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The Time Machine by H. G. Wells [1898]


`The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some
substance in the space which I, or the machine, occupied. So
long as I travelled at a high velocity through time, this
scarcely mattered; I was, so to speak, attenuated--was slipping
like a vapour through the interstices of intervening substances!
But to come to a stop involved the jamming of myself, molecule by
molecule, into whatever lay in my way; meant bringing my atoms
into such intimate contact with those of the obstacle that a
profound chemical reaction--possibly a far-reaching explosion
--would result, and blow myself and my apparatus out of all
possible dimensions--into the Unknown. This possibility had
occurred to me again and again while I was making the machine;
but then I had cheerfully accepted it as an unavoidable risk--
one of the risks a man has got to take! Now the risk was
inevitable, I no longer saw it in the same cheerful light. The
fact is that insensibly, the absolute strangeness of everything,
the sickly jarring and swaying of the machine, above all, the
feeling of prolonged falling, had absolutely upset my nerve. I
told myself that I could never stop, and with a gust of petulance
I resolved to stop forthwith. Like an impatient fool, I lugged
over the lever, and incontinently the thing went reeling over,
and I was flung headlong through the air.
`There was the sound of a clap of thunder in my ears. I may
have been stunned for a moment. A pitiless hail was hissing
round me, and I was sitting on soft turf in front of the overset
machine. Everything still seemed grey, but presently I remarked
that the confusion in my ears was gone. I looked round me. I was
on what seemed to be a little lawn in a garden, surrounded by
rhododendron bushes, and I noticed that their mauve and purple
blossoms were dropping in a shower under the beating of the
hail-stones. The rebounding, dancing hail hung in a cloud over
the machine, and drove along the ground like smoke. In a moment
I was wet to the skin. "Fine hospitality," said I, "to a man who
has travelled innumerable years to see you."
`Presently I thought what a fool I was to get wet. I stood up
and looked round me. A colossal figure, carved apparently in
some white stone, loomed indistinctly beyond the rhododendrons
through the hazy downpour. But all else of the world was
`My sensations would be hard to describe. As the columns of
hail grew thinner, I saw the white figure more distinctly. It
was very large, for a silver birch-tree touched its shoulder. It
was of white marble, in shape something like a winged sphinx, but
the wings, instead of being carried vertically at the sides, were
spread so that it seemed to hover. The pedestal, it appeared to
me, was of bronze, and was thick with verdigris. It chanced that
the face was towards me; the sightless eyes seemed to watch me;
there was the faint shadow of a smile on the lips. It was
greatly weather-worn, and that imparted an unpleasant suggestion
of disease. I stood looking at it for a little space--half a
minute, perhaps, or half an hour. It seemed to advance and to
recede as the hail drove before it denser or thinner. At last I
tore my eyes from it for a moment and saw that the hail curtain
had worn threadbare, and that the sky was lightening with the
promise of the Sun.
`I looked up again at the crouching white shape, and the full
temerity of my voyage came suddenly upon me. What might appear
when that hazy curtain was altogether withdrawn? What might not
have happened to men? What if cruelty had grown into a common
passion? What if in this interval the race had lost its
manliness and had developed into something inhuman,
unsympathetic, and overwhelmingly powerful? I might seem some
old-world savage animal, only the more dreadful and disgusting
for our common likeness--a foul creature to be incontinently
`Already I saw other vast shapes--huge buildings with
intricate parapets and tall columns, with a wooded hill-side
dimly creeping in upon me through the lessening storm. I was
seized with a panic fear. I turned frantically to the Time
Machine, and strove hard to readjust it. As I did so the shafts
of the sun smote through the thunderstorm. The grey downpour was
swept aside and vanished like the trailing garments of a ghost.
Above me, in the intense blue of the summer sky, some faint brown
shreds of cloud whirled into nothingness. The great buildings
about me stood out clear and distinct, shining with the wet of
the thunderstorm, and picked out in white by the unmelted
hailstones piled along their courses. I felt naked in a strange
world. I felt as perhaps a bird may feel in the clear air,
knowing the hawk wings above and will swoop. My fear grew to
frenzy. I took a breathing space, set my teeth, and again
grappled fiercely, wrist and knee, with the machine. It gave
under my desperate onset and turned over. It struck my chin
violently. One hand on the saddle, the other on the lever, I
stood panting heavily in attitude to mount again.
`But with this recovery of a prompt retreat my courage
recovered. I looked more curiously and less fearfully at this
world of the remote future. In a circular opening, high up in
the wall of the nearer house, I saw a group of figures clad in
rich soft robes. They had seen me, and their faces were directed
towards me.
`Then I heard voices approaching me. Coming through the
bushes by the White Sphinx were the heads and shoulders of men
running. One of these emerged in a pathway leading straight to
the little lawn upon which I stood with my machine. He was a
slight creature--perhaps four feet high--clad in a purple
tunic, girdled at the waist with a leather belt. Sandals or
buskins--I could not clearly distinguish which--were on his
feet; his legs were bare to the knees, and his head was bare.
Noticing that, I noticed for the first time how warm the air was.
`He struck me as being a very beautiful and graceful creature,
but indescribably frail. His flushed face reminded me of the
more beautiful kind of consumptive--that hectic beauty of which
we used to hear so much. At the sight of him I suddenly regained
confidence. I took my hands from the machine.

`In another moment we were standing face to face, I and this
fragile thing out of futurity. He came straight up to me and
laughed into my eyes. The absence from his bearing of any sign
of fear struck me at once. Then he turned to the two others who
were following him and spoke to them in a strange and very sweet
and liquid tongue.
`There were others coming, and presently a little group of
perhaps eight or ten of these exquisite creatures were about me.
One of them addressed me. It came into my head, oddly enough,
that my voice was too harsh and deep for them. So I shook my
head, and, pointing to my ears, shook it again. He came a step
forward, hesitated, and then touched my hand. Then I felt other
soft little tentacles upon my back and shoulders. They wanted to
make sure I was real. There was nothing in this at all alarming.
Indeed, there was something in these pretty little people that
inspired confidence--a graceful gentleness, a certain childlike
ease. And besides, they looked so frail that I could fancy
myself flinging the whole dozen of them about like nine-pins.
But I made a sudden motion to warn them when I saw their little
pink hands feeling at the Time Machine. Happily then, when it
was not too late, I thought of a danger I had hitherto forgotten,
and reaching over the bars of the machine I unscrewed the little
levers that would set it in motion, and put these in my pocket.
Then I turned again to see what I could do in the way of
`And then, looking more nearly into their features, I saw some
further peculiarities in their Dresden-china type of prettiness.
Their hair, which was uniformly curly, came to a sharp end at the
neck and cheek; there was not the faintest suggestion of it on
the face, and their ears were singularly minute. The mouths were
small, with bright red, rather thin lips, and the little chins
ran to a point. The eyes were large and mild; and--this may
seem egotism on my part--I fancied even that there was a
certain lack of the interest I might have expected in them.
`As they made no effort to communicate with me, but simply
stood round me smiling and speaking in soft cooing notes to each
other, I began the conversation. I pointed to the Time Machine
and to myself. Then hesitating for a moment how to express time,
I pointed to the sun. At once a quaintly pretty little figure in
chequered purple and white followed my gesture, and then
astonished me by imitating the sound of thunder.
`For a moment I was staggered, though the import of his
gesture was plain enough. The question had come into my mind
abruptly: were these creatures fools? You may hardly understand
how it took me. You see I had always anticipated that the people
of the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand odd would be
incredibly in front of us in knowledge, art, everything. Then
one of them suddenly asked me a question that showed him to be on
the intellectual level of one of our five-year-old children--
asked me, in fact, if I had come from the sun in a thunderstorm!
