The Time Machine
by H. G. Wells
A dreamer obsessed with travelling through
time builds himself a time machine and, much to his surprise, travels over
800,000 years into the future. The world has been transformed with a society
living in apparent harmony and bliss, but as the Traveller stays in this world
of the future he discovers a hidden barbaric and depraved subterranean class.
Wells’s translucent commentary on the capitalist society was an instant
bestseller and launched the time-travel genre.
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.II
"You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas
that are almost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught
you at school is founded on a misconception."
"Is not that rather a large thing to expect us to begin upon?" said
Filby, an argumentative person with red hair.
"I do not mean to ask you to accept anything without reasonable ground for
it. You will soon admit as much as I need from you. You know of course that a
mathematical line, a line of thickness nil, has no real existence. They taught
you that? Neither has a mathematical plane. These things are mere abstractions."
"That is all right," said the Psychologist.
"Nor, having only length, breadth, and thickness, can a cube have a real
"There I object," said Filby. "Of course a solid body may exist.
All real things-"
"So most people think. But wait a moment. Can an instantaneous cube exist?"
"Don't follow you," said Filby.
"Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real existence?"
Filby became pensive. "Clearly," the Time Traveller proceeded, "any
real body must have extension in four directions: it must have Length, Breadth,
Thickness, and Duration. But through a natural infirmity of the flesh, which I
will explain to you in a moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are
really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a
fourth, Time. There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction
between the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our
consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from the
beginning to the end of our lives."
"That," said a very young man, making spasmodic efforts to relight his
cigar over the lamp; "that . . . very clear indeed."
"Now, it is very remarkable that this is so extensively overlooked,"
continued the Time Traveller, with a slight accession of cheerfulness. "Really
this is what is meant by the Fourth Dimension, though some people who talk about
the Fourth Dimension do not know they mean it. It is only another way of looking
at Time. There is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of
Space except that our consciousness moves along it. But some foolish people have
got hold of the wrong side of that idea. You have all heard what they have to
say about this Fourth Dimension?"
"I have not," said the Provincial Mayor.
"It is simply this. That Space, as our mathematicians have it, is spoken of
as having three dimensions, which one may call Length, Breadth, and Thickness,
and is always definable by reference to three planes, each at right angles to
the others. But some philosophical people have been asking why three dimensions
particularly why not another direction at right angles to the other three? and
have even tried to construct a Four-Dimension geometry. Professor Simon Newcomb
was expounding this to the New York Mathematical Society only a month or so ago.
You know how on a flat surface, which has only two dimensions, we can represent
a figure of a three-dimensional solid, and similarly they think that by models
of three dimensions they could represent one of four if they could master the
perspective of the thing. See?"
"I think so," murmured the Provincial Mayor; and, knitting his brows,
he lapsed into an introspective state, his lips moving as one who repeats mystic
words. "Yes, I think I see it now," he said after some time,
brightening in a quite transitory manner.
"Well, I do not mind telling you I have been at work upon this geometry of
Four Dimensions for some time. Some of my results are curious. For instance,
here is a portrait of a man at eight years old, another at fifteen, another at
seventeen, another at twenty-three, and so on. All these are evidently sections,
as it were, Three-Dimensional representations of his Four-Dimensioned being,
which is a fixed and unalterable thing."
"Scientific people," proceeded the Time Traveller, after the pause
required for the proper assimilation of this, "know very well that Time is
only a kind of Space. Here is a popular scientific diagram, a weather record.
This line I trace with my finger shows the movement of the barometer. Yesterday
it was so high, yesterday night it fell, then this morning it rose again, and so
gently upward to here. Surely the mercury did not trace this line in any of the
dimensions of Space generally recognized? But certainly it traced such a line,
and that line, therefore, we must conclude was along the Time-Dimension."
"But," said the Medical Man, staring hard at a coal in the fire,
"if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space, why is it, and why has
it always been, regarded as something different? And why cannot we move in Time
as we move about in the other dimensions of Space?"
The Time Traveller smiled. "Are you sure we can move freely in Space? Right
and left we can go, backward and forward freely enough, and men always have done
so. I admit we move freely in two dimensions. But how about up and down?
Gravitation limits us there."
"Not exactly," said the Medical Man. "There are balloons."
"But before the balloons, save for spasmodic jumping and the inequalities
of the surface, man had no freedom of vertical movement."
"Still they could move a little up and down," said the Medical Man.
"Easier, far easier down than up."
"And you cannot move at all in Time, you cannot get away from the present
"My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong. That is just where the
whole world has gone wrong. We are always getting away from the present movement.
Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing
along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave.
Just as we should travel down if we began our existence fifty miles above the
"But the great difficulty is this," interrupted the Psychologist.
"You can move about in all directions of Space, but you cannot move about
"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
Filby contented himself with laughter.
"But I have experimental verification," said the Time Traveller.
"It would be remarkably convenient for the historian," the
Psychologist suggested. "One might travel back and verify the accepted
account of the Battle of Hastings, for instance!"
"Don't you think you would attract attention?" said the Medical Man.
"Our ancestors had no great tolerance for anachronisms."
"One might get one's Greek from the very lips of Homer and Plato," the
Very Young Man thought.
"In which case they would certainly plough you for the Littlego. The German
scholars have improved Greek so much.
"Then there is the future," said the Very Young Man. "Just think!
One might invest all one's money, leave it to accumulate at interest, and hurry
"To discover a society," said I, "erected on a strictly
"Of all the wild extravagant theories!" began the Psychologist.
"Yes, so it seemed to me, and so I never talked of it until-"
"Experimental verification!" cried I. "You are going to verify
"The experiment!" cried Filby, who was getting brain-weary.
"Let's see your experiment anyhow," said the Psychologist, "though
it's all humbug, you know."
The Time Traveller smiled round at us. Then, still smiling faintly, and with his
hands deep in his trousers pockets, he walked slowly out of the room, and we
heard his slippers shuffling down the long passage to his laboratory.
The Psychologist looked at us. "I wonder what he's got?"
"Some sleight-of-hand trick or other," said the Medical Man, and Filby
tried to tell us about a conjurer he had seen at Burslem, but before he had
finished his preface the Time Traveller came back, and Filby's anecdote
The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering metallic
framework, scarcely larger than a small clock, and very delicately made. There
was ivory in it, and some transparent crystalline substance. And now I must be
explicit, for this that follows, unless his explanation is to be accepted, is an
absolutely unaccountable thing. He took one of the small octagonal tables that
were scattered about the room, and set it in front of the fire, with two legs on
the hearth rug. On this table he placed the mechanism. Then he drew up a chair,
and sat down. The only other object on the table was a small shaded lamp, the
bright light of which fell upon the model. There were also perhaps a dozen
candles about, two in brass candlesticks upon the mantel and several in sconces,
so that the room was brilliantly illuminated. I sat in a low arm-chair nearest
the fire, and I drew this forward so as to be almost between the Time Traveller
and the fireplace. Filby sat behind him, looking over his shoulder. The Medical
Man and the Provincial Mayor watched him in profile from the right, the
Psychologist from the left. The Very Young Man stood behind the Psychologist. We
were all on the alert. It appears incredible to me that any kind of trick,
however subtly conceived and however adroitly done, could have been played upon
us under these conditions.
The Time Traveller looked at us, and then at the mechanism. "Well?"
said the Psychologist.
"This little affair," said the Time Traveller, resting his elbows upon
the table and pressing his hands together above the apparatus, "is only a
model. It is my plan for a machine to travel through time. You will notice that
it looks singularly askew, and that there is an odd twinkling appearance about
this bar, as though it was in some way unreal." He pointed to the part with
his finger. "Also, here is one little white lever, and here is another."
The Medical Man got up out of his chair and peered into the thing. "It's
beautifully made," he said.
"It took two years to make," retorted the Time Traveller. Then, when
we had all imitated the action of the Medical Man, he said: "Now I want you
clearly to understand that this lever, being pressed over, sends the machine
gliding into the future, and this other reverses the motion. This saddle
represents the seat of a time traveller. Presently I am going to press the lever,
and off the machine will go. It will vanish, pass into future Time, and
disappear. Have a good look at the thing. Look at the table too, and satisfy
yourselves there is no trickery. I don't want to waste this model, and then be
told I'm a quack."
