gate. "What's it all abart?"
"Haven't you heard of the men from Mars?" said I; "the creatures
"Quite enough," said the woman over the gate. "Thenks"; and all
three of them laughed.
I felt foolish and angry. I tried and found I could not tell them
what I had seen. They laughed again at my broken sentences.
"You'll hear more yet," I said, and went on to my home.
I startled my wife at the doorway, so haggard was I. I went into
the dining room, sat down, drank some wine, and so soon as I could
collect myself sufficiently I told her the things I had seen. The
dinner, which was a cold one, had already been served, and remained
neglected on the table while I told my story.
"There is one thing," I said, to allay the fears I had aroused;
"they are the most sluggish things I ever saw crawl. They may keep
the pit and kill people who come near them, but they cannot get out
of it. . . . But the horror of them!"
"Don't, dear!" said my wife, knitting her brows and putting her
hand on mine.
"Poor Ogilvy!" I said. "To think he may be lying dead there!"
My wife at least did not find my experience incredible. When I saw
how deadly white her face was, I ceased abruptly.
"They may come here," she said again and again.
I pressed her to take wine, and tried to reassure her.
"They can scarcely move," I said.
I began to comfort her and myself by repeating all that Ogilvy had
told me of the impossibility of the Martians establishing themselves
on the earth. In particular I laid stress on the gravitational
difficulty. On the surface of the earth the force of gravity is three
times what it is on the surface of Mars. A Martian, therefore, would
weigh three times more than on Mars, albeit his muscular strength
would be the same. His own body would be a cope of lead to him. That,
indeed, was the general opinion. Both _The Times_ and the _Daily
Telegraph_, for instance, insisted on it the next morning, and both
overlooked, just as I did, two obvious modifying influences.
The atmosphere of the earth, we now know, contains far more oxygen
or far less argon (whichever way one likes to put it) than does Mars.
The invigorating influences of this excess of oxygen upon the Martians
indisputably did much to counterbalance the increased weight of their
bodies. And, in the second place, we all overlooked the fact that
such mechanical intelligence as the Martian possessed was quite able
to dispense with muscular exertion at a pinch.
But I did not consider these points at the time, and so my
reasoning was dead against the chances of the invaders. With wine and
food, the confidence of my own table, and the necessity of reassuring
my wife, I grew by insensible degrees courageous and secure.
"They have done a foolish thing," said I, fingering my wineglass.
"They are dangerous because, no doubt, they are mad with terror.
Perhaps they expected to find no living things - certainly no
intelligent living things."
"A shell in the pit" said I, "if the worst comes to the worst will
kill them all."
The intense excitement of the events had no doubt left my
perceptive powers in a state of erethism. I remember that dinner
table with extraordinary vividness even now. My dear wife's sweet
anxious face peering at me from under the pink lamp shade, the white
cloth with its silver and glass table furniture - for in those days
even philosophical writers had many little luxuries - the crimson-purple
wine in my glass, are photographically distinct. At the end of
it I sat, tempering nuts with a cigarette, regretting Ogilvy's
rashness, and denouncing the shortsighted timidity of the Martians.
So some respectable dodo in the Mauritius might have lorded it in
his nest, and discussed the arrival of that shipful of pitiless
sailors in want of animal food. "We will peck them to death tomorrow,
I did not know it, but that was the last civilised dinner I was to
eat for very many strange and terrible days.
The most extraordinary thing to my mind, of all the strange and
wonderful things that happened upon that Friday, was the dovetailing
of the commonplace habits of our social order with the first
beginnings of the series of events that was to topple that social
order headlong. If on Friday night you had taken a pair of compasses
and drawn a circle with a radius of five miles round the Woking sand
pits, I doubt if you would have had one human being outside it, unless
it were some relation of Stent or of the three or four cyclists or
London people lying dead on the common, whose emotions or habits were
at all affected by the new-comers. Many people had heard of the
cylinder, of course, and talked about it in their leisure, but it
certainly did not make the sensation that an ultimatum to Germany
would have done.