It let loose the judgment I had suspended upon their clothes,
their frail light limbs, and fragile features. A flow of
disappointment rushed across my mind. For a moment I felt that I
had built the Time Machine in vain.
`I nodded, pointed to the sun, and gave them such a vivid
rendering of a thunderclap as startled them. They all withdrew a
pace or so and bowed. Then came one laughing towards me,
carrying a chain of beautiful flowers altogether new to me, and
put it about my neck. The idea was received with melodious
applause; and presently they were all running to and fro for
flowers, and laughingly flinging them upon me until I was almost
smothered with blossom. You who have never seen the like can
scarcely imagine what delicate and wonderful flowers countless
years of culture had created. Then someone suggested that their
plaything should be exhibited in the nearest building, and so I
was led past the sphinx of white marble, which had seemed to
watch me all the while with a smile at my astonishment, towards a
vast grey edifice of fretted stone. As I went with them the
memory of my confident anticipations of a profoundly grave and
intellectual posterity came, with irresistible merriment, to my
`The building had a huge entry, and was altogether of colossal
dimensions. I was naturally most occupied with the growing crowd
of little people, and with the big open portals that yawned
before me shadowy and mysterious. My general impression of the
world I saw over their heads was a tangled waste of beautiful
bushes and flowers, a long neglected and yet weedless garden. I
saw a number of tall spikes of strange white flowers, measuring a
foot perhaps across the spread of the waxen petals. They grew
scattered, as if wild, among the variegated shrubs, but, as I
say, I did not examine them closely at this time. The Time
Machine was left deserted on the turf among the rhododendrons.
`The arch of the doorway was richly carved, but naturally I
did not observe the carving very narrowly, though I fancied I saw
suggestions of old Phoenician decorations as I passed through,
and it struck me that they were very badly broken and weather-
worn. Several more brightly clad people met me in the doorway,
and so we entered, I, dressed in dingy nineteenth-century
garments, looking grotesque enough, garlanded with flowers, and
surrounded by an eddying mass of bright, soft-colored robes and
shining white limbs, in a melodious whirl of laughter and
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
`As I walked I was watching for every impression that could
possibly help to explain the condition of ruinous splendour in
which I found the world--for ruinous it was. A little way up
the hill, for instance, was a great heap of granite, bound
together by masses of aluminium, a vast labyrinth of precipitous
walls and crumpled heaps, amidst which were thick heaps of very
beautiful pagoda-like plants--nettles possibly--but wonderfully
tinted with brown about the leaves, and incapable of stinging.
It was evidently the derelict remains of some vast structure, to
what end built I could not determine. It was here that I was
destined, at a later date, to have a very strange experience--the
first intimation of a still stranger discovery--but of that I
will speak in its proper place.
`Looking round with a sudden thought, from a terrace on which
I rested for a while, I realized that there were no small houses
to be seen. Apparently the single house, and possibly even the
household, had vanished. Here and there among the greenery were
palace-like buildings, but the house and the cottage, which form
such characteristic features of our own English landscape, had
`"Communism," said I to myself.
`And on the heels of that came another thought. I looked at
the half-dozen little figures that were following me. Then, in a
flash, I perceived that all had the same form of costume, the
same soft hairless visage, and the same girlish rotundity of
limb. It may seem strange, perhaps, that I had not noticed this
before. But everything was so strange. Now, I saw the fact
plainly enough. In costume, and in all the differences of
texture and bearing that now mark off the sexes from each other,
these people of the future were alike. And the children seemed
to my eyes to be but the miniatures of their parents. I judged,
then, that the children of that time were extremely precocious,
physically at least, and I found afterwards abundant verification
of my opinion.
`Seeing the ease and security in which these people were
living, I felt that this close resemblance of the sexes was after
all what one would expect; for the strength of a man and the
softness of a woman, the institution of the family, and the
differentiation of occupations are mere militant necessities of
an age of physical force; where population is balanced and
abundant, much childbearing becomes an evil rather than a
blessing to the State; where violence comes but rarely and
off-spring are secure, there is less necessity--indeed there is
no necessity--for an efficient family, and the specialization
of the sexes with reference to their children's needs disappears.
We see some beginnings of this even in our own time, and in this
future age it was complete. This, I must remind you, was my
speculation at the time. Later, I was to appreciate how far it
fell short of the reality.
`While I was musing upon these things, my attention was
attracted by a pretty little structure, like a well under a
cupola. I thought in a transitory way of the oddness of wells
still existing, and then resumed the thread of my speculations.
There were no large buildings towards the top of the hill, and as
my walking powers were evidently miraculous, I was presently left
alone for the first time. With a strange sense of freedom and
adventure I pushed on up to the crest.
`There I found a seat of some yellow metal that I did not
recognize, corroded in places with a kind of pinkish rust and
half smothered in soft moss, the arm-rests cast and filed into
the resemblance of griffins' heads. I sat down on it, and I
surveyed the broad view of our old world under the sunset of that
long day. It was as sweet and fair a view as I have ever seen.
The sun had already gone below the horizon and the west was
flaming gold, touched with some horizontal bars of purple and
crimson. Below was the valley of the Thames, in which the river
lay like a band of burnished steel. I have already spoken of the
great palaces dotted about among the variegated greenery, some in
ruins and some still occupied. Here and there rose a white or
silvery figure in the waste garden of the earth, here and there
came the sharp vertical line of some cupola or obelisk. There
were no hedges, no signs of proprietary rights, no evidences of
agriculture; the whole earth had become a garden.
`So watching, I began to put my interpretation upon the things
I had seen, and as it shaped itself to me that evening, my
interpretation was something in this way. (Afterwards I found I
had got only a half-truth--or only a glimpse of one facet of
the truth.)
`It seemed to me that I had happened upon humanity upon the
wane. The ruddy sunset set me thinking of the sunset of mankind.
For the first time I began to realize an odd consequence of the
social effort in which we are at present engaged. And yet, come
to think, it is a logical consequence enough. Strength is the
outcome of need; security sets a premium on feebleness. The work
of ameliorating the conditions of life--the true civilizing
process that makes life more and more secure--had gone steadily
on to a climax. One triumph of a united humanity over Nature had
followed another. Things that are now mere dreams had become
projects deliberately put in hand and carried forward. And the
harvest was what I saw!
`After all, the sanitation and the agriculture of to-day are
still in the rudimentary stage. The science of our time has
attacked but a little department of the field of human disease,
but even so, it spreads its operations very steadily and
persistently. Our agriculture and horticulture destroy a weed
just here and there and cultivate perhaps a score or so of
wholesome plants, leaving the greater number to fight out a
balance as they can. We improve our favourite plants and animals
--and how few they are--gradually by selective breeding; now a
new and better peach, now a seedless grape, now a sweeter and
larger flower, now a more convenient breed of cattle. We improve
them gradually, because our ideals are vague and tentative, and
our knowledge is very limited; because Nature, too, is shy and
slow in our clumsy hands. Some day all this will be better
organized, and still better. That is the drift of the current in
spite of the eddies. The whole world will be intelligent,
educated, and co-operating; things will move faster and faster
towards the subjugation of Nature. In the end, wisely and
carefully we shall readjust the balance of animal and vegetable
me to suit our human needs.