There was a minute's pause perhaps. The Psychologist seemed about to speak to
me, but changed his mind. Then the Time Traveller put forth his finger towards
the lever. "No," he said suddenly. "Lend me your hand." And
turning to the Psychologist, he took that individual's hand in his own and told
him to put out his forefinger. So that it was the Psychologist himself who sent
forth the model Time Machine on its interminable voyage. We all saw the lever
turn. I am absolutely certain there was no trickery. There was a breath of wind,
and the lamp flame jumped. One of the candles on the mantel was blown out, and
the little machine suddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen as a ghost
for a second perhaps, as an eddy of faintly glittering brass and ivory; and it
was gone, vanished! Save for the lamp the table was bare.
Everyone was silent for a minute. Then Filby said he was damned.
The Psychologist recovered from his stupor, and suddenly looked under the table.
At that the Time Traveller laughed cheerfully. "Well?" he said, with a
reminiscence of the Psychologist. Then, getting up, he went to the tobacco jar
on the mantel, and with his back to us began to fill his pipe.
We stared at each other. "Look here," said the Medical Man, "are
you in earnest about this? Do you seriously believe that that machine has
travelled into time?"
"Certainly," said the Time Traveller, stooping to light a spill at the
fire. Then he turned, lighting his pipe, to look at the Psychologist's face.
(The Psychologist, to show that he was not unhinged, helped himself to a cigar
and tried to light it uncut.) "What is more, I have a big machine nearly
finished in there" he indicated the laboratory "and when that is put
together I mean to have a journey on my own account."
"You mean to say that that machine has travelled into the future?"
"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,
"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
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
I think that at that time none of us quite believed in the Time Machine. The
fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be
believed: you never felt that you saw all round him; you always suspected some
subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness. Had Filby
shown the model and explained the matter in the Time Traveller's words, we
should have shown him far less scepticism. For we should have perceived his
motives; a pork-butcher could understand Filby. But the Time Traveller had more
than a touch of whim among his elements, and we distrusted him. Things that
would have made the frame of a less clever man seemed tricks in his hands. It is
a mistake to do things too easily. The serious people who took him seriously
never felt quite sure of his deportment: they were somehow aware that trusting
their reputations for judgment with him was like furnishing a nursery with
eggshell china. So I don't think any of us said very much about time travelling
in the interval between that Thursday and the next, though its odd
potentialities ran, no doubt, in most of our minds: its plausibility, that is,
its practical incredibleness, the curious possibilities of anachronism and of
utter confusion it suggested. For my own part, I was particularly preoccupied
with the trick of the model. That I remember discussing with the Medical Man,
whom I met on Friday at the Linnan. He said he had seen a similar thing at
Tybingen, and laid considerable stress on the blowing out of the candle. But how
the trick was done he could not explain.
The next Thursday I went again to Richmond, I suppose I was one of the Time
Traveller's most constant guests and, arriving late, found four or five men
already assembled in his drawing-room. The Medical Man was standing before the
fire with a sheet of paper in one hand and his watch in the other. I looked
round for the Time Traveller, and "It's half-past seven now," said the
Medical Man. "I suppose we'd better have dinner?"
"Where's _____?" said I, naming our host.
"You've just come? It's rather odd. He's unavoidably detained. He asks me
in this note to lead off with dinner at seven if he's not back. Says he'll
explain when he comes."
"It seems a pity to let the dinner spoil," said the Editor of a
well-known daily paper; and thereupon the Doctor rang the bell.
The Psychologist was the only person besides the Doctor and myself who had
attended the previous dinner. The other men were Blank, the Editor
aforementioned, a certain journalist, and another, a quiet, shy man with a beard
whom I didn't know, and who, as far as my observation went, never opened his
mouth all the evening. There was some speculation at the dinner-table about the
Time Traveller's absence, and I suggested time travelling, in a half-jocular
spirit. The Editor wanted that explained to him, and the Psychologist
volunteered a wooden account of the "ingenious paradox and trick" we
had witnessed that day week. He was in the midst of his exposition when the door
from the corridor opened slowly and without noise. I was facing the door, and
saw it first. "Hallo!" I said. "At last!" And the door
opened wider, and the Time Traveller stood before us. I gave a cry of surprise.
"Good heavens! man, what's the matter?" cried the Medical Man, who saw
him next. And the whole tableful turned towards the door.
He was in an amazing plight. His coat was dusty and dirty, and smeared with
green down the sleeves; his hair disordered, and as it seemed to me greyer
either with dust and dirt or because its colour had actually faded. His face was
ghastly pale; his chin had a brown cut on it a cut half healed; his expression
was haggard and drawn, as by intense suffering. For a moment he hesitated in the
doorway, as if he had been dazzled by the light. Then he came into the room. He
walked with just such a limp as I have seen in footsore tramps. We stared at him
in silence, expecting him to speak.
He said not a word, but came painfully to the table, and made a motion towards
the wine. The Editor filled a glass of champagne, and pushed it towards him. He
drained it, and it seemed to do him good: for he looked round the table, and the
ghost of his old smile flickered across his face. "What on earth have you
been up to, man?" said the Doctor. The Time Traveller did not seem to hear.
"Don't let me disturb you," he said, with a certain faltering
articulation. "I'm all right." He stopped, held out his glass for more,
and took it off at a draught. "That's good," he said. His eyes grew
brighter, and a faint colour came into his cheeks. His glance flickered over our
faces with a certain dull approval, and then went round the warm and comfortable
room. Then he spoke again, still as it were feeling his way among his words.
"I'm going to wash and dress, and then I'll come down and explain things. .
. . Save me some of that mutton. I'm starving for a bit of meat."
He looked across at the Editor, who was a rare visitor, and hoped he was all
right. The Editor began a question. "Tell you presently," said the
Time Traveller. "I'm funny! Be all right in a minute."
He put down his glass, and walked towards the staircase door. Again I remarked
his lameness and the soft padding sound of his footfall, and standing up in my
place, I saw his feet as he went out. He had nothing on them but a pair of
tattered blood-stained socks. Then the door closed upon him. I had half a mind
to follow, till I remembered how he detested any fuss about himself. For a
minute, perhaps, my mind was wool gathering. Then, "Remarkable Behaviour of
an Eminent Scientist," I heard the Editor say, thinking (after his wont) in
headlines. And this brought my attention back to the bright dinner-table.
"What's the game?" said the Journalist. "Has he been doing the
Amateur Cadger? I don't follow." I met the eye of the psychologist, and
read my own interpretation in his face. I thought of the Time Traveller limping
painfully upstairs. I don't think any one else had noticed his lameness.
The first to recover completely from this surprise was the Medical Man, who rang
the bell the Time Traveller hated to have servants waiting at dinner for a hot
plate. At that the Editor turned to his knife and fork with a grunt, and the
Silent Man followed suit. The dinner was resumed. Conversation was exclamatory
for a little while, with gaps of wonderment; and then the Editor got fervent in
his curiosity. "Does our friend eke out his modest income with a crossing?
or has he his Nebuchadnezzar phases?" he inquired. "I feel assured
it's this business of the Time Machine," I said, and took up the
Psychologist's account of our previous meeting. The new guests were frankly
incredulous. The Editor raised objections. "What was this time travelling?
A man couldn't cover himself with dust by rolling in a paradox, could he?"
And then, as the idea came home to him, he resorted to caricature. Hadn't they
any clothes-brushes in the Future? The Journalist too, would not believe at any
price, and joined the Editor in the easy work of heaping ridicule on the whole
thing. They were both the new kind of journalist very joyous, irreverent young
men. "Our Special Correspondent in the Day after To-morrow reports,"
the Journalist was saying, or rather shouting, when the Time Traveller came back.
He was dressed in ordinary evening clothes, and nothing save his haggard look
remained of the change that had startled 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
"One word," said I. "Have you been time travelling?"
"Yes," said the Time Traveller, with his mouth full, nodding his head.
"I'd give a shilling a line for a verbatim note," said the Editor. The
Time Traveller pushed his glass towards the Silent Man and rang it with his
finger nail; at which the Silent Man, who had been staring at his face, started
convulsively, and poured him wine. The rest of the dinner was uncomfortable. For
my own part, sudden questions kept on rising to my lips, and I dare say it was
the same with the others. The Journalist tried to relieve the tension by telling
anecdotes of Hettie Potter. The Time Traveller devoted his attention to his
dinner, and displayed the appetite of a tramp. The Medical Man smoked a
cigarette, and watched the Time Traveller through his eyelashes. The Silent Man
seemed even more clumsy than usual, and drank champagne with regularity and
determination out of sheer nervousness. At last the Time Traveller pushed his
plate away, and looked round us. "I suppose I must apologize," he said.
