So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept through the greates_ity in the world just as Monday was dawning—the stream of flight risin_wiftly to a torrent, lashing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations, banked up into a horrible struggle about the shipping in the Thames, an_urrying by every available channel northward and eastward. By ten o'clock th_olice organisation, and by midday even the railway organisations, were losin_oherency, losing shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at las_n that swift liquefaction of the social body.
All the railway lines north of the Thames and the South-Eastern people a_annon Street had been warned by midnight on Sunday, and trains were bein_illed. People were fighting savagely for standing- room in the carriages eve_t two o'clock. By three, people were being trampled and crushed even i_ishopsgate Street, a couple of hundred yards or more from Liverpool Stree_tation; revolvers were fired, people stabbed, and the policemen who had bee_ent to direct the traffic, exhausted and infuriated, were breaking the head_f the people they were called out to protect.
And as the day advanced and the engine drivers and stokers refused to retur_o London, the pressure of the flight drove the people in an ever-thickenin_ultitude away from the stations and along the northward-running roads. B_idday a Martian had been seen at Barnes, and a cloud of slowly sinking blac_apour drove along the Thames and across the flats of Lambeth, cutting off al_scape over the bridges in its sluggish advance. Another bank drove ove_aling, and surrounded a little island of survivors on Castle Hill, alive, bu_nable to escape.
After a fruitless struggle to get aboard a North-Western train at Chal_arm—the engines of the trains that had loaded in the goods yard ther_LOUGHED through shrieking people, and a dozen stalwart men fought to keep th_rowd from crushing the driver against his furnace—my brother emerged upon th_halk Farm road, dodged across through a hurrying swarm of vehicles, and ha_he luck to be foremost in the sack of a cycle shop. The front tire of th_achine he got was punctured in dragging it through the window, but he got u_nd off, notwithstanding, with no further injury than a cut wrist. The stee_oot of Haverstock Hill was impassable owing to several overturned horses, an_y brother struck into Belsize Road.
So he got out of the fury of the panic, and, skirting the Edgware Road, reached Edgware about seven, fasting and wearied, but well ahead of the crowd.
Along the road people were standing in the roadway, curious, wondering. He wa_assed by a number of cyclists, some horsemen, and two motor cars. A mile fro_dgware the rim of the wheel broke, and the machine became unridable. He lef_t by the roadside and trudged through the village. There were shops hal_pened in the main street of the place, and people crowded on the pavement an_n the doorways and windows, staring astonished at this extraordinar_rocession of fugitives that was beginning. He succeeded in getting some foo_t an inn.
For a time he remained in Edgware not knowing what next to do. The flyin_eople increased in number. Many of them, like my brother, seemed inclined t_oiter in the place. There was no fresh news of the invaders from Mars.
At that time the road was crowded, but as yet far from congested. Most of th_ugitives at that hour were mounted on cycles, but there were soon motor cars, hansom cabs, and carriages hurrying along, and the dust hung in heavy cloud_long the road to St. Albans.
It was perhaps a vague idea of making his way to Chelmsford, where som_riends of his lived, that at last induced my brother to strike into a quie_ane running eastward. Presently he came upon a stile, and, crossing it, followed a footpath northeastward. He passed near several farmhouses and som_ittle places whose names he did not learn. He saw few fugitives until, in _rass lane towards High Barnet, he happened upon two ladies who became hi_ellow travellers. He came upon them just in time to save them.
He heard their screams, and, hurrying round the corner, saw a couple of me_truggling to drag them out of the little pony-chaise in which they had bee_riving, while a third with difficulty held the frightened pony's head. One o_he ladies, a short woman dressed in white, was simply screaming; the other, _ark, slender figure, slashed at the man who gripped her arm with a whip sh_eld in her disengaged hand.
My brother immediately grasped the situation, shouted, and hurried towards th_truggle. One of the men desisted and turned towards him, and my brother, realising from his antagonist's face that a fight was unavoidable, and bein_n expert boxer, went into him forthwith and sent him down against the whee_f the chaise.
It was no time for pugilistic chivalry and my brother laid him quiet with _ick, and gripped the collar of the man who pulled at the slender lady's arm.
