The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells
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
'There I object,' said Filby. 'Of course a solid body may exist. All
'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 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
'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
'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
'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
'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 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?'
'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.
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
'What's the game?' said the Journalist. 'Has he been doing the
Amateur Cadger? I don't follow.' I met the eye of the Psychologist,
and read my own interpretation in his face. I thought of the Time
Traveller limping painfully upstairs. I don't think any one else had
noticed his lameness.
The first to recover completely from this surprise was the Medical
Man, who rang the bell—the Time Traveller hated to have servants
waiting at dinner—for a hot plate. At that the Editor turned to his
knife and fork with a grunt, and the Silent Man followed suit. The
dinner was resumed. Conversation was exclamatory for a little while,
with gaps of wonderment; and then the Editor got fervent in his
curiosity. 'Does our friend eke out his modest income with a
crossing? or has he his Nebuchadnezzar phases?' he inquired. 'I feel
assured it's this business of the Time Machine,' I said, and took up
the Psychologist's account of our previous meeting. The new guests
were frankly incredulous. The Editor raised objections. 'What was
this time travelling? A man couldn't cover himself with dust by
rolling in a paradox, could he?' And then, as the idea came home to
him, he resorted to caricature. Hadn't they any clothes-brushes in
the Future? The Journalist too, would not believe at any price, and
joined the Editor in the easy work of heaping ridicule on the whole
thing. They were both the new kind of journalist—very joyous,
irreverent young men. 'Our Special Correspondent in the Day
after To-morrow reports,' the Journalist was saying—or rather
shouting—when the Time Traveller came back. He was dressed in
ordinary evening clothes, and nothing save his haggard look remained
of the change that had startled me.
'I say,' said the Editor hilariously, 'these chaps here say you have
been travelling into the middle of next week! Tell us all about
little Rosebery, will you? What will you take for the lot?'
The Time Traveller came to the place reserved for him without a
word. He smiled quietly, in his old way. 'Where's my mutton?' he
said. 'What a treat it is to stick a fork into meat again!'
'Story!' cried the Editor.
'Story be damned!' said the Time Traveller. 'I want something to
eat. I won't say a word until I get some peptone into my arteries.
Thanks. And the salt.'
'One word,' said I. 'Have you been time travelling?'
'Yes,' said the Time Traveller, with his mouth full, nodding his
'I'd give a shilling a line for a verbatim note,' said the Editor.
The Time Traveller pushed his glass towards the Silent Man and rang
it with his fingernail; at which the Silent Man, who had been
staring at his face, started convulsively, and poured him wine.
The rest of the dinner was uncomfortable. For my own part, sudden
questions kept on rising to my lips, and I dare say it was the same
with the others. The Journalist tried to relieve the tension by
telling anecdotes of Hettie Potter. The Time Traveller devoted his
attention to his dinner, and displayed the appetite of a tramp.
The Medical Man smoked a cigarette, and watched the Time Traveller
through his eyelashes. The Silent Man seemed even more clumsy than
usual, and drank champagne with regularity and determination out of
sheer nervousness. At last the Time Traveller pushed his plate away,
and looked round us. 'I suppose I must apologize,' he said. 'I was
simply starving. I've had a most amazing time.' He reached out his
hand for a cigar, and cut the end. 'But come into the smoking-room.
It's too long a story to tell over greasy plates.' And ringing the
bell in passing, he led the way into the adjoining room.
'You have told Blank, and Dash, and Chose about the machine?' he
said to me, leaning back in his easy-chair and naming the three new
'But the thing's a mere paradox,' said the Editor.
'I can't argue to-night. I don't mind telling you the story, but
I can't argue. I will,' he went on, 'tell you the story of what
has happened to me, if you like, but you must refrain from
interruptions. I want to tell it. Badly. Most of it will sound like
lying. So be it! It's true—every word of it, all the same. I was in
my laboratory at four o'clock, and since then … I've lived eight
days … such days as no human being ever lived before! I'm nearly
worn out, but I shan't sleep till I've told this thing over to you.
Then I shall go to bed. But no interruptions! Is it agreed?'
'Agreed,' said the Editor, and the rest of us echoed 'Agreed.' And
with that the Time Traveller began his story as I have set it forth.
He sat back in his chair at first, and spoke like a weary man.
Afterwards he got more animated. In writing it down I feel with only
too much keenness the inadequacy of pen and ink—and, above all, my
own inadequacy—to express its quality. You read, I will suppose,
attentively enough; but you cannot see the speaker's white,
sincere face in the bright circle of the little lamp, nor hear the
intonation of his voice. You cannot know how his expression followed
the turns of his story! Most of us hearers were in shadow, for the
candles in the smoking-room had not been lighted, and only the face
of the Journalist and the legs of the Silent Man from the knees
downward were illuminated. At first we glanced now and again at each
other. After a time we ceased to do that, and looked only at the
Time Traveller's face.
'I told some of you last Thursday of the principles of the Time
Machine, and showed you the actual thing itself, incomplete in the
workshop. There it is now, a little travel-worn, truly; and one of
the ivory bars is cracked, and a brass rail bent; but the rest of
it's sound enough. I expected to finish it on Friday, but on Friday,
when the putting together was nearly done, I found that one of the
nickel bars was exactly one inch too short, and this I had to get
remade; so that the thing was not complete until this morning. It
was at ten o'clock to-day that the first of all Time Machines began
its career. I gave it a last tap, tried all the screws again, put
one more drop of oil on the quartz rod, and sat myself in the
saddle. I suppose a suicide who holds a pistol to his skull feels
much the same wonder at what will come next as I felt then. I took
the starting lever in one hand and the stopping one in the other,
pressed the first, and almost immediately the second. I seemed to
reel; I felt a nightmare sensation of falling; and, looking round,
I saw the laboratory exactly as before. Had anything happened? For
a moment I suspected that my intellect had tricked me. Then I noted
the clock. A moment before, as it seemed, it had stood at a minute
or so past ten; now it was nearly half-past three!
'I drew a breath, set my teeth, gripped the starting lever with both
hands, and went off with a thud. The laboratory got hazy and went
dark. Mrs. Watchett came in and walked, apparently without seeing
me, towards the garden door. I suppose it took her a minute or so to
traverse the place, but to me she seemed to shoot across the room
like a rocket. I pressed the lever over to its extreme position. The
night came like the turning out of a lamp, and in another moment
came to-morrow. The laboratory grew faint and hazy, then fainter
and ever fainter. To-morrow night came black, then day again, night
again, day again, faster and faster still. An eddying murmur filled
my ears, and a strange, dumb confusedness descended on my mind.
'I am afraid I cannot convey the peculiar sensations of time
travelling. They are excessively unpleasant. There is a feeling
exactly like that one has upon a switchback—of a helpless headlong
motion! I felt the same horrible anticipation, too, of an imminent
smash. As I put on pace, night followed day like the flapping of a
black wing. The dim suggestion of the laboratory seemed presently to
fall away from me, and I saw the sun hopping swiftly across the sky,
leaping it every minute, and every minute marking a day. I supposed
the laboratory had been destroyed and I had come into the open air.
I had a dim impression of scaffolding, but I was already going too
fast to be conscious of any moving things. The slowest snail that
ever crawled dashed by too fast for me. The twinkling succession of
darkness and light was excessively painful to the eye. Then, in the
intermittent darknesses, I saw the moon spinning swiftly through her
quarters from new to full, and had a faint glimpse of the circling
stars. Presently, as I went on, still gaining velocity, the
palpitation of night and day merged into one continuous greyness;
the sky took on a wonderful deepness of blue, a splendid luminous
color like that of early twilight; the jerking sun became a streak
of fire, a brilliant arch, in space; the moon a fainter fluctuating
band; and I could see nothing of the stars, save now and then a
brighter circle flickering in the blue.
'The landscape was misty and vague. I was still on the hill-side
upon which this house now stands, and the shoulder rose above me
grey and dim. I saw trees growing and changing like puffs of vapour,
now brown, now green; they grew, spread, shivered, and passed away.
I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair, and pass like dreams.
The whole surface of the earth seemed changed—melting and flowing
under my eyes. The little hands upon the dials that registered my
speed raced round faster and faster. Presently I noted that the sun
belt swayed up and down, from solstice to solstice, in a minute or
less, and that consequently my pace was over a year a minute; and
minute by minute the white snow flashed across the world, and
vanished, and was followed by the bright, brief green of spring.
'The unpleasant sensations of the start were less poignant now. They
merged at last into a kind of hysterical exhilaration. I remarked
indeed a clumsy swaying of the machine, for which I was unable to
account. But my mind was too confused to attend to it, so with a
kind of madness growing upon me, I flung myself into futurity. At
first I scarce thought of stopping, scarce thought of anything but
these new sensations. But presently a fresh series of impressions
grew up in my mind—a certain curiosity and therewith a certain
dread—until at last they took complete possession of me. What
strange developments of humanity, what wonderful advances upon our
rudimentary civilization, I thought, might not appear when I came to
look nearly into the dim elusive world that raced and fluctuated
before my eyes! I saw great and splendid architecture rising about
me, more massive than any buildings of our own time, and yet, as it
seemed, built of glimmer and mist. I saw a richer green flow up the
hill-side, and remain there, without any wintry intermission. Even
through the veil of my confusion the earth seemed very fair. And so
my mind came round to the business of stopping.
'The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some
substance in the space which I, or the machine, occupied. So long
as I travelled at a high velocity through time, this scarcely
mattered; I was, so to speak, attenuated—was slipping like a vapour
through the interstices of intervening substances! But to come to
a stop involved the jamming of myself, molecule by molecule, into
whatever lay in my way; meant bringing my atoms into such intimate
contact with those of the obstacle that a profound chemical
reaction—possibly a far-reaching explosion—would result, and blow
myself and my apparatus out of all possible dimensions—into the
Unknown. This possibility had occurred to me again and again while I
was making the machine; but then I had cheerfully accepted it as an
unavoidable risk—one of the risks a man has got to take! Now the
risk was inevitable, I no longer saw it in the same cheerful light.
The fact is that, insensibly, the absolute strangeness of everything,
the sickly jarring and swaying of the machine, above all, the
feeling of prolonged falling, had absolutely upset my nerve. I told
myself that I could never stop, and with a gust of petulance I
resolved to stop forthwith. Like an impatient fool, I lugged over
the lever, and incontinently the thing went reeling over, and I was
flung headlong through the air.
