The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of
him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes
shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and
animated. The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the
incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles
that flashed and passed in our glasses. Our chairs, being his
patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat
upon, and there was that luxurious after-dinner atmosphere when
thought roams gracefully free of the trammels of precision. And
he put it to us in this way--marking the points with a lean
forefinger--as we sat and lazily admired his earnestness over
this new paradox (as we thought it:) and his fecundity.
`You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one
or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The geometry,
for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a
`Is not that rather a large thing to expect us to begin upon?'
said Filby, an argumentative person with red hair.
`I do not mean to ask you to accept anything without reasonable
ground for it. You will soon admit as much as I need from you.
You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness
NIL, has no real existence. They taught you that? Neither has
a mathematical plane. These things are mere abstractions.'
`That is all right,' said the Psychologist.
`Nor, having only length, breadth, and thickness, can a cube
have a real existence.'
`There I object,' said Filby. `Of course a solid body may
exist. All real things--'
`So most people think. But wait a moment. Can an
INSTANTANEOUS cube exist?'
`Don't follow you,' said Filby.
`Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real
Filby became pensive. `Clearly,' the Time Traveller proceeded,
`any real body must have extension in FOUR directions: it must
have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and--Duration. But through a
natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a
moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four
dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a
fourth, Time. There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal
distinction between the former three dimensions and the latter,
because it happens that our consciousness moves intermittently in
one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of
`That,' said a very young man, making spasmodic efforts to
relight his cigar over the lamp; `that . . . very clear indeed.'
`Now, it is very remarkable that this is so extensively
overlooked,' continued the Time Traveller, with a slight
accession of cheerfulness. `Really this is what is meant by the
Fourth Dimension, though some people who talk about the Fourth
Dimension do not know they mean it. It is only another way of
looking at Time. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TIME AND ANY OF
THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF SPACE EXCEPT THAT OUR CONSCIOUSNESS MOVES
ALONG IT. But some foolish people have got hold of the wrong
side of that idea. You have all heard what they have to say
about this Fourth Dimension?'
`_I_ have not,' said the Provincial Mayor.
`It is simply this. That Space, as our mathematicians have it,
is spoken of as having three dimensions, which one may call
Length, Breadth, and Thickness, and is always definable by
reference to three planes, each at right angles to the others.
But some philosophical people have been asking why THREE
dimensions particularly--why not another direction at right
angles to the other three?--and have even tried to construct a
Four-Dimension geometry. Professor Simon Newcomb was expounding
this to the New York Mathematical Society only a month or so ago.
You know how on a flat surface, which has only two dimensions,
we can represent a figure of a three-dimensional solid, and
similarly they think that by models of thee dimensions they could
represent one of four--if they could master the perspective of
the thing. See?'
`I think so,' murmured the Provincial Mayor; and, knitting his
brows, he lapsed into an introspective state, his lips moving as
one who repeats mystic words. `Yes, I think I see it now,' he
said after some time, brightening in a quite transitory manner.
`Well, I do not mind telling you I have been at work upon this
geometry of Four Dimensions for some time. Some of my results
are curious. For instance, here is a portrait of a man at eight
years old, another at fifteen, another at seventeen, another at
twenty-three, and so on. All these are evidently sections, as it
were, Three-Dimensional representations of his Four-Dimensioned
being, which is a fixed and unalterable thing.
`Scientific people,' proceeded the Time Traveller, after the
pause required for the proper assimilation of this, `know very
well that Time is only a kind of Space. Here is a popular
scientific diagram, a weather record. This line I trace with my
finger shows the movement of the barometer. Yesterday it was so
high, yesterday night it fell, then this morning it rose again,
and so gently upward to here. Surely the mercury did not trace
this line in any of the dimensions of Space generally recognized?
But certainly it traced such a line, and that line, therefore,
we must conclude was along the Time-Dimension.'
`But,' said the Medical Man, staring hard at a coal in the
fire, `if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space, why is
it, and why has it always been, regarded as something different?
And why cannot we move in Time as we move about in the other
dimensions of Space?'
The Time Traveller smiled. `Are you sure we can move freely in
Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely
enough, and men always have done so. I admit we move freely in
two dimensions. But how about up and down? Gravitation limits
`Not exactly,' said the Medical Man. `There are balloons.'
`But before the balloons, save for spasmodic jumping and the
inequalities of the surface, man had no freedom of vertical
movement.' `Still they could move a little up and down,' said
the Medical Man.
`Easier, far easier down than up.'
`And you cannot move at all in Time, you cannot get away from
the present moment.'
