. We saw nothing of them next day. The Black Smoke

drifted slowly riverward all through Monday morning, creep-

ing nearer and nearer to us, driving at last along the roadway

outside the house that hid us.

A Martian came across the fields about midday, laying

the stuff with a jet of superheated steam that hissed against

the walls, smashed all the windows it touched, and scalded

the curate's hand as he fled out of the front room. When at

last we crept across the sodden rooms and looked out again,

the country northward was as though a black snowstorm had

passed over it. Looking towards the river, we were astonished

to see an unaccountable redness mingling with the black of

the scorched meadows.

For a time we did not see how this change affected our

position, save that we were relieved of our fear of the Black

Smoke. But later I perceived that we were no longer hemmed

in, that now we might get away. So soon as I realised that

the way of escape was open, my dream of action returned. But

the curate was lethargic, unreasonable.

"We are safe here," he repeated; "safe here."

I resolved to leave him--would that I had! Wiser now for

the artilleryman's teaching, I sought out food and drink. I

had found oil and rags for my burns, and I also took a hat

and a flannel shirt that I found in one of the bedrooms. When

it was clear to him that I meant to go alone--had reconciled

myself to going alone--he suddenly roused himself to come.

And all being quiet throughout the afternoon, we started

about five o'clock, as I should judge, along the blackened

road to Sunbury.

In Sunbury, and at intervals along the road, were dead

bodies lying in contorted attitudes, horses as well as men,

overturned carts and luggage, all covered thickly with black

dust. That pall of cindery powder made me think of what I

had read of the destruction of Pompeii. We got to Hampton

Court without misadventure, our minds full of strange and

unfamiliar appearances, and at Hampton Court our eyes were

relieved to find a patch of green that had escaped the suf-

focating drift. We went through Bushey Park, with its deer

going to and fro under the chestnuts, and some men and

women hurrying in the distance towards Hampton, and so we

came to Twickenham. These were the first people we saw.

Away across the road the woods beyond Ham and Peter-

sham were still afire. Twickenham was uninjured by either

Heat-Ray or Black Smoke, and there were more people about

here, though none could give us news. For the most part

they were like ourselves, taking advantage of a lull to shift

their quarters. I have an impression that many of the houses

here were still occupied by scared inhabitants, too frightened

even for flight. Here too the evidence of a hasty rout was

abundant along the road. I remember most vividly three

smashed bicycles in a heap, pounded into the road by the

wheels of subsequent carts. We crossed Richmond Bridge

about half past eight. We hurried across the exposed bridge,

of course, but I noticed floating down the stream a number of

red masses, some many feet across. I did not know what these

were--there was no time for scrutiny--and I put a more

horrible interpretation on them than they deserved. Here again

on the Surrey side were black dust that had once been smoke,

and dead bodies--a heap near the approach to the station;

but we had no glimpse of the Martians until we were some

way towards Barnes.

We saw in the blackened distance a group of three people

running down a side street towards the river, but otherwise it

seemed deserted. Up the hill Richmond town was burning

briskly; outside the town of Richmond there was no trace of

the Black Smoke.

Then suddenly, as we approached Kew, came a number

of people running, and the upperworks of a Martian fighting-

machine loomed in sight over the housetops, not a hundred

yards away from us. We stood aghast at our danger, and had

the Martian looked down we must immediately have perished.

We were so terrified that we dared not go on, but turned

aside and hid in a shed in a garden. There the curate

crouched, weeping silently, and refusing to stir again.

But my fixed idea of reaching Leatherhead would not let

me rest, and in the twilight I ventured out again. I went

through a shrubbery, and along a passage beside a big house

standing in its own grounds, and so emerged upon the road

towards Kew. The curate I left in the shed, but he came

hurrying after me.

That second start was the most foolhardy thing I ever did.

For it was manifest the Martians were about us. No sooner

had the curate overtaken me than we saw either the fighting-

machine we had seen before or another, far away across the

meadows in the direction of Kew Lodge. Four or five little

black figures hurried before it across the green-grey of the

field, and in a moment it was evident this Martian pursued

them. In three strides he was among them, and they ran

radiating from his feet in all directions. He used no Heat-Ray

to destroy them, but picked them up one by one. Apparently

he tossed them into the great metallic carrier which projected

behind him, much as a workman's basket hangs over his


It was the first time I realised that the Martians might have

any other purpose than destruction with defeated humanity.

We stood for a moment petrified, then turned and fled through

a gate behind us into a walled garden, fell into, rather than

found, a fortunate ditch, and lay there, scarce daring to

whisper to each other until the stars were out.

I suppose it was nearly eleven o'clock before we gathered

courage to start again, no longer venturing into the road, but

sneaking along hedgerows and through plantations, and

watching keenly through the darkness, he on the right and I

on the left, for the Martians, who seemed to be all about us.

In one place we blundered upon a scorched and blackened

area, now cooling and ashen, and a number of scattered dead

bodies of men, burned horribly about the heads and trunks

but with their legs and boots mostly intact; and of dead

horses, fifty feet, perhaps, behind a line of four ripped guns

and smashed gun carriages.

Sheen, it seemed, had escaped destruction, but the place

was silent and deserted. Here we happened on no dead,

though the night was too dark for us to see into the side

roads of the place. In Sheen my companion suddenly com-

plained of faintness and thirst, and we decided to try one of

the houses.

