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CHAPTER I
The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding
a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his
usually pale face was flushed and animated.
The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the
lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses.
Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat
upon, and there was that luxurious after- dinner atmosphere when thought roams
gracefully free of the trammels of precision.
And he put it to us in this way--marking the points with a lean forefinger--as we
sat and lazily admired his earnestness over this new paradox (as we thought it) and his
fecundity.
'You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas
that are almost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught you
at school is founded on a misconception.'
'Is not that rather a large thing to expect us to begin upon?' said Filby, an
argumentative person with red hair. 'I do not mean to ask you to accept
anything without reasonable ground for it.
You will soon admit as much as I need from you.
You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness nil, has no real
existence.
They taught you that? Neither has a mathematical plane.
These things are mere abstractions.' 'That is all right,' said the Psychologist.
'Nor, having only length, breadth, and thickness, can a cube have a real
existence.' 'There I object,' said Filby.
'Of course a solid body may exist.
All real things--' 'So most people think.
But wait a moment. Can an instantaneous cube exist?'
'Don't follow you,' said Filby.
'Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real existence?'
Filby became pensive.
'Clearly,' the Time Traveller proceeded, 'any real body must have extension in four
directions: it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and--Duration.
But through a natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a
moment, we incline to overlook this fact.
There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space,
and a fourth, Time.
There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between the former three
dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our consciousness moves
intermittently in one direction along the
latter from the beginning to the end of our lives.'
'That,' said a very young man, making spasmodic efforts to relight his cigar over
the lamp; 'that ... very clear indeed.'
'Now, it is very remarkable that this is so extensively overlooked,' continued the Time
Traveller, with a slight accession of cheerfulness.
'Really this is what is meant by the Fourth Dimension, though some people who talk
about the Fourth Dimension do not know they mean it.
It is only another way of looking at Time.
There is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of Space except
that our consciousness moves along it. But some foolish people have got hold of
the wrong side of that idea.
You have all heard what they have to say about this Fourth Dimension?'
'I have not,' said the Provincial 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 us there.' '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 movement.'
'Still they could move a little up and down,' said the Medical Man.
'Easier, far easier down than up.' 'And you cannot move at all in Time, you
cannot get away from the present moment.'
'My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong.
That is just where the whole world has gone wrong.
We are always getting away from the present moment.
Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along
the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave.
Just as we should travel down if we began our existence fifty miles above the earth's
surface.' 'But the great difficulty is this,'
interrupted the Psychologist.
'You can move about in all directions of Space, but you cannot move about in Time.'
'That is the germ of my great discovery. But you are wrong to say that we cannot
move about in Time.
For instance, if I am recalling an incident very vividly I go back to the instant of
its occurrence: I become absent-minded, as you say.
I jump back for a moment.
Of course we have no means of staying back for any length of Time, any more than a
savage or an animal has of staying six feet above the ground.
But a civilized man is better off than the savage in this respect.
He can go up against gravitation in a balloon, and why should he not hope that
ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along the Time-
Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way?'
'Oh, this,' began Filby, 'is all--' 'Why not?' said the Time Traveller.
'It's against reason,' said Filby.
'What reason?' said the Time Traveller. 'You can show black is white by argument,'
said Filby, 'but you will never convince me.'
'Possibly not,' said the Time Traveller.
'But now you begin to see the object of my investigations into the geometry of Four
Dimensions. Long ago I had a vague inkling of a
machine--'
'To travel through Time!' exclaimed the Very Young Man.
'That shall travel indifferently in any direction of Space and Time, as the driver
determines.'
Filby contented himself with laughter. 'But I have experimental verification,'
said the Time Traveller. 'It would be remarkably convenient for the
historian,' the Psychologist suggested.
'One might travel back and verify the accepted account of the Battle of Hastings,
for instance!' 'Don't you think you would attract
attention?' said the Medical Man.
'Our ancestors had no great tolerance for anachronisms.'
'One might get one's Greek from the very lips of Homer and Plato,' the Very Young
Man thought.
'In which case they would certainly plough you for the Little-go.
The German scholars have improved Greek so much.'
'Then there is the future,' said the Very Young Man.
'Just think!
One might invest all one's money, leave it to accumulate at interest, and hurry on
ahead!' 'To discover a society,' said I, 'erected
on a strictly communistic basis.'
