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
upon, and there was that luxurious after-dinner atmosphere when
thought roams gracefully free of the trammels of precision. And
he put it to us in this way--marking the points with a lean
forefinger--as we sat and lazily admired his earnestness over
this new paradox (as we thought it:) and his fecundity.
`You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one
or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The geometry,
for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a
`Is not that rather a large thing to expect us to begin upon?'
said Filby, an argumentative person with red hair.
`I do not mean to ask you to accept anything without reasonable
ground for it. You will soon admit as much as I need from you.
You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness
NIL, has no real existence. They taught you that? Neither has
a mathematical plane. These things are mere abstractions.'
`That is all right,' said the Psychologist.
`Nor, having only length, breadth, and thickness, can a cube
have a real existence.'
`There I object,' said Filby. `Of course a solid body may
exist. All real things--'
`So most people think. But wait a moment. Can an
INSTANTANEOUS cube exist?'
`Don't follow you,' said Filby.
`Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real
Filby became pensive. `Clearly,' the Time Traveller proceeded,
`any real body must have extension in FOUR directions: it must
have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and--Duration. But through a
natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in
moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four
dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and
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
one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of
`That,' said a very young man, making spasmodic efforts to
relight his cigar over the lamp; `that . . . very clear indeed.'
`Now, it is very remarkable that this is so extensively
overlooked,' continued the Time Traveller, with a slight
accession of cheerfulness. `Really this is what is meant by the
Fourth Dimension, though some people who talk about the Fourth
Dimension do not know they mean it. It is only another way of
looking at Time. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TIME AND ANY OF
THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF SPACE EXCEPT THAT OUR CONSCIOUSNESS MOVES
ALONG IT. But some foolish people have got hold of the wrong
side of that idea. You have all heard what they have to say
about this Fourth Dimension?'
`_I_ have not,' said the Provincial Mayor.
`It is simply this. That Space, as our mathematicians have it,
is spoken of as having three dimensions, which one may call
Length, Breadth, and Thickness, and is always definable by
reference to three planes, each at right angles to the others.
But some philosophical people have been asking why THREE
dimensions particularly--why not another direction at right
angles to the other three?--and have even tried to construct a
Four-Dimension geometry. Professor Simon Newcomb was expounding
this to the New York Mathematical Society only a month or so ago.
You know how on a flat surface, which has only two dimensions,
we can represent a figure of a three-dimensional solid, and
similarly they think that by models of thee dimensions they could
represent one of four--if they could master the perspective of
the thing. See?'
`I think so,' murmured the Provincial Mayor; and, knitting his
brows, he lapsed into an introspective state, his lips moving
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
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
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
Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely
enough, and men always have done so. I admit we move freely in
two dimensions. But how about up and down? Gravitation limits
`Not exactly,' said the Medical Man. `There are balloons.'
`But before the balloons, save for spasmodic jumping and the
inequalities of the surface, man had no freedom of vertical
movement.' `Still they could move a little up and down,' said
the Medical Man.
`Easier, far easier down than up.'
`And you cannot move at all in Time, you cannot get away from
the present moment.'
`My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong. That is just
where the whole world has gone wrong. We are always getting away
from the present movement. Our mental existences, which are
immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the
Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the
grave. Just as we should travel DOWN if we began our existence
fifty miles above the earth's surface.'
`But the great difficulty is this,' interrupted the
Psychologist. `You CAN move about in all directions of Space,
but you cannot move about in Time.'
`That is the germ of my great discovery. But you are wrong to
say that we cannot move about in Time. For instance, if I am
recalling an incident very vividly I go back to the instant of
its occurrence: I become absent-minded, as you say. I jump back
for a moment. Of course we have no means of staying back for any
length of Time, any more than a savage or an animal has of
staying six feet above the ground. But a civilized man is better
off than the savage in this respect. He can go up against
gravitation in a balloon, and why should he not hope that
ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along
the Time-Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way?'
`Oh, THIS,' began Filby, `is all--'
`Why not?' said the Time Traveller.
`It's against reason,' said Filby.
`What reason?' said the Time Traveller.
`You can show black is white by argument,' said Filby, `but
will never convince me.'