"I was simply starving. I've had a most amazing time." He reached out
his hand for a cigar, and cut the end. "But come into the smoking-room.
It's too long a story to tell over greasy plates." And ringing the bell in
passing, he led the way into the adjoining room.
"You have told Blank, and Dash, and Chose about the machine?" he said
to me, leaning back in his easy chair and naming the three new guests.
"But the thing's a mere paradox," said the Editor.
"I can't argue to-night. I don't mind telling you the story, but I can't
argue. I will," he went on, "tell you the story of what has happened
to me, if you like, but you must refrain from interruptions. I want to tell it.
Badly. Most of it will sound like lying. So be it! It's true every word of it,
all the same. I was in my laboratory at four o'clock, and since then . . . I've
lived eight days . . . such days as no human being ever lived before! I'm nearly
worn out, but I shan't sleep till I've told this thing over to you. Then I shall
go to bed. But no interruptions! Is it agreed?"
"Agreed," said the Editor, and the rest of us echoed "Agreed."
And with that the Time Traveller began his story as I have set it forth. He sat
back in his chair at first, and spoke like a weary man. Afterwards he got more
animated. In writing it down I feel with only too much keenness the inadequacy
of pen and ink and, above all, my own inadequacy to express its quality. You
read, I will suppose, attentively enough; but you cannot see the speaker's white,
sincere face in the bright circle of the little lamp, nor hear the intonation of
his voice. You cannot know how his expression followed the turns of his story!
Most of us hearers were in shadow, for the candles in the smoking-room had not
been lighted, and only the face of the Journalist and the legs of the Silent Man
from the knees downward were illuminated. At first we glanced now and again at
each other. After a time we ceased to do that, and looked only at the Time
"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
"I am afraid I cannot convey the peculiar sensations of time travelling.
They are excessively unpleasant. There is a feeling exactly like that one has
upon a switchback of a helpless headlong motion! I felt the same horrible
anticipation, too, of an imminent smash. As I put on pace, night followed day
like the flapping of a black wing. The dim suggestion of the laboratory seemed
presently to fall away from me, and I saw the sun hopping swiftly across the sky,
leaping it every minute, and every minute marking a day. I supposed the
laboratory had been destroyed and I had come into the open air. I had a dim
impression of scaffolding, but I was already going too fast to be conscious of
any moving things. The slowest snail that ever crawled dashed by too fast for
me. The twinkling succession of darkness and light was excessively painful to
the eye. Then, in the intermittent darknesses, I saw the moon spinning swiftly
through her quarters from new to full, and had a faint glimpse of the circling
stars. Presently, as I went on, still gaining velocity, the palpitation of night
and day merged into one continuous greyness; the sky took on a wonderful
deepness of blue, a splendid luminous color like that of early twilight; the
jerking sun became a streak of fire, a brilliant arch, in space; the moon a
fainter fluctuating band; and I could see nothing of the stars, save now and
then a brighter circle flickering in the blue.
"The landscape was misty and vague. I was still on the hillside upon which
this house now stands, and the shoulder rose above me grey and dim. I saw trees
growing and changing like puffs of vapour, now brown, now green; they grew,
spread, shivered, and passed away. I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair,
and pass like dreams. The whole surface of the earth seemed changed melting and
flowing under my eyes. The little hands upon the dials that registered my speed
raced round faster and faster. Presently I noted that the sun belt swayed up and
down, from solstice to solstice, in a minute or less, and that consequently my
pace was over a year a minute; and minute by minute the white snow flashed
across the world, and vanished, and was followed by the bright, brief green of
"The unpleasant sensations of the start were less poignant now. They merged
at last into a kind of hysterical exhilaration. I remarked indeed a clumsy
swaying of the machine, for which I was unable to account. But my mind was too
confused to attend to it, so with a kind of madness growing upon me, I flung
myself into futurity. At first I scarce thought of stopping, scarce thought of
anything but these new sensations. But presently a fresh series of impressions
grew up in my mind a certain curiosity and therewith a certain dread until at
last they took complete possession of me. What strange developments of humanity,
what wonderful advances upon our rudimentary civilization, I thought, might not
appear when I came to look nearly into the dim elusive world that raced and
fluctuated before my eyes! I saw great and splendid architecture rising about
me, more massive than any buildings of our own time, and yet, as it seemed,
built of glimmer and mist. I saw a richer green flow up the hillside, and remain
there, without any wintry intermission. Even through the veil of my confusion
the earth seemed very fair. And so my mind came round to the business of
"The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some substance in
the space which I, or the machine, occupied. So long as I travelled at a high
velocity through time, this scarcely mattered; I was, so to speak, attenuated
was slipping like a vapour through the interstices of intervening substances!
But to come to a stop involved the jamming of myself, molecule by molecule, into
whatever lay in my way; meant bringing my atoms into such intimate contact with
those of the obstacle that a profound chemical reaction possibly a far-reaching
explosion would result, and blow myself and my apparatus out of all possible
dimensions into the Unknown. This possibility had occurred to me again and again
while I was making the machine; but then I had cheerfully accepted it as an
unavoidable risk one of the risks a man has got to take! Now the risk was
inevitable, I no longer saw it in the same cheerful light. The fact is that
insensibly, the absolute strangeness of everything, the sickly jarring and
swaying of the machine, above all, the feeling of prolonged falling, had
absolutely upset my nerve. I told myself that I could never stop, and with a
gust of petulance I resolved to stop forthwith. Like an impatient fool, I lugged
over the lever, and incontinently the thing went reeling over, and I was flung
headlong through the air.
"There was the sound of a clap of thunder in my ears. I may have been
stunned for a moment. A pitiless hail was hissing round me, and I was sitting on
soft turf in front of the overset machine. Everything still seemed grey, but
presently I remarked that the confusion in my ears was gone. I looked round me.
I was on what seemed to be a little lawn in a garden, surrounded by rhododendron
bushes, and I noticed that their mauve and purple blossoms were dropping in a
shower under the beating of the hailstones. The rebounding, dancing hail hung in
a cloud over the machine, and drove along the ground like smoke. In a moment I
was wet to the skin. 'Fine hospitality,' said I, 'to a man who has travelled
innumerable years to see you.'
"Presently I thought what a fool I was to get wet. I stood up and looked
round me. A colossal figure, carved apparently in some white stone, loomed
indistinctly beyond the rhododendrons through the hazy downpour. But all else of
the world was 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
"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
"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 communication.
"And then, looking more nearly into their features, I saw some further
peculiarities in their Dresden china type of prettiness. Their hair, which was
uniformly curly, came to a sharp end at the neck and cheek; there was not the
faintest suggestion of it on the face, and their ears were singularly minute.
The mouths were small, with bright red, rather thin lips, and the little chins
ran to a point. The eyes were large and mild; and this may seem egotism on my
part I fancied even that there was a certain lack of the interest I might have
expected in them.
"As they made no effort to communicate with me, but simply stood round me
smiling and speaking in soft cooing notes to each other, I began the
conversation. I pointed to the Time Machine and to myself. Then hesitating for a
moment how to express time, I pointed to the sun. At once a quaintly pretty
little figure in chequered purple and white followed my gesture, and then
astonished me by imitating the sound of thunder.
"For a moment I was staggered, though the import of his gesture was plain
enough. The question had come into my mind abruptly: were these creatures fools?
You may hardly understand how it took me. You see I had always anticipated that
the people of the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand odd would be incredibly in
front of us in knowledge, art, everything. Then one of them suddenly asked me a
question that showed him to be on the intellectual level of one of our
five-year-old children asked me, in fact, if I had come from the sun in a
thunderstorm! It let loose the judgment I had suspended upon their clothes,
their frail light limbs, and fragile features. A flow of disappointment rushed
across my mind. For a moment I felt that I had built the Time Machine in vain.
"I nodded, pointed to the sun, and gave them such a vivid rendering of a
thunderclap as startled them. They all withdrew a pace or so and bowed. Then
came one laughing towards me, carrying a chain of beautiful flowers altogether
new to me, and put it about my neck. The idea was received with melodious
applause; and presently they were all running to and fro for flowers, and
laughingly flinging them upon me until I was almost smothered with blossom. You
who have never seen the like can scarcely imagine what delicate and wonderful
flowers countless years of culture had created. Then someone suggested that
their plaything should be exhibited in the nearest building, and so I was led
past the sphinx of white marble, which had seemed to watch me all the while with
a smile at my astonishment, towards a vast grey edifice of fretted stone. As I
went with them the memory of my confident anticipations of a profoundly grave
and intellectual posterity came, with irresistible merriment, to my mind.