`This adjustment, I say, must have been done, and done well;
done indeed for all Time, in the space of Time across which my
machine had leaped. The air was free from gnats, the earth from
weeds or fungi; everywhere were fruits and sweet and delightful
flowers; brilliant butterflies flew hither and thither. The
ideal of preventive medicine was attained. Diseases had been
stamped out. I saw no evidence of any contagious diseases during
all my stay. And I shall have to tell you later that even the
processes of putrefaction and decay had been profoundly affected
by these changes.
`Social triumphs, too, had been effected. I saw mankind
housed in splendid shelters, gloriously clothed, and as yet I had
found them engaged in no toil. There were no signs of struggle,
neither social nor economical struggle. The shop, the
advertisement, traffic, all that commerce which constitutes the
body of our world, was gone. It was natural on that golden
evening that I should jump at the idea of a social paradise. The
difficulty of increasing population had been met, I guessed, and
population had ceased to increase.
`But with this change in condition comes inevitably
adaptations to the change. What, unless biological science is a
mass of errors, is the cause of human intelligence and vigour?
Hardship and freedom: conditions under which the active, strong,
and subtle survive and the weaker go to the wall; conditions that
put a premium upon the loyal alliance of capable men, upon
self-restraint, patience, and decision. And the institution of
the family, and the emotions that arise therein, the fierce
jealousy, the tenderness for offspring, parental self-devotion,
all found their justification and support in the imminent dangers
of the young. NOW, where are these imminent dangers? There is
a sentiment arising, and it will grow, against connubial
jealousy, against fierce maternity, against passion of all sorts;
unnecessary things now, and things that make us uncomfortable,
savage survivals, discords in a refined and pleasant life.
`I thought of the physical slightness of the people, their
lack of intelligence, and those big abundant ruins, and it
strengthened my belief in a perfect conquest of Nature. For
after the battle comes Quiet. Humanity had been strong,
energetic, and intelligent, and had used all its abundant
vitality to alter the conditions under which it lived. And now
came the reaction of the altered conditions.
`Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security,
that restless energy, that with us is strength, would become
weakness. Even in our own time certain tendencies and desires,
once necessary to survival, are a constant source of failure.
Physical courage and the love of battle, for instance, are no
great help--may even be hindrances--to a civilized man. And
in a state of physical balance and security, power, intellectual
as well as physical, would be out of place. For countless years
I judged there had been no danger of war or solitary violence, no
danger from wild beasts, no wasting disease to require strength
of constitution, no need of toil. For such a life, what we
should call the weak are as well equipped as the strong, are
indeed no longer weak. Better equipped indeed they are, for the
strong would be fretted by an energy for which there was no
outlet. No doubt the exquisite beauty of the buildings I saw was
the outcome of the last surgings of the now purposeless energy of
mankind before it settled down into perfect harmony with the
conditions under which it lived--the flourish of that triumph
which began the last great peace. This has ever been the fate of
energy in security; it takes to art and to eroticism, and then
come languor and decay.
`Even this artistic impetus would at last die away--had
almost died in the Time I saw. To adorn themselves with flowers,
to dance, to sing in the sunlight: so much was left of the
artistic spirit, and no more. Even that would fade in the end
into a contented inactivity. We are kept keen on the grindstone
of pain and necessity, and, it seemed to me, that here was that
hateful grindstone broken at last!
`As I stood there in the gathering dark I thought that in this
simple explanation I had mastered the problem of the world--
mastered the whole secret of these delicious people. Possibly
the checks they had devised for the increase of population had
succeeded too well, and their numbers had rather diminished than
kept stationary. That would account for the abandoned ruins.
Very simple was my explanation, and plausible enough--as most
wrong theories are!


`As I stood there musing over this too perfect triumph of man,
the full moon, yellow and gibbous, came up out of an overflow of
silver light in the north-east. The bright little figures ceased
to move about below, a noiseless owl flitted by, and I shivered
with the chill of the night. I determined to descend and find
where I could sleep.
`I looked for the building I knew. Then my eye travelled
along to the figure of the White Sphinx upon the pedestal of
bronze, growing distinct as the light of the rising moon grew
brighter. I could see the silver birch against it. There was
the tangle of rhododendron bushes, black in the pale light, and
there was the little lawn. I looked at the lawn again. A queer
doubt chilled my complacency. "No," said I stoutly to myself,
"that was not the lawn."
`But it WAS the lawn. For the white leprous face of the
sphinx was towards it. Can you imagine what I felt as this
conviction came home to me? But you cannot. The Time Machine
was gone!
`At once, like a lash across the face, came the possibility of
losing my own age, of being left helpless in this strange new
world. The bare thought of it was an actual physical sensation.
I could feel it grip me at the throat and stop my breathing. In
another moment I was in a passion of fear and running with great
leaping strides down the slope. Once I fell headlong and cut my
face; I lost no time in stanching the blood, but jumped up and
ran on, with a warm trickle down my cheek and chin. All the time
I ran I was saying to myself: "They have moved it a little,
pushed it under the bushes out of the way." Nevertheless, I ran
with all my might. All the time, with the certainty that
sometimes comes with excessive dread, I knew that such assurance
was folly, knew instinctively that the machine was removed out of
my reach. My breath came with pain. I suppose I covered the
whole distance from the hill crest to the little lawn, two miles
perhaps, in ten minutes. And I am not a young man. I cursed
aloud, as I ran, at my confident folly in leaving the machine,
wasting good breath thereby. I cried aloud, and none answered.
Not a creature seemed to be stirring in that moonlit world.
`When I reached the lawn my worst fears were realized. Not a
trace of the thing was to be seen. I felt faint and cold when I
faced the empty space among the black tangle of bushes. I ran
round it furiously, as if the thing might be hidden in a corner,
and then stopped abruptly, with my hands clutching my hair.
Above me towered the sphinx, upon the bronze pedestal, white,
shining, leprous, in the light of the rising moon. It seemed to
smile in mockery of my dismay.
`I might have consoled myself by imagining the little people
had put the mechanism in some shelter for me, had I not felt
assured of their physical and intellectual inadequacy. That is
what dismayed me: the sense of some hitherto unsuspected power,
through whose intervention my invention had vanished. Yet, for
one thing I felt assured: unless some other age had produced its
exact duplicate, the machine could not have moved in time. The
attachment of the levers--I will show you the method later--
prevented any one from tampering with it in that way when they
were removed. It had moved, and was hid, only in space. But
then, where could it be?
`I think I must have had a kind of frenzy. I remember running
violently in and out among the moonlit bushes all round the
sphinx, and startling some white animal that, in the dim light, I
took for a small deer. I remember, too, late that night, beating
the bushes with my clenched fist until my knuckles were gashed
and bleeding from the broken twigs. Then, sobbing and raving in
my anguish of mind, I went down to the great building of stone.
The big hall was dark, silent, and deserted. I slipped on the
uneven floor, and fell over one of the malachite tables, almost
breaking my shin. I lit a match and went on past the dusty
curtains, of which I have told you.
`There I found a second great hall covered with cushions, upon
which, perhaps, a score or so of the little people were sleeping.
I have no doubt they found my second appearance strange enough,
coming suddenly out of the quiet darkness with inarticulate
noises and the splutter and flare of a match. For they had
forgotten about matches. "Where is my Time Machine?" I began,
bawling like an angry child, laying hands upon them and shaking
them up together. It must have been very queer to them. Some
laughed, most of them looked sorely frightened. When I saw them
standing round me, it came into my head that I was doing as
foolish a thing as it was possible for me to do under the
circumstances, in trying to revive the sensation of fear. For,
reasoning from their daylight behaviour, I thought that fear must
be forgotten.
