IN THE STORM
Leatherhead is about twelve miles from Maybury Hill.
The scent of hay was in the air through the lush meadows
beyond Pyrford, and the hedges on either side were sweet
and gay with multitudes of dog-roses. The heavy firing that
had broken out while we were driving down Maybury Hill
ceased as abruptly as it began, leaving the evening very peace-
ful and still. We got to Leatherhead without misadventure
about nine o'clock, and the horse had an hour's rest while
I took supper with my cousins and commended my wife to
My wife was curiously silent throughout the drive, and
seemed oppressed with forebodings of evil. I talked to her
reassuringly, pointing out that the Martians were tied to the
Pit by sheer heaviness, and at the utmost could but crawl
a little out of it; but she answered only in monosyllables. Had
it not been for my promise to the innkeeper, she would, I
think, have urged me to stay in Leatherhead that night. Would
that I had! Her face, I remember, was very white as we
For my own part, I had been feverishly excited all day.
Something very like the war fever that occasionally runs
through a civilised community had got into my blood, and
in my heart I was not so very sorry that I had to return to
Maybury that night. I was even afraid that that last fusillade
I had heard might mean the extermination of our invaders
from Mars. I can best express my state of mind by saying
that I wanted to be in at the death.
It was nearly eleven when I started to return. The night
was unexpectedly dark; to me, walking out of the lighted
passage of my cousins' house, it seemed indeed black, and
it was as hot and close as the day. Overhead the clouds were
driving fast, albeit not a breath stirred the shrubs about us.
My cousins' man lit both lamps. Happily, I knew the road
intimately. My wife stood in the light of the doorway, and
watched me until I jumped up into the dog cart. Then
abruptly she turned and went in, leaving my cousins side by
side wishing me good hap.
I was a little depressed at first with the contagion of my
wife's fears, but very soon my thoughts reverted to the
Martians. At that time I was absolutely in the dark as to
the course of the evening's fighting. I did not know even the
circumstances that had precipitated the conflict. As I came
through Ockham (for that was the way I returned, and not
through Send and Old Woking) I saw along the western
horizon a blood-red glow, which as I drew nearer, crept
slowly up the sky. The driving clouds of the gathering thunder-
storm mingled there with masses of black and red smoke.
Ripley Street was deserted, and except for a lighted window
or so the village showed not a sign of life; but I narrowly
escaped an accident at the corner of the road to Pyrford,
where a knot of people stood with their backs to me. They
said nothing to me as I passed. I do not know what they
knew of the things happening beyond the hill, nor do I know
if the silent houses I passed on my way were sleeping securely,
or deserted and empty, or harassed and watching against the
terror of the night.
From Ripley until I came through Pyrford I was in the
valley of the Wey, and the red glare was hidden from me.
As I ascended the little hill beyond Pyrford Church the glare
came into view again, and the trees about me shivered with
the first intimation of the storm that was upon me. Then I
heard midnight pealing out from Pyrford Church behind me,
and then came the silhouette of Maybury Hill, with its tree-
tops and roofs black and sharp against the red.
Even as I beheld this a lurid green glare lit the road about
me and showed the distant woods towards Addlestone. I felt
a tug at the reins. I saw that the driving clouds had been
pierced as it were by a thread of green fire, suddenly lighting
their confusion and falling into the field to my left. It was
the third falling star!
Close on its apparition, and blindingly violet by contrast,
danced out the first lightning of the gathering storm, and the
thunder burst like a rocket overhead. The horse took the bit
between his teeth and bolted.
A moderate incline runs towards the foot of Maybury Hill,
and down this we clattered. Once the lightning had begun,
it went on in as rapid a succession of flashes as I have ever
seen. The thunderclaps, treading one on the heels of another
and with a strange crackling accompaniment, sounded more
like the working of a gigantic electric machine than the usual
detonating reverberations. The flickering light was blinding
and confusing, and a thin hail smote gustily at my face as
I drove down the slope.
At first I regarded little but the road before me, and then
abruptly my attention was arrested by something that was
moving rapidly down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill. At
first I took it for the wet roof of a house, but one flash
following another showed it to be in swift rolling movement.
It was an elusive vision--a moment of bewildering darkness, and
then, in a flash like daylight, the red masses of the Orphanage
near the crest of the hill, the green tops of the pine trees,
and this problematical object came out clear and sharp and
And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous
tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young
pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking
engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather;
articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering
tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder.
A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with
two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly
as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer.
Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently
along the ground? That was the impression those instant
flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a
great body of machinery on a tripod stand.
Then suddenly the trees in the pine wood ahead of me
were parted, as brittle reeds are parted by a man thrusting
through them; they were snapped off and driven headlong,
and a second huge tripod appeared, rushing, as it seemed,
headlong towards me. And I was galloping hard to meet it!
