Some time in the far past or distant future, on the scientifically advanced world of Eos (which just might be Earth), Cheryl demands the right to marry the man she loves, even though genetic analysis shows that their children will have undesirable genes. But our story does not start here. It starts in the 20th century, on Earth. When Cheryl Ainsworth and her four friends enter the river of time as part of an experiment, they are buffeted between time and space. Sometimes they are on Eos, sometimes on Earth, sometimes on unnamed worlds. On all these worlds Cheryl stands firm for her right to the man she loves.
309 pages with a reading time of ~4.75 hours (77458 words), and first published in 1931. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2018.
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We have explored to its remotest wildernesses a region that all but a few hold to be inaccessible to the human mind. Yet, in looking back after twenty-five years at the colossal drama which unrolled with stunning rapidity before our bewildered consciousness, I can see in it all no incident more mysterious than the unquestioning faith with which we accepted our guide–the venerable Georges Savadan–at his own valuation. That granted, the rest followed with a magnificent inevitability. It was like the running down of Sylvester’s watch when the mainspring snapped; a trivial accident precipitated events which time had been holding in suspension for ages.
We fell in with Savadan’s suggestions as readily as if they had been the natural promptings of our own minds. Indeed, with the exception of Beckford, we seemed at every step of our progress into the unknown to anticipate the old man’s will. The sudden transformation of the Savadan whom we had so often watched dreaming over his port at Holst’s, into the resolute, energetic leader alert to every hint of danger, caused us no surprise. It was a change for which we were secretly prepared. We had known the old man subconsciously all our lives.
Surely there never was a company of explorers less likely than ours to penetrate the dim secrecies of the future; but so we did. It matters little what our occupations were when we set out, exactly a quarter of a century ago, on our explorations. Nevertheless, as our lives and all of our daily activities acquired a strange significance in the light of our adventures, I shall briefly state who and what we were, and how we started.
The place and date are extremely important. We first succeeded in entering the time stream in San Francisco, on the fourteenth of April, 1906. That was precisely four days before the city was destroyed by earthquake and fire.
The mere catalogue of our party follows, with their nationalities and places of birth, and their ages in 1906.
Colonel Dill, born in Tennessee, veteran of the Civil War, age 66. Habitually in need of money, and eager to imbibe any amount of whiskey at any other man’s expense. Hobby, imaginary bloodshed.
Palgrave, born in San Francisco, age 26. Physician, specializing on morally and mentally unstable children. This man is now the well known child specialist of New York. Hobby, color analysis.
Beckford, also born in San Francisco, age 27. Attorney and orator. Lifelong friend of Palgrave and, with him, suitor of Cheryl Ainsworth. Hobby, oratory.
Ducasse, born in France, age 25. Psychologist and student of philosophy, with strong leaning toward practical mechanics. Hobby, prison reform.
Herron, born in Chicago, age 24. Newspaper reporter. Hobby, deciphering of code messages.
Culman, born in Germany, age 47. Mechanical engineer and inventor. In easy circumstances, owing to a simple, lucky device for measuring flow in oil wells. Hobbies, hatred of war and a desire to expose the trickeries of mediums and others in some kinds of psychic research.
Sylvester, born in England, naturalized U.S. citizen, age 23. Lived at Los Gatos (three hours by train from San Francisco), where he had a paying ranch. Highly educated in modern theoretical physics–as it was in 1906, with ample leisure to continue his studies.
Savadan, born in France, age unknown, probably 65. Political refugee. Had lived for many years in San Francisco in very straitened circumstances.
Myself (Smith), born in San Francisco, age 24. Analytical chemist.
To this strange assortment three others may be added, although they were not strictly in our party. First there was Cheryl Ainsworth, age 24, who must be noticed more in detail later. For the moment this mention of her is sufficient. Next there was Herr Holst, the genial proprietor of the inn where Dill, Palgrave, Beckford, Ducasse, Herron, Culman, Sylvester, Savadan, and I met once a fortnight to discuss everything in this world and the next. Last, there was John Petrie, prince of bartenders and quiet, unobtrusive host to our small crowd. Petrie’s hobby was a very crude brand of astrology. He was one of us, although he never knew it and did not join us in our adventure.
All of these details, however, are of little importance. What I wish to bring out in citing them is merely that we were an apparently haphazard handful of acquaintances thrown together by chance. There were many such handfuls in the old San Francisco. We know now that ours was not governed by chance. Even before we somewhat rashly started, we had inklings of the truth.