'Of all the wild extravagant theories!' began the Psychologist.
'Yes, so it seemed to me, and so I never talked of it until--'
'Experimental verification!' cried I.
'You are going to verify that?' 'The experiment!' cried Filby, who was
getting 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 hearthrug.
On this table he placed the mechanism.
Then he drew up a chair, and sat down. The only other object on the table was a
small shaded lamp, the bright light of which fell upon the model.
There were also perhaps a dozen candles about, two in brass candlesticks upon the
mantel and several in sconces, so that the room was brilliantly illuminated.
I sat in a low arm-chair nearest the fire, and I drew this forward so as to be almost
between the Time Traveller and the fireplace.
Filby sat behind him, looking over his shoulder.
The Medical Man and the Provincial Mayor watched him in profile from the right, the
Psychologist from the left.
The Very Young Man stood behind the Psychologist.
We were all on the alert.
It appears incredible to me that any kind of trick, however subtly conceived and
however adroitly done, could have been played upon us under these conditions.
The Time Traveller looked at us, and then at the mechanism.
'Well?' said the Psychologist.
'This little affair,' said the Time Traveller, resting his elbows upon the
table and pressing his hands together above the apparatus, 'is only a model.
It is my plan for a machine to travel through time.
You will notice that it looks singularly askew, and that there is an odd twinkling
appearance about this bar, as though it was in some way unreal.'
He pointed to the part with his finger.
'Also, here is one little white lever, and here is another.'
The Medical Man got up out of his chair and peered into the thing.
'It's beautifully made,' he said.
'It took two years to make,' retorted the Time Traveller.
Then, when we had all imitated the action of the Medical Man, he said: 'Now I want
you clearly to understand that this lever, being pressed over, sends the machine
gliding into the future, and this other reverses the motion.
This saddle represents the seat of a time traveller.
Presently I am going to press the lever, and off the machine will go.
It will vanish, pass into future Time, and disappear.
Have a good look at the thing.
Look at the table too, and satisfy yourselves there is no trickery.
I don't want to waste this model, and then be told I'm a quack.'
There was a minute's pause perhaps.
The Psychologist seemed about to speak to me, but changed his mind.
Then the Time Traveller put forth his finger towards the lever.
'No,' he said suddenly.
'Lend me your hand.' And turning to the Psychologist, he took
that individual's hand in his own and told him to put out his forefinger.
So that it was the Psychologist himself who sent forth the model Time Machine on its
interminable voyage. We all saw the lever turn.
I am absolutely certain there was no trickery.
There was a breath of wind, and the lamp flame jumped.
One of the candles on the mantel was blown out, and the little machine suddenly swung
round, became indistinct, was seen as a ghost for a second perhaps, as an eddy of
faintly glittering brass and ivory; and it was gone--vanished!
Save for the lamp the table was bare. Everyone was silent for a minute.
Then Filby said he was damned.
The Psychologist recovered from his stupor, and suddenly looked under the table.
At that the Time Traveller laughed cheerfully.
'Well?' he said, with a reminiscence of the Psychologist.
Then, getting up, he went to the tobacco jar on the mantel, and with his back to us
began to fill his pipe.
We stared at each other. 'Look here,' said the Medical Man, 'are you
in earnest about this? Do you seriously believe that that machine
has travelled into time?'
'Certainly,' said the Time Traveller, stooping to light a spill at the fire.
Then he turned, lighting his pipe, to look at the Psychologist's face.
(The Psychologist, to show that he was not unhinged, helped himself to a cigar and
tried to light it uncut.)
'What is more, I have a big machine nearly finished in there'--he indicated the
laboratory--'and when that is put together I mean to have a journey on my own
account.'
'You mean to say that that machine has travelled into the future?' said Filby.
'Into the future or the past--I don't, for certain, know which.'
After an interval the Psychologist had an inspiration.
'It must have gone into the past if it has gone anywhere,' 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 Christmas?'
'Upon that machine,' said the Time Traveller, holding the lamp aloft, 'I
intend to explore time. Is that plain?
I was never more serious in my life.'
None of us quite knew how to take it. I caught Filby's eye over the shoulder of
the Medical Man, and he winked at me solemnly.
