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 hap-
pen 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 consola-
tion 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, creep-
ing 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 suf-
focating 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 Peter-
sham 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
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 out.
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 carriages.
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 com-
plained of faintness and thirst, and we decided to try one of
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 next house-
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 biscuits.
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 in-
stantaneous 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 as-
"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
"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 Shepperton Church.
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
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. Con-
trasting 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 scullery.
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 hammering, then a violent
hooting, and then again, after a quiet interval, a hissing like
the hissing of an engine. These noises, for the most part
problematical, continued intermittently, and seemed if any-
thing to increase in number as time wore on. Presently a
measured thudding and a vibration that made everything
about us quiver and the vessels in the pantry ring and shift,
began and continued. Once the light was eclipsed, and the
ghostly kitchen doorway became absolutely dark. For many
hours we must have crouched there, silent and shivering,
until our tired attention failed. . . .
At last I found myself awake and very hungry. I am in- clined to believe we must have spent the greater portion of a day before that awakening. My hunger was at a stride so insistent that it moved me to action. I told the curate I was going to seek food, and felt my way towards the pantry. He made me no answer, but so soon as I began eating the faint noise I made stirred him up and I heard him crawling after me.