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

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The arrival of a second fighting-machine drove us from

our peephole into the scullery, for we feared that from his

elevation the Martian might see down upon us behind our

barrier. At a later date we began to feel less in danger of

their eyes, for to an eye in the dazzle of the sunlight outside

our refuge must have been blank blackness, but at first the

slightest suggestion of approach drove us into the scullery

in heart-throbbing retreat. Yet terrible as was the danger we

incurred, the attraction of peeping was for both of us irresist-

ible. And I recall now with a sort of wonder that, in spite

of the infinite danger in which we were between starvation

and a still more terrible death, we could yet struggle bitterly

for that horrible privilege of sight. We would race across the

kitchen in a grotesque way between eagerness and the dread

of making a noise, and strike each other, and thrust add kick,

within a few inches of exposure.

The fact is that we had absolutely incompatible dispositions

and habits of thought and action, and our danger and isolation

only accentuated the incompatibility. At Halliford I had al-

ready come to hate the curate's trick of helpless exclamation,

his stupid rigidity of mind. His endless muttering monologue

vitiated every effort I made to think out a line of action, and

drove me at times, thus pent up and intensified, almost to the

verge of craziness. He was as lacking in restraint as a silly

woman. He would weep for hours together, and I verily

believe that to the very end this spoiled child of life thought

his weak tears in some way efficacious. And I would sit in

the darkness unable to keep my mind off him by reason of

his importunities. He ate more than I did, and it was in vain

I pointed out that our only chance of life was to stop in the

house until the Martians had done with their pit, that in that

long patience a time might presently come when we should

need food. He ate and drank impulsively in heavy meals at

long intervals. He slept little.

As the days wore on, his utter carelessness of any considera-

tion so intensified our distress and danger that I had, much as

I loathed doing it, to resort to threats, and at last to blows.

That brought him to reason for a time. But he was one of

those weak creatures, void of pride, timorous, anaemic, hateful

souls, full of shifty cunning, who face neither God nor man,

who face not even themselves.

It is disagreeable for me to recall and write these things,

but I set them down that my story may lack nothing. Those

who have escaped the dark and terrible aspects of life will

find my brutality, my flash of rage in our final tragedy, easy

enough to blame; for they know what is wrong as well as

any, but not what is possible to tortured men. But those who

have been under the shadow, who have gone down at last to

elemental things, will have a wider charity.

And while within we fought out our dark, dim contest of

whispers, snatched food and drink, and gripping hands and

blows, without, in the pitiless sunlight of that terrible June,

was the strange wonder, the unfamiliar routine of the

Martians in the pit. Let me return to those first new experi-

ences of mine. After a long time I ventured back to the

peephole, to find that the new-comers had been reinforced

by the occupants of no fewer than three of the fighting-

machines. These last had brought with them certain fresh

appliances that stood in an orderly manner about the cylinder.

The second handling-machine was now completed, and was

busied in serving one of the novel contrivances the big

machine had brought. This was a body resembling a milk can

in its general form, above which oscillated a pear-shaped

receptacle, and from which a stream of white powder flowed

into a circular basin below.

The oscillatory motion was imparted to this by one tentacle

of the handling-machine. With two spatulate hands the

handling-machine was digging out and flinging masses of clay

into the pear-shaped receptacle above, while with another arm

it periodically opened a door and removed rusty and black-

ened clinkers from the middle part of the machine. Another

steely tentacle directed the powder from the basin along a

ribbed channel towards some receiver that was hidden from

me by the mound of bluish dust. From this unseen receiver a

little thread of green smoke rose vertically into the quiet air.

