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Chapter 3

  • 'I told some of you last Thursday of the principles of the Time Machine, an_howed you the actual thing itself, incomplete in the workshop. There it i_ow, a little travel-worn, truly; and one of the ivory bars is cracked, and _rass rail bent; but the rest of it's sound enough. I expected to finish it o_riday, but on Friday, when the putting together was nearly done, I found tha_ne of the nickel bars was exactly one inch too short, and this I had to ge_emade; so that the thing was not complete until this morning. It was at te_'clock to-day that the first of all Time Machines began its career. I gave i_ last tap, tried all the screws again, put one more drop of oil on the quart_od, and sat myself in the saddle. I suppose a suicide who holds a pistol t_is skull feels much the same wonder at what will come next as I felt then. _ook the starting lever in one hand and the stopping one in the other, presse_he first, and almost immediately the second. I seemed to reel; I felt _ightmare sensation of falling; and, looking round, I saw the laborator_xactly as before. Had anything happened? For a moment I suspected that m_ntellect had tricked me. Then I noted the clock. A moment before, as i_eemed, it had stood at a minute or so past ten; now it was nearly half-pas_hree!
  • 'I drew a breath, set my teeth, gripped the starting lever with both hands,
  • and went off with a thud. The laboratory got hazy and went dark. Mrs. Watchet_ame in and walked, apparently without seeing me, towards the garden door. _uppose it took her a minute or so to traverse the place, but to me she seeme_o shoot across the room like a rocket. I pressed the lever over to it_xtreme position. The night came like the turning out of a lamp, and i_nother moment came to-morrow. The laboratory grew faint and hazy, the_ainter and ever fainter. To-morrow night came black, then day again, nigh_gain, day again, faster and faster still. An eddying murmur filled my ears,
  • and a strange, dumb confusedness descended on my mind.
  • 'I am afraid I cannot convey the peculiar sensations of time travelling. The_re excessively unpleasant. There is a feeling exactly like that one has upo_ switchback—of a helpless headlong motion! I felt the same horribl_nticipation, too, of an imminent smash. As I put on pace, night followed da_ike the flapping of a black wing. The dim suggestion of the laboratory seeme_resently to fall away from me, and I saw the sun hopping swiftly across th_ky, leaping it every minute, and every minute marking a day. I supposed th_aboratory had been destroyed and I had come into the open air. I had a di_mpression of scaffolding, but I was already going too fast to be conscious o_ny moving things. The slowest snail that ever crawled dashed by too fast fo_e. The twinkling succession of darkness and light was excessively painful t_he eye. Then, in the intermittent darknesses, I saw the moon spinning swiftl_hrough her quarters from new to full, and had a faint glimpse of the circlin_tars. Presently, as I went on, still gaining velocity, the palpitation o_ight and day merged into one continuous greyness; the sky took on a wonderfu_eepness of blue, a splendid luminous color like that of early twilight; th_erking sun became a streak of fire, a brilliant arch, in space; the moon _ainter fluctuating band; and I could see nothing of the stars, save now an_hen a brighter circle flickering in the blue.
  • 'The landscape was misty and vague. I was still on the hill-side upon whic_his house now stands, and the shoulder rose above me grey and dim. I sa_rees growing and changing like puffs of vapour, now brown, now green; the_rew, spread, shivered, and passed away. I saw huge buildings rise up fain_nd fair, and pass like dreams. The whole surface of the earth seeme_hanged—melting and flowing under my eyes. The little hands upon the dial_hat registered my speed raced round faster and faster. Presently I noted tha_he sun belt swayed up and down, from solstice to solstice, in a minute o_ess, and that consequently my pace was over a year a minute; and minute b_inute the white snow flashed across the world, and vanished, and was followe_y the bright, brief green of spring.
  • 'The unpleasant sensations of the start were less poignant now. They merged a_ast into a kind of hysterical exhilaration. I remarked indeed a clums_waying of the machine, for which I was unable to account. But my mind was to_onfused to attend to it, so with a kind of madness growing upon me, I flun_yself into futurity. At first I scarce thought of stopping, scarce thought o_nything but these new sensations. But presently a fresh series of impression_rew up in my mind—a certain curiosity and therewith a certain dread—until a_ast they took complete possession of me. What strange developments o_umanity, what wonderful advances upon our rudimentary civilization, _hought, might not appear when I came to look nearly into the dim elusiv_orld that raced and fluctuated before my eyes! I saw great and splendi_rchitecture rising about me, more massive than any buildings of our own time,
  • and yet, as it seemed, built of glimmer and mist. I saw a richer green flow u_he hill-side, and remain there, without any wintry intermission. Even throug_he veil of my confusion the earth seemed very fair. And so my mind came roun_o the business of stopping.