'There was the sound of a clap of thunder in my ears. I may have
been stunned for a moment. A pitiless hail was hissing round me,
and I was sitting on soft turf in front of the overset machine.
Everything still seemed grey, but presently I remarked that the
confusion in my ears was gone. I looked round me. I was on what
seemed to be a little lawn in a garden, surrounded by rhododendron
bushes, and I noticed that their mauve and purple blossoms were
dropping in a shower under the beating of the hail-stones. The
rebounding, dancing hail hung in a cloud over the machine, and drove
along the ground like smoke. In a moment I was wet to the skin.
"Fine hospitality," said I, "to a man who has travelled innumerable
years to see you."
'Presently I thought what a fool I was to get wet. I stood up and
looked round me. A colossal figure, carved apparently in some white
stone, loomed indistinctly beyond the rhododendrons through the hazy
downpour. But all else of the world was invisible.
'My sensations would be hard to describe. As the columns of hail
grew thinner, I saw the white figure more distinctly. It was very
large, for a silver birch-tree touched its shoulder. It was of white
marble, in shape something like a winged sphinx, but the wings,
instead of being carried vertically at the sides, were spread so
that it seemed to hover. The pedestal, it appeared to me, was of
bronze, and was thick with verdigris. It chanced that the face was
towards me; the sightless eyes seemed to watch me; there was the
faint shadow of a smile on the lips. It was greatly weather-worn,
and that imparted an unpleasant suggestion of disease. I stood
looking at it for a little space—half a minute, perhaps, or half an
hour. It seemed to advance and to recede as the hail drove before it
denser or thinner. At last I tore my eyes from it for a moment and
saw that the hail curtain had worn threadbare, and that the sky was
lightening with the promise of the sun.
'I looked up again at the crouching white shape, and the full
temerity of my voyage came suddenly upon me. What might appear when
that hazy curtain was altogether withdrawn? What might not have
happened to men? What if cruelty had grown into a common passion?
What if in this interval the race had lost its manliness and had
developed into something inhuman, unsympathetic, and overwhelmingly
powerful? I might seem some old-world savage animal, only the more
dreadful and disgusting for our common likeness—a foul creature to
be incontinently 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.
'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 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
'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
'"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. Below was the valley of the Thames, in
which the river lay like a band of burnished steel. I have already
spoken of the great palaces dotted about among the variegated
greenery, some in ruins and some still occupied. Here and there rose
a white or silvery figure in the waste garden of the earth, here and
there came the sharp vertical line of some cupola or obelisk. There
were no hedges, no signs of proprietary rights, no evidences of
agriculture; the whole earth had become a garden.
'So watching, I began to put my interpretation upon the things I had
seen, and as it shaped itself to me that evening, my interpretation
was something in this way. (Afterwards I found I had got only a
half-truth—or only a glimpse of one facet of the truth.)
'It seemed to me that I had happened upon humanity upon the wane.
The ruddy sunset set me thinking of the sunset of mankind. For the
first time I began to realize an odd consequence of the social
effort in which we are at present engaged. And yet, come to think,
it is a logical consequence enough. Strength is the outcome of need;
security sets a premium on feebleness. The work of ameliorating the
conditions of life—the true civilizing process that makes life more
and more secure—had gone steadily on to a climax. One triumph of a
united humanity over Nature had followed another. Things that are
now mere dreams had become projects deliberately put in hand and
carried forward. And the harvest was what I saw!
'After all, the sanitation and the agriculture of to-day are still
in the rudimentary stage. The science of our time has attacked but
a little department of the field of human disease, but even so,
it spreads its operations very steadily and persistently. Our
agriculture and horticulture destroy a weed just here and there and
cultivate perhaps a score or so of wholesome plants, leaving the
greater number to fight out a balance as they can. We improve our
favourite plants and animals—and how few they are—gradually by
selective breeding; now a new and better peach, now a seedless
grape, now a sweeter and larger flower, now a more convenient breed
of cattle. We improve them gradually, because our ideals are vague
and tentative, and our knowledge is very limited; because Nature,
too, is shy and slow in our clumsy hands. Some day all this will
be better organized, and still better. That is the drift of the
current in spite of the eddies. The whole world will be intelligent,
educated, and co-operating; things will move faster and faster
towards the subjugation of Nature. In the end, wisely and carefully
we shall readjust the balance of animal and vegetable life to suit
our human needs.
'This adjustment, I say, must have been done, and done well; done
indeed for all Time, in the space of Time across which my machine
had leaped. The air was free from gnats, the earth from weeds or
fungi; everywhere were fruits and sweet and delightful flowers;
brilliant butterflies flew hither and thither. The ideal of
preventive medicine was attained. Diseases had been stamped out. I
saw no evidence of any contagious diseases during all my stay. And I
shall have to tell you later that even the processes of putrefaction
and decay had been profoundly affected by these changes.
'Social triumphs, too, had been effected. I saw mankind housed in
splendid shelters, gloriously clothed, and as yet I had found them
engaged in no toil. There were no signs of struggle, neither social
nor economical struggle. The shop, the advertisement, traffic, all
that commerce which constitutes the body of our world, was gone. It
was natural on that golden evening that I should jump at the idea of
a social paradise. The difficulty of increasing population had been
met, I guessed, and population had ceased to increase.
'But with this change in condition comes inevitably adaptations to
the change. What, unless biological science is a mass of errors, is
the cause of human intelligence and vigour? Hardship and freedom:
conditions under which the active, strong, and subtle survive and
the weaker go to the wall; conditions that put a premium upon the
loyal alliance of capable men, upon self-restraint, patience, and
decision. And the institution of the family, and the emotions that
arise therein, the fierce jealousy, the tenderness for offspring,
parental self-devotion, all found their justification and support in
the imminent dangers of the young. Now, where are these imminent
dangers? There is a sentiment arising, and it will grow, against
connubial jealousy, against fierce maternity, against passion
of all sorts; unnecessary things now, and things that make us
uncomfortable, savage survivals, discords in a refined and pleasant
'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
'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
'I looked for the building I knew. Then my eye travelled along to
the figure of the White Sphinx upon the pedestal of bronze, growing
distinct as the light of the rising moon grew brighter. I could see
the silver birch against it. There was the tangle of rhododendron
bushes, black in the pale light, and there was the little lawn.
I looked at the lawn again. A queer doubt chilled my complacency.
"No," said I stoutly to myself, "that was not the lawn."
'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
'When I reached the lawn my worst fears were realized. Not a trace
of the thing was to be seen. I felt faint and cold when I faced the
empty space among the black tangle of bushes. I ran round it
furiously, as if the thing might be hidden in a corner, and then
stopped abruptly, with my hands clutching my hair. Above me towered
the sphinx, upon the bronze pedestal, white, shining, leprous, in
the light of the rising moon. It seemed to smile in mockery of my
'I might have consoled myself by imagining the little people had put
the mechanism in some shelter for me, had I not felt assured of
their physical and intellectual inadequacy. That is what dismayed
me: the sense of some hitherto unsuspected power, through whose
intervention my invention had vanished. Yet, for one thing I felt
assured: unless some other age had produced its exact duplicate,
the machine could not have moved in time. The attachment of the
levers—I will show you the method later—prevented any one from
tampering with it in that way when they were removed. It had moved,
and was hid, only in space. But then, where could it be?
'I think I must have had a kind of frenzy. I remember running
violently in and out among the moonlit bushes all round the sphinx,
and startling some white animal that, in the dim light, I took for a
small deer. I remember, too, late that night, beating the bushes
with my clenched fist until my knuckles were gashed and bleeding
from the broken twigs. Then, sobbing and raving in my anguish of
mind, I went down to the great building of stone. The big hall was
dark, silent, and deserted. I slipped on the uneven floor, and fell
over one of the malachite tables, almost breaking my shin. I lit a
match and went on past the dusty curtains, of which I have told you.
'There I found a second great hall covered with cushions, upon
which, perhaps, a score or so of the little people were sleeping. I
have no doubt they found my second appearance strange enough, coming
suddenly out of the quiet darkness with inarticulate noises and the
splutter and flare of a match. For they had forgotten about matches.
"Where is my Time Machine?" I began, bawling like an angry child,
laying hands upon them and shaking them up together. It must have
been very queer to them. Some laughed, most of them looked sorely
frightened. When I saw them standing round me, it came into my head
that I was doing as foolish a thing as it was possible for me to do
under the circumstances, in trying to revive the sensation of fear.
For, reasoning from their daylight behaviour, I thought that fear
must be forgotten.
'Abruptly, I dashed down the match, and, knocking one of the people
over in my course, went blundering across the big dining-hall again,
out under the moonlight. I heard cries of terror and their little
feet running and stumbling this way and that. I do not remember all
I did as the moon crept up the sky. I suppose it was the unexpected
nature of my loss that maddened me. I felt hopelessly cut off from
my own kind—a strange animal in an unknown world. I must have raved
to and fro, screaming and crying upon God and Fate. I have a memory
of horrible fatigue, as the long night of despair wore away; of
looking in this impossible place and that; of groping among moon-lit
ruins and touching strange creatures in the black shadows; at last,
of lying on the ground near the sphinx and weeping with absolute
wretchedness. I had nothing left but misery. Then I slept, and when
I woke again it was full day, and a couple of sparrows were hopping
round me on the turf within reach of my arm.
'I sat up in the freshness of the morning, trying to remember how
I had got there, and why I had such a profound sense of desertion
and despair. Then things came clear in my mind. With the plain,
reasonable daylight, I could look my circumstances fairly in the
face. I saw the wild folly of my frenzy overnight, and I could
reason with myself. "Suppose the worst?" I said. "Suppose the
machine altogether lost—perhaps destroyed? It 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 laughed aloud.
'Going through the big palace, it seemed to me that the little
people avoided me. It may have been my fancy, or it may have had
something to do with my hammering at the gates of bronze. Yet I felt
tolerably sure of the avoidance. I was careful, however, to show no
concern and to abstain from any pursuit of them, and in the course
of a day or two things got back to the old footing. I made what
progress I could in the language, and in addition I pushed my
explorations here and there. Either I missed some subtle point or
their language was excessively simple—almost exclusively composed
of concrete substantives and verbs. There seemed to be few, if any,
abstract terms, or little use of figurative language. Their
sentences were usually simple and of two words, and I failed to
convey or understand any but the simplest propositions. I determined
to put the thought of my Time Machine and the mystery of the bronze
doors under the sphinx as much as possible in a corner of memory,
until my growing knowledge would lead me back to them in a natural
way. Yet a certain feeling, you may understand, tethered me in a
circle of a few miles round the point of my arrival.