`Possibly not,' said the Time Traveller. `But now you begin
see the object of my investigations into the geometry of Four
Dimensions. Long ago I had a vague inkling of a machine--'
`To travel through Time!' exclaimed the Very Young Man.
`That shall travel indifferently in any direction of Space and
Time, as the driver determines.'
Filby contented himself with laughter.
`But I have experimental verification,' said the Time
`It would be remarkably convenient for the historian,' the
Psychologist suggested. `One might travel back and verify the
accepted account of the Battle of Hastings, for instance!'
`Don't you think you would attract attention?' said the Medical
Man. `Our ancestors had no great tolerance for anachronisms.'
`One might get one's Greek from the very lips of Homer and
Plato,' the Very Young Man thought.
`In which case they would certainly plough you for the
Little-go. The German scholars have improved Greek so much.'
`Then there is the future,' said the Very Young Man. `Just
think! One might invest all one's money, leave it to accumulate
at interest, and hurry on ahead!'
`To discover a society,' said I, `erected on a strictly
`Of all the wild extravagant theories!' began the Psychologist.
`Yes, so it seemed to me, and so I never talked of it until--'
`Experimental verification!' cried I. `You are going to verify
`The experiment!' cried Filby, who was getting brain-weary.
`Let's see your experiment anyhow,' said the Psychologist,
`though it's all humbug, you know.'
The Time Traveller smiled round at us. Then, still smiling
faintly, and with his hands deep in his trousers pockets, he
walked slowly out of the room, and we heard his slippers
shuffling down the long passage to his laboratory.
The Psychologist looked at us. `I wonder what he's got?'
`Some sleight-of-hand trick or other,' said the Medical Man,
and Filby tried to tell us about a conjurer he had seen at
Burslem; but before he had finished his preface the Time
Traveller came back, and Filby's anecdote collapsed.
The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering
metallic framework, scarcely larger than a small clock, and very
delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent
crystalline substance. And now I must be explicit, for this that
follows--unless his explanation is to be accepted--is an
absolutely unaccountable thing. He took one of the small
octagonal tables that were scattered about the room, and set it
in front of the fire, with two legs on the hearthrug. On this
table he placed the mechanism. Then he drew up a chair, and sat
down. The only other object on the table was a small shaded
lamp, the bright light of which fell upon the model. There were
also perhaps a dozen candles about, two in brass candlesticks
upon the mantel and several in sconces, so that the room was
brilliantly illuminated. I sat in a low arm-chair nearest the
fire, and I drew this forward so as to be almost between the Time
Traveller and the fireplace. Filby sat behind him, looking over
his shoulder. The Medical Man and the Provincial Mayor watched
him in profile from the right, the Psychologist from the left.
The Very Young Man stood behind the Psychologist. We were all
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,
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.
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
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
The Psychologist recovered from his stupor, and suddenly looked
under the table. At that the Time Traveller laughed cheerfully.
`Well?' he said, with a reminiscence of the Psychologist. Then,
getting up, he went to the tobacco jar on the mantel, and with
his back to us began to fill his pipe.
We stared at each other. `Look here,' said the Medical Man,
`are you in earnest about this? Do you seriously believe that
that machine has travelled into time?'
`Certainly,' said the Time Traveller, stooping to light a spill
at the fire. Then he turned, lighting his pipe, to look at the
Psychologist's face. (The Psychologist, to show that he was not
unhinged, helped himself to a cigar and tried to light it uncut.)
`What is more, I have a big machine nearly finished in there'--he
indicated the laboratory--`and when that is put together I mean
to have a journey on my own account.'
`You mean to say that that machine has travelled into the
future?' said Filby.
`Into the future or the past--I don't, for certain, know
After an interval the Psychologist had an inspiration. `It
must have gone into the past if it has gone anywhere,' he said.
`Why?' said the Time Traveller.
`Because I presume that it has not moved in space, and if it
travelled into the future it would still be here all this time,
since it must have travelled through this time.'
`But,' I said, `If it travelled into the past it would have
been visible when we came first into this room; and last Thursday
when we were here; and the Thursday before that; and so forth!'
`Serious objections,' remarked the Provincial Mayor, with an
air of impartiality, turning towards the Time Traveller.
