I cannot but regret, now that I am concluding my story, how little I am abl_o contribute to the discussion of the many debatable questions which ar_till unsettled. In one respect I shall certainly provoke criticism. M_articular province is speculative philosophy. My knowledge of comparativ_hysiology is confined to a book or two, but it seems to me that Carver'_uggestions as to the reason of the rapid death of the Martians is so probabl_s to be regarded almost as a proven conclusion. I have assumed that in th_ody of my narrative.
At any rate, in all the bodies of the Martians that were examined after th_ar, no bacteria except those already known as terrestrial species were found.
That they did not bury any of their dead, and the reckless slaughter the_erpetrated, point also to an entire ignorance of the putrefactive process.
But probable as this seems, it is by no means a proven conclusion.
Neither is the composition of the Black Smoke known, which the Martians use_ith such deadly effect, and the generator of the Heat- Rays remains a puzzle.
The terrible disasters at the Ealing and South Kensington laboratories hav_isinclined analysts for further investigations upon the latter. Spectru_nalysis of the black powder points unmistakably to the presence of an unknow_lement with a brilliant group of three lines in the green, and it is possibl_hat it combines with argon to form a compound which acts at once with deadl_ffect upon some constituent in the blood. But such unproven speculations wil_carcely be of interest to the general reader, to whom this story i_ddressed. None of the brown scum that drifted down the Thames after th_estruction of Shepperton was examined at the time, and now none i_orthcoming.
The results of an anatomical examination of the Martians, so far as th_rowling dogs had left such an examination possible, I have already given. Bu_veryone is familiar with the magnificent and almost complete specimen i_pirits at the Natural History Museum, and the countless drawings that hav_een made from it; and beyond that the interest of their physiology an_tructure is purely scientific.
A question of graver and universal interest is the possibility of anothe_ttack from the Martians. I do not think that nearly enough attention is bein_iven to this aspect of the matter. At present the planet Mars is i_onjunction, but with every return to opposition I, for one, anticipate _enewal of their adventure. In any case, we should be prepared. It seems to m_hat it should be possible to define the position of the gun from which th_hots are discharged, to keep a sustained watch upon this part of the planet,
and to anticipate the arrival of the next attack.
In that case the cylinder might be destroyed with dynamite or artillery befor_t was sufficiently cool for the Martians to emerge, or they might b_utchered by means of guns so soon as the screw opened. It seems to me tha_hey have lost a vast advantage in the failure of their first surprise.
Possibly they see it in the same light.
Lessing has advanced excellent reasons for supposing that the Martians hav_ctually succeeded in effecting a landing on the planet Venus. Seven month_go now, Venus and Mars were in alignment with the sun; that is to say, Mar_as in opposition from the point of view of an observer on Venus. Subsequentl_ peculiar luminous and sinuous marking appeared on the unillumined half o_he inner planet, and almost simultaneously a faint dark mark of a simila_inuous character was detected upon a photograph of the Martian disk. On_eeds to see the drawings of these appearances in order to appreciate full_heir remarkable resemblance in character.
At any rate, whether we expect another invasion or not, our views of the huma_uture must be greatly modified by these events. We have learned now that w_annot regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding place fo_an; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon u_uddenly out of space. It may be that in the larger design of the univers_his invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it ha_obbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitfu_ource of decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous,
and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind.
It may be that across the immensity of space the Martians have watched th_ate of these pioneers of theirs and learned their lesson, and that on th_lanet Venus they have found a securer settlement. Be that as it may, for man_ears yet there will certainly be no relaxation of the eager scrutiny of th_artian disk, and those fiery darts of the sky, the shooting stars, will brin_ith them as they fall an unavoidable apprehension to all the sons of men.
The broadening of men's views that has resulted can scarcely be exaggerated.
Before the cylinder fell there was a general persuasion that through all th_eep of space no life existed beyond the petty surface of our minute sphere.
Now we see further. If the Martians can reach Venus, there is no reason t_uppose that the thing is impossible for men, and when the slow cooling of th_un makes this earth uninhabitable, as at last it must do, it may be that th_hread of life that has begun here will have streamed out and caught ou_ister planet within its toils.
Dim and wonderful is the vision I have conjured up in my mind of lif_preading slowly from this little seed bed of the solar system throughout th_nanimate vastness of sidereal space. But that is a remote dream. It may be,
on the other hand, that the destruction of the Martians is only a reprieve. T_hem, and not to us, perhaps, is the future ordained.
I must confess the stress and danger of the time have left an abiding sense o_oubt and insecurity in my mind. I sit in my study writing by lamplight, an_uddenly I see again the healing valley below set with writhing flames, an_eel the house behind and about me empty and desolate. I go out into th_yfleet Road, and vehicles pass me, a butcher boy in a cart, a cabful o_isitors, a workman on a bicycle, children going to school, and suddenly the_ecome vague and unreal, and I hurry again with the artilleryman through th_ot, brooding silence. Of a night I see the black powder darkening the silen_treets, and the contorted bodies shrouded in that layer; they rise upon m_attered and dog-bitten. They gibber and grow fiercer, paler, uglier, ma_istortions of humanity at last, and I wake, cold and wretched, in th_arkness of the night.
I go to London and see the busy multitudes in Fleet Street and the Strand, an_t comes across my mind that they are but the ghosts of the past, haunting th_treets that I have seen silent and wretched, going to and fro, phantasms in _ead city, the mockery of life in a galvanised body. And strange, too, it i_o stand on Primrose Hill, as I did but a day before writing this las_hapter, to see the great province of houses, dim and blue through the haze o_he smoke and mist, vanishing at last into the vague lower sky, to see th_eople walking to and fro among the flower beds on the hill, to see the sight-
seers about the Martian machine that stands there still, to hear the tumult o_laying children, and to recall the time when I saw it all bright and clear-
cut, hard and silent, under the dawn of that last great day…
And strangest of all is it to hold my wife's hand again, and to think that _ave counted her, and that she has counted me, among the dead.