"The War of the Worlds"
But who shall dwell in these worlds if they be
inhabited? . . . Are we or they Lords of the
World? . . . And how are all things made for man?
KEPLER (quoted in The Anatomy of Melancholy)
THE COMING OF THE
THE EVE OF THE WAR
No one would have believed in the last years of the
nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly
and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as
mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their
various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps
almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might
scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply
in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to
and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene
in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is
possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the
same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as
sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss
the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It
is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those
departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might
be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and
ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the
gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to
those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool
and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes,
and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early
in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.
The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader,
revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000
miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is
barely half of that received by this world. It must be, if
the nebular hypothesis has any truth, older than our world;
and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon
its surface must have begun its course. The fact that it is
scarcely one seventh of the volume of the earth must have
accelerated its cooling to the temperature at which life
could begin. It has air and water and all that is necessary
for the support of animated existence.
Yet so vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no
writer, up to the very end of the nineteenth century,
expressed any idea that intelligent life might have
developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly
level. Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is
older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the
superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily
follows that it is not only more distant from time's
beginning but nearer its end.
The secular cooling that must someday overtake our planet
has already gone far indeed with our neighbour. Its physical
condition is still largely a mystery, but we know now that
even in its equatorial region the midday temperature barely
approaches that of our coldest winter. Its air is much more
attenuated than ours, its oceans have shrunk until they
cover but a third of its surface, and as its slow seasons
change huge snowcaps gather and melt about either pole and
periodically inundate its temperate zones. That last stage
of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has
become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars.
The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their
intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their
hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and
intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see,
at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of
them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green
with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy
atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its
drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country
and narrow, navy-crowded seas.
And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be
to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and
lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits
that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it
would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon
Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world
is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they
regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is,
indeed, their only escape from the destruction that,
generation after generation, creeps upon them.
And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember
what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has
wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison
and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians,
in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of
existence in a war of extermination waged by European
immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such
apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in
the same spirit?
The Martians seem to have calculated their descent with
amazing subtlety--their mathematical learning is evidently
far in excess of ours--and to have carried out their
preparations with a well-nigh perfect unanimity. Had our
instruments permitted it, we might have seen the gathering
trouble far back in the nineteenth century. Men like
Schiaparelli watched the red planet--it is odd, by-the-bye,
that for countless centuries Mars has been the star of
war--but failed to interpret the fluctuating appearances of
the markings they mapped so well. All that time the Martians
must have been getting ready.
During the opposition of 1894 a great light was seen on
the illuminated part of the disk, first at the Lick
Observatory, then by Perrotin of Nice, and then by other
observers. English readers heard of it first in the issue of
Nature dated August 2. I am inclined to think that
this blaze may have been the casting of the huge gun, in the
vast pit sunk into their planet, from which their shots were
fired at us. Peculiar markings, as yet unexplained, were
seen near the site of that outbreak during the next two
The storm burst upon us six years ago now. As Mars
approached opposition, Lavelle of Java set the wires of the
astronomical exchange palpitating with the amazing
intelligence of a huge outbreak of incandescent gas upon the
planet. It had occurred towards midnight of the twelfth; and
the spectroscope, to which he had at once resorted,
indicated a mass of flaming gas, chiefly hydrogen, moving
with an enormous velocity towards this earth. This jet of
fire had become invisible about a quarter past twelve. He
compared it to a colossal puff of flame suddenly and
violently squirted out of the planet, "as flaming gases
rushed out of a gun."
A singularly appropriate phrase it proved. Yet the next
day there was nothing of this in the papers except a little
note in the Daily Telegraph, and the world went in
ignorance of one of the gravest dangers that ever threatened
the human race. I might not have heard of the eruption at
all had I not met Ogilvy, the well-known astronomer, at
Ottershaw. He was immensely excited at the news, and in the
excess of his feelings invited me up to take a turn with him
that night in a scrutiny of the red planet.
In spite of all that has happened since, I still remember
that vigil very distinctly: the black and silent
observatory, the shadowed lantern throwing a feeble glow
upon the floor in the corner, the steady ticking of the
clockwork of the telescope, the little slit in the roof--an
oblong profundity with the stardust streaked across it.
Ogilvy moved about, invisible but audible. Looking through
the telescope, one saw a circle of deep blue and the little
round planet swimming in the field. It seemed such a little
thing, so bright and small and still, faintly marked with
transverse stripes, and slightly flattened from the perfect
round. But so little it was, so silvery warm--a pin's-head
of light! It was as if it quivered, but really this was the
telescope vibrating with the activity of the clockwork that
kept the planet in view.
As I watched, the planet seemed to grow larger and
smaller and to advance and recede, but that was simply that
my eye was tired. Forty millions of miles it was from
us--more than forty millions of miles of void. Few people
realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the
material universe swims.
Near it in the field, I remember, were three faint points
of light, three telescopic stars infinitely remote, and all
around it was the unfathomable darkness of empty space. You
know how that blackness looks on a frosty starlight night.
