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The Time Machine
by H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells

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I think that at that time none of us quite believed in the

Time Machine. The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those

men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you

saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some

ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness. Had Filby shown

the model and explained the matter in the Time Traveller's words,

we should have shown HIM far less scepticism. For we should

have perceived his motives; a pork butcher could understand

Filby. But the Time Traveller had more than a touch of whim

among his elements, and we distrusted him. Things that would

have made the frame of a less clever man seemed tricks in his

hands. It is a mistake to do things too easily. The serious

people who took him seriously never felt quite sure of his

deportment; they were somehow aware that trusting their

reputations for judgment with him was like furnishing a nursery

with egg-shell china. So I don't think any of us said very much

about time travelling in the interval between that Thursday and

the next, though its odd potentialities ran, no doubt, in most of

our minds: its plausibility, that is, its practical

incredibleness, the curious possibilities of anachronism and of

utter confusion it suggested. For my own part, I was

particularly preoccupied with the trick of the model. That I

remember discussing with the Medical Man, whom I met on Friday at

the Linnaean. He said he had seen a similar thing at

Tubingen, and laid considerable stress on the blowing out

of the candle. But how the trick was done he could not explain.

The next Thursday I went again to Richmond--I suppose I was

one of the Time Traveller's most constant guests--and, arriving

late, found four or five men already assembled in his

drawing-room. The Medical Man was standing before the fire with

a sheet of paper in one hand and his watch in the other. I

looked round for the Time Traveller, and--`It's half-past seven

now,' said the Medical Man. `I suppose we'd better have dinner?'

`Where's----?' said I, naming our host.

`You've just come? It's rather odd. He's unavoidably

detained. He asks me in this note to lead off with dinner at

seven if he's not back. Says he'll explain when he comes.'

`It seems a pity to let the dinner spoil,' said the Editor of

a well-known daily paper; and thereupon the Doctor rang the bell.

The Psychologist was the only person besides the Doctor and

myself who had attended the previous dinner. The other men were

Blank, the Editor aforementioned, a certain journalist, and

another--a quiet, shy man with a beard--whom I didn't know,

and who, as far as my observation went, never opened his mouth

all the evening. There was some speculation at the dinner-table

about the Time Traveller's absence, and I suggested time

travelling, in a half-jocular spirit. The Editor wanted that

explained to him, and the Psychologist volunteered a wooden

account of the `ingenious paradox and trick' we had witnessed

that day week. He was in the midst of his exposition when the

door from the corridor opened slowly and without noise. I was

facing the door, and saw it first. `Hallo!' I said. `At last!'

And the door opened wider, and the Time Traveller stood before

us. I gave a cry of surprise. `Good heavens! man, what's the

matter?' cried the Medical Man, who saw him next. And the whole

tableful turned towards the door.

He was in an amazing plight. His coat was dusty and dirty,

and smeared with green down the sleeves; his hair disordered, and

as it seemed to me greyer--either with dust and dirt or because

its colour had actually faded. His face was ghastly pale; his

chin had a brown cut on it--a cut half healed; his expression

was haggard and drawn, as by intense suffering. For a moment he

hesitated in the doorway, as if he had been dazzled by the light.

Then he came into the room. He walked with just such a limp as

I have seen in footsore tramps. We stared at him in silence,

expecting him to speak.

He said not a word, but came painfully to the table, and made

a motion towards the wine. The Editor filled a glass of

champagne, and pushed it towards him. He drained it, and it

seemed to do him good: for he looked round the table, and the

ghost of his old smile flickered across his face. `What on earth

have you been up to, man?' said the Doctor. The Time Traveller

did not seem to hear. `Don't let me disturb you,' he said, with

a certain faltering articulation. `I'm all right.' He stopped,

held out his glass for more, and took it off at a draught.

`That's good,' he said. His eyes grew brighter, and a faint

colour came into his cheeks. His glance flickered over our faces

with a certain dull approval, and then went round the warm and

comfortable room. Then he spoke again, still as it were feeling

his way among his words. `I'm going to wash and dress, and then

I'll come down and explain things. . . Save me some of that

mutton. I'm starving for a bit of meat.'

He looked across at the Editor, who was a rare visitor, and

hoped he was all right. The Editor began a question. `Tell you

presently,' said the Time Traveller. `I'm--funny! Be all

right in a minute.'

He put down his glass, and walked towards the staircase door.

Again I remarked his lameness and the soft padding sound of his

footfall, and standing up in my place, I saw his feet as he went

out. He had nothing on them but a pair of tattered blood-stained

socks. Then the door closed upon him. I had half a mind to

follow, till I remembered how he detested any fuss about himself.

For a minute, perhaps, my mind was wool-gathering. Then,

'Remarkable Behaviour of an Eminent Scientist,' I heard the

Editor say, thinking (after his wont) in headlines. And this

brought my attention back to the bright dinner-table.

