The Time Machine — EN

XIII
The Trap of the White Sphinx

“About eight or nine in the morn­ing I came to the same seat of yel­low met­al from which I had viewed the world upon the evening of my arrival. I thought of my hasty con­clu­sions upon that evening and could not refrain from laugh­ing bit­ter­ly at my con­fi­dence. Here was the same beau­ti­ful scene, the same abun­dant foliage, the same splen­did palaces and mag­nif­i­cent ruins, the same sil­ver riv­er run­ning between its fer­tile banks. The gay robes of the beau­ti­ful peo­ple moved hith­er and thith­er among the trees. Some were bathing in exact­ly the place where I had saved Weena, and that sud­den­ly gave me a keen stab of pain. And like blots upon the land­scape rose the cupo­las above the ways to the Under-world. I under­stood now what all the beau­ty of the Over-world peo­ple cov­ered. Very pleas­ant was their day, as pleas­ant as the day of the cat­tle in the field. Like the cat­tle, they knew of no ene­mies and pro­vid­ed against no needs. And their end was the same.

“I griev­ed to think how brief the dream of the human intel­lect had been. It had com­mit­ted sui­cide. It had set itself stead­fast­ly towards com­fort and ease, a bal­anced soci­ety with secu­ri­ty and per­ma­nen­cy as its watch­word, it had attained its hopes – to come to this at last. Once, life and prop­er­ty must have reached almost absolute safe­ty. The rich had been assured of his wealth and com­fort, the toil­er assured of his life and work. No doubt in that per­fect world there had been no unem­ployed prob­lem, no social ques­tion left unsolved. And a great qui­et had fol­lowed.

“It is a law of nature we over­look, that intel­lec­tu­al ver­sa­til­i­ty is the com­pen­sa­tion for change, dan­ger, and trou­ble. An ani­mal per­fect­ly in har­mo­ny with its envi­ron­ment is a per­fect mech­a­nism. Nature nev­er appeals to intel­li­gence until habit and instinct are use­less. There is no intel­li­gence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those ani­mals par­take of intel­li­gence that have to meet a huge vari­ety of needs and dan­gers.

“So, as I see it, the Upper-world man had drift­ed towards his fee­ble pret­ti­ness, and the Under-world to mere mechan­i­cal indus­try. But that per­fect state had lacked one thing even for mechan­i­cal per­fec­tion – absolute per­ma­nen­cy. Appar­ent­ly as time went on, the feed­ing of the Under-world, how­ev­er it was effect­ed, had become dis­joint­ed. Moth­er Neces­si­ty, who had been staved off for a few thou­sand years, came back again, and she began below.

The Under-world being in con­tact with machin­ery, which, how­ev­er per­fect, still needs some lit­tle thought out­side habit, had prob­a­bly retained per­force rather more ini­tia­tive, if less of every oth­er human char­ac­ter, than the Upper. And when oth­er meat failed them, they turned to what old habit had hith­er­to for­bid­den. So I say I saw it in my last view of the world of Eight Hun­dred and Two Thou­sand Sev­en Hun­dred and One. It may be as wrong an expla­na­tion as mor­tal wit could invent. It is how the thing shaped itself to me, and as that I give it to you.

“After the fatigues, excite­ments, and ter­rors of the past days, and in spite of my grief, this seat and the tran­quil view and the warm sun­light were very pleas­ant. I was very tired and sleepy, and soon my the­o­riz­ing passed into doz­ing. Catch­ing myself at that, I took my own hint, and spread­ing myself out upon the turf I had a long and refresh­ing sleep.

“I awoke a lit­tle before sun­set­ting. I now felt safe against being caught nap­ping by the Mor­locks, and, stretch­ing myself, I came on down the hill towards the White Sphinx. I had my crow­bar in one hand, and the oth­er hand played with the match­es in my pock­et.

“And now came a most unex­pect­ed thing. As I approached the pedestal of the sphinx I found the bronze valves were open. They had slid down into grooves.

“At that I stopped short before them, hes­i­tat­ing to enter.

