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The Time Machine

V
'As I stood there musing over this too perfect triumph of man, the full moon, yellow and
gibbous, came up out of an overflow of silver light in the north-east. The bright little
figures ceased to move about below, a noiseless owl flitted by, and I shivered with the
chill of the night. I determined to descend and find where I could sleep.
'I looked for the building I knew. Then my eye travelled along to the figure of the
White Sphinx upon the pedestal of bronze, growing distinct as the light of the rising
moon grew brighter. I could see the silver birch against it. There was the tangle of
rhododendron bushes, black in the pale light, and there was the little lawn. I looked at the
lawn again. A queer doubt chilled my complacency. "No," said I stoutly to myself, "that
was not the lawn."
'But it WAS the lawn. For the white leprous face of the sphinx was towards it. Can you
imagine what I felt as this conviction came home to me? But you cannot. The Time
Machine was gone!
'At once, like a lash across the face, came the possibility of losing my own age, of being
left helpless in this strange new world. The bare thought of it was an actual physical
sensation. I could feel it grip me at the throat and stop my breathing. In another moment I
was in a passion of fear and running with great leaping strides down the slope. Once I fell
headlong and cut my face; I lost no time in stanching the blood, but jumped up and ran
on, with a warm trickle down my cheek and chin. All the time I ran I was saying to
myself: "They have moved it a little, pushed it under the bushes out of the way."
Nevertheless, I ran with all my might. All the time, with the certainty that sometimes
comes with excessive dread, I knew that such assurance was folly, knew instinctively that
the machine was removed out of my reach. My breath came with pain. I suppose I
covered the whole distance from the hill crest to the little lawn, two miles perhaps, in ten
minutes. And I am not a young man. I cursed aloud, as I ran, at my confident folly in
leaving the machine, wasting good breath thereby. I cried aloud, and none answered. Not
a creature seemed to be stirring in that moonlit world.
'When I reached the lawn my worst fears were realized. Not a trace of the thing was to
be seen. I felt faint and cold when I faced the empty space among the black tangle of
bushes. I ran round it furiously, as if the thing might be hidden in a corner, and then
stopped abruptly, with my hands clutching my hair. Above me towered the sphinx, upon
the bronze pedestal, white, shining, leprous, in the light of the rising moon. It seemed to
smile in mockery of my dismay.
'I might have consoled myself by imagining the little people had put the mechanism in
some shelter for me, had I not felt assured of their physical and intellectual inadequacy.
That is what dismayed me: the sense of some hitherto unsuspected power, through whose
intervention my invention had vanished. Yet, for one thing I felt assured: unless some
other age had produced its exact duplicate, the machine could not have moved in time.
 
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