THE EXODUS FROM LONDON
So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept
through the greatest city in the world just as Monday was
dawning--the stream of flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lash-
ing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations, banked
up into a horrible struggle about the shipping in the Thames,
and hurrying by every available channel northward and east-
ward. By ten o'clock the police organisation, and by midday
even the railway organisations, were losing coherency, losing
shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at last in
that swift liquefaction of the social body.
All the railway lines north of the Thames and the South-
Eastern people at Cannon Street had been warned by mid-
night on Sunday, and trains were being filled. People were
fighting savagely for standing-room in the carriages even at
two o'clock. By three, people were being trampled and
crushed even in Bishopsgate Street, a couple of hundred
yards or more from Liverpool Street station; revolvers were
fired, people stabbed, and the policemen who had been sent
to direct the traffic, exhausted and infuriated, were breaking
the heads of the people they were called out to protect.
And as the day advanced and the engine drivers and
stokers refused to return to London, the pressure of the flight
drove the people in an ever-thickening multitude away from
the stations and along the northward-running roads. By mid-
day a Martian had been seen at Barnes, and a cloud of slowly
sinking black vapour drove along the Thames and across the
flats of Lambeth, cutting off all escape over the bridges in its
sluggish advance. Another bank drove over Ealing, and sur-
rounded a little island of survivors on Castle Hill, alive, but
unable to escape.
After a fruitless struggle to get aboard a North-Western
train at Chalk Farm--the engines of the trains that had loaded
in the goods yard there PLOUGHED through shrieking people,
and a dozen stalwart men fought to keep the crowd from
crushing the driver against his furnace--my brother emerged
upon the Chalk Farm road, dodged across through a hurrying
swarm of vehicles, and had the luck to be foremost in the
sack of a cycle shop. The front tire of the machine he got
was punctured in dragging it through the window, but he got
up and off, notwithstanding, with no further injury than a
cut wrist. The steep foot of Haverstock Hill was impassable
owing to several overturned horses, and my 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 was
passed by a number of cyclists, some horsemen, and two
motor cars. A mile from Edgware the rim of the wheel broke,
and the machine became unridable. He left it by the roadside
and trudged through the village. There were shops half
opened in the main street of the place, and people crowded
on the pavement and in the doorways and windows, staring
astonished at this extraordinary procession of fugitives that
was beginning. He succeeded in getting some food at an
For a time he remained in Edgware not knowing what next
to do. The flying people increased in number. Many of them,
like my brother, seemed inclined to loiter 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 the fugitives 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 clouds
along the road to St. Albans.
It was perhaps a vague idea of making his way to Chelms-
ford, where some friends of his lived, that at last induced my
brother to strike into a quiet lane running eastward. Presently
he came upon a stile, and, crossing it, followed a footpath
northeastward. He passed near several farmhouses and some
little places whose names he did not learn. He saw few
fugitives until, in a grass lane towards High Barnet, he hap-
pened upon two ladies who became his fellow travellers. He
came upon them just in time to save them.
He heard their screams, and, hurrying round the corner,
saw a couple of men struggling to drag them out of the little
pony-chaise in which they had been driving, while a third
with difficulty held the frightened pony's head. One of the
ladies, a short woman dressed in white, was simply screaming;
the other, a dark, slender figure, slashed at the man who
gripped her arm with a whip she held in her disengaged
My brother immediately grasped the situation, shouted, and
hurried towards the struggle. One of the men desisted and
turned towards him, and my brother, realising from his an-
tagonist's face that a fight was unavoidable, and being an
expert boxer, went into him forthwith and sent him down
against the wheel of the chaise.
It was no time for pugilistic chivalry and my brother laid
him quiet with a kick, 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 third antagonist
struck him between the eyes, and the man he held wrenched
himself free 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 from side to side,
and with the women in it looking back. The man before him,
a burly 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 lane after the chaise,
with the sturdy man close behind him, and the fugitive, who
had turned now, following remotely.