`Not a bit,' said the Time Traveller, and, to the Psychologist:
`You think. You can explain that. It's presentation below the
threshold, you know, diluted presentation.'
`Of course,' said the Psychologist, and reassured us. `That's
a simple point of psychology. I should have thought of it. It's
plain enough, and helps the paradox delightfully. We cannot see
it, nor can we appreciate this machine, any more than we can the
spoke of a wheel spinning, or a bullet flying through the air.
If it is travelling through time fifty times or a hundred times
faster than we are, if it gets through a minute while we get
through a second, the impression it creates will of course be
only one-fiftieth or one-hundredth of what it would make if it
were not travelling in time. That's plain enough.' He passed
his hand through the space in which the machine had been. `You
see?' he said, laughing.
We sat and stared at the vacant table for a minute or so. Then
the Time Traveller asked us what we thought of it all.
`It sounds plausible enough to-night,' said the Medical Man;
'but wait until to-morrow. Wait for the common sense of the
`Would you like to see the Time Machine itself?' asked the Time
Traveller. And therewith, taking the lamp in his hand, he led
the way down the long, draughty corridor to his laboratory. I
remember vividly the flickering light, his queer, broad head in
silhouette, the dance of the shadows, how we all followed him,
puzzled but incredulous, and how there in the laboratory we
beheld a larger edition of the little mechanism which we had seen
vanish from before our eyes. Parts were of nickel, parts of
ivory, parts had certainly been filed or sawn out of rock
crystal. The thing was generally complete, but the twisted
crystalline bars lay unfinished upon the bench beside some sheets
of drawings, and I took one up for a better look at it. Quartz
it seemed to be.
`Look here,' said the Medical Man, `are you perfectly serious?
Or is this a trick--like that ghost you showed us last
`Upon that machine,' said the Time Traveller, holding the lamp
aloft, `I intend to explore time. Is that plain? I was never
more serious in my life.'
None of us quite knew how to take it.
I caught Filby's eye over the shoulder of the Medical Man, and
he winked at me solemnly.
I think that at that time none of us quite believed in the
Time Machine. The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those
men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you
saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some
ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness. Had Filby shown
the model and explained the matter in the Time Traveller's words,
we should have shown HIM far less scepticism. For we should
have perceived his motives; a pork butcher could understand
Filby. But the Time Traveller had more than a touch of whim
among his elements, and we distrusted him. Things that would
have made the frame of a less clever man seemed tricks in his
hands. It is a mistake to do things too easily. The serious
people who took him seriously never felt quite sure of his
deportment; they were somehow aware that trusting their
reputations for judgment with him was like furnishing a nursery
with egg-shell china. So I don't think any of us said very much
about time travelling in the interval between that Thursday and
the next, though its odd potentialities ran, no doubt, in most
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
the Linnaean. He said he had seen a similar thing at
Tubingen, and laid considerable stress on the blowing out
of the candle. But how the trick was done he could not explain.
The next Thursday I went again to Richmond--I suppose I was
one of the Time Traveller's most constant guests--and, arriving
late, found four or five men already assembled in his
drawing-room. The Medical Man was standing before the fire with
a sheet of paper in one hand and his watch in the other. I
looked round for the Time Traveller, and--`It's half-past seven
now,' said the Medical Man. `I suppose we'd better have dinner?'
`Where's----?' said I, naming our host.
`You've just come? It's rather odd. He's unavoidably
detained. He asks me in this note to lead off with dinner at
seven if he's not back. Says he'll explain when he comes.'
`It seems a pity to let the dinner spoil,' said the Editor of
a well-known daily paper; and thereupon the Doctor rang the bell.
The Psychologist was the only person besides the Doctor and
myself who had attended the previous dinner. The other men were
Blank, the Editor aforementioned, a certain journalist, and
another--a quiet, shy man with a beard--whom I didn't know,
and who, as far as my observation went, never opened his mouth
all the evening. There was some speculation at the dinner-table
about the Time Traveller's absence, and I suggested time
travelling, in a half-jocular spirit. The Editor wanted that
explained to him, and the Psychologist volunteered a wooden
account of the `ingenious paradox and trick' we had witnessed
that day week. He was in the midst of his exposition when the
door from the corridor opened slowly and without noise. I was
facing the door, and saw it first. `Hallo!' I said. `At last!'