'So far as I could see, all the world displayed the same exuberant
richness as the Thames valley. From every hill I climbed I saw the
same abundance of splendid buildings, endlessly varied in material
and style, the same clustering thickets of evergreens, the same
blossom-laden trees and tree-ferns. Here and there water shone like
silver, and beyond, the land rose into blue undulating hills, and
so faded into the serenity of the sky. A peculiar feature, which
presently attracted my attention, was the presence of certain
circular wells, several, as it seemed to me, of a very great depth.
One lay by the path up the hill, which I had followed during my
first walk. Like the others, it was rimmed with bronze, curiously
wrought, and protected by a little cupola from the rain. Sitting by
the side of these wells, and peering down into the shafted darkness,
I could see no gleam of water, nor could I start any reflection
with a lighted match. But in all of them I heard a certain sound:
a thud—thud—thud, like the beating of some big engine; and I
discovered, from the flaring of my matches, that a steady current of
air set down the shafts. Further, I threw a scrap of paper into the
throat of one, and, instead of fluttering slowly down, it was at
once sucked swiftly out of sight.
'After a time, too, I came to connect these wells with tall towers
standing here and there upon the slopes; for above them there was
often just such a flicker in the air as one sees on a hot day above
a sun-scorched beach. Putting things together, I reached a strong
suggestion of an extensive system of subterranean ventilation, whose
true import it was difficult to imagine. I was at first inclined to
associate it with the sanitary apparatus of these people. It was an
obvious conclusion, but it was absolutely wrong.
'And here I must admit that I learned very little of drains and
bells and modes of conveyance, and the like conveniences, during my
time in this real future. In some of these visions of Utopias and
coming times which I have read, there is a vast amount of detail
about building, and social arrangements, and so forth. But while
such details are easy enough to obtain when the whole world is
contained in one's imagination, they are altogether inaccessible to
a real traveller amid such realities as I found here. Conceive the
tale of London which a negro, fresh from Central Africa, would take
back to his tribe! What would he know of railway companies, of
social movements, of telephone and telegraph wires, of the Parcels
Delivery Company, and postal orders and the like? Yet we, at least,
should be willing enough to explain these things to him! And even of
what he knew, how much could he make his untravelled friend either
apprehend or believe? Then, think how narrow the gap between a negro
and a white man of our own times, and how wide the interval between
myself and these of the Golden Age! I was sensible of much which was
unseen, and which contributed to my comfort; but save for a general
impression of automatic organization, I fear I can convey very
little of the difference to your mind.
'In the matter of sepulture, for instance, I could see no signs of
crematoria nor anything suggestive of tombs. But it occurred to me
that, possibly, there might be cemeteries (or crematoria) somewhere
beyond the range of my explorings. This, again, was a question I
deliberately put to myself, and my curiosity was at first entirely
defeated upon the point. The thing puzzled me, and I was led to make
a further remark, which puzzled me still more: that aged and infirm
among this people there were none.
'I must confess that my satisfaction with my first theories of an
automatic civilization and a decadent humanity did not long endure.
Yet I could think of no other. Let me put my difficulties. The
several big palaces I had explored were mere living places, great
dining-halls and sleeping apartments. I could find no machinery, no
appliances of any kind. Yet these people were clothed in pleasant
fabrics that must at times need renewal, and their sandals, though
undecorated, were fairly complex specimens of metalwork. Somehow
such things must be made. And the little people displayed no vestige
of a creative tendency. There were no shops, no workshops, no sign
of importations among them. They spent all their time in playing
gently, in bathing in the river, in making love in a half-playful
fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. I could not see how things
were kept going.
'Then, again, about the Time Machine: something, I knew not what,
had taken it into the hollow pedestal of the White Sphinx. Why? For
the life of me I could not imagine. Those waterless wells, too,
those flickering pillars. I felt I lacked a clue. I felt—how shall
I put it? Suppose you found an inscription, with sentences here and
there in excellent plain English, and interpolated therewith, others
made up of words, of letters even, absolutely unknown to you? Well,
on the third day of my visit, that was how the world of Eight
Hundred and Two Thousand Seven Hundred and One presented itself to
'That day, too, I made a friend—of a sort. It happened that, as I
was watching some of the little people bathing in a shallow, one of
them was seized with cramp and began drifting downstream. The main
current ran rather swiftly, but not too strongly for even a moderate
swimmer. It will give you an idea, therefore, of the strange
deficiency in these creatures, when I tell you that none made the
slightest attempt to rescue the weakly crying little thing which
was drowning before their eyes. When I realized this, I hurriedly
slipped off my clothes, and, wading in at a point lower down, I
caught the poor mite and drew her safe to land. A little rubbing of
the limbs soon brought her round, and I had the satisfaction of
seeing she was all right before I left her. I had got to such a low
estimate of her kind that I did not expect any gratitude from her.
In that, however, I was wrong.
'This happened in the morning. In the afternoon I met my little
woman, as I believe it was, as I was returning towards my centre
from an exploration, and she received me with cries of delight and
presented me with a big garland of flowers—evidently made for me
and me alone. The thing took my imagination. Very possibly I had
been feeling desolate. At any rate I did my best to display my
appreciation of the gift. We were soon seated together in a little
stone arbour, engaged in conversation, chiefly of smiles. The
creature's friendliness affected me exactly as a child's might have
done. We passed each other flowers, and she kissed my hands. I did
the same to hers. Then I tried talk, and found that her name was
Weena, which, though I don't know what it meant, somehow seemed
appropriate enough. That was the beginning of a queer friendship
which lasted a week, and ended—as I will tell you!
'She was exactly like a child. She wanted to be with me always. She
tried to follow me everywhere, and on my next journey out and about
it went to my heart to tire her down, and leave her at last,
exhausted and calling after me rather plaintively. But the problems
of the world had to be mastered. I had not, I said to myself, come
into the future to carry on a miniature flirtation. Yet her distress
when I left her was very great, her expostulations at the parting
were sometimes frantic, and I think, altogether, I had as much
trouble as comfort from her devotion. Nevertheless she was, somehow,
a very great comfort. I thought it was mere childish affection that
made her cling to me. Until it was too late, I did not clearly know
what I had inflicted upon her when I left her. Nor until it was too
late did I clearly understand what she was to me. For, by merely
seeming fond of me, and showing in her weak, futile way that she
cared for me, the little doll of a creature presently gave my return
to the neighbourhood of the White Sphinx almost the feeling of
coming home; and I would watch for her tiny figure of white and gold
so soon as I came over the hill.
'It was from her, too, that I learned that fear had not yet left the
world. She was fearless enough in the daylight, and she had the
oddest confidence in me; for once, in a foolish moment, I made
threatening grimaces at her, and she simply laughed at them. But she
dreaded the dark, dreaded shadows, dreaded black things. Darkness
to her was the one thing dreadful. It was a singularly passionate
emotion, and it set me thinking and observing. I discovered then,
among other things, that these little people gathered into the great
houses after dark, and slept in droves. To enter upon them without a
light was to put them into a tumult of apprehension. I never found
one out of doors, or one sleeping alone within doors, after dark.
Yet I was still such a blockhead that I missed the lesson of that
fear, and in spite of Weena's distress I insisted upon sleeping away
from these slumbering multitudes.
'It troubled her greatly, but in the end her odd affection for me
triumphed, and for five of the nights of our acquaintance, including
the last night of all, she slept with her head pillowed on my arm.
But my story slips away from me as I speak of her. It must have been
the night before her rescue that I was awakened about dawn. I had
been restless, dreaming most disagreeably that I was drowned, and
that sea anemones were feeling over my face with their soft palps.
I woke with a start, and with an odd fancy that some greyish animal
had just rushed out of the chamber. I tried to get to sleep again,
but I felt restless and uncomfortable. It was that dim grey hour
when things are just creeping out of darkness, when everything is
colourless and clear cut, and yet unreal. I got up, and went down
into the great hall, and so out upon the flagstones in front of the
palace. I thought I would make a virtue of necessity, and see the
'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
'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 puzzled me.
'Here was the new view. Plainly, this second species of Man was
subterranean. There were three circumstances in particular which
made me think that its rare emergence above ground was the outcome
of a long-continued underground habit. In the first place, there was
the bleached look common in most animals that live largely in the
dark—the white fish of the Kentucky caves, for instance. Then,
those large eyes, with that capacity for reflecting light, are
common features of nocturnal things—witness the owl and the cat.
And last of all, that evident confusion in the sunshine, that hasty
yet fumbling awkward flight towards dark shadow, and that peculiar
carriage of the head while in the light—all reinforced the theory
of an extreme sensitiveness of the retina.
'Beneath my feet, then, the earth must be tunnelled enormously, and
these tunnellings were the habitat of the new race. The presence of
ventilating shafts and wells along the hill slopes—everywhere, in
fact, except along the river valley—showed how universal were its
ramifications. What so natural, then, as to assume that it was in
this artificial Underworld that such work as was necessary to the
comfort of the daylight race was done? The notion was so plausible
that I at once accepted it, and went on to assume the how of this
splitting of the human species. I dare say you will anticipate the
shape of my theory; though, for myself, I very soon felt that it
fell far short of the truth.
'At first, proceeding from the problems of our own age, it seemed
clear as daylight to me that the gradual widening of the present
merely temporary and social difference between the Capitalist and
the Labourer, was the key to the whole position. No doubt it will
seem grotesque enough to you—and wildly incredible!—and yet even
now there are existing circumstances to point that way. There is
a tendency to utilize underground space for the less ornamental
purposes of civilization; there is the Metropolitan Railway in
London, for instance, there are new electric railways, there are
subways, there are underground workrooms and restaurants, and they
increase and multiply. Evidently, I thought, this tendency had
increased till Industry had gradually lost its birthright in the
sky. I mean that it had gone deeper and deeper into larger and ever
larger underground factories, spending a still-increasing amount of
its time therein, till, in the end—! Even now, does not an East-end
worker live in such artificial conditions as practically to be cut
off from the natural surface of the earth?