He heard the clatter of hoofs, the whip stung across his face, a thir_ntagonist struck him between the eyes, and the man he held wrenched himsel_ree and made off down the lane in the direction from which he had come.
Partly stunned, he found himself facing the man who had held the horse's head, and became aware of the chaise receding from him down the lane, swaying fro_ide to side, and with the women in it looking back. The man before him, _urly rough, tried to close, and he stopped him with a blow in the face. Then, realising that he was deserted, he dodged round and made off down the lan_fter the chaise, with the sturdy man close behind him, and the fugitive, wh_ad turned now, following remotely.
Suddenly he stumbled and fell; his immediate pursuer went headlong, and h_ose to his feet to find himself with a couple of antagonists again. He woul_ave had little chance against them had not the slender lady very pluckil_ulled up and returned to his help. It seems she had had a revolver all thi_ime, but it had been under the seat when she and her companion were attacked.
She fired at six yards' distance, narrowly missing my brother. The les_ourageous of the robbers made off, and his companion followed him, cursin_is cowardice. They both stopped in sight down the lane, where the third ma_ay insensible.
"Take this!" said the slender lady, and she gave my brother her revolver.
"Go back to the chaise," said my brother, wiping the blood from his split lip.
She turned without a word—they were both panting—and they went back to wher_he lady in white struggled to hold back the frightened pony.
The robbers had evidently had enough of it. When my brother looked again the_ere retreating.
"I'll sit here," said my brother, "if I may"; and he got upon the empty fron_eat. The lady looked over her shoulder.
"Give me the reins," she said, and laid the whip along the pony's side. I_nother moment a bend in the road hid the three men from my brother's eyes.
So, quite unexpectedly, my brother found himself, panting, with a cut mouth, _ruised jaw, and bloodstained knuckles, driving along an unknown lane wit_hese two women.
He learned they were the wife and the younger sister of a surgeon living a_tanmore, who had come in the small hours from a dangerous case at Pinner, an_eard at some railway station on his way of the Martian advance. He ha_urried home, roused the women—their servant had left them two day_efore—packed some provisions, put his revolver under the seat—luckily for m_rother—and told them to drive on to Edgware, with the idea of getting a trai_here. He stopped behind to tell the neighbours. He would overtake them, h_aid, at about half past four in the morning, and now it was nearly nine an_hey had seen nothing of him. They could not stop in Edgware because of th_rowing traffic through the place, and so they had come into this side lane.
That was the story they told my brother in fragments when presently the_topped again, nearer to New Barnet. He promised to stay with them, at leas_ntil they could determine what to do, or until the missing man arrived, an_rofessed to be an expert shot with the revolver—a weapon strange to him—i_rder to give them confidence.
They made a sort of encampment by the wayside, and the pony became happy i_he hedge. He told them of his own escape out of London, and all that he kne_f these Martians and their ways. The sun crept higher in the sky, and after _ime their talk died out and gave place to an uneasy state of anticipation.
Several wayfarers came along the lane, and of these my brother gathered suc_ews as he could. Every broken answer he had deepened his impression of th_reat disaster that had come on humanity, deepened his persuasion of th_mmediate necessity for prosecuting this flight. He urged the matter upo_hem.
"We have money," said the slender woman, and hesitated.
Her eyes met my brother's, and her hesitation ended.
"So have I," said my brother.
She explained that they had as much as thirty pounds in gold, besides a five- pound note, and suggested that with that they might get upon a train at St.
Albans or New Barnet. My brother thought that was hopeless, seeing the fury o_he Londoners to crowd upon the trains, and broached his own idea of strikin_cross Essex towards Harwich and thence escaping from the country altogether.
Mrs. Elphinstone—that was the name of the woman in white—would listen to n_easoning, and kept calling upon "George"; but her sister-in-law wa_stonishingly quiet and deliberate, and at last agreed to my brother'_uggestion. So, designing to cross the Great North Road, they went on toward_arnet, my brother leading the pony to save it as much as possible. As the su_rept up the sky the day became excessively hot, and under foot a thick, whitish sand grew burning and blinding, so that they travelled only ver_lowly. The hedges were grey with dust. And as they advanced towards Barnet _umultuous murmuring grew stronger.
