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 feeble-
ness 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 some-
where 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 of people.
"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 them!"
"Don't, dear!" said my wife, knitting her brows and putting
her hand on mine.
"Poor Ogilvy!" I said. "To think he may be lying dead
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 estab-
lishing 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 influ-
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, temper-
ing nuts with a cigarette, regretting Ogilvy's rashness, and
denouncing the shortsighted timidity of the Martians.
So some respectable dodo in the Mauritius might have
lorded it in his nest, and discussed the arrival of that shipful
of pitiless sailors in want of animal food. "We will peck them
to death tomorrow, 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.