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Contents > Author > H. G. Wells > The Time Machine 12 1866- 1946
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H. G. Wells
The Time Machine 12
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'So I came back. For a long time I must have been insensible upon
the machine. The blinking succession of the days and nights was
resumed, the sun got golden again, the sky blue. I breathed with
greater freedom. The fluctuating contours of the land ebbed and
flowed. The hands spun backward upon the dials. At last I saw again
the dim shadows of houses, the evidences of decadent humanity.
These, too, changed and passed, and others came. Presently, when
the million dial was at zero, I slackened speed. I began to recognize
our own petty and familiar architecture, the thousands hand ran back
to the starting-point, the night and day flapped slower and slower.
Then the old walls of the laboratory came round me. Very gently,
now, I slowed the mechanism down.

'I saw one little thing that seemed odd to me. I think I have told
you that when I set out, before my velocity became very high, Mrs.
Watchett had walked across the room, travelling, as it seemed to me,
like a rocket. As I returned, I passed again across that minute when
she traversed the laboratory. But now her every motion appeared to
be the exact inversion of her previous ones. The door at the lower
end opened, and she glided quietly up the laboratory, back foremost,
and disappeared behind the door by which she had previously entered.
Just before that I seemed to see Hillyer for a moment; but he passed
like a flash.

'Then I stopped the machine, and saw about me again the old familiar
laboratory, my tools, my appliances just as I had left them. I got
off the thing very shakily, and sat down upon my bench. For several
minutes I trembled violently. Then I became calmer. Around me was
my old workshop again, exactly as it had been. I might have slept
there, and the whole thing have been a dream.

'And yet, not exactly! The thing had started from the south-east
corner of the laboratory. It had come to rest again in the
north-west, against the wall where you saw it. That gives you the
exact distance from my little lawn to the pedestal of the White
Sphinx, into which the Morlocks had carried my machine.

'For a time my brain went stagnant. Presently I got up and came
through the passage here, limping, because my heel was still
painful, and feeling sorely begrimed. I saw the "Pall Mall Gazette"
on the table by the door. I found the date was indeed to-day, and
looking at the timepiece, saw the hour was almost eight o'clock. I
heard your voices and the clatter of plates. I hesitated-- I felt so
sick and weak. Then I sniffed good wholesome meat, and opened
the door on you. You know the rest. I washed, and dined, and
now I am telling you the story.

'I know,' he said, after a pause, 'that all this will be absolutely
incredible to you. To me the one incredible thing is that I am here
to-night in this old familiar room looking into your friendly faces
and telling you these strange adventures.'

He looked at the Medical Man. 'No. I cannot expect you to believe
it. Take it as a lie-- or a prophecy. Say I dreamed it in the
workshop. Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of
our race until I have hatched this fiction. Treat my assertion of its
truth as a mere stroke of art to enhance its interest. And taking
it as a story, what do you think of it?'

He took up his pipe, and began, in his old accustomed manner, to tap
with it nervously upon the bars of the grate. There was a momentary
stillness. Then chairs began to creak and shoes to scrape upon the
carpet. I took my eyes off the Time Traveller's face, and looked
round at his audience. They were in the dark, and little spots of
colour swam before them. The Medical Man seemed absorbed in the
contemplation of our host. The Editor was looking hard at the end
of his cigar-- the sixth. The Journalist fumbled for his watch. The
others, as far as I remember, were motionless.

The Editor stood up with a sigh. 'What a pity it is you're not a writer
of stories!' he said, putting his hand on the Time Traveller's shoulder.

'You don't believe it?'


'I thought not.'

The Time Traveller turned to us. 'Where are the matches?' he said.
He lit one and spoke over his pipe, puffing. 'To tell you the truth
... I hardly believe it myself.... And yet...'

His eye fell with a mute inquiry upon the withered white flowers
upon the little table. Then he turned over the hand holding his
pipe, and I saw he was looking at some half-healed scars on his

The Medical Man rose, came to the lamp, and examined the flowers.
'The gynaeceum's odd,' he said. The Psychologist leant forward to
see, holding out his hand for a specimen.

'I'm hanged if it isn't a quarter to one,' said the Journalist. 'How
shall we get home?'

'Plenty of cabs at the station,' said the Psychologist.

'It's a curious thing,' said the Medical Man; 'but I certainly don't
know the natural order of these flowers. May I have them?'

The Time Traveller hesitated. Then suddenly: 'Certainly not.'

'Where did you really get them?' said the Medical Man.

The Time Traveller put his hand to his head. He spoke like one who
was trying to keep hold of an idea that eluded him. 'They were put
into my pocket by Weena, when I travelled into Time.' He stared
round the room. 'I'm damned if it isn't all going. This room and you
and the atmosphere of every day is too much for my memory. Did I
ever make a Time Machine, or a model of a Time Machine? Or is it all
only a dream? They say life is a dream, a precious poor dream at
times-- but I can't stand another that won't fit. It's madness. And
where did the dream come from? ... I must look at that machine. If
there is one!'

