BOOK TWO: THE EARTH UNDER THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 8: DEAD LONDON
After I had parted from the artilleryman, I went down
the hill, and by the High Street across the bridge to Fulham.
The red weed was tumultuous at that time, and nearly
choked the bridge roadway; but its fronds were already
whitened in patches by the spreading disease that presently
removed it so swiftly.
At the corner of the lane that runs to Putney Bridge
station I found a man lying. He was as black as a sweep
with the black dust, alive, but helplessly and speechlessly
drunk. I could get nothing from him but curses and furious
lunges at my head. I think I should have stayed by him but
for the brutal expression of his face.
There was black dust along the roadway from the bridge
onwards, and it grew thicker in Fulham. The streets were
horribly quiet. I got food--sour, hard, and mouldy, but quite
eatable--in a baker's shop here. Some way towards Walham
Green the streets became clear of powder, and I passed a
white terrace of houses on fire; the noise of the burning was
an absolute relief. Going on towards Brompton, the streets
were quiet again.
Here I came once more upon the black powder in the
streets and upon dead bodies. I saw altogether about a dozen
in the length of the Fulham Road. They had been dead many
days, so that I hurried quickly past them. The black powder
covered them over, and softened their outlines. One or two
had been disturbed by dogs.
Where there was no black powder, it was curiously like
a Sunday in the City, with the closed shops, the houses
locked up and the blinds drawn, the desertion, and the
stillness. In some places plunderers had been at work, but
rarely at other than the provision and wine shops. A jeweller's
window had been broken open in one place, but apparently
the thief had been disturbed, and a number of gold chains
and a watch lay scattered on the pavement. I did not trouble
to touch them. Farther on was a tattered woman in a heap
on a doorstep; the hand that hung over her knee was gashed
and bled down her rusty brown dress, and a smashed magnum
of champagne formed a pool across the pavement. She seemed
asleep, but she was dead.