In London that night poor Henderson's telegram describing the
gradual unscrewing of the shot was judged to be a canard, and his
evening paper, after wiring for authentication from him and receiving
no reply - the man was killed - decided not to print a special edition.
Even within the five-mile circle the great majority of people were
inert. I have already described the behaviour of the men and women to
whom I spoke. All over the district people were dining and supping;
working men were gardening after the labours of the day, children
were being put to bed, young people were wandering through the lanes
love-making, students sat over their books.
Maybe there was a murmur in the village streets, a novel and
dominant topic in the public-houses, and here and there a messenger,
or even an eye-witness of the later occurrences, caused a whirl of
excitement, a shouting, and a running to and fro; but for the most
part the daily routine of working, eating, drinking, sleeping, went on
as it had done for countless years - as though no planet Mars existed
in the sky. Even at Woking station and Horsell and Chobham that was
In Woking junction, until a late hour, trains were stopping and
going on, others were shunting on the sidings, passengers were
alighting and waiting, and everything was proceeding in the most
ordinary way. A boy from the town, trenching on Smith's monopoly, was
selling papers with the afternoon's news. The ringing impact of
trucks, the sharp whistle of the engines from the junction, mingled
with their shouts of "Men from Mars!" Excited men came into the
station about nine o'clock with incredible tidings, and caused no more
disturbance than drunkards might have done. People rattling
Londonwards peered into the darkness outside the carriage windows, and
saw only a rare, flickering, vanishing spark dance up from the
direction of Horsell, a red glow and a thin veil of smoke driving
across the stars, and thought that nothing more serious than a heath
fire was happening. It was only round the edge of the common that any
disturbance was perceptible. There were half a dozen villas burning
on the Woking border. There were lights in all the houses on the
common side of the three villages, and the people there kept awake
A curious crowd lingered restlessly, people coming and going but
the crowd remaining, both on the Chobham and Horsell bridges. One or
two adventurous souls, it was afterwards found, went into the darkness
and crawled quite near the Martians; but they never returned, for now
and again a light-ray, like the beam of a warship's searchlight swept
the common, and the Heat-Ray was ready to follow. Save for such, that
big area of common was silent and desolate, and the charred bodies lay
about on it all night under the stars, and all the next day. A noise
of hammering from the pit was heard by many people.
So you have the state of things on Friday night. In the centre,
sticking into the skin of our old planet Earth like a poisoned dart,
was this cylinder. But the poison was scarcely working yet. Around
it was a patch of silent common, smouldering in places, and with a few
dark, dimly seen objects lying in contorted attitudes here and there.
Here and there was a burning bush or tree. Beyond was a fringe of
excitement, and farther than that fringe the inflammation had not
crept as yet. In the rest of the world the stream of life still
flowed as it had flowed for immemorial years. The fever of war that
would presently clog vein and artery, deaden nerve and destroy brain,
had still to develop.
All night long the Martians were hammering and stirring, sleepless,
indefatigable, at work upon the machines they were making ready, and
ever and again a puff of greenish-white smoke whirled up to the
About eleven a company of soldiers came through Horsell, and
deployed along the edge of the common to form a cordon. Later a
second company marched through Chobham to deploy on the north side of
the common. Several officers from the Inkerman barracks had been on
the common earlier in the day, and one, Major Eden, was reported to be
missing. The colonel of the regiment came to the Chobham bridge and
was busy questioning the crowd at midnight. The military authorities
were certainly alive to the seriousness of the business. About
eleven, the next morning's papers were able to say, a squadron of
hussars, two Maxims, and about four hundred men of the Cardigan
regiment started from Aldershot.
A few seconds after midnight the crowd in the Chertsey road,
Woking, saw a star fall from heaven into the pine woods to the
northwest. It had a greenish colour, and caused a silent brightness
like summer lightning. This was the second cylinder.
THE FIGHTING BEGINS
Saturday lives in my memory as a day of suspense. It was a day of
lassitude too, hot and close, with, I am told, a rapidly fluctuating
barometer. I had slept but little, though my wife had succeeded in
sleeping, and I rose early. I went into my garden before breakfast
and stood listening, but towards the common there was nothing stirring
but a lark.
