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The Time Machine

IV
'In another moment we were standing face to face, I and this fragile thing out of futurity.
He came straight up to me and laughed into my eyes. The absence from his bearing of
any sign of fear struck me at once. Then he turned to the two others who were following
him and spoke to them in a strange and very sweet and liquid tongue.
'There were others coming, and presently a little group of perhaps eight or ten of these
exquisite creatures were about me. One of them addressed me. It came into my head,
oddly enough, that my voice was too harsh and deep for them. So I shook my head, and,
pointing to my ears, shook it again. He came a step forward, hesitated, and then touched
my hand. Then I felt other soft little tentacles upon my back and shoulders. They wanted
to make sure I was real. There was nothing in this at all alarming. Indeed, there was
something in these pretty little people that inspired confidence--a graceful gentleness, a
certain childlike ease. And besides, they looked so frail that I could fancy myself flinging
the whole dozen of them about like nine-pins. But I made a sudden motion to warn them
when I saw their little pink hands feeling at the Time Machine. Happily then, when it was
not too late, I thought of a danger I had hitherto forgotten, and reaching over the bars of
the machine I unscrewed the little levers that would set it in motion, and put these in my
pocket. Then I turned again to see what I could do in the way of communication.
'And then, looking more nearly into their features, I saw some further peculiarities in
their Dresden-china type of prettiness. Their hair, which was uniformly curly, came to a
sharp end at the neck and cheek; there was not the faintest suggestion of it on the face,
and their ears were singularly minute. The mouths were small, with bright red, rather thin
lips, and the little chins ran to a point. The eyes were large and mild; and--this may seem
egotism on my part--I fancied even that there was a certain lack of the interest I might
have expected in them.
'As they made no effort to communicate with me, but simply stood round me smiling
and speaking in soft cooing notes to each other, I began the conversation. I pointed to the
Time Machine and to myself. Then hesitating for a moment how to express time, I
pointed to the sun. At once a quaintly pretty little figure in chequered purple and white
followed my gesture, and then astonished me by imitating the sound of thunder.
'For a moment I was staggered, though the import of his gesture was plain enough. The
question had come into my mind abruptly: were these creatures fools? You may hardly
understand how it took me. You see I had always anticipated that the people of the year
Eight Hundred and Two Thousand odd would be incredibly in front of us in knowledge,
art, everything. Then one of them suddenly asked me a question that showed him to be on
the intellectual level of one of our five-year-old children-- asked me, in fact, if I had
come from the sun in a thunderstorm! It let loose the judgment I had suspended upon
their clothes, their frail light limbs, and fragile features. A flow of disappointment rushed
across my mind. For a moment I felt that I had built the Time Machine in vain.
 
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