فصل 09

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فصل 09

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 11 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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You can understand the wave of fear that swept through the greatest city in the world at dawn on Monday morning. People ran to the railway stations, to the boats on the Thames, and hurried by even street that went north or east. By ten o’clock the police were finding it hard to keep control.

All the railway lines north of the Thames had been warned by midnight on Sunday, and trains were being filled. Passengers were fighting for standing room in the carriages even at two o’clock in the morning. By three the crowds were so large around the stations that people were being pushed over and walked on. Guns were fired and knives were used. The police who had been sent to direct the traffic, exhausted and angry, were fighting with the people they had been called out to protect.

And as time passed and the engine drivers and firemen refused to return to London, the people turned in growing crowds away from the stations and onto the roads running north. By midday a cloud of slowly sinking Black Smoke had moved along the Thames, cutting off all escape across the bridges. Another cloud came over Ealing, and surrounded a little island of people on Castle Hill, alive but unable to escape.

After trying unsuccessfully to get onto a train at Chalk Farm my brother came out into the road, pushed through the hurrying lines of vehicles, and had the luck to be at the front of a crowd which was taking bicycles from a shop. He got his hands on one. He put a hole in its front tire while he was pulling it through the broken window, and cut his wrist, but he managed to get away on it. The foot of Haverstock Hill was blocked by fallen horses, but my brother got onto the Belsize Road.

So he escaped from the worst of the panic in London and reached Edgware at about seven. A kilometer before the village the front wheel of the bicycle broke. He left it at the roadside and walked on. People there were standing on the pavement, looking in surprise at the growing crowds of refugees. He succeeded in getting some food at a pub.

My brother had some friends in Chelmsford, and this perhaps made him take the road that ran to the east. He saw few other refugees until he met the two ladies who later travelled with him. He arrived just in time to save them.

He heard their screams and, hurrying round the corner, saw a couple of men trying to pull them out of the little cart which they had been driving, while a third held onto the frightened horse’s head. One of the ladies, a short woman dressed in white, was screaming. The other, younger one was hitting the man who held her arm with a whip.

My brother shouted and ran towards them. One of the men turned towards him. Realizing from his face that a fight was unavoidable, and being a good boxer, my brother hit him hard and knocked him back onto the wheel of the cart.

It was no time for fair fighting, and my brother quieted him with a kick, then took hold of the collar of the man who held the younger lady’s arm. He heard the horse move forwards and then the third man hit him between the eyes. The man he held pulled himself free and ran off down the road in the direction from which he had come.

Still recovering, my brother found himself facing the man who had held the horse’s head, and realized that the cart was moving away along the road. The man, who looked very well built, tried to move in closer, but my brother hit him in the face. Then, realizing that he was alone, he ran along the road after the cart, with the big man behind him. The man who had run away had now stopped and turned and was following my brother at a greater distance.

Suddenly, my brother fell. The big man tripped over him, and when my brother got to his feet he found himself facing both of them. He would have had very little chance if the younger lady had not very bravely stopped the cart and returned to help him. It seemed that she had had a gun all the time, but it had been under her seat when they were attacked. She fired from six metres away, narrowly missing my brother. The less brave of the two attackers ran away, and the other one followed cursing him. They both stopped further down the road, where the third man lay unconscious.

‘Take this!’ the younger lady said, and she gave my brother the gun.

‘Let’s go back to the cart,’ said my brother, wiping the blood from his lip.

They walked to where the lady in white was struggling to hold the frightened horse. My brother looked back along the road. The robbers had had enough and were moving away.

‘I’ll sit here,’ he said, ‘if I may,’ and he got up on the front seat. The younger lady sat beside him and made the horse move.

My brother learned that the two women were the wife and younger sister of a doctor living in Stanmore, The doctor had heard about the Martians at the railway station, on his way home from seeing a patient, and had sent them off, promising to follow after telling the neighbour. He said he would catch up with them by about half-past four in the morning, but it was now nearly nine and there was no sign of him.

They stopped and waited for a few hours, but the doctor did not appear. The younger woman suggested that they should move on and catch a train at St Albans. My brother, who had seen the situation at the stations in London, thought that was hopeless. He suggested that they should drive across Essex to the sea at Harwich, and from there get right out of the country.

Mrs Elphinstone - that was the name of the woman in white - refused to listen to his argument, and kept calling for ‘George’, but her sister-in-law was very quiet and sensible and agreed to my brother’s suggestion. So, intending to cross the Great North Road, they went on towards Barnet. As they got closer they saw- more and more people, all tired and dirty. They also noticed a long line of dust rising among the houses in front of them. There was a sharp bend in the road, less than fifty metres from the crossroads. When they came out of it Mrs Elphinstone said. ‘Good heavens! What is this you are driving us into’”

My brother stopped the horse.

The main road was a boiling stream of people, a river of human beings rushing to the north. A great cloud of dust, white under the strong sun, made everything within five metres of the ground grey and unclear. More dust was raised all the time by the thick crowd of men and women, horses and vehicles.

‘Go on! Go on!’ the voices said. ‘They’re coming.’

It seemed that the whole population of London was moving north. There were people of every class and profession, but they were all dusty; their skins were dry, their lips black and cracked, and all of them looked very afraid.

My brother saw Miss Elphinstone covering her eyes.

‘Let’s go back!’ he shouted. ‘We cannot cross this.’

They went back a hundred metres in the direction they had come. As they passed the bend in the road, my brother saw a man lying not far away. His face was white and shining. It was clear that he was near death. The two women sat in silence.

Beyond the bend my brother changed his mind. He turned to Miss Elphinstone. ‘We must go that way,’ he said, and turned the horse round again.

For the second time that day the girl showed her courage. My brother went into the crowd and stopped a horse pulling a cart, while she drove in front of it. In another moment they were caught and swept forwards with the stream of vehicles. My brother, with red whip-marks on his face and hands from the car’s driver, got up into the driving seat.

‘Point the gun at the man behind,’ he said, giving it to her, ‘it he pushes us too hard. No - point it at his horse.’

Then they began to look for a chance of getting to the right side of the road. But as soon as they were in the stream of vehicles, there was little they could do. They were taken through Barnet and were more than a kilometer beyond the centre of the town before they could fight their way across to the other side of the road.

They turned to the east and climbed a hill. There they stopped for the rest of the afternoon, because they were all exhausted.

They were beginning to feel very hungry and the night was cold. In the evening many people came hurrying along the road near their stopping-place, escaping from unknown dangers and going in the direction from which my brother had come.

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