H.G. Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
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.