They began to meet more people. For the most part these were staring befor_hem, murmuring indistinct questions, jaded, haggard, unclean. One man i_vening dress passed them on foot, his eyes on the ground. They heard hi_oice, and, looking back at him, saw one hand clutched in his hair and th_ther beating invisible things. His paroxysm of rage over, he went on his wa_ithout once looking back.
As my brother's party went on towards the crossroads to the south of Barne_hey saw a woman approaching the road across some fields on their left, carrying a child and with two other children; and then passed a man in dirt_lack, with a thick stick in one hand and a small portmanteau in the other.
Then round the corner of the lane, from between the villas that guarded it a_ts confluence with the high road, came a little cart drawn by a sweatin_lack pony and driven by a sallow youth in a bowler hat, grey with dust. Ther_ere three girls, East End factory girls, and a couple of little childre_rowded in the cart.
"This'll tike us rahnd Edgware?" asked the driver, wild-eyed, white-faced; an_hen my brother told him it would if he turned to the left, he whipped up a_nce without the formality of thanks.
My brother noticed a pale grey smoke or haze rising among the houses in fron_f them, and veiling the white facade of a terrace beyond the road tha_ppeared between the backs of the villas. Mrs. Elphinstone suddenly cried ou_t a number of tongues of smoky red flame leaping up above the houses in fron_f them against the hot, blue sky. The tumultuous noise resolved itself no_nto the disorderly mingling of many voices, the gride of many wheels, th_reaking of waggons, and the staccato of hoofs. The lane came round sharpl_ot fifty yards from the crossroads.
"Good heavens!" cried Mrs. Elphinstone. "What is this you are driving u_nto?"
My brother stopped.
For the main road was a boiling stream of people, a torrent of human being_ushing northward, one pressing on another. A great bank of dust, white an_uminous in the blaze of the sun, made everything within twenty feet of th_round grey and indistinct and was perpetually renewed by the hurrying feet o_ dense crowd of horses and of men and women on foot, and by the wheels o_ehicles of every description.
"Way!" my brother heard voices crying. "Make way!"
It was like riding into the smoke of a fire to approach the meeting point o_he lane and road; the crowd roared like a fire, and the dust was hot an_ungent. And, indeed, a little way up the road a villa was burning and sendin_olling masses of black smoke across the road to add to the confusion.
Two men came past them. Then a dirty woman, carrying a heavy bundle an_eeping. A lost retriever dog, with hanging tongue, circled dubiously roun_hem, scared and wretched, and fled at my brother's threat.
So much as they could see of the road Londonward between the houses to th_ight was a tumultuous stream of dirty, hurrying people, pent in between th_illas on either side; the black heads, the crowded forms, grew int_istinctness as they rushed towards the corner, hurried past, and merged thei_ndividuality again in a receding multitude that was swallowed up at last in _loud of dust.
"Go on! Go on!" cried the voices. "Way! Way!"
One man's hands pressed on the back of another. My brother stood at the pony'_ead. Irresistibly attracted, he advanced slowly, pace by pace, down the lane.
Edgware had been a scene of confusion, Chalk Farm a riotous tumult, but thi_as a whole population in movement. It is hard to imagine that host. It had n_haracter of its own. The figures poured out past the corner, and receded wit_heir backs to the group in the lane. Along the margin came those who were o_oot threatened by the wheels, stumbling in the ditches, blundering into on_nother.
The carts and carriages crowded close upon one another, making little way fo_hose swifter and more impatient vehicles that darted forward every now an_hen when an opportunity showed itself of doing so, sending the peopl_cattering against the fences and gates of the villas.
"Push on!" was the cry. "Push on! They are coming!"
In one cart stood a blind man in the uniform of the Salvation Army, gesticulating with his crooked fingers and bawling, "Eternity! Eternity!" Hi_oice was hoarse and very loud so that my brother could hear him long after h_as lost to sight in the dust. Some of the people who crowded in the cart_hipped stupidly at their horses and quarrelled with other drivers; some sa_otionless, staring at nothing with miserable eyes; some gnawed their hand_ith thirst, or lay prostrate in the bottoms of their conveyances. The horses'
bits were covered with foam, their eyes bloodshot.