In a telescope it seems far profounder. And invisible to me
because it was so remote and small, flying swiftly and
steadily towards me across that incredible distance, drawing
nearer every minute by so many thousands of miles, came the
Thing they were sending us, the Thing that was to bring so
much struggle and calamity and death to the earth. I never
dreamed of it then as I watched; no one on earth dreamed of
that unerring missile.
That night, too, there was another jetting out of gas
from the distant planet. I saw it. A reddish flash at the
edge, the slightest projection of the outline just as the
chronometer struck midnight; and at that I told Ogilvy and
he took my place. The night was warm and I was thirsty, and
I went stretching my legs clumsily and feeling my way in the
darkness, to the little table where the siphon stood, while
Ogilvy exclaimed at the streamer of gas that came out
That night another invisible missile started on its way
to the earth from Mars, just a second or so under
twenty-four hours after the first one. I remember how I sat
on the table there in the blackness, with patches of green
and crimson swimming before my eyes. I wished I had a light
to smoke by, little suspecting the meaning of the minute
gleam I had seen and all that it would presently bring me.
Ogilvy watched till one, and then gave it up; and we lit the
lantern and walked over to his house. Down below in the
darkness were Ottershaw and Chertsey and all their hundreds
of people, sleeping in peace.
He was full of speculation that night about the condition
of Mars, and scoffed at the vulgar idea of its having
inhabitants who were signalling us. His idea was that
meteorites might be falling in a heavy shower upon the
planet, or that a huge volcanic explosion was in progress.
He pointed out to me how unlikely it was that organic
evolution had taken the same direction in the two adjacent
"The chances against anything manlike on Mars are a
million to one," he said.
Hundreds of observers saw the flame that night and the
night after about midnight, and again the night after; and
so for ten nights, a flame each night. Why the shots ceased
after the tenth no one on earth has attempted to explain. It
may be the gases of the firing caused the Martians
inconvenience. Dense clouds of smoke or dust, visible
through a powerful telescope on earth as little grey,
fluctuating patches, spread through the clearness of the
planet's atmosphere and obscured its more familiar features.
Even the daily papers woke up to the disturbances at
last, and popular notes appeared here, there, and everywhere
concerning the volcanoes upon Mars. The seriocomic
periodical Punch, I remember, made a happy use of it
in the political cartoon. And, all unsuspected, those
missiles the Martians had fired at us drew earthward,
rushing now at a pace of many miles a second through the
empty gulf of space, hour by hour and day by day, nearer and
nearer. It seems to me now almost incredibly wonderful that,
with that swift fate hanging over us, men could go about
their petty concerns as they did. I remember how jubilant
Markham was at securing a new photograph of the planet for
the illustrated paper he edited in those days. People in
these latter times scarcely realise the abundance and
enterprise of our nineteenth-century papers. For my own
part, I was much occupied in learning to ride the bicycle,
and busy upon a series of papers discussing the probable
developments of moral ideas as civilisation progressed.
One night (the first missile then could scarcely have
been 10,000,000 miles away) I went for a walk with my wife.
It was starlight and I explained the Signs of the Zodiac to
her, and pointed out Mars, a bright dot of light creeping
zenithward, towards which so many telescopes were pointed.
It was a warm night. Coming home, a party of excursionists
from Chertsey or Isleworth passed us singing and playing
music. There were lights in the upper windows of the houses
as the people went to bed. From the railway station in the
distance came the sound of shunting trains, ringing and
rumbling, softened almost into melody by the distance. My
wife pointed out to me the brightness of the red, green, and
yellow signal lights hanging in a framework against the sky.
It seemed so safe and tranquil.
THE FALLING STAR
Then came the night of the first falling star. It was
seen early in the morning, rushing over Winchester eastward,
a line of flame high in the atmosphere. Hundreds must have
seen it, and taken it for an ordinary falling star. Albin
described it as leaving a greenish streak behind it that
glowed for some seconds. Denning, our greatest authority on
meteorites, stated that the height of its first appearance
was about ninety or one hundred miles. It seemed to him that
it fell to earth about one hundred miles east of him.
I was at home at that hour and writing in my study; and
although my French windows face towards Ottershaw and the
blind was up (for I loved in those days to look up at the
night sky), I saw nothing of it. Yet this strangest of all
things that ever came to earth from outer space must have
fallen while I was sitting there, visible to me had I only
looked up as it passed. Some of those who saw its flight say
it travelled with a hissing sound. I myself heard nothing of
that. Many people in Berkshire, Surrey, and Middlesex must
have seen the fall of it, and, at most, have thought that
another meteorite had descended. No one seems to have
troubled to look for the fallen mass that night.
But very early in the morning poor Ogilvy, who had seen
the shooting star and who was persuaded that a meteorite lay
somewhere on the common between Horsell, Ottershaw, and
Woking, rose early with the idea of finding it. Find it he
did, soon after dawn, and not far from the sand pits. An
enormous hole had been made by the impact of the projectile,
and the sand and gravel had been flung violently in every
direction over the heath, forming heaps visible a mile and a
half away. The heather was on fire eastward, and a thin blue
smoke rose against the dawn.
