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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
Book One: The Coming of the Martians
Chapter Thirteen (How I Fell in with the Curate)
The machines return to Horsell Common, without finishing their annihilation of the many people lying about, helpless and vulnerable to the Heat-Ray. Instead of pushing on to a still-defenseless London, the Martians spend the day moving everything from the other two cylinders to the pit. Then they get out of their machines and also descend into it, all except one who is left to stand guard. Reinforcements continue to arrive, as the cylinders land every 24 hours.
The military is putting every effort into building up a force to face the Martians. Guns are put in every possible location and scouts are placed in position for signaling (using a heliograph, which is basically a device that reflects the sun’s rays off a mirror), though none venture within a mile of the pit.
As for the narrator, he spots an abandoned boat downstream and manages to reach it. His situation is now a little better but there are no paddles so he must use his sore hands. Plus he had to shed his soaked clothes, except for trousers and socks, in order to be able to reach the boat, and the sun burns his back. However, he figures that it is best to stick to the water so that if the machines return, he can go under and have a chance of evading the Heat-Ray.
On the way down the river, he passes the town of Halliford. Though some of the buildings are on fire, there is no crowd out. By late afternoon, he is too sick and weary to go further and lands on the Middlesex bank. He is angry with his wife, though he can find no reason for it, and all other thoughts are overshadowed by his thirst. He drifts asleep for some time in the grass and when he awakes, the curate (the head clergyman of the Weybridge parish) is sitting next to him.
Except for his sleeves, which have soot marks, the curate has a clean appearance, with precise curls about the top of his shaven face. Physically, he is in better shape than the narrator but mentally it is just the opposite. The curate is deeply in shock over seeing the destruction of his church and town. He is trying, without much success, to figure out why it happened, what horrible sin the people of Weybridge committed to bring such ruin. It is difficult for him to comprehend how all their dutiful work can suddenly have nothing to show for it. He wonders if this is the beginning of the end of the world.
The narrator tells him to keep his head and his hope. After lengthy reasoning and appeals to the past when disasters that were overcome fail to improve the curate’s state, the narrator points out that one of the Martians’ machines was destroyed. This news seems to help, along with the sight of a heliograph signal in the sky.
After the distant sounds of gunshots and a strange crying noise give way to silence, the narrator decides that it would be best for them to head north.
Sodom and Gomorrah refers to the Bible (Genesis 19:24), when “sulphurous fire” came down and destroyed the two cities. The conversation between the narrator and curate are representative of the debate between science and religion, which was a strong issue at the time it was it written.
The incompatibility of the narrator and the curate is evident from the start. While the narrator is extremely thirsty and interested in getting water, the curate is focused on the fire and smoke in the distance. The opposing natures of the two men will become more of a problem as time goes on.