There were cabs, carriages, shop cars, waggons, beyond counting; a mail cart, a road-cleaner's cart marked "Vestry of St. Pancras," a huge timber waggo_rowded with roughs. A brewer's dray rumbled by with its two near wheel_plashed with fresh blood.
"Clear the way!" cried the voices. "Clear the way!"
"Eter-nity! Eter-nity!" came echoing down the road.
There were sad, haggard women tramping by, well dressed, with children tha_ried and stumbled, their dainty clothes smothered in dust, their weary face_meared with tears. With many of these came men, sometimes helpful, sometime_owering and savage. Fighting side by side with them pushed some weary stree_utcast in faded black rags, wide-eyed, loud-voiced, and foul-mouthed. Ther_ere sturdy workmen thrusting their way along, wretched, unkempt men, clothe_ike clerks or shopmen, struggling spasmodically; a wounded soldier my brothe_oticed, men dressed in the clothes of railway porters, one wretched creatur_n a nightshirt with a coat thrown over it.
But varied as its composition was, certain things all that host had in common.
There were fear and pain on their faces, and fear behind them. A tumult up th_oad, a quarrel for a place in a waggon, sent the whole host of the_uickening their pace; even a man so scared and broken that his knees ben_nder him was galvanised for a moment into renewed activity. The heat and dus_ad already been at work upon this multitude. Their skins were dry, their lip_lack and cracked. They were all thirsty, weary, and footsore. And amid th_arious cries one heard disputes, reproaches, groans of weariness and fatigue; the voices of most of them were hoarse and weak. Through it all ran a refrain:
"Way! Way! The Martians are coming!"
Few stopped and came aside from that flood. The lane opened slantingly int_he main road with a narrow opening, and had a delusive appearance of comin_rom the direction of London. Yet a kind of eddy of people drove into it_outh; weaklings elbowed out of the stream, who for the most part rested but _oment before plunging into it again. A little way down the lane, with tw_riends bending over him, lay a man with a bare leg, wrapped about with blood_ags. He was a lucky man to have friends.
A little old man, with a grey military moustache and a filthy black froc_oat, limped out and sat down beside the trap, removed his boot—his sock wa_lood-stained—shook out a pebble, and hobbled on again; and then a little gir_f eight or nine, all alone, threw herself under the hedge close by m_rother, weeping.
"I can't go on! I can't go on!"
My brother woke from his torpor of astonishment and lifted her up, speakin_ently to her, and carried her to Miss Elphinstone. So soon as my brothe_ouched her she became quite still, as if frightened.
"Ellen!" shrieked a woman in the crowd, with tears in her voice—"Ellen!" An_he child suddenly darted away from my brother, crying "Mother!"
"They are coming," said a man on horseback, riding past along the lane.
"Out of the way, there!" bawled a coachman, towering high; and my brother sa_ closed carriage turning into the lane.
The people crushed back on one another to avoid the horse. My brother pushe_he pony and chaise back into the hedge, and the man drove by and stopped a_he turn of the way. It was a carriage, with a pole for a pair of horses, bu_nly one was in the traces. My brother saw dimly through the dust that two me_ifted out something on a white stretcher and put it gently on the gras_eneath the privet hedge.
One of the men came running to my brother.
"Where is there any water?" he said. "He is dying fast, and very thirsty. I_s Lord Garrick."
"Lord Garrick!" said my brother; "the Chief Justice?"
"The water?" he said.
"There may be a tap," said my brother, "in some of the houses. We have n_ater. I dare not leave my people."
The man pushed against the crowd towards the gate of the corner house.
"Go on!" said the people, thrusting at him. "They are coming! Go on!"
Then my brother's attention was distracted by a bearded, eagle- faced ma_ugging a small handbag, which split even as my brother's eyes rested on i_nd disgorged a mass of sovereigns that seemed to break up into separate coin_s it struck the ground. They rolled hither and thither among the strugglin_eet of men and horses. The man stopped and looked stupidly at the heap, an_he shaft of a cab struck his shoulder and sent him reeling. He gave a shrie_nd dodged back, and a cartwheel shaved him narrowly.
"Way!" cried the men all about him. "Make way!"
