In the Police Station, the Chief Constable of Gwynedd and an Inspector were talking to the Colonel and the Lieutenant that I’d seen earlier. They gave me a warm welcome. Captains Steele and Lewis-Sharpe were there as well, sitting on two chairs against the wall and looking well and truly done for. I was allowed to stay to hear some of the questioning. When the questioning was over, the Chief Constable said to them,
“Well, the two of you will need to appear before the local Bench in the first instance, since that’s the law. But that will only be a formality, since a case as serious as this will have to go to the Quarter Session. The two of you were very foolish. Not only have you done a great disservice to the Military Society and to your political cause, but you’ve put a blot on Wales’s record as the second most crime-free country in Europe. You thought that you could help your cause by getting Mr. Powell onto your television programme tonight. But that would have harmed your cause. Mr. Powell’s friends would know full well that he was there under duress and against his will, and when the facts came to light the U.B.L, would be in the mire. We’ve saved your party from that much disgrace, at least. You should be grateful to us.”
Steele and Lewis-Sharpe sat with their heads down.
“Come, Mr. Powell,” said the Chief Constable. “We’ll go through to the parlour and have a cup of coffee.”
Once I was sitting in the parlour, with a cup of coffee by my knee, and the Chief Constable had said a few comforting and encouraging words, I asked him:
“How much time in prison will those two get, sir? I hope they won’t suffer too much on my account.”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Powell. Welsh law is fairly benign. That’s one reason why we have so little crime. What will happen, in all probability, will be that the two of them will be kept apart for five years. That will be a punishment in itself. And they’ve already punished themselves by losing their commissions in the Purple Shirts. That’s a pretty heavy punishment for proud men like them. And they’ll lose their place in the cooperative societies. They won’t be put in prison. They’ll be made to do some useful work – in an office or a factory probably – on ‘offenders’ rates’, namely half the salary of a normal worker initially but rising slowly according to their level of commitment and good behaviour. And they’ll be under the supervision of a psychiatrist. That’s the punishment I’d give them if I were the judge. Hard work for a while on low pay, with a foreman overseeing them and a psychiatrist to make sure the treatment doesn’t turn them sour. Much more effective than prison for their sort.”
“The law has progressed a long way,” I said.
“Oh, yes. Our boast is that we’ve got a punishment tailored to every offender. It’s true that the law gives directions, but directions are all they are, rather than rules. For example, every man who steals a sheep doesn’t get the same punishment. The local Bench decides whether they’re guilty or not guilty, but doesn’t set the punishment. The man goes before specialist or a panel of specialists, and they determine what made him steal the sheep. If it’s some sort of kleptomania, he goes for treatment to get rid of the urge – a medical treatment, that is. If it’s just greed, it’s possible that he’ll be made to pay for two sheep for each one he’s stolen. If it’s some sort of hardship, the panel will look into the cause of the hardship, since there’s no reason why anyone should be experiencing hardship in Wales today. If he’s got something against his neighbour, then every effort will be made to reconcile him with his neighbour. But it’s just devilment, well… perhaps he’ll just be moved away from his area and put to work in some other area. That is, the punishment depends nowadays not on the offence but on the offender.”
“But what about a murderer?”
“That’s a very rare thing, Mr. Powell, very rare. In the last murder case in Wales, five years ago, a father of five children was killed by a 20-year-old youth. An investigation was made into the motives of the youth, and he was put into a mental hospital for six months. There’s was no mental impairment in the traditional sense, but he had to be made to face up to what he had done and accept responsibility. Then, he was put to work in a factory, in a cooperative company with men of understanding who were willing to accept him. From then on, two thirds of his salary went to support the widow of the man he murdered and her children. And twice a year he is asked to visit the widow and the children – of his own free will. And facing them is a punishment, if anything is. Strangely enough – if indeed it is strange – the murderer has become an excellent worker and a man of strong character, and last year he was chosen as vice-president of his cooperative society. We wouldn’t treat every murderer in the same way, but that’s the principle.”
