Rather than invade London, the Martians retreat to Horsell Common after one of them dies (in Chapter 12). This means that the British army has time to dig in and prepare their defenses. (We're sure their defenses are going to be very effective this time around and the rest of the book will be a guidebook to the Woking area, which probably has several charming shops and bed-and-breakfasts.)
Instead of advancing on London, the Martians are hard at work on something. (Cue threatening music.)
Meanwhile, the narrator finds a small boat and drifts down towards London.
He rests for a while on shore and then, out of the blue, becomes angry with his wife. As he says, "It is a curious thing that I felt angry with my wife; I cannot account for it, but my impotent desire to reach Leatherhead worried me excessively" (1.13.7). Is there more to say about this? Oh boy, is there ever – check out "Characters."
When he wakes up from resting, he discovers a new friend: the curate (meaning, a parish priest or an assistant priest). The curate wants to know what it all means. Why do bad Martians happen to good English-people?
The narrator tries to get him thinking about practical issues, but the curate decides that the Martians are a Biblical-sized judgment: "This must be the beginning of the end. […] The end! The great and terrible day of the Lord!" (1.13.36).
The narrator responds with both a theological argument and a practical argument. Theological: "[God] is not an insurance agent…" (1.13.38). Practical: we're in the middle of a battlefield and should probably get a move on. We're convinced by both arguments, though we're not sure which one would convince the curate.