Raven’s Run 68

Chapter Nineteen

Raven wasn’t in Montreaux. I hit the cheap hotels, the youth hostel, and found out that the only campground was two stops east by steamer. I reasoned that Eric would have too much pride to let Raven pay his way, so I decided not to worry about the more expensive places. I had to set some limits on my search.

The steamer passed the Château de Chillon, a lovely pile built out in the waters of Lac Léman, then moved on down to Villeneuve. It was a short walk to the campground, where the operator did not recognize either picture. It was nearing evening, so I took a place and pitched my tent. I walked around the campground, through the nearby parks, down by the lake, out onto the docks, and back to the steamer pier without seeing a familiar face.

The campground at Villeneuve was as beautiful a place as I could remember. The whole length of Lac Léman stretched westward toward the setting sun. High cirrus clouds were taking fire in an impossibly blue sky, above an impossibly blue lake. On either side of the lake and surrounding Villeneuve itself were huge rounded hills cloaked with intense green, and southeastward, dominating everything, were the snowy peaks of the main Alps.

As I approached the steamer pier, I heard bagpipes. It was Colin MacAdam, a street musician I had met in Paris, striding up and down in full kilt. He had a swatch of tartan spread over a cardboard box to collect the tourists’ money. I tossed in a few francs as he passed. He nodded without breaking rhythm. When he finished the piece he was playing, Colin grinned at me and said, “I haven’t seen them yet, Ian. I’ll keep looking and asking if you want.” I thanked him, scribbled the number of the consulate at Marseille on a piece of paper, and told him to ask for Will Hayden if he got any news.

He went back to work and I stayed for the pleasure of the pipes. They are an acquired taste. I probably would not have given them the repeated hearing it takes to accustom American ears to the drone and the strange intonation of the notes if I had not been interested in my own Scottish ancestry.

After Colin had finished his set, I went down to the docks near the campground. The sun was just setting. The sky was maroon and gold. The lambent light reflected off the varnished sailboats and painted golden reflections in the still waters. A mother duck had made a temporary home on one of the finger piers, with her brood of half-fletched young piled up around her. I said hello, but she only hissed a warning. I skirted them carefully to avoid disturbing them. I unlaced my boots and sat on the end of the pier, dangling my feet in the cold waters of Lac Léman while I watched the sky turn Prussian blue.

I wanted to reach out and take Raven’s hand, and share this beauty with her. At the same time, I felt a kind of bitter freedom.

I walked back to the campground. The tents were crowded together on a lovely, treeless lawn. Even here, where the beauty of nature was as wild and moving as any American national park, there was no thought of giving each camper a space of his own, and there were no campfires. European campgrounds are a Sunday picnic, not the Frontiersman conquering the wilderness. more tomorrow


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