into this side lane.
That was the story they told my brother in fragments when presently
they stopped again, nearer to New Barnet. He promised to stay with
them, at least until they could determine what to do, or until the
missing man arrived, and professed to be an expert shot with the
revolver - a weapon strange to him - in order to give them confidence.
They made a sort of encampment by the wayside, and the pony became
happy in the hedge. He told them of his own escape out of London, and
all that he knew of these Martians and their ways. The sun crept
higher in the sky, and after a time their talk died out and gave place
to an uneasy state of anticipation. Several wayfarers came along the
lane, and of these my brother gathered such news as he could. Every
broken answer he had deepened his impression of the great disaster
that had come on humanity, deepened his persuasion of the immediate
necessity for prosecuting this flight. He urged the matter upon them.
"We have money," said the slender woman, and hesitated.
Her eyes met my brother's, and her hesitation ended.
"So have I," said my brother.
She explained that they had as much as thirty pounds in gold,
besides a five-pound note, and suggested that with that they might get
upon a train at St. Albans or New Barnet. My brother thought that was
hopeless, seeing the fury of the Londoners to crowd upon the trains,
and broached his own idea of striking across Essex towards Harwich and
thence escaping from the country altogether.
Mrs. Elphinstone - that was the name of the woman in white - would
listen to no reasoning, and kept calling upon "George"; but her
sister-in-law was astonishingly quiet and deliberate, and at last
agreed to my brother's suggestion. So, designing to cross the Great
North Road, they went on towards Barnet, my brother leading the pony
to save it as much as possible. As the sun crept up the sky the day
became excessively hot, and under foot a thick, whitish sand grew
burning and blinding, so that they travelled only very slowly. The
hedges were grey with dust. And as they advanced towards Barnet a
tumultuous murmuring grew stronger.
They began to meet more people. For the most part these were
staring before them, murmuring indistinct questions, jaded, haggard,
unclean. One man in evening dress passed them on foot, his eyes on
the ground. They heard his voice, and, looking back at him, saw one
hand clutched in his hair and the other beating invisible things. His
paroxysm of rage over, he went on his way without once looking back.
As my brother's party went on towards the crossroads to the south
of Barnet they saw a woman approaching the road across some fields on
their left, carrying a child and with two other children; and then
passed a man in dirty black, with a thick stick in one hand and a
small portmanteau in the other. Then round the corner of the lane,
from between the villas that guarded it at its confluence with the
high road, came a little cart drawn by a sweating black pony and
driven by a sallow youth in a bowler hat, grey with dust. There were
three girls, East End factory girls, and a couple of little children
crowded in the cart.
"This'll tike us rahnd Edgware?" asked the driver, wild-eyed,
white-faced; and when my brother told him it would if he turned to the
left, he whipped up at once without the formality of thanks.
My brother noticed a pale grey smoke or haze rising among the
houses in front of them, and veiling the white facade of a terrace
beyond the road that appeared between the backs of the villas. Mrs.
Elphinstone suddenly cried out at a number of tongues of smoky red
flame leaping up above the houses in front of them against the hot,
blue sky. The tumultuous noise resolved itself now into the
disorderly mingling of many voices, the gride of many wheels, the
creaking of waggons, and the staccato of hoofs. The lane came round
sharply not fifty yards from the crossroads.
"Good heavens!" cried Mrs. Elphinstone. "What is this you are
driving us into?"
My brother stopped.
For the main road was a boiling stream of people, a torrent of
human beings rushing northward, one pressing on another. A great bank
of dust, white and luminous in the blaze of the sun, made everything
within twenty feet of the ground grey and indistinct and was
perpetually renewed by the hurrying feet of a dense crowd of horses
and of men and women on foot, and by the wheels of vehicles of every
"Way!" my brother heard voices crying. "Make way!"
It was like riding into the smoke of a fire to approach the meeting
point of the lane and road; the crowd roared like a fire, and the dust
was hot and pungent. And, indeed, a little way up the road a villa
was burning and sending rolling masses of black smoke across the road
to add to the confusion.
Two men came past them. Then a dirty woman, carrying a heavy
bundle and weeping. A lost retriever dog, with hanging tongue,
circled dubiously round them, scared and wretched, and fled at my
So much as they could see of the road Londonward between the houses
to the right was a tumultuous stream of dirty, hurrying people, pent
in between the villas on either side; the black heads, the crowded
forms, grew into distinctness as they rushed towards the corner,
hurried past, and merged their individuality again in a receding
multitude that was swallowed up at last in a cloud of dust.
"Go on! Go on!" cried the voices. "Way! Way!"
One man's hands pressed on the back of another. My brother stood
at the pony's head. Irresistibly attracted, he advanced slowly, pace
by pace, down the lane.