The Thing itself lay almost entirely buried in sand,
amidst the scattered splinters of a fir tree it had shivered
to fragments in its descent. The uncovered part had the
appearance of a huge cylinder, caked over and its outline
softened by a thick scaly dun-coloured incrustation. It had
a diameter of about thirty yards. He approached the mass,
surprised at the size and more so at the shape, since most
meteorites are rounded more or less completely. It was,
however, still so hot from its flight through the air as to
forbid his near approach. A stirring noise within its
cylinder he ascribed to the unequal cooling of its surface;
for at that time it had not occurred to him that it might be
He remained standing at the edge of the pit that the
Thing had made for itself, staring at its strange
appearance, astonished chiefly at its unusual shape and
colour, and dimly perceiving even then some evidence of
design in its arrival. The early morning was wonderfully
still, and the sun, just clearing the pine trees towards
Weybridge, was already warm. He did not remember hearing any
birds that morning, there was certainly no breeze stirring,
and the only sounds were the faint movements from within the
cindery cylinder. He was all alone on the common.
Then suddenly he noticed with a start that some of the
grey clinker, the ashy incrustation that covered the
meteorite, was falling off the circular edge of the end. It
was dropping off in flakes and raining down upon the sand. A
large piece suddenly came off and fell with a sharp noise
that brought his heart into his mouth.
For a minute he scarcely realised what this meant, and,
although the heat was excessive, he clambered down into the
pit close to the bulk to see the Thing more clearly. He
fancied even then that the cooling of the body might account
for this, but what disturbed that idea was the fact that the
ash was falling only from the end of the cylinder.
And then he perceived that, very slowly, the circular top
of the cylinder was rotating on its body. It was such a
gradual movement that he discovered it only through noticing
that a black mark that had been near him five minutes ago
was now at the other side of the circumference. Even then he
scarcely understood what this indicated, until he heard a
muffled grating sound and saw the black mark jerk forward an
inch or so. Then the thing came upon him in a flash. The
cylinder was artificial--hollow--with an end that screwed
out! Something within the cylinder was unscrewing the top!
"Good heavens!" said Ogilvy. "There's a man in it--men in
it! Half roasted to death! Trying to escape!"
At once, with a quick mental leap, he linked the Thing
with the flash upon Mars.
The thought of the confined creature was so dreadful to
him that he forgot the heat and went forward to the cylinder
to help turn. But luckily the dull radiation arrested him
before he could burn his hands on the still-glowing metal.
At that he stood irresolute for a moment, then turned,
scrambled out of the pit, and set off running wildly into
Woking. The time then must have been somewhere about six
o'clock. He met a waggoner and tried to make him understand,
but the tale he told and his appearance were so wild--his
hat had fallen off in the pit--that the man simply drove on.
He was equally unsuccessful with the potman who was just
unlocking the doors of the public-house by Horsell Bridge.
The fellow thought he was a lunatic at large and made an
unsuccessful attempt to shut him into the taproom. That
sobered him a little; and when he saw Henderson, the London
journalist, in his garden, he called over the palings and
made himself understood.
"Henderson," he called, "you saw that shooting star last
"Well?" said Henderson.
"It's out on Horsell Common now."
"Good Lord!" said Henderson. "Fallen meteorite! That's
"But it's something more than a meteorite. It's a
cylinder--an artificial cylinder, man! And there's something
Henderson stood up with his spade in his hand.
"What's that?" he said. He was deaf in one ear.
Ogilvy told him all that he had seen. Henderson was a
minute or so taking it in. Then he dropped his spade,
snatched up his jacket, and came out into the road. The two
men hurried back at once to the common, and found the
cylinder still lying in the same position. But now the
sounds inside had ceased, and a thin circle of bright metal
showed between the top and the body of the cylinder. Air was
either entering or escaping at the rim with a thin, sizzling
They listened, rapped on the scaly burnt metal with a
stick, and, meeting with no response, they both concluded
the man or men inside must be insensible or dead.
Of course the two were quite unable to do anything. They
shouted consolation and promises, and went off back to the
town again to get help. One can imagine them, covered with
sand, excited and disordered, running up the little street
in the bright sunlight just as the shop folks were taking
down their shutters and people were opening their bedroom
windows. Henderson went into the railway station at once, in
order to telegraph the news to London. The newspaper
articles had prepared men's minds for the reception of the
By eight o'clock a number of boys and unemployed men had
already started for the common to see the "dead men from
Mars." That was the form the story took. I heard of it first
from my newspaper boy about a quarter to nine when I went
out to get my Daily Chronicle. I was naturally
startled, and lost no time in going out and across the
Ottershaw bridge to the sand pits.
ON HORSELL COMMON
I found a little crowd of perhaps twenty people
surrounding the huge hole in which the cylinder lay. I have
already described the appearance of that colossal bulk,
embedded in the ground. The turf and gravel about it seemed
charred as if by a sudden explosion. No doubt its impact had
caused a flash of fire. Henderson and Ogilvy were not there.
I think they perceived that nothing was to be done for the
present, and had gone away to breakfast at Henderson's
There were four or five boys sitting on the edge of the
Pit, with their feet dangling, and amusing themselves--until
I stopped them--by throwing stones at the giant mass. After
I had spoken to them about it, they began playing at "touch"
in and out of the group of bystanders.