  • 'The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some substance in th_pace which I, or the machine, occupied. So long as I travelled at a hig_elocity through time, this scarcely mattered; I was, so to speak,
  • attenuated—was slipping like a vapour through the interstices of intervenin_ubstances! But to come to a stop involved the jamming of myself, molecule b_olecule, into whatever lay in my way; meant bringing my atoms into suc_ntimate contact with those of the obstacle that a profound chemica_eaction—possibly a far-reaching explosion—would result, and blow myself an_y apparatus out of all possible dimensions—into the Unknown. This possibilit_ad occurred to me again and again while I was making the machine; but then _ad cheerfully accepted it as an unavoidable risk—one of the risks a man ha_ot to take! Now the risk was inevitable, I no longer saw it in the sam_heerful light. The fact is that, insensibly, the absolute strangeness o_verything, the sickly jarring and swaying of the machine, above all, th_eeling of prolonged falling, had absolutely upset my nerve. I told mysel_hat I could never stop, and with a gust of petulance I resolved to sto_orthwith. Like an impatient fool, I lugged over the lever, and incontinentl_he 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 stunne_or a moment. A pitiless hail was hissing round me, and I was sitting on sof_urf in front of the overset machine. Everything still seemed grey, bu_resently I remarked that the confusion in my ears was gone. I looked roun_e. I was on what seemed to be a little lawn in a garden, surrounded b_hododendron bushes, and I noticed that their mauve and purple blossoms wer_ropping 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 lik_moke. In a moment I was wet to the skin. "Fine hospitality," said I, "to _an who has travelled innumerable years to see you."
  • 'Presently I thought what a fool I was to get wet. I stood up and looked roun_e. A colossal figure, carved apparently in some white stone, loome_ndistinctly beyond the rhododendrons through the hazy downpour. But all els_f the world was invisible.
  • '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 _inged sphinx, but the wings, instead of being carried vertically at th_ides, were spread so that it seemed to hover. The pedestal, it appeared t_e, was of bronze, and was thick with verdigris. It chanced that the face wa_owards me; the sightless eyes seemed to watch me; there was the faint shado_f a smile on the lips. It was greatly weather-worn, and that imparted a_npleasant suggestion of disease. I stood looking at it for a littl_pace—half a minute, perhaps, or half an hour. It seemed to advance and t_ecede as the hail drove before it denser or thinner. At last I tore my eye_rom it for a moment and saw that the hail curtain had worn threadbare, an_hat the sky was lightening with the promise of the sun.
  • 'I looked up again at the crouching white shape, and the full temerity of m_oyage came suddenly upon me. What might appear when that hazy curtain wa_ltogether withdrawn? What might not have happened to men? What if cruelty ha_rown into a common passion? What if in this interval the race had lost it_anliness and had developed into something inhuman, unsympathetic, an_verwhelmingly powerful? I might seem some old-world savage animal, only th_ore dreadful and disgusting for our common likeness—a foul creature to b_ncontinently slain.
  • 'Already I saw other vast shapes—huge buildings with intricate parapets an_all columns, with a wooded hill-side dimly creeping in upon me through th_essening storm. I was seized with a panic fear. I turned frantically to th_ime Machine, and strove hard to readjust it. As I did so the shafts of th_un smote through the thunderstorm. The grey downpour was swept aside an_anished like the trailing garments of a ghost. Above me, in the intense blu_f the summer sky, some faint brown shreds of cloud whirled into nothingness.
  • The great buildings about me stood out clear and distinct, shining with th_et of the thunderstorm, and picked out in white by the unmelted hailstone_iled along their courses. I felt naked in a strange world. I felt as perhap_ 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 agai_rappled fiercely, wrist and knee, with the machine. It gave under m_esperate onset and turned over. It struck my chin violently. One hand on th_addle, the other on the lever, I stood panting heavily in attitude to moun_gain.
  • 'But with this recovery of a prompt retreat my courage recovered. I looke_ore curiously and less fearfully at this world of the remote future. In _ircular opening, high up in the wall of the nearer house, I saw a group o_igures clad in rich soft robes. They had seen me, and their faces wer_irected towards me.
  • 'Then I heard voices approaching me. Coming through the bushes by the Whit_phinx were the heads and shoulders of men running. One of these emerged in _athway leading straight to the little lawn upon which I stood with m_achine. He was a slight creature—perhaps four feet high—clad in a purpl_unic, girdled at the waist with a leather belt. Sandals or buskins—I coul_ot clearly distinguish which—were on his feet; his legs were bare to th_nees, and his head was bare. Noticing that, I noticed for the first time ho_arm the air was.
  • 'He struck me as being a very beautiful and graceful creature, bu_ndescribably frail. His flushed face reminded me of the more beautiful kin_f consumptive—that hectic beauty of which we used to hear so much. At th_ight of him I suddenly regained confidence. I took my hands from the machine.