“With­in was a small apart­ment, and on a raised place in the cor­ner of this was the Time Machine. I had the small levers in my pock­et. So here, after all my elab­o­rate prepa­ra­tions for the siege of the White Sphinx, was a meek sur­ren­der. I threw my iron bar away, almost sor­ry not to use it.

“A sud­den thought came into my head as I stooped towards the por­tal. For once, at least, I grasped the men­tal oper­a­tions of the Mor­locks. Sup­press­ing a strong incli­na­tion to laugh, I stepped through the bronze frame and up to the Time Machine. I was sur­prised to find it had been care­ful­ly oiled and cleaned. I have sus­pect­ed since that the Mor­locks had even par­tial­ly tak­en it to pieces while try­ing in their dim way to grasp its pur­pose.

“Now as I stood and exam­ined it, find­ing a plea­sure in the mere touch of the con­trivance, the thing I had expect­ed hap­pened. The bronze pan­els sud­den­ly slid up and struck the frame with a clang. I was in the dark – trapped. So the Mor­locks thought. At that I chuck­led glee­ful­ly.

“I could already hear their mur­mur­ing laugh­ter as they came towards me. Very calm­ly I tried to strike the match. I had only to fix on the levers and depart then like a ghost. But I had over­looked one lit­tle thing. The match­es were of that abom­inable kind that light only on the box.

“You may imag­ine how all my calm van­ished. The lit­tle brutes were close upon me. One touched me. I made a sweep­ing blow in the dark at them with the levers, and began to scram­ble into the sad­dle of the machine. Then came one hand upon me and then anoth­er. Then I had sim­ply to fight against their per­sis­tent fin­gers for my levers, and at the same time feel for the studs over which these fit­ted. One, indeed, they almost got away from me. As it slipped from my hand, I had to butt in the dark with my head – I could hear the Morlock’s skull ring – to recov­er it. It was a near­er thing than the fight in the for­est, I think, this last scram­ble.

“But at last the lever was fit­ted and pulled over. The cling­ing hands slipped from me. The dark­ness present­ly fell from my eyes. I found myself in the same grey light and tumult I have already described.

refrain form rɪˈfreɪn v To hold one­self back, for­bear.

foliage ˈfəʊlɪɪʤ n All the leaves of a tree.

splen­did ˈsplɛndɪd adj Bril­liant or fine, esp in appear­ance: excel­lent, won­der­ful, mar­vel­lous

fer­tile ˈfɜː­taɪl n Capa­ble of pro­duc­ing off­spring

robe rəʊb n A long, loose or flow­ing gar­ment worn as cer­e­mo­ni­al or offi­cial dress.

hith­er and thith­er ⇒ To many places; here and there.

to give a stab of pain ⇒ To cause a sud­den pierc­ing pain.

blot blɒt n A spot or a stain caused by a dis­col­or­ing sub­stance or dirt: smirch, smudge, daub, slur, smear, spot

cupo­la ˈkjuːpələ n Domed roof or ceil­ing.

end ⇒ (here) goal.

to com­mit a sui­cide ⇒ To kill one­self

stead­fast­ly ˈstɛd­fəstli adj With res­olute deter­mi­na­tion: firm­ly, unwa­ver­ing­ly

per­ma­nen­cy ˈpɜːmənən­si n The qual­i­ty of remain­ing with­out essen­tial change.

watch­word ˈwɒʧwɜːd n A secret word or phrase known only to a restrict­ed group: pass­word, word, parole

attain əˈteɪn v To gain as an objec­tive: achieve

at last ⇒ After a long wait; final­ly.

toil­er ˈtɔɪlə n One who works hard and stren­u­ous­ly.

ver­sa­til­i­ty ˌvɜːsəˈtɪlɪti n The qual­i­ty of hav­ing many abil­i­ties or serv­ing many func­tions.

par­take pɑːˈteɪk v To have part of the qual­i­ty or nature of some­thing

fee­ble ˈfiːbl adj Very weak; not good enough.

pret­ti­ness ˈprɪtɪnəs n The qual­i­ty of being appeal­ing in a del­i­cate or grace­ful way (of a girl or young woman).

as time went on ⇒ As time passed by.