Among these were a couple of cyclists, a jobbing gardener
I employed sometimes, a girl carrying a baby, Gregg the
butcher and his little boy, and two or three loafers and
golf caddies who were accustomed to hang about the railway
station. There was very little talking. Few of the common
people in England had anything but the vaguest astronomical
ideas in those days. Most of them were staring quietly at
the big table like end of the cylinder, which was still as
Ogilvy and Henderson had left it. I fancy the popular
expectation of a heap of charred corpses was disappointed at
this inanimate bulk. Some went away while I was there, and
other people came. I clambered into the pit and fancied I
heard a faint movement under my feet. The top had certainly
ceased to rotate.
It was only when I got thus close to it that the
strangeness of this object was at all evident to me. At the
first glance it was really no more exciting than an
overturned carriage or a tree blown across the road. Not so
much so, indeed. It looked like a rusty gas float. It
required a certain amount of scientific education to
perceive that the grey scale of the Thing was no common
oxide, that the yellowish-white metal that gleamed in the
crack between the lid and the cylinder had an unfamiliar
hue. "Extra-terrestrial" had no meaning for most of the
At that time it was quite clear in my own mind that the
Thing had come from the planet Mars, but I judged it
improbable that it contained any living creature. I thought
the unscrewing might be automatic. In spite of Ogilvy, I
still believed that there were men in Mars. My mind ran
fancifully on the possibilities of its containing
manuscript, on the difficulties in translation that might
arise, whether we should find coins and models in it, and so
forth. Yet it was a little too large for assurance on this
idea. I felt an impatience to see it opened. About eleven,
as nothing seemed happening, I walked back, full of such
thought, to my home in Maybury. But I found it difficult to
get to work upon my abstract investigations.
In the afternoon the appearance of the common had altered
very much. The early editions of the evening papers had
startled London with enormous headlines:
"A MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM MARS."
"REMARKABLE STORY FROM WOKING,"
and so forth. In addition, Ogilvy's wire to the
Astronomical Exchange had roused every observatory in the
There were half a dozen flies or more from the Woking
station standing in the road by the sand pits, a
basket-chaise from Chobham, and a rather lordly carriage.
Besides that, there was quite a heap of bicycles. In
addition, a large number of people must have walked, in
spite of the heat of the day, from Woking and Chertsey, so
that there was altogether quite a considerable crowd--one or
two gaily dressed ladies among the others.
It was glaringly hot, not a cloud in the sky nor a breath
of wind, and the only shadow was that of the few scattered
pine trees. The burning heather had been extinguished, but
the level ground towards Ottershaw was blackened as far as
one could see, and still giving off vertical streamers of
smoke. An enterprising sweet-stuff dealer in the Chobham
Road had sent up his son with a barrow-load of green apples
and ginger beer.
Going to the edge of the pit, I found it occupied by a
group of about half a dozen men--Henderson, Ogilvy, and a
tall, fair-haired man that I afterwards learned was Stent,
the Astronomer Royal, with several workmen wielding spades
and pickaxes. Stent was giving directions in a clear,
high-pitched voice. He was standing on the cylinder, which
was now evidently much cooler; his face was crimson and
streaming with perspiration, and something seemed to have
A large portion of the cylinder had been uncovered,
though its lower end was still embedded. As soon as Ogilvy
saw me among the staring crowd on the edge of the pit he
called to me to come down, and asked me if I would mind
going over to see Lord Hilton, the lord of the manor.
The growing crowd, he said, was becoming a serious
impediment to their excavations, especially the boys. They
wanted a light railing put up, and help to keep the people
back. He told me that a faint stirring was occasionally
still audible within the case, but that the workmen had
failed to unscrew the top, as it afforded no grip to them.
The case appeared to be enormously thick, and it was
possible that the faint sounds we heard represented a noisy
tumult in the interior.
I was very glad to do as he asked, and so become one of
the privileged spectators within the contemplated enclosure.
I failed to find Lord Hilton at his house, but I was told he
was expected from London by the six o'clock train from
Waterloo; and as it was then about a quarter past five, I
went home, had some tea, and walked up to the station to
THE CYLINDER OPENS
When I returned to the common the sun was setting.
Scattered groups were hurrying from the direction of Woking,
and one or two persons were returning. The crowd about the
pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon
yellow of the sky--a couple of hundred people, perhaps.
There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared
to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed
through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent's voice:
"Keep back! Keep back!"
A boy came running towards me.
"It's a-movin'," he said to me as he passed; "a-screwin'
and a-screwin' out. I don't like it. I'm a-goin' 'ome, I
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should
think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one
another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the
"He's fallen in the pit!" cried some one.
"Keep back!" said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through.
Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming
sound from the pit.
"I say!" said Ogilvy; "help keep these idiots back. We
don't know what's in the confounded thing, you know!"