He caught up the lamp swiftly, and carried it, flaring red, through
the door into the corridor. We followed him. There in the flickering
light of the lamp was the machine sure enough, squat, ugly, and
askew; a thing of brass, ebony, ivory, and translucent glimmering
quartz. Solid to the touch-- for I put out my hand and felt the rail
of it-- and with brown spots and smears upon the ivory, and bits
of grass and moss upon the lower parts, and one rail bent awry.

The Time Traveller put the lamp down on the bench, and ran his hand
along the damaged rail. 'It's all right now,' he said. 'The story I
told you was true. I'm sorry to have brought you out here in the
cold.' He took up the lamp, and, in an absolute silence, we
returned to the smoking-room.

He came into the hall with us and helped the Editor on with his
coat. The Medical Man looked into his face and, with a certain
hesitation, told him he was suffering from overwork, at which he
laughed hugely. I remember him standing in the open doorway,
bawling good night.

I shared a cab with the Editor. He thought the tale a 'gaudy lie.'
For my own part I was unable to come to a conclusion. The story was
so fantastic and incredible, the telling so credible and sober. I
lay awake most of the night thinking about it. I determined to go
next day and see the Time Traveller again. I was told he was in the
laboratory, and being on easy terms in the house, I went up to him.
The laboratory, however, was empty. I stared for a minute at the
Time Machine and put out my hand and touched the lever. At that the
squat substantial-looking mass swayed like a bough shaken by the
wind. Its instability startled me extremely, and I had a queer
reminiscence of the childish days when I used to be forbidden to
meddle. I came back through the corridor. The Time Traveller met me
in the smoking-room. He was coming from the house. He had a small
camera under one arm and a knapsack under the other. He laughed
when he saw me, and gave me an elbow to shake. 'I'm frightfully
busy,' said he, 'with that thing in there.'

'But is it not some hoax?' I said. 'Do you really travel through

'Really and truly I do.' And he looked frankly into my eyes. He
hesitated. His eye wandered about the room. 'I only want half an
hour,' he said. 'I know why you came, and it's awfully good of you.
There's some magazines here. If you'll stop to lunch I'll prove you
this time travelling up to the hilt, specimen and all. If you'll
forgive my leaving you now?'

I consented, hardly comprehending then the full import of his words,
and he nodded and went on down the corridor. I heard the door of
the laboratory slam, seated myself in a chair, and took up a daily
paper. What was he going to do before lunch-time? Then suddenly
I was reminded by an advertisement that I had promised to meet
Richardson, the publisher, at two. I looked at my watch, and saw
that I could barely save that engagement. I got up and went down
the passage to tell the Time Traveller.

As I took hold of the handle of the door I heard an exclamation,
oddly truncated at the end, and a click and a thud. A gust of air
whirled round me as I opened the door, and from within came the
sound of broken glass falling on the floor. The Time Traveller was
not there. I seemed to see a ghostly, indistinct figure sitting in
a whirling mass of black and brass for a moment-- a figure so
transparent that the bench behind with its sheets of drawings was
absolutely distinct; but this phantasm vanished as I rubbed my eyes.
The Time Machine had gone. Save for a subsiding stir of dust, the
further end of the laboratory was empty. A pane of the skylight
had, apparently, just been blown in.

I felt an unreasonable amazement. I knew that something strange
had happened, and for the moment could not distinguish what the
strange thing might be. As I stood staring, the door into the garden
opened, and the man-servant appeared.

We looked at each other. Then ideas began to come. 'Has Mr. ----
gone out that way?' said I.

'No, sir. No one has come out this way. I was expecting to find
him here.'

At that I understood. At the risk of disappointing Richardson I
stayed on, waiting for the Time Traveller; waiting for the second,
perhaps still stranger story, and the specimens and photographs he
would bring with him. But I am beginning now to fear that I must
wait a lifetime. The Time Traveller vanished three years ago. And,
as everybody knows now, he has never returned.


One cannot choose but wonder. Will he ever return? It may be that he
swept back into the past, and fell among the blood-drinking, hairy
savages of the Age of Unpolished Stone; into the abysses of the
Cretaceous Sea; or among the grotesque saurians, the huge reptilian
brutes of the Jurassic times. He may even now-- if I may use the
phrase-- be wandering on some plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral
reef, or beside the lonely saline lakes of the Triassic Age. Or did
he go forward, into one of the nearer ages, in which men are still
men, but with the riddles of our own time answered and its wearisome
problems solved? Into the manhood of the race: for I, for my own
part, cannot think that these latter days of weak experiment,
fragmentary theory, and mutual discord are indeed man's culminating
time! I say, for my own part. He, I know-- for the question had been
discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made--
thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw
in the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must
inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that
is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so. But to me
the future is still black and blank-- is a vast ignorance, lit at a
few casual places by the memory of his story. And I have by me, for
my comfort, two strange white flowers-- shrivelled now, and brown
and flat and brittle-- to witness that even when mind and strength
had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the
heart of man.

-------------------------------------THE END--------------------------------------

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