At the sight of the second monster my nerve went altogether.
Not stopping to look again, I wrenched the horse's head hard
round to the right and in another moment the dog cart had
heeled over upon the horse; the shafts smashed noisily, and
I was flung sideways and fell heavily into a shallow pool of
I crawled out almost immediately, and crouched, my feet
still in the water, under a clump of furze. The horse lay
motionless (his neck was broken, poor brute!) and by the
lightning flashes I saw the black bulk of the overturned dog
cart and the silhouette of the wheel still spinning slowly. In
another moment the colossal mechanism went striding by
me, and passed uphill towards Pyrford.
Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was
no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was,
with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering
tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging
and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it
went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted
it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head
looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of
white metal like a gigantic fisherman's basket, and puffs of
green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the
monster swept by me. And in an instant it was gone.
So much I saw then, all vaguely for the flickering of the
lightning, in blinding highlights and dense black shadows.
As it passed it set up an exultant deafening howl that
drowned the thunder--"Aloo! Aloo!"--and in another minute
it was with its companion, half a mile away, stooping over
something in the field. I have no doubt this Thing in the field
was the third of the ten cylinders they had fired at us from
For some minutes I lay there in the rain and darkness
watching, by the intermittent light, these monstrous beings
of metal moving about in the distance over the hedge tops.
A thin hail was now beginning, and as it came and went their
figures grew misty and then flashed into clearness again. Now
and then came a gap in the lightning, and the night swallowed
I was soaked with hail above and puddle water below.
It was some time before my blank astonishment would let
me struggle up the bank to a drier position, or think at all of
my imminent peril.
Not far from me was a little one-roomed squatter's hut of
wood, surrounded by a patch of potato garden. I struggled
to my feet at last, and, crouching and making use of every
chance of cover, I made a run for this. I hammered at the
door, but I could not make the people hear (if there were
any people inside), and after a time I desisted, and, availing
myself of a ditch for the greater part of the way, succeeded
in crawling, unobserved by these monstrous machines, into
the pine woods towards Maybury.
Under cover of this I pushed on, wet and shivering now,
towards my own house. I walked among the trees trying to
find the footpath. It was very dark indeed in the wood, for
the lightning was now becoming infrequent, and the hail,
which was pouring down in a torrent, fell in columns through
the gaps in the heavy foliage.
If I had fully realised the meaning of all the things I had
seen I should have immediately worked my way round through
Byfleet to Street Cobham, and so gone back to rejoin my wife
at Leatherhead. But that night the strangeness of things about
me, and my physical wretchedness, prevented me, for I was
bruised, weary, wet to the skin, deafened and blinded by
I had a vague idea of going on to my own house, and
that was as much motive as I had. I staggered through the
trees, fell into a ditch and bruised my knees against a plank,
and finally splashed out into the lane that ran down from
the College Arms. I say splashed, for the storm water was
sweeping the sand down the hill in a muddy torrent. There
in the darkness a man blundered into me and sent me reeling
He gave a cry of terror, sprang sideways, and rushed on
before I could gather my wits sufficiently to speak to him.
So heavy was the stress of the storm just at this place that
I had the hardest task to win my way up the hill. I went close
up to the fence on the left and worked my way along its
Near the top I stumbled upon something soft, and, by a
flash of lightning, saw between my feet a heap of black broad-
cloth and a pair of boots. Before I could distinguish clearly
how the man lay, the flicker of light had passed. I stood over
him waiting for the next flash. When it came, I saw that he
was a sturdy man, cheaply but not shabbily dressed; his head
was bent under his body, and he lay crumpled up close to
the fence, as though he had been flung violently against it.
Overcoming the repugnance natural to one who had never
before touched a dead body, I stooped and turned him over
to feel for his heart. He was quite dead. Apparently his neck
had been broken. The lightning flashed for a third time, and
his face leaped upon me. I sprang to my feet. It was the
landlord of the Spotted Dog, whose conveyance I had taken.
I stepped over him gingerly and pushed on up the hill. I
made my way by the police station and the College Arms
towards my own house. Nothing was burning on the hillside,
though from the common there still came a red glare and a
rolling tumult of ruddy smoke beating up against the drench-
ing hail. So far as I could see by the flashes, the houses
about me were mostly uninjured. By the College Arms a dark
heap lay in the road.
Down the road towards Maybury Bridge there were voices
and the sound of feet, but I had not the courage to shout or
to go to them. I let myself in with my latchkey, closed, locked
and bolted the door, staggered to the foot of the staircase, and
sat down. My imagination was full of those striding metallic
monsters, and of the dead body smashed against the fence.
I crouched at the foot of the staircase with my back to the wall, shivering violently.
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