BOOK TWO: THE EARTH UNDER THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 1: UNDER FOOT
A Martian came across the fields about midday, laying
the stuff with a jet of superheated steam that hissed against
the walls, smashed all the windows it touched, and scalded
the curate's hand as he fled out of the front room. When at
last we crept across the sodden rooms and looked out again,
the country northward was as though a black snowstorm had
passed over it. Looking towards the river, we were astonished
to see an unaccountable redness mingling with the black of
the scorched meadows.
For a time we did not see how this change affected our
position, save that we were relieved of our fear of the Black
Smoke. But later I perceived that we were no longer hemmed
in, that now we might get away. So soon as I realised that
the way of escape was open, my dream of action returned. But
the curate was lethargic, unreasonable.
"We are safe here," he repeated; "safe here."
I resolved to leave him--would that I had! Wiser now for
the artilleryman's teaching, I sought out food and drink. I
had found oil and rags for my burns, and I also took a hat
and a flannel shirt that I found in one of the bedrooms. When
it was clear to him that I meant to go alone--had reconciled
myself to going alone--he suddenly roused himself to come.
And all being quiet throughout the afternoon, we started
about five o'clock, as I should judge, along the blackened
road to Sunbury.
In Sunbury, and at intervals along the road, were dead
bodies lying in contorted attitudes, horses as well as men,
overturned carts and luggage, all covered thickly with black
dust. That pall of cindery powder made me think of what I
had read of the destruction of Pompeii. We got to Hampton
Court without misadventure, our minds full of strange and
unfamiliar appearances, and at Hampton Court our eyes were
relieved to find a patch of green that had escaped the suffocating drift. We went through Bushey Park, with its deer
going to and fro under the chestnuts, and some men and
women hurrying in the distance towards Hampton, and so we
came to Twickenham. These were the first people we saw.