>
CHAPTER II
I think that at that time none of us quite believed in the Time Machine.
The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be
believed: you never felt that you saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle
reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness.
Had Filby shown the model and explained the matter in the Time Traveller's words, we
should have shown him far less scepticism.
For we should have perceived his motives; a pork butcher could understand Filby.
But the Time Traveller had more than a touch of whim among his elements, and we
distrusted him.
Things that would have made the frame of a less clever man seemed tricks in his hands.
It is a mistake to do things too easily.
The serious people who took him seriously never felt quite sure of his deportment;
they were somehow aware that trusting their reputations for judgment with him was like
furnishing a nursery with egg-shell china.
So I don't think any of us said very much about time travelling in the interval
between that Thursday and the next, though its odd potentialities ran, no doubt, in
most of our minds: its plausibility, that
is, its practical incredibleness, the curious possibilities of anachronism and of
utter confusion it suggested. For my own part, I was particularly
preoccupied with the trick of the model.
That I remember discussing with the Medical Man, whom I met on Friday at the Linnaean.
He said he had seen a similar thing at Tubingen, and laid considerable stress on
the blowing out of the candle.
But how the trick was done he could not explain.
The next Thursday I went again to Richmond- -I suppose I was one of the Time
Traveller's most constant guests--and, arriving late, found four or five men
already assembled in his drawing-room.
The Medical Man was standing before the fire with a sheet of paper in one hand and
his watch in the other.
I looked round for the Time Traveller, and- -'It's half-past seven now,' said the
Medical Man. 'I suppose we'd better have dinner?'
'Where's----?' said I, naming our host.
'You've just come? It's rather odd.
He's unavoidably detained. He asks me in this note to lead off with
dinner at seven if he's not back.
Says he'll explain when he comes.' 'It seems a pity to let the dinner spoil,'
said the Editor of a well-known daily paper; and thereupon the Doctor rang the
bell.
The Psychologist was the only person besides the Doctor and myself who had
attended the previous dinner.
The other men were Blank, the Editor aforementioned, a certain journalist, and
another--a quiet, shy man with a beard-- whom I didn't know, and who, as far as my
observation went, never opened his mouth all the evening.
There was some speculation at the dinner- table about the Time Traveller's absence,
and I suggested time travelling, in a half- jocular spirit.
The Editor wanted that explained to him, and the Psychologist volunteered a wooden
account of the 'ingenious paradox and trick' we had witnessed that day week.
He was in the midst of his exposition when the door from the corridor opened slowly
and without noise. I was facing the door, and saw it first.
'Hallo!'
I said. 'At last!'
And the door opened wider, and the Time Traveller stood before us.
I gave a cry of surprise.
'Good heavens! man, what's the matter?' cried the Medical Man, who saw him next.
And the whole tableful turned towards the door.
He was in an amazing plight.
His coat was dusty and dirty, and smeared with green down the sleeves; his hair
disordered, and as it seemed to me greyer-- either with dust and dirt or because its
colour had actually faded.
His face was ghastly pale; his chin had a brown cut on it--a cut half healed; his
expression was haggard and drawn, as by intense suffering.
For a moment he hesitated in the doorway, as if he had been dazzled by the light.
Then he came into the room. He walked with just such a limp as I have
seen in footsore tramps.
We stared at him in silence, expecting him to speak.
He said not a word, but came painfully to the table, and made a motion towards the
wine.
The Editor filled a glass of champagne, and pushed it towards him.
He drained it, and it seemed to do him good: for he looked round the table, and
the ghost of his old smile flickered across his face.
'What on earth have you been up to, man?' said the Doctor.
The Time Traveller did not seem to hear. 'Don't let me disturb you,' he said, with a
certain faltering articulation.
'I'm all right.' He stopped, held out his glass for more,
and took it off at a draught. 'That's good,' he said.
His eyes grew brighter, and a faint colour came into his cheeks.
His glance flickered over our faces with a certain dull approval, and then went round
the warm and comfortable room.
Then he spoke again, still as it were feeling his way among his words.
'I'm going to wash and dress, and then I'll come down and explain things ...
Save me some of that mutton.
I'm starving for a bit of meat.' He looked across at the Editor, who was a
rare visitor, and hoped he was all right. The Editor began a question.