'Again, the exclusive tendency of richer people—due, no doubt, to
the increasing refinement of their education, and the widening gulf
between them and the rude violence of the poor—is already leading
to the closing, in their interest, of considerable portions of the
surface of the land. About London, for instance, perhaps half the
prettier country is shut in against intrusion. And this same
widening gulf—which is due to the length and expense of the higher
educational process and the increased facilities for and temptations
towards refined habits on the part of the rich—will make that
exchange between class and class, that promotion by intermarriage
which at present retards the splitting of our species along lines
of social stratification, less and less frequent. So, in the end,
above ground you must have the Haves, pursuing pleasure and comfort
and beauty, and below ground the Have-nots, the Workers getting
continually adapted to the conditions of their labour. Once they
were there, they would no doubt have to pay rent, and not a little
of it, for the ventilation of their caverns; and if they refused,
they would starve or be suffocated for arrears. Such of them as were
so constituted as to be miserable and rebellious would die; and, in
the end, the balance being permanent, the survivors would become as
well adapted to the conditions of underground life, and as happy in
their way, as the Upper-world people were to theirs. As it seemed to
me, the refined beauty and the etiolated pallor followed naturally
'The great triumph of Humanity I had dreamed of took a different
shape in my mind. It had been no such triumph of moral education and
general co-operation as I had imagined. Instead, I saw a real
aristocracy, armed with a perfected science and working to a logical
conclusion the industrial system of to-day. Its triumph had not been
simply a triumph over Nature, but a triumph over Nature and the
fellow-man. This, I must warn you, was my theory at the time. I had
no convenient cicerone in the pattern of the Utopian books. My
explanation may be absolutely wrong. I still think it is the
most plausible one. But even on this supposition the balanced
civilization that was at last attained must have long since passed
its zenith, and was now far fallen into decay. The too-perfect
security of the Upper-worlders had led them to a slow movement of
degeneration, to a general dwindling in size, strength, and
intelligence. That I could see clearly enough already. What had
happened to the Under-grounders I did not yet suspect; but from what
I had seen of the Morlocks—that, by the by, was the name by which
these creatures were called—I could imagine that the modification
of the human type was even far more profound than among the "Eloi,"
the beautiful race that I already knew.
'Then came troublesome doubts. Why had the Morlocks taken my Time
Machine? For I felt sure it was they who had taken it. Why, too, if
the Eloi were masters, could they not restore the machine to me? And
why were they so terribly afraid of the dark? I proceeded, as I have
said, to question Weena about this Under-world, but here again I was
disappointed. At first she would not understand my questions, and
presently she refused to answer them. She shivered as though the
topic was unendurable. And when I pressed her, perhaps a little
harshly, she burst into tears. They were the only tears, except my
own, I ever saw in that Golden Age. When I saw them I ceased
abruptly to trouble about the Morlocks, and was only concerned in
banishing these signs of the human inheritance from Weena's eyes.
And very soon she was smiling and clapping her hands, while I
solemnly burned a match.
'It may seem odd to you, but it was two days before I could follow
up the new-found clue in what was manifestly the proper way. I felt
a peculiar shrinking from those pallid bodies. They were just the
half-bleached colour of the worms and things one sees preserved in
spirit in a zoological museum. And they were filthily cold to the
touch. Probably my shrinking was largely due to the sympathetic
influence of the Eloi, whose disgust of the Morlocks I now began
'The next night I did not sleep well. Probably my health was a
little disordered. I was oppressed with perplexity and doubt. Once
or twice I had a feeling of intense fear for which I could perceive
no definite reason. I remember creeping noiselessly into the great
hall where the little people were sleeping in the moonlight—that
night Weena was among them—and feeling reassured by their presence.
It occurred to me even then, that in the course of a few days the
moon must pass through its last quarter, and the nights grow dark,
when the appearances of these unpleasant creatures from below, these
whitened Lemurs, this new vermin that had replaced the old, might be
more abundant. And on both these days I had the restless feeling of
one who shirks an inevitable duty. I felt assured that the Time
Machine was only to be recovered by boldly penetrating these
underground mysteries. Yet I could not face the mystery. If only I
had had a companion it would have been different. But I was so
horribly alone, and even to clamber down into the darkness of the
well appalled me. I don't know if you will understand my feeling,
but I never felt quite safe at my back.
'It was this restlessness, this insecurity, perhaps, that drove me
further and further afield in my exploring expeditions. Going to the
south-westward towards the rising country that is now called Combe
Wood, I observed far off, in the direction of nineteenth-century
Banstead, a vast green structure, different in character from any
I had hitherto seen. It was larger than the largest of the palaces
or ruins I knew, and the facade had an Oriental look: the face
of it having the lustre, as well as the pale-green tint, a kind
of bluish-green, of a certain type of Chinese porcelain. This
difference in aspect suggested a difference in use, and I was minded
to push on and explore. But the day was growing late, and I had come
upon the sight of the place after a long and tiring circuit; so I
resolved to hold over the adventure for the following day, and I
returned to the welcome and the caresses of little Weena. But next
morning I perceived clearly enough that my curiosity regarding the
Palace of Green Porcelain was a piece of self-deception, to enable
me to shirk, by another day, an experience I dreaded. I resolved I
would make the descent without further waste of time, and started
out in the early morning towards a well near the ruins of granite
'Little Weena ran with me. She danced beside me to the well, but
when she saw me lean over the mouth and look downward, she seemed
strangely disconcerted. "Good-bye, little Weena," I said, kissing
her; and then putting her down, I began to feel over the parapet
for the climbing hooks. Rather hastily, I may as well confess, for
I feared my courage might leak away! At first she watched me in
amazement. Then she gave a most piteous cry, and running to me, she
began to pull at me with her little hands. I think her opposition
nerved me rather to proceed. I shook her off, perhaps a little
roughly, and in another moment I was in the throat of the well. I
saw her agonized face over the parapet, and smiled to reassure her.
Then I had to look down at the unstable hooks to which I clung.
'I had to clamber down a shaft of perhaps two hundred yards. The
descent was effected by means of metallic bars projecting from
the sides of the well, and these being adapted to the needs of
a creature much smaller and lighter than myself, I was speedily
cramped and fatigued by the descent. And not simply fatigued! One of
the bars bent suddenly under my weight, and almost swung me off into
the blackness beneath. For a moment I hung by one hand, and after
that experience I did not dare to rest again. Though my arms and
back were presently acutely painful, I went on clambering down the
sheer descent with as quick a motion as possible. Glancing upward,
I saw the aperture, a small blue disk, in which a star was visible,
while little Weena's head showed as a round black projection. The
thudding sound of a machine below grew louder and more oppressive.
Everything save that little disk above was profoundly dark, and when
I looked up again Weena had disappeared.
'I was in an agony of discomfort. I had some thought of trying to go
up the shaft again, and leave the Under-world alone. But even while
I turned this over in my mind I continued to descend. At last, with
intense relief, I saw dimly coming up, a foot to the right of me, a
slender loophole in the wall. Swinging myself in, I found it was the
aperture of a narrow horizontal tunnel in which I could lie down and
rest. It was not too soon. My arms ached, my back was cramped, and I
was trembling with the prolonged terror of a fall. Besides this, the
unbroken darkness had had a distressing effect upon my eyes. The air
was full of the throb and hum of machinery pumping air down the
'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
'I tried to call to them, but the language they had was apparently
different from that of the Over-world people; so that I was needs
left to my own unaided efforts, and the thought of flight before
exploration was even then in my mind. But I said to myself, "You are
in for it now," and, feeling my way along the tunnel, I found the
noise of machinery grow louder. Presently the walls fell away from
me, and I came to a large open space, and striking another match,
saw that I had entered a vast arched cavern, which stretched into
utter darkness beyond the range of my light. The view I had of it
was as much as one could see in the burning of a match.
'Necessarily my memory is vague. Great shapes like big machines rose
out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which dim
spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare. The place, by the by,
was very stuffy and oppressive, and the faint halitus of freshly
shed blood was in the air. Some way down the central vista was a
little table of white metal, laid with what seemed a meal. The
Morlocks at any rate were carnivorous! Even at the time, I remember
wondering what large animal could have survived to furnish the red
joint I saw. It was all very indistinct: the heavy smell, the big
unmeaning shapes, the obscene figures lurking in the shadows, and
only waiting for the darkness to come at me again! Then the match
burned down, and stung my fingers, and fell, a wriggling red spot
in the blackness.
'I have thought since how particularly ill-equipped I was for such
an experience. When I had started with the Time Machine, I had
started with the absurd assumption that the men of the Future would
certainly be infinitely ahead of ourselves in all their appliances.
I had come without arms, without medicine, without anything to
smoke—at times I missed tobacco frightfully—even without enough
matches. If only I had thought of a Kodak! I could have flashed that
glimpse of the Underworld in a second, and examined it at leisure.
But, as it was, I stood there with only the weapons and the powers
that Nature had endowed me with—hands, feet, and teeth; these, and
four safety-matches that still remained to me.
'I was afraid to push my way in among all this machinery in the
dark, and it was only with my last glimpse of light I discovered
that my store of matches had run low. It had never occurred to me
until that moment that there was any need to economize them, and I
had wasted almost half the box in astonishing the Upper-worlders, to
whom fire was a novelty. Now, as I say, I had four left, and while I
stood in the dark, a hand touched mine, lank fingers came feeling
over my face, and I was sensible of a peculiar unpleasant odour. I
fancied I heard the breathing of a crowd of those dreadful little
beings about me. I felt the box of matches in my hand being gently
disengaged, and other hands behind me plucking at my clothing. The
sense of these unseen creatures examining me was indescribably
unpleasant. The sudden realization of my ignorance of their ways of
thinking and doing came home to me very vividly in the darkness. I
shouted at them as loudly as I could. They started away, and then
I could feel them approaching me again. They clutched at me more
boldly, whispering odd sounds to each other. I shivered violently,
and shouted again—rather discordantly. This time they were not so
seriously alarmed, and they made a queer laughing noise as they came
back at me. I will confess I was horribly frightened. I determined
to strike another match and escape under the protection of its
glare. I did so, and eking out the flicker with a scrap of paper
from my pocket, I made good my retreat to the narrow tunnel. But I
had scarce entered this when my light was blown out and in the
blackness I could hear the Morlocks rustling like wind among leaves,
and pattering like the rain, as they hurried after me.
