BOOK TWO: THE EARTH UNDER THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 7: THE MAN ON PUTNEY HILL
I spent that night in the inn that stands at the top of
Putney Hill, sleeping in a made bed for the first time since
my flight to Leatherhead. I will not tell the needless trouble
I had breaking into that house--afterwards I found the
front door was on the latch--nor how I ransacked every
room for food, until just on the verge of despair, in what
seemed to me to be a servant's bedroom, I found a rat-gnawed
crust and two tins of pineapple. The place had
been already searched and emptied. In the bar I afterwards
found some biscuits and sandwiches that had been over-looked.
The latter I could not eat, they were too rotten, but
the former not only stayed my hunger, but filled my pockets.
I lit no lamps, fearing some Martian might come beating
that part of London for food in the night. Before I went to
bed I had an interval of restlessness, and prowled from
window to window, peering out for some sign of these
monsters. I slept little. As I lay in bed I found myself thinking consecutively--a thing I do not remember to have done
since my last argument with the curate. During all the intervening time my mental condition had been a hurrying succession of vague emotional states or a sort of stupid receptivity. But in the night my brain, reinforced, I suppose, by
the food I had eaten, grew clear again, and I thought.
Three things struggled for possession of my mind: the
killing of the curate, the whereabouts of the Martians, and
the possible fate of my wife. The former gave me no sensation of horror or remorse to recall; I saw it simply as a thing
done, a memory infinitely disagreeable but quite without the
quality of remorse. I saw myself then as I see myself now,
driven step by step towards that hasty blow, the creature of
a sequence of accidents leading inevitably to that. I felt no
condemnation; yet the memory, static, unprogressive, haunted
me. In the silence of the night, with that sense of the nearness of God that sometimes comes into the stillness and the
darkness, I stood my trial, my only trial, for that moment of
wrath and fear. I retraced every step of our conversation from
the moment when I had found him crouching beside me,
heedless of my thirst, and pointing to the fire and smoke
that streamed up from the ruins of Weybridge. We had been
incapable of co-operation--grim chance had taken no heed
of that. Had I foreseen, I should have left him at Halliford.
But I did not foresee; and crime is to foresee and do. And
I set this down as I have set all this story down, as it was.
There were no witnesses--all these things I might have concealed. But I set it down, and the reader must form his
judgment as he will.