The most extraordinary thing to my mind, of all the strange and wonderfu_hings that happened upon that Friday, was the dovetailing of the commonplac_abits of our social order with the first beginnings of the series of event_hat was to topple that social order headlong. If on Friday night you ha_aken a pair of compasses and drawn a circle with a radius of five miles roun_he Woking sand pits, I doubt if you would have had one human being outsid_t, unless it were some relation of Stent or of the three or four cyclists o_ondon people lying dead on the common, whose emotions or habits were at al_ffected by the new-comers. Many people had heard of the cylinder, of course,
and talked about it in their leisure, but it certainly did not make th_ensation that an ultimatum to Germany would have done.
In London that night poor Henderson’s telegram describing the gradua_nscrewing of the shot was judged to be a canard, and his evening paper, afte_iring for authentication from him and receiving no reply—the man wa_illed—decided not to print a special edition.
Even within the five-mile circle the great majority of people were inert. _ave already described the behaviour of the men and women to whom I spoke. Al_ver the district people were dining and supping; working men were gardenin_fter the labours of the day, children were being put to bed, young peopl_ere wandering through the lanes love- making, students sat over their books.
Maybe there was a murmur in the village streets, a novel and dominant topic i_he public-houses, and here and there a messenger, or even an eye-witness o_he later occurrences, caused a whirl of excitement, a shouting, and a runnin_o and fro; but for the most part the daily routine of working, eating,
drinking, sleeping, went on as it had done for countless years—as though n_lanet Mars existed in the sky. Even at Woking station and Horsell and Chobha_hat was the case.
In Woking junction, until a late hour, trains were stopping and going on,
others were shunting on the sidings, passengers were alighting and waiting,
and everything was proceeding in the most ordinary way. A boy from the town,
trenching on Smith’s monopoly, was selling papers with the afternoon’s news.
The ringing impact of trucks, the sharp whistle of the engines from th_unction, mingled with their shouts of “Men from Mars!” Excited men came int_he station about nine o’clock with incredible tidings, and caused no mor_isturbance than drunkards might have done. People rattling Londonwards peere_nto the darkness outside the carriage windows, and saw only a rare,
flickering, vanishing spark dance up from the direction of Horsell, a red glo_nd a thin veil of smoke driving across the stars, and thought that nothin_ore serious than a heath fire was happening. It was only round the edge o_he common that any disturbance was perceptible. There were half a doze_illas burning on the Woking border. There were lights in all the houses o_he common side of the three villages, and the people there kept awake til_awn.
A curious crowd lingered restlessly, people coming and going but the crow_emaining, both on the Chobham and Horsell bridges. One or two adventurou_ouls, it was afterwards found, went into the darkness and crawled quite nea_he Martians; but they never returned, for now and again a light-ray, like th_eam of a warship’s searchlight swept the common, and the Heat-Ray was read_o follow. Save for such, that big area of common was silent and desolate, an_he charred bodies lay about on it all night under the stars, and all the nex_ay. A noise of hammering from the pit was heard by many people.
So you have the state of things on Friday night. In the centre, sticking int_he skin of our old planet Earth like a poisoned dart, was this cylinder. Bu_he poison was scarcely working yet. Around it was a patch of silent common,
smouldering in places, and with a few dark, dimly seen objects lying i_ontorted attitudes here and there. Here and there was a burning bush or tree.
Beyond was a fringe of excitement, and farther than that fringe th_nflammation had not crept as yet. In the rest of the world the stream of lif_till flowed as it had flowed for immemorial years. The fever of war tha_ould presently clog vein and artery, deaden nerve and destroy brain, ha_till to develop.
All night long the Martians were hammering and stirring, sleepless,
indefatigable, at work upon the machines they were making ready, and ever an_gain a puff of greenish-white smoke whirled up to the starlit sky.
About eleven a company of soldiers came through Horsell, and deployed alon_he edge of the common to form a cordon. Later a second company marche_hrough Chobham to deploy on the north side of the common. Several officer_rom the Inkerman barracks had been on the common earlier in the day, and one,
Major Eden, was reported to be missing. The colonel of the regiment came t_he Chobham bridge and was busy questioning the crowd at midnight. Th_ilitary authorities were certainly alive to the seriousness of the business.
About eleven, the next morning’s papers were able to say, a squadron o_ussars, two Maxims, and about four hundred men of the Cardigan regimen_tarted from Aldershot.
A few seconds after midnight the crowd in the Chertsey road, Woking, saw _tar fall from heaven into the pine woods to the northwest. It had a greenis_olour, and caused a silent brightness like summer lightning. This was th_econd cylinder.