It was a fine day at the end of May when I arrived in Cardiff to spend a fortnight’s holiday with Tegid. I’d hoped to take my holidays at the beginning of August, as usual, so I could go to the National Eisteddfod. But when I went to the boss’s office to make my usual application, he told me that two of the other staff had already asked for the beginning of August, and he couldn’t afford to lose a third person for that fortnight. He offered me two other options to choose between, a fortnight at the end of May or one at the beginning of October. Very reluctantly, and cursing under my breath, I chose the end of May.
If I’d known then what was going to happen to me during that fortnight, I would without hesitation have gone for the beginning of October. By now, I have fewer regrets. But to continue with the story.
Tegid lived in a thoroughly pleasant house close to Roath Park. He was a bachelor, as was I, and although he had a lady in to clean, he cooked his own food and he was a dab hand in the kitchen. He and I were the same age, and had been friends since school days. Indeed, we were alike in many ways, but there was one fundamental difference between us: Tegid was a zealous member of Plaid Cymru, while I wanted nothing to do with them. We’d argued ourselves to sleep many an evening, without either of us making any headway with the other. I had written Tegid off as an incorrigible hothead, and he had me down as a crusty old imperialist.
It was just as well that this arguing and giving up on one another had not lessened our friendship at all. When school closed for the summer holidays, Tegid would come up to spend two or three weeks with me in Arfon; and when I had my fortnight out of the office every year, off I’d go to Cardiff to see Tegid.
This time, just like every other time, he came to meet me in the station. He had his little car outside, and in a jiffy we were in his house in Roath. As we were enjoying tea he said:
“I have a friend of mine coming over for supper tonight. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” I said. “Who is he?”
“A college professor from Germany. I stayed with him and his wife when I was over there last year – you’ve heard me talk of them before, I expect…”
“Yes, of course,” I said, without a great deal of interest.
“He’s a decent fellow, my boy. And ever so interesting. Here’s over in Cardiff for a month, doing some research or other. I didn’t ask him to stay here, because you were coming, and I thought we’d be more free to talk and argue without a stranger being about.”
“Very wise,” I said.
“But I invited him to call in whenever he wants. And he’s coming tonight. You know what, he’s interesting. Come to the table now, and eat your fill. I don’t stand on ceremony. Yes indeed, he’s inter… well, you’ll see for yourself. His subject in the college is nuclear physics…”
“Oh, one of them,” I said darkly, reaching for the jam.
“Yes, but you’ll never believe it. He’s more of a philosopher than a scientist. And he has a theory. A theory about the nature of time.”
“Oh yes,” I said, having totally lost interest by now.
“He argues, you see, that there’s a way that someone who’s sensitive enough can see into the future…”
“Uh?” I said.
“Yes, wait a minute. Not just see the future, but go there, to all intents and purposes, using the fourth dimension… I don’t understand it myself, but you can hear him explaining it when he comes here tonight.”
“If the two of you are going to discuss dull things like that,” I said, “I’d rather go to the pictures. And anyway, I don’t believe in any hocus-pocus like… seeing into the future and so on. Old wives’ tales, that’s all.”
“Oh yes?” said Tegid, smarting a bit. “Well, stay here for supper tonight, my boy, and you’ll see. What if I said that this man had proved his theory?”
“How?” I said. “Can he see into the future himself?”
“I don’t know about that,” said Tegid, “but he’s succeeded in getting others to see into the future, and even to go there.”
“This bread and butter’s very good,” I said, thinking that Tegid was a bit off his rocker.
“Never mind the bread and butter,” he said. “Wait till tonight, and you’ll hear things that will leave you shaken.”
I looked at my friend strangely enough, I’m sure. His enthusiasm wasn’t entirely infectious, but it made me feel quite uncomfortable. I hadn’t come to Cardiff for a course in nuclear physics or to discuss the nature of time. I’d come here to enjoy myself. And I was very sceptical about how a college professor from Germany could add much to my enjoyment.