And the door opened wider, and the Time Traveller stood before
us. I gave a cry of surprise. `Good heavens! man, what's the
matter?' cried the Medical Man, who saw him next. And the whole
tableful turned towards the door.
He was in an amazing plight. His coat was dusty and dirty,
and smeared with green down the sleeves; his hair disordered,
as it seemed to me greyer--either with dust and dirt or because
its colour had actually faded. His face was ghastly pale; his
chin had a brown cut on it--a cut half healed; his expression
was haggard and drawn, as by intense suffering. For a moment he
hesitated in the doorway, as if he had been dazzled by the light.
Then he came into the room. He walked with just such a limp as
I have seen in footsore tramps. We stared at him in silence,
expecting him to speak.
He said not a word, but came painfully to the table, and made
a motion towards the wine. The Editor filled a glass of
champagne, and pushed it towards him. He drained it, and it
seemed to do him good: for he looked round the table, and the
ghost of his old smile flickered across his face. `What on earth
have you been up to, man?' said the Doctor. The Time Traveller
did not seem to hear. `Don't let me disturb you,' he said, with
a certain faltering articulation. `I'm all right.' He stopped,
held out his glass for more, and took it off at a draught.
`That's good,' he said. His eyes grew brighter, and a faint
colour came into his cheeks. His glance flickered over our faces
with a certain dull approval, and then went round the warm and
comfortable room. Then he spoke again, still as it were feeling
his way among his words. `I'm going to wash and dress, and then
I'll come down and explain things. . . Save me some of that
mutton. I'm starving for a bit of meat.'
He looked across at the Editor, who was a rare visitor, and
hoped he was all right. The Editor began a question. `Tell you
presently,' said the Time Traveller. `I'm--funny! Be all
right in a minute.'
He put down his glass, and walked towards the staircase door.
Again I remarked his lameness and the soft padding sound of his
footfall, and standing up in my place, I saw his feet as he went
out. He had nothing on them but a pair of tattered blood-stained
socks. Then the door closed upon him. I had half a mind to
follow, till I remembered how he detested any fuss about himself.
For a minute, perhaps, my mind was wool-gathering. Then,
'Remarkable Behaviour of an Eminent Scientist,' I heard the
Editor say, thinking (after his wont) in headlines. And this
brought my attention back to the bright dinner-table.
`What's the game?' said the Journalist. `Has he been doing
the Amateur Cadger? I don't follow.' I met the eye of the
Psychologist, and read my own interpretation in his face. I
thought of the Time Traveller limping painfully upstairs. I
don't think any one else had noticed his lameness.
The first to recover completely from this surprise was the
Medical Man, who rang the bell--the Time Traveller hated to
have servants waiting at dinner--for a hot plate. At that the
Editor turned to his knife and fork with a grunt, and the Silent
Man followed suit. The dinner was resumed. Conversation was
exclamatory for a little while, with gaps of wonderment; and then
the Editor got fervent in his curiosity. `Does our friend eke
out his modest income with a crossing? or has he his
Nebuchadnezzar phases?' he inquired. `I feel assured it's this
business of the Time Machine,' I said, and took up the
Psychologist's account of our previous meeting. The new guests
were frankly incredulous. The Editor raised objections. `What
WAS this time travelling? A man couldn't cover himself with
dust by rolling in a paradox, could he?' And then, as the idea
came home to him, he resorted to caricature. Hadn't they any
clothes-brushes in the Future? The Journalist too, would not
believe at any price, and joined the Editor in the easy work of
heaping ridicule on the whole thing. They were both the new kind
of journalist--very joyous, irreverent young men. `Our Special
Correspondent in the Day after To-morrow reports,' the Journalist
was saying--or rather shouting--when the Time Traveller came
back. He was dressed in ordinary evening clothes, and nothing
save his haggard look remained of the change that had startled
`I say,' said the Editor hilariously, `these chaps here say
you have been travelling into the middle of next week! Tell us
all about little Rosebery, will you? What will you take for the
The Time Traveller came to the place reserved for him without
a word. He smiled quietly, in his old way. `Where's my mutton?'
he said. `What a treat it is to stick a fork into meat again!'
