About a couple of miles out lay an ironclad, very low in the water,
almost, to my brother's perception, like a water-logged ship. This
was the ram _Thunder Child_. It was the only warship in sight, but far
away to the right over the smooth surface of the sea - for that day
there was a dead calm - lay a serpent of black smoke to mark the next
ironclads of the Channel Fleet, which hovered in an extended line,
steam up and ready for action, across the Thames estuary during the
course of the Martian conquest, vigilant and yet powerless to prevent
At the sight of the sea, Mrs. Elphinstone, in spite of the
assurances of her sister-in-law, gave way to panic. She had never
been out of England before, she would rather die than trust herself
friendless in a foreign country, and so forth. She seemed, poor woman,
to imagine that the French and the Martians might prove very similar.
She had been growing increasingly hysterical, fearful, and depressed
during the two days' journeyings. Her great idea was to return to
Stanmore. Things had been always well and safe at Stanmore. They
would find George at Stanmore.
It was with the greatest difficulty they could get her down to the
beach, where presently my brother succeeded in attracting the
attention of some men on a paddle steamer from the Thames. They sent
a boat and drove a bargain for thirty-six pounds for the three. The
steamer was going, these men said, to Ostend.
It was about two o'clock when my brother, having paid their fares
at the gangway, found himself safely aboard the steamboat with his
charges. There was food aboard, albeit at exorbitant prices, and the
three of them contrived to eat a meal on one of the seats forward.
There were already a couple of score of passengers aboard, some of
whom had expended their last money in securing a passage, but the
captain lay off the Blackwater until five in the afternoon, picking up
passengers until the seated decks were even dangerously crowded. He
would probably have remained longer had it not been for the sound of
guns that began about that hour in the south. As if in answer, the
ironclad seaward fired a small gun and hoisted a string of flags. A
jet of smoke sprang out of her funnels.
Some of the passengers were of opinion that this firing came from
Shoeburyness, until it was noticed that it was growing louder. At the
same time, far away in the southeast the masts and upperworks of three
ironclads rose one after the other out of the sea, beneath clouds of
black smoke. But my brother's attention speedily reverted to the
distant firing in the south. He fancied he saw a column of smoke
rising out of the distant grey haze.
The little steamer was already flapping her way eastward of the big
crescent of shipping, and the low Essex coast was growing blue and
hazy, when a Martian appeared, small and faint in the remote distance,
advancing along the muddy coast from the direction of Foulness. At
that the captain on the bridge swore at the top of his voice with fear
and anger at his own delay, and the paddles seemed infected with his
terror. Every soul aboard stood at the bulwarks or on the seats of
the steamer and stared at that distant shape, higher than the trees or
church towers inland, and advancing with a leisurely parody of a human
It was the first Martian my brother had seen, and he stood, more
amazed than terrified, watching this Titan advancing deliberately
towards the shipping, wading farther and farther into the water as the
coast fell away. Then, far away beyond the Crouch, came another,
striding over some stunted trees, and then yet another, still farther
off, wading deeply through a shiny mudflat that seemed to hang halfway
up between sea and sky. They were all stalking seaward, as if to
intercept the escape of the multitudinous vessels that were crowded
between Foulness and the Naze. In spite of the throbbing exertions of
the engines of the little paddle-boat, and the pouring foam that her
wheels flung behind her, she receded with terrifying slowness from
this ominous advance.
Glancing northwestward, my brother saw the large crescent of
shipping already writhing with the approaching terror; one ship
passing behind another, another coming round from broadside to end on,
steamships whistling and giving off volumes of steam, sails being let
out, launches rushing hither and thither. He was so fascinated by
this and by the creeping danger away to the left that he had no eyes
for anything seaward. And then a swift movement of the steamboat (she
had suddenly come round to avoid being run down) flung him headlong
from the seat upon which he was standing. There was a shouting all
about him, a trampling of feet, and a cheer that seemed to be answered
faintly. The steamboat lurched and rolled him over upon his hands.
He sprang to his feet and saw to starboard, and not a hundred yards
from their heeling, pitching boat, a vast iron bulk like the blade of
a plough tearing through the water, tossing it on either side in huge
waves of foam that leaped towards the steamer, flinging her paddles
helplessly in the air, and then sucking her deck down almost to the
A douche of spray blinded my brother for a moment. When his eyes
were clear again he saw the monster had passed and was rushing
landward. Big iron upperworks rose out of this headlong structure,
and from that twin funnels projected and spat a smoking blast shot
with fire. It was the torpedo ram, _Thunder Child_, steaming headlong,
coming to the rescue of the threatened shipping.
