your online library and language lab
Contents > Author > H. G. Wells > The Time Machine 09 1866- 1946
Previous Next

H. G. Wells
The Time Machine 09
printer friendly version
CHAPTER IX


'We emerged from the palace while the sun was still in part above
the horizon. I was determined to reach the White Sphinx early the
next morning, and ere the dusk I purposed pushing through the woods
that had stopped me on the previous journey. My plan was to go as
far as possible that night, and then, building a fire, to sleep
in the protection of its glare. Accordingly, as we went along I
gathered any sticks or dried grass I saw, and presently had my arms
full of such litter. Thus loaded, our progress was slower than I had
anticipated, and besides Weena was tired. And I began to suffer from
sleepiness too; so that it was full night before we reached the
wood. Upon the shrubby hill of its edge Weena would have stopped,
fearing the darkness before us; but a singular sense of impending
calamity, that should indeed have served me as a warning, drove me
onward. I had been without sleep for a night and two days, and I was
feverish and irritable. I felt sleep coming upon me, and the Morlocks
with it.

'While we hesitated, among the black bushes behind us, and dim
against their blackness, I saw three crouching figures. There was
scrub and long grass all about us, and I did not feel safe from
their insidious approach. The forest, I calculated, was rather
less than a mile across. If we could get through it to the bare
hill-side, there, as it seemed to me, was an altogether safer
resting-place; I thought that with my matches and my camphor I could
contrive to keep my path illuminated through the woods. Yet it was
evident that if I was to flourish matches with my hands I should
have to abandon my firewood; so, rather reluctantly, I put it down.
And then it came into my head that I would amaze our friends behind
by lighting it. I was to discover the atrocious folly of this
proceeding, but it came to my mind as an ingenious move for covering
our retreat.

'I don't know if you have ever thought what a rare thing flame must
be in the absence of man and in a temperate climate. The sun's
heat is rarely strong enough to burn, even when it is focused by
dewdrops, as is sometimes the case in more tropical districts.
Lightning may blast and blacken, but it rarely gives rise to
widespread fire. Decaying vegetation may occasionally smoulder with
the heat of its fermentation, but this rarely results in flame. In
this decadence, too, the art of fire-making had been forgotten on
the earth. The red tongues that went licking up my heap of wood were
an altogether new and strange thing to Weena.

'She wanted to run to it and play with it. I believe she would have
cast herself into it had I not restrained her. But I caught her up,
and in spite of her struggles, plunged boldly before me into the
wood. For a little way the glare of my fire lit the path. Looking
back presently, I could see, through the crowded stems, that from my
heap of sticks the blaze had spread to some bushes adjacent, and a
curved line of fire was creeping up the grass of the hill. I laughed
at that, and turned again to the dark trees before me. It was very
black, and Weena clung to me convulsively, but there was still, as
my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, sufficient light for me to
avoid the stems. Overhead it was simply black, except where a gap of
remote blue sky shone down upon us here and there. I struck none of
my matches because I had no hand free. Upon my left arm I carried my
little one, in my right hand I had my iron bar.

'For some way I heard nothing but the crackling twigs under my feet,
the faint rustle of the breeze above, and my own breathing and the
throb of the blood-vessels in my ears. Then I seemed to know of a
pattering about me. I pushed on grimly. The pattering grew more
distinct, and then I caught the same queer sound and voices I had
heard in the Under-world. There were evidently several of the
Morlocks, and they were closing in upon me. Indeed, in another
minute I felt a tug at my coat, then something at my arm. And
Weena shivered violently, and became quite still.

'It was time for a match. But to get one I must put her down. I did
so, and, as I fumbled with my pocket, a struggle began in the
darkness about my knees, perfectly silent on her part and with the
same peculiar cooing sounds from the Morlocks. Soft little hands,
too, were creeping over my coat and back, touching even my neck.
Then the match scratched and fizzed. I held it flaring, and saw the
white backs of the Morlocks in flight amid the trees. I hastily took
a lump of camphor from my pocket, and prepared to light it as soon
as the match should wane. Then I looked at Weena. She was lying
clutching my feet and quite motionless, with her face to the ground.
With a sudden fright I stooped to her. She seemed scarcely to
breathe. I lit the block of camphor and flung it to the ground,
and as it split and flared up and drove back the Morlocks and the
shadows, I knelt down and lifted her. The wood behind seemed full of
the stir and murmur of a great company!