`My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong. That is just
where the whole world has gone wrong. We are always getting away
from the present movement. Our mental existences, which are
immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the
Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the
grave. Just as we should travel DOWN if we began our existence
fifty miles above the earth's surface.'
`But the great difficulty is this,' interrupted the
Psychologist. `You CAN move about in all directions of Space,
but you cannot move about in Time.'
`That is the germ of my great discovery. But you are wrong to
say that we cannot move about in Time. For instance, if I am
recalling an incident very vividly I go back to the instant of
its occurrence: I become absent-minded, as you say. I jump back
for a moment. Of course we have no means of staying back for any
length of Time, any more than a savage or an animal has of
staying six feet above the ground. But a civilized man is better
off than the savage in this respect. He can go up against
gravitation in a balloon, and why should he not hope that
ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along
the Time-Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way?'
`Oh, THIS,' began Filby, `is all--'
`Why not?' said the Time Traveller.
`It's against reason,' said Filby.
`What reason?' said the Time Traveller.
`You can show black is white by argument,' said Filby, `but you
will never convince me.'
`Possibly not,' said the Time Traveller. `But now you begin to
see the object of my investigations into the geometry of Four
Dimensions. Long ago I had a vague inkling of a machine--'
`To travel through Time!' exclaimed the Very Young Man.
`That shall travel indifferently in any direction of Space and
Time, as the driver determines.'
Filby contented himself with laughter.
`But I have experimental verification,' said the Time
`It would be remarkably convenient for the historian,' the
Psychologist suggested. `One might travel back and verify the
accepted account of the Battle of Hastings, for instance!'
`Don't you think you would attract attention?' said the Medical
Man. `Our ancestors had no great tolerance for anachronisms.'
`One might get one's Greek from the very lips of Homer and
Plato,' the Very Young Man thought.
`In which case they would certainly plough you for the
Little-go. The German scholars have improved Greek so much.'
`Then there is the future,' said the Very Young Man. `Just
think! One might invest all one's money, leave it to accumulate
at interest, and hurry on ahead!'
`To discover a society,' said I, `erected on a strictly
`Of all the wild extravagant theories!' began the Psychologist.
`Yes, so it seemed to me, and so I never talked of it until--'
`Experimental verification!' cried I. `You are going to verify
`The experiment!' cried Filby, who was getting brain-weary.
`Let's see your experiment anyhow,' said the Psychologist,
`though it's all humbug, you know.'
The Time Traveller smiled round at us. Then, still smiling
faintly, and with his hands deep in his trousers pockets, he
walked slowly out of the room, and we heard his slippers
shuffling down the long passage to his laboratory.
The Psychologist looked at us. `I wonder what he's got?'
`Some sleight-of-hand trick or other,' said the Medical Man,
and Filby tried to tell us about a conjurer he had seen at
Burslem; but before he had finished his preface the Time
Traveller came back, and Filby's anecdote collapsed.
The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering
metallic framework, scarcely larger than a small clock, and very
delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent
crystalline substance. And now I must be explicit, for this that
follows--unless his explanation is to be accepted--is an
absolutely unaccountable thing. He took one of the small
octagonal tables that were scattered about the room, and set it
in front of the fire, with two legs on the hearthrug. On this
table he placed the mechanism. Then he drew up a chair, and sat
down. The only other object on the table was a small shaded
lamp, the bright light of which fell upon the model. There were
also perhaps a dozen candles about, two in brass candlesticks
upon the mantel and several in sconces, so that the room was
brilliantly illuminated. I sat in a low arm-chair nearest the
fire, and I drew this forward so as to be almost between the Time
Traveller and the fireplace. Filby sat behind him, looking over
his shoulder. The Medical Man and the Provincial Mayor watched
him in profile from the right, the Psychologist from the left.
The Very Young Man stood behind the Psychologist. We were all on
the alert. It appears incredible to me that any kind of trick,
however subtly conceived and however adroitly done, could have
been played upon us under these conditions.
The Time Traveller looked at us, and then at the mechanism.
`Well?' said the Psychologist.
`This little affair,' said the Time Traveller, resting his
elbows upon the table and pressing his hands together above the
apparatus, `is only a model. It is my plan for a machine to
travel through time. You will notice that it looks singularly
askew, and that there is an odd twinkling appearance about this
bar, as though it was in some way unreal.' He pointed to the
part with his finger. `Also, here is one little white lever, and
here is another.'
The Medical Man got up out of his chair and peered into the
thing. `It's beautifully made,' he said.
`It took two years to make,' retorted the Time Traveller.