The milkman came as usual. I heard the rattle of his chariot and I
went round to the side gate to ask the latest news. He told me that
during the night the Martians had been surrounded by troops, and that
guns were expected. Then - a familiar, reassuring note - I heard a train
running towards Woking.
"They aren't to be killed," said the milkman, "if that can possibly
I saw my neighbour gardening, chatted with him for a time, and then
strolled in to breakfast. It was a most unexceptional morning. My
neighbour was of opinion that the troops would be able to capture or
to destroy the Martians during the day.
"It's a pity they make themselves so unapproachable," he said. "It
would be curious to know how they live on another planet; we might
learn a thing or two."
He came up to the fence and extended a handful of strawberries, for
his gardening was as generous as it was enthusiastic. At the same
time he told me of the burning of the pine woods about the Byfleet
"They say," said he, "that there's another of those blessed things
fallen there - number two. But one's enough, surely. This lot'll cost
the insurance people a pretty penny before everything's settled." He
laughed with an air of the greatest good humour as he said this. The
woods, he said, were still burning, and pointed out a haze of smoke to
me. "They will be hot under foot for days, on account of the thick
soil of pine needles and turf," he said, and then grew serious over
After breakfast, instead of working, I decided to walk down
towards the common. Under the railway bridge I found a group of
soldiers - sappers, I think, men in small round caps, dirty red jackets
unbuttoned, and showing their blue shirts, dark trousers, and boots
coming to the calf. They told me no one was allowed over the canal,
and, looking along the road towards the bridge, I saw one of the
Cardigan men standing sentinel there. I talked with these soldiers
for a time; I told them of my sight of the Martians on the previous
evening. None of them had seen the Martians, and they had but the
vaguest ideas of them, so that they plied me with questions. They
said that they did not know who had authorised the movements of the
troops; their idea was that a dispute had arisen at the Horse Guards.
The ordinary sapper is a great deal better educated than the common
soldier, and they discussed the peculiar conditions of the possible
fight with some acuteness. I described the Heat-Ray to them, and they
began to argue among themselves.
"Crawl up under cover and rush 'em, say I," said one.
"Get aht!" said another. "What's cover against this 'ere 'eat?
Sticks to cook yer! What we got to do is to go as near as the
ground'll let us, and then drive a trench."
"Blow yer trenches! You always want trenches; you ought to ha'
been born a rabbit Snippy."
"Ain't they got any necks, then?" said a third, abruptly - a little,
contemplative, dark man, smoking a pipe.
I repeated my description.
"Octopuses," said he, "that's what I calls 'em. Talk about fishers
of men - fighters of fish it is this time!"
"It ain't no murder killing beasts like that," said the first
"Why not shell the darned things strite off and finish 'em?" said
the little dark man. "You carn tell what they might do."
"Where's your shells?" said the first speaker. "There ain't no
time. Do it in a rush, that's my tip, and do it at once."
So they discussed it. After a while I left them, and went on to
the railway station to get as many morning papers as I could.
But I will not weary the reader with a description of that long
morning and of the longer afternoon. I did not succeed in getting a
glimpse of the common, for even Horsell and Chobham church towers were
in the hands of the military authorities. The soldiers I addressed
didn't know anything; the officers were mysterious as well as busy. I
found people in the town quite secure again in the presence of the
military, and I heard for the first time from Marshall, the
tobacconist, that his son was among the dead on the common. The
soldiers had made the people on the outskirts of Horsell lock up and
leave their houses.
I got back to lunch about two, very tired for, as I have said, the
day was extremely hot and dull; and in order to refresh myself I took
a cold bath in the afternoon. About half past four I went up to the
railway station to get an evening paper, for the morning papers had
contained only a very inaccurate description of the killing of Stent,
Henderson, Ogilvy, and the others. But there was little I didn't
know. The Martians did not show an inch of themselves. They seemed
busy in their pit, and there was a sound of hammering and an almost
continuous streamer of smoke. Apparently they were busy getting ready
for a struggle. "Fresh attempts have been made to signal, but without
success," was the stereotyped formula of the papers. A sapper told me
it was done by a man in a ditch with a flag on a long pole. The
Martians took as much notice of such advances as we should of the
lowing of a cow.