The first house we entered, after a little difficulty with

the window, was a small semi-detached villa, and I found

nothing eatable left in the place but some mouldy

cheese. There was, however, water to drink; and I took a

hatchet, which promised to be useful in our next house-


We then crossed to a place where the road turns towards

Mortlake. Here there stood a white house within a walled

garden, and in the pantry of this domicile we found a store

of food--two loaves of bread in a pan, an uncooked steak, and

the half of a ham. I give this catalogue so precisely because,

as it happened, we were destined to subsist upon this store

for the next fortnight. Bottled beer stood under a shelf, and

there were two bags of haricot beans and some limp lettuces.

This pantry opened into a kind of wash-up kitchen, and in

this was firewood; there was also a cupboard, in which we

found nearly a dozen of burgundy, tinned soups and salmon,

and two tins of biscuits.

We sat in the adjacent kitchen in the dark--for we dared

not strike a light--and ate bread and ham, and drank beer

out of the same bottle. The curate, who was still timorous

and restless, was now, oddly enough, for pushing on, and I

was urging him to keep up his strength by eating when the

thing happened that was to imprison us.

"It can't be midnight yet," I said, and then came a blinding

glare of vivid green light. Everything in the kitchen leaped

out, clearly visible in green and black, and vanished again.

And then followed such a concussion as I have never heard

before or since. So close on the heels of this as to seem in-

stantaneous came a thud behind me, a clash of glass, a crash

and rattle of falling masonry all about us, and the plaster of

the ceiling came down upon us, smashing into a multitude

of fragments upon our heads. I was knocked headlong across

the floor against the oven handle and stunned. I was insensible

for a long time, the curate told me, and when I came to we

were in darkness again, and he, with a face wet, as I found

afterwards, with blood from a cut forehead, was dabbing

water over me.

For some time I could not recollect what had happened.

Then things came to me slowly. A bruise on my temple as-

serted itself.

"Are you better?" asked the curate in a whisper.

At last I answered him. I sat up.

"Don't move," he said. "The floor is covered with smashed

crockery from the dresser. You can't possibly move without

making a noise, and I fancy THEY are outside."

We both sat quite silent, so that we could scarcely hear

each other breathing. Everything seemed deadly still, but

once something near us, some plaster or broken brickwork,

slid down with a rumbling sound. Outside and very near was

an intermittent, metallic rattle.

"That!" said the curate, when presently it happened


"Yes," I said. "But what is it?"

"A Martian!" said the curate.

I listened again.

"It was not like the Heat-Ray," I said, and for a time I was

inclined to think one of the great fighting-machines had

stumbled against the house, as I had seen one stumble against

the tower of Shepperton Church.

Our situation was so strange and incomprehensible that for

three or four hours, until the dawn came, we scarcely moved.

And then the light filtered in, not through the window, which

remained black, but through a triangular aperture between

a beam and a heap of broken bricks in the wall behind us.

The interior of the kitchen we now saw greyly for the first


The window had been burst in by a mass of garden mould,

which flowed over the table upon which we had been sitting

and lay about our feet. Outside, the soil was banked high

against the house. At the top of the window frame we could

see an uprooted drainpipe. The floor was littered with

smashed hardware; the end of the kitchen towards the house

was broken into, and since the daylight shone in there, it was

evident the greater part of the house had collapsed. Con-

trasting vividly with this ruin was the neat dresser, stained

in the fashion, pale green, and with a number of copper and

tin vessels below it, the wallpaper imitating blue and white

tiles, and a couple of coloured supplements fluttering from the

walls above the kitchen range.

As the dawn grew clearer, we saw through the gap in the

wall the body of a Martian, standing sentinel, I suppose, over

the still glowing cylinder. At the sight of that we crawled as

circumspectly as possible out of the twilight of the kitchen

into the darkness of the scullery.

Abruptly the right interpretation dawned upon my mind.

"The fifth cylinder," I whispered, "the fifth shot from

Mars, has struck this house and buried us under the ruins!"

For a time the curate was silent, and then he whispered:

"God have mercy upon us!"

I heard him presently whimpering to himself.

Save for that sound we lay quite still in the scullery; I

for my part scarce dared breathe, and sat with my eyes

fixed on the faint light of the kitchen door. I could just see

the curate's face, a dim, oval shape, and his collar and cuffs.

Outside there began a metallic hammering, then a violent

hooting, and then again, after a quiet interval, a hissing like

the hissing of an engine. These noises, for the most part

problematical, continued intermittently, and seemed if any-

thing to increase in number as time wore on. Presently a

measured thudding and a vibration that made everything

about us quiver and the vessels in the pantry ring and shift,

began and continued. Once the light was eclipsed, and the

ghostly kitchen doorway became absolutely dark. For many

hours we must have crouched there, silent and shivering,

until our tired attention failed. . . .

At last I found myself awake and very hungry. I am in-

clined to believe we must have spent the greater portion of

a day before that awakening. My hunger was at a stride

so insistent that it moved me to action. I told the curate I

was going to seek food, and felt my way towards the pantry.

He made me no answer, but so soon as I began eating the

faint noise I made stirred him up and I heard him crawling

after me.



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