Suddenly he stumbled and fell; his immediate pursuer
went headlong, and he rose to his feet to find himself with
a couple of antagonists again. He would have had little
chance against them had not the slender lady very pluckily
pulled up and returned to his help. It seems she had had a
revolver all this time, 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 less courageous
of the robbers made off, and his companion followed him,
cursing his cowardice. They both stopped in sight down the
lane, where the third man lay insensible.
"Take this!" said the slender lady, and she gave my brother
"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 where the lady in white struggled to hold
back the frightened pony.
The robbers had evidently had enough of it. When my
brother looked again they were retreating.
"I'll sit here," said my brother, "if I may"; and he got upon
the empty front seat. The lady looked over her shoulder.
"Give me the reins," she said, and laid the whip along the
pony's side. In another 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, a bruised jaw, and bloodstained knuckles,
driving along an unknown lane with these two women.
He learned they were the wife and the younger sister of
a surgeon living at Stanmore, who had come in the small
hours from a dangerous case at Pinner, and heard at some
railway station on his way of the Martian advance. He had
hurried home, roused the women--their servant had left them
two days before--packed some provisions, put his revolver
under the seat--luckily for my brother--and told them to
drive on to Edgware, with the idea of getting a train there.
He stopped behind to tell the neighbours. He would overtake
them, he said, at about half past four in the morning, and
now it was nearly nine and they had seen nothing of him.
They could not stop in Edgware because of the growing
traffic through the place, and so they had come into this
That was the story they told my brother in fragments when
presently they stopped again, nearer to New Barnet. He
promised to stay with them, at least until they could deter-
mine what to do, or until the missing man arrived, and pro-
fessed to be an expert shot with the revolver--a weapon
strange to him--in order to give them confidence.
They made a sort of encampment by the wayside, and the
pony became happy in the hedge. He told them of his own
escape out of London, and all that he knew of these Martians
and their ways. The sun crept higher in the sky, and after a
time 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 such news as he could. Every
broken answer he had deepened his impression of the great
disaster that had come on humanity, deepened his persuasion
of the immediate necessity for prosecuting this flight. He
urged the matter upon them.
"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 of the
Londoners to crowd upon the trains, and broached his own
idea of striking across Essex towards Harwich and thence
escaping from the country altogether.
Mrs. Elphinstone--that was the name of the woman in white--would listen to no reasoning, and kept calling upon "George"; but her sister-in-law was astonishingly quiet and deliberate, and at last agreed to my brother's suggestion. So, designing to cross the Great North Road, they went on towards Barnet, my brother leading the pony to save it as much as possible.
As the sun crept up the sky the day became excessively
hot, and under foot a thick, whitish sand grew burning and
blinding, so that they travelled only very slowly. The hedges
were grey with dust. And as they advanced towards Barnet
a tumultuous murmuring grew stronger.
They began to meet more people. For the most part these
were staring before them, murmuring indistinct questions,
jaded, haggard, unclean. One man in evening dress passed
them on foot, his eyes on the ground. They heard his voice,
and, looking back at him, saw one hand clutched in his hair
and the other beating invisible things. His paroxysm of rage
over, he went on his way without once looking back.
As my brother's party went on towards the crossroads to
the south of Barnet they 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 dirty black, 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 at its confluence with the high road, came a
little cart drawn by a sweating black pony and driven by a
sallow youth in a bowler hat, grey with dust. There were
three girls, East End factory girls, and a couple of little chil-
dren crowded in the cart.
"This'll tike us rahnd Edgware?" asked the driver, wild-
eyed, white-faced; and when my brother told him it would
if he turned to the left, he whipped up at once without the
formality of thanks.
My brother noticed a pale grey smoke or haze rising among
the houses in front of them, and veiling the white
facade of a terrace beyond the road that appeared
between the backs of the villas. Mrs. Elphinstone suddenly cried
out at a number of tongues of smoky red flame leaping up above
the houses in front of them against the hot, blue sky. The
tumultuous noise resolved itself now into the disorderly mingling
of many voices, the gride of many wheels, the creaking of
waggons, and the staccato of hoofs. The lane came round sharply
not fifty yards from the crossroads.
"Good heavens!" cried Mrs. Elphinstone. "What is this
you are driving us into?"
My brother stopped.
