H. G.


The Time Machine

Die Zeitmaschine

Übersetzt von Felix Paul Greve
Synchronisation und Ergänzungen © Doppeltext 2022

















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 mis­con­cep­tion.”
“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 ex­ist­ence?”
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 our lives.”
“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 three 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 us there.”
“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 mo­ment.
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 ab­sent­minded, 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 Trav­el­ler.
“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 com­mun­ist­ic basis.”
“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 that?”
“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 arm­chair 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 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?” said Filby.
“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 to­night,” said the Med­ic­al Man; “but wait un­til to­mor­row. 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.

H. G. Wells
The Time Machine / Die Zeitmaschine
Zweisprachige Ausgabe
Übersetzt von Felix Paul Greve

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