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe
he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out
of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from
within. Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody
blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched
onto the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the
screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell
upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow
into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the
Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed
perfectly black. I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge--possibly
something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all
essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently
saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy
movements, one above another, and then two luminous
disks--like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey
snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out
of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards
me--and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from
a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon
the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now
projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of
the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the
faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate
exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement
backwards. I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of
the pit. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the
other side of the pit running off, Stent among them. I
looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror
gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear,
was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it
bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me
steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the
thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There
was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which
quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature
heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular
appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed
in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely
imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar
V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of
brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike
lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon
groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs
in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and
painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational
energy of the earth--above all, the extraordinary intensity
of the immense eyes--were at once vital, intense, inhuman,
crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the
oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the
tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first
encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the
brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud
like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a
peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures
appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of
trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly
and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I
stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The
common round the sand pits was dotted with people, standing
like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these
creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the
pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I
saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of
the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in,
but showing as a little black object against the hot western
sun. Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he
seemed to slip back until only his head was visible.
Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint
shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to go back
and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep
pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had
made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking
would have been amazed at the sight--a dwindling multitude
of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great
irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates
and hedges, saying little to one another and that in short,
excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of
sand. The barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict,
black against the burning sky, and in the sand pits was a
row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of
nosebags or pawing the ground.
After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging from
the cylinder in which they had come to the earth from their
planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions. I
remained standing knee-deep in the heather, staring at the
mound that hid them. I was a battleground of fear and
I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a
passionate longing to peer into it. I began walking,
therefore, in a big curve, seeking some point of vantage and
continually looking at the sand heaps that hid these
new-comers to our earth. Once a leash of thin black whips,
like the arms of an octopus, flashed across the sunset and
was immediately withdrawn, and afterwards a thin rod rose
up, joint by joint, bearing at its apex a circular disk that
spun with a wobbling motion. What could be going on there?
Most of the spectators had gathered in one or two
groups--one a little crowd towards Woking, the other a knot
of people in the direction of Chobham. Evidently they shared
my mental conflict. There were few near me. One man I
approached--he was, I perceived, a neighbour of mine, though
I did not know his name--and accosted. But it was scarcely a
time for articulate conversation.
"What ugly brutes!" he said. "Good God! What ugly
brutes!" He repeated this over and over again.
"Did you see a man in the pit?" I said; but he made no
answer to that. We became silent, and stood watching for a
time side by side, deriving, I fancy, a certain comfort in
one another's company. Then I shifted my position to a
little knoll that gave me the advantage of a yard or more of
elevation and when I looked for him presently he was walking
The sunset faded to twilight before anything further
happened. The crowd far away on the left, towards Woking,
seemed to grow, and I heard now a faint murmur from it. The
little knot of people towards Chobham dispersed. There was
scarcely an intimation of movement from the pit.
It was this, as much as anything, that gave people
courage, and I suppose the new arrivals from Woking also
helped to restore confidence. At any rate, as the dusk came
on a slow, intermittent movement upon the sand pits began, a
movement that seemed to gather force as the stillness of the
evening about the cylinder remained unbroken. Vertical black
figures in twos and threes would advance, stop, watch, and
advance again, spreading out as they did so in a thin
irregular crescent that promised to enclose the pit in its
attenuated horns. I, too, on my side began to move towards
Then I saw some cabmen and others had walked boldly into
the sand pits, and heard the clatter of hoofs and the gride
of wheels. I saw a lad trundling off the barrow of apples.
And then, within thirty yards of the pit, advancing from the
direction of Horsell, I noted a little black knot of men,
the foremost of whom was waving a white flag.
This was the Deputation. There had been a hasty
consultation, and since the Martians were evidently, in
spite of their repulsive forms, intelligent creatures, it
had been resolved to show them, by approaching them with
signals, that we too were intelligent.
Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then
to the left. It was too far for me to recognise anyone
there, but afterwards I learned that Ogilvy, Stent, and
Henderson were with others in this attempt at communication.
This little group had in its advance dragged inward, so to
speak, the circumference of the now almost complete circle
of people, and a number of dim black figures followed it at
Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of
luminous greenish smoke came out of the pit in three
distinct puffs, which drove up, one after the other,
straight into the still air.
This smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be the better word
for it) was so bright that the deep blue sky overhead and
the hazy stretches of brown common towards Chertsey, set
with black pine trees, seemed to darken abruptly as these
puffs arose, and to remain the darker after their dispersal.
At the same time a faint hissing sound became audible.
Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the
white flag at its apex, arrested by these phenomena, a
little knot of small vertical black shapes upon the black
ground. As the green smoke arose, their faces flashed out
pallid green, and faded again as it vanished. Then slowly
the hissing passed into a humming, into a long, loud,
droning noise. Slowly a humped shape rose out of the pit,
and the ghost of a beam of light seemed to flicker out from
Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping
from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men.
It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and
flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were
suddenly and momentarily turned to fire.
Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them
staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run.
I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death
leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I
felt was that it was something very strange. An almost
noiseless and blinding flash of light, and a man fell
headlong and lay still; and as the unseen shaft of heat
passed over them, pine trees burst into fire, and every dry
furze bush became with one dull thud a mass of flames. And
far away towards Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and
hedges and wooden buildings suddenly set alight.
It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming
death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat. I perceived
it coming towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and
was too astounded and stupefied to stir. I heard the crackle
of fire in the sand pits and the sudden squeal of a horse
that was as suddenly stilled. Then it was as if an invisible
yet intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather
between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line
beyond the sand pits the dark ground smoked and crackled.
Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the
road from Woking station opens out on the common. Forth-with
the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, dome-like
object sank slowly out of sight into the pit.
All this had happened with such swiftness that I had
stood motionless, dumbfounded and dazzled by the flashes of
light. Had that death swept through a full circle, it must
inevitably have slain me in my surprise. But it passed and
spared me, and left the night about me suddenly dark and
The undulating common seemed now dark almost to
blackness, except where its roadways lay grey and pale under
the deep blue sky of the early night. It was dark, and
suddenly void of men. Overhead the stars were mustering, and
in the west the sky was still a pale, bright, almost
greenish blue. The tops of the pine trees and the roofs of
Horsell came out sharp and black against the western
afterglow. The Martians and their appliances were altogether
invisible, save for that thin mast upon which their restless
mirror wobbled. Patches of bush and isolated trees here and
there smoked and glowed still, and the houses towards Woking
station were sending up spires of flame into the stillness
of the evening air.
Nothing was changed save for that and a terrible
astonishment. The little group of black specks with the flag
of white had been swept out of existence, and the stillness
of the evening, so it seemed to me, had scarcely been
It came to me that I was upon this dark common, helpless,
unprotected, and alone. Suddenly, like a thing falling upon
me from without, came--fear.
With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through
The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror
not only of the Martians, but of the dusk and stillness all
about me. Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it
had that I ran weeping silently as a child might do. Once I
had turned, I did not dare to look back.
I remember I felt an extraordinary persuasion that I was
being played with, that presently, when I was upon the very
verge of safety, this mysterious death--as swift as the
passage of light--would leap after me from the pit about the
cylinder and strike me down.
THE HEAT-RAY IN THE CHOBHAM ROAD
It is still a matter of wonder how the Martians are able
to slay men so swiftly and so silently. Many think that in
some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a
chamber of practically absolute non-conductivity. This
intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any
object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror
of unknown composition, much as the parabolic mirror of a
lighthouse projects a beam of light. But no one has
absolutely proved these details. However it is done, it is
certain that a beam of heat is the essence of the matter.
Heat, and invisible, instead of visible, light. Whatever is
combustible flashes into flame at its touch, lead runs like
water, it softens iron, cracks and melts glass, and when it
falls upon water, incontinently that explodes into steam.
That night nearly forty people lay under the starlight
about the pit, charred and distorted beyond recognition, and
all night long the common from Horsell to Maybury was
deserted and brightly ablaze.
The news of the massacre probably reached Chobham,
Woking, and Ottershaw about the same time. In Woking the
shops had closed when the tragedy happened, and a number of
people, shop people and so forth, attracted by the stories
they had heard, were walking over the Horsell Bridge and
along the road between the hedges that runs out at last upon
the common. You may imagine the young people brushed up
after the labours of the day, and making this novelty, as
they would make any novelty, the excuse for walking together
and enjoying a trivial flirtation. You may figure to
yourself the hum of voices along the road in the gloaming. .
As yet, of course, few people in Woking even knew that
the cylinder had opened, though poor Henderson had sent a
messenger on a bicycle to the post office with a special
wire to an evening paper.
As these folks came out by twos and threes upon the open,
they found little knots of people talking excitedly and
peering at the spinning mirror over the sand pits, and the
newcomers were, no doubt, soon infected by the excitement of
By half past eight, when the Deputation was destroyed,
there may have been a crowd of three hundred people or more
at this place, besides those who had left the road to
approach the Martians nearer. There were three policemen
too, one of whom was mounted, doing their best, under
instructions from Stent, to keep the people back and deter
them from approaching the cylinder. There was some booing
from those more thoughtless and excitable souls to whom a
crowd is always an occasion for noise and horse-play.
Stent and Ogilvy, anticipating some possibilities of a
collision, had telegraphed from Horsell to the barracks as
soon as the Martians emerged, for the help of a company of
soldiers to protect these strange creatures from violence.
After that they returned to lead that ill-fated advance. The
description of their death, as it was seen by the crowd,
tallies very closely with my own impressions: the three
puffs of green smoke, the deep humming note, and the flashes
But that crowd of people had a far narrower escape than
mine. Only the fact that a hummock of heathery sand
intercepted the lower part of the Heat-Ray saved them. Had
the elevation of the parabolic mirror been a few yards
higher, none could have lived to tell the tale. They saw the
flashes and the men falling and an invisible hand, as it
were, lit the bushes as it hurried towards them through the
twilight. Then, with a whistling note that rose above the
droning of the pit, the beam swung close over their heads,
lighting the tops of the beech trees that line the road, and
splitting the bricks, smashing the windows, firing the
window frames, and bringing down in crumbling ruin a portion
of the gable of the house nearest the corner.
In the sudden thud, hiss, and glare of the igniting
trees, the panic-stricken crowd seems to have swayed
hesitatingly for some moments. Sparks and burning twigs
began to fall into the road, and single leaves like puffs of
flame. Hats and dresses caught fire. Then came a crying from
the common. There were shrieks and shouts, and suddenly a
mounted policeman came galloping through the confusion with
his hands clasped over his head, screaming.
