Carbis Bay 11 August

It was with some feeling of enchantment that we took our places yesterday in the Great Western train. This was the wizard who was to transport us into another world, almost into another age. We would fain have believed that this little corner of England had slept under some enchanters spell since we last set eyes on it ten [eleven] years ago, & that no breath of change had stirred its leaves, or troubled its waters. There too, we should find our past preserved, as though through all this time it had been guarded & treasured for us to come back to one day — it mattered not how far distant. Many were the summers we had spent in St Ives; was it not reasonable to believe that as far away we cherished the memory of them, so here on the spot where we left them we should be able to recover something tangible of their substance?

Ah, how strange it was, then, to watch the familiar shapes of land & sea unroll themselves once more, as though a magicians hand had raised the curtain that hung between us, & to see once more the silent but palpable forms, which for more than ten years we had seen only in dreams, or in the visions of waking hours.

It was dusk when we came, so that there still seemed to be a film between us & the reality. We could fancy that we were but coming home along the high road after some long day's outing, & that when we reached the gate at Talland House, we should thrust it open, & find ourselves among the familiar sights again. In the dark, indeed, we made bold to humour this fancy of ours further than we had a right to; we passed through the gate, groped stealthily but with sure feet up the carriage drive, mounted the little flight of rough steps, & peered through a chink in the escalonia hedge. There was the house, with its two lighted windows; there on the terrace were the stone urns, against the bank of tall flowers; all, so far as we could see was as though we had but left it in the morning. But yet, as we knew well, we could go no further; if we advanced the spell was broken. The lights were not our lights; the voices were the voices of strangers. [ ] We hung there like ghosts in the shade of the hedge, & at the sound of footsteps we turned away.

From the raised platform of the high road we beheld the curve wh. seemed to enclose a great sweep of bay full tonight of liquid mist, set with silver stars & we traced the promontory of the island, & saw the cluster of lights which nestle in its warm hollow.

The dawn however rose upon that dim twilight & showed us a country of bright hill sides, of cliffs tumbling in a cascade of brown rocks into the sea, &, alas, we saw also not a few solid white mansions where the heather used to spring. They have cut a broad public road too, where we stumbled along a foot path on the side of the moor, & there are signs, as [A.] said, that the whole place has been tidied up since our day. There are differences though, which only strike a very fresh eye, & in two days time we see only the permanent outlines of the moor & island, & the place is in substance & detail unchanged.

Yesterday, for instance, we followed foot paths to Trencrom, which was, 11 years ago, our punctual Sunday walk. The brambles still stretch across it, & the granite blocks in the earth still bring you to your nose. At the corner we came to the Peacock farm, where the dunghill was as large as ever though there was no successor to the proud bird of old days. So, at every turn of the road, we could anticipate some little characteristic — a water trough — or a plank over the stream — which had impressed itself minutely upon our childish minds, & great was our joy when we discovered that our memory was right. To find these details unchanged, indeed, gave us a keener pleasure than to find the big hills in their places.

These trifles testified to the scrupulous exactitude of our observation, & proved how accurately we had known our mistress.

Also it was clear that where such details were untouched we should find no larger change. Indeed every step of our walk might have been taken eleven years ago, & we should have found nothing to surprise our eyes. On the top of Tren Crom indeed, I was considerably surprised to see how large a view of the surrounding country was unfolded; moreover I had no notion that from this point you can see both sides of the coast at once; Hayle Harbour on the North, St Michael's Mount on the South, & all the long stretch of bay which ends in the Lizard point. But as these features of the landscape have not changed in eleven years, or in eleven hundred, the change must be in my point of view & not in the outlines of the earth.