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The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient
to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes
shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated.
The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights
in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in
our glasses. Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather
than submitted to be sat upon, and there was that luxurious after-dinner
atmosphere when thought roams gracefully free of the trammels of precision.
And he put it to us in this way--marking the points with a lean forefinger--as
we sat and lazily admired his earnestness over this new paradox (as we
thought it) and his fecundity.
`You must follow me carefully. I shall have
to controvert one or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The
geometry, for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a misconception.'
`Is not that rather a large thing to expect
us to begin upon?' said Filby, an argumentative person with red hair.
`I do not mean to ask you to accept anything
without reasonable ground for it. You will soon admit as much as I need
from you. You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness
NIL, has no real existence. They taught you that? Neither has a mathematical
plane. These things are mere abstractions.'
`That is all right,' said the Psychologist.
`Nor, having only length, breadth, and thickness,
can a cube have a real existence.'
`There I object,' said Filby. `Of course
a solid body may exist. All real things--'
`So most people think. But wait a moment.
Can an INSTANTANEOUS cube exist?'
`Don't follow you,' said Filby.
`Can a cube that does not last for any time
at all, have a real existence?'
Filby became pensive. `Clearly,' the Time
Traveller proceeded, `any real body must have extension in FOUR directions:
it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and--Duration. But through a
natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a moment,
we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four dimensions, three
which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time. There is,
however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between the former three
dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our consciousness moves
intermittently in one direction along the latter from the beginning to
the end of our lives.'
`That,' said a very young man, making spasmodic
efforts to relight his cigar over the lamp; `that . . . very clear indeed.'
`Now, it is very remarkable that this is
so extensively overlooked,' continued the Time Traveller, with a slight
accession of cheerfulness. `Really this is what is meant by the Fourth
Dimension, though some people who talk about the Fourth Dimension do not
know they mean it. It is only another way of looking at Time. THERE IS
NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TIME AND ANY OF THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF SPACE EXCEPT
THAT OUR CONSCIOUSNESS MOVES ALONG IT. But some foolish people have got
hold of the wrong side of that idea. You have all heard what they have
to say about this Fourth Dimension?'
`I have not,' said the Provincial
is simply this. That Space, as our mathematicians have it, is spoken of
as having three dimensions, which one may call Length, Breadth, and Thickness,
and is always definable by reference to three planes, each at right angles
to the others. But some philosophical
people have been asking why THREE dimensions particularly--why not another
direction at right angles to the other three?--and have even tried to
construct a Four-Dimension geometry. Professor Simon Newcomb was expounding
this to the New York Mathematical Society only a month or so ago. You
know how on a flat surface, which has only two dimensions, we can represent
a figure of a three-dimensional solid, and similarly they think that by
models of thee dimensions they could represent one of four--if they could
master the perspective of the thing. See?'
`I think so,' murmured the Provincial Mayor;
and, knitting his brows, he lapsed into an introspective state, his lips
moving as one who repeats mystic words. `Yes, I think I see it now,' he
said after some time, brightening in a quite transitory manner.
`Well, I do not mind telling you I have
been at work upon this geometry of Four Dimensions for some time. Some
of my results are curious. For instance, here is a portrait of a man at
eight years old, another at fifteen, another at seventeen, another at
twenty-three, and so on. All these are evidently sections, as it were,
Three-Dimensional representations of his Four-Dimensioned being, which
is a fixed and unalterable thing.
`Scientific people,' proceeded the Time
Traveller, after the pause required for the proper assimilation of this,
`know very well that Time is only a kind of Space. Here is a popular scientific
diagram, a weather record. This line I trace with my finger shows the
movement of the barometer. Yesterday it was so high, yesterday night it
fell, then this morning it rose again, and so gently upward to here. Surely
the mercury did not trace this line in any of the dimensions of Space
generally recognized? But certainly it traced such a line, and that line,
therefore, we must conclude was along the Time-Dimension.'
`But,' said the Medical Man, staring hard
at a coal in the fire, `if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space,
why is it, and why has it always been, regarded as something different?
And why cannot we move in Time as we move about in the other dimensions
The Time Traveller smiled. `Are you sure
we can move freely in Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward
freely enough, and men always have done so. I admit we move freely in
two dimensions. But how about up and down? Gravitation limits us there.'
`Not exactly,' said the Medical Man. `There
`But before the balloons, save for spasmodic
jumping and the inequalities of the surface, man had no freedom of vertical
movement.' `Still they could move a little up and down,' said the Medical
`Easier, far easier down than up.'
`And you cannot move at all in Time, you
cannot get away from the present moment.'
`My dear sir, that is just where you are
wrong. That is just where the whole world has gone wrong. We are always
getting away from the present movement. Our mental existences, which are
immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension
with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave. Just as we should
travel DOWN if we began our existence fifty miles above the earth's surface.'
`But the great difficulty is this,' interrupted
the Psychologist. `You CAN move about in all directions of Space, but
you cannot move about in Time.'
`That is the germ of my great discovery.
But you are wrong to say that we cannot move about in Time. For instance,
if I am recalling an incident very vividly I go back to the instant of
its occurrence: I become absent-minded, as you say. I jump back for a
moment. Of course we have no means of staying back for any length of Time,
any more than a savage or an animal has of staying six feet above the
ground. But a civilized man is better off than the savage in this respect.
He can go up against gravitation in a balloon, and why should he not hope
that ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along the
Time-Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way?'
`Oh, THIS,' began Filby, `is all--'
`Why not?' said the Time Traveller.
`It's against reason,' said Filby.
`What reason?' said the Time Traveller.
`You can show black is white by argument,'
said Filby, `but you will never convince me.'
`Possibly not,' said the Time Traveller.
`But now you begin to see the object of my investigations into the geometry
of Four Dimensions. Long ago I had a vague inkling of a machine--'
`To travel through Time!' exclaimed the
Very Young Man.
`That shall travel indifferently in any
direction of Space and Time, as the driver determines.'
Filby contented himself with laughter.
`But I have experimental verification,'
said the Time Traveller.
`It would be remarkably convenient for the
historian,' the Psychologist suggested. `One might travel back and verify
the accepted account of the Battle of Hastings, for instance!'
`Don't you think you would attract attention?'
said the Medical Man. `Our ancestors had no great tolerance for anachronisms.'
`One might get one's Greek from the very
lips of Homer and Plato,' the Very Young Man thought.
`In which case they would certainly plough
you for the Little-go. The German scholars have improved Greek so much.'
`Then there is the future,' said the Very
Young Man. `Just think! One might invest all one's money, leave it to
accumulate at interest, and hurry on ahead!'
`To discover a society,' said I, `erected
on a strictly communistic basis.'
`Of all the wild extravagant theories!'
began the Psychologist.
`Yes, so it seemed to me, and so I never
talked of it until--'
`Experimental verification!' cried I. `You
are going to verify THAT?'
`The experiment!' cried Filby, who was getting
`Let's see your experiment anyhow,' said
the Psychologist, `though it's all humbug, you know.'
The Time Traveller smiled round at us. Then,
still smiling faintly, and with his hands deep in his trousers pockets,
he walked slowly out of the room, and we heard his slippers shuffling
down the long passage to his laboratory.
The Psychologist looked at us. `I wonder
what he's got?'
`Some sleight-of-hand trick or other,' said
the Medical Man, and Filby tried to tell us about a conjurer he had seen
at Burslem; but before he had finished his preface the Time Traveller
came back, and Filby's anecdote collapsed.
The thing the Time Traveller held in his
hand was a glittering metallic framework, scarcely larger than a small
clock, and very delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent
crystalline substance. And now I must be explicit, for this that follows--unless
his explanation is to be accepted--is an absolutely unaccountable thing.
He took one of the small octagonal tables that were scattered about the
room, and set it in front of the fire, with two legs on the hearthrug.
On this table he placed the mechanism. Then he drew up a chair, and sat
down. The only other object on the table was a small shaded lamp, the
bright light of which fell upon the model. There were also perhaps a dozen
candles about, two in brass candlesticks upon the mantel and several in
sconces, so that the room was brilliantly illuminated. I sat in a low
arm-chair nearest the fire, and I drew this forward so as to be almost
between the Time Traveller and the fireplace. Filby sat behind him, looking
over his shoulder. The Medical Man and the Provincial Mayor watched him
in profile from the right, the Psychologist from the left. The Very Young
Man stood behind the Psychologist. We were all on the alert. It appears
incredible to me that any kind of trick, however subtly conceived and
however adroitly done, could have been played upon us under these conditions.
The Time Traveller looked at us, and then
at the mechanism. `Well?' said the Psychologist.
`This little affair,' said the Time Traveller,
resting his elbows upon the table and pressing his hands together above
the apparatus, `is only a model. It is my plan for a machine to travel
through time. You will notice that it looks singularly askew, and that
there is an odd twinkling appearance about this bar, as though it was
in some way unreal.' He pointed to the part with his finger. `Also, here
is one little white lever, and here is another.'
The Medical Man got up out of his chair
and peered into the thing. `It's beautifully made,' he said.
`It took two years to make,' retorted the
Time Traveller. Then, when we had all imitated the action of the Medical
Man, he said: `Now I want you clearly to understand that this lever, being
pressed over, sends the machine gliding into the future, and this other
reverses the motion. This saddle represents the seat of a time traveller.
Presently I am going to press the lever, and off the machine will go.
It will vanish, pass into future Time, and disappear. Have a good look
at the thing. Look at the table too, and satisfy yourselves there is no
trickery. I don't want to waste this model, and then be told I'm a quack.'
There was a minute's pause perhaps. The
Psychologist seemed about to speak to me, but changed his mind. Then the
Time Traveller put forth his finger towards the lever. `No,' he said suddenly.
`Lend me your hand.' And turning to the Psychologist, he took that individual's
hand in his own and told him to put out his forefinger. So that it was
the Psychologist himself who sent forth the model Time Machine on its
interminable voyage. We all saw the lever turn. I am absolutely certain
there was no trickery. There was a breath of wind, and the lamp flame
jumped. One of the candles on the mantel was blown out, and the little
machine suddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen as a ghost for
a second perhaps, as an eddy of faintly glittering brass and ivory; and
it was gone--vanished! Save for the lamp the table was bare.
Everyone was silent for a minute. Then Filby
said he was damned.
The Psychologist recovered from his stupor,
and suddenly looked under the table. At that the Time Traveller laughed
cheerfully. `Well?' he said, with a reminiscence of the Psychologist.
Then, getting up, he went to the tobacco jar on the mantel, and with his
back to us began to fill his pipe.
We stared at each other. `Look here,' said
the Medical Man, `are you in earnest about this? Do you seriously believe
that that machine has travelled into time?'
`Certainly,' said the Time Traveller, stooping
to light a spill at the fire. Then he turned, lighting his pipe, to look
at the Psychologist's face. (The Psychologist, to show that he was not
unhinged, helped himself to a cigar and tried to light it uncut.) `What
is more, I have a big machine nearly finished in there'--he indicated
the laboratory--`and when that is put together I mean to have a journey
on my own account.'
`You mean to say that that machine has travelled
into the future?' said Filby.
`Into the future or the past--I don't, for
certain, know which.'
After an interval the Psychologist had an
inspiration. `It must have gone into the past if it has gone anywhere,'
`Why?' said the Time Traveller.
`Because I presume that it has not moved
in space, and if it travelled into the future it would still be here all
this time, since it must have travelled through this time.'
`But,' I said, `If it travelled into the
past it would have been visible when we came first into this room; and
last Thursday when we were here; and the Thursday before that; and so
`Serious objections,' remarked the Provincial
Mayor, with an air of impartiality, turning towards the Time Traveller.
`Not a bit,' said the Time Traveller, and,
to the Psychologist: `You think. You can explain that. It's presentation
below the threshold, you know, diluted presentation.'
`Of course,' said the Psychologist, and
reassured us. `That's a simple point of psychology. I should have thought
of it. It's plain enough, and helps the paradox delightfully. We cannot
see it, nor can we appreciate this machine, any more than we can the spoke
of a wheel spinning, or a bullet flying through the air. If it is travelling
through time fifty times or a hundred times faster than we are, if it
gets through a minute while we get through a second, the impression it
creates will of course be only one-fiftieth or one-hundredth of what it
would make if it were not travelling in time. That's plain enough.' He
passed his hand through the space in which the machine had been. `You
see?' he said, laughing.
We sat and stared at the vacant table for
a minute or so. Then the Time Traveller asked us what we thought of it
`It sounds plausible enough to-night,' said
the Medical Man; 'but wait until to-morrow. Wait for the common sense
of the morning.'
`Would you like to see the Time Machine
itself?' asked the Time Traveller. And therewith, taking the lamp in his
hand, he led the way down the long, draughty corridor to his laboratory.
I remember vividly the flickering light, his queer, broad head in silhouette,
the dance of the shadows, how we all followed him, puzzled but incredulous,
and how there in the laboratory we beheld a larger edition of the little
mechanism which we had seen vanish from before our eyes. Parts were of
nickel, parts of ivory, parts had certainly been filed or sawn out of
rock crystal. The thing was generally complete, but the twisted crystalline
bars lay unfinished upon the bench beside some sheets of drawings, and
I took one up for a better look at it. Quartz it seemed to be.
`Look here,' said the Medical Man, `are
you perfectly serious? Or is this a trick--like that ghost you showed
us last Christmas?'
`Upon that machine,' said the Time Traveller,
holding the lamp aloft, `I intend to explore time. Is that plain? I was
never more serious in my life.'
None of us quite knew how to take it.
I caught Filby's eye over the shoulder of
the Medical Man, and he winked at me solemnly.
I think that at that time none of us quite believed in the Time
Machine. The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who
are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all round
him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in
ambush, behind his lucid frankness. Had Filby shown the model and
explained the matter in the Time Traveller's words, we should have
shown HIM far less scepticism. For we should have perceived his
motives; a pork butcher could understand Filby. But the Time Traveller
had more than a touch of whim among his elements, and we distrusted
him. Things that would have made the frame of a less clever man
seemed tricks in his hands. It is a mistake to do things too easily.
The serious people who took him seriously never felt quite sure
of his deportment; they were somehow aware that trusting their reputations
for judgment with him was like furnishing a nursery with egg-shell
china. So I don't think any of us said very much about time travelling
in the interval between that Thursday and the next, though its odd
potentialities ran, no doubt, in most of our minds: its plausibility,
that is, its practical incredibleness, the curious possibilities
of anachronism and of utter confusion it suggested. For my own part,
I was particularly preoccupied with the trick of the model. That
I remember discussing with the Medical Man, whom I met on Friday
at the Linnaean. He said he had seen a similar thing at Tubingen,
and laid considerable stress on the blowing out of the candle. But
how the trick was done he could not explain.
The next Thursday I went again to Richmond--I suppose I was one
of the Time Traveller's most constant guests--and, arriving late,
found four or five men already assembled in his drawing-room. The
Medical Man was standing before the fire with a sheet of paper in
one hand and his watch in the other. I looked round for the Time
Traveller, and--`It's half-past seven now,' said the Medical Man.
`I suppose we'd better have dinner?'
`Where's----?' said I, naming our host.
`You've just come? It's rather odd. He's unavoidably detained.
He asks me in this note to lead off with dinner at seven if he's
not back. Says he'll explain when he comes.'
`It seems a pity to let the dinner spoil,' said the Editor of a
well-known daily paper; and thereupon the Doctor rang the bell.
The Psychologist was the only person besides the Doctor and myself
who had attended the previous dinner. The other men were Blank,
the Editor aforementioned, a certain journalist, and another--a
quiet, shy man with a beard--whom I didn't know, and who, as far
as my observation went, never opened his mouth all the evening.
There was some speculation at the dinner-table about the Time Traveller's
absence, and I suggested time travelling, in a half-jocular spirit.
The Editor wanted that explained to him, and the Psychologist volunteered
a wooden account of the `ingenious paradox and trick' we had witnessed
that day week. He was in the midst of his exposition when the door
from the corridor opened slowly and without noise. I was facing
the door, and saw it first. `Hallo!' I said. `At last!' And the
door opened wider, and the Time Traveller stood before us. I gave
a cry of surprise. `Good heavens! man, what's the matter?' cried
the Medical Man, who saw him next. And the whole tableful turned
towards the door.
He was in an amazing plight. His coat was dusty and dirty, and
smeared with green down the sleeves; his hair disordered, and as
it seemed to me greyer--either with dust and dirt or because its
colour had actually faded. His face was ghastly pale; his chin had
a brown cut on it--a cut half healed; his expression was haggard
and drawn, as by intense suffering. For a moment he hesitated in
the doorway, as if he had been dazzled by the light. Then he came
into the room. He walked with just such a limp as I have seen in
footsore tramps. We stared at him in silence, expecting him to speak.
He said not a word, but came painfully to the table, and made a
motion towards the wine. The Editor filled a glass of champagne,
and pushed it towards him. He drained it, and it seemed to do him
good: for he looked round the table, and the ghost of his old smile
flickered across his face. `What on earth have you been up to, man?'
said the Doctor. The Time Traveller did not seem to hear. `Don't
let me disturb you,' he said, with a certain faltering articulation.
`I'm all right.' He stopped, held out his glass for more, and took
it off at a draught. `That's good,' he said. His eyes grew brighter,
and a faint colour came into his cheeks. His glance flickered over
our faces with a certain dull approval, and then went round the
warm and comfortable room. Then he spoke again, still as it were
feeling his way among his words. `I'm going to wash and dress, and
then I'll come down and explain things. . . Save me some of that
mutton. I'm starving for a bit of meat.'
He looked across at the Editor, who was a rare visitor, and hoped
he was all right. The Editor began a question. `Tell you presently,'
said the Time Traveller. `I'm--funny! Be all right in a minute.'