'Tell you presently,' said the Time Traveller.
'I'm--funny! Be all right in a minute.'
He put down his glass, and walked towards the staircase door.
Again I remarked his lameness and the soft padding sound of his footfall, and standing
up in my place, I saw his feet as he went out.
He had nothing on them but a pair of tattered, blood-stained socks.
Then the door closed upon him.
I had half a mind to follow, till I remembered how he detested any fuss about
himself. For a minute, perhaps, my mind was wool-
gathering.
Then, 'Remarkable Behaviour of an Eminent Scientist,' I heard the Editor say,
thinking (after his wont) in headlines. And this brought my attention back to the
bright dinner-table.
'What's the game?' said the Journalist. 'Has he been doing the Amateur Cadger?
I don't follow.' I met the eye of the Psychologist, and read
my own interpretation in his face.
I thought of the Time Traveller limping painfully upstairs.
I don't think any one else had noticed his lameness.
The first to recover completely from this surprise was the Medical Man, who rang the
bell--the Time Traveller hated to have servants waiting at dinner--for a hot
plate.
At that the Editor turned to his knife and fork with a grunt, and the Silent Man
followed suit. The dinner was resumed.
Conversation was exclamatory for a little while, with gaps of wonderment; and then
the Editor got fervent in his curiosity.
'Does our friend eke out his modest income with a crossing? or has he his
Nebuchadnezzar phases?' he inquired.
'I feel assured it's this business of the Time Machine,' I said, and took up the
Psychologist's account of our previous meeting.
The new guests were frankly incredulous.
The Editor raised objections. 'What was this time travelling?
A man couldn't cover himself with dust by rolling in a paradox, could he?'
And then, as the idea came home to him, he resorted to caricature.
Hadn't they any clothes-brushes in the Future?
The Journalist too, would not believe at any price, and joined the Editor in the
easy work of heaping ridicule on the whole thing.
They were both the new kind of journalist-- very joyous, irreverent young men.
'Our Special Correspondent in the Day after To-morrow reports,' the Journalist was
saying--or rather shouting--when the Time Traveller came back.
He was dressed in ordinary evening clothes, and nothing save his haggard look remained
of the change that had startled me.
'I say,' said the Editor hilariously, 'these chaps here say you have been
travelling into the middle of next week! Tell us all about little Rosebery, will
you?
What will you take for the lot?' The Time Traveller came to the place
reserved for him without a word. He smiled quietly, in his old way.
'Where's my mutton?' he said.
'What a treat it is to stick a fork into meat again!'
'Story!' cried the Editor. 'Story be damned!' said the Time Traveller.
'I want something to eat.
I won't say a word until I get some peptone into my arteries.
Thanks. And the salt.'
'One word,' said I.
'Have you been time travelling?' 'Yes,' said the Time Traveller, with his
mouth full, nodding his head. 'I'd give a shilling a line for a verbatim
note,' said the Editor.
The Time Traveller pushed his glass towards the Silent Man and rang it with his
fingernail; at which the Silent Man, who had been staring at his face, started
convulsively, and poured him wine.
The rest of the dinner was uncomfortable. For my own part, sudden questions kept on
rising to my lips, and I dare say it was the same with the others.
The Journalist tried to relieve the tension by telling anecdotes of Hettie Potter.
The Time Traveller devoted his attention to his dinner, and displayed the appetite of a
tramp.
The Medical Man smoked a cigarette, and watched the Time Traveller through his
eyelashes.
The Silent Man seemed even more clumsy than usual, and drank champagne with regularity
and determination out of sheer nervousness. At last the Time Traveller pushed his plate
away, and looked round us.
'I suppose I must apologize,' he said. 'I was simply starving.
I've had a most amazing time.' He reached out his hand for a cigar, and
cut the end.
'But come into the smoking-room. It's too long a story to tell over greasy
plates.' And ringing the bell in passing, he led the
way into the adjoining room.
'You have told Blank, and Dash, and Chose about the machine?' he said to me, leaning
back in his easy-chair and naming the three new guests.
'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.
>
CHAPTER III
'I told some of you last Thursday of the principles of the Time Machine, and showed
you the actual thing itself, incomplete in the workshop.
