I'm trying to recall the name of a short story I read in an anthology (Best of the Year?) from the 1960s or '70s, in which a man taking a walk in a field meets a young woman who claims to have travelled there from the future.

She says the field is a department store in the future and that her father invented a time machine that she uses to visit the more picturesque past. "Yesterday I saw a deer, and today I saw you," she says at one point. The man thinks there's something familiar about her, but can't place it, and sees her for several days in a row.

One final day, she arrives in tears, saying this is her last visit, because the authorities have come to confiscate the machine, which is illegal. He never sees her again, but comes to realize that she used the machine one last time to go a little further into the past, and become his wife.

2 Answers 2


This is "The Dandelion Girl" (1961) by Robert F. Young. It was first published in The Saturday Evening Post. TVTropes provides a link to the story online.

I found this summary of the plot:

A man whose wife is away encounters a girl in her 20s coming out of the woods who looks somewhat familiar and wearing a strange-looking dress. She talks to him a little and then goes back to the woods. She proceeds to return several times and, eventually, tells him that she is from the future. Time travel is a possibility where she's from, but the government has banned it for fear of changing the past. Her father secretly built his own time machine before his death, as he believed that time is immutable and everything has already happened. In the meantime, the man's wife starts to act a little strange towards him, as if she suspects he is spending time with another woman. The girl is missing for several days, and then comes back saying that this is her last visit, as the time machine is about to break down due to lack of maintenance. There may be enough left in it for one more trip. As she disappears into the woods, he follows her but sees only a bright flash of light. He returns to the house and looks in the attic for something, only to find his wife's old things, which also include the same strange dress the girl wore, the same dress his wife wore on the day they met years ago. Everything suddenly clicks in his head, and he realizes he had been married to her all along.

The only difference is that the machine is about to break, not be confiscated, though your memory of it being confiscated fits with time travel being illegal in the future.

The ISFDb entry for the story indicates it was republished in 7th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F (1962).

Cover of "7th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F"

  • 10
    Can't believe the 75c prices. Money printing is a hell of a drug. Jan 27, 2021 at 0:12
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    @DavidTonhofer It's not just inflation; Pawn of Prophecy was $2.50 (first edition) in 1982. (And we thought that was a lot then, since it passed the $2/book threshold.) According to the inflation calculator that would be $6.50 now, but instead new paperbacks are $9+! That's basically a 40% increase on top of inflation!
    – DavidW
    Jan 27, 2021 at 0:28
  • 1
    @DavidTonhofer I've got that edition. The 1st annual edition of her "year's best" was 35 cents (I have that one too) Jan 27, 2021 at 1:48
  • @DavidW Pshaw! Black Library (a division of Games Workshop) has been selling paperbacks for $9 for at least 15 years. Jan 27, 2021 at 20:46
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    If only we had a time machine.... :D
    – Aibobot
    Jan 28, 2021 at 2:13

There's a story by John Wyndham called "Chronoclasm" which is a bit similar.

A chronoclasm is ‘An interference with the course of history caused by time travel.’ Gerrald Lattery is the standard Wyndhamesque good bloke. Once across a street he glimpses a beautiful woman. A stranger comes up to him in the street and addresses him as Sir Gerald and is then covered in confusion.

What slowly emerges is that the woman is named Octavia and that she is from the 22nd century when humanity has invented time travelling machines (they call them history-machines) which look like wardrobes. Even in the future there’s only a handful of them and use is strictly controlled after the first few reckless experiments altered history. The history machines of the future are restricted to use by real historians who use them only for careful research purposes. One of these scrupulous historians is Dr Gobie. Tavia is Gobie’s niece, who has done a History degree, specialising in the mid-twentieth century. She has ‘borrowed’ the time machine a couple of times because she knows that she will fall in love and marry Lattery. She knows this because he has written her a letter, back in 1950-something, describing how she suddenly appears in his life, they fall in love and get married and live in bliss in his Devon cottage, and then one day she’s gone, leaving no message, never to be seen again. She ‘goes’ because she’s been kidnapped by the time police from the future, simply because she risks changing everything. They make a couple of attempts to seize her from Lattery’s cottage, in fact the first time is the first time they properly meet, when she comes beating on his door and then begs to be hidden. When three men in futuristic ski jackets come knocking, Lattery tells them to bugger off, then punches the front one in the stomach. You can tell this isn’t a modern story, because he is winded and the other two help him away. Then he turns to this strange young woman and asks her to explain…. and it takes a while for the narrator to get his head round the paradoxes inherent in time travel.

Then Uncle Donald Gobie appears, introduces himself to Lattery and makes the grown-up, man-of-the-world case to Lattery, why Tavia must go back with him, with Tavia there in the room. They drink tea while he tries to persuade her – she refuses. Gobie leaves. A week later, the time policemen try again, Lattery is more determined, brandishes a shotgun and, when they don’t back down, shoots one in the stomach. Again his colleagues help him away.

Tavia announces to Lattery that she is pregnant. It suddenly becomes really important for her to remember the precise date on which he will write his letter to her, but she can’t. Then he comes home one day and she is gone. Since he knows it is discovering the letter a hundred and fifty years later which triggers the whole cycle, the story ends with Lattery sitting down to write it, addressing it to ‘My great, great grandniece, Miss Octavia Lattery…’"

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