'She seemed to have fainted. I put her carefully upon my shoulder
and rose to push on, and then there came a horrible realization. In
manoeuvring with my matches and Weena, I had turned myself about
several times, and now I had not the faintest idea in what direction
lay my path. For all I knew, I might be facing back towards the
Palace of Green Porcelain. I found myself in a cold sweat. I had to
think rapidly what to do. I determined to build a fire and encamp
where we were. I put Weena, still motionless, down upon a turfy
bole, and very hastily, as my first lump of camphor waned, I began
collecting sticks and leaves. Here and there out of the darkness
round me the Morlocks' eyes shone like carbuncles.

'The camphor flickered and went out. I lit a match, and as I did so,
two white forms that had been approaching Weena dashed hastily
away. One was so blinded by the light that he came straight for me,
and I felt his bones grind under the blow of my fist. He gave a whoop
of dismay, staggered a little way, and fell down. I lit another piece
of camphor, and went on gathering my bonfire. Presently I noticed
how dry was some of the foliage above me, for since my arrival
on the Time Machine, a matter of a week, no rain had fallen. So,
instead of casting about among the trees for fallen twigs, I began
leaping up and dragging down branches. Very soon I had a choking
smoky fire of green wood and dry sticks, and could economize my
camphor. Then I turned to where Weena lay beside my iron mace. I
tried what I could to revive her, but she lay like one dead. I could
not even satisfy myself whether or not she breathed.

'Now, the smoke of the fire beat over towards me, and it must have
made me heavy of a sudden. Moreover, the vapour of camphor was in
the air. My fire would not need replenishing for an hour or so. I
felt very weary after my exertion, and sat down. The wood, too, was
full of a slumbrous murmur that I did not understand. I seemed just
to nod and open my eyes. But all was dark, and the Morlocks had
their hands upon me. Flinging off their clinging fingers I hastily
felt in my pocket for the match-box, and-- it had gone! Then they
gripped and closed with me again. In a moment I knew what had
happened. I had slept, and my fire had gone out, and the bitterness
of death came over my soul. The forest seemed full of the smell of
burning wood. I was caught by the neck, by the hair, by the arms,
and pulled down. It was indescribably horrible in the darkness to
feel all these soft creatures heaped upon me. I felt as if I was in
a monstrous spider's web. I was overpowered, and went down. I
felt little teeth nipping at my neck. I rolled over, and as I did so my
hand came against my iron lever. It gave me strength. I struggled
up, shaking the human rats from me, and, holding the bar short,
I thrust where I judged their faces might be. I could feel the
succulent giving of flesh and bone under my blows, and for a
moment I was free.

'The strange exultation that so often seems to accompany hard
fighting came upon me. I knew that both I and Weena were lost, but I
determined to make the Morlocks pay for their meat. I stood with my
back to a tree, swinging the iron bar before me. The whole wood was
full of the stir and cries of them. A minute passed. Their voices
seemed to rise to a higher pitch of excitement, and their movements
grew faster. Yet none came within reach. I stood glaring at the
blackness. Then suddenly came hope. What if the Morlocks were
afraid? And close on the heels of that came a strange thing. The
darkness seemed to grow luminous. Very dimly I began to see the
Morlocks about me-- three battered at my feet-- and then I recognized,
with incredulous surprise, that the others were running, in an
incessant stream, as it seemed, from behind me, and away through the
wood in front. And their backs seemed no longer white, but reddish.
As I stood agape, I saw a little red spark go drifting across a gap
of starlight between the branches, and vanish. And at that I
understood the smell of burning wood, the slumbrous murmur that was
growing now into a gusty roar, the red glow, and the Morlocks'
flight.

'Stepping out from behind my tree and looking back, I saw, through
the black pillars of the nearer trees, the flames of the burning
forest. It was my first fire coming after me. With that I looked for
Weena, but she was gone. The hissing and crackling behind me, the
explosive thud as each fresh tree burst into flame, left little
time for reflection. My iron bar still gripped, I followed in the
Morlocks' path. It was a close race. Once the flames crept forward
so swiftly on my right as I ran that I was outflanked and had to
strike off to the left. But at last I emerged upon a small open
space, and as I did so, a Morlock came blundering towards me, and
past me, and went on straight into the fire!