There it is now, a little travel-worn, truly; and one of the ivory bars is
cracked, and a brass rail bent; but the rest of it's sound enough.
I expected to finish it on Friday, but on Friday, when the putting together was
nearly done, I found that one of the nickel bars was exactly one inch too short, and
this I had to get remade; so that the thing was not complete until this morning.
It was at ten o'clock to-day that the first of all Time Machines began its career.
I gave it a last tap, tried all the screws again, put one more drop of oil on the
quartz rod, and sat myself in the saddle.
I suppose a suicide who holds a pistol to his skull feels much the same wonder at
what will come next as I felt then.
I took the starting lever in one hand and the stopping one in the other, pressed the
first, and almost immediately the second.
I seemed to reel; I felt a nightmare sensation of falling; and, looking round, I
saw the laboratory exactly as before. Had anything happened?
For a moment I suspected that my intellect had tricked me.
Then I noted the clock.
A moment before, as it seemed, it had stood at a minute or so past ten; now it was
nearly half-past three!
'I drew a breath, set my teeth, gripped the starting lever with both hands, and went
off with a thud. The laboratory got hazy and went dark.
Mrs. Watchett came in and walked, apparently without seeing me, towards the
garden door.
I suppose it took her a minute or so to traverse the place, but to me she seemed to
shoot across the room like a rocket. I pressed the lever over to its extreme
position.
The night came like the turning out of a lamp, and in another moment came to-morrow.
The laboratory grew faint and hazy, then fainter and ever fainter.
To-morrow night came black, then day again, night again, day again, faster and faster
still.
An eddying murmur filled my ears, and a strange, dumb confusedness descended on my
mind. 'I am afraid I cannot convey the peculiar
sensations of time travelling.
They are excessively unpleasant. There is a feeling exactly like that one
has upon a switchback--of a helpless headlong motion!
I felt the same horrible anticipation, too, of an imminent smash.
As I put on pace, night followed day like the flapping of a black wing.
The dim suggestion of the laboratory seemed presently to fall away from me, and I saw
the sun hopping swiftly across the sky, leaping it every minute, and every minute
marking a day.
I supposed the laboratory had been destroyed and I had come into the open air.
I had a dim impression of scaffolding, but I was already going too fast to be
conscious of any moving things.
The slowest snail that ever crawled dashed by too fast for me.
The twinkling succession of darkness and light was excessively painful to the eye.
Then, in the intermittent darknesses, I saw the moon spinning swiftly through her
quarters from new to full, and had a faint glimpse of the circling stars.
Presently, as I went on, still gaining velocity, the palpitation of night and day
merged into one continuous greyness; the sky took on a wonderful deepness of blue, a
splendid luminous color like that of early
twilight; the jerking sun became a streak of fire, a brilliant arch, in space; the
moon a fainter fluctuating band; and I could see nothing of the stars, save now
and then a brighter circle flickering in the blue.
'The landscape was misty and vague.
I was still on the hill-side upon which this house now stands, and the shoulder
rose above me grey and dim.
I saw trees growing and changing like puffs of vapour, now brown, now green; they grew,
spread, shivered, and passed away. I saw huge buildings rise up faint and
fair, and pass like dreams.
The whole surface of the earth seemed changed--melting and flowing under my eyes.
The little hands upon the dials that registered my speed raced round faster and
faster.
Presently I noted that the sun belt swayed up and down, from solstice to solstice, in
a minute or less, and that consequently my pace was over a year a minute; and minute
by minute the white snow flashed across the
world, and vanished, and was followed by the bright, brief green of spring.
'The unpleasant sensations of the start were less poignant now.
They merged at last into a kind of hysterical exhilaration.
I remarked indeed a clumsy swaying of the machine, for which I was unable to account.
But my mind was too confused to attend to it, so with a kind of madness growing upon
me, I flung myself into futurity.
At first I scarce thought of stopping, scarce thought of anything but these new
sensations.
But presently a fresh series of impressions grew up in my mind--a certain curiosity and
therewith a certain dread--until at last they took complete possession of me.
What strange developments of humanity, what wonderful advances upon our rudimentary
civilization, I thought, might not appear when I came to look nearly into the dim
elusive world that raced and fluctuated before my eyes!