He put down his glass, and walked towards the staircase door. Again
I remarked his lameness and the soft padding sound of his footfall,
and standing up in my place, I saw his feet as he went out. He had
nothing on them but a pair of tattered blood-stained socks. Then
the door closed upon him. I had half a mind to follow, till I remembered
how he detested any fuss about himself. For a minute, perhaps, my
mind was wool-gathering. Then, 'Remarkable Behaviour of an Eminent
Scientist,' I heard the Editor say, thinking (after his wont) in
headlines. And this brought my attention back to the bright dinner-table.
`What's the game?' said the Journalist. `Has he been doing the
Amateur Cadger? I don't follow.' I met the eye of the Psychologist,
and read my own interpretation in his face. I thought of the Time
Traveller limping painfully upstairs. I don't think any one else
had noticed his lameness.
The first to recover completely from this surprise was the Medical
Man, who rang the bell--the Time Traveller hated to have servants
waiting at dinner--for a hot plate. At that the Editor turned to
his knife and fork with a grunt, and the Silent Man followed suit.
The dinner was resumed. Conversation was exclamatory for a little
while, with gaps of wonderment; and then the Editor got fervent
in his curiosity. `Does our friend eke out his modest income with
a crossing? or has he his Nebuchadnezzar phases?' he inquired. `I
feel assured it's this business of the Time Machine,' I said, and
took up the Psychologist's account of our previous meeting. The
new guests were frankly incredulous. The Editor raised objections.
`What WAS this time travelling? A man couldn't cover himself with
dust by rolling in a paradox, could he?' And then, as the idea came
home to him, he resorted to caricature. Hadn't they any clothes-brushes
in the Future? The Journalist too, would not believe at any price,
and joined the Editor in the easy work of heaping ridicule on the
whole thing. They were both the new kind of journalist--very joyous,
irreverent young men. `Our Special Correspondent in the Day after
To-morrow reports,' the Journalist was saying--or rather shouting--when
the Time Traveller came back. He was dressed in ordinary evening
clothes, and nothing save his haggard look remained of the change
that had startled me.
`I say,' said the Editor hilariously, `these chaps here say you
have been travelling into the middle of next week! Tell us all about
little Rosebery, will you? What will you take for the lot?'
The Time Traveller came to the place reserved for him without a
word. He smiled quietly, in his old way. `Where's my mutton?' he
said. `What a treat it is to stick a fork into meat again!'
`Story!' cried the Editor.
`Story be damned!' said the Time Traveller. `I want something to
eat. I won't say a word until I get some peptone into my arteries.
Thanks. And the salt.'
`One word,' said I. `Have you been time travelling?'
`Yes,' said the Time Traveller, with his mouth full, nodding his
`I'd give a shilling a line for a verbatim note,' said the Editor.
The Time Traveller pushed his glass towards the Silent Man and rang
it with his fingernail; at which the Silent Man, who had been staring
at his face, started convulsively, and poured him wine. The rest
of the dinner was uncomfortable. For my own part, sudden questions
kept on rising to my lips, and I dare say it was the same with the
others. The Journalist tried to relieve the tension by telling anecdotes
of Hettie Potter. The Time Traveller devoted his attention to his
dinner, and displayed the appetite of a tramp. The Medical Man smoked
a cigarette, and watched the Time Traveller through his eyelashes.
The Silent Man seemed even more clumsy than usual, and drank champagne
with regularity and determination out of sheer nervousness. At last
the Time Traveller pushed his plate away, and looked round us. `I
suppose I must apologize,' he said. `I was simply starving. I've
had a most amazing time.' He reached out his hand for a cigar, and
cut the end. `But come into the smoking-room. It's too long a story
to tell over greasy plates.' And ringing the bell in passing, he
led the way into the adjoining room.
`You have told Blank, and Dash, and Chose about the machine?' he
said to me, leaning back in his easy-chair and naming the three
`But the thing's a mere paradox,' said the Editor.
`I can't argue to-night. I don't mind telling you the story, but
I can't argue. I will,' he went on, `tell you the story of what
has happened to me, if you like, but you must refrain from interruptions.
I want to tell it. Badly. Most of it will sound like lying. So be
it! It's true--every word of it, all the same. I was in my laboratory
at four o'clock, and since then . . . I've lived eight days . .
. such days as no human being ever lived before! I'm nearly worn
out, but I shan't sleep till I've told this thing over to you. Then
I shall go to bed. But no interruptions! Is it agreed?'
`Agreed,' said the Editor, and the rest of us echoed `Agreed.'
And with that the Time Traveller began his story as I have set it
forth. He sat back in his chair at first, and spoke like a weary
man. Afterwards he got more animated. In writing it down I feel
with only too much keenness the inadequacy of pen and ink --and,
above all, my own inadequacy--to express its quality. You read,
I will suppose, attentively enough; but you cannot see the speaker's
white, sincere face in the bright circle of the little lamp, nor
hear the intonation of his voice. You cannot know how his expression
followed the turns of his story! Most of us hearers were in shadow,
for the candles in the smoking-room had not been lighted, and only
the face of the Journalist and the legs of the Silent Man from the
knees downward were illuminated. At first we glanced now and again
at each other. After a time we ceased to do that, and looked only
at the Time Traveller's face.
`I told some of you last Thursday of the principles of the Time
Machine, and showed you the actual thing itself, incomplete in the
workshop. There it is now, a little travel-worn, truly; and one
of the ivory bars is cracked, and a brass rail bent; but the rest
of it's sound enough. I expected to finish it on Friday, but on
Friday, when the putting together was nearly done, I found that
one of the nickel bars was exactly one inch too short, and this
I had to get remade; so that the thing was not complete until this
morning. It was at ten o'clock to-day that the first of all Time
Machines began its career. I gave it a last tap, tried all the screws
again, put one more drop of oil on the quartz rod, and sat myself
in the saddle. I suppose a suicide who holds a pistol to his skull
feels much the same wonder at what will come next as I felt then.
I took the starting lever in one hand and the stopping one in the
other, pressed the first, and almost immediately the second. I seemed
to reel; I felt a nightmare sensation of falling; and, looking round,
I saw the laboratory exactly as before. Had anything happened? For
a moment I suspected that my intellect had tricked me. Then I noted
the clock. A moment before, as it seemed, it had stood at a minute
or so past ten; now it was nearly half-past three!
`I drew a breath, set my teeth, gripped the starting lever with
both hands, and went off with a thud. The laboratory got hazy and
went dark. Mrs. Watchett came in and walked, apparently without
seeing me, towards the garden door. I suppose it took her a minute
or so to traverse the place, but to me she seemed to shoot across
the room like a rocket. I pressed the lever over to its extreme
position. The night came like the turning out of a lamp, and in
another moment came to-morrow. The laboratory grew faint and hazy,
then fainter and ever fainter. To-morrow night came black, then
day again, night again, day again, faster and faster still. An eddying
murmur filled my ears, and a strange, dumb confusedness descended
on my mind.
`I am afraid I cannot convey the peculiar sensations of time travelling.
They are excessively unpleasant. There is a feeling exactly like
that one has upon a switchback--of a helpless headlong motion! I
felt the same horrible anticipation, too, of an imminent smash.
As I put on pace, night followed day like the flapping of a black
wing. The dim suggestion of the laboratory seemed presently to fall
away from me, and I saw the sun hopping swiftly across the sky,
leaping it every minute, and every minute marking a day. I supposed
the laboratory had been destroyed and I had come into the open air.
I had a dim impression of scaffolding, but I was already going too
fast to be conscious of any moving things. The slowest snail that
ever crawled dashed by too fast for me. The twinkling succession
of darkness and light was excessively painful to the eye. Then,
in the intermittent darknesses, I saw the moon spinning swiftly
through her quarters from new to full, and had a faint glimpse of
the circling stars. Presently, as I went on, still gaining velocity,
the palpitation of night and day merged into one continuous greyness;
the sky took on a wonderful deepness of blue, a splendid luminous
color like that of early twilight; the jerking sun became a streak
of fire, a brilliant arch, in space; the moon a fainter fluctuating
band; and I could see nothing of the stars, save now and then a
brighter circle flickering in the blue.
`The landscape was misty and vague. I was still on the hill-side
upon which this house now stands, and the shoulder rose above me
grey and dim. I saw trees growing and changing like puffs of vapour,
now brown, now green; they grew, spread, shivered, and passed away.
I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair, and pass like dreams.
The whole surface of the earth seemed changed--melting and flowing
under my eyes. The little hands upon the dials that registered my
speed raced round faster and faster. Presently I noted that the
sun belt swayed up and down, from solstice to solstice, in a minute
or less, and that consequently my pace was over a year a minute;
and minute by minute the white snow flashed across the world, and
vanished, and was followed by the bright, brief green of spring.
`The unpleasant sensations of the start were less poignant now.
They merged at last into a kind of hysterical exhilaration. I remarked
indeed a clumsy swaying of the machine, for which I was unable to
account. But my mind was too confused to attend to it, so with a
kind of madness growing upon me, I flung myself into futurity. At
first I scarce thought of stopping, scarce thought of anything but
these new sensations. But presently a fresh series of impressions
grew up in my mind--a certain curiosity and therewith a certain
dread--until at last they took complete possession of me. What strange
developments of humanity, what wonderful advances upon our rudimentary
civilization, I thought, might not appear when I came to look nearly
into the dim elusive world that raced and fluctuated before my eyes!
I saw great and splendid architecture rising about me, more massive
than any buildings of our own time, and yet, as it seemed, built
of glimmer and mist. I saw a richer green flow up the hill-side,
and remain there, without any wintry intermission. Even through
the veil of my confusion the earth seemed very fair. And so my mind
came round to the business of stopping,
`The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some substance
in the space which I, or the machine, occupied. So long as I travelled
at a high velocity through time, this scarcely mattered; I was,
so to speak, attenuated--was slipping like a vapour through the
interstices of intervening substances! But to come to a stop involved
the jamming of myself, molecule by molecule, into whatever lay in
my way; meant bringing my atoms into such intimate contact with
those of the obstacle that a profound chemical reaction--possibly
a far-reaching explosion --would result, and blow myself and my
apparatus out of all possible dimensions--into the Unknown. This
possibility had occurred to me again and again while I was making
the machine; but then I had cheerfully accepted it as an unavoidable
risk-- one of the risks a man has got to take! Now the risk was
inevitable, I no longer saw it in the same cheerful light. The fact
is that insensibly, the absolute strangeness of everything, the
sickly jarring and swaying of the machine, above all, the feeling
of prolonged falling, had absolutely upset my nerve. I told myself
that I could never stop, and with a gust of petulance I resolved
to stop forthwith. Like an impatient fool, I lugged over the lever,
and incontinently the thing went reeling over, and I was flung headlong
through the air.
`There was the sound of a clap of thunder in my ears. I may have
been stunned for a moment. A pitiless hail was hissing round me,
and I was sitting on soft turf in front of the overset machine.
Everything still seemed grey, but presently I remarked that the
confusion in my ears was gone. I looked round me. I was on what
seemed to be a little lawn in a garden, surrounded by rhododendron
bushes, and I noticed that their mauve and purple blossoms were
dropping in a shower under the beating of the hail-stones. The rebounding,
dancing hail hung in a cloud over the machine, and drove along the
ground like smoke. In a moment I was wet to the skin. "Fine
hospitality," said I, "to a man who has travelled innumerable
years to see you."
`Presently I thought what a fool I was to get wet. I stood up and
looked round me. A colossal figure, carved apparently in some white
stone, loomed indistinctly beyond the rhododendrons through the
hazy downpour. But all else of the world was invisible.
`My sensations would be hard to describe. As the columns of hail
grew thinner, I saw the white figure more distinctly. It was very
large, for a silver birch-tree touched its shoulder. It was of white
marble, in shape something like a winged sphinx, but the wings,
instead of being carried vertically at the sides, were spread so
that it seemed to hover. The pedestal, it appeared to me, was of
bronze, and was thick with verdigris. It chanced that the face was
towards me; the sightless eyes seemed to watch me; there was the
faint shadow of a smile on the lips. It was greatly weather-worn,
and that imparted an unpleasant suggestion of disease. I stood looking
at it for a little space--half a minute, perhaps, or half an hour.
It seemed to advance and to recede as the hail drove before it denser
or thinner. At last I tore my eyes from it for a moment and saw
that the hail curtain had worn threadbare, and that the sky was
lightening with the promise of the Sun.
`I looked up again at the crouching white shape, and the full temerity
of my voyage came suddenly upon me. What might appear when that
hazy curtain was altogether withdrawn? What might not have happened
to men? What if cruelty had grown into a common passion? What if
in this interval the race had lost its manliness and had developed
into something inhuman, unsympathetic, and overwhelmingly powerful?
I might seem some old-world savage animal, only the more dreadful
and disgusting for our common likeness--a foul creature to be incontinently
`Already I saw other vast shapes--huge buildings with intricate
parapets and tall columns, with a wooded hill-side dimly creeping
in upon me through the lessening storm. I was seized with a panic
fear. I turned frantically to the Time Machine, and strove hard
to readjust it. As I did so the shafts of the sun smote through
the thunderstorm. The grey downpour was swept aside and vanished
like the trailing garments of a ghost. Above me, in the intense
blue of the summer sky, some faint brown shreds of cloud whirled
into nothingness. The great buildings about me stood out clear and
distinct, shining with the wet of the thunderstorm, and picked out
in white by the unmelted hailstones piled along their courses. I
felt naked in a strange world. I felt as perhaps a bird may feel
in the clear air, knowing the hawk wings above and will swoop. My
fear grew to frenzy. I took a breathing space, set my teeth, and
again grappled fiercely, wrist and knee, with the machine. It gave
under my desperate onset and turned over. It struck my chin violently.
One hand on the saddle, the other on the lever, I stood panting
heavily in attitude to mount again.
`But with this recovery of a prompt retreat my courage recovered.
I looked more curiously and less fearfully at this world of the
remote future. In a circular opening, high up in the wall of the
nearer house, I saw a group of figures clad in rich soft robes.
They had seen me, and their faces were directed towards me.
`Then I heard voices approaching me. Coming through the bushes
by the White Sphinx were the heads and shoulders of men running.
One of these emerged in a pathway leading straight to the little
lawn upon which I stood with my machine. He was a slight creature--perhaps
four feet high--clad in a purple tunic, girdled at the waist with
a leather belt. Sandals or buskins--I could not clearly distinguish
which--were on his feet; his legs were bare to the knees, and his
head was bare. Noticing that, I noticed for the first time how warm
the air was.
`He struck me as being a very beautiful and graceful creature,
but indescribably frail. His flushed face reminded me of the more
beautiful kind of consumptive--that hectic beauty of which we used
to hear so much. At the sight of him I suddenly regained confidence.
I took my hands from the machine.
`In another moment we were standing face to face, I and this fragile
thing out of futurity. He came straight up to me and laughed into
my eyes. The absence from his bearing of any sign of fear struck
me at once. Then he turned to the two others who were following
him and spoke to them in a strange and very sweet and liquid tongue.
`There were others coming, and presently a little group of perhaps
eight or ten of these exquisite creatures were about me. One of
them addressed me. It came into my head, oddly enough, that my voice
was too harsh and deep for them. So I shook my head, and, pointing
to my ears, shook it again. He came a step forward, hesitated, and
then touched my hand. Then I felt other soft little tentacles upon
my back and shoulders. They wanted to make sure I was real. There
was nothing in this at all alarming. Indeed, there was something
in these pretty little people that inspired confidence--a graceful
gentleness, a certain childlike ease. And besides, they looked so
frail that I could fancy myself flinging the whole dozen of them
about like nine-pins. But I made a sudden motion to warn them when
I saw their little pink hands feeling at the Time Machine. Happily
then, when it was not too late, I thought of a danger I had hitherto
forgotten, and reaching over the bars of the machine I unscrewed
the little levers that would set it in motion, and put these in
my pocket. Then I turned again to see what I could do in the way
`And then, looking more nearly into their features, I saw some
further peculiarities in their Dresden-china type of prettiness.
Their hair, which was uniformly curly, came to a sharp end at the
neck and cheek; there was not the faintest suggestion of it on the
face, and their ears were singularly minute. The mouths were small,
with bright red, rather thin lips, and the little chins ran to a
point. The eyes were large and mild; and--this may seem egotism
on my part--I fancied even that there was a certain lack of the
interest I might have expected in them.
`As they made no effort to communicate with me, but simply stood
round me smiling and speaking in soft cooing notes to each other,
I began the conversation. I pointed to the Time Machine and to myself.
Then hesitating for a moment how to express time, I pointed to the
sun. At once a quaintly pretty little figure in chequered purple
and white followed my gesture, and then astonished me by imitating
the sound of thunder.
`For a moment I was staggered, though the import of his gesture
was plain enough. The question had come into my mind abruptly: were
these creatures fools? You may hardly understand how it took me.
You see I had always anticipated that the people of the year Eight
Hundred and Two Thousand odd would be incredibly in front of us
in knowledge, art, everything. Then one of them suddenly asked me
a question that showed him to be on the intellectual level of one
of our five-year-old children-- asked me, in fact, if I had come
from the sun in a thunderstorm! It let loose the judgment I had
suspended upon their clothes, their frail light limbs, and fragile
features. A flow of disappointment rushed across my mind. For a
moment I felt that I had built the Time Machine in vain.
`I nodded, pointed to the sun, and gave them such a vivid rendering
of a thunderclap as startled them. They all withdrew a pace or so
and bowed. Then came one laughing towards me, carrying a chain of
beautiful flowers altogether new to me, and put it about my neck.
