BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 4: THE CYLINDER OPENS
When I returned to the common the sun was setting.
Scattered groups were hurrying from the direction of Woking,
and one or two persons were returning. The crowd about
the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon
yellow of the sky--a couple of hundred people, perhaps.
There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared
to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed
through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent's voice:
"Keep back! Keep back!"
A boy came running towards me.
"It's a-movin'," he said to me as he passed; "a-screwin' and
a-screwin' out. I don't like it. I'm a-goin' 'ome, I am."
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think,
two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the
"He's fallen in the pit!" cried some one.
"Keep back!" said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through.
Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
"I say!" said Ogilvy; "help keep these idiots back. We
don't know what's in the confounded thing, you know!"
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe
he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out
of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within.
Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto
the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must
have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel
with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person
behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again.
For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black.
I had the sunset in my eyes.