The war of the worlds, p.23
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       The War of the Worlds, p.23

           H. G. Wells
 
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  CHAPTER FIVE

  THE STILLNESS

  My first act before I went into the pantry was to fasten the doorbetween the kitchen and the scullery. But the pantry was empty; everyscrap of food had gone. Apparently, the Martian had taken it all onthe previous day. At that discovery I despaired for the first time. Itook no food, or no drink either, on the eleventh or the twelfth day.

  At first my mouth and throat were parched, and my strength ebbedsensibly. I sat about in the darkness of the scullery, in a state ofdespondent wretchedness. My mind ran on eating. I thought I hadbecome deaf, for the noises of movement I had been accustomed to hearfrom the pit had ceased absolutely. I did not feel strong enough tocrawl noiselessly to the peephole, or I would have gone there.

  On the twelfth day my throat was so painful that, taking the chanceof alarming the Martians, I attacked the creaking rain-water pump thatstood by the sink, and got a couple of glassfuls of blackened andtainted rain water. I was greatly refreshed by this, and emboldenedby the fact that no enquiring tentacle followed the noise of mypumping.

  During these days, in a rambling, inconclusive way, I thought muchof the curate and of the manner of his death.

  On the thirteenth day I drank some more water, and dozed andthought disjointedly of eating and of vague impossible plans ofescape. Whenever I dozed I dreamt of horrible phantasms, of the deathof the curate, or of sumptuous dinners; but, asleep or awake, I felt akeen pain that urged me to drink again and again. The light that cameinto the scullery was no longer grey, but red. To my disorderedimagination it seemed the colour of blood.

  On the fourteenth day I went into the kitchen, and I was surprisedto find that the fronds of the red weed had grown right acrossthe hole in the wall, turning the half-light of the place into acrimson-coloured obscurity.

  It was early on the fifteenth day that I heard a curious, familiarsequence of sounds in the kitchen, and, listening, identified it asthe snuffing and scratching of a dog. Going into the kitchen, I saw adog's nose peering in through a break among the ruddy fronds. Thisgreatly surprised me. At the scent of me he barked shortly.

  I thought if I could induce him to come into the place quietly Ishould be able, perhaps, to kill and eat him; and in any case, itwould be advisable to kill him, lest his actions attracted theattention of the Martians.

  I crept forward, saying "Good dog!" very softly; but he suddenlywithdrew his head and disappeared.

  I listened--I was not deaf--but certainly the pit was still. Iheard a sound like the flutter of a bird's wings, and a hoarsecroaking, but that was all.

  For a long while I lay close to the peephole, but not daring tomove aside the red plants that obscured it. Once or twice I heard afaint pitter-patter like the feet of the dog going hither and thitheron the sand far below me, and there were more birdlike sounds, butthat was all. At length, encouraged by the silence, I looked out.

  Except in the corner, where a multitude of crows hopped and foughtover the skeletons of the dead the Martians had consumed, there wasnot a living thing in the pit.

  I stared about me, scarcely believing my eyes. All the machineryhad gone. Save for the big mound of greyish-blue powder in onecorner, certain bars of aluminium in another, the black birds, and theskeletons of the killed, the place was merely an empty circular pit inthe sand.

  Slowly I thrust myself out through the red weed, and stood upon themound of rubble. I could see in any direction save behind me, to thenorth, and neither Martians nor sign of Martians were to be seen. Thepit dropped sheerly from my feet, but a little way along the rubbishafforded a practicable slope to the summit of the ruins. My chance ofescape had come. I began to tremble.

  I hesitated for some time, and then, in a gust of desperateresolution, and with a heart that throbbed violently, I scrambled tothe top of the mound in which I had been buried so long.

  I looked about again. To the northward, too, no Martian wasvisible.

  When I had last seen this part of Sheen in the daylight it had beena straggling street of comfortable white and red houses, interspersedwith abundant shady trees. Now I stood on a mound of smashedbrickwork, clay, and gravel, over which spread a multitude of redcactus-shaped plants, knee-high, without a solitary terrestrial growthto dispute their footing. The trees near me were dead and brown, butfurther a network of red thread scaled the still living stems.

  The neighbouring houses had all been wrecked, but none had beenburned; their walls stood, sometimes to the second story, with smashedwindows and shattered doors. The red weed grew tumultuously in theirroofless rooms. Below me was the great pit, with the crows strugglingfor its refuse. A number of other birds hopped about among the ruins.Far away I saw a gaunt cat slink crouchingly along a wall, but tracesof men there were none.

  The day seemed, by contrast with my recent confinement, dazzlinglybright, the sky a glowing blue. A gentle breeze kept the red weedthat covered every scrap of unoccupied ground gently swaying. And oh!the sweetness of the air!

 
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