"The building had a huge entry, and was altogether of colossal dimensions.
I was naturally most occupied with the growing crowd of little people, and with
the big open portals that yawned before me shadowy and mysterious. My general
impression of the world I saw over their heads was a tangled waste of beautiful
bushes and flowers, a long neglected and yet weedless garden. I saw a number of
tall spikes of strange white flowers, measuring a foot perhaps across the spread
of the waxen petals. They grew scattered, as if wild, among the variegated
shrubs, but, as I say, I did not examine them closely at this time. The Time
Machine was left deserted on the turf among the rhododendrons.
"The arch of the doorway was richly carved, but naturally I did not observe
the carving very narrowly, though I fancied I saw suggestions of old Phoenician
decorations as I passed through, and it struck me that they were very badly
broken and weather- worn. Several more brightly clad people met me in the
doorway, and so we entered, I, dressed in dingy nineteenth-century garments,
looking grotesque enough, garlanded with flowers, and surrounded by an eddying
mass of bright, soft-colored robes and shining white limbs, in a melodious whirl
of laughter and laughing speech.
"The big doorway opened into a proportionately great hall hung with brown.
The roof was in shadow, and the windows, partially glazed with coloured glass
and partially unglazed, admitted a tempered light. The floor was made up of huge
blocks of some very hard white metal, not plates nor slabs, blocks, and it was
so much worn, as I judged by the going to and fro of past generations, as to be
deeply channelled along the more frequented ways. Transverse to the length were
innumerable tables made of slabs of polished stone, raised perhaps a foot from
the floor, and upon these were heaps of fruits. Some I recognized as a kind of
hypertrophied raspberry and orange, but for the most part they were strange.
"Between the tables was scattered a great number of cushions. Upon these my
conductors seated themselves, signing for me to do likewise. With a pretty
absence of ceremony they began to eat the fruit with their hands, flinging peel
and stalks, and so forth, into the round openings in the sides of the tables. I
was not loath to follow their example, for I felt thirsty and hungry. As I did
so I surveyed the hall at my leisure.
"And perhaps the thing that struck me most was its dilapidated look. The
stained-glass windows, which displayed only a geometrical pattern, were broken
in many places, and the curtains that hung across the lower end were thick with
dust. And it caught my eye that the corner of the marble table near me was
fractured. Nevertheless, the general effect was extremely rich and picturesque.
There were, perhaps, a couple of hundred people dining in the hall, and most of
them, seated as near to me as they could come, were watching me with interest,
their little eyes shining over the fruit they were eating. All were clad in the
same soft and yet strong, silky material.
"Fruit, by the by, was all their diet. These people of the remote future
were strict vegetarians, and while I was with them, in spite of some carnal
cravings, I had to be frugivorous also. Indeed, I found afterwards that horses,
cattle, sheep, dogs, had followed the Ichthyosaurus into extinction. But the
fruits were very delightful; one, in particular, that seemed to be in season all
the time I was there--a floury thing in a three-sided husk was especially good,
and I made it my staple. At first I was puzzled by all these strange fruits, and
by the strange flowers I saw, but later I began to perceive their import.
"However, I am telling you of my fruit dinner in the distant future now. So
soon as my appetite was a little checked, I determined to make a resolute
attempt to learn the speech of these new men of mine. Clearly that was the next
thing to do. The fruits seemed a convenient thing to begin upon, and holding one
of these up I began a series of interrogative sounds and gestures. I had some
considerable difficulty in conveying my meaning. At first my efforts met with a
stare of surprise or inextinguishable laughter, but presently a fair-haired
little creature seemed to grasp my intention and repeated a name. They had to
chatter and explain the business at great length to each other, and my first
attempts to make the exquisite little sounds of their language caused an immense
amount of amusement. However, I felt like a schoolmaster amidst children, and
persisted, and presently I had a score of noun substantives at least at my
command; and then I got to demonstrative pronouns, and even the verb "to
eat." But it was slow work, and the little people soon tired and wanted to
get away from my interrogations, so I determined, rather of necessity, to let
them give their lessons in little doses when they felt inclined. And very little
doses I found they were before long, for I never met people more indolent or
more easily fatigued.
"A queer thing I soon discovered about my little hosts, and that was their
lack of interest. They would come to me with eager cries of astonishment, like
children, but like children they would soon stop examining me and wander away
after some other toy. The dinner and my conversational beginnings ended, I noted
for the first time that almost all those who had surrounded me at first were
gone. It is odd, too, how speedily I came to disregard these little people. I
went out through the portal into the sunlit world again as soon as my hunger was
satisfied. I was continually meeting more of these men of the future, who would
follow me a little distance, chatter and laugh about me, and, having smiled and
gesticulated in a friendly way, leave me again to my own devices.
"The calm of evening was upon the world as I emerged from the great hall,
and the scene was lit by the warm glow of the setting sun. At first things were
very confusing. Everything was so entirely different from the world I had known
even the flowers. The big building I had left was situated on the slope of a
broad river valley, but the Thames had shifted perhaps a mile from its present
position. I resolved to mount to the summit of a crest perhaps a mile and a half
away, from which I could get a wider view of this our planet in the year Eight
Hundred and Two Thousand Seven Hundred and One A.D. For that, I should explain,
was the date the little dials of my machine recorded.
"As I walked I was watching for every impression that could possibly help
to explain the condition of ruinous splendour in which I found the world for
ruinous it was. A little way up the hill, for instance, was a great heap of
granite, bound together by masses of aluminium, a vast labyrinth of precipitous
walls and crumpled heaps, amidst which were thick heaps of very beautiful
pagoda-like plants, nettles possibly--but wonderfully tinted with brown about
the leaves, and incapable of stinging. It was evidently the derelict remains of
some vast structure, to what end built I could not determine. It was here that I
was destined, at a later date, to have a very strange experience the first
intimation of a still stranger discovery but of that I will speak in its proper
"Looking round with a sudden thought, from a terrace on which I rested for
a while, I realized that there were no small houses to be seen. Apparently the
single house, and possibly even the household, had vanished. Here and there
among the greenery were palace-like buildings, but the house and the cottage,
which form such characteristic features of our own English landscape, had
"'Communism,' said I to myself.
"And on the heels of that came another thought. I looked at the half-dozen
little figures that were following me. Then, in a flash, I perceived that all
had the same form of costume, the same soft hairless visage, and the same
girlish rotundity of limb. It may seem strange, perhaps, that I had not noticed
this before. But everything was so strange. Now, I saw the fact plainly enough.
In costume, and in all the differences of texture and bearing that now mark off
the sexes from each other, these people of the future were alike. And the
children seemed to my eyes to be but the miniatures of their parents. I judged,
then, that the children of that time were extremely precocious, physically at
least, and I found afterwards abundant verification of my opinion.
"Seeing the ease and security in which these people were living, I felt
that this close resemblance of the sexes was after all what one would expect;
for the strength of a man and the softness of a woman, the institution of the
family, and the differentiation of occupations are mere militant necessities of
an age of physical force; where population is balanced and abundant, much
child-bearing becomes an evil rather than a blessing to the State; where
violence comes but rarely and offspring are secure, there is less necessity,
indeed there is no necessity, for an efficient family, and the specialization of
the sexes with reference to their children's needs disappears. We see some
beginnings of this even in our own time, and in this future age it was complete.
This, I must remind you, was my speculation at the time. Later, I was to
appreciate how far it fell short of the reality.
"While I was musing upon these things, my attention was attracted by a
pretty little structure, like a well under a cupola. I thought in a transitory
way of the oddness of wells still existing, and then resumed the thread of my
speculations. There were no large buildings towards the top of the hill, and as
my walking powers were evidently miraculous, I was presently left alone for the
first time. With a strange sense of freedom and adventure I pushed on up to the
"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 to suit our
"This adjustment, I say, must have been done, and done well; done indeed
for all Time, in the space of Time across which my machine had leaped. The air
was free from gnats, the earth from weeds or fungi; everywhere were fruits and
sweet and delightful flowers; brilliant butterflies flew hither and thither. The
ideal of preventive medicine was attained. Diseases had been stamped out. I saw
no evidence of any contagious diseases during all my stay. And I shall have to
tell you later that even the processes of putrefaction and decay had been
profoundly affected by these changes.