Edgware had been a scene of confusion, Chalk Farm a riotous tumult,
but this was a whole population in movement. It is hard to imagine
that host. It had no character of its own. The figures poured out
past the corner, and receded with their backs to the group in the
lane. Along the margin came those who were on foot threatened by the
wheels, stumbling in the ditches, blundering into one another.
The carts and carriages crowded close upon one another, making
little way for those swifter and more impatient vehicles that darted
forward every now and then when an opportunity showed itself of doing
so, sending the people scattering against the fences and gates of the
"Push on!" was the cry. "Push on! They are coming!"
In one cart stood a blind man in the uniform of the Salvation Army,
gesticulating with his crooked fingers and bawling, "Eternity!
Eternity!" His voice was hoarse and very loud so that my brother
could hear him long after he was lost to sight in the dust. Some of
the people who crowded in the carts whipped stupidly at their horses
and quarrelled with other drivers; some sat motionless, staring at
nothing with miserable eyes; some gnawed their hands with thirst, or
lay prostrate in the bottoms of their conveyances. The horses' bits
were covered with foam, their eyes bloodshot.
There were cabs, carriages, shop cars, waggons, beyond counting; a
mail cart, a road-cleaner's cart marked "Vestry of St. Pancras," a
huge timber waggon crowded with roughs. A brewer's dray rumbled by
with its two near wheels splashed with fresh blood.
"Clear the way!" cried the voices. "Clear the way!"
"Eter-nity! Eter-nity!" came echoing down the road.
There were sad, haggard women tramping by, well dressed, with
children that cried and stumbled, their dainty clothes smothered in
dust, their weary faces smeared with tears. With many of these came
men, sometimes helpful, sometimes lowering and savage. Fighting side
by side with them pushed some weary street outcast in faded black
rags, wide-eyed, loud-voiced, and foul-mouthed. There were sturdy
workmen thrusting their way along, wretched, unkempt men, clothed like
clerks or shopmen, struggling spasmodically; a wounded soldier my
brother noticed, men dressed in the clothes of railway porters, one
wretched creature in a nightshirt with a coat thrown over it.
But varied as its composition was, certain things all that host had
in common. There were fear and pain on their faces, and fear behind
them. A tumult up the road, a quarrel for a place in a waggon, sent
the whole host of them quickening their pace; even a man so scared and
broken that his knees bent under him was galvanised for a moment into
renewed activity. The heat and dust had already been at work upon
this multitude. Their skins were dry, their lips black and cracked.
They were all thirsty, weary, and footsore. And amid the various
cries one heard disputes, reproaches, groans of weariness and fatigue;
the voices of most of them were hoarse and weak. Through it all ran a
"Way! Way! The Martians are coming!"
Few stopped and came aside from that flood. The lane opened
slantingly into the main road with a narrow opening, and had a
delusive appearance of coming from the direction of London. Yet a
kind of eddy of people drove into its mouth; weaklings elbowed out of
the stream, who for the most part rested but a moment before plunging
into it again. A little way down the lane, with two friends bending
over him, lay a man with a bare leg, wrapped about with bloody rags.
He was a lucky man to have friends.
A little old man, with a grey military moustache and a filthy black
frock coat, limped out and sat down beside the trap, removed his
boot - his sock was blood-stained - shook out a pebble, and hobbled on
again; and then a little girl of eight or nine, all alone, threw
herself under the hedge close by my brother, weeping.
"I can't go on! I can't go on!"
My brother woke from his torpor of astonishment and lifted her up,
speaking gently to her, and carried her to Miss Elphinstone. So soon
as my brother touched her she became quite still, as if frightened.
"Ellen!" shrieked a woman in the crowd, with tears in her
voice - "Ellen!" And the child suddenly darted away from my brother,
"They are coming," said a man on horseback, riding past along the
"Out of the way, there!" bawled a coachman, towering high; and my
brother saw a closed carriage turning into the lane.
The people crushed back on one another to avoid the horse. My
brother pushed the pony and chaise back into the hedge, and the man
drove by and stopped at the turn of the way. It was a carriage, with
a pole for a pair of horses, but only one was in the traces. My
brother saw dimly through the dust that two men lifted out something
on a white stretcher and put it gently on the grass beneath the privet
One of the men came running to my brother.
"Where is there any water?" he said. "He is dying fast, and very
thirsty. It is Lord Garrick."
"Lord Garrick!" said my brother; "the Chief Justice?"
"The water?" he said.
"There may be a tap," said my brother, "in some of the houses. We
have no water. I dare not leave my people."
The man pushed against the crowd towards the gate of the corner
"Go on!" said the people, thrusting at him. "They are coming! Go
Then my brother's attention was distracted by a bearded, eagle-faced
man lugging a small handbag, which split even as my brother's
eyes rested on it and disgorged a mass of sovereigns that seemed to
break up into separate coins as it struck the ground. They rolled
hither and thither among the struggling feet of men and horses. The
man stopped and looked stupidly at the heap, and the shaft of a cab
struck his shoulder and sent him reeling. He gave a shriek and dodged
back, and a cartwheel shaved him narrowly.