`Abruptly, I dashed down the match, and, knocking one of the
people over in my course, went blundering across the big
dining-hall again, out under the moonlight. I heard cries of
terror and their little feet running and stumbling this way and
that. I do not remember all I did as the moon crept up the sky.
I suppose it was the unexpected nature of my loss that maddened
me. I felt hopelessly cut off from my own kind--a strange
animal in an unknown world. I must have raved to and fro,
screaming and crying upon God and Fate. I have a memory of
horrible fatigue, as the long night of despair wore away; of
looking in this impossible place and that; of groping among
moon-lit ruins and touching strange creatures in the black
shadows; at last, of lying on the ground near the sphinx and
weeping with absolute wretchedness. I had nothing left but
misery. Then I slept, and when I woke again it was full day, and
a couple of sparrows were hopping round me on the turf within
reach of my arm.
`I sat up in the freshness of the morning, trying to remember
how I had got there, and why I had such a profound sense of
desertion and despair. Then things came clear in my mind. With
the plain, reasonable daylight, I could look my circumstances
fairly in the face. I saw the wild folly of my frenzy overnight,
and I could reason with myself. "Suppose the worst?" I said.
"Suppose the machine altogether lost--perhaps destroyed? It
behooves me to be calm and patient, to learn the way of the
people, to get a clear idea of the method of my loss, and the
means of getting materials and tools; so that in the end,
perhaps, I may make another." That would be my only hope,
perhaps, but better than despair. And, after all, it was a
beautiful and curious world.
`But probably, the machine had only been taken away. Still, I
must be calm and patient, find its hiding-place, and recover it
by force or cunning. And with that I scrambled to my feet and
looked about me, wondering where I could bathe. I felt weary,
stiff, and travel-soiled. The freshness of the morning made me
desire an equal freshness. I had exhausted my emotion. Indeed,
as I went about my business, I found myself wondering at my
intense excitement overnight. I made a careful examination of
the ground about the little lawn. I wasted some time in futile
questionings, conveyed, as well as I was able, to such of the
little people as came by. They all failed to understand my
gestures; some were simply stolid, some thought it was a jest and
laughed at me. I had the hardest task in the world to keep my
hands off their pretty laughing faces. It was a foolish impulse,
but the devil begotten of fear and blind anger was ill curbed and
still eager to take advantage of my perplexity. The turf gave
better counsel. I found a groove ripped in it, about midway
between the pedestal of the sphinx and the marks of my feet
where, on arrival, I had struggled with the overturned machine.
There were other signs of removal about, with queer narrow
footprints like those I could imagine made by a sloth. This
directed my closer attention to the pedestal. It was, as I think
I have said, of bronze. It was not a mere block, but highly
decorated with deep framed panels on either side. I went and
rapped at these. The pedestal was hollow. Examining the panels
with care I found them discontinuous with the frames. There were
no handles or keyholes, but possibly the panels, if they were
doors, as I supposed, opened from within. One thing was clear
enough to my mind. It took no very great mental effort to infer
that my Time Machine was inside that pedestal. But how it got
there was a different problem.
`I saw the heads of two orange-clad people coming through the
bushes and under some blossom-covered apple-trees towards me. I
turned smiling to them and beckoned them to me. They came, and
then, pointing to the bronze pedestal, I tried to intimate my
wish to open it. But at my first gesture towards this they
behaved very oddly. I don't know how to convey their expression
to you. Suppose you were to use a grossly improper gesture to a
delicate-minded woman--it is how she would look. They went off
as if they had received the last possible insult. I tried a
sweet-looking little chap in white next, with exactly the same
result. Somehow, his manner made me feel ashamed of myself.
But, as you know, I wanted the Time Machine, and I tried him once
more. As he turned off, like the others, my temper got the
better of me. In three strides I was after him, had him by the
loose part of his robe round the neck, and began dragging him
towards the sphinx. Then I saw the horror and repugnance of his
face, and all of a sudden I let him go.
`But I was not beaten yet. I banged with my fist at the
bronze panels. I thought I heard something stir inside--to be
explicit, I thought I heard a sound like a chuckle--but I must
have been mistaken. Then I got a big pebble from the river, and
came and hammered till I had flattened a coil in the decorations,
and the verdigris came off in powdery flakes. The delicate
little people must have heard me hammering in gusty outbreaks a
mile away on either hand, but nothing came of it. I saw a crowd
of them upon the slopes, looking furtively at me. At last, hot
and tired, I sat down to watch the place. But I was too restless
to watch long; I am too Occidental for a long vigil. I could
work at a problem for years, but to wait inactive for twenty-four
hours--that is another matter.
`I got up after a time, and began walking aimlessly through
the bushes towards the hill again. "Patience," said I to myself.
"If you want your machine again you must leave that sphinx
alone. If they mean to take your machine away, it's little good
your wrecking their bronze panels, and if they don't, you will
get it back as soon as you can ask for it. To sit among all
those unknown things before a puzzle like that is hopeless. That
way lies monomania. Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it,
be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the end you
will find clues to it all." Then suddenly the humour of the
situation came into my mind: the thought of the years I had spent
in study and toil to get into the future age, and now my passion
of anxiety to get out of it. I had made myself the most
complicated and the most hopeless trap that ever a man devised.
Although it was at my own expense, I could not help myself. I
laughed aloud.
`Going through the big palace, it seemed to me that the little
people avoided me. It may have been my fancy, or it may have had
something to do with my hammering at the gates of bronze. Yet I
felt tolerably sure of the avoidance. I was careful, however, to
show no concern and to abstain from any pursuit of them, and in
the course of a day or two things got back to the old footing. I
made what progress I could in the language, and in addition I
pushed my explorations here and there. Either I missed some
subtle point or their language was excessively simple--almost
exclusively composed of concrete substantives and verbs. There
seemed to be few, if any, abstract terms, or little use of
figurative language. Their sentences were usually simple and of
two words, and I failed to convey or understand any but the
simplest propositions. I determined to put the thought of my
Time Machine and the mystery of the bronze doors under the sphinx
as much as possible in a corner of memory, until my growing
knowledge would lead me back to them in a natural way. Yet a
certain feeling, you may understand, tethered me in a circle of a
few miles round the point of my arrival.
`So far as I could see, all the world displayed the same
exuberant richness as the Thames valley. From every hill I
climbed I saw the same abundance of splendid buildings, endlessly
varied in material and style, the same clustering thickets of
evergreens, the same blossom-laden trees and tree-ferns. Here
and there water shone like silver, and beyond, the land rose into
blue undulating hills, and so faded into the serenity of the sky.
A peculiar feature, which presently attracted my attention, was
the presence of certain circular wells, several, as it seemed to
me, of a very great depth. One lay by the path up the hill,
which I had followed during my first walk. Like the others, it
was rimmed with bronze, curiously wrought, and protected by a
little cupola from the rain. Sitting by the side of these wells,
and peering down into the shafted darkness, I could see no gleam
of water, nor could I start any reflection with a lighted match.
But in all of them I heard a certain sound: a thud-thud-thud,
like the beating of some big engine; and I discovered, from the
flaring of my matches, that a steady current of air set down the
shafts. Further, I threw a scrap of paper into the throat of
one, and, instead of fluttering slowly down, it was at once
sucked swiftly out of sight.
`After a time, too, I came to connect these wells with tall
towers standing here and there upon the slopes; for above them
there was often just such a flicker in the air as one sees on a
hot day above a sun-scorched beach. Putting things together, I
reached a strong suggestion of an extensive system of
subterranean ventilation, whose true import it was difficult to
imagine. I was at first inclined to associate it with the
sanitary apparatus of these people. It was an obvious
conclusion, but it was absolutely wrong.
