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H. G. Wells
The Time Machine 08
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CHAPTER VIII


'I found the Palace of Green Porcelain, when we approached it about
noon, deserted and falling into ruin. Only ragged vestiges of glass
remained in its windows, and great sheets of the green facing had
fallen away from the corroded metallic framework. It lay very high
upon a turfy down, and looking north-eastward before I entered it, I
was surprised to see a large estuary, or even creek, where I judged
Wandsworth and Battersea must once have been. I thought then--
though I never followed up the thought-- of what might have
happened, or might be happening, to the living things in the sea.

'The material of the Palace proved on examination to be indeed
porcelain, and along the face of it I saw an inscription in some
unknown character. I thought, rather foolishly, that Weena might
help me to interpret this, but I only learned that the bare idea of
writing had never entered her head. She always seemed to me, I
fancy, more human than she was, perhaps because her affection
was so human.

'Within the big valves of the door-- which were open and broken
-- we found, instead of the customary hall, a long gallery lit by many
side windows. At the first glance I was reminded of a museum.
The tiled floor was thick with dust, and a remarkable array of
miscellaneous objects was shrouded in the same grey covering. Then
I perceived, standing strange and gaunt in the centre of the hall,
what was clearly the lower part of a huge skeleton. I recognized
by the oblique feet that it was some extinct creature after the
fashion of the Megatherium. The skull and the upper bones lay
beside it in the thick dust, and in one place, where rain-water had
dropped through a leak in the roof, the thing itself had been worn
away. Further in the gallery was the huge skeleton barrel of a
Brontosaurus. My museum hypothesis was confirmed. Going towards
the side I found what appeared to be sloping shelves, and clearing
away the thick dust, I found the old familiar glass cases of our own
time. But they must have been air-tight to judge from the fair
preservation of some of their contents.

'Clearly we stood among the ruins of some latter-day South
Kensington! Here, apparently, was the Palaeontological Section,
and a very splendid array of fossils it must have been, though the
inevitable process of decay that had been staved off for a time, and
had, through the extinction of bacteria and fungi, lost ninety-nine
hundredths of its force, was nevertheless, with extreme sureness if
with extreme slowness at work again upon all its treasures. Here
and there I found traces of the little people in the shape of rare
fossils broken to pieces or threaded in strings upon reeds. And the
cases had in some instances been bodily removed-- by the Morlocks
as I judged. The place was very silent. The thick dust deadened our
footsteps. Weena, who had been rolling a sea urchin down the
sloping glass of a case, presently came, as I stared about me, and
very quietly took my hand and stood beside me.

'And at first I was so much surprised by this ancient monument of
an intellectual age, that I gave no thought to the possibilities it
presented. Even my preoccupation about the Time Machine receded
a little from my mind.

'To judge from the size of the place, this Palace of Green Porcelain
had a great deal more in it than a Gallery of Palaeontology;
possibly historical galleries; it might be, even a library! To me,
at least in my present circumstances, these would be vastly more
interesting than this spectacle of oldtime geology in decay.
Exploring, I found another short gallery running transversely to the
first. This appeared to be devoted to minerals, and the sight of a
block of sulphur set my mind running on gunpowder. But I could find
no saltpeter; indeed, no nitrates of any kind. Doubtless they had
deliquesced ages ago. Yet the sulphur hung in my mind, and set up a
train of thinking. As for the rest of the contents of that gallery,
though on the whole they were the best preserved of all I saw, I had
little interest. I am no specialist in mineralogy, and I went on
down a very ruinous aisle running parallel to the first hall I had
entered. Apparently this section had been devoted to natural
history, but everything had long since passed out of recognition. A
few shrivelled and blackened vestiges of what had once been stuffed
animals, desiccated mummies in jars that had once held spirit, a
brown dust of departed plants: that was all! I was sorry for that,
because I should have been glad to trace the patent readjustments by
which the conquest of animated nature had been attained. Then we
came to a gallery of simply colossal proportions, but singularly
ill-lit, the floor of it running downward at a slight angle from the
end at which I entered. At intervals white globes hung from the
ceiling-- many of them cracked and smashed-- which suggested that
originally the place had been artificially lit. Here I was more in
my element, for rising on either side of me were the huge bulks of
big machines, all greatly corroded and many broken down, but some
still fairly complete. You know I have a certain weakness for
mechanism, and I was inclined to linger among these; the more so as
for the most part they had the interest of puzzles, and I could make
only the vaguest guesses at what they were for. I fancied that if
I could solve their puzzles I should find myself in possession of
powers that might be of use against the Morlocks.

'Suddenly Weena came very close to my side. So suddenly that she
startled me. Had it not been for her I do not think I should have
noticed that the floor of the gallery sloped at all. The end I had come
in at was quite above ground, and was lit by rare slit-like windows.
As you went down the length, the ground came up against these
windows, until at last there was a pit like the "area" of a London
house before each, and only a narrow line of daylight at the top.
I went slowly along, puzzling about the machines, and had been
too intent upon them to notice the gradual diminution of the light,
until Weena's increasing apprehensions drew my attention. Then
I saw that the gallery ran down at last into a thick darkness. I
hesitated, and then, as I looked round me, I saw that the dust
was less abundant and its surface less even. Further away towards
the dimness, it appeared to be broken by a number of small narrow
footprints. My sense of the immediate presence of the Morlocks
revived at that. I felt that I was wasting my time in the academic
examination of machinery. I called to mind that it was already far
advanced in the afternoon, and that I had still no weapon, no refuge,
and no means of making a fire. And then down in the remote blackness
of the gallery I heard a peculiar pattering, and the same odd noises
I had heard down the well.