I must confess the sight of all this armament, all this
preparation, greatly excited me. My imagination became belligerent,
and defeated the invaders in a dozen striking ways; something of my
schoolboy dreams of battle and heroism came back. It hardly seemed a
fair fight to me at that time. They seemed very helpless in that pit
About three o'clock there began the thud of a gun at measured
intervals from Chertsey or Addlestone. I learned that the smouldering
pine wood into which the second cylinder had fallen was being shelled,
in the hope of destroying that object before it opened. It was only
about five, however, that a field gun reached Chobham for use against
the first body of Martians.
About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in the
summerhouse talking vigorously about the battle that was lowering upon
us, I heard a muffled detonation from the common, and immediately
after a gust of firing. Close on the heels of that came a violent
rattling crash, quite close to us, that shook the ground; and,
starting out upon the lawn, I saw the tops of the trees about the
Oriental College burst into smoky red flame, and the tower of the
little church beside it slide down into ruin. The pinnacle of the
mosque had vanished, and the roof line of the college itself looked as
if a hundred-ton gun had been at work upon it. One of our chimneys
cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece of it came
clattering down the tiles and made a heap of broken red fragments upon
the flower bed by my study window.
I and my wife stood amazed. Then I realised that the crest of
Maybury Hill must be within range of the Martians' Heat-Ray now that
the college was cleared out of the way.
At that I gripped my wife's arm, and without ceremony ran her out
into the road. Then I fetched out the servant, telling her I would go
upstairs myself for the box she was clamouring for.
"We can't possibly stay here," I said; and as I spoke the firing
reopened for a moment upon the common.
"But where are we to go?" said my wife in terror.
I thought perplexed. Then I remembered her cousins at Leatherhead.
"Leatherhead!" I shouted above the sudden noise.
She looked away from me downhill. The people were coming out of
their houses, astonished.
"How are we to get to Leatherhead?" she said.
Down the hill I saw a bevy of hussars ride under the railway
bridge; three galloped through the open gates of the Oriental College;
two others dismounted, and began running from house to house. The
sun, shining through the smoke that drove up from the tops of the
trees, seemed blood red, and threw an unfamiliar lurid light upon
"Stop here," said I; "you are safe here"; and I started off at once
for the Spotted Dog, for I knew the landlord had a horse and dog cart.
I ran, for I perceived that in a moment everyone upon this side of the
hill would be moving. I found him in his bar, quite unaware of what
was going on behind his house. A man stood with his back to me,
talking to him.
"I must have a pound," said the landlord, "and I've no one to drive
"I'll give you two," said I, over the stranger's shoulder.
"And I'll bring it back by midnight," I said.
"Lord!" said the landlord; "what's the hurry? I'm selling my bit
of a pig. Two pounds, and you bring it back? What's going on now?"
I explained hastily that I had to leave my home, and so secured the
dog cart. At the time it did not seem to me nearly so urgent that the
landlord should leave his. I took care to have the cart there and
then, drove it off down the road, and, leaving it in charge of my wife
and servant, rushed into my house and packed a few valuables, such
plate as we had, and so forth. The beech trees below the house were
burning while I did this, and the palings up the road glowed red.
While I was occupied in this way, one of the dismounted hussars came
running up. He was going from house to house, warning people to
leave. He was going on as I came out of my front door, lugging my
treasures, done up in a tablecloth. I shouted after him:
He turned, stared, bawled something about "crawling out in a thing
like a dish cover," and ran on to the gate of the house at the crest.
A sudden whirl of black smoke driving across the road hid him for a
moment. I ran to my neighbour's door and rapped to satisfy myself of
what I already knew, that his wife had gone to London with him and had
locked up their house. I went in again, according to my promise, to
get my servant's box, lugged it out, clapped it beside her on the tail
of the dog cart, and then caught the reins and jumped up into the
driver's seat beside my wife. In another moment we were clear of the
smoke and noise, and spanking down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill
towards Old Woking.
