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Chapter 7 How I Reached Home

  • For my own part, I remember nothing of my flight except the stress o_lundering against trees and stumbling through the heather. All about m_athered the invisible terrors of the Martians; that pitiless sword of hea_eemed whirling to and fro, flourishing overhead before it descended and smot_e out of life. I came into the road between the crossroads and Horsell, an_an along this to the crossroads.
  • At last I could go no further; I was exhausted with the violence of my emotio_nd of my flight, and I staggered and fell by the wayside. That was near th_ridge that crosses the canal by the gasworks. I fell and lay still.
  • I must have remained there some time.
  • I sat up, strangely perplexed. For a moment, perhaps, I could not clearl_nderstand how I came there. My terror had fallen from me like a garment. M_at had gone, and my collar had burst away from its fastener. A few minute_efore, there had only been three real things before me—the immensity of th_ight and space and nature, my own feebleness and anguish, and the nea_pproach of death. Now it was as if something turned over, and the point o_iew altered abruptly. There was no sensible transition from one state of min_o the other. I was immediately the self of every day again—a decent, ordinar_itizen. The silent common, the impulse of my flight, the starting flames,
  • were as if they had been in a dream. I asked myself had these latter thing_ndeed happened? I could not credit it.
  • I rose and walked unsteadily up the steep incline of the bridge. My mind wa_lank wonder. My muscles and nerves seemed drained of their strength. I dar_ay I staggered drunkenly. A head rose over the arch, and the figure of _orkman carrying a basket appeared. Beside him ran a little boy. He passed me,
  • wishing me good night. I was minded to speak to him, but did not. I answere_is greeting with a meaningless mumble and went on over the bridge.
  • Over the Maybury arch a train, a billowing tumult of white, firelit smoke, an_ long caterpillar of lighted windows, went flying south— clatter, clatter,
  • clap, rap, and it had gone. A dim group of people talked in the gate of one o_he houses in the pretty little row of gables that was called Orienta_errace. It was all so real and so familiar. And that behind me! It wa_rantic, fantastic! Such things, I told myself, could not be.
  • Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my experienc_s common. At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment fro_yself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, fro_omewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stres_nd tragedy of it all. This feeling was very strong upon me that night. Her_as another side to my dream.
  • But the trouble was the blank incongruity of this serenity and the swift deat_lying yonder, not two miles away. There was a noise of business from th_asworks, and the electric lamps were all alight. I stopped at the group o_eople.
  • “What news from the common?” said I.
  • There were two men and a woman at the gate.
  • “Eh?” said one of the men, turning.
  • “What news from the common?” I said.
  • “’Ain’t yer just BEEN there?” asked the men.
  • “People seem fair silly about the common,” said the woman over the gate.
  • “What’s it all abart?”
  • “Haven’t you heard of the men from Mars?” said I; “the creatures from Mars?”
  • “Quite enough,” said the woman over the gate. “Thenks”; and all three of the_aughed.
  • I felt foolish and angry. I tried and found I could not tell them what I ha_een. They laughed again at my broken sentences.
  • “You’ll hear more yet,” I said, and went on to my home.
  • I startled my wife at the doorway, so haggard was I. I went into the dinin_oom, sat down, drank some wine, and so soon as I could collect mysel_ufficiently I told her the things I had seen. The dinner, which was a col_ne, had already been served, and remained neglected on the table while I tol_y story.
  • “There is one thing,” I said, to allay the fears I had aroused; “they are th_ost sluggish things I ever saw crawl. They may keep the pit and kill peopl_ho come near them, but they cannot get out of it. … But the horror of them!”
  • “Don’t, dear!” said my wife, knitting her brows and putting her hand on mine.
  • “Poor Ogilvy!” I said. “To think he may be lying dead there!”
  • My wife at least did not find my experience incredible. When I saw how deadl_hite her face was, I ceased abruptly.
  • “They may come here,” she said again and again.
  • I pressed her to take wine, and tried to reassure her.
  • “They can scarcely move,” I said.
  • I began to comfort her and myself by repeating all that Ogilvy had told me o_he impossibility of the Martians establishing themselves on the earth. I_articular I laid stress on the gravitational difficulty. On the surface o_he earth the force of gravity is three times what it is on the surface o_ars. A Martian, therefore, would weigh three times more than on Mars, albei_is muscular strength would be the same. His own body would be a cope of lea_o him. That, indeed, was the general opinion. Both THE TIMES and the DAIL_ELEGRAPH, for instance, insisted on it the next morning, and both overlooked,
  • just as I did, two obvious modifying influences.
  • The atmosphere of the earth, we now know, contains far more oxygen or far les_rgon (whichever way one likes to put it) than does Mars. The invigoratin_nfluences of this excess of oxygen upon the Martians indisputably did much t_ounterbalance the increased weight of their bodies. And, in the second place,
  • we all overlooked the fact that such mechanical intelligence as the Martia_ossessed was quite able to dispense with muscular exertion at a pinch.
  • But I did not consider these points at the time, and so my reasoning was dea_gainst the chances of the invaders. With wine and food, the confidence of m_wn table, and the necessity of reassuring my wife, I grew by insensibl_egrees courageous and secure.
  • “They have done a foolish thing,” said I, fingering my wineglass. “They ar_angerous because, no doubt, they are mad with terror. Perhaps they expecte_o find no living things—certainly no intelligent living things.”
  • “A shell in the pit” said I, “if the worst comes to the worst will kill the_ll.”
  • The intense excitement of the events had no doubt left my perceptive powers i_ state of erethism. I remember that dinner table with extraordinary vividnes_ven now. My dear wife’s sweet anxious face peering at me from under the pin_amp shade, the white cloth with its silver and glass table furniture—for i_hose days even philosophical writers had many little luxuries—the crimson-
  • purple wine in my glass, are photographically distinct. At the end of it _at, tempering nuts with a cigarette, regretting Ogilvy’s rashness, an_enouncing the shortsighted timidity of the Martians.
  • So some respectable dodo in the Mauritius might have lorded it in his nest,
  • and discussed the arrival of that shipful of pitiless sailors in want o_nimal food. “We will peck them to death tomorrow, my dear.”
  • I did not know it, but that was the last civilised dinner I was to eat fo_ery many strange and terrible days.