Then, when we had all imitated the action of the Medical Man, he
said: `Now I want you clearly to understand that this lever,
being pressed over, sends the machine gliding into the future,
and this other reverses the motion. This saddle represents the
seat of a time traveller. Presently I am going to press the
lever, and off the machine will go. It will vanish, pass into
future Time, and disappear. Have a good look at the thing. Look
at the table too, and satisfy yourselves there is no trickery. I
don't want to waste this model, and then be told I'm a quack.'
There was a minute's pause perhaps. The Psychologist seemed
about to speak to me, but changed his mind. Then the Time
Traveller put forth his finger towards the lever. `No,' he said
suddenly. `Lend me your hand.' And turning to the Psychologist,
he took that individual's hand in his own and told him to put out
his forefinger. So that it was the Psychologist himself who sent
forth the model Time Machine on its interminable voyage. We all
saw the lever turn. I am absolutely certain there was no
trickery. There was a breath of wind, and the lamp flame jumped.
One of the candles on the mantel was blown out, and the little
machine suddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen as a
ghost for a second perhaps, as an eddy of faintly glittering
brass and ivory; and it was gone--vanished! Save for the lamp
the table was bare.
Everyone was silent for a minute. Then Filby said he was
The Psychologist recovered from his stupor, and suddenly looked
under the table. At that the Time Traveller laughed cheerfully.
`Well?' he said, with a reminiscence of the Psychologist. Then,
getting up, he went to the tobacco jar on the mantel, and with
his back to us began to fill his pipe.
We stared at each other. `Look here,' said the Medical Man,
`are you in earnest about this? Do you seriously believe that
that machine has travelled into time?'
`Certainly,' said the Time Traveller, stooping to light a spill
at the fire. Then he turned, lighting his pipe, to look at the
Psychologist's face. (The Psychologist, to show that he was not
unhinged, helped himself to a cigar and tried to light it uncut.)
`What is more, I have a big machine nearly finished in there'--he
indicated the laboratory--`and when that is put together I mean
to have a journey on my own account.'
`You mean to say that that machine has travelled into the
future?' said Filby.
`Into the future or the past--I don't, for certain, know
After an interval the Psychologist had an inspiration. `It
must have gone into the past if it has gone anywhere,' he said.
`Why?' said the Time Traveller.
`Because I presume that it has not moved in space, and if it
travelled into the future it would still be here all this time,
since it must have travelled through this time.'
`But,' I said, `If it travelled into the past it would have
been visible when we came first into this room; and last Thursday
when we were here; and the Thursday before that; and so forth!'
`Serious objections,' remarked the Provincial Mayor, with an
air of impartiality, turning towards the Time Traveller.
`Not a bit,' said the Time Traveller, and, to the Psychologist:
`You think. You can explain that. It's presentation below the
threshold, you know, diluted presentation.'
`Of course,' said the Psychologist, and reassured us. `That's
a simple point of psychology. I should have thought of it. It's
plain enough, and helps the paradox delightfully. We cannot see
it, nor can we appreciate this machine, any more than we can the
spoke of a wheel spinning, or a bullet flying through the air.
If it is travelling through time fifty times or a hundred times
faster than we are, if it gets through a minute while we get
through a second, the impression it creates will of course be
only one-fiftieth or one-hundredth of what it would make if it
were not travelling in time. That's plain enough.' He passed
his hand through the space in which the machine had been. `You
see?' he said, laughing.
We sat and stared at the vacant table for a minute or so. Then
the Time Traveller asked us what we thought of it all.
`It sounds plausible enough to-night,' said the Medical Man;
'but wait until to-morrow. Wait for the common sense of the
`Would you like to see the Time Machine itself?' asked the Time
Traveller. And therewith, taking the lamp in his hand, he led
the way down the long, draughty corridor to his laboratory. I
remember vividly the flickering light, his queer, broad head in
silhouette, the dance of the shadows, how we all followed him,
puzzled but incredulous, and how there in the laboratory we
beheld a larger edition of the little mechanism which we had seen
vanish from before our eyes. Parts were of nickel, parts of
ivory, parts had certainly been filed or sawn out of rock
crystal. The thing was generally complete, but the twisted
crystalline bars lay unfinished upon the bench beside some sheets
of drawings, and I took one up for a better look at it. Quartz
it seemed to be.
`Look here,' said the Medical Man, `are you perfectly serious?
Or is this a trick--like that ghost you showed us last
`Upon that machine,' said the Time Traveller, holding the lamp
aloft, `I intend to explore time. Is that plain? I was never
more serious in my life.'
None of us quite knew how to take it.
I caught Filby's eye over the shoulder of the Medical Man, and
he winked at me solemnly.