BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 9: THE FIGHTING BEGINS
Saturday lives in my memory as a day of suspense. It
was a day of lassitude too, hot and close, with, I am told, a
rapidly fluctuating barometer. I had slept but little, though
my wife had succeeded in sleeping, and I rose early. I went
into my garden before breakfast and stood listening, but
towards the common there was nothing stirring but a lark.
The milkman came as usual. I heard the rattle of his
chariot and I went round to the side gate to ask the latest
news. He told me that during the night the Martians had
been surrounded by troops, and that guns were expected.
Then--a familiar, reassuring note--I heard a train running
"They aren't to be killed," said the milkman, "if that can
possibly be avoided."
I saw my neighbour gardening, chatted with him for a
time, and then strolled in to breakfast. It was a most unexceptional morning. My neighbour was of opinion that the
troops would be able to capture or to destroy the Martians
during the day.
"It's a pity they make themselves so unapproachable," he
said. "It would be curious to know how they live on another
planet; we might learn a thing or two."
He came up to the fence and extended a handful of strawberries, for his gardening was as generous as it was enthusiastic. At the same time he told me of the burning of the pine
woods about the Byfleet Golf Links.
"They say," said he, "that there's another of those blessed
things fallen there--number two. But one's enough, surely.
This lot'll cost the insurance people a pretty penny before
everything's settled." He laughed with an air of the greatest
good humour as he said this. The woods, he said, were still
burning, and pointed out a haze of smoke to me. "They will
be hot under foot for days, on account of the thick soil of
pine needles and turf," he said, and then grew serious over