'In a moment I was clutched by several hands, and there was no
mistaking that they were trying to haul me back. I struck another
light, and waved it in their dazzled faces. You can scarce imagine
how nauseatingly inhuman they looked—those pale, chinless faces
and great, lidless, pinkish-grey eyes!—as they stared in their
blindness and bewilderment. But I did not stay to look, I promise
you: I retreated again, and when my second match had ended, I struck
my third. It had almost burned through when I reached the opening
into the shaft. I lay down on the edge, for the throb of the great
pump below made me giddy. Then I felt sideways for the projecting
hooks, and, as I did so, my feet were grasped from behind, and I
was violently tugged backward. I lit my last match … and it
incontinently went out. But I had my hand on the climbing bars now,
and, kicking violently, I disengaged myself from the clutches of the
Morlocks and was speedily clambering up the shaft, while they stayed
peering and blinking up at me: all but one little wretch who
followed me for some way, and 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
'The enemy I dreaded may surprise you. It was the darkness of the
new moon. Weena had put this into my head by some at first
incomprehensible remarks about the Dark Nights. It was not now
such a very difficult problem to guess what the coming Dark Nights
might mean. The moon was on the wane: each night there was a longer
interval of darkness. And I now understood to some slight degree at
least the reason of the fear of the little Upper-world people for
the dark. I wondered vaguely what foul villainy it might be that
the Morlocks did under the new moon. I felt pretty sure now that
my second hypothesis was all wrong. The Upper-world people might
once have been the favoured aristocracy, and the Morlocks their
mechanical servants: but that had long since passed away. The two
species that had resulted from the evolution of man were sliding
down towards, or had already arrived at, an altogether new
relationship. The Eloi, like the Carolingian kings, had decayed
to a mere beautiful futility. They still possessed the earth on
sufferance: since the Morlocks, subterranean for innumerable
generations, had come at last to find the daylit surface
intolerable. And the Morlocks made their garments, I inferred, and
maintained them in their habitual needs, perhaps through the
survival of an old habit of service. They did it as a standing horse
paws with his foot, or as a man enjoys killing animals in sport:
because ancient and departed necessities had impressed it on the
organism. But, clearly, the old order was already in part reversed.
The Nemesis of the delicate ones was creeping on apace. Ages ago,
thousands of generations ago, man had thrust his brother man out of
the ease and the sunshine. And now that brother was coming back
changed! Already the Eloi had begun to learn one old lesson anew.
They were becoming reacquainted with Fear. And suddenly there came
into my head the memory of the meat I had seen in the Under-world.
It seemed odd how it floated into my mind: not stirred up as it
were by the current of my meditations, but coming in almost like a
question from outside. I tried to recall the form of it. I had a
vague sense of something familiar, but I could not tell what it was
at the time.
'Still, however helpless the little people in the presence of their
mysterious Fear, I was differently constituted. I came out of this
age of ours, this ripe prime of the human race, when Fear does not
paralyse and mystery has lost its terrors. I at least would defend
myself. Without further delay I determined to make myself arms and a
fastness where I might sleep. With that refuge as a base, I could
face this strange world with some of that confidence I had lost in
realizing to what creatures night by night I lay exposed. I felt
I could never sleep again until my bed was secure from them. I
shuddered with horror to think how they must already have examined
'I wandered during the afternoon along the valley of the Thames, but
found nothing that commended itself to my mind as inaccessible. All
the buildings and trees seemed easily practicable to such dexterous
climbers as the Morlocks, to judge by their wells, must be. Then the
tall pinnacles of the Palace of Green Porcelain and the polished
gleam of its walls came back to my memory; and in the evening,
taking Weena like a child upon my shoulder, I went up the hills
towards the south-west. The distance, I had reckoned, was seven or
eight miles, but it must have been nearer eighteen. I had first seen
the place on a moist afternoon when distances are deceptively
diminished. In addition, the heel of one of my shoes was loose, and
a nail was working through the sole—they were comfortable old shoes
I wore about indoors—so that I was lame. And it was already long
past sunset when I came in sight of the palace, silhouetted black
against the pale yellow of the sky.
'Weena had been hugely delighted when I began to carry her, but
after a while she desired me to let her down, and ran along by the
side of me, occasionally darting off on either hand to pick flowers
to stick in my pockets. My pockets had always puzzled Weena, but at
the last she had concluded that they were an eccentric kind of vase
for floral decoration. At least she utilized them for that purpose.
And that reminds me! In changing my jacket I found…'
The Time Traveller paused, put his hand into his pocket, and
silently placed two withered flowers, not unlike very large white
mallows, upon the little table. Then he resumed his narrative.
'As the hush of evening crept over the world and we proceeded over
the hill crest towards Wimbledon, Weena grew tired and wanted to
return to the house of grey stone. But I pointed out the distant
pinnacles of the Palace of Green Porcelain to her, and contrived to
make her understand that we were seeking a refuge there from her
Fear. You know that great pause that comes upon things before the
dusk? Even the breeze stops in the trees. To me there is always an
air of expectation about that evening stillness. The sky was clear,
remote, and empty save for a few horizontal bars far down in the
sunset. Well, that night the expectation took the colour of my
fears. In that darkling calm my senses seemed preternaturally
sharpened. I fancied I could even feel the hollowness of the ground
beneath my feet: could, indeed, almost see through it the Morlocks
on their ant-hill going hither and thither and waiting for the dark.
In my excitement I fancied that they would receive my invasion of
their burrows as a declaration of war. And why had they taken my
'So we went on in the quiet, and the twilight deepened into night.
The clear blue of the distance faded, and one star after another
came out. The ground grew dim and the trees black. Weena's fears and
her fatigue grew upon her. I took her in my arms and talked to her
and caressed her. Then, as the darkness grew deeper, she put her
arms round my neck, and, closing her eyes, tightly pressed her face
against my shoulder. So we went down a long slope into a valley, and
there in the dimness I almost walked into a little river. This I
waded, and went up the opposite side of the valley, past a number
of sleeping houses, and by a statue—a Faun, or some such figure,
minus the head. Here too were acacias. So far I had seen nothing of
the Morlocks, but it was yet early in the night, and the darker hours
before the old moon rose were still to come.
'From the brow of the next hill I saw a thick wood spreading wide
and black before me. I hesitated at this. I could see no end to
it, either to the right or the left. Feeling tired—my feet, in
particular, were very sore—I carefully lowered Weena from my
shoulder as I halted, and sat down upon the turf. I could no
longer see the Palace of Green Porcelain, and I was in doubt of my
direction. I looked into the thickness of the wood and thought of
what it might hide. Under that dense tangle of branches one would
be out of sight of the stars. Even were there no other lurking
danger—a danger I did not care to let my imagination loose
upon—there would still be all the roots to stumble over and the
tree-boles to strike against.
'I was very tired, too, after the excitements of the day; so I
decided that I would not face it, but would pass the night upon the
'Weena, I was glad to find, was fast asleep. I carefully wrapped her
in my jacket, and sat down beside her to wait for the moonrise. The
hill-side was quiet and deserted, but from the black of the wood
there came now and then a stir of living things. Above me shone the
stars, for the night was very clear. I felt a certain sense of
friendly comfort in their twinkling. All the old constellations
had gone from the sky, however: that slow movement which is
imperceptible in a hundred human lifetimes, had long since
rearranged them in unfamiliar groupings. But the Milky Way, it
seemed to me, was still the same tattered streamer of star-dust as
of yore. Southward (as I judged it) was a very bright red star that
was new to me; it was even more splendid than our own green Sirius.
And amid all these scintillating points of light one bright planet
shone kindly and steadily like the face of an old friend.
'Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all
the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable
distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of
the unknown past into the unknown future. I thought of the great
precessional cycle that the pole of the earth describes. Only forty
times had that silent revolution occurred during all the years that
I had traversed. And during these few revolutions all the activity,
all the traditions, the complex organizations, the nations,
languages, literatures, aspirations, even the mere memory of Man as
I knew him, had been swept out of existence. Instead were these
frail creatures who had forgotten their high ancestry, and the white
Things of which I went in terror. Then I thought of the Great Fear
that was between the two species, and for the first time, with a
sudden shiver, came the clear knowledge of what the meat I had seen
might be. Yet it was too horrible! I looked at little Weena sleeping
beside me, her face white and starlike under the stars, and
forthwith dismissed 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 such-like vermin. Even now man is far less discriminating
and exclusive in his food than he was—far less than any monkey. His
prejudice against human flesh is no deep-seated instinct. And so
these inhuman sons of men——! I tried to look at the thing in a
scientific spirit. After all, they were less human and more remote
than our cannibal ancestors of three or four thousand years ago.
And the intelligence that would have made this state of things a
torment had gone. Why should I trouble myself? These Eloi were mere
fatted cattle, which the ant-like Morlocks preserved and preyed
upon—probably saw to the breeding of. And there was Weena dancing
at my side!
'Then I tried to preserve myself from the horror that was coming
upon me, by regarding it as a rigorous punishment of human
selfishness. Man had been content to live in ease and delight upon
the labours of his fellow-man, had taken Necessity as his watchword
and excuse, and in the fullness of time Necessity had come home to
him. I even tried a Carlyle-like scorn of this wretched aristocracy
in decay. But this attitude of mind was impossible. However great
their intellectual degradation, the Eloi had kept too much of the
human form not to claim my sympathy, and to make me perforce a
sharer in their degradation and their Fear.
'I had at that time very vague ideas as to the course I should
pursue. My first was to secure some safe place of refuge, and to
make myself such arms of metal or stone as I could contrive. That
necessity was immediate. In the next place, I hoped to procure some
means of fire, so that I should have the weapon of a torch at hand,
for nothing, I knew, would be more efficient against these Morlocks.
Then I wanted to arrange some contrivance to break open the doors of
bronze under the White Sphinx. I had in mind a battering ram. I had
a persuasion that if I could enter those doors and carry a blaze of
light before me I should discover the Time Machine and escape. I
could not imagine the Morlocks were strong enough to move it far
away. Weena I had resolved to bring with me to our own time. And
turning such schemes over in my mind I pursued our way towards the
building which my fancy had chosen as our dwelling.
