But Blake did not touch the bakelite lever. He turned to face the old man.
"Think of it, Jep," he said softly. "When I touch that lever I'll go on the greatest adventure man has ever known. I'll be projected into another dimension, while the years and centuries flow past–and then I'll come back into the three-dimensional world in another time! It's as though I could free myself from gravitation and let the earth spin around beneath me. Lord, the wonder of it! I—I'll bring back one of your descendants to visit you, Jep," he finished, somewhat embarrassed by his outburst. But Norwood did not smile.
"I know how you feel, Ken. And——" He hesitated, went on abruptly. "Don't you feel something else, too? That–that man wasn't meant to do this? That in the cosmic scheme of things time was meant to be unchangeable? I feel that, Ken. I–I think we're doing wrong."
Blake stared. "Wrong? Time–unchangeable? Why, we've changed it already! Those models we made–we sent them into time——"
"Into the future, yes. Not the past. Something went wrong there. Why couldn't we send a model backward in time?"
"I don't know," Blake said slowly. His face changed. "But I'm going to find out. Get back, Jep!"
His hand closed on the bakelite lever, swung it to the left. Nothing happened.
For a heartbeat there was utter silence. Then Norwood said slowly, "You see. Ken? Something's wrong. According to our calculations you should be in the past now. But you're not. I tell you, man can't transgress against the——"
As he spoke Blake moved the lever, pushing it in the opposite direction. With the abruptness of a thunderclap blackness enveloped him.
Involuntarily his hand released the lever. Then, fearful that lie might not be able to find it again in the intense darkness, he fumbled blindly until his fingers closed on the bakelite. He called softly, Jep!"
Or, at least, his tongue formed the name. But he could hear not the slightest sound. It was as though he had been suddenly struck dumb. He called Norwood's name again, and then shouted it at the top of his voice.
There was no sound.
A surge of exultation leaped up within him. The Time Machine had worked! He had been flung out of three-dimensional space, into an alien dimension in which, apparently, sound could not exist–in which the natural laws might be fantastically warped.
Struck by a sudden thought, he fumbled at his belt, brought up a flashlight. He touched the switch experimentally. The blackness was unbroken. Then–if the flashlight was working–light-vibrations could not exist here.
Panic touched him briefly. How could he read his instruments? For all he knew, he might have already been carried millions of years into the future. Trembling a little, he gripped the flashlight and tapped gently upon the glass that shielded a dial. There was no sound of breaking glass, but presently his fumbling hands touched jagged sharpness. He stripped off a glove and gently touched the needle indicator.
It had not moved, apparently. A mad thought came to him. Suppose time did not exist in this dimension–not time as earth knew it. Or–no, that could not be it. The needle was quivering, as though under the stress of tremendous forces. It had already revolved about its dial, reached its limit–and that limit was approximately a hundred thousand years!
Blind, unreasoning fear gripped Blake as he fumbled for the bakelite lever.