`And here I must admit that I learned very little of drains
and bells and modes of conveyance, and the like conveniences,
during my time in this real future. In some of these visions of
Utopias and coming times which I have read, there is a vast
amount of detail about building, and social arrangements, and so
forth. But while such details are easy enough to obtain when the
whole world is contained in one's imagination, they are
altogether inaccessible to a real traveller amid such realities
as I found here. Conceive the tale of London which a negro,
fresh from Central Africa, would take back to his tribe! What
would he know of railway companies, of social movements, of
telephone and telegraph wires, of the Parcels Delivery Company,
and postal orders and the like? Yet we, at least, should be
willing enough to explain these things to him! And even of what
he knew, how much could he make his untravelled friend either
apprehend or believe? Then, think how narrow the gap between a
negro and a white man of our own times, and how wide the interval
between myself and these of the Golden Age! I was sensible of
much which was unseen, and which contributed to my comfort; but
save for a general impression of automatic organization, I fear I
can convey very little of the difference to your mind.
`In the matter of 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 metalwork. Somehow such things must be
made. And the little people displayed no vestige of a creative
tendency. There were no shops, no workshops, no sign of
importations among them. They spent all their time in playing
gently, in bathing in the river, in making love in a half-playful
fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. I could not see how
things were kept going.
`Then, again, about the Time Machine: something, I knew not
what, had taken it into the hollow pedestal of the White Sphinx.
Why? For the life of me I could not imagine. Those waterless
wells, too, those flickering pillars. I felt I lacked a clue. I
felt--how shall I put it? Suppose you found an inscription,
with sentences here and there in excellent plain English, and
interpolated therewith, others made up of words, of letters even,
absolutely unknown to you? Well, on the third day of my visit,
that was how the world of Eight Hundred and Two Thousand Seven
Hundred and One presented itself to 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
`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
`I think I have said how much hotter than our own was the
weather of this Golden Age. I cannot account for it. It may be
that the sun was hotter, or the earth nearer the sun. It is
usual to assume that the sun will go on cooling steadily in the
future. But people, unfamiliar with such speculations as those
of the younger Darwin, forget that the planets must ultimately
fall back one by one into the parent body. As these catastrophes
occur, the sun will blaze with renewed energy; and it may be that
some inner planet had suffered this fate. Whatever the reason,
the fact remains that the sun was very much hotter than we know
`Well, one very hot morning--my fourth, I think--as I was
seeking shelter from the heat and glare in a colossal ruin near
the great house where I slept and fed, there happened this
strange thing: Clambering among these heaps of masonry, I found a
narrow gallery, whose end and side windows were blocked by fallen
masses of stone. By contrast with the brilliancy outside, it
seemed at first impenetrably dark to me. I entered it groping,
for the change from light to blackness made spots of colour swim
before me. Suddenly I halted spellbound. A pair of eyes,
luminous by reflection against the daylight without, was watching
me out of the darkness.
`The old instinctive dread of wild beasts came upon me. I
clenched my hands and steadfastly looked into the glaring
eyeballs. I was afraid to turn. Then the thought of the
absolute security in which humanity appeared to be living came to
my mind. And then I remembered that strange terror of the dark.
Overcoming my fear to some extent, I advanced a step and spoke.
I will admit that my voice was harsh and ill-controlled. I put
out my hand and touched something soft. At once the eyes darted
sideways, and something white ran past me. I turned with my
heart in my mouth, and saw a queer little ape-like figure, its
head held down in a peculiar manner, running across the sunlit
space behind me. It blundered against a block of granite,
staggered aside, and in a moment was hidden in a black shadow
beneath another pile of ruined masonry.
`My impression of it is, of course, imperfect; but I know it
was a dull white, and had strange large greyish-red eyes; also
that there was flaxen hair on its head and down its back. But,
as I say, it went too fast for me to see distinctly. I cannot
even say whether it ran on all-fours, or only with its forearms
held very low. After an instant's pause I followed it into the
second heap of ruins. I could not find it at first; but, after a
time in the profound obscurity, I came upon one of those round
well-like openings of which I have told you, half closed by a
fallen pillar. A sudden thought came to me. Could this Thing
have vanished down the shaft? I lit a match, and, looking down,
I saw a small, white, moving creature, with large bright eyes
which regarded me steadfastly as it retreated. It made me
shudder. It was so like a human spider! It was clambering down
the wall, and now I saw for the first time a number of metal foot
and hand rests forming a kind of ladder down the shaft. Then the
light burned my fingers and fell out of my hand, going out as it
dropped, and when I had lit another the little monster had
`I do not know how long I sat peering down that well. It was
not for some time that I could succeed in persuading myself that
the thing I had seen was human. But, gradually, the truth dawned
on me: that Man had not remained one species, but had
differentiated into two distinct animals: that my graceful
children of the Upper-world were not the sole descendants of our
generation, but that this bleached, obscene, nocturnal Thing,
which had flashed before me, was also heir to all the ages.
`I thought of the flickering pillars and of my theory of an
underground ventilation. I began to suspect their true import.
And what, I wondered, was this Lemur doing in my scheme of a
perfectly balanced organization? How was it related to the
indolent serenity of the beautiful Upper-worlders? And what was
hidden down there, at the foot of that shaft? I sat upon the
edge of the well telling myself that, at any rate, there was
nothing to fear, and that there I must descend for the solution
of my difficulties. And withal I was absolutely afraid to go!
As I hesitated, two of the beautiful Upper-world people came
running in their amorous sport across the daylight in the shadow.
The male pursued the female, flinging flowers at her as he ran.
`They seemed distressed to find me, my arm against the
overturned pillar, peering down the well. Apparently it was
considered bad form to remark these apertures; for when I pointed
to this one, and tried to frame a question about it in their
tongue, they were still more visibly distressed and turned away.
But they were interested by my matches, and I struck some to
amuse them. I tried them again about the well, and again I
failed. So presently I left them, meaning to go back to Weena,
and see what I could get from her. But my mind was already in
revolution; my guesses and impressions were slipping and sliding
to a new adjustment. I had now a clue to the import of these
wells, to the ventilating towers, to the mystery of the ghosts;
to say nothing of a hint at the meaning of the bronze gates and
the fate of the Time Machine! And very vaguely there came a
suggestion towards the solution of the economic problem that had
puzzled me.
`Here was the new view. Plainly, this second species of Man
was subterranean. There were three circumstances in particular
which made me think that its rare emergence above ground was the
outcome of a long-continued underground habit. In the first
place, there was the bleached look common in most animals that
live largely in the dark--the white fish of the Kentucky caves,
for instance. Then, those large eyes, with that capacity for
reflecting light, are common features of nocturnal things--
witness the owl and the cat. And last of all, that evident
confusion in the sunshine, that hasty yet fumbling awkward flight
towards dark shadow, and that peculiar carriage of the head while
in the light--all reinforced the theory of an extreme
sensitiveness of the retina.
`Beneath my feet, then, the earth must be tunnelled
enormously, and these tunnellings were the habitat of the new
race. The presence of ventilating shafts and wells along the
hill slopes--everywhere, in fact except along the river valley
--showed how universal were its ramifications. What so natural,
then, as to assume that it was in this artificial Underworld that
such work as was necessary to the comfort of the daylight race
was done? The notion was so plausible that I at once accepted
it, and went on to assume the how of this splitting of the human
species. I dare say you will anticipate the shape of my theory;
though, for myself, I very soon felt that it fell far short of
the truth.