The idea was received with melodious applause; and presently they
were all running to and fro for flowers, and laughingly flinging
them upon me until I was almost smothered with blossom. You who
have never seen the like can scarcely imagine what delicate and
wonderful flowers countless years of culture had created. Then someone
suggested that their plaything should be exhibited in the nearest
building, and so I was led past the sphinx of white marble, which
had seemed to watch me all the while with a smile at my astonishment,
towards a vast grey edifice of fretted stone. As I went with them
the memory of my confident anticipations of a profoundly grave and
intellectual posterity came, with irresistible merriment, to my
`The building had a huge entry, and was altogether of colossal
dimensions. I was naturally most occupied with the growing crowd
of little people, and with the big open portals that yawned before
me shadowy and mysterious. My general impression of the world I
saw over their heads was a tangled waste of beautiful bushes and
flowers, a long neglected and yet weedless garden. I saw a number
of tall spikes of strange white flowers, measuring a foot perhaps
across the spread of the waxen petals. They grew scattered, as if
wild, among the variegated shrubs, but, as I say, I did not examine
them closely at this time. The Time Machine was left deserted on
the turf among the rhododendrons.
`The arch of the doorway was richly carved, but naturally I did
not observe the carving very narrowly, though I fancied I saw suggestions
of old Phoenician decorations as I passed through, and it struck
me that they were very badly broken and weather- worn. Several more
brightly clad people met me in the doorway, and so we entered, I,
dressed in dingy nineteenth-century garments, looking grotesque
enough, garlanded with flowers, and surrounded by an eddying mass
of bright, soft-colored robes and shining white limbs, in a melodious
whirl of laughter and laughing speech.
`The big doorway opened into a proportionately great hall hung
with brown. The roof was in shadow, and the windows, partially glazed
with coloured glass and partially unglazed, admitted a tempered
light. The floor was made up of huge blocks of some very hard white
metal, not plates nor slabs--blocks, and it was so much worn, as
I judged by the going to and fro of past generations, as to be deeply
channelled along the more frequented ways. Transverse to the length
were innumerable tables made of slabs of polished stone, raised
perhaps a foot from the floor, and upon these were heaps of fruits.
Some I recognized as a kind of hypertrophied raspberry and orange,
but for the most part they were strange.
`Between the tables was scattered a great number of cushions. Upon
these my conductors seated themselves, signing for me to do likewise.
With a pretty absence of ceremony they began to eat the fruit with
their hands, flinging peel and stalks, and so forth, into the round
openings in the sides of the tables. I was not loath to follow their
example, for I felt thirsty and hungry. As I did so I surveyed the
hall at my leisure.
`And perhaps the thing that struck me most was its dilapidated
look. The stained-glass windows, which displayed only a geometrical
pattern, were broken in many places, and the curtains that hung
across the lower end were thick with dust. And it caught my eye
that the corner of the marble table near me was fractured. Nevertheless,
the general effect was extremely rich and picturesque. There were,
perhaps, a couple of hundred people dining in the hall, and most
of them, seated as near to me as they could come, were watching
me with interest, their little eyes shining over the fruit they
were eating. All were clad in the same soft and yet strong, silky
`Fruit, by the by, was all their diet. These people of the remote
future were strict vegetarians, and while I was with them, in spite
of some carnal cravings, I had to be frugivorous also. Indeed, I
found afterwards that horses, cattle, sheep, dogs, had followed
the Ichthyosaurus into extinction. But the fruits were very delightful;
one, in particular, that seemed to be in season all the time I was
there--a floury thing in a three-sided husk --was especially good,
and I made it my staple. At first I was puzzled by all these strange
fruits, and by the strange flowers I saw, but later I began to perceive
`However, I am telling you of my fruit dinner in the distant future
now. So soon as my appetite was a little checked, I determined to
make a resolute attempt to learn the speech of these new men of
mine. Clearly that was the next thing to do. The fruits seemed a
convenient thing to begin upon, and holding one of these up I began
a series of interrogative sounds and gestures. I had some considerable
difficulty in conveying my meaning. At first my efforts met with
a stare of surprise or inextinguishable laughter, but presently
a fair-haired little creature seemed to grasp my intention and repeated
a name. They had to chatter and explain the business at great length
to each other, and my first attempts to make the exquisite little
sounds of their language caused an immense amount of amusement.
However, I felt like a schoolmaster amidst children, and persisted,
and presently I had a score of noun substantives at least at my
command; and then I got to demonstrative pronouns, and even the
verb "to eat." But it was slow work, and the little people
soon tired and wanted to get away from my interrogations, so I determined,
rather of necessity, to let them give their lessons in little doses
when they felt inclined. And very little doses I found they were
before long, for I never met people more indolent or more easily
`A queer thing I soon discovered about my little hosts, and that
was their lack of interest. They would come to me with eager cries
of astonishment, like children, but like children they would soon
stop examining me and wander away after some other toy. The dinner
and my conversational beginnings ended, I noted for the first time
that almost all those who had surrounded me at first were gone.
It is odd, too, how speedily I came to disregard these little people.
I went out through the portal into the sunlit world again as soon
as my hunger was satisfied. I was continually meeting more of these
men of the future, who would follow me a little distance, chatter
and laugh about me, and, having smiled and gesticulated in a friendly
way, leave me again to my own devices.
`The calm of evening was upon the world as I emerged from the great
hall, and the scene was lit by the warm glow of the setting sun.
At first things were very confusing. Everything was so entirely
different from the world I had known--even the flowers. The big
building I had left was situated on the slope of a broad river valley,
but the Thames had shifted perhaps a mile from its present position.
I resolved to mount to the summit of a crest perhaps a mile and
a half away, from which I could get a wider view of this our planet
in the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand Seven Hundred and One
A.D. For that, I should explain, was the date the little dials of
my machine recorded.
`As I walked I was watching for every impression that could possibly
help to explain the condition of ruinous splendour in which I found
the world--for ruinous it was. A little way up the hill, for instance,
was a great heap of granite, bound together by masses of aluminium,
a vast labyrinth of precipitous walls and crumpled heaps, amidst
which were thick heaps of very beautiful pagoda-like plants--nettles
possibly--but wonderfully tinted with brown about the leaves, and
incapable of stinging. It was evidently the derelict remains of
some vast structure, to what end built I could not determine. It
was here that I was destined, at a later date, to have a very strange
experience--the first intimation of a still stranger discovery--but
of that I will speak in its proper place.
`Looking round with a sudden thought, from a terrace on which I
rested for a while, I realized that there were no small houses to
be seen. Apparently the single house, and possibly even the household,
had vanished. Here and there among the greenery were palace-like
buildings, but the house and the cottage, which form such characteristic
features of our own English landscape, had disappeared.
`"Communism," said I to myself.
`And on the heels of that came another thought. I looked at the
half-dozen little figures that were following me. Then, in a flash,
I perceived that all had the same form of costume, the same soft
hairless visage, and the same girlish rotundity of limb. It may
seem strange, perhaps, that I had not noticed this before. But everything
was so strange. Now, I saw the fact plainly enough. In costume,
and in all the differences of texture and bearing that now mark
off the sexes from each other, these people of the future were alike.
And the children seemed to my eyes to be but the miniatures of their
parents. I judged, then, that the children of that time were extremely
precocious, physically at least, and I found afterwards abundant
verification of my opinion.
`Seeing the ease and security in which these people were living,
I felt that this close resemblance of the sexes was after all what
one would expect; for the strength of a man and the softness of
a woman, the institution of the family, and the differentiation
of occupations are mere militant necessities of an age of physical
force; where population is balanced and abundant, much childbearing
becomes an evil rather than a blessing to the State; where violence
comes but rarely and off-spring are secure, there is less necessity--indeed
there is no necessity--for an efficient family, and the specialization
of the sexes with reference to their children's needs disappears.
We see some beginnings of this even in our own time, and in this
future age it was complete. This, I must remind you, was my speculation
at the time. Later, I was to appreciate how far it fell short of
`While I was musing upon these things, my attention was attracted
by a pretty little structure, like a well under a cupola. I thought
in a transitory way of the oddness of wells still existing, and
then resumed the thread of my speculations. There were no large
buildings towards the top of the hill, and as my walking powers
were evidently miraculous, I was presently left alone for the first
time. With a strange sense of freedom and adventure I pushed on
up to the crest.
`There I found a seat of some yellow metal that I did not recognize,
corroded in places with a kind of pinkish rust and half smothered
in soft moss, the arm-rests cast and filed into the resemblance
of griffins' heads. I sat down on it, and I surveyed the broad view
of our old world under the sunset of that long day. It was as sweet
and fair a view as I have ever seen. The sun had already gone below
the horizon and the west was flaming gold, touched with some horizontal
bars of purple and crimson. Below was the valley of the Thames,
in which the river lay like a band of burnished steel. I have already
spoken of the great palaces dotted about among the variegated greenery,
some in ruins and some still occupied. Here and there rose a white
or silvery figure in the waste garden of the earth, here and there
came the sharp vertical line of some cupola or obelisk. There were
no hedges, no signs of proprietary rights, no evidences of agriculture;
the whole earth had become a garden.
`So watching, I began to put my interpretation upon the things
I had seen, and as it shaped itself to me that evening, my interpretation
was something in this way. (Afterwards I found I had got only a
half-truth--or only a glimpse of one facet of the truth.)
`It seemed to me that I had happened upon humanity upon the wane.
The ruddy sunset set me thinking of the sunset of mankind. For the
first time I began to realize an odd consequence of the social effort
in which we are at present engaged. And yet, come to think, it is
a logical consequence enough. Strength is the outcome of need; security
sets a premium on feebleness. The work of ameliorating the conditions
of life--the true civilizing process that makes life more and more
secure--had gone steadily on to a climax. One triumph of a united
humanity over Nature had followed another. Things that are now mere
dreams had become projects deliberately put in hand and carried
forward. And the harvest was what I saw!
`After all, the sanitation and the agriculture of to-day are still
in the rudimentary stage. The science of our time has attacked but
a little department of the field of human disease, but even so,
it spreads its operations very steadily and persistently. Our agriculture
and horticulture destroy a weed just here and there and cultivate
perhaps a score or so of wholesome plants, leaving the greater number
to fight out a balance as they can. We improve our favourite plants
and animals --and how few they are--gradually by selective breeding;
now a new and better peach, now a seedless grape, now a sweeter
and larger flower, now a more convenient breed of cattle. We improve
them gradually, because our ideals are vague and tentative, and
our knowledge is very limited; because Nature, too, is shy and slow
in our clumsy hands. Some day all this will be better organized,
and still better. That is the drift of the current in spite of the
eddies. The whole world will be intelligent, educated, and co-operating;
things will move faster and faster towards the subjugation of Nature.
In the end, wisely and carefully we shall readjust the balance of
animal and vegetable me to suit our human needs.
`This adjustment, I say, must have been done, and done well; done
indeed for all Time, in the space of Time across which my machine
had leaped. The air was free from gnats, the earth from weeds or
fungi; everywhere were fruits and sweet and delightful flowers;
brilliant butterflies flew hither and thither. The ideal of preventive
medicine was attained. Diseases had been stamped out. I saw no evidence
of any contagious diseases during all my stay. And I shall have
to tell you later that even the processes of putrefaction and decay
had been profoundly affected by these changes.
`Social triumphs, too, had been effected. I saw mankind housed
in splendid shelters, gloriously clothed, and as yet I had found
them engaged in no toil. There were no signs of struggle, neither
social nor economical struggle. The shop, the advertisement, traffic,
all that commerce which constitutes the body of our world, was gone.
It was natural on that golden evening that I should jump at the
idea of a social paradise. The difficulty of increasing population
had been met, I guessed, and population had ceased to increase.
`But with this change in condition comes inevitably adaptations
to the change. What, unless biological science is a mass of errors,
is the cause of human intelligence and vigour? Hardship and freedom:
conditions under which the active, strong, and subtle survive and
the weaker go to the wall; conditions that put a premium upon the
loyal alliance of capable men, upon self-restraint, patience, and
decision. And the institution of the family, and the emotions that
arise therein, the fierce jealousy, the tenderness for offspring,
parental self-devotion, all found their justification and support
in the imminent dangers of the young. NOW, where are these imminent
dangers? There is a sentiment arising, and it will grow, against
connubial jealousy, against fierce maternity, against passion of
all sorts; unnecessary things now, and things that make us uncomfortable,
savage survivals, discords in a refined and pleasant life.
`I thought of the physical slightness of the people, their lack
of intelligence, and those big abundant ruins, and it strengthened
my belief in a perfect conquest of Nature. For after the battle
comes Quiet. Humanity had been strong, energetic, and intelligent,
and had used all its abundant vitality to alter the conditions under
which it lived. And now came the reaction of the altered conditions.
`Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security, that
restless energy, that with us is strength, would become weakness.
Even in our own time certain tendencies and desires, once necessary
to survival, are a constant source of failure. Physical courage
and the love of battle, for instance, are no great help--may even
be hindrances--to a civilized man. And in a state of physical balance
and security, power, intellectual as well as physical, would be
out of place. For countless years I judged there had been no danger
of war or solitary violence, no danger from wild beasts, no wasting
disease to require strength of constitution, no need of toil. For
such a life, what we should call the weak are as well equipped as
the strong, are indeed no longer weak. Better equipped indeed they
are, for the strong would be fretted by an energy for which there
was no outlet. No doubt the exquisite beauty of the buildings I
saw was the outcome of the last surgings of the now purposeless
energy of mankind before it settled down into perfect harmony with
the conditions under which it lived--the flourish of that triumph
which began the last great peace. This has ever been the fate of
energy in security; it takes to art and to eroticism, and then come
languor and decay.
`Even this artistic impetus would at last die away--had almost
died in the Time I saw. To adorn themselves with flowers, to dance,
to sing in the sunlight: so much was left of the artistic spirit,
and no more. Even that would fade in the end into a contented inactivity.
We are kept keen on the grindstone of pain and necessity, and, it
seemed to me, that here was that hateful grindstone broken at last!
`As I stood there in the gathering dark I thought that in this
simple explanation I had mastered the problem of the world-- mastered
the whole secret of these delicious people. Possibly the checks
they had devised for the increase of population had succeeded too
well, and their numbers had rather diminished than kept stationary.
That would account for the abandoned ruins. Very simple was my explanation,
and plausible enough--as most wrong theories are!
`As I stood there musing over this too perfect triumph of man,
the full moon, yellow and gibbous, came up out of an overflow of
silver light in the north-east. The bright little figures ceased
to move about below, a noiseless owl flitted by, and I shivered
with the chill of the night. I determined to descend and find where
I could sleep.
`I looked for the building I knew. Then my eye travelled along
to the figure of the White Sphinx upon the pedestal of bronze, growing
distinct as the light of the rising moon grew brighter. I could
see the silver birch against it. There was the tangle of rhododendron
bushes, black in the pale light, and there was the little lawn.
I looked at the lawn again. A queer doubt chilled my complacency.
"No," said I stoutly to myself, "that was not the
`But it WAS the lawn. For the white leprous face of the sphinx
was towards it. Can you imagine what I felt as this conviction came
home to me? But you cannot. The Time Machine was gone!
`At once, like a lash across the face, came the possibility of
losing my own age, of being left helpless in this strange new world.
The bare thought of it was an actual physical sensation. I could
feel it grip me at the throat and stop my breathing. In another
moment I was in a passion of fear and running with great leaping
strides down the slope. Once I fell headlong and cut my face; I
lost no time in stanching the blood, but jumped up and ran on, with
a warm trickle down my cheek and chin. All the time I ran I was
saying to myself: "They have moved it a little, pushed it under
the bushes out of the way." Nevertheless, I ran with all my
might. All the time, with the certainty that sometimes comes with
excessive dread, I knew that such assurance was folly, knew instinctively
that the machine was removed out of my reach. My breath came with
pain. I suppose I covered the whole distance from the hill crest
to the little lawn, two miles perhaps, in ten minutes. And I am
not a young man. I cursed aloud, as I ran, at my confident folly
in leaving the machine, wasting good breath thereby. I cried aloud,
and none answered. Not a creature seemed to be stirring in that
`When I reached the lawn my worst fears were realized. Not a trace
of the thing was to be seen. I felt faint and cold when I faced
the empty space among the black tangle of bushes. I ran round it
furiously, as if the thing might be hidden in a corner, and then
stopped abruptly, with my hands clutching my hair. Above me towered
the sphinx, upon the bronze pedestal, white, shining, leprous, in
the light of the rising moon. It seemed to smile in mockery of my
`I might have consoled myself by imagining the little people had
put the mechanism in some shelter for me, had I not felt assured
of their physical and intellectual inadequacy. That is what dismayed
me: the sense of some hitherto unsuspected power, through whose
intervention my invention had vanished. Yet, for one thing I felt
assured: unless some other age had produced its exact duplicate,
the machine could not have moved in time. The attachment of the
levers--I will show you the method later-- prevented any one from
tampering with it in that way when they were removed. It had moved,
and was hid, only in space. But then, where could it be?
`I think I must have had a kind of frenzy. I remember running violently
in and out among the moonlit bushes all round the sphinx, and startling
some white animal that, in the dim light, I took for a small deer.
I remember, too, late that night, beating the bushes with my clenched
fist until my knuckles were gashed and bleeding from the broken
twigs. Then, sobbing and raving in my anguish of mind, I went down
to the great building of stone. The big hall was dark, silent, and
deserted. I slipped on the uneven floor, and fell over one of the
malachite tables, almost breaking my shin. I lit a match and went
on past the dusty curtains, of which I have told you.
`There I found a second great hall covered with cushions, upon
which, perhaps, a score or so of the little people were sleeping.
I have no doubt they found my second appearance strange enough,
coming suddenly out of the quiet darkness with inarticulate noises
and the splutter and flare of a match. For they had forgotten about
matches. "Where is my Time Machine?" I began, bawling
like an angry child, laying hands upon them and shaking them up
together. It must have been very queer to them. Some laughed, most
of them looked sorely frightened. When I saw them standing round
me, it came into my head that I was doing as foolish a thing as
it was possible for me to do under the circumstances, in trying
to revive the sensation of fear. For, reasoning from their daylight
behaviour, I thought that fear must be forgotten.