"Way!" cried the men all about him. "Make way!"
So soon as the cab had passed, he flung himself, with both hands
open, upon the heap of coins, and began thrusting handfuls in his
pocket. A horse rose close upon him, and in another moment, half
rising, he had been borne down under the horse's hoofs.
"Stop!" screamed my brother, and pushing a woman out of his way,
tried to clutch the bit of the horse.
Before he could get to it, he heard a scream under the wheels, and
saw through the dust the rim passing over the poor wretch's back. The
driver of the cart slashed his whip at my brother, who ran round
behind the cart. The multitudinous shouting confused his ears. The
man was writhing in the dust among his scattered money, unable to
rise, for the wheel had broken his back, and his lower limbs lay limp
and dead. My brother stood up and yelled at the next driver, and a
man on a black horse came to his assistance.
"Get him out of the road," said he; and, clutching the man's collar
with his free hand, my brother lugged him sideways. But he still
clutched after his money, and regarded my brother fiercely, hammering
at his arm with a handful of gold. "Go on! Go on!" shouted angry
There was a smash as the pole of a carriage crashed into the cart
that the man on horseback stopped. My brother looked up, and the man
with the gold twisted his head round and bit the wrist that held his
collar. There was a concussion, and the black horse came staggering
sideways, and the carthorse pushed beside it. A hoof missed my
brother's foot by a hair's breadth. He released his grip on the
fallen man and jumped back. He saw anger change to terror on the face
of the poor wretch on the ground, and in a moment he was hidden and my
brother was borne backward and carried past the entrance of the lane,
and had to fight hard in the torrent to recover it.
He saw Miss Elphinstone covering her eyes, and a little child, with
all a child's want of sympathetic imagination, staring with dilated
eyes at a dusty something that lay black and still, ground and crushed
under the rolling wheels. "Let us go back!" he shouted, and began
turning the pony round. "We cannot cross this - hell," he said and they
went back a hundred yards the way they had come, until the fighting
crowd was hidden. As they passed the bend in the lane my brother saw
the face of the dying man in the ditch under the privet, deadly white
and drawn, and shining with perspiration. The two women sat silent,
crouching in their seat and shivering.
Then beyond the bend my brother stopped again. Miss Elphinstone
was white and pale, and her sister-in-law sat weeping, too wretched
even to call upon "George." My brother was horrified and perplexed.
So soon as they had retreated he realised how urgent and unavoidable
it was to attempt this crossing. He turned to Miss Elphinstone,
"We must go that way," he said, and led the pony round again.
For the second time that day this girl proved her quality. To force
their way into the torrent of people, my brother plunged into the
traffic and held back a cab horse, while she drove the pony across its
head. A waggon locked wheels for a moment and ripped a long splinter
from the chaise. In another moment they were caught and swept forward
by the stream. My brother, with the cabman's whip marks red across
his face and hands, scrambled into the chaise and took the reins from
"Point the revolver at the man behind," he said, giving it to her,
"if he presses us too hard. No! - point it at his horse."
Then he began to look out for a chance of edging to the right
across the road. But once in the stream he seemed to lose volition,
to become a part of that dusty rout. They swept through Chipping
Barnet with the torrent; they were nearly a mile beyond the centre of
the town before they had fought across to the opposite side of the
way. It was din and confusion indescribable; but in and beyond the
town the road forks repeatedly, and this to some extent relieved the
They struck eastward through Hadley, and there on either side of
the road, and at another place farther on they came upon a great
multitude of people drinking at the stream, some fighting to come at
the water. And farther on, from a lull near East Barnet, they saw
two trains running slowly one after the other without signal or
order - trains swarming with people, with men even among the coals
behind the engines - going northward along the Great Northern Railway.
My brother supposes they must have filled outside London, for at that
time the furious terror of the people had rendered the central
Near this place they halted for the rest of the afternoon, for the
violence of the day had already utterly exhausted all three of them.
They began to suffer the beginnings of hunger; the night was cold, and
none of them dared to sleep. And in the evening many people came
hurrying along the road nearby their stopping place, fleeing from
unknown dangers before them, and going in the direction from which my
brother had come.
THE "THUNDER CHILD"
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 Southend 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 concerned.
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
demoralisation 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 hamstringing 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 considerable 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 above.
When, an hour later, a Martian appeared beyond the Clock Tower and
waded down the river, nothing but wreckage 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 desperate 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 explosives 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 intelligence
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 alternately 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, preferred to push on at
once to the coast rather than wait for food, although all three of
them were very hungry. By midday 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.