The events of April 30th 1891
We cannot continue with the excavation.
Local feeling is very much against us, Ladrian looked to Canning as if
waiting for him to speak.
Canning took his pipe from his lips.
Because of the stone head?
Canning rose from the fireside chair and
walked to the window. From here he could view the hill. Nothing but bracken and
gorse clung to the upper slopes of the escarpment and from where he stood the
profile of ancient earthworks was visible against the sky. Ancient tools had
shaped this landscape and with their excavation they were erasing a fingerprint
that had lasted centuries. It was destruction but then again, how were people
to learn about the past other than by investigation? The price was not too
cling to superstitions Ladrian, you know this as well as I, Canning
turned to face Ladrian where he sat at his study desk.
There is a
solution, Ladrian said reaching out he run his hand across the face
carved into the head-sized stone lying before him. Take it
You presume that
replacing the stone will placate these people?
I suppose it
might. This piece is revered.
I don't know how
it can be. It has lain in the ground these past centuries and none of them knew
it was there.
They say they
knew from folklore. They say that it marked a sacred site.
have unsettled the ancient gods? Ignorance Ladrian. The only thing we have
unearthed is the stupidity of the locals here; their simple-mindedness and
unwillingness to compromise or learn.
Still, I shall
take it back. It does not serve us keeping it here.
What good will it
do back in the ground?
I have drawn it,
measured it and taken several photographs. Ladrain gestured to the
albumen prints lying on his desk. I have everything I
Canning gave a grimace
and looked out of the window waving at Mazy as she strolled in the garden
beneath the shade of her lacy parasol. Sleep on it Ladrian. You may think
There was enough of a
moon to make Ladrian's passage up the narrow path navigable. The stone, slung
in a bag over his shoulder, seemed to have increased in weight since he left
the house. He was aware of the world at night breathing, the scurry of the
voles in the long grasses and the moth-like silence of the owl passing over
head. The sky was gradated to a rich azure towards the west marking the point
the sun had been driven from the sky. Tonight was a sacred night, Beltane. It
marked a time of ancient rites; it seemed fitting to Ladrian that the stone
should be returned to its rightful resting point on this night.
Canning paused in
surprise when he entered the study. Mazy. You are still
Ladrian's gone to
I suppose he's
gone to take that wretched stone back.
Yes, but look.
The hill is alive with lights. The locals have all come out.
superstitious lot, Canning said lighting his pipe, his dry lips smacking
against the pipe stem as he drew in the smoke.
What a wonderful
sight. Ladrian will be pleased that they have turned up to mark the
Canning was silent. He
could see the rivers of light shifting, breaking and reforming as the locals
climbed the hill towards the site of the excavation.
It looks so
beautiful, Mazy laughed.
Canning looked at her
face in the vague light with something close to admiration and then averted his
eyes to look back to the hill. It's not easy to be married to an
archaeologist is it?
Mazy smiled and blew
out her candle which set a filament of smoke curling about her face. We
can see better now. Some have lit fires.
Canning said drawing back the curtain so he could see more clearly. The fire in
the hearth spat and he turned to see if it had thrown out any embers, as he did
so he saw the flames ebb and grow dark. He frowned turning back to Mazy with a
sudden feeling of unease. She was still looking at the hill. The streams of
lights had collected into pools on the hillside as if drawn to the larger fires
that had been lit. Somewhere there was the sound of distant music. They could
see figures passing in front of the flames, some of them dancing.
Mazy started when she
heard the front door bang shut and ran from the room. Ladrian, you took
Ladrian looked at Canning who had followed Mazy into the hall. I thought
it was the right thing to do.
were not the only one to think so, Canning said belligerently checking
his fob watch against the hall clock with his forehead puckered into a frown.
Midnight had passed without it chiming.
surprise me. I saw no one.
No, but there
were hundreds of lights. Come, I'll show you, Mazy said taking Ladrain's
hand and leading him back into the room. See, she said drawing back
Mazy let out a puzzled
cry. There is no one there.
They looked out
searching the darkness, Canning framed his hands against the glass and pressed
his face to the window. It was alive with lights. You must believe me
Ladrian. We watched the people walking up the hillside and lighting their
I see no
It's not possible
Ladrian. The fires could not have gone out. You must believe what we
Oh, I do,
Ladrian said pouring himself a whisky. I do believe.