’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
’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
’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
’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
’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.