Keeping his footing on the heaving deck by clutching the bulwarks,
my brother looked past this charging leviathan at the Martians again,
and he saw the three of them now close together, and standing so far
out to sea that their tripod supports were almost entirely submerged.
Thus sunken, and seen in remote perspective, they appeared far less
formidable than the huge iron bulk in whose wake the steamer was
pitching so helplessly. It would seem they were regarding this new
antagonist with astonishment. To their intelligence, it may be, the
giant was even such another as themselves. The _Thunder Child_ fired no
gun, but simply drove full speed towards them. It was probably her
not firing that enabled her to get so near the enemy as she did. They
did not know what to make of her. One shell, and they would have sent
her to the bottom forthwith with the Heat-Ray.
She was steaming at such a pace that in a minute she seemed halfway
between the steamboat and the Martians - a diminishing black bulk
against the receding horizontal expanse of the Essex coast.
Suddenly the foremost Martian lowered his tube and discharged a
canister of the black gas at the ironclad. It hit her larboard side
and glanced off in an inky jet that rolled away to seaward, an
unfolding torrent of Black Smoke, from which the ironclad drove clear.
To the watchers from the steamer, low in the water and with the sun in
their eyes, it seemed as though she were already among the Martians.
They saw the gaunt figures separating and rising out of the water
as they retreated shoreward, and one of them raised the camera-like
generator of the Heat-Ray. He held it pointing obliquely downward,
and a bank of steam sprang from the water at its touch. It must have
driven through the iron of the ship's side like a white-hot iron rod
A flicker of flame went up through the rising steam, and then the
Martian reeled and staggered. In another moment he was cut down, and
a great body of water and steam shot high in the air. The guns of the
_Thunder Child_ sounded through the reek, going off one after the other,
and one shot splashed the water high close by the steamer, ricocheted
towards the other flying ships to the north, and smashed a smack to
But no one heeded that very much. At the sight of the Martian's
collapse the captain on the bridge yelled inarticulately, and all the
crowding passengers on the steamer's stern shouted together. And then
they yelled again. For, surging out beyond the white tumult, drove
something long and black, the flames streaming from its middle parts,
its ventilators and funnels spouting fire.
She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact and
her engines working. She headed straight for a second Martian, and
was within a hundred yards of him when the Heat-Ray came to bear. Then
with a violent thud, a blinding flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped
upward. The Martian staggered with the violence of her explosion, and
in another moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the
impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up like a thing
of cardboard. My brother shouted involuntarily. A boiling tumult of
steam hid everything again.
"Two!" yelled the captain.
Everyone was shouting. The whole steamer from end to end rang with
frantic cheering that was taken up first by one and then by all in the
crowding multitude of ships and boats that was driving out to sea.
The steam hung upon the water for many minutes, hiding the third
Martian and the coast altogether. And all this time the boat was
paddling steadily out to sea and away from the fight; and when at last
the confusion cleared, the drifting bank of black vapour intervened,
and nothing of the _Thunder Child_ could be made out, nor could the
third Martian be seen. But the ironclads to seaward were now quite
close and standing in towards shore past the steamboat.
The little vessel continued to beat its way seaward, and the
ironclads receded slowly towards the coast, which was hidden still by
a marbled bank of vapour, part steam, part black gas, eddying and
combining in the strangest way. The fleet of refugees was scattering
to the northeast; several smacks were sailing between the ironclads
and the steamboat. After a time, and before they reached the sinking
cloud bank, the warships turned northward, and then abruptly went
about and passed into the thickening haze of evening southward. The
coast grew faint, and at last indistinguishable amid the low banks of
clouds that were gathering about the sinking sun.
Then suddenly out of the golden haze of the sunset came the
vibration of guns, and a form of black shadows moving. Everyone
struggled to the rail of the steamer and peered into the blinding
furnace of the west, but nothing was to be distinguished clearly. A
mass of smoke rose slanting and barred the face of the sun. The
steamboat throbbed on its way through an interminable suspense.
The sun sank into grey clouds, the sky flushed and darkened, the
evening star trembled into sight. It was deep twilight when the
captain cried out and pointed. My brother strained his eyes.
Something rushed up into the sky out of the greyness - rushed
slantingly upward and very swiftly into the luminous clearness above
the clouds in the western sky; something flat and broad, and very
large, that swept round in a vast curve, grew smaller, sank slowly,
and vanished again into the grey mystery of the night. And as it flew
it rained down darkness upon the land.
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 happen 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 consolation 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, creeping 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 suffocating
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 Petersham 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 shoulder.
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
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
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 complained 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
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
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 instantaneous 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 asserted 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 again.
"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
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 time.
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. Contrasting
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
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