"Social triumphs, too, had been effected. I saw mankind housed in splendid
shelters, gloriously clothed, and as yet I had found them engaged in no toil.
There were no signs of struggle, neither social nor economical struggle. The
shop, the advertisement, traffic, all that commerce which constitutes the body
of our world, was gone. It was natural on that golden evening that I should jump
at the idea of a social paradise. The difficulty of increasing population had
been met, I guessed, and population had ceased to increase.
"But with this change in condition comes inevitably adaptations to the
change. What, unless biological science is a mass of errors, is the cause of
human intelligence and vigour? Hardship and freedom: conditions under which the
active, strong, and subtle survive and the weaker go to the wall; conditions
that put a premium upon the loyal alliance of capable men, upon self-restraint,
patience, and decision. And the institution of the family, and the emotions that
arise therein, the fierce jealousy, the tenderness for offspring, parental
self-devotion, all found their justification and support in the imminent dangers
of the young. Now, where are these imminent dangers? There is a sentiment
arising, and it will grow, against connubial jealousy, against fierce maternity,
against passion of all sorts; unnecessary things now, and things that make us
uncomfortable, savage survivals, discords in a refined and pleasant life.
"I thought of the physical slightness of the people, their lack of
intelligence, and those big abundant ruins, and it strengthened my belief in a
perfect conquest of Nature. For after the battle comes Quiet. Humanity had been
strong, energetic, and intelligent, and had used all its abundant vitality to
alter the conditions under which it lived. And now came the reaction of the
"Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security, that restless
energy, that with us is strength, would become weakness. Even in our own time
certain tendencies and desires, once necessary to survival, are a constant
source of failure. Physical courage and the love of battle, for instance, are no
great help, may even be hindrances, to a civilized man. And in a state of
physical balance and security, power, intellectual as well as physical, would be
out of place. For countless years I judged there had been no danger of war or
solitary violence, no danger from wild beasts, no wasting disease to require
strength of constitution, no need of toil. For such a life, what we should call
the weak are as well equipped as the strong, are indeed no longer weak. Better
equipped indeed they are, for the strong would be fretted by an energy for which
there was no outlet. No doubt the exquisite beauty of the buildings I saw was
the outcome of the last surgings of the now purposeless energy of mankind before
it settled down into perfect harmony with the conditions under which it lived,
the flourish of that triumph which began the last great peace. This has ever
been the fate of energy in security; it takes to art and to eroticism, and then
come languor and decay.
"Even this artistic impetus would at last die away, had almost died in the
Time I saw. To adorn themselves with flowers, to dance, to sing in the sunlight:
so much was left of the artistic spirit, and no more. Even that would fade in
the end into a contented inactivity. We are kept keen on the grindstone of pain
and necessity, and, it seemed to me, that here was that hateful grindstone
broken at last!
"As I stood there in the gathering dark I thought that in this simple
explanation I had mastered the problem of the world, mastered the whole secret
of these delicious people. Possibly the checks they had devised for the increase
of population had succeeded too well, and their numbers had rather diminished
than kept stationary. That would account for the abandoned ruins. Very simple
was my explanation, and plausible enough as most wrong theories are!
"As I stood there musing over this too perfect triumph of man, the full
moon, yellow and gibbous, came up out of an overflow of silver light in the
north-east. The bright little figures ceased to move about below, a noiseless
owl flitted by, and I shivered with the chill of the night. I determined to
descend and find where I could sleep.
"I looked for the building I knew. Then my eye travelled along to the
figure of the White Sphinx upon the pedestal of bronze, growing distinct as the
light of the rising moon grew brighter. I could see the silver birch against it.
There was the tangle of rhododendron bushes, black in the pale light, and there
was the little lawn. I looked at the lawn again. A queer doubt chilled my
complacency. 'No,' said I stoutly to myself,' that was not the 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
"When I reached the lawn my worst fears were realized. Not a trace of the
thing was to be seen. I felt faint and cold when I faced the empty space among
the black tangle of bushes. I ran round it furiously, as if the thing might be
hidden in a corner, and then stopped abruptly, with my hands clutching my hair.
Above me towered the sphinx, upon the bronze pedestal, white, shining, leprous,
in the light of the rising moon. It seemed to smile in mockery of my dismay.
"I might have consoled myself by imagining the little people had put the
mechanism in some shelter for me, had I not felt assured of their physical and
intellectual inadequacy. That is what dismayed me: the sense of some hitherto
unsuspected power, through whose intervention my invention had vanished. Yet,
for one thing I felt assured: unless some other age had produced its exact
duplicate, the machine could not have moved in time. The attachment of the
levers, I will show you the method later, prevented any one from tampering with
it in that way when they were removed. It had moved, and was hid, only in space.
But then, where could it be?
"I think I must have had a kind of frenzy. I remember running violently in
and out among the moonlit bushes all round the sphinx, and startling some white
animal that, in the dim light, I took for a small deer. I remember, too, late
that night, beating the bushes with my clenched fist until my knuckles were
gashed and bleeding from the broken twigs. Then, sobbing and raving in my
anguish of mind, I went down to the great building of stone. The big hall was
dark, silent, and deserted. I slipped on the uneven floor, and fell over one of
the malachite tables, almost breaking my shin. I lit a match and went on past
the dusty curtains, of which I have told you.
"There I found a second great hall covered with cushions, upon which,
perhaps, a score or so of the little people were sleeping. I have no doubt they
found my second appearance strange enough, coming suddenly out of the quiet
darkness with inarticulate noises and the splutter and flare of a match. For
they had forgotten about matches. 'Where is my Time Machine?' I began, bawling
like an angry child, laying hands upon them and shaking them up together. It
must have been very queer to them. Some laughed, most of them looked sorely
frightened. When I saw them standing round me, it came into my head that I was
doing as foolish a thing as it was possible for me to do under the circumstances,
in trying to revive the sensation of fear. For, reasoning from their daylight
behaviour, I thought that fear must 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 moonlit ruins and touching
strange creatures in the black shadows; at last, of lying on the ground near the
sphinx and weeping with absolute wretchedness. I had nothing left but misery.
Then I slept, and when I woke again it was full day, and a couple of sparrows
were hopping round me on the turf within reach of my arm.
"I sat up in the freshness of the morning, trying to remember how I had got
there, and why I had such a profound sense of desertion and despair. Then things
came clear in my mind. With the plain, reasonable daylight, I could look my
circumstances fairly in the face. I saw the wild folly of my frenzy overnight,
and I could reason with myself. 'Suppose the worst?' I said. 'Suppose the
machine altogether lost perhaps destroyed? It behoves me to be calm and patient,
to learn the way of the people, to get a clear idea of the method of my loss,
and the means of getting materials and tools; so that in the end, perhaps, I may
make another.' That would be my only hope, perhaps, but better than despair.
And, after all, it was a beautiful and curious world.
"But probably, the machine had only been taken away. Still, I must be calm
and patient, find its hiding-place, and recover it by force or cunning. And with
that I scrambled to my feet and looked about me, wondering where I could bathe.
I felt weary, stiff, and travel-soiled. The freshness of the morning made me
desire an equal freshness. I had exhausted my emotion. Indeed, as I went about
my business, I found myself wondering at my intense excitement overnight. I made
a careful examination of the ground about the little lawn. I wasted some time in
futile questionings, conveyed, as well as I was able, to such of the little
people as came by. They all failed to understand my gestures; some were simply
stolid, some thought it was a jest and laughed at me. I had the hardest task in
the world to keep my hands off their pretty laughing faces. It was a foolish
impulse, but the devil begotten of fear and blind anger was ill curbed and still
eager to take advantage of my perplexity. The turf gave better counsel. I found
a groove ripped in it, about midway between the pedestal of the sphinx and the
marks of my feet where, on arrival, I had struggled with the overturned machine.
