We had been
squatting like this for about 15 minutes when suddenly he peered at me through
his gold rims. His face was about 18 inches from mine.
you come from?" he asked.
" Pennsylvania," I said, thumb still on the tape.
place," he said. "Settled by Quakers. But we mustn't waste time, must
we? Another 24 inches, please."
I spent a couple
of weeks squatting around like this. Sometimes I found myself giving little
talks on Bronze Age Man to the nosy and ignorant so that Mr. Mann did not have
to disturb himself from his arcane studies.
Toward the end of
August, Mr. Mann had to go down to London. It had to do with the forthcoming
war. I went with him and found the city to be very nervous indeed. I called up
one of my few friends there, Robert Graves the poet, and we met in a pub near
Paddington. The pub talk was worried, and matters were not improved when an
Oxford Movement type strolled in preceded by a bifurcated leash to which were
attached a fox and a foxhound.
Two days later
Mann and I went north again. Mann said it was hopeless; war was coming along,
all right, and he would have to close down his dig, but for me not to sail home
on the Athenia on Sunday night as I had planned but to go up to the strangely
named island of Lewis with Harris, which is located in the Outer Hebrides. I
would find some wonderful standing stones like Stonehenge there, he said. I
remembered I had met a fine man on the ship coming over from the States named
MacLeod who came from the town of Stornoway on that island. I decided to take
Mr. Mann's advice and go up and look at his standing stones and look up
MacLeod, too, a fine storyteller with a touch of the eagle about his brow.
So on Thursday I
found myself on a MacBrayne steamer leaving Mallaig early in the morning and
taking a northeast course up the Sound of Sleat. What a romantic coast: to the
west were islands with such names as Eigg, Muck, Rum. Behind me were Mull,
Tyree, Coll and Iona, St. Columba's blessed island. Ahead was the Kyle of
Lochalsh, where the Isle of Skye pinches against the Scottish mainland. We
coasted up the Inner Sound, came out the north end near Applecross and started
a rough journey across The Minch toward Lewis and the fishing port of
the reeling deck amidst the blown spray and the wild, wheeling birds, I
encountered two women standing in a protected place, and despite their heavy
black veils I could see that one was young—roseate and beautiful. The other
appeared to be her mother.
The young one,
after we had talked a bit, said they were from Stornoway.