BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 8: FRIDAY NIGHT
The most extraordinary thing to my mind, of all the
strange and wonderful things that happened upon that
Friday, was the dovetailing of the commonplace habits of
our social order with the first beginnings of the series of
events that was to topple that social order headlong. If on
Friday night you had taken a pair of compasses and drawn a
circle with a radius of five miles round the Woking sand pits,
I doubt if you would have had one human being outside it,
unless it were some relation of Stent or of the three or four
cyclists or London people lying dead on the common, whose
emotions or habits were at all affected 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 the
sensation that an ultimatum to Germany would have done.
In London that night poor Henderson's telegram describing
the gradual unscrewing of the shot was judged to be a canard,
and his evening paper, after wiring for authentication from
him and receiving no reply--the man was killed--decided
not to print a special edition.
Even within the five-mile circle the great majority of people
were inert. I have already described the behaviour of the men
and women to whom I spoke. All over the district people
were dining and supping; working men were gardening after
the labours of the day, children were being put to bed, young
people were 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 in the public-houses, and here and there
a messenger, or even an eye-witness of the later occurrences,
caused a whirl of excitement, a shouting, and a running to
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 no planet Mars existed in the sky.
Even at Woking station and Horsell and Chobham that was