`Abruptly, I dashed down the match, and, knocking one of the people
over in my course, went blundering across the big dining-hall again,
out under the moonlight. I heard cries of terror and their little
feet running and stumbling this way and that. I do not remember
all I did as the moon crept up the sky. I suppose it was the unexpected
nature of my loss that maddened me. I felt hopelessly cut off from
my own kind--a strange animal in an unknown world. I must have raved
to and fro, screaming and crying upon God and Fate. I have a memory
of horrible fatigue, as the long night of despair wore away; of
looking in this impossible place and that; of groping among moon-lit
ruins and touching strange creatures in the black shadows; at last,
of lying on the ground near the sphinx and weeping with absolute
wretchedness. I had nothing left but misery. Then I slept, and when
I woke again it was full day, and a couple of sparrows were hopping
round me on the turf within reach of my arm.
`I sat up in the freshness of the morning, trying to remember how
I had got there, and why I had such a profound sense of desertion
and despair. Then things came clear in my mind. With the plain,
reasonable daylight, I could look my circumstances fairly in the
face. I saw the wild folly of my frenzy overnight, and I could reason
with myself. "Suppose the worst?" I said. "Suppose
the machine altogether lost--perhaps destroyed? It behooves me to
be calm and patient, to learn the way of the people, to get a clear
idea of the method of my loss, and the means of getting materials
and tools; so that in the end, perhaps, I may make another."
That would be my only hope, perhaps, but better than despair. And,
after all, it was a beautiful and curious world.
`But probably, the machine had only been taken away. Still, I must
be calm and patient, find its hiding-place, and recover it by force
or cunning. And with that I scrambled to my feet and looked about
me, wondering where I could bathe. I felt weary, stiff, and travel-soiled.
The freshness of the morning made me desire an equal freshness.
I had exhausted my emotion. Indeed, as I went about my business,
I found myself wondering at my intense excitement overnight. I made
a careful examination of the ground about the little lawn. I wasted
some time in futile questionings, conveyed, as well as I was able,
to such of the little people as came by. They all failed to understand
my gestures; some were simply stolid, some thought it was a jest
and laughed at me. I had the hardest task in the world to keep my
hands off their pretty laughing faces. It was a foolish impulse,
but the devil begotten of fear and blind anger was ill curbed and
still eager to take advantage of my perplexity. The turf gave better
counsel. I found a groove ripped in it, about midway between the
pedestal of the sphinx and the marks of my feet where, on arrival,
I had struggled with the overturned machine. There were other signs
of removal about, with queer narrow footprints like those I could
imagine made by a sloth. This directed my closer attention to the
pedestal. It was, as I think I have said, of bronze. It was not
a mere block, but highly decorated with deep framed panels on either
side. I went and rapped at these. The pedestal was hollow. Examining
the panels with care I found them discontinuous with the frames.
There were no handles or keyholes, but possibly the panels, if they
were doors, as I supposed, opened from within. One thing was clear
enough to my mind. It took no very great mental effort to infer
that my Time Machine was inside that pedestal. But how it got there
was a different problem.
`I saw the heads of two orange-clad people coming through the bushes
and under some blossom-covered apple-trees towards me. I turned
smiling to them and beckoned them to me. They came, and then, pointing
to the bronze pedestal, I tried to intimate my wish to open it.
But at my first gesture towards this they behaved very oddly. I
don't know how to convey their expression to you. Suppose you were
to use a grossly improper gesture to a delicate-minded woman--it
is how she would look. They went off as if they had received the
last possible insult. I tried a sweet-looking little chap in white
next, with exactly the same result. Somehow, his manner made me
feel ashamed of myself. But, as you know, I wanted the Time Machine,
and I tried him once more. As he turned off, like the others, my
temper got the better of me. In three strides I was after him, had
him by the loose part of his robe round the neck, and began dragging
him towards the sphinx. Then I saw the horror and repugnance of
his face, and all of a sudden I let him go.
`But I was not beaten yet. I banged with my fist at the bronze
panels. I thought I heard something stir inside--to be explicit,
I thought I heard a sound like a chuckle--but I must have been mistaken.
Then I got a big pebble from the river, and came and hammered till
I had flattened a coil in the decorations, and the verdigris came
off in powdery flakes. The delicate little people must have heard
me hammering in gusty outbreaks a mile away on either hand, but
nothing came of it. I saw a crowd of them upon the slopes, looking
furtively at me. At last, hot and tired, I sat down to watch the
place. But I was too restless to watch long; I am too Occidental
for a long vigil. I could work at a problem for years, but to wait
inactive for twenty-four hours--that is another matter.
`I got up after a time, and began walking aimlessly through the
bushes towards the hill again. "Patience," said I to myself.
"If you want your machine again you must leave that sphinx
alone. If they mean to take your machine away, it's little good
your wrecking their bronze panels, and if they don't, you will get
it back as soon as you can ask for it. To sit among all those unknown
things before a puzzle like that is hopeless. That way lies monomania.
Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty
guesses at its meaning. In the end you will find clues to it all."
Then suddenly the humour of the situation came into my mind: the
thought of the years I had spent in study and toil to get into the
future age, and now my passion of anxiety to get out of it. I had
made myself the most complicated and the most hopeless trap that
ever a man devised. Although it was at my own expense, I could not
help myself. I laughed aloud.
`Going through the big palace, it seemed to me that the little
people avoided me. It may have been my fancy, or it may have had
something to do with my hammering at the gates of bronze. Yet I
felt tolerably sure of the avoidance. I was careful, however, to
show no concern and to abstain from any pursuit of them, and in
the course of a day or two things got back to the old footing. I
made what progress I could in the language, and in addition I pushed
my explorations here and there. Either I missed some subtle point
or their language was excessively simple--almost exclusively composed
of concrete substantives and verbs. There seemed to be few, if any,
abstract terms, or little use of figurative language. Their sentences
were usually simple and of two words, and I failed to convey or
understand any but the simplest propositions. I determined to put
the thought of my Time Machine and the mystery of the bronze doors
under the sphinx as much as possible in a corner of memory, until
my growing knowledge would lead me back to them in a natural way.
Yet a certain feeling, you may understand, tethered me in a circle
of a few miles round the point of my arrival.
`So far as I could see, all the world displayed the same exuberant
richness as the Thames valley. From every hill I climbed I saw the
same abundance of splendid buildings, endlessly varied in material
and style, the same clustering thickets of evergreens, the same
blossom-laden trees and tree-ferns. Here and there water shone like
silver, and beyond, the land rose into blue undulating hills, and
so faded into the serenity of the sky. A peculiar feature, which
presently attracted my attention, was the presence of certain circular
wells, several, as it seemed to me, of a very great depth. One lay
by the path up the hill, which I had followed during my first walk.
Like the others, it was rimmed with bronze, curiously wrought, and
protected by a little cupola from the rain. Sitting by the side
of these wells, and peering down into the shafted darkness, I could
see no gleam of water, nor could I start any reflection with a lighted
match. But in all of them I heard a certain sound: a thud-thud-thud,
like the beating of some big engine; and I discovered, from the
flaring of my matches, that a steady current of air set down the
shafts. Further, I threw a scrap of paper into the throat of one,
and, instead of fluttering slowly down, it was at once sucked swiftly
out of sight.
`After a time, too, I came to connect these wells with tall towers
standing here and there upon the slopes; for above them there was
often just such a flicker in the air as one sees on a hot day above
a sun-scorched beach. Putting things together, I reached a strong
suggestion of an extensive system of subterranean ventilation, whose
true import it was difficult to imagine. I was at first inclined
to associate it with the sanitary apparatus of these people. It
was an obvious conclusion, but it was absolutely wrong.
`And here I must admit that I learned very little of drains and
bells and modes of conveyance, and the like conveniences, during
my time in this real future. In some of these visions of Utopias
and coming times which I have read, there is a vast amount of detail
about building, and social arrangements, and so forth. But while
such details are easy enough to obtain when the whole world is contained
in one's imagination, they are altogether inaccessible to a real
traveller amid such realities as I found here. Conceive the tale
of London which a negro, fresh from Central Africa, would take back
to his tribe! What would he know of railway companies, of social
movements, of telephone and telegraph wires, of the Parcels Delivery
Company, and postal orders and the like? Yet we, at least, should
be willing enough to explain these things to him! And even of what
he knew, how much could he make his untravelled friend either apprehend
or believe? Then, think how narrow the gap between a negro and a
white man of our own times, and how wide the interval between myself
and these of the Golden Age! I was sensible of much which was unseen,
and which contributed to my comfort; but save for a general impression
of automatic organization, I fear I can convey very little of the
difference to your mind.
`In the matter of sepulchre, for instance, I could see no signs
of crematoria nor anything suggestive of tombs. But it occurred
to me that, possibly, there might be cemeteries (or crematoria)
somewhere beyond the range of my explorings. This, again, was a
question I deliberately put to myself, and my curiosity was at first
entirely defeated upon the point. The thing puzzled me, and I was
led to make a further remark, which puzzled me still more: that
aged and infirm among this people there were none.
`I must confess that my satisfaction with my first theories of
an automatic civilization and a decadent humanity did not long endure.
Yet I could think of no other. Let me put my difficulties. The several
big palaces I had explored were mere living places, great dining-halls
and sleeping apartments. I could find no machinery, no appliances
of any kind. Yet these people were clothed in pleasant fabrics that
must at times need renewal, and their sandals, though undecorated,
were fairly complex specimens of metalwork. Somehow such things
must be made. And the little people displayed no vestige of a creative
tendency. There were no shops, no workshops, no sign of importations
among them. They spent all their time in playing gently, in bathing
in the river, in making love in a half-playful fashion, in eating
fruit and sleeping. I could not see how things were kept going.
`Then, again, about the Time Machine: something, I knew not what,
had taken it into the hollow pedestal of the White Sphinx. Why?
For the life of me I could not imagine. Those waterless wells, too,
those flickering pillars. I felt I lacked a clue. I felt--how shall
I put it? Suppose you found an inscription, with sentences here
and there in excellent plain English, and interpolated therewith,
others made up of words, of letters even, absolutely unknown to
you? Well, on the third day of my visit, that was how the world
of Eight Hundred and Two Thousand Seven Hundred and One presented
itself to me!
`That day, too, I made a friend--of a sort. It happened that, as
I was watching some of the little people bathing in a shallow, one
of them was seized with cramp and began drifting downstream. The
main current ran rather swiftly, but not too strongly for even a
moderate swimmer. It will give you an idea, therefore, of the strange
deficiency in these creatures, when I tell you that none made the
slightest attempt to rescue the weakly crying little thing which
was drowning before their eyes. When I realized this, I hurriedly
slipped off my clothes, and, wading in at a point lower down, I
caught the poor mite and drew her safe to land. A little rubbing
of the limbs soon brought her round, and I had the satisfaction
of seeing she was all right before I left her. I had got to such
a low estimate of her kind that I did not expect any gratitude from
her. In that, however, I was wrong.
`This happened in the morning. In the afternoon I met my little
woman, as I believe it was, as I was returning towards my centre
from an exploration, and she received me with cries of delight and
presented me with a big garland of flowers-- evidently made for
me and me alone. The thing took my imagination. Very possibly I
had been feeling desolate. At any rate I did my best to display
my appreciation of the gift. We were soon seated together in a little
stone arbour, engaged in conversation, chiefly of smiles. The creature's
friendliness affected me exactly as a child's might have done. We
passed each other flowers, and she kissed my hands. I did the same
to hers. Then I tried talk, and found that her name was Weena, which,
though I don't know what it meant, somehow seemed appropriate enough.
That was the beginning of a queer friendship which lasted a week,
and ended--as I will tell you!
`She was exactly like a child. She wanted to be with me always.
She tried to follow me everywhere, and on my next journey out and
about it went to my heart to tire her down, and leave her at last,
exhausted and calling after me rather plaintively. But the problems
of the world had to be mastered. I had not, I said to myself, come
into the future to carry on a miniature flirtation. Yet her distress
when I left her was very great, her expostulations at the parting
were sometimes frantic, and I think, altogether, I had as much trouble
as comfort from her devotion. Nevertheless she was, somehow, a very
great comfort. I thought it was mere childish affection that made
her cling to me. Until it was too late, I did not clearly know what
I had inflicted upon her when I left her. Nor until it was too late
did I clearly understand what she was to me. For, by merely seeming
fond of me, and showing in her weak, futile way that she cared for
me, the little doll of a creature presently gave my return to the
neighbourhood of the White Sphinx almost the feeling of coming home;
and I would watch for her tiny figure of white and gold so soon
as I came over the hill.
`It was from her, too, that I learned that fear had not yet left
the world. She was fearless enough in the daylight, and she had
the oddest confidence in me; for once, in a foolish moment, I made
threatening grimaces at her, and she simply laughed at them. But
she dreaded the dark, dreaded shadows, dreaded black things. Darkness
to her was the one thing dreadful. It was a singularly passionate
emotion, and it set me thinking and observing. I discovered then,
among other things, that these little people gathered into the great
houses after dark, and slept in droves. To enter upon them without
a light was to put them into a tumult of apprehension. I never found
one out of doors, or one sleeping alone within doors, after dark.
Yet I was still such a blockhead that I missed the lesson of that
fear, and in spite of Weena's distress I insisted upon sleeping
away from these slumbering multitudes.
`It troubled her greatly, but in the end her odd affection for
me triumphed, and for five of the nights of our acquaintance, including
the last night of all, she slept with her head pillowed on my arm.
But my story slips away from me as I speak of her. It must have
been the night before her rescue that I was awakened about dawn.
I had been restless, dreaming most disagreeably that I was drowned,
and that sea anemones were feeling over my face with their soft
palps. I woke with a start, and with an odd fancy that some greyish
animal had just rushed out of the chamber. I tried to get to sleep
again, but I felt restless and uncomfortable. It was that dim grey
hour when things are just creeping out of darkness, when everything
is colourless and clear cut, and yet unreal. I got up, and went
down into the great hall, and so out upon the flagstones in front
of the palace. I thought I would make a virtue of necessity, and
see the sunrise.
`The moon was setting, and the dying moonlight and the first pallor
of dawn were mingled in a ghastly half-light. The bushes were inky
black, the ground a sombre grey, the sky colourless and cheerless.
And up the hill I thought I could see ghosts. There several times,
as I scanned the slope, I saw white figures. Twice I fancied I saw
a solitary white, ape-like creature running rather quickly up the
hill, and once near the ruins I saw a leash of them carrying some
dark body. They moved hastily. I did not see what became of them.
It seemed that they vanished among the bushes. The dawn was still
indistinct, you must understand. I was feeling that chill, uncertain,
early-morning feeling you may have known. I doubted my eyes.
`As the eastern sky grew brighter, and the light of the day came
on and its vivid colouring returned upon the world once more, I
scanned the view keenly. But I saw no vestige of my white figures.
They were mere creatures of the half light. "They must have
been ghosts," I said; "I wonder whence they dated."
For a queer notion of Grant Allen's came into my head, and amused
me. If each generation die and leave ghosts, he argued, the world
at last will get overcrowded with them. On that theory they would
have grown innumerable some Eight Hundred Thousand Years hence,
and it was no great wonder to see four at once. But the jest was
unsatisfying, and I was thinking of these figures all the morning,
until Weena's rescue drove them out of my head. I associated them
in some indefinite way with the white animal I had startled in my
first passionate search for the Time Machine. But Weena was a pleasant
substitute. Yet all the same, they were soon destined to take far
deadlier possession of my mind.
`I think I have said how much hotter than our own was the weather
of this Golden Age. I cannot account for it. It may be that the
sun was hotter, or the earth nearer the sun. It is usual to assume
that the sun will go on cooling steadily in the future. But people,
unfamiliar with such speculations as those of the younger Darwin,
forget that the planets must ultimately fall back one by one into
the parent body. As these catastrophes occur, the sun will blaze
with renewed energy; and it may be that some inner planet had suffered
this fate. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the sun was
very much hotter than we know it.
`Well, one very hot morning--my fourth, I think--as I was seeking
shelter from the heat and glare in a colossal ruin near the great
house where I slept and fed, there happened this strange thing:
Clambering among these heaps of masonry, I found a narrow gallery,
whose end and side windows were blocked by fallen masses of stone.
By contrast with the brilliancy outside, it seemed at first impenetrably
dark to me. I entered it groping, for the change from light to blackness
made spots of colour swim before me. Suddenly I halted spellbound.
A pair of eyes, luminous by reflection against the daylight without,
was watching me out of the darkness.
`The old instinctive dread of wild beasts came upon me. I clenched
my hands and steadfastly looked into the glaring eyeballs. I was
afraid to turn. Then the thought of the absolute security in which
humanity appeared to be living came to my mind. And then I remembered
that strange terror of the dark. Overcoming my fear to some extent,
I advanced a step and spoke. I will admit that my voice was harsh
and ill-controlled. I put out my hand and touched something soft.
At once the eyes darted sideways, and something white ran past me.
I turned with my heart in my mouth, and saw a queer little ape-like
figure, its head held down in a peculiar manner, running across
the sunlit space behind me. It blundered against a block of granite,
staggered aside, and in a moment was hidden in a black shadow beneath
another pile of ruined masonry.
`My impression of it is, of course, imperfect; but I know it was
a dull white, and had strange large greyish-red eyes; also that
there was flaxen hair on its head and down its back. But, as I say,
it went too fast for me to see distinctly. I cannot even say whether
it ran on all-fours, or only with its forearms held very low. After
an instant's pause I followed it into the second heap of ruins.
I could not find it at first; but, after a time in the profound
obscurity, I came upon one of those round well-like openings of
which I have told you, half closed by a fallen pillar. A sudden
thought came to me. Could this Thing have vanished down the shaft?
I lit a match, and, looking down, I saw a small, white, moving creature,
with large bright eyes which regarded me steadfastly as it retreated.
It made me shudder. It was so like a human spider! It was clambering
down the wall, and now I saw for the first time a number of metal
foot and hand rests forming a kind of ladder down the shaft. Then
the light burned my fingers and fell out of my hand, going out as
it dropped, and when I had lit another the little monster had disappeared.