"They're coming!" a woman shrieked, and incontinently
everyone was turning and pushing at those behind, in order
to clear their way to Woking again. They must have bolted as
blindly as a flock of sheep. Where the road grows narrow and
black between the high banks the crowd jammed, and a
desperate struggle occurred. All that crowd did not escape;
three persons at least, two women and a little boy, were
crushed and trampled there, and left to die amid the terror
and the darkness.
HOW I REACHED HOME
For my own part, I remember nothing of my flight except
the stress of blundering against trees and stumbling through
the heather. All about me gathered the invisible terrors of
the Martians; that pitiless sword of heat seemed whirling to
and fro, flourishing overhead before it descended and smote
me out of life. I came into the road between the crossroads
and Horsell, and ran along this to the crossroads.
At last I could go no further; I was exhausted with the
violence of my emotion and of my flight, and I staggered and
fell by the wayside. That was near the bridge that crosses
the canal by the gasworks. I fell and lay still.
I must have remained there some time.
I sat up, strangely perplexed. For a moment, perhaps, I
could not clearly understand how I came there. My terror had
fallen from me like a garment. My hat had gone, and my
collar had burst away from its fastener. A few minutes
before, there had only been three real things before me--the
immensity of the night and space and nature, my own
feebleness and anguish, and the near approach of death. Now
it was as if something turned over, and the point of view
altered abruptly. There was no sensible transition from one
state of mind to the other. I was immediately the self of
every day again--a decent, ordinary citizen. The silent
common, the impulse of my flight, the starting flames, were
as if they had been in a dream. I asked myself had these
latter things indeed happened? I could not credit it.
I rose and walked unsteadily up the steep incline of the
bridge. My mind was blank wonder. My muscles and nerves
seemed drained of their strength. I dare say I staggered
drunkenly. A head rose over the arch, and the figure of a
workman carrying a basket appeared. Beside him ran a little
boy. He passed me, wishing me good night. I was minded to
speak to him, but did not. I answered his greeting with a
meaningless mumble and went on over the bridge.
Over the Maybury arch a train, a billowing tumult of
white, firelit smoke, and a long caterpillar of lighted
windows, went flying south--clatter, clatter, clap, rap, and
it had gone. A dim group of people talked in the gate of one
of the houses in the pretty little row of gables that was
called Oriental Terrace. It was all so real and so familiar.
And that behind me! It was frantic, fantastic! Such things,
I told myself, could not be.
Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know
how far my experience is common. At times I suffer from the
strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world
about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from
somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space,
out of the stress and tragedy of it all. This feeling was
very strong upon me that night. Here was another side to my
But the trouble was the blank incongruity of this
serenity and the swift death flying yonder, not two miles
away. There was a noise of business from the gasworks, and
the electric lamps were all alight. I stopped at the group
"What news from the common?" said I.
There were two men and a woman at the gate.
"Eh?" said one of the men, turning.
"What news from the common?" I said.
"'Ain't yer just been there?" asked the men.
"People seem fair silly about the common," said the woman
over the gate. "What's it all abart?"
"Haven't you heard of the men from Mars?" said I; "the
creatures from Mars?"
"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
"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
"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
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
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, my dear."
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 the case.
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 till dawn.
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
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 starlit sky.
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
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
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
"They aren't to be killed," said the milkman, "if that
can possibly be avoided."
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 Golf Links.
"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 "poor Ogilvy."
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
"Why not shell the darned things strite off and finish
'em?" said the little dark man. "You carn tell what they
"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
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
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 of theirs.
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
"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!" 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 everything.
"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
"I must have a pound," said the landlord, "and I've no
one to drive it."
"I'll give you two," said I, over the stranger's
"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
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
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 Send.
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
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 was upon me. Then I
heard midnight pealing out from Pyrford Church behind me,
and then came the silhouette of Maybury Hill, with its
tree-tops and roofs black and sharp against the red.
Even as I beheld this a lurid green glare lit the road
about me and showed the distant woods towards Addlestone. I
felt a tug at the reins. I saw that the driving clouds had
been pierced as it were by a thread of green fire, suddenly
lighting their confusion and falling into the field to my
left. It was the third falling star!
Close on its apparition, and blindingly violet by
contrast, danced out the first lightning of the gathering
storm, and the thunder burst like a rocket overhead. The
horse took the bit between his teeth and bolted.
A moderate incline runs towards the foot of Maybury Hill,
and down this we clattered. Once the lightning had begun, it
went on in as rapid a succession of flashes as I have ever
seen. The thunderclaps, treading one on the heels of another
and with a strange crackling accompaniment, sounded more
like the working of a gigantic electric machine than the
usual detonating reverberations. The flickering light was
blinding and confusing, and a thin hail smote gustily at my
face as I drove down the slope.
At first I regarded little but the road before me, and
then abruptly my attention was arrested by something that
was moving rapidly down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill.
At first I took it for the wet roof of a house, but one
flash following another showed it to be in swift rolling
movement. It was an elusive vision--a moment of bewildering
darkness, and then, in a flash like daylight, the red masses
of the Orphanage near the crest of the hill, the green tops
of the pine trees, and this problematical object came out
clear and sharp and bright.
