BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 4: THE CYLINDER OPENS
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the
brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like
the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar
thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared
darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of
trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly
and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I
stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The
common round the sand pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these
creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit
in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a
round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the
pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but
showing as a little black object against the hot western sun.
Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed
to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached
me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him
that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep
pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had
made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight--a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a
great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates
and hedges, saying little to one another and that in short,
excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of
sand. The barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black
against the burning sky, and in the sand pits was a row of
deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags
or pawing the ground.