In The Golden Age
“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.
“I nodded, pointed to the sun, and gave them such a vivid rendering of a thunderclap as startled them. They all withdrew a pace or so and bowed. Then came one laughing towards me, carrying a chain of beautiful flowers altogether new to me, and put it about my neck. The idea was received with melodious applause; and presently they were all running to and fro for flowers, and laughingly flinging them upon me until I was almost smothered with blossom. You who have never seen the like can scarcely imagine what delicate and wonderful flowers countless years of culture had created. Then someone suggested that their plaything should be exhibited in the nearest building, and so I was led past the sphinx of white marble, which had seemed to watch me all the while with a smile at my astonishment, towards a vast grey edifice of fretted stone. As I went with them the memory of my confident anticipations of a profoundly grave and intellectual posterity came, with irresistible merriment, to my mind.
“The building had a huge entry, and was altogether of colossal dimensions. I was naturally most occupied with the growing crowd of little people, and with the big open portals that yawned before me shadowy and mysterious. My general impression of the world I saw over their heads was a tangled waste of beautiful bushes and flowers, a long neglected and yet weedless garden. I saw a number of tall spikes of strange white flowers, measuring a foot perhaps across the spread of the waxen petals. They grew scattered, as if wild, among the variegated shrubs, but, as I say, I did not examine them closely at this time. The Time Machine was left deserted on the turf among the rhododendrons.
“The arch of the doorway was richly carved, but naturally I did not observe the carving very narrowly, though I fancied I saw suggestions of old Phoenician decorations as I passed through, and it struck me that they were very badly broken and weather-worn. Several more brightly clad people met me in the doorway, and so we entered, I, dressed in dingy nineteenth-century garments, looking grotesque enough, garlanded with flowers, and surrounded by an eddying mass of bright, soft-colored robes and shining white limbs, in a melodious whirl of laughter and laughing speech.
“The big doorway opened into a proportionately great hall hung with brown. The roof was in shadow, and the windows, partially glazed with coloured glass and partially unglazed, admitted a tempered light. The floor was made up of huge blocks of some very hard white metal, not plates nor slabs – blocks, and it was so much worn, as I judged by the going to and fro of past generations, as to be deeply channelled along the more frequented ways. Transverse to the length were tables made of slabs of polished stone, raised perhaps a foot from the floor, and upon these were heaps of fruits. Some I recognized as a kind of hypertrophied raspberry and orange, but for the most part they were strange.
“Between the tables was scattered a great number of cushions. Upon these my conductors seated themselves, signing for me to do likewise. With a pretty absence of ceremony they began to eat the fruit with their hands, flinging peel and stalks, and so forth, into the round openings in the sides of the tables. I was not loath to follow their example, for I felt thirsty and hungry. As I did so I surveyed the hall at my leisure.
“And perhaps the thing that struck me most was its dilapidated look. The stained-glass windows, which displayed only a geometrical pattern, were broken in many places, and the curtains that hung across the lower end were thick with dust. And it caught my eye that the corner of the marble table near me was fractured. Nevertheless, the general effect was extremely rich and picturesque. There were, perhaps, a couple of hundred people dining in the hall, and most of them, seated as near to me as they could come, were watching me with interest, their little eyes shining over the fruit they were eating. All were clad in the same soft and yet strong, silky material.
“Fruit, by the by, was all their diet. These people of the remote future were strict vegetarians, and while I was with them, in spite of some carnal cravings, I had to be frugivorous also.
Indeed, I found afterwards that horses, cattle, sheep, dogs, had followed the Ichthyosaurus into extinction. But the fruits were very delightful; one, in particular, that seemed to be in season all the time I was there – a floury thing in a three-sided husk – was especially good, and I made it my staple. At first I was puzzled by all these strange fruits, and by the strange flowers I saw, but later I began to perceive their import.
“However, I am telling you of my fruit dinner in the distant future now. So soon as my appetite was a little checked, I determined to make a resolute attemptto learn the speech of these new men of mine. Clearly that was the next thing to do. The fruits seemed a convenient thing to begin upon, and holding one of these up I began a series of interrogative sounds and gestures. I had some considerable difficulty in conveying my meaning. At first my efforts met with a stare of surprise or inextinguishable laughter, but presently a fair-haired little creature seemed to grasp my intention and repeated a name. They had to chatter and explain the business at great length to each other, and my first attempts to make the exquisite little sounds of their language caused an immense amount of amusement. However, I felt like a schoolmaster amidst children, and persisted, and presently I had a score of noun substantives at least at my command; and then I got to demonstrative pronouns, and even the verb “to eat.” But it was slow work, and the little people soon tired and wanted to get away from my interrogations, so I determined, rather of necessity, to let them give their lessons in little doses when they felt inclined. And very little doses I found they were before long, for I never met people more indolent or more easily fatigued.