`I do not know how long I sat peering down that well. It was not
for some time that I could succeed in persuading myself that the
thing I had seen was human. But, gradually, the truth dawned on
me: that Man had not remained one species, but had differentiated
into two distinct animals: that my graceful children of the Upper-world
were not the sole descendants of our generation, but that this bleached,
obscene, nocturnal Thing, which had flashed before me, was also
heir to all the ages.
`I thought of the flickering pillars and of my theory of an underground
ventilation. I began to suspect their true import. And what, I wondered,
was this Lemur doing in my scheme of a perfectly balanced organization?
How was it related to the indolent serenity of the beautiful Upper-worlders?
And what was hidden down there, at the foot of that shaft? I sat
upon the edge of the well telling myself that, at any rate, there
was nothing to fear, and that there I must descend for the solution
of my difficulties. And withal I was absolutely afraid to go! As
I hesitated, two of the beautiful Upper-world people came running
in their amorous sport across the daylight in the shadow. The male
pursued the female, flinging flowers at her as he ran.
`They seemed distressed to find me, my arm against the overturned
pillar, peering down the well. Apparently it was considered bad
form to remark these apertures; for when I pointed to this one,
and tried to frame a question about it in their tongue, they were
still more visibly distressed and turned away. But they were interested
by my matches, and I struck some to amuse them. I tried them again
about the well, and again I failed. So presently I left them, meaning
to go back to Weena, and see what I could get from her. But my mind
was already in revolution; my guesses and impressions were slipping
and sliding to a new adjustment. I had now a clue to the import
of these wells, to the ventilating towers, to the mystery of the
ghosts; to say nothing of a hint at the meaning of the bronze gates
and the fate of the Time Machine! And very vaguely there came a
suggestion towards the solution of the economic problem that had
`Here was the new view. Plainly, this second
species of Man was subterranean. There were three circumstances
in particular which made me think that its rare emergence above
ground was the outcome of a long-continued underground habit. In
the first place, there was the bleached look common in most animals
that live largely in the dark--the white fish of the Kentucky caves,
for instance. Then, those large eyes, with that capacity for reflecting
light, are common features of nocturnal things-- witness the owl
and the cat. And last of all, that evident confusion in the sunshine,
that hasty yet fumbling awkward flight towards dark shadow, and
that peculiar carriage of the head while in the light--all reinforced
the theory of an extreme sensitiveness of the retina.
`Beneath my feet, then, the earth must be tunnelled enormously,
and these tunnellings were the habitat of the new race. The presence
of ventilating shafts and wells along the hill slopes--everywhere,
in fact except along the river valley --showed how universal were
its ramifications. What so natural, then, as to assume that it was
in this artificial Underworld that such work as was necessary to
the comfort of the daylight race was done? The notion was so plausible
that I at once accepted it, and went on to assume the how of this
splitting of the human species. I dare say you will anticipate the
shape of my theory; though, for myself, I very soon felt that it
fell far short of the truth.
`At first, proceeding from the problems of our own age, it seemed
clear as daylight to me that the gradual widening of the present
merely temporary and social difference between the Capitalist and
the Labourer, was the key to the whole position. No doubt it will
seem grotesque enough to you--and wildly incredible!--and yet even
now there are existing circumstances to point that way. There is
a tendency to utilize underground space for the less ornamental
purposes of civilization; there is the Metropolitan Railway in London,
for instance, there are new electric railways, there are subways,
there are underground workrooms and restaurants, and they increase
and multiply. Evidently, I thought, this tendency had increased
till Industry had gradually lost its birthright in the sky. I mean
that it had gone deeper and deeper into larger and ever larger underground
factories, spending a still-increasing amount of its time therein,
till, in the end--! Even now, does not an East-end worker live in
such artificial conditions as practically to be cut off from the
natural surface of the earth?
`Again, the exclusive tendency of richer
people--due, no doubt, to the increasing refinement of their education,
and the widening gulf between them and the rude violence of the
poor-- is already leading to the closing, in their interest, of
considerable portions of the surface of the land. About London,
for instance, perhaps half the prettier country is shut in against
intrusion. And this same widening gulf--which is due to the length
and expense of the higher educational process and the increased
facilities for and temptations towards refined habits on the part
of the rich--will make that exchange between class and class, that
promotion by intermarriage which at present retards the splitting
of our species along lines of social stratification, less and less
frequent. So, in the end, above ground you must have the Haves,
pursuing pleasure and comfort and beauty, and below ground the Have-nots,
the Workers getting continually adapted to the conditions of their
labour. Once they were there, they would no doubt have to pay rent,
and not a little of it, for the ventilation of their caverns; and
if they refused, they would starve or be suffocated for arrears.
Such of them as were so constituted as to be miserable and rebellious
would die; and, in the end, the balance being permanent, the survivors
would become as well adapted to the conditions of underground life,
and as happy in their way, as the Upper-world people were to theirs.
As it seemed to me, the refined beauty and the etiolated pallor
followed naturally enough.
`The great triumph of Humanity I had dreamed of took a different
shape in my mind. It had been no such triumph of moral education
and general co-operation as I had imagined. Instead, I saw a real
aristocracy, armed with a perfected science and working to a logical
conclusion the industrial system of to-day. Its triumph had not
been simply a triumph over Nature, but a triumph over Nature and
the fellow-man. This, I must warn you, was my theory at the time.
I had no convenient cicerone in the pattern of the Utopian books.
My explanation may be absolutely wrong. I still think it is the
most plausible one. But even on this supposition the balanced civilization
that was at last attained must have long since passed its zenith,
and was now far fallen into decay. The too-perfect security of the
Upper-worlders had led them to a slow movement of degeneration,
to a general dwindling in size, strength, and intelligence. That
I could see clearly enough already. What had happened to the Under-grounders
I did not yet suspect; but from what I had seen of the Morlocks--that,
by the by, was the name by which these creatures were called--I
could imagine that the modification of the human type was even far
more profound than among the "Eloi," the beautiful race
that I already knew.
`Then came troublesome doubts. Why had the Morlocks taken my Time
Machine? For I felt sure it was they who had taken it. Why, too,
if the Eloi were masters, could they not restore the machine to
me? And why were they so terribly afraid of the dark? I proceeded,
as I have said, to question Weena about this Under-world, but here
again I was disappointed. At first she would not understand my questions,
and presently she refused to answer them. She shivered as though
the topic was unendurable. And when I pressed her, perhaps a little
harshly, she burst into tears. They were the only tears, except
my own, I ever saw in that Golden Age. When I saw them I ceased
abruptly to trouble about the Morlocks, and was only concerned in
banishing these signs of the human inheritance from Weena's eyes.
And very soon she was smiling and clapping her hands, while I solemnly
burned a match.
`It may seem odd to you, but it was two days before I could follow
up the new-found clue in what was manifestly the proper way. I felt
a peculiar shrinking from those pallid bodies. They were just the
half-bleached colour of the worms and things one sees preserved
in spirit in a zoological museum. And they were filthily cold to
the touch. Probably my shrinking was largely due to the sympathetic
influence of the Eloi, whose disgust of the Morlocks I now began
`The next night I did not sleep well. Probably my health was a
little disordered. I was oppressed with perplexity and doubt. Once
or twice I had a feeling of intense fear for which I could perceive
no definite reason. I remember creeping noiselessly into the great
hall where the little people were sleeping in the moonlight--that
night Weena was among them--and feeling reassured by their presence.
It occurred to me even then, that in the course of a few days the
moon must pass through its last quarter, and the nights grow dark,
when the appearances of these unpleasant creatures from below, these
whitened Lemurs, this new vermin that had replaced the old, might
be more abundant. And on both these days I had the restless feeling
of one who shirks an inevitable duty. I felt assured that the Time
Machine was only to be recovered by boldly penetrating these underground
mysteries. Yet I could not face the mystery. If only I had had a
companion it would have been different. But I was so horribly alone,
and even to clamber down into the darkness of the well appalled
me. I don't know if you will understand my feeling, but I never
felt quite safe at my back.
`It was this restlessness, this insecurity, perhaps, that drove
me further and further afield in my exploring expeditions. Going
to the south-westward towards the rising country that is now called
Combe Wood, I observed far off, in the direction of nineteenth-century
Banstead, a vast green structure, different in character from any
I had hitherto seen. It was larger than the largest of the palaces
or ruins I knew, and the facade had an Oriental look: the face of
it having the lustre, as well as the pale-green tint, a kind of
bluish-green, of a certain type of Chinese porcelain. This difference
in aspect suggested a difference in use, and I was minded to push
on and explore. But the day was growing late, and I had come upon
the sight of the place after a long and tiring circuit; so I resolved
to hold over the adventure for the following day, and I returned
to the welcome and the caresses of little Weena. But next morning
I perceived clearly enough that my curiosity regarding the Palace
of Green Porcelain was a piece of self-deception, to enable me to
shirk, by another day, an experience I dreaded. I resolved I would
make the descent without further waste of time, and started out
in the early morning towards a well near the ruins of granite and
`Little Weena ran with me. She danced beside me to the well, but
when she saw me lean over the mouth and look downward, she seemed
strangely disconcerted. "Good-bye, Little Weena," I said,
kissing her; and then putting her down, I began to feel over the
parapet for the climbing hooks. Rather hastily, I may as well confess,
for I feared my courage might leak away! At first she watched me
in amazement. Then she gave a most piteous cry, and running to me,
she began to pull at me with her little hands. I think her opposition
nerved me rather to proceed. I shook her off, perhaps a little roughly,
and in another moment I was in the throat of the well. I saw her
agonized face over the parapet, and smiled to reassure her. Then
I had to look down at the unstable hooks to which I clung.
`I had to clamber down a shaft of perhaps two hundred yards. The
descent was effected by means of metallic bars projecting from the
sides of the well, and these being adapted to the needs of a creature
much smaller and lighter than myself, I was speedily cramped and
fatigued by the descent. And not simply fatigued! One of the bars
bent suddenly under my weight, and almost swung me off into the
blackness beneath. For a moment I hung by one hand, and after that
experience I did not dare to rest again. Though my arms and back
were presently acutely painful, I went on clambering down the sheer
descent with as quick a motion as possible. Glancing upward, I saw
the aperture, a small blue disk, in which a star was visible, while
little Weena's head showed as a round black projection. The thudding
sound of a machine below grew louder and more oppressive. Everything
save that little disk above was profoundly dark, and when I looked
up again Weena had disappeared.
`I was in an agony of discomfort. I had some thought of trying
to go up the shaft again, and leave the Under-world alone. But even
while I turned this over in my mind I continued to descend. At last,
with intense relief, I saw dimly coming up, a foot to the right
of me, a slender loophole in the wall. Swinging myself in, I found
it was the aperture of a narrow horizontal tunnel in which I could
lie down and rest. It was not too soon. My arms ached, my back was
cramped, and I was trembling with the prolonged terror of a fall.
Besides this, the unbroken darkness had had a distressing effect
upon my eyes. The air was full of the throb and hum of machinery
pumping air down the shaft.
`I do not know how long I lay. I was roused by a soft hand touching
my face. Starting up in the darkness I snatched at my matches and,
hastily striking one, I saw three stooping white creatures similar
to the one I had seen above ground in the ruin, hastily retreating
before the light. Living, as they did, in what appeared to me impenetrable
darkness, their eyes were abnormally large and sensitive, just as
are the pupils of the abysmal fishes, and they reflected the light
in the same way. I have no doubt they could see me in that rayless
obscurity, and they did not seem to have any fear of me apart from
the light. But, so soon as I struck a match in order to see them,
they fled incontinently, vanishing into dark gutters and tunnels,
from which their eyes glared at me in the strangest fashion.
`I tried to call to them, but the language they had was apparently
different from that of the Over-world people; so that I was needs
left to my own unaided efforts, and the thought of flight before
exploration was even then in my mind. But I said to myself, "You
are in for it now," and, feeling my way along the tunnel, I
found the noise of machinery grow louder. Presently the walls fell
away from me, and I came to a large open space, and striking another
match, saw that I had entered a vast arched cavern, which stretched
into utter darkness beyond the range of my light. The view I had
of it was as much as one could see in the burning of a match.
`Necessarily my memory is vague. Great shapes like big machines
rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which
dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare. The place, by the
by, was very stuffy and oppressive, and the faint halitus of freshly
shed blood was in the air. Some way down the central vista was a
little table of white metal, laid with what seemed a meal. The Morlocks
at any rate were carnivorous! Even at the time, I remember wondering
what large animal could have survived to furnish the red joint I
saw. It was all very indistinct: the heavy smell, the big unmeaning
shapes, the obscene figures lurking in the shadows, and only waiting
for the darkness to come at me again! Then the match burned down,
and stung my fingers, and fell, a wriggling red spot in the blackness.
`I have thought since how particularly ill-equipped I was for such
an experience. When I had started with the Time Machine, I had started
with the absurd assumption that the men of the Future would certainly
be infinitely ahead of ourselves in all their appliances. I had
come without arms, without medicine, without anything to smoke--at
times I missed tobacco frightfully--even without enough matches.
If only I had thought of a Kodak! I could have flashed that glimpse
of the Underworld in a second, and examined it at leisure. But,
as it was, I stood there with only the weapons and the powers that
Nature had endowed me with--hands, feet, and teeth; these, and four
safety-matches that still remained to me.
`I was afraid to push my way in among all this machinery in the
dark, and it was only with my last glimpse of light I discovered
that my store of matches had run low. It had never occurred to me
until that moment that there was any need to economize them, and
I had wasted almost half the box in astonishing the Upper-worlders,
to whom fire was a novelty. Now, as I say, I had four left, and
while I stood in the dark, a hand touched mine, lank fingers came
feeling over my face, and I was sensible of a peculiar unpleasant
odour. I fancied I heard the breathing of a crowd of those dreadful
little beings about me. I felt the box of matches in my hand being
gently disengaged, and other hands behind me plucking at my clothing.
The sense of these unseen creatures examining me was indescribably
unpleasant. The sudden realization of my ignorance of their ways
of thinking and doing came home to me very vividly in the darkness.
I shouted at them as loudly as I could. They started away, and then
I could feel them approaching me again. They clutched at me more
boldly, whispering odd sounds to each other. I shivered violently,
and shouted again rather discordantly. This time they were not so
seriously alarmed, and they made a queer laughing noise as they
came back at me. I will confess I was horribly frightened. I determined
to strike another match and escape under the protection of its glare.
I did so, and eking out the flicker with a scrap of paper from my
pocket, I made good my retreat to the narrow tunnel. But I had scarce
entered this when my light was blown out and in the blackness I
could hear the Morlocks rustling like wind among leaves, and pattering
like the rain, as they hurried after me.
`In a moment I was clutched by several hands, and there was no
mistaking that they were trying to haul me back. I struck another
light, and waved it in their dazzled faces. You can scarce imagine
how nauseatingly inhuman they looked--those pale, chinless faces
and great, lidless, pinkish-grey eyes!--as they stared in their
blindness and bewilderment. But I did not stay to look, I promise
you: I retreated again, and when my second match had ended, I struck
my third. It had almost burned through when I reached the opening
into the shaft. I lay down on the edge, for the throb of the great
pump below made me giddy. Then I felt sideways for the projecting
hooks, and, as I did so, my feet were grasped from behind, and I
was violently tugged backward. I lit my last match . . . and it
incontinently went out. But I had my hand on the climbing bars now,
and, kicking violently, I disengaged myself from the clutches of
the Morlocks and was speedily clambering up the shaft, while they
stayed peering and blinking up at me: all but one little wretch
who followed me for some way, and wellnigh secured my boot as a
`That climb seemed interminable to me. With the last twenty or
thirty feet of it a deadly nausea came upon me. I had the greatest
difficulty in keeping my hold. The last few yards was a frightful
struggle against this faintness. Several times my head swam, and
I felt all the sensations of falling. At last, however, I got over
the well-mouth somehow, and staggered out of the ruin into the blinding
sunlight. I fell upon my face. Even the soil smelt sweet and clean.
Then I remember Weena kissing my hands and ears, and the voices
of others among the Eloi. Then, for a time, I was insensible.
`Now, indeed, I seemed in a worse case than before. Hitherto, except
during my night's anguish at the loss of the Time Machine, I had
felt a sustaining hope of ultimate escape, but that hope was staggered
by these new discoveries. Hitherto I had merely thought myself impeded
by the childish simplicity of the little people, and by some unknown
forces which I had only to understand to overcome; but there was
an altogether new element in the sickening quality of the Morlocks--a
something inhuman and malign. Instinctively I loathed them. Before,
I had felt as a man might feel who had fallen into a pit: my concern
was with the pit and how to get out of it. Now I felt like a beast
in a trap, whose enemy would come upon him soon.
`The enemy I dreaded may surprise you. It was the darkness of the
new moon. Weena had put this into my head by some at first incomprehensible
remarks about the Dark Nights. It was not now such a very difficult
problem to guess what the coming Dark Nights might mean. The moon
was on the wane: each night there was a longer interval of darkness.
And I now understood to some slight degree at least the reason of
the fear of the little Upper-world people for the dark. I wondered
vaguely what foul villainy it might be that the Morlocks did under
the new moon. I felt pretty sure now that my second hypothesis was
all wrong. The Upper-world people might once have been the favoured
aristocracy, and the Morlocks their mechanical servants: but that
had long since passed away. The two species that had resulted from
the evolution of man were sliding down towards, or had already arrived
at, an altogether new relationship. The Eloi, like the Carolingian
kings, had decayed to a mere beautiful futility. They still possessed
the earth on sufferance: since the Morlocks, subterranean for innumerable
generations, had come at last to find the daylit surface intolerable.
And the Morlocks made their garments, I inferred, and maintained
them in their habitual needs, perhaps through the survival of an
old habit of service. They did it as a standing horse paws with
his foot, or as a man enjoys killing animals in sport: because ancient
and departed necessities had impressed it on the organism. But,
clearly, the old order was already in part reversed. The Nemesis
of the delicate ones was creeping on apace. Ages ago, thousands
of generations ago, man had thrust his brother man out of the ease
and the sunshine. And now that brother was coming back changed!
