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Epilogue

One cannot choose but wonder. Will he ever return? It may be that he swept back into the past, and fell among the blood-drinking, hairy savages of the Age of Unpolished Stone; into the abysses of the Cretaceous Sea; or among the grotesque saurians, the huge reptilian brutes of the Jurassic times. He may even now--if I may use the phrase--be wandering on some plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral reef, or beside the lonely saline lakes of the Triassic Age. Or did he go forward, into one of the nearer ages, in which men are still men, but with the riddles of our own time answered and its wearisome problems solved? Into the manhood of the race: for I, for my own part cannot think that these latter days of weak experiment, fragmentary theory, and mutual discord are indeed man's culminating time! I say, for my own part. He, I know--for the question had been discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made--thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so. But to me the future is still black and blank--is a vast ignorance, lit at a few casual places by the memory of his story. And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers --shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle--to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man.

人们除了惊叹别无选择。他还会回来吗?他可能已飞进过去,掉到了旧石器时代茹毛饮血、满身长毛的野蛮人中间;掉进了白垩纪海的深渊;或者掉到了保罗纪奇形怪状的蝴锡这种巨大的爬行动物中间。他可能现在还——如果我可以这样说的话——徘徊在蛇颈龙出没的缅粒岩珊瑚礁上,或是三迭纪寂寞的盐海边。他又会不会朝前飞呢?飞进一个较近的时代,在那个时代里,人还是人,但我们自己时代的不解之谜找到了答案,令人厌烦的难题得到了解决。或者飞进了人类的成年期,因为我个人认为,在那个较近的时代里,实验软弱无力,理论支离破碎,人与人不和不容,它根本不是人类登峰造极的时代!我说的是我个人的看法。我知道——因为这个问题早在时间机器诞生之前我们就讨论过——他对人类的进步持悲观态度,并且把越积越高的文明看作是愚蠢的堆积,认为它最终必将倒下来压住它的创造者,把他们彻底毁灭。如果真是这样,我们还得若无其事地活下去。但对我来说,未来仍然是黑越越的,苍茫的,是一个巨大的未知数,只有偶然的几处被他那难忘故事所照亮。我聊以自慰的是,我这里有两朵奇异的白花——现已枯萎发黄,干瘪变脆——它们可以证明,即便在心智和体力消逝的时候,感激之情和相互的温存仍然活在人类的心中。



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