fragile ˈfræʤaɪl adj Easily broken or damaged: delicate, brittle, breakable
futurity fju(ː)ˈtjʊərɪti n The future.
exquisite ˈɛkskwɪzɪt adj Of special beauty or charm.
tentacle ˈtɛntəkl n An elongated, flexible extension, used for feeling, grasping etc.
to make sure (that) ⇒ To find out about something so as not to have doubts.
at all ⇒ In any way; for any reason; to any extent; whatever.
frail freɪl adj Physically weak: delicate
fling flɪŋ v To throw with violence; figuratively to defeat.
nine-pins ⇒ A bowling game in which nine wooden pins are the target.
to feel at something ⇒ To touch lightly.
hitherto ˈhɪðəˈtuː adv Until this time.
unscrew ʌnˈskruː v To undo or unfasten the screws by turning.
lever ˈliːvə n Projecting handle used to adjust or operate a mechanism.
in the way of ⇒ While, during the time of.
peculiarity pɪˌkjuːlɪˈærɪti n Something that is unusual or peculiar in a person or thing.
Dresden china ⇒ Hard-paste porcelain made in the vicinity of the German town Dresden and typically characterized by daintiness of design and ornate decoration; china ˈʧaɪnə n Dishware made of high quality porcelain.
prettiness ˈprɪtɪnəs n The quality of being appealing in a delicate or graceful way (of a girl or young woman).
uniformly ˈjuːnɪfɔːmli n Being the same as or consonant with another or others.
curly ˈkɜːli adj Having curls or a curved shape.
singularly ˈsɪŋgjʊləli adv In a way that is very noticeable or unusual.
minute ˈmaɪnjuːt adj Infinitely or immeasurably small.
to run to a point ⇒ To extend to a particular point.
egotism ˈɛgəʊtɪzm n Excessive self-regard; self-centeredness or selfishness.
on my part ⇒ As far as I am concerned.
coo kuː v To utter the murmuring sound of a dove; to talk fondly or amorously in murmurs.
chequered ˈʧɛkəd adj Divided into squares; marked by light and dark patches; diversified in colour.
quaintly ˈkweɪntli adv In a strange but not unpleasant manner.
at once ⇒ Immediately, at the same time.
stagger ˈstægə v To astonish or shock: amaze, shock, astonish, stun
import ɪmˈpɔːt n Meaning; implication.
abruptly əˈbrʌptli adv Quickly and without warning: suddenly, hastily, hurriedly
to take ⇒ To surprise, to overwhelm.
Eight Hundred and Two Thousand odd ⇒ (often used in combination) Being in excess of the indicated number.
thunderstorm ˈθʌndəstɔːm n A transient, sometimes violent storm of thunder and lightning, often accompanied by rain and sometimes hail.
to let loose ⇒ To set free.
in vain ⇒ To no avail; without success.
vivid ˈvɪvɪd adv Very clear, powerful, and detailed in your mind.
thunder-clap ˈθʌndə-klæp n Single sharp crash of thunder; fig a startling or shocking piece of news.
startle ˈstɑːtl v To surprise or frighten someone suddenly but not seriously: frighten, scare, terrify, alarm
or so ⇒ (of quantities) Imprecise but fairly close to.
to and fro ⇒ In one direction and then the opposite one.
smother ˈsmʌðə v To stifle or kill by depriving of air: suffocate
blossom ˈblɒsəm n A flower or a group of flowers.
scarcely ˈskeəsli adv Barely; hardly; not quite, almost not.
plaything ˈpleɪθɪŋ n An object used for pleasure or enjoyment, such as a child’s toy.
edifice ɛˈdɪfɪs n Permanent construction, as a house, store, etc.: building, structure
fretted ˈfrɛtɪd adj Ornamented with angular designs or such a pattern made in relief and with numerous small openings.
anticipation ænˌtɪsɪˈpeɪʃ(ə)n n The state of being happy and excited about something upcoming.
posterity pɒsˈtɛrɪti n Future generations; all of a person’s descendants.
It came to my mind ⇒ It occurred to me; merriment ˈmɛrɪmənt n State of joyful exuberance: gaiety, glee, mirth, hilarity, joviality
yawn jɔːn v To open wide; gape.
tangled ˈtæŋgld adj In a confused mass.
neglect nɪˈglɛkt v To pay no attention or too little attention to.
spike spaɪk n A narrow, thin shape with a sharp point at one end.
waxen ˈwæksən adj Pale or smooth and glossy as wax.
petal ˈpɛtl n One of the often colored segments of the corolla of a flower.
to grow (scattered) ⇒ To become gradually.
variegate ˈveərɪgeɪt v To mark with a line of different colour or texture: stripe, streak, striate
shrub ʃrʌb n A woody perennial plant, smaller than a tree, with several major branches arising from near the base of the main stem.
turf tɜːf n Surface layer of earth containing a dense growth of grass and its matted roots: sod
rhododendron ˌrəʊdəˈdɛndrən n An evergreen ornamental shrub with clusters of variously coloured, often bell-shaped flowers.