In front was a quiet sunny landscape, a wheat field ahead on either
side of the road, and the Maybury Inn with its swinging sign. I saw
the doctor's cart ahead of me. At the bottom of the hill I turned my
head to look at the hillside I was leaving. Thick streamers of black
smoke shot with threads of red fire were driving up into the still
air, and throwing dark shadows upon the green treetops eastward. The
smoke already extended far away to the east and west - to the Byfleet
pine woods eastward, and to Woking on the west. The road was dotted
with people running towards us. And very faint now, but very distinct
through the hot, quiet air, one heard the whirr of a machine-gun that
was presently stilled, and an intermittent cracking of rifles.
Apparently the Martians were setting fire to everything within range
of their Heat-Ray.
I am not an expert driver, and I had immediately to turn my
attention to the horse. When I looked back again the second hill had
hidden the black smoke. I slashed the horse with the whip, and gave
him a loose rein until Woking and Send lay between us and that
quivering tumult. I overtook and passed the doctor between Woking and
IN THE STORM
Leatherhead is about twelve miles from Maybury Hill. The scent of
hay was in the air through the lush meadows beyond Pyrford, and the
hedges on either side were sweet and gay with multitudes of dog-roses.
The heavy firing that had broken out while we were driving down
Maybury Hill ceased as abruptly as it began, leaving the evening very
peaceful and still. We got to Leatherhead without misadventure about
nine o'clock, and the horse had an hour's rest while I took supper
with my cousins and commended my wife to their care.
My wife was curiously silent throughout the drive, and seemed
oppressed with forebodings of evil. I talked to her reassuringly,
pointing out that the Martians were tied to the Pit by sheer
heaviness, and at the utmost could but crawl a little out of it; but
she answered only in monosyllables. Had it not been for my promise to
the innkeeper, she would, I think, have urged me to stay in
Leatherhead that night. Would that I had! Her face, I remember, was
very white as we parted.
For my own part, I had been feverishly excited all day. Something
very like the war fever that occasionally runs through a civilised
community had got into my blood, and in my heart I was not so very
sorry that I had to return to Maybury that night. I was even afraid
that that last fusillade I had heard might mean the extermination of
our invaders from Mars. I can best express my state of mind by saying
that I wanted to be in at the death.
It was nearly eleven when I started to return. The night was
unexpectedly dark; to me, walking out of the lighted passage of my
cousins' house, it seemed indeed black, and it was as hot and close as
the day. Overhead the clouds were driving fast, albeit not a breath
stirred the shrubs about us. My cousins' man lit both lamps. Happily,
I knew the road intimately. My wife stood in the light of the
doorway, and watched me until I jumped up into the dog cart. Then
abruptly she turned and went in, leaving my cousins side by side
wishing me good hap.
I was a little depressed at first with the contagion of my wife's
fears, but very soon my thoughts reverted to the Martians. At that
time I was absolutely in the dark as to the course of the evening's
fighting. I did not know even the circumstances that had precipitated
the conflict. As I came through Ockham (for that was the way I
returned, and not through Send and Old Woking) I saw along the western
horizon a blood-red glow, which as I drew nearer, crept slowly up the
sky. The driving clouds of the gathering thunderstorm mingled there
with masses of black and red smoke.
Ripley Street was deserted, and except for a lighted window or so
the village showed not a sign of life; but I narrowly escaped an
accident at the corner of the road to Pyrford, where a knot of people
stood with their backs to me. They said nothing to me as I passed. I
do not know what they knew of the things happening beyond the hill,
nor do I know if the silent houses I passed on my way were sleeping
securely, or deserted and empty, or harassed and watching against the
terror of the night.
From Ripley until I came through Pyrford I was in the valley of the
Wey, and the red glare was hidden from me. As I ascended the little
hill beyond Pyrford Church the glare came into view again, and the
trees about me shivered with the first intimation of the storm that