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

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And now comes the strangest thing in my story. Yet,

perhaps, it is not altogether strange. I remember, clearly and

coldly and vividly, all that I did that day until the time that

I stood weeping and praising God upon the summit of Prim-

rose Hill. And then I forget.

Of the next three days I know nothing. I have learned

since that, so far from my being the first discoverer of the

Martian overthrow, several such wanderers as myself had

already discovered this on the previous night. One man--

the first--had gone to St. Martin's-le-Grand, and, while I

sheltered in the cabmen's hut, had contrived to telegraph to

Paris. Thence the joyful news had flashed all over the world;

a thousand cities, chilled by ghastly apprehensions, sud-

denly flashed into frantic illuminations; they knew of it in

Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, at the time

when I stood upon the verge of the pit. Already men, weep-

ing with joy, as I have heard, shouting and staying their

work to shake hands and shout, were making up trains, even

as near as Crewe, to descend upon London. The church bells

that had ceased a fortnight since suddenly caught the news,

until all England was bell-ringing. Men on cycles, lean-faced,

unkempt, scorched along every country lane shouting of

unhoped deliverance, shouting to gaunt, staring figures of

despair. And for the food! Across the Channel, across the

Irish Sea, across the Atlantic, corn, bread, and meat were

tearing to our relief. All the shipping in the world seemed

going Londonward in those days. But of all this I have no

memory. I drifted--a demented man. I found myself in a

house of kindly people, who had found me on the third day

wandering, weeping, and raving through the streets of St.

John's Wood. They have told me since that I was singing

some insane doggerel about "The Last Man Left Alive!

Hurrah! The Last Man Left Alive!" Troubled as they were

with their own affairs, these people, whose name, much as

I would like to express my gratitude to them, I may not

even give here, nevertheless cumbered themselves with me,

sheltered me, and protected me from myself. Apparently they

had learned something of my story from me during the days

of my lapse.

Very gently, when my mind was assured again, did they

break to me what they had learned of the fate of Leather-

head. Two days after I was imprisoned it had been destroyed,

with every soul in it, by a Martian. He had swept it out

of existence, as it seemed, without any provocation, as a boy

might crush an ant hill, in the mere wantonness of power.

I was a lonely man, and they were very kind to me. I

was a lonely man and a sad one, and they bore with me. I

remained with them four days after my recovery. All that

time I felt a vague, a growing craving to look once more

on whatever remained of the little life that seemed so happy

and bright in my past. It was a mere hopeless desire to feast

upon my misery. They dissuaded me. They did all they

could to divert me from this morbidity. But at last I could

resist the impulse no longer, and, promising faithfully to

return to them, and parting, as I will confess, from these

four-day friends with tears, I went out again into the streets

that had lately been so dark and strange and empty.

Already they were busy with returning people; in places

even there were shops open, and I saw a drinking fountain

running water.

I remember how mockingly bright the day seemed as I

went back on my melancholy pilgrimage to the little house

at Woking, how busy the streets and vivid the moving life

about me. So many people were abroad everywhere, busied

in a thousand activities, that it seemed incredible that any

great proportion of the population could have been slain.

But then I noticed how yellow were the skins of the people

I met, how shaggy the hair of the men, how large and bright

their eyes, and that every other man still wore his dirty

rags. Their faces seemed all with one of two expressions--a

leaping exultation and energy or a grim resolution. Save

for the expression of the faces, London seemed a city of

tramps. The vestries were indiscriminately distributing bread

sent us by the French government. The ribs of the few horses

showed dismally. Haggard special constables with white

badges stood at the corners of every street. I saw little of

the mischief wrought by the Martians until I reached Welling-

ton Street, and there I saw the red weed clambering over

the buttresses of Waterloo Bridge.