`Story!' cried the Editor.
`Story be damned!' said the Time Traveller. `I want something
to eat. I won't say a word until I get some peptone into my
arteries. Thanks. And the salt.'
`One word,' said I. `Have you been time travelling?'
`Yes,' said the Time Traveller, with his mouth full, nodding
`I'd give a shilling a line for a verbatim note,' said the
Editor. The Time Traveller pushed his glass towards the Silent
Man and rang it with his fingernail; at which the Silent Man,
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
us hearers were in shadow, for the candles in the smoking-room
had not been lighted, and only the face of the Journalist and
legs of the Silent Man from the knees downward were illuminated.
At first we glanced now and again at each other. After a time
ceased to do that, and looked only at the Time Traveller's face.
`I told some of you last Thursday of the principles of the
Time Machine, and showed you the actual thing itself, incomplete
in the workshop. There it is now, a little travel-worn, truly;
and one of the ivory bars is cracked, and a brass rail bent; but
the rest of it's sound enough. I expected to finish it on
Friday, but on Friday, when the putting together was nearly done,
I found that one of the nickel bars was exactly one inch too
short, and this I had to get remade; so that the thing was not
complete until this morning. It was at ten o'clock to-day that
the first of all Time Machines began its career. I gave it a
last tap, tried all the screws again, put one more drop of oil
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
`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
shoot across the room like a rocket. I pressed the lever over
its extreme position. The night came like the turning out of a
lamp, and in another moment came to-morrow. The laboratory grew
faint and hazy, then fainter and ever fainter. To-morrow night
came black, then day again, night again, day again, faster and
faster still. An eddying murmur filled my ears, and a strange,
dumb confusedness descended on my mind.
`I am afraid I cannot convey the peculiar sensations of time
travelling. They are excessively unpleasant. There is a feeling
exactly like that one has upon a switchback--of a helpless
headlong motion! I felt the same horrible anticipation, too, of
an imminent smash. As I put on pace, night followed day like the
flapping of a black wing. The dim suggestion of the laboratory
seemed presently to fall away from me, and I saw the sun hopping
swiftly across the sky, leaping it every minute, and every minute
marking a day. I supposed the laboratory had been destroyed and
I had come into the open air. I had a dim impression of
scaffolding, but I was already going too fast to be conscious
any moving things. The slowest snail that ever crawled dashed
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
brighter circle flickering in the blue.
`The landscape was misty and vague. I was still on the
hill-side upon which this house now stands, and the shoulder rose
above me grey and dim. I saw trees growing and changing like
puffs of vapour, now brown, now green; they grew, spread,
shivered, and passed away. I saw huge buildings rise up faint
and fair, and pass like dreams. The whole surface of the earth
seemed changed--melting and flowing under my eyes. The little
hands upon the dials that registered my speed raced round faster
and faster. Presently I noted that the sun belt swayed up and
down, from solstice to solstice, in a minute or less, and that
consequently my pace was over a year a minute; and minute by
minute the white snow flashed across the world, and vanished,
was followed by the bright, brief green of spring.
`The unpleasant sensations of the start were less poignant
now. They merged at last into a kind of hysterical exhilaration.
I remarked indeed a clumsy swaying of the machine, for which I
was unable to account. But my mind was too confused to attend
it, so with a kind of madness growing upon me, I flung myself
into futurity. At first I scarce thought of stopping, scarce
thought of anything but these new sensations. But presently a
fresh series of impressions grew up in my mind--a certain
curiosity and therewith a certain dread--until at last they
took complete possession of me. What strange developments of
humanity, what wonderful advances upon our rudimentary
civilization, I thought, might not appear when I came to look
nearly into the dim elusive world that raced and fluctuated
before my eyes! I saw great and splendid architecture rising
about me, more massive than any buildings of our own time, and
yet, as it seemed, built of glimmer and mist. I saw a richer
green flow up the hill-side, and remain there, without any wintry
intermission. Even through the veil of my confusion the earth
seemed very fair. And so my mind came round to the business of