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|Book Two: The Earth Under The Martians||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
The Man On Putney Hill
|Page 3 of 9||
I answered slowly.
"I don't know," I said. "I have been buried in the ruins of a house thirteen or fourteen days. I don't know what has happened."
He looked at me doubtfully, then started, and looked with a changed expression.
"I've no wish to stop about here," said I. "I think I shall go to Leatherhead, for my wife was there."
He shot out a pointing finger.
"It is you," said he; "the man from Woking. And you weren't killed at Weybridge?"
I recognised him at the same moment.
"You are the artilleryman who came into my garden."
"Good luck!" he said. "We are lucky ones! Fancy YOU!" He put out a hand, and I took it. "I crawled up a drain," he said. "But they didn't kill everyone. And after they went away I got off towards Walton across the fields. But---- It's not sixteen days altogether--and your hair is grey." He looked over his shoulder suddenly. "Only a rook," he said. "One gets to know that birds have shadows these days. This is a bit open. Let us crawl under those bushes and talk."
"Have you seen any Martians?" I said. "Since I crawled out----"
"They've gone away across London," he said. "I guess they've got a bigger camp there. Of a night, all over there, Hampstead way, the sky is alive with their lights. It's like a great city, and in the glare you can just see them moving. By daylight you can't. But nearer--I haven't seen them--" (he counted on his fingers) "five days. Then I saw a couple across Hammersmith way carrying something big. And the night before last"--he stopped and spoke impressively--"it was just a matter of lights, but it was something up in the air. I believe they've built a flying-machine, and are learning to fly."
I stopped, on hands and knees, for we had come to the bushes.
"Yes," he said, "fly."
I went on into a little bower, and sat down.
"It is all over with humanity," I said. "If they can do that they will simply go round the world."
"They will. But---- It will relieve things over here a bit. And besides----" He looked at me. "Aren't you satisfied it IS up with humanity? I am. We're down; we're beat."
I stared. Strange as it may seem, I had not arrived at this fact--a fact perfectly obvious so soon as he spoke. I had still held a vague hope; rather, I had kept a lifelong habit of mind. He repeated his words, "We're beat." They carried absolute conviction.
"It's all over," he said. "They've lost ONE--just ONE. And they've made their footing good and crippled the greatest power in the world. They've walked over us. The death of that one at Weybridge was an accident. And these are only pioneers. They kept on coming. These green stars--I've seen none these five or six days, but I've no doubt they're falling somewhere every night. Nothing's to be done. We're under! We're beat!"
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|The War of the Worlds
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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