At the corner of the bridge, too, I saw one of the common

contrasts of that grotesque time--a sheet of paper flaunting

against a thicket of the red weed, transfixed by a stick that

kept it in place. It was the placard of the first newspaper

to resume publication--the DAILY MAIL. I bought a copy

for a blackened shilling I found in my pocket. Most of it

was in blank, but the solitary compositor who did the thing

had amused himself by making a grotesque scheme of ad-

vertisement stereo on the back page. The matter he printed

was emotional; the news organisation had not as yet found

its way back. I learned nothing fresh except that already

in one week the examination of the Martian mechanisms had

yielded astonishing results. Among other things, the article

assured me what I did not believe at the time, that the

"Secret of Flying," was discovered. At Waterloo I found the

free trains that were taking people to their homes. The first

rush was already over. There were few people in the train,

and I was in no mood for casual conversation. I got a com-

partment to myself, and sat with folded arms, looking greyly

at the sunlit devastation that flowed past the windows. And

just outside the terminus the train jolted over temporary

rails, and on either side of the railway the houses were

blackened ruins. To Clapham Junction the face of London

was grimy with powder of the Black Smoke, in spite of

two days of thunderstorms and rain, and at Clapham Junc-

tion the line had been wrecked again; there were hundreds

of out-of-work clerks and shopmen working side by side

with the customary navvies, and we were jolted over a hasty


All down the line from there the aspect of the country

was gaunt and unfamiliar; Wimbledon particularly had suf-

fered. Walton, by virtue of its unburned pine woods, seemed

the least hurt of any place along the line. The Wandle, the

Mole, every little stream, was a heaped mass of red weed,

in appearance between butcher's meat and pickled cabbage.

The Surrey pine woods were too dry, however, for the festoons

of the red climber. Beyond Wimbledon, within sight of the

line, in certain nursery grounds, were the heaped masses

of earth about the sixth cylinder. A number of people were

standing about it, and some sappers were busy in the midst

of it. Over it flaunted a Union Jack, flapping cheerfully in

the morning breeze. The nursery grounds were everywhere

crimson with the weed, a wide expanse of livid colour cut

with purple shadows, and very painful to the eye. One's

gaze went with infinite relief from the scorched greys and

sullen reds of the foreground to the blue-green softness of

the eastward hills.

The line on the London side of Woking station was still

undergoing repair, so I descended at Byfleet station and

took the road to Maybury, past the place where I and the

artilleryman had talked to the hussars, and on by the spot

where the Martian had appeared to me in the thunderstorm.

Here, moved by curiosity, I turned aside to find, among a

tangle of red fronds, the warped and broken dog cart with

the whitened bones of the horse scattered and gnawed. For

a time I stood regarding these vestiges. . . .

Then I returned through the pine wood, neck-high with

red weed here and there, to find the landlord of the Spotted

Dog had already found burial, and so came home past the

College Arms. A man standing at an open cottage door

greeted me by name as I passed.

I looked at my house with a quick flash of hope that

faded immediately. The door had been forced; it was unfast

and was opening slowly as I approached.

It slammed again. The curtains of my study fluttered

out of the open window from which I and the artilleryman

had watched the dawn. No one had closed it since. The

smashed bushes were just as I had left them nearly four

weeks ago. I stumbled into the hall, and the house felt

empty. The stair carpet was ruffled and discoloured where

I had crouched, soaked to the skin from the thunderstorm

the night of the catastrophe. Our muddy footsteps I saw still

went up the stairs.

I followed them to my study, and found lying on my

writing-table still, with the selenite paper weight upon it,

the sheet of work I had left on the afternoon of the opening

of the cylinder. For a space I stood reading over my aban-

doned arguments. It was a paper on the probable develop-

ment of Moral Ideas with the development of the civilising

process; and the last sentence was the opening of a prophecy:

"In about two hundred years," I had written, "we may

expect----" The sentence ended abruptly. I remembered

my inability to fix my mind that morning, scarcely a month

gone by, and how I had broken off to get my DAILY CHRONICLE

from the newsboy. I remembered how I went down to the

garden gate as he came along, and how I had listened to his

odd story of "Men from Mars."

I came down and went into the dining room. There

were the mutton and the bread, both far gone now in decay,

and a beer bottle overturned, just as I and the artilleryman

had left them. My home was desolate. I perceived the folly

of the faint hope I had cherished so long. And then a strange

thing occurred. "It is no use," said a voice. "The house is

deserted. No one has been here these ten days. Do not stay

here to torment yourself. No one escaped but you."

I was startled. Had I spoken my thought aloud? I turned,

and the French window was open behind me. I made a

step to it, and stood looking out.

And there, amazed and afraid, even as I stood amazed

and afraid, were my cousin and my wife--my wife white

and tearless. She gave a faint cry.

"I came," she said. "I knew--knew----"

She put her hand to her throat--swayed. I made a step

forward, and caught her in my arms.



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