There were other signs of removal about, with queer narrow footprints like those
I could imagine made by a sloth. This directed my closer attention to the
pedestal. It was, as I think I have said, of bronze. It was not a mere block,
but highly decorated with deep framed panels on either side. I went and rapped
at these. The pedestal was hollow. Examining the panels with care I found them
discontinuous with the frames. There were no handles or keyholes, but possibly
the panels, if they were doors, as I supposed, opened from within. One thing was
clear enough to my mind. It took no very great mental effort to infer that my
Time Machine was inside that pedestal. But how it got there was a different
"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
"But I was not beaten yet. I banged with my fist at the bronze panels. I
thought I heard something stir inside, to be explicit, I thought I heard a sound
like a chuckle but I must have been mistaken. Then I got a big pebble from the
river, and came and hammered till I had flattened a coil in the decorations, and
the verdigris came off in powdery flakes. The delicate little people must have
heard me hammering in gusty outbreaks a mile away on either hand, but nothing
came of it. I saw a crowd of them upon the slopes, looking furtively at me. At
last, hot and tired, I sat down to watch the place. But I was too restless to
watch long; I am too Occidental for a long vigil. I could work at a problem for
years, but to wait inactive for twenty-four hours, that is another matter.
"I got up after a time, and began walking aimlessly through the bushes
towards the hill again. 'Patience,' said I to myself. 'If you want your machine
again you must leave that sphinx alone. If they mean to take your machine away,
it's little good your wrecking their bronze panels, and if they don't, you will
get it back as soon as you can ask for it. To sit among all those unknown things
before a puzzle like that is hopeless. That way lies monomania. Face this world.
Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the
end you will find clues to it all.' Then suddenly the humour of the situation
came into my mind: the thought of the years I had spent in study and toil to get
into the future age, and now my passion of anxiety to get out of it. I had made
myself the most complicated and the most hopeless trap that ever a man devised.
Although it was at my own expense, I could not help myself. I laughed aloud.
"Going through the big palace, it seemed to me that the little people
avoided me. It may have been my fancy, or it may have had something to do with
my hammering at the gates of bronze. Yet I felt tolerably sure of the avoidance.
I was careful, however, to show no concern and to abstain from any pursuit of
them, and in the course of a day or two things got back to the old footing. I
made what progress I could in the language, and in addition I pushed my
explorations here and there. Either I missed some subtle point or their language
was excessively simple, almost exclusively composed of concrete substantives and
verbs. There seemed to be few, if any, abstract terms, or little use of
figurative language. Their sentences were usually simple and of two words, and I
failed to convey or understand any but the simplest propositions. I determined
to put the thought of my Time Machine and the mystery of the bronze doors under
the sphinx as much as possible in a corner of memory, until my growing knowledge
would lead me back to them in a natural way. Yet a certain feeling, you may
understand, tethered me in a circle of a few miles round the point of my arrival.
"So far as I could see, all the world displayed the same exuberant richness
as the Thames valley. From every hill I climbed I saw the same abundance of
splendid buildings, endlessly varied in material and style, the same clustering
thickets of evergreens, the same blossom-laden trees and tree ferns. Here and
there water shone like silver, and beyond, the land rose into blue undulating
hills, and so faded into the serenity of the sky. A peculiar feature, which
presently attracted my attention, was the presence of certain circular wells,
several, as it seemed to me, of a very great depth. One lay by the path up the
hill, which I had followed during my first walk. Like the others, it was rimmed
with bronze, curiously wrought, and protected by a little cupola from the rain.
Sitting by the side of these wells, and peering down into the shafted darkness,
I could see no gleam of water, nor could I start any reflection with a lighted
match. But in all of them I heard a certain sound: a thud, thud, thud, like the
beating of some big engine; and I discovered, from the flaring of my matches,
that a steady current of air set down the shafts. Further, I threw a scrap of
paper into the throat of one, and, instead of fluttering slowly down, it was at
once sucked swiftly out of sight.
"After a time, too, I came to connect these wells with tall towers standing
here and there upon the slopes; for above them there was often just such a
flicker in the air as one sees on a hot day above a sun-scorched beach. Putting
things together, I reached a strong suggestion of an extensive system of
subterranean ventilation, whose true import it was difficult to imagine. I was
at first inclined to associate it with the sanitary apparatus of these people.
It was an obvious conclusion, but it was absolutely wrong.
"And here I must admit that I learned very little of drains and bells and
modes of conveyance, and the like conveniences, during my time in this real
future. In some of these visions of Utopias and coming times which I have read,
there is a vast amount of detail about building, and social arrangements, and so
forth. But while such details are easy enough to obtain when the whole world is
contained in one's imagination, they are altogether inaccessible to a real
traveller amid such realities as I found here. Conceive the tale of London which
a negro, fresh from Central Africa, would take back to his tribe! What would he
know of railway companies, of social movements, of telephone and telegraph wires,
of the Parcels Delivery Company, and postal orders and the like? Yet we, at
least, should be willing enough to explain these things to him! And even of what
he knew, how much could he make his untravelled friend either apprehend or
believe? Then, think how narrow the gap between a negro and a white man of our
own times, and how wide the interval between myself and these of the Golden Age!
I was sensible of much which was unseen, and which contributed to my comfort;
but save for a general impression of automatic organization, I fear I can convey
very little of the difference to your mind.
"In the matter of sepulchre, for instance, I could see no signs of
crematoria nor anything suggestive of tombs. But it occurred to me that,
possibly, there might be cemeteries (or crematoria) somewhere beyond the range
of my explorings. This, again, was a question I deliberately put to myself, and
my curiosity was at first entirely defeated upon the point. The thing puzzled
me, and I was led to make a further remark, which puzzled me still more: that
aged and infirm among this people there were none.
"I must confess that my satisfaction with my first theories of an automatic
civilization and a decadent humanity did not long endure. Yet I could think of
no other. Let me put my difficulties. The several big palaces I had explored
were mere living places, great dining-halls and sleeping apartments. I could
find no machinery, no appliances of any kind. Yet these people were clothed in
pleasant fabrics that must at times need renewal, and their sandals, though
undecorated, were fairly complex specimens of metal-work. Somehow such things
must be made. And the little people displayed no vestige of a creative tendency.
There were no shops, no workshops, no sign of importations among them. They
spent all their time in playing gently, in bathing in the river, in making love
in a half-playful fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. I could not see how
things were kept going.
"Then, again, about the Time Machine: something, I knew not what, had taken
it into the hollow pedestal of the White Sphinx. Why? For the life of me I could
not imagine. Those waterless wells, too, those flickering pillars. I felt I
lacked a clue. I felt how shall I put it? Suppose you found an inscription, with
sentences here and there in excellent plain English, and interpolated therewith,
others made up of words, of letters even, absolutely unknown to you? Well, on
the third day of my visit, that was how the world of Eight Hundred and Two
Thousand Seven Hundred and One presented itself to me!
"That day, too, I made a friend of a sort. It happened that, as I was
watching some of the little people bathing in a shallow, one of them was seized
with cramp and began drifting downstream. The main current ran rather swiftly,
but not too strongly for even a moderate swimmer. It will give you an idea,
therefore, of the strange deficiency in these creatures, when I tell you that
none made the slightest attempt to rescue the weakly crying little thing which
was drowning before their eyes. When I realized this, I hurriedly slipped off my
clothes, and, wading in at a point lower down, I caught the poor mite and drew
her safe to land. A little rubbing of the limbs soon brought her round, and I
had the satisfaction of seeing she was all right before I left her. I had got to
such a low estimate of her kind that I did not expect any gratitude from her. In
that, however, I was wrong.
"This happened in the morning. In the afternoon I met my little woman, as I
believe it was, as I was returning towards my centre from an exploration, and
she received me with cries of delight and presented me with a big garland of
flowers evidently made for me and me alone. The thing took my imagination. Very
possibly I had been feeling desolate. At any rate I did my best to display my
appreciation of the gift. We were soon seated together in a little stone arbour,
engaged in conversation, chiefly of smiles. The creature's friendliness affected
me exactly as a child's might have done. We passed each other flowers, and she
kissed my hands. I did the same to hers. Then I tried talk, and found that her
name was Weena, which, though I don't know what it meant, somehow seemed
appropriate enough. That was the beginning of a queer friendship which lasted a
week, and ended as I will tell you! "She was exactly like a child. She
wanted to be with me always. She tried to follow me everywhere, and on my next
journey out and about it went to my heart to tire her down, and leave her at
last, exhausted and calling after me rather plaintively. But the problems of the
world had to be mastered. I had not, I said to myself, come into the future to
carry on a miniature flirtation. Yet her distress when I left her was very great,
her expostulations at the parting were sometimes frantic, and I think,
altogether, I had as much trouble as comfort from her devotion. Nevertheless she
was, somehow, a very great comfort. I thought it was mere childish affection
that made her cling to me. Until it was too late, I did not clearly know what I
had inflicted upon her when I left her. Nor until it was too late did I clearly
understand what she was to me. For, by merely seeming fond of me, and showing in
her weak, futile way that she cared for me, the little doll of a creature
presently gave my return to the neighbourhood of the White Sphinx almost the
feeling of coming home; and I would watch for her tiny figure of white and gold
so soon as I came over the hill.