For the main road was a boiling stream of people, a tor-
rent of human beings rushing northward, one pressing on
another. A great bank of dust, white and luminous in the
blaze of the sun, made everything within twenty feet of the
ground grey and indistinct and was perpetually renewed by
the hurrying feet of a dense crowd of horses and of men and
women on foot, and by the wheels of vehicles of every de-
"Way!" my brother heard voices crying. "Make way!"
It was like riding into the smoke of a fire to approach the
meeting point of the lane and road; the crowd roared like
a fire, and the dust was hot and pungent. And, indeed, a
little way up the road a villa was burning and sending rolling
masses of black smoke across the road to add to the con-
Two men came past them. Then a dirty woman, carrying a
heavy bundle and weeping. A lost retriever dog, with hanging
tongue, circled dubiously round them, scared and wretched,
and fled at my brother's threat.
So much as they could see of the road Londonward
between the houses to the right was a tumultuous stream of
dirty, hurrying people, pent in between the villas on either
side; the black heads, the crowded forms, grew into distinct-
ness as they rushed towards the corner, hurried past, and
merged their individuality again in a receding multitude that
was swallowed up at last in a cloud 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's head. Irresistibly attracted, he
advanced slowly, pace by pace, down the lane.
Edgware had been a scene of confusion, Chalk Farm a
riotous tumult, but this was a whole population in movement.
It is hard to imagine that host. It had no character of its own.
The figures poured out past the corner, and receded with their
backs to the group in the lane. Along the margin came those
who were on foot threatened by the wheels, stumbling in the
ditches, blundering into one another.
The carts and carriages crowded close upon one another,
making little way for those swifter and more impatient vehi-
cles that darted forward every now and then when an
opportunity showed itself of doing so, sending the people
scattering 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 Salva-
tion Army, gesticulating with his crooked fingers and bawling,
"Eternity! Eternity!" His voice was hoarse and very loud so
that my brother could hear him long after he was lost to
sight in the dust. Some of the people who crowded in the
carts whipped stupidly at their horses and quarrelled with
other drivers; some sat motionless, staring at nothing with
miserable eyes; some gnawed their hands with 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 waggon crowded with roughs.
A brewer's dray rumbled by with its two near wheels splashed
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 that cried and stumbled, their dainty clothes
smothered in dust, their weary faces smeared with tears. With
many of these came men, sometimes helpful, sometimes low-
ering and savage. Fighting side by side with them pushed
some weary street outcast in faded black rags, wide-eyed,
loud-voiced, and foul-mouthed. There were sturdy workmen
thrusting their way along, wretched, unkempt men, clothed
like clerks or shopmen, struggling spasmodically; a wounded
soldier my brother noticed, men dressed in the clothes of
railway porters, one wretched creature in 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 the road, a quarrel for a
place in a waggon, sent the whole host of them quickening
their pace; even a man so scared and broken that his knees
bent under him was galvanised for a moment into renewed
activity. The heat and dust had already been at work upon
this multitude. Their skins were dry, their lips black and
cracked. They were all thirsty, weary, and footsore. And amid
the various 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 into the main road with a narrow opening,
and had a delusive appearance of coming from the direction
of London. Yet a kind of eddy of people drove into its mouth;
weaklings elbowed out of the stream, who for the most part
rested but a moment before plunging into it again. A little
way down the lane, with two friends bending over him, lay
a man with a bare leg, wrapped about with bloody rags. He
was a lucky man to have friends.
A little old man, with a grey military moustache and a
filthy black frock coat, limped out and sat down beside the
trap, removed his boot--his sock was blood-stained--shook
out a pebble, and hobbled on again; and then a little girl of
eight or nine, all alone, threw herself under the hedge close
by my brother, weeping.
"I can't go on! I can't go on!"
My brother woke from his torpor of astonishment and lifted
her up, speaking gently to her, and carried her to Miss Elphin-
stone. So soon as my brother touched her she became quite
still, as if frightened.