`What's the game?' said the Journalist. `Has he been doing

the Amateur Cadger? I don't follow.' I met the eye of the

Psychologist, and read my own interpretation in his face. I

thought of the Time Traveller limping painfully upstairs. I

don't think any one else had noticed his lameness.

The first to recover completely from this surprise was the

Medical Man, who rang the bell--the Time Traveller hated to

have servants waiting at dinner--for a hot plate. At that the

Editor turned to his knife and fork with a grunt, and the Silent

Man followed suit. The dinner was resumed. Conversation was

exclamatory for a little while, with gaps of wonderment; and then

the Editor got fervent in his curiosity. `Does our friend eke

out his modest income with a crossing? or has he his

Nebuchadnezzar phases?' he inquired. `I feel assured it's this

business of the Time Machine,' I said, and took up the

Psychologist's account of our previous meeting. The new guests

were frankly incredulous. The Editor raised objections. `What

WAS this time travelling? A man couldn't cover himself with

dust by rolling in a paradox, could he?' And then, as the idea

came home to him, he resorted to caricature. Hadn't they any

clothes-brushes in the Future? The Journalist too, would not

believe at any price, and joined the Editor in the easy work of

heaping ridicule on the whole thing. They were both the new kind

of journalist--very joyous, irreverent young men. `Our Special

Correspondent in the Day after To-morrow reports,' the Journalist

was saying--or rather shouting--when the Time Traveller came

back. He was dressed in ordinary evening clothes, and nothing

save his haggard look remained of the change that had startled


`I say,' said the Editor hilariously, `these chaps here say

you have been travelling into the middle of next week! Tell us

all about little Rosebery, will you? What will you take for the


The Time Traveller came to the place reserved for him without

a word. He smiled quietly, in his old way. `Where's my mutton?'

he said. `What a treat it is to stick a fork into meat again!'

`Story!' cried the Editor.

`Story be damned!' said the Time Traveller. `I want something

to eat. I won't say a word until I get some peptone into my

arteries. Thanks. And the salt.'

`One word,' said I. `Have you been time travelling?'

`Yes,' said the Time Traveller, with his mouth full, nodding

his head.

`I'd give a shilling a line for a verbatim note,' said the

Editor. The Time Traveller pushed his glass towards the Silent

Man and rang it with his fingernail; at which the Silent Man, who

had been staring at his face, started convulsively, and poured

him wine. The rest of the dinner was uncomfortable. For my own

part, sudden questions kept on rising to my lips, and I dare say

it was the same with the others. The Journalist tried to relieve

the tension by telling anecdotes of Hettie Potter. The Time

Traveller devoted his attention to his dinner, and displayed the

appetite of a tramp. The Medical Man smoked a cigarette, and

watched the Time Traveller through his eyelashes. The Silent Man

seemed even more clumsy than usual, and drank champagne with

regularity and determination out of sheer nervousness. At last

the Time Traveller pushed his plate away, and looked round us.

`I suppose I must apologize,' he said. `I was simply starving.

I've had a most amazing time.' He reached out his hand for a

cigar, and cut the end. `But come into the smoking-room. It's

too long a story to tell over greasy plates.' And ringing the

bell in passing, he led the way into the adjoining room.

`You have told Blank, and Dash, and Chose about the machine?'

he said to me, leaning back in his easy-chair and naming the

three new guests.

`But the thing's a mere paradox,' said the Editor.

`I can't argue to-night. I don't mind telling you the story,

but I can't argue. I will,' he went on, `tell you the story of

what has happened to me, if you like, but you must refrain from

interruptions. I want to tell it. Badly. Most of it will sound

like lying. So be it! It's true--every word of it, all the

same. I was in my laboratory at four o'clock, and since then . .

. I've lived eight days . . . such days as no human being ever

lived before! I'm nearly worn out, but I shan't sleep till I've

told this thing over to you. Then I shall go to bed. But no

interruptions! Is it agreed?'

`Agreed,' said the Editor, and the rest of us echoed `Agreed.'

And with that the Time Traveller began his story as I have set

it forth. He sat back in his chair at first, and spoke like a

weary man. Afterwards he got more animated. In writing it down

I feel with only too much keenness the inadequacy of pen and ink

--and, above all, my own inadequacy--to express its quality.

You read, I will suppose, attentively enough; but you cannot see

the speaker's white, sincere face in the bright circle of the

little lamp, nor hear the intonation of his voice. You cannot

know how his expression followed the turns of his story! Most of

us hearers were in shadow, for the candles in the smoking-room

had not been lighted, and only the face of the Journalist and the

legs of the Silent Man from the knees downward were illuminated.

At first we glanced now and again at each other. After a time we

ceased to do that, and looked only at the Time Traveller's face.



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