'I found the Palace of Green Porcelain, when we approached it about
noon, deserted and falling into ruin. Only ragged vestiges of glass
remained in its windows, and great sheets of the green facing had
fallen away from the corroded metallic framework. It lay very high
upon a turfy down, and looking north-eastward before I entered it, I
was surprised to see a large estuary, or even creek, where I judged
Wandsworth and Battersea must once have been. I thought then—though
I never followed up the thought—of what might have happened, or
might be happening, to the living things in the sea.
'The material of the Palace proved on examination to be indeed
porcelain, and along the face of it I saw an inscription in some
unknown character. I thought, rather foolishly, that Weena might
help me to interpret this, but I only learned that the bare idea of
writing had never entered her head. She always seemed to me, I
fancy, more human than she was, perhaps because her affection was so
'Within the big valves of the door—which were open and broken—we
found, instead of the customary hall, a long gallery lit by many
side windows. At the first glance I was reminded of a museum.
The tiled floor was thick with dust, and a remarkable array of
miscellaneous objects was shrouded in the same grey covering. Then
I perceived, standing strange and gaunt in the centre of the hall,
what was clearly the lower part of a huge skeleton. I recognized
by the oblique feet that it was some extinct creature after the
fashion of the Megatherium. The skull and the upper bones lay
beside it in the thick dust, and in one place, where rain-water had
dropped through a leak in the roof, the thing itself had been worn
away. Further in the gallery was the huge skeleton barrel of a
Brontosaurus. My museum hypothesis was confirmed. Going towards the
side I found what appeared to be sloping shelves, and clearing away
the thick dust, I found the old familiar glass cases of our own
time. But they must have been air-tight to judge from the fair
preservation of some of their contents.
'Clearly we stood among the ruins of some latter-day South
Kensington! Here, apparently, was the Palaeontological Section,
and a very splendid array of fossils it must have been, though the
inevitable process of decay that had been staved off for a time, and
had, through the extinction of bacteria and fungi, lost ninety-nine
hundredths of its force, was nevertheless, with extreme sureness if
with extreme slowness at work again upon all its treasures. Here and
there I found traces of the little people in the shape of rare
fossils broken to pieces or threaded in strings upon reeds. And the
cases had in some instances been bodily removed—by the Morlocks as
I judged. The place was very silent. The thick dust deadened our
footsteps. Weena, who had been rolling a sea urchin down the sloping
glass of a case, presently came, as I stared about me, and very
quietly took my hand and stood beside me.
'And at first I was so much surprised by this ancient monument of an
intellectual age, that I gave no thought to the possibilities it
presented. Even my preoccupation about the Time Machine receded a
little from my mind.
'To judge from the size of the place, this Palace of Green Porcelain
had a great deal more in it than a Gallery of Palaeontology;
possibly historical galleries; it might be, even a library! To me,
at least in my present circumstances, these would be vastly more
interesting than this spectacle of oldtime geology in decay.
Exploring, I found another short gallery running transversely to the
first. This appeared to be devoted to minerals, and the sight of a
block of sulphur set my mind running on gunpowder. But I could find
no saltpeter; indeed, no nitrates of any kind. Doubtless they had
deliquesced ages ago. Yet the sulphur hung in my mind, and set up a
train of thinking. As for the rest of the contents of that gallery,
though on the whole they were the best preserved of all I saw, I had
little interest. I am no specialist in mineralogy, and I went on
down a very ruinous aisle running parallel to the first hall I had
entered. Apparently this section had been devoted to natural
history, but everything had long since passed out of recognition. A
few shrivelled and blackened vestiges of what had once been stuffed
animals, desiccated mummies in jars that had once held spirit, a
brown dust of departed plants: that was all! I was sorry for that,
because I should have been glad to trace the patent readjustments by
which the conquest of animated nature had been attained. Then we
came to a gallery of simply colossal proportions, but singularly
ill-lit, the floor of it running downward at a slight angle from the
end at which I entered. At intervals white globes hung from the
ceiling—many of them cracked and smashed—which suggested that
originally the place had been artificially lit. Here I was more in
my element, for rising on either side of me were the huge bulks of
big machines, all greatly corroded and many broken down, but some
still fairly complete. You know I have a certain weakness for
mechanism, and I was inclined to linger among these; the more so as
for the most part they had the interest of puzzles, and I could make
only the vaguest guesses at what they were for. I fancied that if
I could solve their puzzles I should find myself in possession of
powers that might be of use against the Morlocks.
'Suddenly Weena came very close to my side. So suddenly that she
startled me. Had it not been for her I do not think I should have
noticed that the floor of the gallery sloped at all. [Footnote: It
may be, of course, that the floor did not slope, but that the museum
was built into the side of a hill.—ED.] The end I had come in at
was quite above ground, and was lit by rare slit-like windows. As
you went down the length, the ground came up against these windows,
until at last there was a pit like the "area" of a London house
before each, and only a narrow line of daylight at the top. I went
slowly along, puzzling about the machines, and had been too intent
upon them to notice the gradual diminution of the light, until
Weena's increasing apprehensions drew my attention. Then I saw that
the gallery ran down at last into a thick darkness. I hesitated, and
then, as I looked round me, I saw that the dust was less abundant
and its surface less even. Further away towards the dimness, it
appeared to be broken by a number of small narrow footprints. My
sense of the immediate presence of the Morlocks revived at that.
I felt that I was wasting my time in the academic examination of
machinery. I called to mind that it was already far advanced in the
afternoon, and that I had still no weapon, no refuge, and no means
of making a fire. And then down in the remote blackness of the
gallery I heard a peculiar pattering, and the same odd noises I had
heard down the well.
'I took Weena's hand. Then, struck with a sudden idea, I left her
and turned to a machine from which projected a lever not unlike
those in a signal-box. Clambering upon the stand, and grasping this
lever in my hands, I put all my weight upon it sideways. Suddenly
Weena, deserted in the central aisle, began to whimper. I had judged
the strength of the lever pretty correctly, for it snapped after a
minute's strain, and I rejoined her with a mace in my hand more than
sufficient, I judged, for any Morlock skull I might encounter. And I
longed very much to kill a Morlock or so. Very inhuman, you may
think, to want to go killing one's own descendants! But it was
impossible, somehow, to feel any humanity in the things. Only my
disinclination to leave Weena, and a persuasion that if I began to
slake my thirst for murder my Time Machine might suffer, restrained
me from going straight down the gallery and killing the brutes I
'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
'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
'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
'I don't know if you have ever thought what a rare thing flame must
be in the absence of man and in a temperate climate. The sun's
heat is rarely strong enough to burn, even when it is focused by
dewdrops, as is sometimes the case in more tropical districts.
Lightning may blast and blacken, but it rarely gives rise to
widespread fire. Decaying vegetation may occasionally smoulder with
the heat of its fermentation, but this rarely results in flame. In
this decadence, too, the art of fire-making had been forgotten on
the earth. The red tongues that went licking up my heap of wood were
an altogether new and strange thing to Weena.
'She wanted to run to it and play with it. I believe she would have
cast herself into it had I not restrained her. But I caught her up,
and in spite of her struggles, plunged boldly before me into the
wood. For a little way the glare of my fire lit the path. Looking
back presently, I could see, through the crowded stems, that from my
heap of sticks the blaze had spread to some bushes adjacent, and a
curved line of fire was creeping up the grass of the hill. I laughed
at that, and turned again to the dark trees before me. It was very
black, and Weena clung to me convulsively, but there was still, as
my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, sufficient light for me to
avoid the stems. Overhead it was simply black, except where a gap of
remote blue sky shone down upon us here and there. I struck none of
my matches because I had no hand free. Upon my left arm I carried my
little one, in my right hand I had my iron bar.
'For some way I heard nothing but the crackling twigs under my feet,
the faint rustle of the breeze above, and my own breathing and the
throb of the blood-vessels in my ears. Then I seemed to know of a
pattering about me. I pushed on grimly. The pattering grew more
distinct, and then I caught the same queer sound and voices I had
heard in the Under-world. There were evidently several of the
Morlocks, and they were closing in upon me. Indeed, in another
minute I felt a tug at my coat, then something at my arm. And Weena
shivered violently, and became quite still.
'It was time for a match. But to get one I must put her down. I did
so, and, as I fumbled with my pocket, a struggle began in the
darkness about my knees, perfectly silent on her part and with the
same peculiar cooing sounds from the Morlocks. Soft little hands,
too, were creeping over my coat and back, touching even my neck.
Then the match scratched and fizzed. I held it flaring, and saw the
white backs of the Morlocks in flight amid the trees. I hastily took
a lump of camphor from my pocket, and prepared to light 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 great company!
'She seemed to have fainted. I put her carefully upon my shoulder
and rose to push on, and then there came a horrible realization. In
manoeuvring with my matches and Weena, I had turned myself about
several times, and now I had not the faintest idea in what direction
lay my path. For all I knew, I might be facing back towards the
Palace of Green Porcelain. I found myself in a cold sweat. I had to
think rapidly what to do. I determined to build a fire and encamp
where we were. I put Weena, still motionless, down upon a turfy
bole, and very hastily, as my first lump of camphor waned, I began
collecting sticks and leaves. Here and there out of the darkness
round me the Morlocks' eyes shone like carbuncles.
'The camphor flickered and went out. I lit a match, and as I did so,
two white forms that had been approaching Weena dashed hastily away.
One was so blinded by the light that he came straight for me, and I
felt his bones grind under the blow of my fist. He gave a whoop of
dismay, staggered a little way, and fell down. I lit another piece
of camphor, and went on gathering my bonfire. Presently I noticed
how dry was some of the foliage above me, for since my arrival
on the Time Machine, a matter of a week, no rain had fallen. So,
instead of casting about among the trees for fallen twigs, I began
leaping up and dragging down branches. Very soon I had a choking
smoky fire of green wood and dry sticks, and could economize my
camphor. Then I turned to where Weena lay beside my iron mace. I
tried what I could to revive her, but she lay like one dead. I could
not even satisfy myself whether or not she breathed.
