Citing the Time Traveler’s whimsical nature, the Narrator expresses his skepticism of the Time Traveler’s claims. He believes that his skepticism is shared by all of the Time Traveler’s guests.
Nonetheless, when Thursday arrives, the Narrator goes to Richmond to pay the Time Traveler his—the Narrator’s—usual weekly visit. He is late and finds himself in the company of five men of which only two—the Medical Man and the Psychologist—were guests the previous week.
The three new guests are a newspaper Editor named Blank, a Journalist, and a bearded Silent Man who is called thus because throughout the evening he says nary a word. The Time Traveler is prominently absent. When the Narrator asks about the Time Traveler’s absence, a guest refers to a letter the Time Traveler had written wherein the Time Traveler urges his guests to go on and start dinner without him if he happens to be late. Consequently, the guests repair to the dining room and begin dinner.
At dinner, the Narrator and the Psychologist playfully speculate whether time traveling is the cause of the Time Traveler’s detainment. Their speculation piques the curiosity of the others who are then told of the Time Traveler’s ingenious cubic device and the process by which it was made to disappear. Suddenly, the door to the dining room opens, and the guests behold the Time Traveler. The guests are startled because Time Traveler is in an inexplicable state of shabbiness and dishevelment. Silently, the Time Traveler has two glassfuls of wine. He then tells his guests to save him some of the mutton that they’re having while he goes to wash and change his clothes.
The guests wonder what could have happened to the Time Traveler when the Time Traveler returns. He is washed and wearing new clothes, but the weariness and exhaustion on his face remain. Presently, ignoring his guests’ queries and speculations, the Time Traveler sits down to have his meal of mutton. There is one question he does answer however: the Narrator’s question as to whether he had been time traveling, which the Time Traveler succinctly answers with a ‘Yes.’ When the Time Traveler finishes his meal of mutton, he pulls out cigar and tells his guests to follow him to the smoking room.
Before telling his story, the Time Traveler imposes one condition which all of his guests must abide: They mustn’t interrupt his story, as he—Time Traveler—is exhausted to the extent that there’s nothing he’d rather do now than slump onto his bed and go the sleep but for his need to tell his story. His guests agree to abide by the condition, and the Time Traveler begins his story. He explains that since 4 pm he had been in his laboratory. Incredibly, those hours had been transformed to 8 days on account of time traveling.