BOOK TWO: THE EARTH UNDER THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 2: WHAT WE SAW FROM THE RUINED HOUSE
The cylinder was already opened in the centre of the pit,
and on the farther edge of the pit, amid the smashed and
gravel-heaped shrubbery, one of the great fighting-machines,
deserted by its occupant, stood stiff and tall against the
evening sky. At first I scarcely noticed the pit and the
cylinder, although it has been convenient to describe them
first, on account of the extraordinary glittering mechanism I
saw busy in the excavation, and on account of the strange
creatures that were crawling slowly and painfully across the
heaped mould near it.
The mechanism it certainly was that held my attention first.
It was one of those complicated fabrics that have since been
called handling-machines, and the study of which has already
given such an enormous impetus to terrestrial invention. As
it dawned upon me first, it presented a sort of metallic spider
with five jointed, agile legs, and with an extraordinary number
of jointed levers, bars, and reaching and clutching tentacles
about its body. Most of its arms were retracted, but with
three long tentacles it was fishing out a number of rods,
plates, and bars which lined the covering and apparently
strengthened the walls of the cylinder. These, as it extracted them, were lifted out and deposited upon a level
surface of earth behind it.
Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first
I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.
The fighting-machines were co-ordinated and animated to
an extraordinary pitch, but nothing to compare with this.
People who have never seen these structures, and have only
the ill-imagined efforts of artists or the imperfect descriptions
of such eye-witnesses as myself to go upon, scarcely realise
that living quality.
I recall particularly the illustration of one of the first
pamphlets to give a consecutive account of the war. The
artist had evidently made a hasty study of one of the
fighting-machines, and there his knowledge ended. He presented them as tilted, stiff tripods, without either flexibility
or subtlety, and with an altogether misleading monotony of
effect. The pamphlet containing these renderings had a considerable vogue, and I mention them here simply to warn
the reader against the impression they may have created.
They were no more like the Martians I saw in action than
a Dutch doll is like a human being. To my mind, the pamphlet
would have been much better without them.