"It was from her, too, that I learned that fear had not yet left the world.
She was fearless enough in the daylight, and she had the oddest confidence in
me; for once, in a foolish moment, I made threatening grimaces at her, and she
simply laughed at them. But she dreaded the dark, dreaded shadows, dreaded black
things. Darkness to her was the one thing dreadful. It was a singularly
passionate emotion, and it set me thinking and observing. I discovered then,
among other things, that these little people gathered into the great houses
after dark, and slept in droves. To enter upon them without a light was to put
them into a tumult of apprehension. I never found one out of doors, or one
sleeping alone within doors, after dark. Yet I was still such a blockhead that I
missed the lesson of that fear, and in spite of Weena's distress I insisted upon
sleeping away from these slumbering multitudes.
"It troubled her greatly, but in the end her odd affection for me triumphed,
and for five of the nights of our acquaintance, including the last night of all,
she slept with her head pillowed on my arm. But my story slips away from me as I
speak of her. It must have been the night before her rescue that I was awakened
about dawn. I had been restless, dreaming most disagreeably that I was drowned,
and that sea anemones were feeling over my face with their soft palps. I woke
with a start, and with an odd fancy that some greyish animal had just rushed out
of the chamber. I tried to get to sleep again, but I felt restless and
uncomfortable. It was that dim grey hour when things are just creeping out of
darkness, when everything is colourless and clear cut, and yet unreal. I got up,
and went down into the great hall, and so out upon the flagstones in front of
the palace. I thought I would make a virtue of necessity, and see the sunrise.
"The moon was setting, and the dying moonlight and the first pallor of dawn
were mingled in a ghastly half-light. The bushes were inky black, the ground a
sombre grey, the sky colourless and cheerless. And up the hill I thought I could
see ghosts. There several times, as I scanned the slope, I saw white figures.
Twice I fancied I saw a solitary white, ape-like creature running rather quickly
up the hill, and once near the ruins I saw a leash of them carrying some dark
body. They moved hastily. I did not see what became of them. It seemed that they
vanished among the bushes. The dawn was still indistinct, you must understand. I
was feeling that chill, uncertain, early-morning feeling you may have known. I
doubted my eyes.
"As the eastern sky grew brighter, and the light of the day came on and its
vivid colouring returned upon the world once more, I scanned the view keenly.
But I saw no vestige of my white figures. They were mere creatures of the
half-light. 'They must have been ghosts,' I said; 'I wonder whence they dated.'
For a queer notion of Grant Allen's came into my head, and amused me. If each
generation die and leave ghosts, he argued, the world at last will get
overcrowded with them. On that theory they would have grown innumerable some
Eight Hundred Thousand Years hence, and it was no great wonder to see four at
once. But the jest was unsatisfying, and I was thinking of these figures all the
morning, until Weena's rescue drove them out of my head. I associated them in
some indefinite way with the white animal I had startled in my first passionate
search for the Time Machine. But Weena was a pleasant substitute. Yet all the
same, they were soon destined to take far deadlier possession of my mind.
"I think I have said how much hotter than our own was the weather of this
Golden Age. I cannot account for it. It may be that the sun was hotter, or the
earth nearer the sun. It is usual to assume that the sun will go on cooling
steadily in the future. But people, unfamiliar with such speculations as those
of the younger Darwin, forget that the planets must ultimately fall back one by
one into the parent body. As these catastrophes occur, the sun will blaze with
renewed energy; and it may be that some inner planet had suffered this fate.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the sun was very much hotter than we
"Well, one very hot morning my fourth, I think, as I was seeking shelter
from the heat and glare in a colossal ruin near the great house where I slept
and fed, there happened this strange thing. Clambering among these heaps of
masonry, I found a narrow gallery, whose end and side windows were blocked by
fallen masses of stone. By contrast with the brilliancy outside, it seemed at
first impenetrably dark to me. I entered it groping, for the change from light
to blackness made spots of colour swim before me. Suddenly I halted spellbound.
A pair of eyes, luminous by reflection against the daylight without, was
watching me out of the darkness.
"The old instinctive dread of wild beasts came upon me. I clenched my hands
and steadfastly looked into the glaring eyeballs. I was afraid to turn. Then the
thought of the absolute security in which humanity appeared to be living came to
my mind. And then I remembered that strange terror of the dark. Overcoming my
fear to some extent, I advanced a step and spoke. I will admit that my voice was
harsh and ill-controlled. I put out my hand and touched something soft. At once
the eyes darted sideways, and something white ran past me. I turned with my
heart in my mouth, and saw a queer little ape-like figure, its head held down in
a peculiar manner, running across the sunlit space behind me. It blundered
against a block of granite, staggered aside, and in a moment was hidden in a
black shadow beneath another pile of ruined masonry.
"My impression of it is, of course, imperfect; but I know it was a dull
white, and had strange large greyish-red eyes; also that there was flaxen hair
on its head and down its back. But as I say, it went too fast for me to see
distinctly. I cannot even say whether it ran on all fours, or only with its
forearms held very low. After an instant's pause I followed it into the second
heap of ruins. I could not find it at first; but, after a time in the profound
obscurity, I came upon one of those round well-like openings of which I have
told you, half closed by a fallen pillar. A sudden thought came to me. Could
this Thing have vanished down the shaft? I lit a match, and, looking down, I saw
a small, white, moving creature, with large bright eyes which regarded me
steadfastly as it retreated. It made me shudder. It was so like a human spider!
It was clambering down the wall, and now I saw for the first time a number of
metal foot and hand rests forming a kind of ladder down the shaft. Then the
light burned my fingers and fell out of my hand, going out as it dropped, and
when I had lit another the little monster had disappeared.
"I do not know how long I sat peering down that well. It was not for some
time that I could succeed in persuading myself that the thing I had seen was
human. But, gradually, the truth dawned on me: that Man had not remained one
species, but had differentiated into two distinct animals: that my graceful
children of the Upper-world were not the sole descendants of our generation, but
that this bleached, obscene, nocturnal Thing, which had flashed before me, was
also heir to all the ages.
"I thought of the flickering pillars and of my theory of an underground
ventilation. I began to suspect their true import. And what, I wondered, was
this Lemur doing in my scheme of a perfectly balanced organization? How was it
related to the indolent serenity of the beautiful Upper-worlders? And what was
hidden down there, at the foot of that shaft? I sat upon the edge of the well
telling myself that, at any rate, there was nothing to fear, and that there I
must descend for the solution of my difficulties. And withal I was absolutely
afraid to go! As I hesitated, two of the beautiful Upper-world people came
running in their amorous sport across the daylight in the shadow. The male
pursued the female, flinging flowers at her as he ran.
"They seemed distressed to find me, my arm against the overturned pillar,
peering down the well. Apparently it was considered bad form to remark these
apertures; for when I pointed to this one, and tried to frame a question about
it in their tongue, they were still more visibly distressed and turned away. But
they were interested by my matches, and I struck some to amuse them. I tried
them again about the well, and again I failed. So presently I left them, meaning
to go back to Weena, and see what I could get from her. But my mind was already
in revolution; my guesses and impressions were slipping and sliding to a new
adjustment. I had now a clue to the import of these wells, to the ventilating
towers, to the mystery of the ghosts; to say nothing of a hint at the meaning of
the bronze gates and the fate of the Time Machine! And very vaguely there came a
suggestion towards the solution of the economic problem that had 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 Havenots, the Workers
getting continually adapted to the conditions of their labour. Once they were
there, they would no doubt have to pay rent, and not a little of it, for the
ventilation of their caverns; and if they refused, they would starve or be
suffocated for arrears. Such of them as were so constituted as to be miserable
and rebellious would die; and, in the end, the balance being permanent, the
survivors would become as well adapted to the conditions of underground life,
and as happy in their way, as the Upper-world people were to theirs. As it
seemed to me, the refined beauty and the etiolated pallor followed naturally
"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
Underworld, but here again I was disappointed. At first she would not understand
my questions, and presently she refused to answer them. She shivered as though
the topic was unendurable. And when I pressed her, perhaps a little harshly, she
burst into tears. They were the only tears, except my own, I ever saw in that
Golden Age. When I saw them I ceased abruptly to trouble about the Morlocks, and
was only concerned in banishing these signs of the human inheritance from
Weena's eyes. And very soon she was smiling and clapping her hands, while I
solemnly burned a 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
"It was this restlessness, this insecurity, perhaps, that drove me further
and further afield in my exploring expeditions. Going to the south-westward
towards the rising country that is now called Combe Wood, I observed far off, in
the direction of nineteenth-century Banstead, a vast green structure, different
in character from any I had hitherto seen. It was larger than the largest of the
palaces or ruins I knew, and the facade had an Oriental look: the face of it
having the lustre, as well as the pale-green tint, a kind of bluish-green, of a
certain type of Chinese porcelain. This difference in aspect suggested a
difference in use, and I was minded to push on and explore. But the day was
growing late, and I had come upon the sight of the place after a long and tiring
circuit; so I resolved to hold over the adventure for the following day, and I
returned to the welcome and the caresses of little Weena. But next morning I
perceived clearly enough that my curiosity regarding the Palace of Green
Porcelain was a piece of self-deception, to enable me to shirk, by another day,
an experience I dreaded. I resolved I would make the descent without further
waste of time, and started out in the early morning towards a well near the
ruins of granite and aluminium.