Already the Eloi had begun to learn one old lesson anew. They were
becoming reacquainted with Fear. And suddenly there came into my
head the memory of the meat I had seen in the Under-world. It seemed
odd how it floated into my mind: not stirred up as it were by the
current of my meditations, but coming in almost like a question
from outside. I tried to recall the form of it. I had a vague sense
of something familiar, but I could not tell what it was at the time.
`Still, however helpless the little people in the presence of their
mysterious Fear, I was differently constituted. I came out of this
age of ours, this ripe prime of the human race, when Fear does not
paralyse and mystery has lost its terrors. I at least would defend
myself. Without further delay I determined to make myself arms and
a fastness where I might sleep. With that refuge as a base, I could
face this strange world with some of that confidence I had lost
in realizing to what creatures night by night I lay exposed. I felt
I could never sleep again until my bed was secure from them. I shuddered
with horror to think how they must already have examined me.
`I wandered during the afternoon along the valley of the Thames,
but found nothing that commended itself to my mind as inaccessible.
All the buildings and trees seemed easily practicable to such dexterous
climbers as the Morlocks, to judge by their wells, must be. Then
the tall pinnacles of the Palace of Green Porcelain and the polished
gleam of its walls came back to my memory; and in the evening, taking
Weena like a child upon my shoulder, I went up the hills towards
the south-west. The distance, I had reckoned, was seven or eight
miles, but it must have been nearer eighteen. I had first seen the
place on a moist afternoon when distances are deceptively diminished.
In addition, the heel of one of my shoes was loose, and a nail was
working through the sole--they were comfortable old shoes I wore
about indoors--so that I was lame. And it was already long past
sunset when I came in sight of the palace, silhouetted black against
the pale yellow of the sky.
`Weena had been hugely delighted when I began to carry her, but
after a while she desired me to let her down, and ran along by the
side of me, occasionally darting off on either hand to pick flowers
to stick in my pockets. My pockets had always puzzled Weena, but
at the last she had concluded that they were an eccentric kind of
vase for floral decoration. At least she utilized them for that
purpose. And that reminds me! In changing my jacket I found . .
The Time Traveller paused, put his hand into his pocket, and silently
placed two withered flowers, not unlike very large white mallows,
upon the little table. Then he resumed his narrative.
`As the hush of evening crept over the world and we proceeded over
the hill crest towards Wimbledon, Weena grew tired and wanted to
return to the house of grey stone. But I pointed out the distant
pinnacles of the Palace of Green Porcelain to her, and contrived
to make her understand that we were seeking a refuge there from
her Fear. You know that great pause that comes upon things before
the dusk? Even the breeze stops in the trees. To me there is always
an air of expectation about that evening stillness. The sky was
clear, remote, and empty save for a few horizontal bars far down
in the sunset. Well, that night the expectation took the colour
of my fears. In that darkling calm my senses seemed preternaturally
sharpened. I fancied I could even feel the hollowness of the ground
beneath my feet: could, indeed, almost see through it the Morlocks
on their ant-hill going hither and thither and waiting for the dark.
In my excitement I fancied that they would receive my invasion of
their burrows as a declaration of war. And why had they taken my
`So we went on in the quiet, and the twilight deepened into night.
The clear blue of the distance faded, and one star after another
came out. The ground grew dim and the trees black. Weena's fears
and her fatigue grew upon her. I took her in my arms and talked
to her and caressed her. Then, as the darkness grew deeper, she
put her arms round my neck, and, closing her eyes, tightly pressed
her face against my shoulder. So we went down a long slope into
a valley, and there in the dimness I almost walked into a little
river. This I waded, and went up the opposite side of the valley,
past a number of sleeping houses, and by a statue--a Faun, or some
such figure, MINUS the head. Here too were acacias. So far I had
seen nothing of the Morlocks, but it was yet early in the night,
and the darker hours before the old moon rose were still to come.
`From the brow of the next hill I saw a thick wood spreading wide
and black before me. I hesitated at this. I could see no end to
it, either to the right or the left. Feeling tired--my feet, in
particular, were very sore--I carefully lowered Weena from my shoulder
as I halted, and sat down upon the turf. I could no longer see the
Palace of Green Porcelain, and I was in doubt of my direction. I
looked into the thickness of the wood and thought of what it might
hide. Under that dense tangle of branches one would be out of sight
of the stars. Even were there no other lurking danger--a danger
I did not care to let my imagination loose upon--there would still
be all the roots to stumble over and the tree-boles to strike against.
`I was very tired, too, after the excitements of the day; so I
decided that I would not face it, but would pass the night upon
the open hill.
`Weena, I was glad to find, was fast asleep. I carefully wrapped
her in my jacket, and sat down beside her to wait for the moonrise.
The hill-side was quiet and deserted, but from the black of the
wood there came now and then a stir of living things. Above me shone
the stars, for the night was very clear. I felt a certain sense
of friendly comfort in their twinkling. All the old constellations
had gone from the sky, however: that slow movement which is imperceptible
in a hundred human lifetimes, had long since rearranged them in
unfamiliar groupings. But the Milky Way, it seemed to me, was still
the same tattered streamer of star-dust as of yore. Southward (as
I judged it) was a very bright red star that was new to me; it was
even more splendid than our own green Sirius. And amid all these
scintillating points of light one bright planet shone kindly and
steadily like the face of an old friend.
`Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all
the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable
distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of
the unknown past into the unknown future. I thought of the great
precessional cycle that the pole of the earth describes. Only forty
times had that silent revolution occurred during all the years that
I had traversed. And during these few revolutions all the activity,
all the traditions, the complex organizations, the nations, languages,
literatures, aspirations, even the mere memory of Man as I knew
him, had been swept out of existence. Instead were these frail creatures
who had forgotten their high ancestry, and the white Things of which
I went in terror. Then I thought of the Great Fear that was between
the two species, and for the first time, with a sudden shiver, came
the clear knowledge of what the meat I had seen might be. Yet it
was too horrible! I looked at little Weena sleeping beside me, her
face white and starlike under the stars, and forthwith dismissed
`Through that long night I held my mind off the Morlocks as well
as I could, and whiled away the time by trying to fancy I could
find signs of the old constellations in the new confusion. The sky
kept very clear, except for a hazy cloud or so. No doubt I dozed
at times. Then, as my vigil wore on, came a faintness in the eastward
sky, like the reflection of some colourless fire, and the old moon
rose, thin and peaked and white. And close behind, and overtaking
it, and overflowing it, the dawn came, pale at first, and then growing
pink and warm. No Morlocks had approached us. Indeed, I had seen
none upon the hill that night. And in the confidence of renewed
day it almost seemed to me that my fear had been unreasonable. I
stood up and found my foot with the loose heel swollen at the ankle
and painful under the heel; so I sat down again, took off my shoes,
and flung them away.
`I awakened Weena, and we went down into the wood, now green and
pleasant instead of black and forbidding. We found some fruit wherewith
to break our fast. We soon met others of the dainty ones, laughing
and dancing in the sunlight as though there was no such thing in
nature as the night. And then I thought once more of the meat that
I had seen. I felt assured now of what it was, and from the bottom
of my heart I pitied this last feeble rill from the great flood
of humanity. Clearly, at some time in the Long-Ago of human decay
the Morlocks' food had run short. Possibly they had lived on rats
and such-like vermin. Even now man is far less discriminating and
exclusive in his food than he was--far less than any monkey. His
prejudice against human flesh is no deep-seated instinct. And so
these inhuman sons of men----! I tried to look at the thing in a
scientific spirit. After all, they were less human and more remote
than our cannibal ancestors of three or four thousand years ago.
And the intelligence that would have made this state of things a
torment had gone. Why should I trouble myself? These Eloi were mere
fatted cattle, which the ant-like Morlocks preserved and preyed
upon--probably saw to the breeding of. And there was Weena dancing
at my side!
`Then I tried to preserve myself from the horror that was coming
upon me, by regarding it as a rigorous punishment of human selfishness.
Man had been content to live in ease and delight upon the labours
of his fellow-man, had taken Necessity as his watchword and excuse,
and in the fullness of time Necessity had come home to him. I even
tried a Carlyle-like scorn of this wretched aristocracy in decay.
But this attitude of mind was impossible. However great their intellectual
degradation, the Eloi had kept too much of the human form not to
claim my sympathy, and to make me perforce a sharer in their degradation
and their Fear.
`I had at that time very vague ideas as to the course I should
pursue. My first was to secure some safe place of refuge, and to
make myself such arms of metal or stone as I could contrive. That
necessity was immediate. In the next place, I hoped to procure some
means of fire, so that I should have the weapon of a torch at hand,
for nothing, I knew, would be more efficient against these Morlocks.
Then I wanted to arrange some contrivance to break open the doors
of bronze under the White Sphinx. I had in mind a battering ram.
I had a persuasion that if I could enter those doors and carry a
blaze of light before me I should discover the Time Machine and
escape. I could not imagine the Morlocks were strong enough to move
it far away. Weena I had resolved to bring with me to our own time.
And turning such schemes over in my mind I pursued our way towards
the building which my fancy had chosen as our dwelling.
`I found the Palace of Green Porcelain, when we approached it about noon, deserted and
falling into ruin. Only ragged vestiges of glass remained in its windows, and great sheets
of the green facing had fallen away from the corroded metallic framework. It lay very high
upon a turfy down, and looking north-eastward before I entered it, I was surprised to see
a large estuary, or even creek, where I judged Wandsworth and Battersea must once have
been. I thought then--though I never followed up the thought--of what might have happened,
or might be happening, to the living things in the sea.
`The material of the Palace proved on examination to be indeed porcelain, and along the
face of it I saw an inscription in some unknown character. I thought, rather foolishly,
that Weena might help me to interpret this, but I only learned that the bare idea of
writing had never entered her head. She always seemed to me, I fancy, more human than she
was, perhaps because her affection was so human.
`Within the big valves of the door--which were open and broken--we found, instead of
the customary hall, a long gallery lit by many side windows. At the first glance I was
reminded of a museum. The tiled floor was thick with dust, and a remarkable array of
miscellaneous objects was shrouded in the same grey covering. Then I perceived, standing
strange and gaunt in the centre of the hall, what was clearly the lower part of a huge
skeleton. I recognized by the oblique feet that it was some extinct creature after the
fashion of the Megatherium. The skull and the upper bones lay beside it in the thick dust,
and in one place, where rain-water had dropped through a leak in the roof, the thing
itself had been worn away. Further in the gallery was the huge skeleton barrel of a
Brontosaurus. My museum hypothesis was confirmed. Going towards the side I found what
appeared to be sloping shelves, and clearing away the thick dust, I found the old familiar
glass cases of our own time. But they must have been air-tight to judge from the fair
preservation of some of their contents.
`Clearly we stood among the ruins of some latter-day South Kensington! Here,
apparently, was the Palaeontological Section, and a very splendid array of fossils it must
have been, though the inevitable process of decay that had been staved off for a time, and
had, through the extinction of bacteria and fungi, lost ninety-nine hundredths of its
force, was nevertheless, with extreme sureness if with extreme slowness at work again upon
all its treasures. Here and there I found traces of the little people in the shape of rare
fossils broken to pieces or threaded in strings upon reeds. And the cases had in some
instances been bodily removed--by the Morlocks as I judged. The place was very silent. The
thick dust deadened our footsteps. Weena, who had been rolling a sea urchin down the
sloping glass of a case, presently came, as I stared about me, and very quietly took my
hand and stood beside me.
`And at first I was so much surprised by this ancient monument of an intellectual age,
that I gave no thought to the possibilities it presented. Even my preoccupation about the
Time Machine receded a little from my mind.
`To judge from the size of the place, this Palace of Green Porcelain had a great deal
more in it than a Gallery of Palaeontology; possibly historical galleries; it might be,
even a library! To me, at least in my present circumstances, these would be vastly more
interesting than this spectacle of oldtime geology in decay. Exploring, I found another
short gallery running transversely to the first. This appeared to be devoted to minerals,
and the sight of a block of sulphur set my mind running on gunpowder. But I could find no
saltpeter; indeed, no nitrates of any kind. Doubtless they had deliquesced ages ago. Yet
the sulphur hung in my mind, and set up a train of thinking. As for the rest of the
contents of that gallery, though on the whole they were the best preserved of all I saw, I
had little interest. I am no specialist in mineralogy, and I went on down a very ruinous
aisle running parallel to the first hall I had entered. Apparently this section had been
devoted to natural history, but everything had long since passed out of recognition. A few
shrivelled and blackened vestiges of what had once been stuffed animals, desiccated
mummies in jars that had once held spirit, a brown dust of departed plants: that was all!
I was sorry for that, because I should have been glad to trace the patent readjustments by
which the conquest of animated nature had been attained. Then we came to a gallery of
simply colossal proportions, but singularly ill-lit, the floor of it running downward at a
slight angle from the end at which I entered. At intervals white globes hung from the
ceiling--many of them cracked and smashed--which suggested that originally the place had
been artificially lit. Here I was more in my element, for rising on either side of me were
the huge bulks of big machines, all greatly corroded and many broken down, but some still
fairly complete. You know I have a certain weakness for mechanism, and I was inclined to
linger among these; the more so as for the most part they had the interest of puzzles, and
I could make only the vaguest guesses at what they were for. I fancied that if I could
solve their puzzles I should find myself in possession of powers that might be of use
against the Morlocks.
`Suddenly Weena came very close to my side. So suddenly that she startled me. Had it
not been for her I do not think I should have noticed that the floor of the gallery sloped
at all. [Footnote: It may be, of course, that the floor did not slope, but that the museum
was built into the side of a hill.-ED.] The end I had come in at was quite above ground,
and was lit by rare slit-like windows. As you went down the length, the ground came up
against these windows, until at last there was a pit like the "area" of a London
house before each, and only a narrow line of daylight at the top. I went slowly along,
puzzling about the machines, and had been too intent upon them to notice the gradual
diminution of the light, until Weena's increasing apprehensions drew my attention. Then I
saw that the gallery ran down at last into a thick darkness. I hesitated, and then, as I
looked round me, I saw that the dust was less abundant and its surface less even. Further
away towards the dimness, it appeared to be broken by a number of small narrow footprints.
My sense of the immediate presence of the Morlocks revived at that. I felt that I was
wasting my time in the academic examination of machinery. I called to mind that it was
already far advanced in the afternoon, and that I had still no weapon, no refuge, and no
means of making a fire. And then down in the remote blackness of the gallery I heard a
peculiar pattering, and the same odd noises I had heard down the well.
`I took Weena's hand. Then, struck with a sudden idea, I left her and turned to a
machine from which projected a lever not unlike those in a signal-box. Clambering upon the
stand, and grasping this lever in my hands, I put all my weight upon it sideways. Suddenly
Weena, deserted in the central aisle, began to whimper. I had judged the strength of the
lever pretty correctly, for it snapped after a minute's strain, and I rejoined her with a
mace in my hand more than sufficient, I judged, for any Morlock skull I might encounter.
And I longed very much to kill a Morlock or so. Very inhuman, you may think, to want to go
killing one's own descendants! But it was impossible, somehow, to feel any humanity in the
things. Only my disinclination to leave Weena, and a persuasion that if I began to slake
my thirst for murder my Time Machine might suffer, restrained me from going straight down
the gallery and killing the brutes I heard.
`Well, mace in one hand and Weena in the other, I went out of that gallery and into
another and still larger one, which at the first glance reminded me of a military chapel
hung with tattered flags. The brown and charred rags that hung from the sides of it, I
presently recognized as the decaying vestiges of books. They had long since dropped to
pieces, and every semblance of print had left them. But here and there were warped boards
and cracked metallic clasps that told the tale well enough. Had I been a literary man I
might, perhaps, have moralized upon the futility of all ambition. But as it was, the thing
that struck me with keenest force was the enormous waste of labour to which this sombre
wilderness of rotting paper testified. At the time I will confess that I thought chiefly
of the PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS and my own seventeen papers upon physical optics.
`Then, going up a broad staircase, we came to what may once have been a
gallery of technical chemistry. And here I had not a little hope
of useful discoveries. Except at one end where the roof had collapsed,
this gallery was well preserved. I went eagerly to every unbroken
case. And at last, in one of the really air-tight cases, I found
a box of matches. Very eagerly I tried them. They were perfectly
good. They were not even damp. I turned to Weena. "Dance,"
I cried to her in her own tongue. For now I had a weapon indeed
against the horrible creatures we feared. And
so, in that derelict museum, upon the thick soft carpeting of
dust, to Weena's huge delight, I solemnly performed a kind of composite
dance, whistling THE LAND OF THE LEAL as cheerfully as I could.
In part it was a modest CANCAN, in part a step dance, in part a
skirt-dance (so far as my tail-coat permitted), and in part original.
For I am naturally inventive, as you know.
`Now, I still think that for this box of matches to have escaped the wear of time for
immemorial years was a most strange, as for me it was a most fortunate thing. Yet, oddly
enough, I found a far unlikelier substance, and that was camphor. I found it in a sealed
jar, that by chance, I suppose, had been really hermetically sealed. I fancied at first
that it was paraffin wax, and smashed the glass accordingly. But the odour of camphor was
unmistakable. In the universal decay this volatile substance had chanced to survive,
perhaps through many thousands of centuries. It reminded me of a sepia painting I had once
seen done from the ink of a fossil Belemnite that must have perished and become fossilized
millions of years ago. I was about to throw it away, but I remembered that it was
inflammable and burned with a good bright flame--was, in fact, an excellent candle--and I
put it in my pocket. I found no explosives, however, nor any means of breaking down the
bronze doors. As yet my iron crowbar was the most helpful thing I had chanced upon.
Nevertheless I left that gallery greatly elated.