'Now, the smoke of the fire beat over towards me, and it must have
made me heavy of a sudden. Moreover, the vapour of camphor was in
the air. My fire would not need replenishing for an hour or so. I
felt very weary after my exertion, and sat down. The wood, too, was
full of a slumbrous murmur that I did not understand. I seemed just
to nod and open my eyes. But all was dark, and the Morlocks had
their hands upon me. Flinging off their clinging fingers I hastily
felt in my pocket for the match-box, and—it had gone! Then they
gripped and closed with me again. In a moment I knew what had
happened. I had slept, and my fire had gone out, and the bitterness
of death came over my soul. The forest seemed full of the smell of
burning wood. I was caught by the neck, by the hair, by the arms,
and pulled down. It was indescribably horrible in the darkness to
feel all these soft creatures heaped upon me. I felt as if I was in
a monstrous spider's web. I was overpowered, and went down. I felt
little teeth nipping at my neck. I rolled over, and as I did so my
hand came against my iron lever. It gave me strength. I struggled
up, shaking the human rats from me, and, holding the bar short,
I thrust where I judged their faces might be. I could feel the
succulent giving of flesh and bone under my blows, and for a moment
I was free.
'The strange exultation that so often seems to accompany hard
fighting came upon me. I knew that both I and Weena were lost, but I
determined to make the Morlocks pay for their meat. I stood with my
back to a tree, swinging the iron bar before me. The whole wood was
full of the stir and cries of them. A minute passed. Their voices
seemed to rise to a higher pitch of excitement, and their movements
grew faster. Yet none came within reach. I stood glaring at the
blackness. Then suddenly came hope. What if the Morlocks were
afraid? And close on the heels of that came a strange thing. The
darkness seemed to grow luminous. Very dimly I began to see the
Morlocks about me—three battered at my feet—and then I recognized,
with incredulous surprise, that the others were running, in an
incessant stream, as it seemed, from behind me, and away through the
wood in front. And their backs seemed no longer white, but reddish.
As I stood agape, I saw a little red spark go drifting across a gap
of starlight between the branches, and vanish. And at that I
understood the smell of burning wood, the slumbrous murmur that was
growing now into a gusty roar, the red glow, and the Morlocks'
'Stepping out from behind my tree and looking back, I saw, through
the black pillars of the nearer trees, the flames of the burning
forest. It was my first fire coming after me. With that I looked for
Weena, but she was gone. The hissing and crackling behind me, the
explosive thud as each fresh tree burst into flame, left little
time for reflection. My iron bar still gripped, I followed in the
Morlocks' path. It was a close race. Once the flames crept forward
so swiftly on my right as I ran that I was outflanked and had to
strike off to the left. But at last I emerged upon a small open
space, and as I did so, a Morlock came blundering towards me, and
past me, and went on straight into the fire!
'And now I was to see the most weird and horrible thing, I think, of
all that I beheld in that future age. This whole space was as bright
as day with the reflection of the fire. In the centre was a hillock
or tumulus, surmounted by a scorched hawthorn. Beyond this was
another arm of the burning forest, with yellow tongues already
writhing from it, completely encircling the space with a fence of
fire. Upon the hill-side were some thirty or forty Morlocks, dazzled
by the light and heat, and blundering hither and thither against
each other in their bewilderment. At first I did not realize their
blindness, and struck furiously at them with my bar, in a frenzy of
fear, as they approached me, killing one and crippling several more.
But when I had watched the gestures of one of them groping under the
hawthorn against the red sky, and heard their moans, I was assured
of their absolute helplessness and misery in the glare, and I struck
no more of them.
'Yet every now and then one would come straight towards me, setting
loose a quivering horror that made me quick to elude him. At one
time the flames died down somewhat, and I feared the foul creatures
would presently be able to see me. I was thinking of beginning the
fight by killing some of them before this should happen; but the
fire burst out again brightly, and I stayed my hand. I walked about
the hill among them and avoided them, looking for some trace of
Weena. But Weena was gone.
'At last I sat down on the summit of the hillock, and watched this
strange incredible company of blind things groping to and fro, and
making uncanny noises to each other, as the glare of the fire beat
on them. The coiling uprush of smoke streamed across the sky, and
through the rare tatters of that red canopy, remote as though they
belonged to another universe, shone the little stars. Two or three
Morlocks came blundering into me, and I drove them off with blows
of my fists, trembling as I did so.
'For the most part of that night I was persuaded it was a nightmare.
I bit myself and screamed in a passionate desire to awake. I beat
the ground with my hands, and got up and sat down again, and
wandered here and there, and again sat down. Then I would fall to
rubbing my eyes and calling upon God to let me awake. Thrice I saw
Morlocks put their heads down in a kind of agony and rush into the
flames. But, at last, above the subsiding red of the fire, above the
streaming masses of black smoke and the whitening and blackening
tree stumps, and the diminishing numbers of these dim creatures,
came the white light of the day.
'I searched again for traces of Weena, but there were none. It was
plain that they had left her poor little body in the forest. I
cannot describe how it relieved me to think that it had escaped the
awful fate to which it seemed destined. As I thought of that, I was
almost moved to begin a massacre of the helpless abominations about
me, but I contained myself. The hillock, as I have said, was a kind
of island in the forest. From its summit I could now make out
through a haze of smoke the Palace of Green Porcelain, and from that
I could get my bearings for the White Sphinx. And so, leaving the
remnant of these damned souls still going hither and thither and
moaning, as the day grew clearer, I tied some grass about my feet
and limped on across smoking ashes and among black stems, that still
pulsated internally with fire, towards the hiding-place of the Time
Machine. I walked slowly, for I was almost exhausted, as well as
lame, and I felt the intensest wretchedness for the horrible death
of little Weena. It seemed an overwhelming calamity. Now, in this
old familiar room, it is more like the sorrow of a dream than an
actual loss. But that morning it left me absolutely lonely
again—terribly alone. I began to think of this house of mine, of
this fireside, of some of you, and with such thoughts came a longing
that was pain.
'But as I walked over the smoking ashes under the bright morning
sky, I made a discovery. In my trouser pocket were still some loose
matches. The box must have leaked before it was lost.
'About eight or nine in the morning I came to the same seat of
yellow metal from which I had viewed the world upon the evening of
my arrival. I thought of my hasty conclusions upon that evening and
could not refrain from laughing bitterly at my confidence. Here
was the same beautiful scene, the same abundant foliage, the same
splendid palaces and magnificent ruins, the same silver river
running between its fertile banks. The gay robes of the beautiful
people moved hither and thither among the trees. Some were bathing
in exactly the place where I had saved Weena, and that suddenly gave
me a keen stab of pain. And like blots upon the landscape rose the
cupolas above the ways to the Under-world. I understood now what all
the beauty of the Over-world people covered. Very pleasant was their
day, as pleasant as the day of the cattle in the field. Like the
cattle, they knew of no enemies and provided against no needs. And
their end was the same.
'I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had
been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly
towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and
permanency as its watchword, it had attained its hopes—to come
to this at last. Once, life and property must have reached almost
absolute safety. The rich had been assured of his wealth and
comfort, the toiler assured of his life and work. No doubt in that
perfect world there had been no unemployed problem, no social
question left unsolved. And a great quiet had followed.
'It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility
is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal
perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism.
Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are
useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no
need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have
to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.
'So, as I see it, the Upper-world man had drifted towards his
feeble prettiness, and the Under-world to mere mechanical industry.
But that perfect state had lacked one thing even for mechanical
perfection—absolute permanency. Apparently as time went on, the
feeding of the Under-world, however it was effected, had become
disjointed. Mother Necessity, who had been staved off for a
few thousand years, came back again, and she began below. The
Under-world being in contact with machinery, which, however perfect,
still needs some little thought outside habit, had probably retained
perforce rather more initiative, if less of every other human
character, than the Upper. And when other meat failed them, they
turned to what old habit had hitherto forbidden. So I say I saw it
in my last view of the world of Eight Hundred and Two Thousand Seven
Hundred and One. It may be as wrong an explanation as mortal wit
could invent. It is how the thing shaped itself to me, and as that I
give it to you.
'After the fatigues, excitements, and terrors of the past days, and
in spite of my grief, this seat and the tranquil view and the warm
sunlight were very pleasant. I was very tired and sleepy, and soon
my theorizing passed into dozing. Catching myself at that, I took my
own hint, and spreading myself out upon the turf I had a long and
'I awoke a little before sunsetting. I now felt safe against being
caught napping by the Morlocks, and, stretching myself, I came on
down the hill towards the White Sphinx. I had my crowbar in one
hand, and the other hand played with the matches in my pocket.
'And now came a most unexpected thing. As I approached the pedestal
of the sphinx I found the bronze valves were open. They had slid
down into grooves.
'At that I stopped short before them, hesitating to enter.
'Within was a small apartment, and on a raised place in the corner
of this was the Time Machine. I had the small levers in my pocket.
So here, after all my elaborate preparations for the siege of the
White Sphinx, was a meek surrender. I threw my iron bar away, almost
sorry not to use it.
'A sudden thought came into my head as I stooped towards the portal.
For once, at least, I grasped the mental operations of the Morlocks.
Suppressing a strong inclination to laugh, I stepped through the
bronze frame and up to the Time Machine. I was surprised to find it
had been carefully oiled and cleaned. I have suspected since that
the Morlocks had even partially taken it to pieces while trying in
their dim way to grasp its purpose.
'Now as I stood and examined it, finding a pleasure in the mere
touch of the contrivance, the thing I had expected happened. The
bronze panels suddenly slid up and struck the frame with a clang.
I was in the dark—trapped. So the Morlocks thought. At that I
'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
'As I drove on, a peculiar change crept over the appearance of
things. The palpitating greyness grew darker; then—though I was
still travelling with prodigious velocity—the blinking succession
of day and night, which was usually indicative of a slower pace,
returned, and grew more and more marked. This puzzled me very much
at first. The alternations of night and day grew slower and slower,
and so did the passage of the sun across the sky, until they seemed
to stretch through centuries. At last a steady twilight brooded over
the earth, a twilight only broken now and then when a comet glared
across the darkling sky. The band of light that had indicated the
sun had long since disappeared; for the sun had ceased to set—it
simply rose and fell in the west, and grew ever broader and more
red. All trace of the moon had vanished. The circling of the stars,
growing slower and slower, had given place to creeping points of
light. At last, some time before I stopped, the sun, red and very
large, halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with
a dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction. At
one time it had for a little while glowed more brilliantly again,
but it speedily reverted to its sullen red heat. I perceived by this
slowing down of its rising and setting that the work of the tidal
drag was done. The earth had come to rest with one face to the sun,
even as in our own time the moon faces the earth. Very cautiously,
for I remembered my former headlong fall, I began to reverse
my motion. Slower and slower went the circling hands until the
thousands one seemed motionless and the daily one was no longer a
mere mist upon its scale. Still slower, until the dim outlines of a
desolate beach grew visible.
