BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 5: THE HEAT-RAY
After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging
from the cylinder in which they had come to the earth from
their planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions. I
remained standing knee-deep in the heather, staring at the
mound that hid them. I was a battleground of fear and
I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a passionate longing to peer into it. I began walking, therefore, in
a big curve, seeking some point of vantage and continually
looking at the sand heaps that hid these new-comers to our
earth. Once a leash of thin black whips, like the arms of an
octopus, flashed across the sunset and was immediately withdrawn, and afterwards a thin rod rose up, joint by joint,
bearing at its apex a circular disk that spun with a wobbling
motion. What could be going on there?
Most of the spectators had gathered in one or two groups
--one a little crowd towards Woking, the other a knot of
people in the direction of Chobham. Evidently they shared
my mental conflict. There were few near me. One man I
approached--he was, I perceived, a neighbour of mine,
though I did not know his name--and accosted. But it was
scarcely a time for articulate conversation.
"What ugly brutes!" he said. "Good God! What ugly
brutes!" He repeated this over and over again.
"Did you see a man in the pit?" I said; but he made no
answer to that. We became silent, and stood watching for a
time side by side, deriving, I fancy, a certain comfort in one
another's company. Then I shifted my position to a little
knoll that gave me the advantage of a yard or more of elevation and when I looked for him presently he was walking
The sunset faded to twilight before anything further happened. The crowd far away on the left, towards Woking,
seemed to grow, and I heard now a faint murmur from it.
The little knot of people towards Chobham dispersed. There
was scarcely an intimation of movement from the pit.