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

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`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.

[Footnote: It may be, of course, that the floor did not slope,

but that the museum was built into the side of a hill.-ED.] 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


`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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