As I looked, the handling-machine, with a faint and musical

clinking, extended, telescopic fashion, a tentacle that had

been a moment before a mere blunt projection, until its end

was hidden behind the mound of clay. In another second it

had lifted a bar of white aluminium into sight, untarnished as

yet, and shining dazzlingly, and deposited it in a growing stack

of bars that stood at the side of the pit. Between sunset and

starlight this dexterous machine must have made more than

a hundred such bars out of the crude clay, and the mound

of bluish dust rose steadily until it topped the side of the


The contrast between the swift and complex movements

of these contrivances and the inert panting clumsiness of

their masters was acute, and for days I had to tell myself

repeatedly that these latter were indeed the living of the two


The curate had possession of the slit when the first men

were brought to the pit. I was sitting below, huddled up,

listening with all my ears. He made a sudden movement

backward, and I, fearful that we were observed, crouched

in a spasm of terror. He came sliding down the rubbish and

crept beside me in the darkness, inarticulate, gesticulating,

and for a moment I shared his panic. His gesture suggested

a resignation of the slit, and after a little while my curiosity

gave me courage, and I rose up, stepped across him, and

clambered up to it. At first I could see no reason for his

frantic behaviour. The twilight had now come, the stars were

little and faint, but the pit was illuminated by the flickering

green fire that came from the aluminium-making. The whole

picture was a flickering scheme of green gleams and shifting

rusty black shadows, strangely trying to the eyes. Over and

through it all went the bats, heeding it not at all. The

sprawling Martians were no longer to be seen, the mound

of blue-green powder had risen to cover them from sight,

and a fighting-machine, with its legs contracted, crumpled,

and abbreviated, stood across the corner of the pit. And

then, amid the clangour of the machinery, came a drifting

suspicion of human voices, that I entertained at first only

to dismiss.

I crouched, watching this fighting-machine closely, satisfy-

ing myself now for the first time that the hood did indeed

contain a Martian. As the green flames lifted I could see the

oily gleam of his integument and the brightness of his eyes.

And suddenly I heard a yell, and saw a long tentacle reach-

ing over the shoulder of the machine to the little cage that

hunched upon its back. Then something--something strug-

gling violently--was lifted high against the sky, a black,

vague enigma against the starlight; and as this black object

came down again, I saw by the green brightness that it was

a man. For an instant he was clearly visible. He was a stout,

ruddy, middle-aged man, well dressed; three days before,

he must have been walking the world, a man of considerable

consequence. I could see his staring eyes and gleams of light

on his studs and watch chain. He vanished behind the

mound, and for a moment there was silence. And then began

a shrieking and a sustained and cheerful hooting from the


I slid down the rubbish, struggled to my feet, clapped

my hands over my ears, and bolted into the scullery. The

curate, who had been crouching silently with his arms

over his head, looked up as I passed, cried out quite loudly

at my desertion of him, and came running after me.

That night, as we lurked in the scullery, balanced between

our horror and the terrible fascination this peeping had, al-

though I felt an urgent need of action I tried in vain to

conceive some plan of escape; but afterwards, during the

second day, I was able to consider our position with great

clearness. The curate, I found, was quite incapable of dis-

cussion; this new and culminating atrocity had robbed him

of all vestiges of reason or forethought. Practically he had

already sunk to the level of an animal. But as the saying

goes, I gripped myself with both hands. It grew upon my

mind, once I could face the facts, that terrible as our posi-

tion was, there was as yet no justification for absolute despair.

Our chief chance lay in the possibility of the Martians making

the pit nothing more than a temporary encampment. Or

even if they kept it permanently, they might not consider

it necessary to guard it, and a chance of escape might be

afforded us. I also weighed very carefully the possibility of

our digging a way out in a direction away from the pit,

but the chances of our emerging within sight of some

sentinel fighting-machine seemed at first too great. And I

should have had to do all the digging myself. The curate

would certainly have failed me.

It was on the third day, if my memory serves me right,

that I saw the lad killed. It was the only occasion on which

I actually saw the Martians feed. After that experience I

avoided the hole in the wall for the better part of a day.

I went into the scullery, removed the door, and spent some

hours digging with my hatchet as silently as possible; but

when I had made a hole about a couple of feet deep the

loose earth collapsed noisily, and I did not dare continue. I

lost heart, and lay down on the scullery floor for a long time,

having no spirit even to move. And after that I abandoned

altogether the idea of escaping by excavation.

It says much for the impression the Martians had made

upon me that at first I entertained little or no hope of our

escape being brought about by their overthrow through any

human effort. But on the fourth or fifth night I heard a

sound like heavy guns.

It was very late in the night, and the moon was shining

brightly. The Martians had taken away the excavating-

machine, and, save for a fighting-machine that stood in

the remoter bank of the pit and a handling-machine that

was buried out of my sight in a corner of the pit immedi-

ately beneath my peephole, the place was deserted by them.

Except for the pale glow from the handling-machine and the

bars and patches of white moonlight the pit was in dark-

ness, and, except for the clinking of the handling-machine,

quite still. That night was a beautiful serenity; save for one

planet, the moon seemed to have the sky to herself. I heard

a dog howling, and that familiar sound it was that made

me listen. Then I heard quite distinctly a booming ex-

actly like the sound of great guns. Six distinct reports I

counted, and after a long interval six again. And that was




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