So soon as the cab had passed, he flung himself, with both hands open, upo_he heap of coins, and began thrusting handfuls in his pocket. A horse ros_lose upon him, and in another moment, half rising, he had been borne dow_nder the horse's hoofs.
"Stop!" screamed my brother, and pushing a woman out of his way, tried t_lutch the bit of the horse.
Before he could get to it, he heard a scream under the wheels, and saw throug_he dust the rim passing over the poor wretch's back. The driver of the car_lashed his whip at my brother, who ran round behind the cart. Th_ultitudinous shouting confused his ears. The man was writhing in the dus_mong his scattered money, unable to rise, for the wheel had broken his back, and his lower limbs lay limp and dead. My brother stood up and yelled at th_ext driver, and a man on a black horse came to his assistance.
"Get him out of the road," said he; and, clutching the man's collar with hi_ree hand, my brother lugged him sideways. But he still clutched after hi_oney, and regarded my brother fiercely, hammering at his arm with a handfu_f gold. "Go on! Go on!" shouted angry voices behind.
There was a smash as the pole of a carriage crashed into the cart that the ma_n horseback stopped. My brother looked up, and the man with the gold twiste_is head round and bit the wrist that held his collar. There was a concussion, and the black horse came staggering sideways, and the carthorse pushed besid_t. A hoof missed my brother's foot by a hair's breadth. He released his gri_n the fallen man and jumped back. He saw anger change to terror on the fac_f the poor wretch on the ground, and in a moment he was hidden and my brothe_as borne backward and carried past the entrance of the lane, and had to figh_ard in the torrent to recover it.
He saw Miss Elphinstone covering her eyes, and a little child, with all _hild's want of sympathetic imagination, staring with dilated eyes at a dust_omething that lay black and still, ground and crushed under the rollin_heels. "Let us go back!" he shouted, and began turning the pony round. "W_annot cross this—hell," he said and they went back a hundred yards the wa_hey had come, until the fighting crowd was hidden. As they passed the bend i_he lane my brother saw the face of the dying man in the ditch under th_rivet, deadly white and drawn, and shining with perspiration. The two wome_at silent, crouching in their seat and shivering.
Then beyond the bend my brother stopped again. Miss Elphinstone was white an_ale, and her sister-in-law sat weeping, too wretched even to call upon
"George." My brother was horrified and perplexed. So soon as they ha_etreated he realised how urgent and unavoidable it was to attempt thi_rossing. He turned to Miss Elphinstone, suddenly resolute.
"We must go that way," he said, and led the pony round again.
For the second time that day this girl proved her quality. To force their wa_nto the torrent of people, my brother plunged into the traffic and held bac_ cab horse, while she drove the pony across its head. A waggon locked wheel_or a moment and ripped a long splinter from the chaise. In another momen_hey were caught and swept forward by the stream. My brother, with th_abman's whip marks red across his face and hands, scrambled into the chais_nd took the reins from her.
"Point the revolver at the man behind," he said, giving it to her, "if h_resses us too hard. No!—point it at his horse."
Then he began to look out for a chance of edging to the right across the road.
But once in the stream he seemed to lose volition, to become a part of tha_usty rout. They swept through Chipping Barnet with the torrent; they wer_early a mile beyond the centre of the town before they had fought across t_he opposite side of the way. It was din and confusion indescribable; but i_nd beyond the town the road forks repeatedly, and this to some exten_elieved the stress.
They struck eastward through Hadley, and there on either side of the road, an_t another place farther on they came upon a great multitude of peopl_rinking at the stream, some fighting to come at the water. And farther on, from a lull near East Barnet, they saw two trains running slowly one after th_ther without signal or order— trains swarming with people, with men eve_mong the coals behind the engines—going northward along the Great Norther_ailway. My brother supposes they must have filled outside London, for at tha_ime the furious terror of the people had rendered the central termin_mpossible.
Near this place they halted for the rest of the afternoon, for the violence o_he day had already utterly exhausted all three of them. They began to suffe_he beginnings of hunger; the night was cold, and none of them dared to sleep.
And in the evening many people came hurrying along the road nearby thei_topping place, fleeing from unknown dangers before them, and going in th_irection from which my brother had come.