And now comes the strangest thing in my story. Yet,
perhaps, it is not altogether strange. I remember, clearly and
coldly and vividly, all that I did that day until the time that
I stood weeping and praising God upon the summit of Prim-
rose Hill. And then I forget.
Of the next three days I know nothing. I have learned
since that, so far from my being the first discoverer of the
Martian overthrow, several such wanderers as myself had
already discovered this on the previous night. One man--
the first--had gone to St. Martin's-le-Grand, and, while I
sheltered in the cabmen's hut, had contrived to telegraph to
Paris. Thence the joyful news had flashed all over the world;
a thousand cities, chilled by ghastly apprehensions, sud-
denly flashed into frantic illuminations; they knew of it in
Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, at the time
when I stood upon the verge of the pit. Already men, weep-
ing with joy, as I have heard, shouting and staying their
work to shake hands and shout, were making up trains, even
as near as Crewe, to descend upon London. The church bells
that had ceased a fortnight since suddenly caught the news,
until all England was bell-ringing. Men on cycles, lean-faced,
unkempt, scorched along every country lane shouting of
unhoped deliverance, shouting to gaunt, staring figures of
despair. And for the food! Across the Channel, across the
Irish Sea, across the Atlantic, corn, bread, and meat were
tearing to our relief. All the shipping in the world seemed
going Londonward in those days. But of all this I have no
memory. I drifted--a demented man. I found myself in a
house of kindly people, who had found me on the third day
wandering, weeping, and raving through the streets of St.
John's Wood. They have told me since that I was singing
some insane doggerel about "The Last Man Left Alive!
Hurrah! The Last Man Left Alive!" Troubled as they were
with their own affairs, these people, whose name, much as
I would like to express my gratitude to them, I may not
even give here, nevertheless cumbered themselves with me,
sheltered me, and protected me from myself. Apparently they
had learned something of my story from me during the days
of my lapse.
Very gently, when my mind was assured again, did they
break to me what they had learned of the fate of Leather-
head. Two days after I was imprisoned it had been destroyed,
with every soul in it, by a Martian. He had swept it out
of existence, as it seemed, without any provocation, as a boy
might crush an ant hill, in the mere wantonness of power.
I was a lonely man, and they were very kind to me. I
was a lonely man and a sad one, and they bore with me. I
remained with them four days after my recovery. All that
time I felt a vague, a growing craving to look once more
on whatever remained of the little life that seemed so happy
and bright in my past. It was a mere hopeless desire to feast
upon my misery. They dissuaded me. They did all they
could to divert me from this morbidity. But at last I could
resist the impulse no longer, and, promising faithfully to
return to them, and parting, as I will confess, from these
four-day friends with tears, I went out again into the streets
that had lately been so dark and strange and empty.
Already they were busy with returning people; in places
even there were shops open, and I saw a drinking fountain
I remember how mockingly bright the day seemed as I
went back on my melancholy pilgrimage to the little house
at Woking, how busy the streets and vivid the moving life
about me. So many people were abroad everywhere, busied
in a thousand activities, that it seemed incredible that any
great proportion of the population could have been slain.
But then I noticed how yellow were the skins of the people
I met, how shaggy the hair of the men, how large and bright
their eyes, and that every other man still wore his dirty
rags. Their faces seemed all with one of two expressions--a
leaping exultation and energy or a grim resolution. Save
for the expression of the faces, London seemed a city of
tramps. The vestries were indiscriminately distributing bread
sent us by the French government. The ribs of the few horses
showed dismally. Haggard special constables with white
badges stood at the corners of every street. I saw little of
the mischief wrought by the Martians until I reached Welling-
ton Street, and there I saw the red weed clambering over
the buttresses of Waterloo Bridge.
At the corner of the bridge, too, I saw one of the common
contrasts of that grotesque time--a sheet of paper flaunting
against a thicket of the red weed, transfixed by a stick that
kept it in place. It was the placard of the first newspaper
to resume publication--the DAILY MAIL. I bought a copy
for a blackened shilling I found in my pocket. Most of it
was in blank, but the solitary compositor who did the thing
had amused himself by making a grotesque scheme of ad-
vertisement stereo on the back page. The matter he printed
was emotional; the news organisation had not as yet found
its way back. I learned nothing fresh except that already
in one week the examination of the Martian mechanisms had
yielded astonishing results. Among other things, the article
assured me what I did not believe at the time, that the
"Secret of Flying," was discovered. At Waterloo I found the
free trains that were taking people to their homes. The first
rush was already over. There were few people in the train,
and I was in no mood for casual conversation. I got a com-
partment to myself, and sat with folded arms, looking greyly
at the sunlit devastation that flowed past the windows. And
just outside the terminus the train jolted over temporary
rails, and on either side of the railway the houses were
blackened ruins. To Clapham Junction the face of London
was grimy with powder of the Black Smoke, in spite of
two days of thunderstorms and rain, and at Clapham Junc-
tion the line had been wrecked again; there were hundreds
of out-of-work clerks and shopmen working side by side
with the customary navvies, and we were jolted over a hasty
All down the line from there the aspect of the country
was gaunt and unfamiliar; Wimbledon particularly had suf-
fered. Walton, by virtue of its unburned pine woods, seemed
the least hurt of any place along the line. The Wandle, the
Mole, every little stream, was a heaped mass of red weed,
in appearance between butcher's meat and pickled cabbage.
The Surrey pine woods were too dry, however, for the festoons
of the red climber. Beyond Wimbledon, within sight of the
line, in certain nursery grounds, were the heaped masses
of earth about the sixth cylinder. A number of people were
standing about it, and some sappers were busy in the midst
of it. Over it flaunted a Union Jack, flapping cheerfully in
the morning breeze. The nursery grounds were everywhere
crimson with the weed, a wide expanse of livid colour cut
with purple shadows, and very painful to the eye. One's
gaze went with infinite relief from the scorched greys and
sullen reds of the foreground to the blue-green softness of
the eastward hills.
The line on the London side of Woking station was still
undergoing repair, so I descended at Byfleet station and
took the road to Maybury, past the place where I and the
artilleryman had talked to the hussars, and on by the spot
where the Martian had appeared to me in the thunderstorm.
Here, moved by curiosity, I turned aside to find, among a
tangle of red fronds, the warped and broken dog cart with
the whitened bones of the horse scattered and gnawed. For
a time I stood regarding these vestiges. . . .
Then I returned through the pine wood, neck-high with
red weed here and there, to find the landlord of the Spotted
Dog had already found burial, and so came home past the
College Arms. A man standing at an open cottage door
greeted me by name as I passed.
I looked at my house with a quick flash of hope that
faded immediately. The door had been forced; it was unfast
and was opening slowly as I approached.
It slammed again. The curtains of my study fluttered
out of the open window from which I and the artilleryman
had watched the dawn. No one had closed it since. The
smashed bushes were just as I had left them nearly four
weeks ago. I stumbled into the hall, and the house felt
empty. The stair carpet was ruffled and discoloured where
I had crouched, soaked to the skin from the thunderstorm
the night of the catastrophe. Our muddy footsteps I saw still
went up the stairs.
I followed them to my study, and found lying on my
writing-table still, with the selenite paper weight upon it,
the sheet of work I had left on the afternoon of the opening
of the cylinder. For a space I stood reading over my aban-
doned arguments. It was a paper on the probable develop-
ment of Moral Ideas with the development of the civilising
process; and the last sentence was the opening of a prophecy:
"In about two hundred years," I had written, "we may
expect----" The sentence ended abruptly. I remembered
my inability to fix my mind that morning, scarcely a month
gone by, and how I had broken off to get my DAILY CHRONICLE
from the newsboy. I remembered how I went down to the
garden gate as he came along, and how I had listened to his
odd story of "Men from Mars."
I came down and went into the dining room. There
were the mutton and the bread, both far gone now in decay,
and a beer bottle overturned, just as I and the artilleryman
had left them. My home was desolate. I perceived the folly
of the faint hope I had cherished so long. And then a strange
thing occurred. "It is no use," said a voice. "The house is
deserted. No one has been here these ten days. Do not stay
here to torment yourself. No one escaped but you."
I was startled. Had I spoken my thought aloud? I turned,
and the French window was open behind me. I made a
step to it, and stood looking out.
And there, amazed and afraid, even as I stood amazed
and afraid, were my cousin and my wife--my wife white
and tearless. She gave a faint cry.
"I came," she said. "I knew--knew----"
She put her hand to her throat--swayed. I made a step forward, and caught her in my arms.
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