'And now I was to see the most weird and horrible thing, I think, of
all that I beheld in that future age. This whole space was as bright
as day with the reflection of the fire. In the centre was a hillock
or tumulus, surmounted by a scorched hawthorn. Beyond this was
another arm of the burning forest, with yellow tongues already
writhing from it, completely encircling the space with a fence of
fire. Upon the hill-side were some thirty or forty Morlocks, dazzled
by the light and heat, and blundering hither and thither against
each other in their bewilderment. At first I did not realize their
blindness, and struck furiously at them with my bar, in a frenzy of
fear, as they approached me, killing one and crippling several more.
But when I had watched the gestures of one of them groping under the
hawthorn against the red sky, and heard their moans, I was assured
of their absolute helplessness and misery in the glare, and I struck
no more of them.

'Yet every now and then one would come straight towards me, setting
loose a quivering horror that made me quick to elude him. At one
time the flames died down somewhat, and I feared the foul creatures
would presently be able to see me. I was thinking of beginning the
fight by killing some of them before this should happen; but the
fire burst out again brightly, and I stayed my hand. I walked about
the hill among them and avoided them, looking for some trace of
Weena. But Weena was gone.

'At last I sat down on the summit of the hillock, and watched this
strange incredible company of blind things groping to and fro, and
making uncanny noises to each other, as the glare of the fire beat
on them. The coiling uprush of smoke streamed across the sky, and
through the rare tatters of that red canopy, remote as though they
belonged to another universe, shone the little stars. Two or three
Morlocks came blundering into me, and I drove them off with blows
of my fists, trembling as I did so.

'For the most part of that night I was persuaded it was a nightmare.
I bit myself and screamed in a passionate desire to awake. I beat
the ground with my hands, and got up and sat down again, and
wandered here and there, and again sat down. Then I would fall to
rubbing my eyes and calling upon God to let me awake. Thrice I saw
Morlocks put their heads down in a kind of agony and rush into the
flames. But, at last, above the subsiding red of the fire, above the
streaming masses of black smoke and the whitening and blackening
tree stumps, and the diminishing numbers of these dim creatures,
came the white light of the day.

'I searched again for traces of Weena, but there were none. It was
plain that they had left her poor little body in the forest. I
cannot describe how it relieved me to think that it had escaped the
awful fate to which it seemed destined. As I thought of that, I was
almost moved to begin a massacre of the helpless abominations about
me, but I contained myself. The hillock, as I have said, was a kind
of island in the forest. From its summit I could now make out
through a haze of smoke the Palace of Green Porcelain, and from that
I could get my bearings for the White Sphinx. And so, leaving the
remnant of these damned souls still going hither and thither and
moaning, as the day grew clearer, I tied some grass about my feet
and limped on across smoking ashes and among black stems, that still
pulsated internally with fire, towards the hiding-place of the Time
Machine. I walked slowly, for I was almost exhausted, as well as
lame, and I felt the intensest wretchedness for the horrible death
of little Weena. It seemed an overwhelming calamity. Now, in this
old familiar room, it is more like the sorrow of a dream than an
actual loss. But that morning it left me absolutely lonely
again-- terribly alone. I began to think of this house of mine, of
this fireside, of some of you, and with such thoughts came a longing
that was pain.

'But as I walked over the smoking ashes under the bright morning
sky, I made a discovery. In my trouser pocket were still some loose
matches. The box must have leaked before it was lost.


----------------------------------------------------------------------
 

Previous Next

17917148 visitors
· 8908 texts · 2350 recordings · 957 authors · 194 readers

· Home · Index · Audio Clips · Links · Feedback · About Us · Contact Us ·


Copyright © RepeatAfterUs.com. All Rights Reserved.



Warning: Unknown: Your script possibly relies on a session side-effect which existed until PHP 4.2.3. Please be advised that the session extension does not consider global variables as a source of data, unless register_globals is enabled. You can disable this functionality and this warning by setting session.bug_compat_42 or session.bug_compat_warn to off, respectively in Unknown on line 0