I saw great and splendid architecture rising about me, more massive than any
buildings of our own time, and yet, as it seemed, built of glimmer and mist.
I saw a richer green flow up the hill-side, and remain there, without any wintry
intermission. Even through the veil of my confusion the
earth seemed very fair.
And so my mind came round to the business of stopping.
'The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some substance in the space
which I, or the machine, occupied.
So long as I travelled at a high velocity through time, this scarcely mattered; I
was, so to speak, attenuated--was slipping like a vapour through the interstices of
intervening substances!
But to come to a stop involved the jamming of myself, molecule by molecule, into
whatever lay in my way; meant bringing my atoms into such intimate contact with those
of the obstacle that a profound chemical
reaction--possibly a far-reaching explosion--would result, and blow myself
and my apparatus out of all possible dimensions--into the Unknown.
This possibility had occurred to me again and again while I was making the machine;
but then I had cheerfully accepted it as an unavoidable risk--one of the risks a man
has got to take!
Now the risk was inevitable, I no longer saw it in the same cheerful light.
The fact is that, insensibly, the absolute strangeness of everything, the sickly
jarring and swaying of the machine, above all, the feeling of prolonged falling, had
absolutely upset my nerve.
I told myself that I could never stop, and with a gust of petulance I resolved to stop
forthwith.
Like an impatient fool, I lugged over the lever, and incontinently the thing went
reeling over, and I was flung headlong through the air.
'There was the sound of a clap of thunder in my ears.
I may have been stunned for a moment.
A pitiless hail was hissing round me, and I was sitting on soft turf in front of the
overset machine.
Everything still seemed grey, but presently I remarked that the confusion in my ears
was gone. I looked round me.
I was on what seemed to be a little lawn in a garden, surrounded by rhododendron
bushes, and I noticed that their mauve and purple blossoms were dropping in a shower
under the beating of the hail-stones.
The rebounding, dancing hail hung in a cloud over the machine, and drove along the
ground like smoke. In a moment I was wet to the skin.
"Fine hospitality," said I, "to a man who has travelled innumerable years to see
you." 'Presently I thought what a fool I was to
get wet.
I stood up and looked round me. A colossal figure, carved apparently in
some white stone, loomed indistinctly beyond the rhododendrons through the hazy
downpour.
But all else of the world was invisible. 'My sensations would be hard to describe.
As the columns of hail grew thinner, I saw the white figure more distinctly.
It was very large, for a silver birch-tree touched its shoulder.
It was of white marble, in shape something like a winged sphinx, but the wings,
instead of being carried vertically at the sides, were spread so that it seemed to
hover.
The pedestal, it appeared to me, was of bronze, and was thick with verdigris.
It chanced that the face was towards me; the sightless eyes seemed to watch me;
there was the faint shadow of a smile on the lips.
It was greatly weather-worn, and that imparted an unpleasant suggestion of
disease. I stood looking at it for a little space--
half a minute, perhaps, or half an hour.
It seemed to advance and to recede as the hail drove before it denser or thinner.
At last I tore my eyes from it for a moment and saw that the hail curtain had worn
threadbare, and that the sky was lightening with the promise of the sun.
'I looked up again at the crouching white shape, and the full temerity of my voyage
came suddenly upon me. What might appear when that hazy curtain
was altogether withdrawn?
What might not have happened to men? What if cruelty had grown into a common
passion?
What if in this interval the race had lost its manliness and had developed into
something inhuman, unsympathetic, and overwhelmingly powerful?
I might seem some old-world savage animal, only the more dreadful and disgusting for
our common likeness--a foul creature to be incontinently slain.
'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.
>
CHAPTER IV
'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 communication.
'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 mind.
'The building had a huge entry, and was altogether of colossal dimensions.
I was naturally most occupied with the growing crowd of little people, and with
the big open portals that yawned before me shadowy and mysterious.
My general impression of the world I saw over their heads was a tangled waste of
beautiful bushes and flowers, a long neglected and yet weedless garden.
I saw a number of tall spikes of strange white flowers, measuring a foot perhaps
across the spread of the waxen petals.
They grew scattered, as if wild, among the variegated shrubs, but, as I say, I did not
examine them closely at this time. The Time Machine was left deserted on the
turf among the rhododendrons.