Phoenician fɪˈnɪʃɪən ⇒ Relating to ancient Phoenicia culture.
it struck me that ⇒ I was impressed to see that.
clothe kləʊð pt, pp clad klæd v To clothe; to cover with a protective layer of other material.
dingy ˈdɪnʤi adj Dirty or discoloured; showing signs of wear and tear: shabby, threadbare, shoddy, faded, seedy, tattered
garment ˈgɑːmənt n Any article of clothing.
grotesque grəʊˈtɛsk adj Bizarre in appearance: freaky, fantastic
garland ˈgɑːlənd v To ornament with a wreath or festoon.
eddy ˈɛdi v To move or whirl in miniature current at variance with the main current in a stream of water or air, usually having a rotary or whirling motion: twist; whirl
robe rəʊb n A long, loose or flowing garment worn as ceremonial or official dress.
whirl wɜːl n A rapid round of events: swirl, turn, spin, reel, revolution, rapid rotation, twirl
proportionately prəˈpɔːʃnɪtli adj To a proportionate degree; in proportion: proportionally
glazed gleɪzd adj Having a surface covered with a glaze: lustrous, smooth, glassy
unglazed ˌʌnˈgleɪzd adj Not furnished with a surface covered with a glaze: matted, rough
tempered ˈtɛmpəd adj Made less intense or violent, especially by the influence of something else.
slab slæb n Broad, flat, thick piece.
transverse /ˈtrænzvɜːs adj Situated or lying across: crossing, thwart, traverse
heap hiːp n A large, disordered pile of things: pile
hypertrophy haɪˈpɜːtrəʊfi v To affect with or undergo abnormal enlargement.
raspberry ˈrɑːzbəri n A small soft, red fruit that grow on bushes.
cushion ˈkʊʃən n A pad with a soft filling, used for resting, reclining, or kneeling: pillow
conductor kənˈdʌktə n Someone that shows the way: leader, director, guide, mentor
to do likewise ⇒ To do the same/a similar thing.
stalk stɔːk n Stem.
to be loath to ⇒ To be unwilling to.
at one’s leisure ⇒ When one has free time; at one’s convenience.
dilapidate dɪˈlæpɪdeɪt v To fall into a state of partial ruin, decay etc.
fractured ˈfrækʧəd adj Broken, or cracked.
picturesque ˌpɪkʧəˈrɛsk adj Visually attractive, especially in a quaint or charming way.
by the by ⇒ by the way.
in spite of ⇒ without worrying about; although.
carnal ˈkɑːnl adj Relating to the body or flesh.
craving ˈkreɪvɪŋ n An intense desire or longing.
frugivorous fruːˈdʒɪvərəs adj Eating on fruit, fruit-eating.
ichthyosaurus n ɪkθɪəˈsɔːrəs adj Kind of a fishlike marine dinosaur.
extinction ɪksˈtɪŋkʃən n The fact of dying; utter destruction: death, demise, decease; liquidation, annihilation, extermination
husk hʌsk n Shell or outer covering.
feedstaple ˈfiːdsteɪpl n Main kind of food in a diet.
so soon as ⇒ As early as.
to make an attempt ⇒ To try, to endeavour.
interrogative ˌɪntəˈrɒgətɪv adj Being of the nature of a question.
to convey one’s meaning ⇒ To make one’s meaning known.
inextinguishable ˌɪnɪksˈtɪŋgwɪʃəbl adj Difficult or impossible to bring an end to.
fair-haired ⇒ blond.
to grasp one’s intention ⇒ To understand.
chatter ˈʧætə v To talk continuously in a fast informal way, usually about unimportant subjects.
at great length ⇒ with great details.
immense ɪˈmɛns adj Extremely large in size or degree:
amidst əˈmɪdst prep Surrounded by; in the middle of.
a score of ⇒ A couple of, several.
substantive ˈsʌbstəntɪv n Any word or group of words functioning as a noun.
pronoun ˈprəʊnaʊn n The part of speech that substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and designates persons or things asked for, previously specified, or understood from the context.
interrogations ɪnˌtɛrəʊˈgeɪʃənz n A process of asking someone a lot of questions for a long time in order to get information, sometimes using threats or violence:
to feel inclined ⇒ To be disposed to.
before long ⇒ soon.
indolent ˈɪndələnt adj Resistant to exertion and activity: idle, lazy, shiftless, slothful
fatigue fəˈtiːg v To diminish the strength and energy of: wear, tire, drain, weary