BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 11: AT THE WINDOW
Between these three main centres of light--the houses,
the train, and the burning county towards Chobham--stretched
irregular patches of dark country, broken here and
there by intervals of dimly glowing and smoking ground.
It was the strangest spectacle, that black expanse set with
fire. It reminded me, more than anything else, of the Potteries
at night. At first I could distinguish no people at all, though
I peered intently for them. Later I saw against the light of
Woking station a number of black figures hurrying one after
the other across the line.
And this was the little world in which I had been living
securely for years, this fiery chaos! What had happened in
the last seven hours I still did not know; nor did I know,
though I was beginning to guess, the relation between these
mechanical colossi and the sluggish lumps I had seen disgorged from the cylinder. With a queer feeling of impersonal
interest I turned my desk chair to the window, sat down,
and stared at the blackened country, and particularly at the
three gigantic black things that were going to and fro in
the glare about the sand pits.
They seemed amazingly busy. I began to ask myself what
they could be. Were they intelligent mechanisms? Such a
thing I felt was impossible. Or did a Martian sit within each,
ruling, directing, using, much as a man's brain sits and rules
in his body? I began to compare the things to human machines, to ask myself for the first time in my life how an
ironclad or a steam engine would seem to an intelligent
The storm had left the sky clear, and over the smoke of the
burning land the little fading pinpoint of Mars was dropping
into the west, when a soldier came into my garden. I heard
a slight scraping at the fence, and rousing myself from the
lethargy that had fallen upon me, I looked down and saw
him dimly, clambering over the palings. At the sight of
another human being my torpor passed, and I leaned out
of the window eagerly.
"Hist!" said I, in a whisper.
He stopped astride of the fence in doubt. Then he came
over and across the lawn to the corner of the house. He bent
down and stepped softly.