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I'm trying to find a time travel spring/autumn romance story. I read the story in an anthology book around '68 when I was in HS, but the story was probably published much earlier than that. The anthology also had a WWII era short story about using uranium to make a bomb. The government wasn't pleased with that.

The story is a time travel story and an old man is all alone as his wife has gone on a trip. He takes walks in the nearby woods and one day meets a young girl. She is wearing a very beautiful dress like nothing seen before. She has an innocence as everything is new to her. It turns out that she is from the future and it is a dark war time future. The govt. forces her father to make a time machine to support the war effort, but he uses it to have his daughter visit the past. So over a short time, she comes back again and again and against all odds, they fall in love. She says that her father's heart is frail (or something like that) and he is facing increasing pressure to finish the time machine. The last time she says that he has passed away and that she can only make one more trip back in time. They have a last hug with tears and she leaves. But she doesn't come back. The old man is devastated but then cleans up his house to divert his mind. He finds a box and in it is the dress. He realizes that she had gone back to his past and sought him out.

Did she worry that they might not connect and what about his wife? Would that person have turned up? When the wife comes home, she worriedly looks at him but relaxes as she can see that he still loves her.

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This is likely to be Robert F. Young's "The Dandelion Girl" (1961), as first described in this answer.

It starts out:

The girl on the hill made Mark think of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Perhaps it was because of the way she was standing there in the afternoon sun, her dandelion-hued hair dancing in the wind; perhaps it was because of the way her old-fashioned white dress was swirling around her long and slender legs. In any event, he got the definite impression that she had somehow stepped out of the past and into the present; and that was odd, because as things turned out, it wasn't the past she had stepped out of, but the future.

The circumstances of his wife's "absence":

When his wife had been unexpectedly summoned for jury duty, he had been forced to spend alone the two weeks he had saved out of his summer vacation and he had been leading a lonely existence, fishing off the pier by day and reading the cool evenings away before the big fireplace in the raftered living room; and after two days the routine had caught up to him, and he had taken off into the woods without purpose or direcion and finally he had come to the hill and had climbed it and seen the girl.

She's from the future:

"Are you from the city too?" he asked.

"In a way I am," she said. She smiled at him. "I'm from the Cove City of two hundred and forty years from now."

Her father is a scientist:

"Tell me about your father," he said. "Tell me about yourself too."

And she did, saying that she was twenty-one, that her father was a retired Government physicist, that they lived in a small apartment on Two Thousand and Fortieth Street and that she had been keeping house for him ever since her mother had died four years ago.

Her father has invented his own time machine, though the theory is well-known, and time travel is generally illegal:

"That's because my father invented his own machine, and the time police don't know about it."

She has one last chance to use the machine after her father's death:

"Will--will you be here tomorrow?"

She looked at him for a long time. A mist, like the aftermath of a summer shower, made her blue eyes glisten. "Time machines run down," she said. "They have parts that need to be replaced--and I don't know how to replace them. Ours--mine may be good for one more trip, but I'm not sure."

The narrator discovers that his wife is the same girl:

Desperate for something--anything at all--to take his mind off Julie, he went up to the attic to get them. The suitcase fell from a shelf while he was rummaging through the various boxes piled beside it, and it sprang open when it struck the floor.

He bent over to pick it up. It was the same suitcase she had brought with her to the little apartment they had rented after their marriage, and he remembered how she had always kept it locked and remembered her telling him laughingly that there were some things a wife had to keep a secret even from her husband. The lock had rusted over the years, and the fall had broken it.

He started to close the lid, paused when he saw the protruding hem of a white dress. The material was vaguely familiar. He had seen material similar to it not very long ago--material that brought to mind cotton candy and sea foam and snow.

And the wife's return at the end:

She came forward to meet him, and he saw the familiar fear in her eyes--a fear poignant now beyond enduring because he understood its cause. She blurred before his eyes, and he walked toward her blindly. When he came up to her, his eyes cleared, and he reached out across the years and touched her rain-wet cheek. She knew it was all right then, and the fear went away forever, and they walked home hand in hand in the rain.

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  • Thank you, Otis, that's it. Thank you very much. May 25 at 3:06
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    Brings tears to my eyes reading it again. Thanks again. Otis. May 25 at 3:13
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    Ha! After reading "old man, wife, time travel, young girl" clearly the wife and girl are the same person. I figured it must have been subtle for the OP not to have remembered it. And sure enough, it's practically obscure. May 25 at 4:46
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    @grantmastuoka When this answer answered your question, please accept it by clicking on the checkmark-icon next to it.
    – Philipp
    May 25 at 10:18

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