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Wait for What Will Come
In summer, when the sun beams down from an azure heaven, the sea surrounding this rocky promontory has a smiling, innocent face. Golden gorse and purple heather nestle in the fissures of the caverned granite cliffs. The waves splash gaily onto the silver sands of the cove and play among the rocks, twinkling and winking. As the sun sinks slowly in the west, the vault of heaven resembles a painter's palette, splashed with sublime hues of crimson and cerulean blue, with a lone star pinned like a diamond upon the bosom of the night. In the dying hush of day, one may fancy one can hear the distant chiming of the sunken churches of Lyonesse.
—Diary of Caroline Tregellas,
born 1762, died (?) 1780
Carla Tregellas—born 1952, and very much alive—was also thinking about the beauties of nature and the fabled cliffs of Cornwall as she approached the home of her ancestors for the first time. She was not stirred to rapturous appreciation. On the contrary, she muttered profanely under her breath and brooded on the disadvantages of living in a mechanized world.
Her rented Austin, inching its way through the streets of Exeter, was one in a line of similar vehicles, all emitting clouds of noxious fumes. The air was blue with exhaust and with the comments of frustrated motorists. She had the choice of leaving the car windows down and getting the full effect of the poisonous gases, or rolling them up and being overcome with the heat.
She had been naive to suppose that England in general, and Cornwall in particular, would be any different from the restof the so-called civilized world. It was early June, and the Cornish coast was one of the playgrounds of England; she might have known that the traffic would be as bad here as it was between Boston and the Cape, or between Baltimore and the Bay resorts. Like those vacation centers of her native United States, Cornwall was a tagend of land almost entirely surrounded by ocean, and therefore reachable by only a few limited routes. These were bound to be crowded with tourists.
The guidebook, and the man at the car-rental agency, had warned her to avoid Exeter, and she had had every intention of following that advice. But it wasn't easy to read road signs while concentrating on keeping to the left. And where had she gotten the idea that England was a cool, moist country? It was unseasonably hot, even for Cornwall, which is sometimes referred to by effusive tour guides as the English Riviera.
However, after she crossed the Tamar her sour mood improved, and she was forced to admit that even in the twentieth century Cornwall had its charms. The road followed the coastline, which was rocky, high, and rugged. From the top of the cliffs she had occasional breathtaking glimpses of the ocean and of little villages clinging picturesquely to the steep slopes. No wonder the towns built around these rock-bound harbors had prospered in the days of England's maritime glory. Falmouth and Plymouth, Penzance and St. Ives—the familiar names gave her a sense of homecoming. Some had been transferred by homesick emigrants to a similar landscape thousands of miles to the west, others familiarized by a literary tradition, from folk legend to Gilbert and Sullivan, that is the heritage of the entire English-speaking world. . . . But for her it was more than that. Her spirits quickened as the miles rolled out behind her, and she found her thoughts returning to the interview with the Boston lawyer, only a few weeks earlier. Yes, in the most primitive sense of the word, she was coming home.
"Roots?" Carla threw her head back and laughed. "No, Mr. Fawcett, I can't say I've ever had any wild desire to pursue mine."
The lawyer looked at her in surprised approval. She had a nice laugh, and the change of expression did wonders for her face. He had thought, when she first came into the office, that she was a solemn little thing, too grave and serious for a woman of twenty-six. The smile illumined her features, lent sparkle to her eyes, and emphasized the unusual delicacy of her bone structure.
Mr. Fawcett knew Carla's age and other personal details, although this was the first time they had met. He had found her appearance unusual in several ways. Knowing that the family was of Cornish stock, he had expected that the strong Celtic strain would be visible. He was a closet anthropologist, was Mr. Fawcett—and, although he would have denied it vigorously, something of a poet—and he now realized, with an unprofessional and not wholly comfortable thrill, that he was seeing an example of a racial strain far older than the Celtic, so old that its history had become the fabric of legend and folklore. The little dark people who had inhabited England in prehistoric times had been pushed back into the far corners of that island by the Celtic warriors, just as the Celts were to be pushed, in their turn, by later invaders. Into Cornwall, Scotland, and Wales, across the stormy gray waters into Ireland the beleaguered remnants of a dozen races had fled, and had stopped, their backs to the watery walls. There was nowhere else to go. Invasion came from the east, from the continent; and beyond the western limits of Britain was nothing but endless sea, and the Islands of the Blessed.
Some scholars claimed that there was a strong Mediterranean strain in the Cornish, and there was archaeological evidence to support the theory. The isle of Britain, lost in the cold mists of the northern seas, had been the goal of intrepid seafarers from the time of Odysseus. There are Minoan axes carved on the monoliths of Stonehenge, and Phoenician merchants had founded fortunes on the tin trade, jealously guarding their maps of the northern sea routes.Wait for What Will Come. Copyright © by Barbara Michaels. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.