"Ellen!" shrieked a woman in the crowd, with tears in her
voice--"Ellen!" And the 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 saw a closed carriage turning into the
The people crushed back on one another to avoid the
horse. My brother pushed the pony and chaise back into
the hedge, and the man drove by and stopped at the turn
of the way. It was a carriage, with a pole for a pair of horses,
but only one was in the traces. My brother saw dimly through
the dust that two men lifted out something on a white
stretcher and put it gently on the grass beneath the privet
One of the men came running to my brother.
"Where is there any water?" he said. "He is dying fast,
and very thirsty. It is 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 no water. I dare not leave my people."
The man pushed against the crowd towards the gate of the
"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 man lugging a small handbag, which split even
as my brother's eyes rested on it and disgorged a mass of
sovereigns that seemed to break up into separate coins as it
struck the ground. They rolled hither and thither among the
struggling feet of men and horses. The man stopped and
looked stupidly at the heap, and the shaft of a cab struck
his shoulder and sent him reeling. He gave a shriek and
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, upon the heap of coins, and began thrusting
handfuls in his pocket. A horse rose close upon him, and in
another moment, half rising, he had been borne down under
the horse's hoofs.
"Stop!" screamed my brother, and pushing a woman out
of his way, tried to clutch the bit of the horse.
Before he could get to it, he heard a scream under the
wheels, and saw through the dust the rim passing over the
poor wretch's back. The driver of the cart slashed his whip
at my brother, who ran round behind the cart. The multi-
tudinous shouting confused his ears. The man was writhing
in the dust among 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 the next 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 his free hand, my brother lugged him
sideways. But he still clutched after his money, and regarded
my brother fiercely, hammering at his arm with a handful
of 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 man on horseback stopped. My brother
looked up, and the man with the gold twisted his 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 beside it. A hoof missed my brother's foot
by a hair's breadth. He released his grip on the fallen man
and jumped back. He saw anger change to terror on the face
of the poor wretch on the ground, and in a moment he was
hidden and my brother was borne backward and carried past
the entrance of the lane, and had to fight hard in the torrent
to recover it.
He saw Miss Elphinstone covering her eyes, and a little
child, with all a child's want of sympathetic imagination,
staring with dilated eyes at a dusty something that lay black
and still, ground and crushed under the rolling wheels. "Let
us go back!" he shouted, and began turning the pony round.
"We cannot cross this--hell," he said and they went back a
hundred yards the way they had come, until the fighting
crowd was hidden. As they passed the bend in the lane my
brother saw the face of the dying man in the ditch under
the privet, deadly white and drawn, and shining with perspi-
ration. The two women sat silent, crouching in their seat
Then beyond the bend my brother stopped again. Miss
Elphinstone was white and pale, and her sister-in-law sat
weeping, too wretched even to call upon "George." My
brother was horrified and perplexed. So soon as they had
retreated he realised how urgent and unavoidable it was to
attempt this crossing. He turned to Miss Elphinstone, sud-
"We must go that way," he said, and led the pony round
For the second time that day this girl proved her quality.
To force their way into the torrent of people, my brother
plunged into the traffic and held back a cab horse, while
she drove the pony across its head. A waggon locked wheels
for a moment and ripped a long splinter from the chaise.
In another moment they were caught and swept forward by
the stream. My brother, with the cabman's whip marks red
across his face and hands, scrambled into the chaise and
took the reins from her.
"Point the revolver at the man behind," he said, giving it
to her, "if he presses 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 that dusty rout. They swept
through Chipping Barnet with the torrent; they were nearly
a mile beyond the centre of the town before they had fought
across to the opposite side of the way. It was din and con-
fusion indescribable; but in and beyond the town the road
forks repeatedly, and this to some extent relieved the stress.
They struck eastward through Hadley, and there on either
side of the road, and at another place farther on they came
upon a great multitude of people drinking 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 the other without signal or order--trains swarming
with people, with men even among the coals behind the
engines--going northward along the Great Northern Railway.
My brother supposes they must have filled outside London,
for at that time the furious terror of the people had rendered
the central termini impossible.
Near this place they halted for the rest of the afternoon, for the violence of the day had already utterly exhausted all three of them. They began to suffer the 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 near- by their stopping place, fleeing from unknown dangers before them, and going in the direction from which my brother had come.
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