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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 damned.
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?'
'Into the future or the past--I don't, for certain, know which.'
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 morning.'
'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 Christmas?'
'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.