`At first, proceeding from the problems of our own age, it
seemed clear as daylight to me that the gradual widening of the
present merely temporary and social difference between the
Capitalist and the Labourer, was the key to the whole position.
No doubt it will seem grotesque enough to you--and wildly
incredible!--and yet even now there are existing circumstances
to point that way. There is a tendency to utilize underground
space for the less ornamental purposes of civilization; there is
the Metropolitan Railway in London, for instance, there are new
electric railways, there are subways, there are underground
workrooms and restaurants, and they increase and multiply.
Evidently, I thought, this tendency had increased till Industry
had gradually lost its birthright in the sky. I mean that it had
gone deeper and deeper into larger and ever larger underground
factories, spending a still-increasing amount of its time
therein, till, in the end--! Even now, does not an East-end
worker live in such artificial conditions as practically to be
cut off from the natural surface of the earth?
`Again, the exclusive tendency of richer people--due, no
doubt, to the increasing refinement of their education, and the
widening gulf between them and the rude violence of the poor--
is already leading to the closing, in their interest, of
considerable portions of the surface of the land. About London,
for instance, perhaps half the prettier country is shut in
against intrusion. And this same widening gulf--which is due
to the length and expense of the higher educational process and
the increased facilities for and temptations towards refined
habits on the part of the rich--will make that exchange between
class and class, that promotion by intermarriage which at present
retards the splitting of our species along lines of social
stratification, less and less frequent. So, in the end, above
ground you must have the Haves, pursuing pleasure and comfort and
beauty, and below ground the Have-nots, the Workers getting
continually adapted to the conditions of their labour. Once they
were there, they would no doubt have to pay rent, and not a
little of it, for the ventilation of their caverns; and if they
refused, they would starve or be suffocated for arrears. Such of
them as were so constituted as to be miserable and rebellious
would die; and, in the end, the balance being permanent, the
survivors would become as well adapted to the conditions of
underground life, and as happy in their way, as the Upper-world
people were to theirs. As it seemed to me, the refined beauty
and the etiolated pallor followed naturally enough.
`The great triumph of Humanity I had dreamed of took a
different shape in my mind. It had been no such triumph of moral
education and general co-operation as I had imagined. Instead, I
saw a real aristocracy, armed with a perfected science and
working to a logical conclusion the industrial system of to-day.
Its triumph had not been simply a triumph over Nature, but a
triumph over Nature and the fellow-man. This, I must warn you,
was my theory at the time. I had no convenient cicerone in the
pattern of the Utopian books. My explanation may be absolutely
wrong. I still think it is the most plausible one. But even on
this supposition the balanced civilization that was at last
attained must have long since passed its zenith, and was now far
fallen into decay. The too-perfect security of the
Upper-worlders had led them to a slow movement of degeneration,
to a general dwindling in size, strength, and intelligence. That
I could see clearly enough already. What had happened to the
Under-grounders I did not yet suspect; but from what I had seen
of the Morlocks--that, by the by, was the name by which these
creatures were called--I could imagine that the modification of
the human type was even far more profound than among the "Eloi,"
the beautiful race that I already knew.
`Then came troublesome doubts. Why had the Morlocks taken my
Time Machine? For I felt sure it was they who had taken it.
Why, too, if the Eloi were masters, could they not restore the
machine to me? And why were they so terribly afraid of the dark?
I proceeded, as I have said, to question Weena about this
Under-world, but here again I was disappointed. At first she
would not understand my questions, and presently she refused to
answer them. She shivered as though the topic was unendurable.
And when I pressed her, perhaps a little harshly, she burst into
tears. They were the only tears, except my own, I ever saw in
that Golden Age. When I saw them I ceased abruptly to trouble
about the Morlocks, and was only concerned in banishing these
signs of the human inheritance from Weena's eyes. And very soon
she was smiling and clapping her hands, while I solemnly burned a

`It may seem odd to you, but it was two days before I could
follow up the new-found clue in what was manifestly the proper
way. I felt a peculiar shrinking from those pallid bodies. They
were just the half-bleached colour of the worms and things one
sees preserved in spirit in a zoological museum. And they were
filthily cold to the touch. Probably my shrinking was largely
due to the sympathetic influence of the Eloi, whose disgust of
the Morlocks I now began to appreciate.
`The next night I did not sleep well. Probably my health was
a little disordered. I was oppressed with perplexity and doubt.
Once or twice I had a feeling of intense fear for which I could
perceive no definite reason. I remember creeping noiselessly
into the great hall where the little people were sleeping in the
moonlight--that night Weena was among them--and feeling
reassured by their presence. It occurred to me even then, that
in the course of a few days the moon must pass through its last
quarter, and the nights grow dark, when the appearances of these
unpleasant creatures from below, these whitened Lemurs, this new
vermin that had replaced the old, might be more abundant. And on
both these days I had the restless feeling of one who shirks an
inevitable duty. I felt assured that the Time Machine was only
to be recovered by boldly penetrating these underground
mysteries. Yet I could not face the mystery. If only I had had
a companion it would have been different. But I was so horribly
alone, and even to clamber down into the darkness of the well
appalled me. I don't know if you will understand my feeling, but
I never felt quite safe at my back.
`It was this restlessness, this insecurity, perhaps, that
drove me further and further afield in my exploring expeditions.
Going to the south-westward towards the rising country that is
now called Combe Wood, I observed far off, in the direction of
nineteenth-century Banstead, a vast green structure, different in
character from any I had hitherto seen. It was larger than the
largest of the palaces or ruins I knew, and the facade had an
Oriental look: the face of it having the lustre, as well as the
pale-green tint, a kind of bluish-green, of a certain type of
Chinese porcelain. This difference in aspect suggested a
difference in use, and I was minded to push on and explore. But
the day was growing late, and I had come upon the sight of the
place after a long and tiring circuit; so I resolved to hold over
the adventure for the following day, and I returned to the
welcome and the caresses of little Weena. But next morning I
perceived clearly enough that my curiosity regarding the Palace
of Green Porcelain was a piece of self-deception, to enable me to
shirk, by another day, an experience I dreaded. I resolved I
would make the descent without further waste of time, and started
out in the early morning towards a well near the ruins of granite
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 Under-world alone.
But even while I turned this over in my mind I continued to
descend. At last, with intense relief, I saw dimly coming up, a
foot to the right of me, a slender loophole in the wall.
Swinging myself in, I found it was the aperture of a narrow
horizontal tunnel in which I could lie down and rest. It was not
too soon. My arms ached, my back was cramped, and I was
trembling with the prolonged terror of a fall. Besides this, the
unbroken darkness had had a distressing effect upon my eyes. The
air was full of the throb and hum of machinery pumping air down
the 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 Over-world people; so that
I was needs left to my own unaided efforts, and the thought of
flight before exploration was even then in my mind. But I said
to myself, "You are in for it now," and, feeling my way along the
tunnel, I found the noise of machinery grow louder. Presently
the walls fell away from me, and I came to a large open space,
and striking another match, saw that I had entered a vast arched
cavern, which stretched into utter darkness beyond the range of
my light. The view I had of it was as much as one could see in
the burning of a match.
`Necessarily my memory is vague. Great shapes like big
machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black
shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare.