“Would you say that the system fails sometimes?”
“Every system fails sometimes. But this succeeds remarkable well by and large. It succeeds better than English law, for example, which is a bit more inflexible and more severe. There’s quite a bit more crime there than here. But all over the world the laws are more reasonable than they were in your day. The objective these days is not so much to punish a man for what he has done, but to stop him from doing it again. There’s no romance in breaking the law these days. An offender is seen as someone abnormal, someone with a mental deficiency, and no-one wants to be seen like that. The likes of Steel and Lewis-Sharpe are the exceptions, who think they can do wrong out-of-sight without being caught, for the sake of some ‘cause’, so that there’s some ‘justification’ for what they did.”
“Yes, yes, I see.”
At that point, the local policeman’s wife came in and said,
“Excuse me, there’s someone here asking for Mr. Powell.”
“Oh,” said the Chief Constable, rising, “we were expecting your friend, Mr. Powell. You’ll be in safe hands now.”
I went through the door into the hallway and stood there transfixed.
Mair stood there looking like a spring morning, the faintest suggestion of a blush on her cheeks. She lowered her eyes when I came alongside her.
“Ifan, I’m… I’m glad to see you alive and well.”
“Well, Mr. Powell,” said the Chief Constable, “may I wish a good day to you and to Miss Llywarch?”
“Good day to you, Sir,” I said, “and thank you.”
“For what? For what? Good day.”
In front of the Police Station there were a number of the Purple Shirts who had brought me down in the lorry, and Corporal Bowen. I went to them, to thank them.
“We should be thanking you, Powell,” said the Corporal. “Safe travels back to the Capital, and…” He bent over to whisper into my ear. “Congratulations on your taste in choosing a companion.”
The others heard him, and smiled broadly. As I walked back to Mair, they broke out in song,
“ I love my Dora Ann
The sweetest girl I know…”
Mair blushed more deeply, and rushed ahead of me to the car that stood by the pavement ahead of us. The two of us went into it, and Mair sat in the driver’s seat. The car moved smoothly through the village and back towards Nant Gwynant.
The two of us were a bit shy, and I cast around for a way to begin a conversation.
“Isn’t this your father’s car?”
“But your father didn’t have to steer it.”
“No he didn’t, not on Cardiff’s radiomagnetic streets.”
I looked at her through the corners of my eyes. She was so lovely that she made the countryside around her dull and uninteresting. I was being romantic, of course, but who could blame me? I’d never been in love before that.
“How did you know where I was, Mair?”
“That young man – Corporal Bowen – phoned my father this morning.”
“Before my father left for college – about 8 o’clock.”
Before he and Winter had done in Steele and Lewis-Sharpe, then. Good old Bowen.
“I can’t thank you enough, Mair, for coming all the way up from Cardiff to fetch me.”
“You don’t have to.”
“It’s an awful lot of trouble for you.”
“I preferred that to the pain… of worrying about you.”
Worrying about me…
“My father would have come, except that he had to be in college. I was free all day and… well, here I am.”
“You’ll have to drive like a bat out of, well, somewhere, Mair, to get back in time for your performance tonight.”
“Angharad, my understudy, will be taking my place tonight. I don’t need to be back till tomorrow night.”
Could I believe my ears?
“What were you thinking of doing between now and tomorrow night?” I said.
“Wander round Wales a bit. Would you like that, Ifan?”
Like it? We were silent as the car swept through Nant Gwynant and up the wide road through Cwm Dyli, which had been cut into the side of the mountain. I watched the side of the valley and the slopes of Snowdon slipping past us, and I turned round to look at the valley, and I’ll never forget that view. The fields, emerald in the sunshine, the lake like a sapphire in the midst of them, and the white farmhouses with their garlands of trees… it was like a bit of paradise had come down to one of the out-of-the-way corners of the earth.