`I cannot tell you all the story of that long afternoon. It would require a great
effort of memory to recall my explorations in at all the proper order. I remember a long
gallery of rusting stands of arms, and how I hesitated between my crowbar and a hatchet or
a sword. I could not carry both, however, and my bar of iron promised best against the
bronze gates. There were numbers of guns, pistols, and rifles. The most were masses of
rust, but many were of some new metal, and still fairly sound. But any cartridges or
powder there may once have been had rotted into dust. One corner I saw was charred and
shattered; perhaps, I thought, by an explosion among the specimens. In another place was a
vast array of idols--Polynesian, Mexican, Grecian, Phoenician, every country on earth I
should think. And here, yielding to an irresistible impulse, I wrote my name upon the nose
of a steatite monster from South America that particularly took my fancy.
`As the evening drew on, my interest waned. I went through gallery after gallery,
dusty, silent, often ruinous, the exhibits sometimes mere heaps of rust and lignite,
sometimes fresher. In one place I suddenly found myself near the model of a tin-mine, and
then by the merest accident I discovered, in an air-tight case, two dynamite cartridges! I
shouted "Eureka!" and smashed the case with joy. Then came a doubt. I hesitated.
Then, selecting a little side gallery, I made my essay. I never felt such a disappointment
as I did in waiting five, ten, fifteen minutes for an explosion that never came. Of course
the things were dummies, as I might have guessed from their presence. I really believe
that had they not been so, I should have rushed off incontinently and blown Sphinx, bronze
doors, and (as it proved) my chances of finding the Time Machine, all together into
`It was after that, I think, that we came to a little open court within the palace. It
was turfed, and had three fruit- trees. So we rested and refreshed ourselves. Towards
sunset I began to consider our position. Night was creeping upon us, and my inaccessible
hiding-place had still to be found. But that troubled me very little now. I had in my
possession a thing that was, perhaps, the best of all defences against the Morlocks--I had
matches! I had the camphor in my pocket, too, if a blaze were needed. It seemed to me that
the best thing we could do would be to pass the night in the open, protected by a fire. In
the morning there was the getting of the Time Machine. Towards that, as yet, I had only my
iron mace. But now, with my growing knowledge, I felt very differently towards those
bronze doors. Up to this, I had refrained from forcing them, largely because of the
mystery on the other side. They had never impressed me as being very strong, and I hoped
to find my bar of iron not altogether inadequate for the work.
`We emerged from the palace while the sun was still in part above
the horizon. I was determined to reach the White Sphinx early the
next morning, and ere the dusk I purposed pushing through the woods
that had stopped me on the previous journey. My plan was to go as
far as possible that night, and then, building a fire, to sleep
in the protection of its glare. Accordingly, as we went along I
gathered any sticks or dried grass I saw, and presently had my arms
full of such litter. Thus loaded, our progress was slower than I
had anticipated, and besides Weena was tired. And I began to suffer
from sleepiness too; so that it was full night before we reached
the wood. Upon the shrubby hill of its edge Weena would have stopped,
fearing the darkness before us; but a singular sense of impending
calamity, that should indeed have served me as a warning, drove
me onward. I had been without sleep for a night and two days, and
I was feverish and irritable. I felt sleep coming upon me, and the
Morlocks with it.
`While we hesitated, among the black bushes behind us, and dim
against their blackness, I saw three crouching figures. There was
scrub and long grass all about us, and I did not feel safe from
their insidious approach. The forest, I calculated, was rather less
than a mile across. If we could get through it to the bare hill-side,
there, as it seemed to me, was an altogether safer resting-place;
I thought that with my matches and my camphor I could contrive to
keep my path illuminated through the woods. Yet it was evident that
if I was to flourish matches with my hands I should have to abandon
my firewood; so, rather reluctantly, I put it down. And then it
came into my head that I would amaze our friends behind by lighting
it. I was to discover the atrocious folly of this proceeding, but
it came to my mind as an ingenious move for covering our retreat.
`I don't know if you have ever thought what a rare thing flame
must be in the absence of man and in a temperate climate. The sun's
heat is rarely strong enough to burn, even when it is focused by
dewdrops, as is sometimes the case in more tropical districts. Lightning
may blast and blacken, but it rarely gives rise to widespread fire.
Decaying vegetation may occasionally smoulder with the heat of its
fermentation, but this rarely results in flame. In this decadence,
too, the art of fire-making had been forgotten on the earth. The
red tongues that went licking up my heap of wood were an altogether
new and strange thing to Weena.
`She wanted to run to it and play with it. I believe she would
have cast herself into it had I not restrained her. But I caught
her up, and in spite of her struggles, plunged boldly before me
into the wood. For a little way the glare of my fire lit the path.
Looking back presently, I could see, through the crowded stems,
that from my heap of sticks the blaze had spread to some bushes
adjacent, and a curved line of fire was creeping up the grass of
the hill. I laughed at that, and turned again to the dark trees
before me. It was very black, and Weena clung to me convulsively,
but there was still, as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness,
sufficient light for me to avoid the stems. Overhead it was simply
black, except where a gap of remote blue sky shone down upon us
here and there. I struck none of my matches because I had no hand
free. Upon my left arm I carried my little one, in my right hand
I had my iron bar.
`For some way I heard nothing but the crackling twigs under my
feet, the faint rustle of the breeze above, and my own breathing
and the throb of the blood-vessels in my ears. Then I seemed to
know of a pattering about me. I pushed on grimly. The pattering
grew more distinct, and then I caught the same queer sound and voices
I had heard in the Under-world. There were evidently several of
the Morlocks, and they were closing in upon me. Indeed, in another
minute I felt a tug at my coat, then something at my arm. And Weena
shivered violently, and became quite still.
`It was time for a match. But to get one I must put her down. I
did so, and, as I fumbled with my pocket, a struggle began in the
darkness about my knees, perfectly silent on her part and with the
same peculiar cooing sounds from the Morlocks. Soft little hands,
too, were creeping over my coat and back, touching even my neck.
Then the match scratched and fizzed. I held it flaring, and saw
the white backs of the Morlocks in flight amid the trees. I hastily
took a lump of camphor from my pocket, and prepared to light is
as soon as the match should wane. Then I looked at Weena. She was
lying clutching my feet and quite motionless, with her face to the
ground. With a sudden fright I stooped to her. She seemed scarcely
to breathe. I lit the block of camphor and flung it to the ground,
and as it split and flared up and drove back the Morlocks and the
shadows, I knelt down and lifted her. The wood behind seemed full
of the stir and murmur of a great company!
`She seemed to have fainted. I put her carefully upon my shoulder
and rose to push on, and then there came a horrible realization.
In manoeuvring with my matches and Weena, I had turned myself about
several times, and now I had not the faintest idea in what direction
lay my path. For all I knew, I might be facing back towards the
Palace of Green Porcelain. I found myself in a cold sweat. I had
to think rapidly what to do. I determined to build a fire and encamp
where we were. I put Weena, still motionless, down upon a turfy
bole, and very hastily, as my first lump of camphor waned, I began
collecting sticks and leaves. Here and there out of the darkness
round me the Morlocks' eyes shone like carbuncles.
`The camphor flickered and went out. I lit a match, and as I did
so, two white forms that had been approaching Weena dashed hastily
away. One was so blinded by the light that he came straight for
me, and I felt his bones grind under the blow of my fist. He gave
a whoop of dismay, staggered a little way, and fell down. I lit
another piece of camphor, and went on gathering my bonfire. Presently
I noticed how dry was some of the foliage above me, for since my
arrival on the Time Machine, a matter of a week, no rain had fallen.
So, instead of casting about among the trees for fallen twigs, I
began leaping up and dragging down branches. Very soon I had a choking
smoky fire of green wood and dry sticks, and could economize my
camphor. Then I turned to where Weena lay beside my iron mace. I
tried what I could to revive her, but she lay like one dead. I could
not even satisfy myself whether or not she breathed.
`Now, the smoke of the fire beat over towards me, and it must have
made me heavy of a sudden. Moreover, the vapour of camphor was in
the air. My fire would not need replenishing for an hour or so.
I felt very weary after my exertion, and sat down. The wood, too,
was full of a slumbrous murmur that I did not understand. I seemed
just to nod and open my eyes. But all was dark, and the Morlocks
had their hands upon me. Flinging off their clinging fingers I hastily
felt in my pocket for the match-box, and--it had gone! Then they
gripped and closed with me again. In a moment I knew what had happened.
I had slept, and my fire had gone out, and the bitterness of death
came over my soul. The forest seemed full of the smell of burning
wood. I was caught by the neck, by the hair, by the arms, and pulled
down. It was indescribably horrible in the darkness to feel all
these soft creatures heaped upon me. I felt as if I was in a monstrous
spider's web. I was overpowered, and went down. I felt little teeth
nipping at my neck. I rolled over, and as I did so my hand came
against my iron lever. It gave me strength. I struggled up, shaking
the human rats from me, and, holding the bar short, I thrust where
I judged their faces might be. I could feel the succulent giving
of flesh and bone under my blows, and for a moment I was free.
`The strange exultation that so often seems to accompany hard fighting
came upon me. I knew that both I and Weena were lost, but I determined
to make the Morlocks pay for their meat. I stood with my back to
a tree, swinging the iron bar before me. The whole wood was full
of the stir and cries of them. A minute passed. Their voices seemed
to rise to a higher pitch of excitement, and their movements grew
faster. Yet none came within reach. I stood glaring at the blackness.
Then suddenly came hope. What if the Morlocks were afraid? And close
on the heels of that came a strange thing. The darkness seemed to
grow luminous. Very dimly I began to see the Morlocks about me--three
battered at my feet--and then I recognized, with incredulous surprise,
that the others were running, in an incessant stream, as it seemed,
from behind me, and away through the wood in front. And their backs
seemed no longer white, but reddish. As I stood agape, I saw a little
red spark go drifting across a gap of starlight between the branches,
and vanish. And at that I understood the smell of burning wood,
the slumbrous murmur that was growing now into a gusty roar, the
red glow, and the Morlocks' flight.
`Stepping out from behind my tree and looking back, I saw, through
the black pillars of the nearer trees, the flames of the burning
forest. It was my first fire coming after me. With that I looked
for Weena, but she was gone. The hissing and crackling behind me,
the explosive thud as each fresh tree burst into flame, left little
time for reflection. My iron bar still gripped, I followed in the
Morlocks' path. It was a close race. Once the flames crept forward
so swiftly on my right as I ran that I was outflanked and had to
strike off to the left. But at last I emerged upon a small open
space, and as I did so, a Morlock came blundering towards me, and
past me, and went on straight into the fire!
`And now I was to see the most weird and horrible thing, I think,
of all that I beheld in that future age. This whole space was as
bright as day with the reflection of the fire. In the centre was
a hillock or tumulus, surmounted by a scorched hawthorn. Beyond
this was another arm of the burning forest, with yellow tongues
already writhing from it, completely encircling the space with a
fence of fire. Upon the hill-side were some thirty or forty Morlocks,
dazzled by the light and heat, and blundering hither and thither
against each other in their bewilderment. At first I did not realize
their blindness, and struck furiously at them with my bar, in a
frenzy of fear, as they approached me, killing one and crippling
several more. But when I had watched the gestures of one of them
groping under the hawthorn against the red sky, and heard their
moans, I was assured of their absolute helplessness and misery in
the glare, and I struck no more of them.
`Yet every now and then one would come straight towards me, setting
loose a quivering horror that made me quick to elude him. At one
time the flames died down somewhat, and I feared the foul creatures
would presently be able to see me. I was thinking of beginning the
fight by killing some of them before this should happen; but the
fire burst out again brightly, and I stayed my hand. I walked about
the hill among them and avoided them, looking for some trace of
Weena. But Weena was gone.
`At last I sat down on the summit of the hillock, and watched this
strange incredible company of blind things groping to and fro, and
making uncanny noises to each other, as the glare of the fire beat
on them. The coiling uprush of smoke streamed across the sky, and
through the rare tatters of that red canopy, remote as though they
belonged to another universe, shone the little stars. Two or three
Morlocks came blundering into me, and I drove them off with blows
of my fists, trembling as I did so.
`For the most part of that night I was persuaded it was a nightmare.
I bit myself and screamed in a passionate desire to awake. I beat
the ground with my hands, and got up and sat down again, and wandered
here and there, and again sat down. Then I would fall to rubbing
my eyes and calling upon God to let me awake. Thrice I saw Morlocks
put their heads down in a kind of agony and rush into the flames.
But, at last, above the subsiding red of the fire, above the streaming
masses of black smoke and the whitening and blackening tree stumps,
and the diminishing numbers of these dim creatures, came the white
light of the day.
`I searched again for traces of Weena, but there were none. It
was plain that they had left her poor little body in the forest.
I cannot describe how it relieved me to think that it had escaped
the awful fate to which it seemed destined. As I thought of that,
I was almost moved to begin a massacre of the helpless abominations
about me, but I contained myself. The hillock, as I have said, was
a kind of island in the forest. From its summit I could now make
out through a haze of smoke the Palace of Green Porcelain, and from
that I could get my bearings for the White Sphinx. And so, leaving
the remnant of these damned souls still going hither and thither
and moaning, as the day grew clearer, I tied some grass about my
feet and limped on across smoking ashes and among black stems, that
still pulsated internally with fire, towards the hiding-place of
the Time Machine. I walked slowly, for I was almost exhausted, as
well as lame, and I felt the intensest wretchedness for the horrible
death of little Weena. It seemed an overwhelming calamity. Now,
in this old familiar room, it is more like the sorrow of a dream
than an actual loss. But that morning it left me absolutely lonely
again--terribly alone. I began to think of this house of mine, of
this fireside, of some of you, and with such thoughts came a longing
that was pain.
`But as I walked over the smoking ashes under the bright morning
sky, I made a discovery. In my trouser pocket were still some loose
matches. The box must have leaked before it was lost.
`About eight or nine in the morning I came to the same seat of
yellow metal from which I had viewed the world upon the evening
of my arrival. I thought of my hasty conclusions upon that evening
and could not refrain from laughing bitterly at my confidence. Here
was the same beautiful scene, the same abundant foliage, the same
splendid palaces and magnificent ruins, the same silver river running
between its fertile banks. The gay robes of the beautiful people
moved hither and thither among the trees. Some were bathing in exactly
the place where I had saved Weena, and that suddenly gave me a keen
stab of pain. And like blots upon the landscape rose the cupolas
above the ways to the Under-world. I understood now what all the
beauty of the Over- world people covered. Very pleasant was their
day, as pleasant as the day of the cattle in the field. Like the
cattle, they knew of no enemies and provided against no needs. And
their end was the same.
`I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect
had been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly
towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency
as its watchword, it had attained its hopes--to come to this at
last. Once, life and property must have reached almost absolute
safety. The rich had been assured of his wealth and comfort, the
toiler assured of his life and work. No doubt in that perfect world
there had been no unemployed problem, no social question left unsolved.
And a great quiet had followed.
`It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility
is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly
in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never
appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There
is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.
Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge
variety of needs and dangers.
`So, as I see it, the Upper-world man had drifted towards his feeble
prettiness, and the Under-world to mere mechanical industry. But
that perfect state had lacked one thing even for mechanical perfection--absolute
permanency. Apparently as time went on, the feeding of the Under-world,
however it was effected, had become disjointed. Mother Necessity,
who had been staved off for a few thousand years, came back again,
and she began below. The Under-world being in contact with machinery,
which, however perfect, still needs some little thought outside
habit, had probably retained perforce rather more initiative, if
less of every other human character, than the Upper. And when other
meat failed them, they turned to what old habit had hitherto forbidden.
So I say I saw it in my last view of the world of Eight Hundred
and Two Thousand Seven Hundred and One. It may be as wrong an explanation
as mortal wit could invent. It is how the thing shaped itself to
me, and as that I give it to you.
`After the fatigues, excitements, and terrors of the past days,
and in spite of my grief, this seat and the tranquil view and the
warm sunlight were very pleasant. I was very tired and sleepy, and
soon my theorizing passed into dozing. Catching myself at that,
I took my own hint, and spreading myself out upon the turf I had
a long and refreshing sleep.
`I awoke a little before sunsetting. I now felt safe against being
caught napping by the Morlocks, and, stretching myself, I came on
down the hill towards the White Sphinx. I had my crowbar in one
hand, and the other hand played with the matches in my pocket.
`And now came a most unexpected thing. As I approached the pedestal
of the sphinx I found the bronze valves were open. They had slid
down into grooves.
`At that I stopped short before them, hesitating to enter.
`Within was a small apartment, and on a raised place in the corner
of this was the Time Machine. I had the small levers in my pocket.
So here, after all my elaborate preparations for the siege of the
White Sphinx, was a meek surrender. I threw my iron bar away, almost
sorry not to use it.
`A sudden thought came into my head as I stooped towards the portal.
For once, at least, I grasped the mental operations of the Morlocks.
Suppressing a strong inclination to laugh, I stepped through the
bronze frame and up to the Time Machine. I was surprised to find
it had been carefully oiled and cleaned. I have suspected since
that the Morlocks had even partially taken it to pieces while trying
in their dim way to grasp its purpose.
`Now as I stood and examined it, finding a pleasure in the mere
touch of the contrivance, the thing I had expected happened. The
bronze panels suddenly slid up and struck the frame with a clang.
I was in the dark--trapped. So the Morlocks thought. At that I chuckled
`I could already hear their murmuring laughter as they came towards
me. Very calmly I tried to strike the match. I had only to fix on
the levers and depart then like a ghost. But I had overlooked one
little thing. The matches were of that abominable kind that light
only on the box.
`You may imagine how all my calm vanished. The little brutes were
close upon me. One touched me. I made a sweeping blow in the dark
at them with the levers, and began to scramble into the saddle of
the machine. Then came one hand upon me and then another. Then I
had simply to fight against their persistent fingers for my levers,
and at the same time feel for the studs over which these fitted.
One, indeed, they almost got away from me. As it slipped from my
hand, I had to butt in the dark with my head--I could hear the Morlock's
skull ring--to recover it. It was a nearer thing than the fight
in the forest, I think, this last scramble.