The place, by the by, was very stuffy and oppressive, and the
faint halitus of freshly shed blood was in the air. Some way
down the central vista was a little table of white metal, laid
with what seemed a meal. The Morlocks at any rate were
carnivorous! Even at the time, I remember wondering what large
animal could have survived to furnish the red joint I saw. It
was all very indistinct: the heavy smell, the big unmeaning
shapes, the obscene figures lurking in the shadows, and only
waiting for the darkness to come at me again! Then the match
burned down, and stung my fingers, and fell, a wriggling red spot
in the blackness.
`I have thought since how particularly ill-equipped I was for
such an experience. When I had started with the Time Machine, I
had started with the absurd assumption that the men of the Future
would certainly be infinitely ahead of ourselves in all their
appliances. I had come without arms, without medicine, without
anything to smoke--at times I missed tobacco frightfully--even
without enough matches. If only I had thought of a Kodak! I
could have flashed that glimpse of the Underworld in a second,
and examined it at leisure. But, as it was, I stood there with
only the weapons and the powers that Nature had endowed me
with--hands, feet, and teeth; these, and four safety-matches that
still remained to me.
`I was afraid to push my way in among all this machinery in
the dark, and it was only with my last glimpse of light I
discovered that my store of matches had run low. It had never
occurred to me until that moment that there was any need to
economize them, and I had wasted almost half the box in
astonishing the Upper-worlders, to whom fire was a novelty. Now,
as I say, I had four left, and while I stood in the dark, a hand
touched mine, lank fingers came feeling over my face, and I was
sensible of a peculiar unpleasant odour. I fancied I heard the
breathing of a crowd of those dreadful little beings about me. I
felt the box of matches in my hand being gently disengaged, and
other hands behind me plucking at my clothing. The sense of
these unseen creatures examining me was indescribably unpleasant.
The sudden realization of my ignorance of their ways of thinking
and doing came home to me very vividly in the darkness. I shouted
at them as loudly as I could. They started away, and then I
could feel them approaching me again. They clutched at me more
boldly, whispering odd sounds to each other. I shivered
violently, and shouted again rather discordantly. This time they
were not so seriously alarmed, and they made a queer laughing
noise as they came back at me. I will confess I was horribly
frightened. I determined to strike another match and escape
under the protection of its glare. I did so, and eking out the
flicker with a scrap of paper from my pocket, I made good my
retreat to the narrow tunnel. But I had scarce entered this when
my light was blown out and in the blackness I could hear the
Morlocks rustling like wind among leaves, and pattering like the
rain, as they hurried after me.
`In a moment I was clutched by several hands, and there was no
mistaking that they were trying to haul me back. I struck
another light, and waved it in their dazzled faces. You can
scarce imagine how nauseatingly inhuman they looked--those pale,
chinless faces and great, lidless, pinkish-grey eyes!--as they
stared in their blindness and bewilderment. But I did not stay to
look, I promise you: I retreated again, and when my second match
had ended, I struck my third. It had almost burned through when
I reached the opening into the shaft. I lay down on the edge,
for the throb of the great pump below made me giddy. Then I felt
sideways for the projecting hooks, and, as I did so, my feet were
grasped from behind, and I was violently tugged backward. I lit
my last match . . . and it incontinently went out. But I had my
hand on the climbing bars now, and, kicking violently, I
disengaged myself from the clutches of the Morlocks and was
speedily clambering up the shaft, while they stayed peering and
blinking up at me: all but one little wretch who followed me for
some way, and wellnigh secured my boot as a trophy.
`That climb seemed interminable to me. With the last twenty
or thirty feet of it a deadly nausea came upon me. I had the
greatest difficulty in keeping my hold. The last few yards was a
frightful struggle against this faintness. Several times my head
swam, and I felt all the sensations of falling. At last,
however, I got over the well-mouth somehow, and staggered out of
the ruin into the blinding sunlight. I fell upon my face. Even
the soil smelt sweet and clean. Then I remember Weena kissing my
hands and ears, and the voices of others among the Eloi. Then,
for a time, I was insensible.


`Now, indeed, I seemed in a worse case than before. Hitherto,
except during my night's anguish at the loss of the Time Machine,
I had felt a sustaining hope of ultimate escape, but that hope
was staggered by these new discoveries. Hitherto I had merely
thought myself impeded by the childish simplicity of the little
people, and by some unknown forces which I had only to understand
to overcome; but there was an altogether new element in the
sickening quality of the Morlocks--a something inhuman and
malign. Instinctively I loathed them. Before, I had felt as a
man might feel who had fallen into a pit: my concern was with
the pit and how to get out of it. Now I felt like a beast in a
trap, whose enemy would come upon him soon.
`The enemy I dreaded may surprise you. It was the darkness of
the new moon. Weena had put this into my head by some at first
incomprehensible remarks about the Dark Nights. It was not now
such a very difficult problem to guess what the coming Dark
Nights might mean. The moon was on the wane: each night there
was a longer interval of darkness. And I now understood to some
slight degree at least the reason of the fear of the little
Upper-world people for the dark. I wondered vaguely what foul
villainy it might be that the Morlocks did under the new moon. I
felt pretty sure now that my second hypothesis was all wrong.
The Upper-world people might once have been the favoured
aristocracy, and the Morlocks their mechanical servants: but
that had long since passed away. The two species that had
resulted from the evolution of man were sliding down towards, or
had already arrived at, an altogether new relationship. The Eloi,
like the Carolingian kings, had decayed to a mere beautiful
futility. They still possessed the earth on sufferance: since
the Morlocks, subterranean for innumerable generations, had come
at last to find the daylit surface intolerable. And the Morlocks
made their garments, I inferred, and maintained them in their
habitual needs, perhaps through the survival of an old habit of
service. They did it as a standing horse paws with his foot, or
as a man enjoys killing animals in sport: because ancient and
departed necessities had impressed it on the organism. But,
clearly, the old order was already in part reversed. The Nemesis
of the delicate ones was creeping on apace. Ages ago, thousands
of generations ago, man had thrust his brother man out of the
ease and the sunshine. And now that brother was coming back
changed! Already the Eloi had begun to learn one old lesson
anew. They were becoming reacquainted with Fear. And suddenly
there came into my head the memory of the meat I had seen in the
Under-world. It seemed odd how it floated into my mind: not
stirred up as it were by the current of my meditations, but
coming in almost like a question from outside. I tried to recall
the form of it. I had a vague sense of something familiar, but I
could not tell what it was at the time.
`Still, however helpless the little people in the presence of
their mysterious Fear, I was differently constituted. I came out
of this age of ours, this ripe prime of the human race, when Fear
does not paralyse and mystery has lost its terrors. I at least
would defend myself. Without further delay I determined to make
myself arms and a fastness where I might sleep. With that refuge
as a base, I could face this strange world with some of that
confidence I had lost in realizing to what creatures night by
night I lay exposed. I felt I could never sleep again until my
bed was secure from them. I shuddered with horror to think how
they must already have examined me.
`I wandered during the afternoon along the valley of the
Thames, but found nothing that commended itself to my mind as
inaccessible. All the buildings and trees seemed easily
practicable to such dexterous climbers as the Morlocks, to judge
by their wells, must be. Then the tall pinnacles of the Palace
of Green Porcelain and the polished gleam of its walls came back
to my memory; and in the evening, taking Weena like a child upon
my shoulder, I went up the hills towards the south-west. The
distance, I had reckoned, was seven or eight miles, but it must
have been nearer eighteen. I had first seen the place on a moist
afternoon when distances are deceptively diminished. In
addition, the heel of one of my shoes was loose, and a nail was
working through the sole--they were comfortable old shoes I wore
about indoors--so that I was lame. And it was already long past
sunset when I came in sight of the palace, silhouetted black
against the pale yellow of the sky.