“There’s good farming here, isn’t there?” said Mair.
I stared at her.
“What do you know about farming?” I said, jokingly.
“Only what I learned in school. Schoolchildren have to spend a few weeks on a farm, you know.”
“And spend time with their teachers in quarries and coalmines and in factories. Every reasonably intelligent child has a pretty good idea about Wales’s crafts and industries by the time they’re fifteen years old.”
“That’s not a bad idea.”
The car made its way to the top of the hill and turned into Dyffryn Mymbyr. This had changed quite a lot since my day. The hills were still there, and the sheep on them, but the lower slopes were green with pasture and young wheat, and there were rows and circles of trees planted to give shelter to each parcel of land. It was prettier than I’d ever seen it before. This road too was wide and smooth, and every half mile or so there was a lay-by where you could park your car. Mair turned the car into one of these, and turned off the engine.
“This would be a good place to put up some adverts,” I said. “Drink Breweryn, the blackberry tea. Atomotor, the best cars in Wales.”
“The Planning Board would be baying for your blood,” she said. “It’s not allowed nowadays to put up ugly posters and placards across the country, only indoors and in papers and magazines.”
“Really,” I said. “I haven’t seen any pylons or telephone wires or anything…”
“No. Everything like that goes underground, in conduits that can be opened up easily whenever the need arises. We’re crazy about keeping the countryside beautiful,” said Mair, laughing. “Now, Ifan, tell me the story. What’s happened to you since I saw you yesterday lunchtime?”
“Do I have to talk about that, Mair? I’d rather talk about you.”
“No, don’t say anything. I’m going to do something daring now. I’m going to kiss you…”
“Not yet, Ifan, there’s…”
Her lips didn’t get to say any more. I pulled her to me and held her tightly, and her lips and mine melted together. After the pain and fear and worry that I’d gone through, holding Mair in my arms was like stepping into another world. There was a spring in my stride once again. I let her go, and looked into her eyes: big dark eyes that were deeper and more tender now than I’d ever seen them before. No longer the eyes of an actress, but the eyes of a girl.
“Dear Mair, I…”
“No, don’t say it, Ifan. I’m… I’m afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
She looked up, to where the mountains bore the sky, and the sheep on them like splashes of whitewash from a giant’s brush.
“I wish you’d see it, Ifan. You and I belong to different times. I.. I hadn’t been born when you died…”
“Let me finish. We’re dreams to one another. And no-one can love a dream without being hurt… eventually. That’s why I’m afraid.”
“But I can’t help it, Mair. I think about you day and night. I can’t escape from you even if I wanted to…”
“You can, now, before it’s too late. I don’t mean escape physically, but stop thinking about me except as a… friend. I must do the same thing. You see… tomorrow or the day after you’ll be going back, to your own time, your own people, where I can’t follow you. And if we’re not sensible now, we’ll leave nothing behind for each other… only pain.”
The worst thing was, she was right. But I was so full of it at the time that I couldn’t bear to think ahead. Mair and I were together, I was in love and she was as good as, and Wales was spread around us like a garden. I was sure that there must be a way out of the dilemma, and that fate would find some way for Mair and me to stay together. I laughed.
“We’re too serious, Mair.”
She smiled. She put her arms around my neck and kissed me of her own accord. I couldn’t have been happier.
“Heaven forgive me,” she said. “I know I shouldn’t. But I can’t help it either. Oh Ifan, Ifan, what weak creatures we are, at the mercy of time despite all our cleverness. Man will never be clever enough to be completely free. He’ll always want food… just like I do now. What about you?”
“Trust you to shatter the atmosphere,” I said. “Yes, I’m hungry as well. Is it time?”
“It has been for a while. Well, down we go to Nant Ffrancon. To the Tryfan.”
“You’re not going to climb it, are you?”
The car slipped down Dyffryn Mymbyr, the sun caressing the mountains, and I had to take my eyes off Mair to enjoy it.