'The arch of the doorway was richly carved, but naturally I did not observe the carving
very narrowly, though I fancied I saw suggestions of old Phoenician decorations
as I passed through, and it struck me that
they were very badly broken and weather- worn.
Several more brightly clad people met me in the doorway, and so we entered, I, dressed
in dingy nineteenth-century garments, looking grotesque enough, garlanded with
flowers, and surrounded by an eddying mass
of bright, soft-colored robes and shining white limbs, in a melodious whirl of
laughter and laughing speech. 'The big doorway opened into a
proportionately great hall hung with brown.
The roof was in shadow, and the windows, partially glazed with coloured glass and
partially unglazed, admitted a tempered light.
The floor was made up of huge blocks of some very hard white metal, not plates nor
slabs--blocks, and it was so much worn, as I judged by the going to and fro of past
generations, as to be deeply channelled along the more frequented ways.
Transverse to the length were innumerable tables made of slabs of polished stone,
raised perhaps a foot from the floor, and upon these were heaps of fruits.
Some I recognized as a kind of hypertrophied raspberry and orange, but for
the most part they were strange. 'Between the tables was scattered a great
number of cushions.
Upon these my conductors seated themselves, signing for me to do likewise.
With a pretty absence of ceremony they began to eat the fruit with their hands,
flinging peel and stalks, and so forth, into the round openings in the sides of the
tables.
I was not loath to follow their example, for I felt thirsty and hungry.
As I did so I surveyed the hall at my leisure.
'And perhaps the thing that struck me most was its dilapidated look.
The stained-glass windows, which displayed only a geometrical pattern, were broken in
many places, and the curtains that hung across the lower end were thick with dust.
And it caught my eye that the corner of the marble table near me was fractured.
Nevertheless, the general effect was extremely rich and picturesque.
There were, perhaps, a couple of hundred people dining in the hall, and most of
them, seated as near to me as they could come, were watching me with interest, their
little eyes shining over the fruit they were eating.
All were clad in the same soft and yet strong, silky 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 recorded.
'As I walked I was watching for every impression that could possibly help to
explain the condition of ruinous splendour in which I found the world--for ruinous it
was.
A little way up the hill, for instance, was a great heap of granite, bound together by
masses of aluminium, a vast labyrinth of precipitous walls and crumpled heaps,
amidst which were thick heaps of very
beautiful pagoda-like plants--nettles possibly--but wonderfully tinted with brown
about the leaves, and incapable of stinging.
It was evidently the derelict remains of some vast structure, to what end built I
could not determine.
It was here that I was destined, at a later date, to have a very strange experience--
the first intimation of a still stranger discovery--but of that I will speak in its
proper place.
'Looking round with a sudden thought, from a terrace on which I rested for a while, I
realized that there were no small houses to be seen.
Apparently the single house, and possibly even the household, had vanished.
Here and there among the greenery were palace-like buildings, but the house and
the cottage, which form such characteristic features of our own English landscape, had
disappeared.
'"Communism," said I to myself. 'And on the heels of that came another
thought. I looked at the half-dozen little figures
that were following me.
Then, in a flash, I perceived that all had the same form of costume, the same soft
hairless visage, and the same girlish rotundity of limb.
It may seem strange, perhaps, that I had not noticed this before.
But everything was so strange. Now, I saw the fact plainly enough.
In costume, and in all the differences of texture and bearing that now mark off the
sexes from each other, these people of the future were alike.
And the children seemed to my eyes to be but the miniatures of their parents.
I judged, then, that the children of that time were extremely precocious, physically
at least, and I found afterwards abundant verification of my opinion.
'Seeing the ease and security in which these people were living, I felt that this
close resemblance of the sexes was after all what one would expect; for the strength
of a man and the softness of a woman, the
institution of the family, and the differentiation of occupations are mere
militant necessities of an age of physical force; where population is balanced and
abundant, much childbearing becomes an evil
rather than a blessing to the State; where violence comes but rarely and off-spring
are secure, there is less necessity--indeed there is no necessity--for an efficient
family, and the specialization of the sexes
with reference to their children's needs disappears.
We see some beginnings of this even in our own time, and in this future age it was
complete.
This, I must remind you, was my speculation at the time.
Later, I was to appreciate how far it fell short of 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.