`Weena had been hugely delighted when I began to carry her,
but after a while she desired me to let her down, and ran along
by the side of me, occasionally darting off on either hand to
pick flowers to stick in my pockets. My pockets had always
puzzled Weena, but at the last she had concluded that they were
an eccentric kind of vase for floral decoration. At least she
utilized them for that purpose. And that reminds me! In
changing my jacket I found . . .'
The Time Traveller paused, put his hand into his pocket, and
silently placed two withered flowers, not unlike very large white
mallows, upon the little table. Then he resumed his narrative.
`As the hush of evening crept over the world and we proceeded
over the hill crest towards Wimbledon, Weena grew tired and
wanted to return to the house of grey stone. But I pointed out
the distant pinnacles of the Palace of Green Porcelain to her,
and contrived to make her understand that we were seeking a
refuge there from her Fear. You know that great pause that comes
upon things before the dusk? Even the breeze stops in the trees.
To me there is always an air of expectation about that evening
stillness. The sky was clear, remote, and empty save for a few
horizontal bars far down in the sunset. Well, that night the
expectation took the colour of my fears. In that darkling calm
my senses seemed preternaturally sharpened. I fancied I could
even feel the hollowness of the ground beneath my feet: could,
indeed, almost see through it the Morlocks on their ant-hill
going hither and thither and waiting for the dark. In my
excitement I fancied that they would receive my invasion of their
burrows as a declaration of war. And why had they taken my Time
`So we went on in the quiet, and the twilight deepened into
night. The clear blue of the distance faded, and one star after
another came out. The ground grew dim and the trees black.
Weena's fears and her fatigue grew upon her. I took her in my
arms and talked to her and caressed her. Then, as the darkness
grew deeper, she put her arms round my neck, and, closing her
eyes, tightly pressed her face against my shoulder. So we went
down a long slope into a valley, and there in the dimness I
almost walked into a little river. This I waded, and went up the
opposite side of the valley, past a number of sleeping houses,
and by a statue--a Faun, or some such figure, MINUS the head.
Here too were acacias. So far I had seen nothing of the
Morlocks, but it was yet early in the night, and the darker hours
before the old moon rose were still to come.
`From the brow of the next hill I saw a thick wood spreading
wide and black before me. I hesitated at this. I could see no
end to it, either to the right or the left. Feeling tired--my
feet, in particular, were very sore--I carefully lowered Weena
from my shoulder as I halted, and sat down upon the turf. I
could no longer see the Palace of Green Porcelain, and I was in
doubt of my direction. I looked into the thickness of the wood
and thought of what it might hide. Under that dense tangle of
branches one would be out of sight of the stars. Even were there
no other lurking danger--a danger I did not care to let my
imagination loose upon--there would still be all the roots to
stumble over and the tree-boles to strike against.
`I was very tired, too, after the excitements of the day; so I
decided that I would not face it, but would pass the night upon
the open hill.
`Weena, I was glad to find, was fast asleep. I carefully
wrapped her in my jacket, and sat down beside her to wait for the
moonrise. The hill-side was quiet and deserted, but from the
black of the wood there came now and then a stir of living
things. Above me shone the stars, for the night was very clear.
I felt a certain sense of friendly comfort in their twinkling.
All the old constellations had gone from the sky, however: that
slow movement which is imperceptible in a hundred human
lifetimes, had long since rearranged them in unfamiliar
groupings. But the Milky Way, it seemed to me, was still the
same tattered streamer of star-dust as of yore. Southward (as I
judged it) was a very bright red star that was new to me; it was
even more splendid than our own green Sirius. And amid all these
scintillating points of light one bright planet shone kindly and
steadily like the face of an old friend.
`Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and
all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their
unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their
movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. I
thought of the great precessional cycle that the pole of the
earth describes. Only forty times had that silent revolution
occurred during all the years that I had traversed. And during
these few revolutions all the activity, all the traditions, the
complex organizations, the nations, languages, literatures,
aspirations, even the mere memory of Man as I knew him, had been
swept out of existence. Instead were these frail creatures who
had forgotten their high ancestry, and the white Things of which
I went in terror. Then I thought of the Great Fear that was
between the two species, and for the first time, with a sudden
shiver, came the clear knowledge of what the meat I had seen
might be. Yet it was too horrible! I looked at little Weena
sleeping beside me, her face white and starlike under the stars,
and forthwith dismissed the thought.
`Through that long night I held my mind off the Morlocks as
well as I could, and whiled away the time by trying to fancy I
could find signs of the old constellations in the new confusion.
The sky kept very clear, except for a hazy cloud or so. No doubt
I dozed at times. Then, as my vigil wore on, came a faintness in
the eastward sky, like the reflection of some colourless fire,
and the old moon rose, thin and peaked and white. And close
behind, and overtaking it, and overflowing it, the dawn came,
pale at first, and then growing pink and warm. No Morlocks had
approached us. Indeed, I had seen none upon the hill that night.
And in the confidence of renewed day it almost seemed to me that
my fear had been unreasonable. I stood up and found my foot with
the loose heel swollen at the ankle and painful under the heel;
so I sat down again, took off my shoes, and flung them away.
`I awakened Weena, and we went down into the wood, now green
and pleasant instead of black and forbidding. We found some
fruit wherewith to break our fast. We soon met others of the
dainty ones, laughing and dancing in the sunlight as though there
was no such thing in nature as the night. And then I thought
once more of the meat that I had seen. I felt assured now of
what it was, and from the bottom of my heart I pitied this last
feeble rill from the great flood of humanity. Clearly, at some
time in the Long-Ago of human decay the Morlocks' food had run
short. Possibly they had lived on rats and such-like vermin.
Even now man is far less discriminating and exclusive in his food
than he was--far less than any monkey. His prejudice against
human flesh is no deep-seated instinct. And so these inhuman
sons of men----! I tried to look at the thing in a scientific
spirit. After all, they were less human and more remote than our
cannibal ancestors of three or four thousand years ago. And the
intelligence that would have made this state of things a torment
had gone. Why should I trouble myself? These Eloi were mere
fatted cattle, which the ant-like Morlocks preserved and preyed
upon--probably saw to the breeding of. And there was Weena
dancing at my side!
`Then I tried to preserve myself from the horror that was
coming upon me, by regarding it as a rigorous punishment of human
selfishness. Man had been content to live in ease and delight
upon the labours of his fellow-man, had taken Necessity as his
watchword and excuse, and in the fullness of time Necessity had
come home to him. I even tried a Carlyle-like scorn of this
wretched aristocracy in decay. But this attitude of mind was
impossible. However great their intellectual degradation, the
Eloi had kept too much of the human form not to claim my
sympathy, and to make me perforce a sharer in their degradation
and their Fear.

`I had at that time very vague ideas as to the course I should
pursue. My first was to secure some safe place of refuge, and to
make myself such arms of metal or stone as I could contrive.
That necessity was immediate. In the next place, I hoped to
procure some means of fire, so that I should have the weapon of a
torch at hand, for nothing, I knew, would be more efficient
against these Morlocks. Then I wanted to arrange some
contrivance to break open the doors of bronze under the White
Sphinx. I had in mind a battering ram. I had a persuasion that
if I could enter those doors and carry a blaze of light before me
I should discover the Time Machine and escape. I could not
imagine the Morlocks were strong enough to move it far away.
Weena I had resolved to bring with me to our own time. And
turning such schemes over in my mind I pursued our way towards
the building which my fancy had chosen as our dwelling.

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