"Little Weena ran with me. She danced beside me to the well, but when she
saw me lean over the mouth and look downward, she seemed strangely disconcerted.
'Good-bye, Little Weena,' I said, kissing her; and then putting her down, I
began to feel over the parapet for the climbing hooks. Rather hastily, I may as
well confess, for I feared my courage might leak away! At first she watched me
in amazement. Then she gave a most piteous cry, and running to me, she began to
pull at me with her little hands. I think her opposition nerved me rather to
proceed. I shook her off, perhaps a little roughly, and in another moment I was
in the throat of the well. I saw her agonized face over the parapet, and smiled
to reassure her. Then I had to look down at the unstable hooks to which I clung.
"I had to clamber down a shaft of perhaps two hundred yards. The descent
was effected by means of metallic bars projecting from the sides of the well,
and these being adapted to the needs of a creature much smaller and lighter than
myself, I was speedily cramped and fatigued by the descent. And not simply
fatigued! One of the bars bent suddenly under my weight, and almost swung me off
into the blackness beneath. For a moment I hung by one hand, and after that
experience I did not dare to rest again. Though my arms and back were presently
acutely painful, I went on clambering down the sheer descent with as quick a
motion as possible. Glancing upward, I saw the aperture, a small blue disk, in
which a star was visible, while little Weena's head showed as a round black
projection. The thudding sound of a machine below grew louder and more
oppressive. Everything save that little disk above was profoundly dark, and when
I looked up again Weena had disappeared.
"I was in an agony of discomfort. I had some thought of trying to go up the
shaft again, and leave the Underworld alone. But even while I turned this over
in my mind I continued to descend. At last, with intense relief, I saw dimly
coming up, a foot to the right of me, a slender loophole in the wall. Swinging
myself in, I found it was the aperture of a narrow horizontal tunnel in which I
could lie down and rest. It was not too soon. My arms ached, my back was cramped,
and I was trembling with the prolonged terror of a fall. Besides this, the
unbroken darkness had had a distressing effect upon my eyes. The air was full of
the throb and hum of machinery pumping air down the shaft.
"I do not know how long I lay. I was roused by a soft hand touching my face.
Starting up in the darkness I snatched at my matches and, hastily striking one,
I saw three stooping white creatures similar to the one I had seen above ground
in the ruin, hastily retreating before the light. Living, as they did, in what
appeared to me impenetrable darkness, their eyes were abnormally large and
sensitive, just as are the pupils of the abysmal fishes, and they reflected the
light in the same way. I have no doubt they could see me in that rayless
obscurity, and they did not seem to have any fear of me apart from the light.
But, so soon as I struck a match in order to see them, they fled incontinently,
vanishing into dark gutters and tunnels, from which their eyes glared at me in
the strangest fashion.
"I tried to call to them, but the language they had was apparently
different from that of the Upper-world people; so that I was left to my own
unaided efforts, and the thought of flight before exploration was even then in
my mind. But I said to myself, "You are in for it now," and, feeling
my way along the tunnel, I found the noise of machinery grow louder. Presently
the walls fell away from me, and I came to a large open space, and striking
another match, saw that I had entered a vast arched cavern, which stretched into
utter darkness beyond the range of my light. The view I had of it was as much as
one could see in the burning of a match.
"Necessarily my memory is vague. Great shapes like big machines rose out of
the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks
sheltered from the glare. The place, by the by, was very stuffy and oppressive,
and the faint halitus of freshly-shed blood was in the air. Some way down the
central vista was a little table of white metal, laid with what seemed a meal.
The Morlocks at any rate were carnivorous! Even at the time, I remember
wondering what large animal could have survived to furnish the red joint I saw.
It was all very indistinct: the heavy smell, the big unmeaning shapes, the
obscene figures lurking in the shadows, and only waiting for the darkness to
come at me again! Then the match burned down, and stung my fingers, and fell, a
wriggling red spot in the blackness.
|"I have thought since how particularly ill-equipped I was for such
an experience. When I had started with the Time Machine, I had started
with the absurd assumption that the men of the Future would certainly be
infinitely ahead of ourselves in all their appliances. I had come without
arms, without medicine, without anything to smoke—at times I missed
tobacco frightfully—even without enough matches. If only I had thought
of a Kodak! I could have flashed that glimpse of the Underworld in a
second, and examined it at leisure. But, as it was, I stood there with
only the weapons and the powers that Nature had endowed me with—hands,
feet, and teeth; these, and four safety-matches that still remained to me.
| ‘I was afraid to push my way in among all this machinery
in the dark, and it was only with my last glimpse of light I discovered
that my store of matches had run low. It had never occurred to me until
that moment that there was any need to economize them, and I had wasted
almost half the box in astonishing the Upper-worlders, to whom fire was a
novelty. Now, as I say, I had four left, and while I stood in the dark, a
hand touched mine, lank fingers came feeling over my face, and I was
sensible of a peculiar unpleasant odour. I fancied I heard the breathing
of a crowd of those dreadful little beings about me. I felt the box of
matches in my hand being gently disengaged, and other hands behind me
plucking at my clothing. The sense of these unseen creatures examining me
was indescribably unpleasant. The sudden realization of my ignorance of
their ways of thinking and doing came home to me very vividly in the
darkness. I shouted at them as loudly as I could. They started away, and
then I could feel them approaching me again. They clutched at me more
boldly, whispering odd sounds to each other. I shivered violently, and
shouted again rather discordantly. This time they were not so seriously
alarmed, and they made a queer laughing noise as they came back at me. I
will confess I was horribly frightened. I determined to strike another
match and escape under the protection of its glare. I did so, and eking
out the flicker with a scrap of paper from my pocket, I made good my
retreat to the narrow tunnel. But I had scarce entered this when my light
was blown out and in the blackness I could hear the Morlocks rustling like
wind among leaves, and pattering like the rain, as they hurried after me.
| ‘In a moment I was clutched by several hands, and there
was no mistaking that they were trying to haul me back. I struck another
light, and waved it in their dazzled faces. You can scarce imagine how
nauseatingly inhuman they looked—those pale, chinless faces and great,
lidless, pinkish-grey eyes!—as they stared in their blindness and
bewilderment. But I did not stay to look, I promise you: I retreated again,
and when my second match had ended, I struck my third. It had almost
burned through when I reached the opening into the shaft. I lay down on
the edge, for the throb of the great pump below made me giddy. Then I felt
sideways for the projecting hooks, and, as I did so, my feet were grasped
from behind, and I was violently tugged backward. I lit my last match …
and it incontinently went out. But I had my hand on the climbing bars now,
and, kicking violently, I disengaged myself from the clutches of the
Morlocks and was speedily clambering up the shaft, while they stayed
peering and blinking up at me: all but one little wretch who followed me
for some way, and well-nigh secured my boot as a trophy.
| ‘That climb seemed interminable to me. With the last
twenty or thirty feet of it a deadly nausea came upon me. I had the
greatest difficulty in keeping my hold. The last few yards was a frightful
struggle against this faintness. Several times my head swam, and I felt
all the sensations of falling. At last, however, I got over the well-mouth
somehow, and staggered out of the ruin into the blinding sunlight. I fell
upon my face. Even the soil smelt sweet and clean. Then I remember Weena
kissing my hands and ears, and the voices of others among the Eloi. Then,
for a time, I was insensible."