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The Time Machine

IX
'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 it.
'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 our retreat.
'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
 
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