`But at last the lever was fitted and pulled over. The clinging
hands slipped from me. The darkness presently fell from my eyes.
I found myself in the same grey light and tumult I have already
`I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes
with time travelling. And this time I was not seated properly in
the saddle, but sideways and in an unstable fashion. For an indefinite
time I clung to the machine as it swayed and vibrated, quite unheeding
how I went, and when I brought myself to look at the dials again
I was amazed to find where I had arrived. One dial records days,
and another thousands of days, another millions of days, and another
thousands of millions. Now, instead of reversing the levers, I had
pulled them over so as to go forward with them, and when I came
to look at these indicators I found that the thousands hand was
sweeping round as fast as the seconds hand of a watch--into futurity.
`As I drove on, a peculiar change crept over the appearance of
things. The palpitating greyness grew darker; then--though I was
still travelling with prodigious velocity--the blinking succession
of day and night, which was usually indicative of a slower pace,
returned, and grew more and more marked. This puzzled me very much
at first. The alternations of night and day grew slower and slower,
and so did the passage of the sun across the sky, until they seemed
to stretch through centuries. At last a steady twilight brooded
over the earth, a twilight only broken now and then when a comet
glared across the darkling sky. The band of light that had indicated
the sun had long since disappeared; for the sun had ceased to set--it
simply rose and fell in the west, and grew ever broader and more
red. All trace of the moon had vanished. The circling of the stars,
growing slower and slower, had given place to creeping points of
light. At last, some time before I stopped, the sun, red and very
large, halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with
a dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction.
At one time it had for a little while glowed more brilliantly again,
but it speedily reverted to its sullen red heat. I perceived by
this slowing down of its rising and setting that the work of the
tidal drag was done. The earth had come to rest with one face to
the sun, even as in our own time the moon faces the earth. Very
cautiously, for I remembered my former headlong fall, I began to
reverse my motion. Slower and slower went the circling hands until
the thousands one seemed motionless and the daily one was no longer
a mere mist upon its scale. Still slower, until the dim outlines
of a desolate beach grew visible.
`I stopped very gently and sat upon the Time Machine, looking round.
The sky was no longer blue. North-eastward it was inky black, and
out of the blackness shone brightly and steadily the pale white
stars. Overhead it was a deep Indian red and starless, and south-eastward
it grew brighter to a glowing scarlet where, cut by the horizon,
lay the huge hull of the sun, red and motionless. The rocks about
me were of a harsh reddish colour, and all the trace of life that
I could see at first was the intensely green vegetation that covered
every projecting point on their south-eastern face. It was the same
rich green that one sees on forest moss or on the lichen in caves:
plants which like these grow in a perpetual twilight.
`The machine was standing on a sloping beach. The sea stretched
away to the south-west, to rise into a sharp bright horizon against
the wan sky. There were no breakers and no waves, for not a breath
of wind was stirring. Only a slight oily swell rose and fell like
a gentle breathing, and showed that the eternal sea was still moving
and living. And along the margin where the water sometimes broke
was a thick incrustation of salt--pink under the lurid sky. There
was a sense of oppression in my head, and I noticed that I was breathing
very fast. The sensation reminded me of my only experience of mountaineering,
and from that I judged the air to be more rarefied than it is now.
`Far away up the desolate slope I heard a harsh scream, and saw
a thing like a huge white butterfly go slanting and flittering up
into the sky and, circling, disappear over some low hillocks beyond.
The sound of its voice was so dismal that I shivered and seated
myself more firmly upon the machine. Looking round me again, I saw
that, quite near, what I had taken to be a reddish mass of rock
was moving slowly towards me. Then I saw the thing was really a
monstrous crab-like creature. Can you imagine a crab as large as
yonder table, with its many legs moving slowly and uncertainly,
its big claws swaying, its long antennae, like carters' whips, waving
and feeling, and its stalked eyes gleaming at you on either side
of its metallic front? Its back was corrugated and ornamented with
ungainly bosses, and a greenish incrustation blotched it here and
there. I could see the many palps of its complicated mouth flickering
and feeling as it moved.
`As I stared at this sinister apparition crawling towards me, I
felt a tickling on my cheek as though a fly had lighted there. I
tried to brush it away with my hand, but in a moment it returned,
and almost immediately came another by my ear. I struck at this,
and caught something threadlike. It was drawn swiftly out of my
hand. With a frightful qualm, I turned, and I saw that I had grasped
the antenna of another monster crab that stood just behind me. Its
evil eyes were wriggling on their stalks, its mouth was all alive
with appetite, and its vast ungainly claws, smeared with an algal
slime, were descending upon me. In a moment my hand was on the lever,
and I had placed a month between myself and these monsters. But
I was still on the same beach, and I saw them distinctly now as
soon as I stopped. Dozens of them seemed to be crawling here and
there, in the sombre light, among the foliated sheets of intense
`I cannot convey the sense of abominable desolation that hung over
the world. The red eastern sky, the northward blackness, the salt
Dead Sea, the stony beach crawling with these foul, slow-stirring
monsters, the uniform poisonous-looking green of the lichenous plants,
the thin air that hurts one's lungs: all contributed to an appalling
effect. I moved on a hundred years, and there was the same red sun--a
little larger, a little duller--the same dying sea, the same chill
air, and the same crowd of earthy crustacea creeping in and out
among the green weed and the red rocks. And in the westward sky,
I saw a curved pale line like a vast new moon.
`So I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of a
thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth's fate,
watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and duller
in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb away. At
last, more than thirty million years hence, the huge red-hot dome
of the sun had come to obscure nearly a tenth part of the darkling
heavens. Then I stopped once more, for the crawling multitude of
crabs had disappeared, and the red beach, save for its livid green
liverworts and lichens, seemed lifeless. And now it was flecked
with white. A bitter cold assailed me. Rare white flakes ever and
again came eddying down. To the north-eastward, the glare of snow
lay under the starlight of the sable sky and I could see an undulating
crest of hillocks pinkish white. There were fringes of ice along
the sea margin, with drifting masses further out; but the main expanse
of that salt ocean, all bloody under the eternal sunset, was still
`I looked about me to see if any traces of animal life remained.
A certain indefinable apprehension still kept me in the saddle of
the machine. But I saw nothing moving, in earth or sky or sea. The
green slime on the rocks alone testified that life was not extinct.
A shallow sandbank had appeared in the sea and the water had receded
from the beach. I fancied I saw some black object flopping about
upon this bank, but it became motionless as I looked at it, and
I judged that my eye had been deceived, and that the black object
was merely a rock. The stars in the sky were intensely bright and
seemed to me to twinkle very little.
`Suddenly I noticed that the circular westward outline of the sun
had changed; that a concavity, a bay, had appeared in the curve.
I saw this grow larger. For a minute perhaps I stared aghast at
this blackness that was creeping over the day, and then I realized
that an eclipse was beginning. Either the moon or the planet Mercury
was passing across the sun's disk. Naturally, at first I took it
to be the moon, but there is much to incline me to believe that
what I really saw was the transit of an inner planet passing very
near to the earth.
`The darkness grew apace; a cold wind began to blow in freshening
gusts from the east, and the showering white flakes in the air increased
in number. From the edge of the sea came a ripple and whisper. Beyond
these lifeless sounds the world was silent. Silent? It would be
hard to convey the stillness of it. All the sounds of man, the bleating
of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects, the stir that
makes the background of our lives--all that was over. As the darkness
thickened, the eddying flakes grew more abundant, dancing before
my eyes; and the cold of the air more intense. At last, one by one,
swiftly, one after the other, the white peaks of the distant hills
vanished into blackness. The breeze rose to a moaning wind. I saw
the black central shadow of the eclipse sweeping towards me. In
another moment the pale stars alone were visible. All else was rayless
obscurity. The sky was absolutely black.
`A horror of this great darkness came on me. The cold, that smote
to my marrow, and the pain I felt in breathing, overcame me. I shivered,
and a deadly nausea seized me. Then like a red-hot bow in the sky
appeared the edge of the sun. I got off the machine to recover myself.
I felt giddy and incapable of facing the return journey. As I stood
sick and confused I saw again the moving thing upon the shoal--there
was no mistake now that it was a moving thing--against the red water
of the sea. It was a round thing, the size of a football perhaps,
or, it may be, bigger, and tentacles trailed down from it; it seemed
black against the weltering blood-red water, and it was hopping
fitfully about. Then I felt I was fainting. But a terrible dread
of lying helpless in that remote and awful twilight sustained me
while I clambered upon the saddle.
`So I came back. For a long time I must have been insensible upon
the machine. The blinking succession of the days and nights was
resumed, the sun got golden again, the sky blue. I breathed with
greater freedom. The fluctuating contours of the land ebbed and
flowed. The hands spun backward upon the dials. At last I saw again
the dim shadows of houses, the evidences of decadent humanity. These,
too, changed and passed, and others came. Presently, when the million
dial was at zero, I slackened speed. I began to recognize our own
petty and familiar architecture, the thousands hand ran back to
the starting-point, the night and day flapped slower and slower.
Then the old walls of the laboratory came round me. Very gently,
now, I slowed the mechanism down.
`I saw one little thing that seemed odd to me. I think I have told
you that when I set out, before my velocity became very high, Mrs.
Watchett had walked across the room, travelling, as it seemed to
me, like a rocket. As I returned, I passed again across that minute
when she traversed the laboratory. But now her every motion appeared
to be the exact inversion of her previous ones. The door at the
lower end opened, and she glided quietly up the laboratory, back
foremost, and disappeared behind the door by which she had previously
entered. Just before that I seemed to see Hillyer for a moment;
but he passed like a flash.
`Then I stopped the machine, and saw about me again the old familiar
laboratory, my tools, my appliances just as I had left them. I got
off the thing very shaky, and sat down upon my bench. For several
minutes I trembled violently. Then I became calmer. Around me was
my old workshop again, exactly as it had been. I might have slept
there, and the whole thing have been a dream.
`And yet, not exactly! The thing had started from the south-east
corner of the laboratory. It had come to rest again in the north-west,
against the wall where you saw it. That gives you the exact distance
from my little lawn to the pedestal of the White Sphinx, into which
the Morlocks had carried my machine.
`For a time my brain went stagnant. Presently I got up and came
through the passage here, limping, because my heel was still painful,
and feeling sorely begrimed. I saw the PALL MALL GAZETTE on the
table by the door. I found the date was indeed to-day, and looking
at the timepiece, saw the hour was almost eight o'clock. I heard
your voices and the clatter of plates. I hesitated--I felt so sick
and weak. Then I sniffed good wholesome meat, and opened the door
on you. You know the rest. I washed, and dined, and now I am telling
you the story.
`I know,' he said, after a pause, `that all this will be absolutely
incredible to you. To me the one incredible thing is that I am here
to-night in this old familiar room looking into your friendly faces
and telling you these strange adventures.'
He looked at the Medical Man. `No. I cannot expect you to believe
it. Take it as a lie--or a prophecy. Say I dreamed it in the workshop.
Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of our race
until I have hatched this fiction. Treat my assertion of its truth
as a mere stroke of art to enhance its interest. And taking it as
a story, what do you think of it?'
He took up his pipe, and began, in his old accustomed manner, to
tap with it nervously upon the bars of the grate. There was a momentary
stillness. Then chairs began to creak and shoes to scrape upon the
carpet. I took my eyes off the Time Traveller's face, and looked
round at his audience. They were in the dark, and little spots of
colour swam before them. The Medical Man seemed absorbed in the
contemplation of our host. The Editor was looking hard at the end
of his cigar--the sixth. The Journalist fumbled for his watch. The
others, as far as I remember, were motionless.
The Editor stood up with a sigh. `What a pity it is you're not
a writer of stories!' he said, putting his hand on the Time Traveller's
`You don't believe it?'
`I thought not.'
The Time Traveller turned to us. `Where are the matches?' he said.
He lit one and spoke over his pipe, puffing. `To tell you the truth
. . . I hardly believe it myself. . . . And yet . . .'
His eye fell with a mute inquiry upon the withered white flowers
upon the little table. Then he turned over the hand holding his
pipe, and I saw he was looking at some half-healed scars on his
The Medical Man rose, came to the lamp, and examined the flowers.
`The gynaeceum's odd,' he said. The Psychologist leant forward to
see, holding out his hand for a specimen.
`I'm hanged if it isn't a quarter to one,' said the Journalist.
`How shall we get home?'
`Plenty of cabs at the station,' said the Psychologist.
`It's a curious thing,' said the Medical Man; `but I certainly
don't know the natural order of these flowers. May I have them?'
The Time Traveller hesitated. Then suddenly: `Certainly not.'
`Where did you really get them?' said the Medical Man.
The Time Traveller put his hand to his head. He spoke like one
who was trying to keep hold of an idea that eluded him. 'They were
put into my pocket by Weena, when I travelled into Time.' He stared
round the room. `I'm damned if it isn't all going. This room and
you and the atmosphere of every day is too much for my memory. Did
I ever make a Time Machine, or a model of a Time Machine? Or is
it all only a dream? They say life is a dream, a precious poor dream
at times--but I can't stand another that won't fit. It's madness.
And where did the dream come from? . . . I must look at that machine.
If there is one!'
He caught up the lamp swiftly, and carried it, flaring red, through
the door into the corridor. We followed him. There in the flickering
light of the lamp was the machine sure enough, squat, ugly, and
askew; a thing of brass, ebony, ivory, and translucent glimmering
quartz. Solid to the touch--for I put out my hand and felt the rail
of it--and with brown spots and smears upon the ivory, and bits
of grass and moss upon the lower parts, and one rail bent awry.
The Time Traveller put the lamp down on the bench, and ran his
hand along the damaged rail. `It's all right now,' he said. 'The
story I told you was true. I'm sorry to have brought you out here
in the cold.' He took up the lamp, and, in an absolute silence,
we returned to the smoking-room.
He came into the hall with us and helped the Editor on with his
coat. The Medical Man looked into his face and, with a certain hesitation,
told him he was suffering from overwork, at which he laughed hugely.
I remember him standing in the open doorway, bawling good night.
I shared a cab with the Editor. He thought the tale a `gaudy lie.'
For my own part I was unable to come to a conclusion. The story
was so fantastic and incredible, the telling so credible and sober.
I lay awake most of the night thinking about it. I determined to
go next day and see the Time Traveller again. I was told he was
in the laboratory, and being on easy terms in the house, I went
up to him. The laboratory, however, was empty. I stared for a minute
at the Time Machine and put out my hand and touched the lever. At
that the squat substantial-looking mass swayed like a bough shaken
by the wind. Its instability startled me extremely, and I had a
queer reminiscence of the childish days when I used to be forbidden
to meddle. I came back through the corridor. The Time Traveller
met me in the smoking-room. He was coming from the house. He had
a small camera under one arm and a knapsack under the other. He
laughed when he saw me, and gave me an elbow to shake. `I'm frightfully
busy,' said he, `with that thing in there.'
`But is it not some hoax?' I said. `Do you really travel through
`Really and truly I do.' And he looked frankly into my eyes. He
hesitated. His eye wandered about the room. `I only want half an
hour,' he said. `I know why you came, and it's awfully good of you.
There's some magazines here. If you'll stop to lunch I'll prove
you this time travelling up to the hilt, specimen and all. If you'll
forgive my leaving you now?'
I consented, hardly comprehending then the full import of his words,
and he nodded and went on down the corridor. I heard the door of
the laboratory slam, seated myself in a chair, and took up a daily
paper. What was he going to do before lunch-time? Then suddenly
I was reminded by an advertisement that I had promised to meet Richardson,
the publisher, at two. I looked at my watch, and saw that I could
barely save that engagement. I got up and went down the passage
to tell the Time Traveller.
As I took hold of the handle of the door I heard an exclamation,
oddly truncated at the end, and a click and a thud. A gust of air
whirled round me as I opened the door, and from within came the
sound of broken glass falling on the floor. The Time Traveller was
not there. I seemed to see a ghostly, indistinct figure sitting
in a whirling mass of black and brass for a moment--a figure so
transparent that the bench behind with its sheets of drawings was
absolutely distinct; but this phantasm vanished as I rubbed my eyes.
The Time Machine had gone. Save for a subsiding stir of dust, the
further end of the laboratory was empty. A pane of the skylight
had, apparently, just been blown in.
I felt an unreasonable amazement. I knew that something strange
had happened, and for the moment could not distinguish what the
strange thing might be. As I stood staring, the door into the garden
opened, and the man-servant appeared.
We looked at each other. Then ideas began to come. `Has Mr. ----
gone out that way?' said I.
`No, sir. No one has come out this way. I was expecting to find
At that I understood. At the risk of disappointing Richardson I
stayed on, waiting for the Time Traveller; waiting for the second,
perhaps still stranger story, and the specimens and photographs
he would bring with him. But I am beginning now to fear that I must
wait a lifetime. The Time Traveller vanished three years ago. And,
as everybody knows now, he has never returned.
One cannot choose but wonder. Will he ever return? It may be that
he swept back into the past, and fell among the blood-drinking,
hairy savages of the Age of Unpolished Stone; into the abysses of
the Cretaceous Sea; or among the grotesque saurians, the huge reptilian
brutes of the Jurassic times. He may even now--if I may use the
phrase--be wandering on some plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral
reef, or beside the lonely saline lakes of the Triassic Age. Or
did he go forward, into one of the nearer ages, in which men are
still men, but with the riddles of our own time answered and its
wearisome problems solved? Into the manhood of the race: for I,
for my own part cannot think that these latter days of weak experiment,
fragmentary theory, and mutual discord are indeed man's culminating
time! I say, for my own part. He, I know--for the question had been
discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made--thought
but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the growing
pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably
fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that is so,
it remains for us to live as though it were not so. But to me the
future is still black and blank--is a vast ignorance, lit at a few
casual places by the memory of his story. And I have by me, for
my comfort, two strange white flowers --shrivelled now, and brown
and flat and brittle--to witness that even when mind and strength
had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the
heart of man.