And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous
tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young
pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking
engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather;
articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the
clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of
the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over
one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear
almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a
hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted
and bowled violently along the ground? That was the
impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a
milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a
Then suddenly the trees in the pine wood ahead of me were
parted, as brittle reeds are parted by a man thrusting
through them; they were snapped off and driven headlong, and
a second huge tripod appeared, rushing, as it seemed,
headlong towards me. And I was galloping hard to meet it! At
the sight of the second monster my nerve went altogether.
Not stopping to look again, I wrenched the horse's head hard
round to the right and in another moment the dog cart had
heeled over upon the horse; the shafts smashed noisily, and
I was flung sideways and fell heavily into a shallow pool of
I crawled out almost immediately, and crouched, my feet
still in the water, under a clump of furze. The horse lay
motionless (his neck was broken, poor brute!) and by the
lightning flashes I saw the black bulk of the overturned dog
cart and the silhouette of the wheel still spinning slowly.
In another moment the colossal mechanism went striding by
me, and passed uphill towards Pyrford.
Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was
no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it
was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible,
glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine
tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It
picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen
hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable
suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was
a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman's
basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the
joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me. And in an
instant it was gone.
So much I saw then, all vaguely for the flickering of the
lightning, in blinding highlights and dense black shadows.
As it passed it set up an exultant deafening howl that
drowned the thunder--"Aloo! Aloo!"--and in another minute it
was with its companion, half a mile away, stooping over
something in the field. I have no doubt this Thing in the
field was the third of the ten cylinders they had fired at
us from Mars.
For some minutes I lay there in the rain and darkness
watching, by the intermittent light, these monstrous beings
of metal moving about in the distance over the hedge tops. A
thin hail was now beginning, and as it came and went their
figures grew misty and then flashed into clearness again.
Now and then came a gap in the lightning, and the night
swallowed them up.
I was soaked with hail above and puddle water below. It
was some time before my blank astonishment would let me
struggle up the bank to a drier position, or think at all of
my imminent peril.
Not far from me was a little one-roomed squatter's hut of
wood, surrounded by a patch of potato garden. I struggled to
my feet at last, and, crouching and making use of every
chance of cover, I made a run for this. I hammered at the
door, but I could not make the people hear (if there were
any people inside), and after a time I desisted, and,
availing myself of a ditch for the greater part of the way,
succeeded in crawling, unobserved by these monstrous
machines, into the pine woods towards Maybury.
Under cover of this I pushed on, wet and shivering now,
towards my own house. I walked among the trees trying to
find the footpath. It was very dark indeed in the wood, for
the lightning was now becoming infrequent, and the hail,
which was pouring down in a torrent, fell in columns through
the gaps in the heavy foliage.
If I had fully realised the meaning of all the things I
had seen I should have immediately worked my way round
through Byfleet to Street Cobham, and so gone back to rejoin
my wife at Leatherhead. But that night the strangeness of
things about me, and my physical wretchedness, prevented me,
for I was bruised, weary, wet to the skin, deafened and
blinded by the storm.
I had a vague idea of going on to my own house, and that
was as much motive as I had. I staggered through the trees,
fell into a ditch and bruised my knees against a plank, and
finally splashed out into the lane that ran down from the
College Arms. I say splashed, for the storm water was
sweeping the sand down the hill in a muddy torrent. There in
the darkness a man blundered into me and sent me reeling
He gave a cry of terror, sprang sideways, and rushed on
before I could gather my wits sufficiently to speak to him.
So heavy was the stress of the storm just at this place that
I had the hardest task to win my way up the hill. I went
close up to the fence on the left and worked my way along
Near the top I stumbled upon something soft, and, by a
flash of lightning, saw between my feet a heap of black
broadcloth and a pair of boots. Before I could distinguish
clearly how the man lay, the flicker of light had passed. I
stood over him waiting for the next flash. When it came, I
saw that he was a sturdy man, cheaply but not shabbily
dressed; his head was bent under his body, and he lay
crumpled up close to the fence, as though he had been flung
violently against it.
Overcoming the repugnance natural to one who had never
before touched a dead body, I stooped and turned him over to
feel for his heart. He was quite dead. Apparently his neck
had been broken. The lightning flashed for a third time, and
his face leaped upon me. I sprang to my feet. It was the
landlord of the Spotted Dog, whose conveyance I had taken.
I stepped over him gingerly and pushed on up the hill. I
made my way by the police station and the College Arms
towards my own house. Nothing was burning on the hillside,
though from the common there still came a red glare and a
rolling tumult of ruddy smoke beating up against the
drenching hail. So far as I could see by the flashes, the
houses about me were mostly uninjured. By the College Arms a
dark heap lay in the road.
Down the road towards Maybury Bridge there were voices
and the sound of feet, but I had not the courage to shout or
to go to them. I let myself in with my latchkey, closed,
locked and bolted the door, staggered to the foot of the
staircase, and sat down. My imagination was full of those
striding metallic monsters, and of the dead body smashed
against the fence.
I crouched at the foot of the staircase with my back to
the wall, shivering violently.