dis­joint dɪsˈʤɔɪnt v To break: shat­ter, frac­ture

to stave off ⇒ To hold or keep off.

per­force pəˈfɔːs adv By force of cir­cum­stance: willy-nil­ly, help­less­ly

mor­tal ˈmɔːtl adj Sub­ject to death; hav­ing a tran­si­to­ry life: fatal

wit wɪt n The nat­ur­al abil­i­ty to per­ceive and under­stand: intel­li­gence

tran­quil ˈtræŋk­wɪl adj Calm, peace­ful or qui­et

dose dəʊs v To sleep light­ly and inter­mit­tent­ly: nap

to catch some­one at some­thing ⇒ To find out that one is doing some­thing.

to take a hint ⇒ To real­ize what is sug­gest­ed.

to spread one­self out of some­thing ⇒ To stretch out, extend one’s hands, arms, legs.

turf tɜːf n Sur­face lay­er of earth con­tain­ing a dense growth of grass and its mat­ted roots: sod

to feel safe against some­thing ⇒ Not to feel threat­ened of some­thing

nap næp v To sleep for a brief peri­od, often dur­ing the day: doze

crow­bar ˈkrəʊbɑː n Straight bar of iron with the work­ing end shaped like a chis­el.

pedestal ˈpɛdɪstl n An archi­tec­tur­al base for a stat­ue.

valve vælv n Device that allows gas­es and liq­uids to pass through open­ings in one direc­tion only.

groove gruːv n Long, nar­row fur­row or chan­nel.

lever ˈliːvə n Pro­ject­ing han­dle used to adjust or oper­ate a mech­a­nism.

after all ⇒ in spite of all.

siege siːʤ n A pro­longed sur­round­ing of an objec­tive by hos­tile troops: besiege­ment, block­ade

meek miːk adj Hum­ble in spir­it or man­ner; sug­gest­ing retir­ing mild­ness or even cowed sub­mis­sive­ness: mild, mod­est

sur­ren­der səˈrɛndə v To relin­quish pos­ses­sion or con­trol of (some­thing) to anoth­er because of demand or com­pul­sion:

stoop stuːp v To walk with the head and upper back bent for­ward.

for once ⇒ For this occa­sion, as an excep­tion.

incli­na­tion ˌɪn­klɪˈneɪʃən n A par­tic­u­lar dis­po­si­tion, esp a lik­ing or pref­er­ence: ten­den­cy

con­trivance kənˈ­traɪvəns n A device or con­trol that is very use­ful for a par­tic­u­lar job: gad­get, appli­ance, wid­get

clang klæŋ v To make or cause to make a loud resound­ing noise, as met­al when struck

chuck­le ˈʧʌkl v Laugh qui­et­ly or with restraint: laugh, gig­gle, snig­ger, chor­tle, tit­ter

glee­ful ˈgliːfʊl adj Full of jubi­lant joy: gay, mer­ry, jol­ly, light­heart­ed, jocund, jovial, mirth­ful

mur­mur ˈmɜːmə v Speak indis­tinct­ly in a low tone.

over­look ˌəʊvəˈlʊk v To fail to notice or con­sid­er: miss

abom­inable əˈbɒmɪnəbl adj Excep­tion­al­ly bad or dis­pleas­ing.

brute bruːt n Sav­age ani­mal: beast

to be close upon some­one ⇒ To fol­low some­one at a short dis­tance.

scram­ble ˈskræm­bl v To move or climb hur­ried­ly, espe­cial­ly on the hands and knees.

sad­dle ˈsædl n The seat of a bicy­cle, motor­cy­cle, or sim­i­lar vehi­cle.

feel for ⇒ To search for (some­thing) by reach­ing or touch­ing usu­al­ly with the fin­gers.

stud stʌd n A short rod or pin, fixed in and pro­ject­ing from some­thing.

butt bʌt v To hit or push (some­thing) force­ful­ly with the head

tumult ˈtjuːmʌlt n An inter­rup­tion of pub­lic peace: dis­tur­bance, com­mo­tion, tur­bu­lence, fuss, uproar, stir

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