I heard a song today. As the sweet strains of 'Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms', played charmingly on flute and piano, filled the air, I took a journey down memory lane. I could see the green banks of Polecat Creek and hear the trickle of the water; I could picture a young girl sinking down on the ground, her water-splattered white skirts spread out about her. She was exhausted from her journey over a shaky single log, and tearful with the fright of the crossing, and around her stood a group of embarrassed young men, unsure how to comfort her. It brought a smile to my lips, remembering. I've been going to Polecat Creek regularly for years, always in the company of Martitia Howland and the Gardner brothers, and I've always enjoyed it immensely - despite timid Martitia's distress in having to cross it on a log!
Is there a Polecat Creek? Well, I don't know. I suspect it is pure invention. But whenever I hear 'Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms', I think of They Loved To Laugh and remember the lovely times I've spent reading about Martitia and the Gardners. It's as if I really visited the creek, or stood on the porch of the hip-roofed house and watched Jonathan stand on his head, or sat in the kitchen and smelled the fresh-baked bread.
And that's the best part of books. You can travel across the world, or back through time; you can visit a summer creek in the midst of winter, or shiver through a blizzard in the heat of summer. And once you've been somewhere, it becomes part of you, just like a hands-on experience. It stays with you. And all you have to do is smell a scent, or hear the strains of an old, sweet song...