'I took Weena's hand. Then, struck with a sudden idea, I left her
and turned to a machine from which projected a lever not unlike
those in a signal-box. Clambering upon the stand, and grasping this
lever in my hands, I put all my weight upon it sideways. Suddenly
Weena, deserted in the central aisle, began to whimper. I had judged
the strength of the lever pretty correctly, for it snapped after a
minute's strain, and I rejoined her with a mace in my hand more than
sufficient, I judged, for any Morlock skull I might encounter. And I
longed very much to kill a Morlock or so. Very inhuman, you may
think, to want to go killing one's own descendants! But it was
impossible, somehow, to feel any humanity in the things. Only my
disinclination to leave Weena, and a persuasion that if I began to
slake my thirst for murder my Time Machine might suffer, restrained
me from going straight down the gallery and killing the brutes I
heard.

'Well, mace in one hand and Weena in the other, I went out of that
gallery and into another and still larger one, which at the first
glance reminded me of a military chapel hung with tattered flags.
The brown and charred rags that hung from the sides of it, I
presently recognized as the decaying vestiges of books. They had
long since dropped to pieces, and every semblance of print had left
them. But here and there were warped boards and cracked metallic
clasps that told the tale well enough. Had I been a literary man I
might, perhaps, have moralized upon the futility of all ambition.
But as it was, the thing that struck me with keenest force was the
enormous waste of labour to which this sombre wilderness of rotting
paper testified. At the time I will confess that I thought chiefly
of the "Philosophical Transactions" and my own seventeen papers upon
physical optics.

'Then, going up a broad staircase, we came to what may once have
been a gallery of technical chemistry. And here I had not a little
hope of useful discoveries. Except at one end where the roof had
collapsed, this gallery was well preserved. I went eagerly to every
unbroken case. And at last, in one of the really air-tight cases,
I found a box of matches. Very eagerly I tried them. They were
perfectly good. They were not even damp. I turned to Weena. "Dance,"
I cried to her in her own tongue. For now I had a weapon indeed
against the horrible creatures we feared. And so, in that derelict
museum, upon the thick soft carpeting of dust, to Weena's huge
delight, I solemnly performed a kind of composite dance, whistling
"The Land of the Leal" as cheerfully as I could. In part it was a
modest cancan, in part a step dance, in part a skirt-dance (so far
as my tail-coat permitted), and in part original. For I am naturally
inventive, as you know.

'Now, I still think that for this box of matches to have escaped
the wear of time for immemorial years was a most strange, as for
me it was a most fortunate thing. Yet, oddly enough, I found a far
unlikelier substance, and that was camphor. I found it in a sealed
jar, that by chance, I suppose, had been really hermetically sealed.
I fancied at first that it was paraffin wax, and smashed the glass
accordingly. But the odour of camphor was unmistakable. In the
universal decay this volatile substance had chanced to survive,
perhaps through many thousands of centuries. It reminded me of a
sepia painting I had once seen done from the ink of a fossil
Belemnite that must have perished and become fossilized millions
of years ago. I was about to throw it away, but I remembered that
it was inflammable and burned with a good bright flame-- was, in
fact, an excellent candle-- and I put it in my pocket. I found no
explosives, however, nor any means of breaking down the bronze
doors. As yet my iron crowbar was the most helpful thing I had
chanced upon. Nevertheless I left that gallery greatly elated.

'I cannot tell you all the story of that long afternoon. It would
require a great effort of memory to recall my explorations in at all
the proper order. I remember a long gallery of rusting stands of
arms, and how I hesitated between my crowbar and a hatchet or a
sword. I could not carry both, however, and my bar of iron promised
best against the bronze gates. There were numbers of guns, pistols,
and rifles. The most were masses of rust, but many were of some
new metal, and still fairly sound. But any cartridges or powder
there may once have been had rotted into dust. One corner I saw was
charred and shattered; perhaps, I thought, by an explosion among the
specimens. In another place was a vast array of idols-- Polynesian,
Mexican, Grecian, Phoenician, every country on earth I should think.
And here, yielding to an irresistible impulse, I wrote my name upon
the nose of a steatite monster from South America that particularly
took my fancy.

'As the evening drew on, my interest waned. I went through gallery
after gallery, dusty, silent, often ruinous, the exhibits sometimes
mere heaps of rust and lignite, sometimes fresher. In one place I
suddenly found myself near the model of a tin-mine, and then by the
merest accident I discovered, in an air-tight case, two dynamite
cartridges! I shouted "Eureka!" and smashed the case with joy. Then
came a doubt. I hesitated. Then, selecting a little side gallery,
I made my essay. I never felt such a disappointment as I did in
waiting five, ten, fifteen minutes for an explosion that never came.
Of course the things were dummies, as I might have guessed from
their presence. I really believe that had they not been so, I should
have rushed off incontinently and blown Sphinx, bronze doors, and
(as it proved) my chances of finding the Time Machine, all together
into non-existence.

'It was after that, I think, that we came to a little open court
within the palace. It was turfed, and had three fruit-trees. So we
rested and refreshed ourselves. Towards sunset I began to consider
our position. Night was creeping upon us, and my inaccessible
hiding-place had still to be found. But that troubled me very little
now. I had in my possession a thing that was, perhaps, the best of
all defences against the Morlocks-- I had matches! I had the camphor
in my pocket, too, if a blaze were needed. It seemed to me that
the best thing we could do would be to pass the night in the open,
protected by a fire. In the morning there was the getting of the
Time Machine. Towards that, as yet, I had only my iron mace. But
now, with my growing knowledge, I felt very differently towards
those bronze doors. Up to this, I had refrained from forcing them,
largely because of the mystery on the other side. They had never
impressed me as being very strong, and I hoped to find my bar of
iron not altogether inadequate for the work.


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