The Time Machine
by H. G. Wells (1866-1946)
Approximate Word Count: 33015
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
"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
"Don't follow you," said Filby.
"Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real
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
"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 Mayor.
"It 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 three 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 of Space?"
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
"Not exactly," said the Medical Man. "There are balloons."
"But before the balloons, save for spasmodic jumping and the
inequalities of the surface, man had no freedom of vertical
"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
"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 Littlego.
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
"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
"The experiment!" cried Filby, who was getting brain-weary.
"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 hearth rug. 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
After an interval the Psychologist had an inspiration. "It must
have gone into the past if it has gone anywhere," he said.
"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 forth!"
"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 all.
"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
"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 eggshell 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 Linnan. He said he had seen a similar thing at Tybingen,
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
"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
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 finger nail; 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
"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 hillside
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 hillside, 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
hailstones. 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
"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 of
"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
"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
"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 material.
"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 their import.
"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 fatigued.
"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
"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
"'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 child-bearing becomes an evil rather than a
blessing to the State; where violence comes but rarely and
offspring 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 the reality.
"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
"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
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
"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
"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 moonlit world.
"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 dismay.
"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
"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
moonlit 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
behoves 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
"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 metal-work. 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
"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
"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
"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 Havenots, 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
"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
Underworld, 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
"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 to appreciate.
"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
"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 Underworld 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 Upper-world people; so that
I was 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 well-nigh secured my boot as a trophy.
"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
Carolvingian 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
Underworld. 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 Time
"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 hillside 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 the thought.
"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 suchlike 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
"Clearly we stood among the ruins of some latter-day South
Kensington! Here, apparently, was the Paleontological 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
Paleontology; 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 old-time
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 saltpetre; 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 Underworld. 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 it 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
"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 maneuvering 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
"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
"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
"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
"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 gleefully.
"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 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
"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 green.
"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 unfrozen.
"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 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
"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
"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 gyneaceum'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
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
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 civilisation 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
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