BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 17: THE "THUNDER CHILD"
Until about midday the Pool of London was an astonishing
scene. Steamboats and shipping of all sorts lay there, tempted
by the enormous sums of money offered by fugitives, and it
is said that many who swam out to these vessels were thrust
off with boathooks and drowned. About one o'clock in the
afternoon the thinning remnant of a cloud of the black vapour
appeared between the arches of Blackfriars Bridge. At that
the Pool became a scene of mad confusion, fighting, and
collision, and for some time a multitude of boats and barges
jammed in the northern arch of the Tower Bridge, and the
sailors and lightermen had to fight savagely against the
people who swarmed upon them from the riverfront. People
were actually clambering down the piers of the bridge from
When, an hour later, a Martian appeared beyond the
Clock Tower and waded down the river, nothing but wreckage floated above Limehouse.
Of the falling of the fifth cylinder I have presently to tell.
The sixth star fell at Wimbledon. My brother, keeping watch
beside the women in the chaise in a meadow, saw the green
flash of it far beyond the hills. On Tuesday the little party,
still set upon getting across the sea, made its way through
the swarming country towards Colchester. The news that the
Martians were now in possession of the whole of London was
confirmed. They had been seen at Highgate, and even, it
was said, at Neasden. But they did not come into my brother's
view until the morrow.
That day the scattered multitudes began to realise the
urgent need of provisions. As they grew hungry the rights
of property ceased to be regarded. Farmers were out to
defend their cattle-sheds, granaries, and ripening root crops
with arms in their hands. A number of people now, like my
brother, had their faces eastward, and there were some desperate souls even going back towards London to get food.
These were chiefly people from the northern suburbs, whose
knowledge of the Black Smoke came by hearsay. He heard
that about half the members of the government had gathered
at Birmingham, and that enormous quantities of high explosives were being prepared to be used in automatic mines
across the Midland counties.