BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 11: AT THE WINDOW
I have already said that my storms of emotion have a
trick of exhausting themselves. After a time I discovered that
I was cold and wet, and with little pools of water about me
on the stair carpet. I got up almost mechanically, went into
the dining room and drank some whiskey, and then I was
moved to change my clothes.
After I had done that I went upstairs to my study, but why
I did so I do not know. The window of my study looks over
the trees and the railway towards Horsell Common. In the
hurry of our departure this window had been left open.
The passage was dark, and, by contrast with the picture the
window frame enclosed, the side of the room seemed impenetrably dark. I stopped short in the doorway.
The thunderstorm had passed. The towers of the Oriental
College and the pine trees about it had gone, and very far
away, lit by a vivid red glare, the common about the sand
pits was visible. Across the light huge black shapes, grotesque and strange, moved busily to and fro.
It seemed indeed as if the whole country in that direction
was on fire--a broad hillside set with minute tongues of flame,
swaying and writhing with the gusts of the dying storm, and
throwing a red reflection upon the cloud scud above. Every
now and then a haze of smoke from some nearer conflagration drove across the window and hid the Martian shapes.
I could not see what they were doing, nor the clear form of
them, nor recognise the black objects they were busied upon.
Neither could I see the nearer fire, though the reflections of
it danced on the wall and ceiling of the study. A sharp,
resinous tang of burning was in the air.
I closed the door noiselessly and crept towards the window.
As I did so, the view opened out until, on the one hand, it
reached to the houses about Woking station, and on the other
to the charred and blackened pine woods of Byfleet. There
was a light down below the hill, on the railway, near the
arch, and several of the houses along the Maybury road
and the streets near the station were glowing ruins. The light
upon the railway puzzled me at first; there were a black heap
and a vivid glare, and to the right of that a row of yellow
oblongs. Then I perceived this was a wrecked train, the fore
part smashed and on fire, the hinder carriages still upon