The Time Machine

Summary of the plot

The story is told in the first person. The writer and a group of friends (Filby, the medical man and the psychologist) are at the Time Traveller's house one evening. The Time Traveller explains to them his theory of time, that if a man can go up and down in space, he can also backwards and forwards in time. He shows them a model of his Time Machine and when the psychologist touches ist handle it disappears. The friends are astonished but think it is a trick. The Time Traveller shows them his full-size Time Machine and tells them he means to have a journey in it when it is finished. The next Thursday the friends, together with an editor and a journalist, meet again at the Time Traveller's house. He has left a note that he may be late so they start to have dinner without him. Suddenly he appears; he is in a fearful state, covered with dust and pale and tired. After washing and changing, he joins his friends at the dinner-table. He eats hungrily and then tells the following story:

That same morning he had tried out the Time Machine. He travelled forward in time to the year 802, 700. The first thing he saw was a large white sphinx-like figure standing on a bronze base. Then he made first contact with the people of the future. They were pretty and childlike, the men and women were alike, all dressed in soft, rich garments. They carried chains of flowers and put them round his neck. Then they took him into a huge building where fruit was heaped on tables and they signed him to eat. The Time Traveller found out that they were fruit-eaters because domestic animals had died out completely. He began to learn their language and found it was very simple. The little people were like children and soon got tired of his questions. He went out to explore and found he was near the river Thames. There were no small houses, all the great buildings were in a ruinous condition. He realized that this time was the sunset of mankind. Mankind was in a state of decay. The work of civilisation had gone on until it had reached ist highest point. Nature had been conquered. Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and perfect safety restless energy had become weakness. Men use their energy in art or in love - and then in the end come idleness and decay. The Time Traveller thought that in this simple explanation he had understood the whole secret of these charming people - but it was wrong!

When he came back to the white sphinx he saw the Time Machine had gone. He was mad with despair and ran into the building where the little people were sleeping and shouted at them but they could not understand. The next day he found marks on the ground which showed that the machine must have been dragged into the hollow base of the sphinx. As there were no handles or keyholes he tries to force the door open with a stone and the little people run away horrified. When he stopped, the people were friendly again. The climate was much hotter than in the present time; from every hill he climbed he could see splendid buildings. Then he noticed a number of circular wells, which he thought were some sort of underground ventilation. He could also hear a thud-thud like the beating of some big engine. He could see no graves, nor were there any aged or weak. He could find no machinery of any kind, but the people had fine clothes and shoes. There were no shops, no workrooms. The people spent their time in playing, bathing in the river, making love, eating fruit and sleeping.

At the river the Time Traveller saves a woman from drowning, her name was Weena, and she Tried to follow him everywhere. When exploring a passage, he touched an ape-like creature which ran away and climbed down one of those wells. He now realized that man had become two different animals. Above ground there were the haves, pursuing pleasure and comfort and beauty. Below ground there were the have-nots, the workers. This double civilization had long ago reached ist highest point and was now fallen into decay. The too perfect security of the upper-worlders, the "Eloi", had led to a general decrease in size, strength and intellegence. What had happened to the undergrounders, the "Morlocks", he did not yet suspect and when he asked Weena about them she burst out into tears and refused to answer.

The next day the Time Traveller climbed down the metal bars into one of the wells. When he rested in a horizontal tunnel he was touched by strange white creatures. They were afraid of light and ran away when he struck a match. In a great hall where there were big machines he saw a table on which lay a red leg of meat. He gets afraid and striking one match after the other he manages to get out of the well. Now the Time Traveller realized the relationship of the Morlocks and the Eloi. The Eloi were allowed to possess the earth because th Morlocks had lived underground for so long that they found the earth's surface unbearable. The Morlocks made their garments and supplied their other needs and the Eloi, as the Morlocks' food had run short, were mere fatted cattle, which the Morlocks used as food, as we use cattle and sheep. The Time Traveller walked further abroad with Weena. She sometimes put flowers in his pockets...

(The Time Traveller pauses in his narrative, puts his hand into his pocket and places two dead flowers on the table.)

... The next morning they arrived at a green palace, which must once have been a museum. He managed to break an iron bar from a machine, to use as weapon. He also found a box of matches and some camphor. He meant to go as far as possible to the sphinx, set a fire in the wood and sleep in the protection of its light. On the way he collected some firewood. In the wood they were attacked by Morlocks and in the struggle he set the wood ablaze and Weena was killed in the fire. He himself managed to escape. The next morning he reached the sphinx and found the bronze doors were open. Inside, in a small room, there was his Time Machine, carefully oiled. The Morlocks had surrendered after all! But as he was examining the machine the door suddenly slid up. He was in the dark - trapped! He could hear the Morlocks' laughter as they came towards him. But after he had fought madly in the dark he managed to fix the handles of the machine and started. He journeyed forward into time. He saw a deserted shore and a red sky and two enormous crabs were approaching him, so he travelled further into the future - 30 million years from now. It was bitterly cold and he saw an eclipse of the sun. Then a black creature moved towards him from the red water and so he travelled back to the present and found himself in the laboratory again. Then he heard the friends' voices and came in.

The journalist and the editor do not believe his story but the medical man is uncertain, because he has never seen such strange flowers before. The writer decides to go to the Time Traveller the next day. The Time Traveller tells him to wait for half an hour and goes into his laboratory with a bag and a small camera. The writer remembers an appointment and walks into the laboratory where he finds a transparent figure sitting in the Time Machine but it disappears at once. The Time Machine has gone. The Time Traveller never came back.

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