'I stopped very gently and sat upon the Time Machine, looking round.
The sky was no longer blue. North-eastward it was inky black,
and out of the blackness shone brightly and steadily the pale
white stars. Overhead it was a deep Indian red and starless, and
south-eastward it grew brighter to a glowing scarlet where, cut by
the horizon, lay the huge hull of the sun, red and motionless. The
rocks about me were of a harsh reddish colour, and all the trace of
life that I could see at first was the intensely green vegetation
that covered every projecting point on their south-eastern face. It
was the same rich green that one sees on forest moss or on the
lichen in caves: plants which like these grow in a perpetual
'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 fluttering 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
'I looked about me to see if any traces of animal life remained. A
certain indefinable apprehension still kept me in the saddle of the
machine. But I saw nothing moving, in earth or sky or sea. The green
slime on the rocks alone testified that life was not extinct. A
shallow sandbank had appeared in the sea and the water had receded
from the beach. I fancied I saw some black object flopping about
upon this bank, but it became motionless as I looked at it, and I
judged that my eye had been deceived, and that the black object was
merely a rock. The stars in the sky were intensely bright and seemed
to me to twinkle very little.
'Suddenly I noticed that the circular westward outline of the sun
had changed; that a concavity, a bay, had appeared in the curve. I
saw this grow larger. For a minute perhaps I stared aghast at this
blackness that was creeping over the day, and then I realized that
an eclipse was beginning. Either the moon or the planet Mercury was
passing across the sun's disk. Naturally, at first I took it to be
the moon, but there is much to incline me to believe that what I
really saw was the transit of an inner planet passing very near to
'The 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 pretty 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 shakily, and sat down upon my bench. For several
minutes I trembled violently. Then I became calmer. Around me was
my old workshop again, exactly as it had been. I might have slept
there, and the whole thing have been a dream.
'And yet, not exactly! The thing had started from the south-east
corner of the laboratory. It had come to rest again in the
north-west, against the wall where you saw it. That gives you the
exact distance from my little lawn to the pedestal of the White
Sphinx, into which the Morlocks had carried my machine.
'For a time my brain went stagnant. Presently I got up and came
through the passage here, limping, because my heel was still
painful, and feeling sorely begrimed. I saw the Pall Mall Gazette
on the table by the door. I found the date was indeed to-day, and
looking at the timepiece, saw the hour was almost eight o'clock. I
heard your voices and the clatter of plates. I hesitated—I felt so
sick and weak. Then I sniffed good wholesome meat, and opened the
door on you. You know the rest. I washed, and dined, and now I am
telling you the story.
'I know,' he said, after a pause, 'that all this will be absolutely
incredible to you. To me the one incredible thing is that I am here
to-night in this old familiar room looking into your friendly faces
and telling you these strange adventures.'
He looked at the Medical Man. 'No. I cannot expect you to believe
it. Take it as a lie—or a prophecy. Say I dreamed it in the
workshop. Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of our
race until I have hatched this fiction. Treat my assertion of its
truth as a mere stroke of art to enhance its interest. And taking
it as a story, what do you think of it?'
He took up his pipe, and began, in his old accustomed manner, to tap
with it nervously upon the bars of the grate. There was a momentary
stillness. Then chairs began to creak and shoes to scrape upon the
carpet. I took my eyes off the Time Traveller's face, and looked
round at his audience. They were in the dark, and little spots of
colour swam before them. The Medical Man seemed absorbed in the
contemplation of our host. The Editor was looking hard at the end
of his cigar—the sixth. The Journalist fumbled for his watch. The
others, as far as I remember, were motionless.
The Editor stood up with a sigh. 'What a pity it is you're not
a writer of stories!' he said, putting his hand on the Time
'You don't believe it?'
'I thought not.'
The Time Traveller turned to us. 'Where are the matches?' he said.
He lit one and spoke over his pipe, puffing. 'To tell you the truth
… I hardly believe it myself…. And yet…'
His eye fell with a mute inquiry upon the withered white flowers
upon the little table. Then he turned over the hand holding his
pipe, and I saw he was looking at some half-healed scars on his
The Medical Man rose, came to the lamp, and examined the flowers.
'The gynaeceum's odd,' he said. The Psychologist leant forward to
see, holding out his hand for a specimen.
'I'm hanged if it isn't a quarter to one,' said the Journalist.
'How shall we get home?'
'Plenty of cabs at the station,' said the Psychologist.
'It's a curious thing,' said the Medical Man; 'but I certainly don't
know the natural order of these flowers. May I have them?'
The Time Traveller hesitated. Then suddenly: 'Certainly not.'
'Where did you really get them?' said the Medical Man.
The Time Traveller put his hand to his head. He spoke like one who
was trying to keep hold of an idea that eluded him. 'They were put
into my pocket by Weena, when I travelled into Time.' He stared
round the room. 'I'm damned if it isn't all going. This room and you
and the atmosphere of every day is too much for my memory. Did I
ever make a Time Machine, or a model of a Time Machine? Or is it all
only a dream? They say life is a dream, a precious poor dream at
times—but I can't stand another that won't fit. It's madness. And
where did the dream come from? … I must look at that machine. If
there is one!'
He caught up the lamp swiftly, and carried it, flaring red, through
the door into the corridor. We followed him. There in the flickering
light of the lamp was the machine sure enough, squat, ugly, and
askew; a thing of brass, ebony, ivory, and translucent glimmering
quartz. Solid to the touch—for I put out my hand and felt the rail
of it—and with brown spots and smears upon the ivory, and bits of
grass and moss upon the lower parts, and one rail bent awry.
The Time Traveller put the lamp down on the bench, and ran his hand
along the damaged rail. 'It's all right now,' he said. 'The story I
told you was true. I'm sorry to have brought you out here in the
cold.' He took up the lamp, and, in an absolute silence, we
returned to the smoking-room.
He came into the hall with us and helped the Editor on with his
coat. The Medical Man looked into his face and, with a certain
hesitation, told him he was suffering from overwork, at which he
laughed hugely. I remember him standing in the open doorway, bawling
I shared a cab with the Editor. He thought the tale a 'gaudy lie.'
For my own part I was unable to come to a conclusion. The story was
so fantastic and incredible, the telling so credible and sober. I
lay awake most of the night thinking about it. I determined to go
next day and see the Time Traveller again. I was told he was in the
laboratory, and being on easy terms in the house, I went up to him.
The laboratory, however, was empty. I stared for a minute at the
Time Machine and put out my hand and touched the lever. At that the
squat substantial-looking mass swayed like a bough shaken by the
wind. Its instability startled me extremely, and I had a queer
reminiscence of the childish days when I used to be forbidden to
meddle. I came back through the corridor. The Time Traveller met me
in the smoking-room. He was coming from the house. He had a small
camera under one arm and a knapsack under the other. He laughed when
he saw me, and gave me an elbow to shake. 'I'm frightfully busy,'
said he, 'with that thing in there.'
'But is it not some hoax?' I said. 'Do you really travel through
'Really and truly I do.' And he looked frankly into my eyes. He
hesitated. His eye wandered about the room. 'I only want half an
hour,' he said. 'I know why you came, and it's awfully good of you.
There's some magazines here. If you'll stop to lunch I'll prove you
this time travelling up to the hilt, specimen and all. If you'll
forgive my leaving you now?'
I consented, hardly comprehending then the full import of his words,
and he nodded and went on down the corridor. I heard the door of
the laboratory slam, seated myself in a chair, and took up a daily
paper. What was he going to do before lunch-time? Then suddenly
I was reminded by an advertisement that I had promised to meet
Richardson, the publisher, at two. I looked at my watch, and saw
that I could barely save that engagement. I got up and went down the
passage to tell the Time Traveller.
As I took hold of the handle of the door I heard an exclamation,
oddly truncated at the end, and a click and a thud. A gust of air
whirled round me as I opened the door, and from within came the
sound of broken glass falling on the floor. The Time Traveller was
not there. I seemed to see a ghostly, indistinct figure sitting in
a whirling mass of black and brass for a moment—a figure so
transparent that the bench behind with its sheets of drawings was
absolutely distinct; but this phantasm vanished as I rubbed my eyes.
The Time Machine had gone. Save for a subsiding stir of dust, the
further end of the laboratory was empty. A pane of the skylight had,
apparently, just been blown in.
I felt an unreasonable amazement. I knew that something strange had
happened, and for the moment could not distinguish what the strange
thing might be. As I stood staring, the door into the garden opened,
and the man-servant appeared.
We looked at each other. Then ideas began to come. 'Has Mr. ——
gone out that way?' said I.
'No, sir. No one has come out this way. I was expecting to find him
At that I understood. At the risk of disappointing Richardson I
stayed on, waiting for the Time Traveller; waiting for the second,
perhaps still stranger story, and the specimens and photographs he
would bring with him. But I am beginning now to fear that I must
wait a lifetime. The Time Traveller vanished three years ago. And,
as everybody knows now, he has never returned.
One cannot choose but wonder. Will he ever return? It may be that he
swept back into the past, and fell among the blood-drinking, hairy
savages of the Age of Unpolished Stone; into the abysses of the
Cretaceous Sea; or among the grotesque saurians, the huge reptilian
brutes of the Jurassic times. He may even now—if I may use the
phrase—be wandering on some plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral
reef, or beside the lonely saline lakes of the Triassic Age. Or did
he go forward, into one of the nearer ages, in which men are still
men, but with the riddles of our own time answered and its wearisome
problems solved? Into the manhood of the race: for I, for my own
part, cannot think that these latter days of weak experiment,
fragmentary theory, and mutual discord are indeed man's culminating
time! I say, for my own part. He, I know—for the question had been
discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made—thought
but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the
growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must
inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that
is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so. But to me
the future is still black and blank—is a vast ignorance, lit at a
few casual places by the memory of his story. And I have by me, for
my comfort, two strange white flowers—shrivelled now, and brown and
flat and brittle—to witness that even when mind and strength had
gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart