Page images
PDF
EPUB

only legalize but justify our process of restitution. It will justify it, because, unlike their laws, which always took from the poor to give to the rich-to the very class which made the laws-ours will only take from the superfluity of the rich, not to give to the poor or to any individuals, but to so administer as to enable every man to live by honest work, to restore to the whole people their birthright in their native soil, and to relieve all alike from a heavy burden of unnecessary and unjust taxation. This will be the true statesmanship of the future, and it will be justified alike by equity, by ethics, and by religion.

as pointing

bobeing of sometions which

In the few preceding pages I have expressed the opinions which have been gradually formed as the result of the experience and study of my whole life. My first work on thesubject was entitled “Land Nationalization: its Necessity and its Aims," and was published in the year 1882 ; and this, together with the various essays in the second volume of my “Studies Scientific and Social,” published in 1900, may be taken as expressing the views I now hold, and as pointing out some of the fundamental conditions which I believe to be essential for the well-being of society.

But at the time of which I am now writing such ideas never entered my head. I certainly thought it a pity to enclose a wild, picturesque, boggy, and barren moor, but I took it for granted that there was some right and reason in it, instead of being, as it certainly was, both unjust, unwise, and cruel. But the surveying was interesting work, as every trickling stream, every tree, every mass of rock or boggy waterhole, had to be marked on the map in its true relative position, as well as the various footpaths or rough cart-roads that crossed the common in various directions.

At that time the medicinal springs, though they had been used from the time of the Romans, were only visited by a few Welsh or West of England people, and there was little accommodation for visitors, except in the small hotel where we lodged. One of our great luxuries here was the Welsh mutton fed on the neighbouring mountains, so small that a

hind-quarter weighed only seven or eight pounds, but which, when hung a few days or a week, was most delicious eating. I agree with George Borrow in his praise of this dish. In his “Wild Wales ” he says, “ As for the leg of mutton it was truly wonderful; nothing so good had I ever tasted in the shape of a leg of mutton. The leg of mutton of Wales beats the leg of mutton of any other country, and I had never tasted a Welsh leg of mutton before. Certainly I shall never forget that first Welsh leg of mutton which I tasted, rich but delicate, replete with juices derived from the aromatic herbs of the noble Berwyn mountain, cooked to a turn, and weighing just four pounds.” Well done, George Borrow! You had a good taste in ale and mutton, and were not afraid to acknowledge it.

CHAPTER XI

BRECKNOCKSHIRE

It was in the summer or early autumn of 1841 that we left Kington for the survey of a parish a few miles beyond the town of Brecon. As there was no coach communication, and the distance was only about thirty miles, we determined to walk, and having sent our luggage by coach or waggon, we started about sunrise, and after two hours' walking stopped at a nice-looking roadside public-house for breakfast. Our meal consisted of a large basin cf bread-and-milk with half a pint of good ale in it, and sugar to taste, which had been recommended to my brother as the best thing to walk on. I certainly enjoyed it very much. We then walked on through the little town of Hay, and soon after midday had dinner at a village inn and a good rest, as the day was very hot and the roads hilly. In the afternoon I became very tired, and while we were still some miles from Brecon, I felt quite exhausted with the heat and fatigue. At length I became so faint that I had to lie down in the road to prevent myself from losing consciousness and falling down. Howe ever, with the aid of repeated rests I struggled on, and we reached Brecon when it was nearly dark.

The next morning I felt all right again, and as we started for our destination, I was delighted with the grand view of the double-headed Beacons, the highest mountain in South Wales, which, though five miles away, seem to rise up abruptly into the clouds as viewed down the street by which we entered the town. On leaving the town we crossed a bridge over the little rocky stream, the Honddu, which here enters the Usk, and gives the Welsh name to the town of Brecon-Aberhonddu-aber meaning the confluence or meeting of waters. So, Aberystwith, which has retained its Welsh name, is situated where the little river Ystwith enters the sea. While living in Radnorshire, where hardly any Welsh is spoken, I had begun to take an interest in the picturesque names which primitive people always give to localities. The first of these to which my attention was called by my brother was Llanfihangel-nant-Melan, a village about ten miles west of Kington, the name meaning "the Church of St. Michael on Melan's brook.” So, Abbey-cum-hir is the Abbey in the long valley; while the celebrated Vale of Llangollen is, according to George Borrow, named after Collen, an ancient British hero who became Abbot of Glastonbury, but afterwards retired into the valley named after him.

Our road lay along the north side of the valley of the Usk, but at some distance from the river, through a very picturesque country, crossing many small rivers, often looking down upon the river Usk, which I took special interest in as my native stream, here approaching its source, and with frequent views of the Beacons when nearer hills did not intervene to block the view. After a pleasant walk of about six miles we reached the tiny village of Trallong, the parish we had to survey, and obtained lodgings in the house of a shoemaker, where we were very comfortable for some months. The house was pleasantly situated about two hundred and fifty feet above the river, with an uninterrupted view to the south-east over woody hills of moderate height to the fine range of the Great Forest, culminating in the double peaks of the Beacons, which were seen here fully separated with the narrow ridge connecting them. At sunset they were often beautifully tinted, and my brother made a charming little water-colour sketch of them, which, with most of his best sketches, were placed in an album by my sister, and this was stolen or lost while she was moving in London.

The family here were rather interesting. The father, a middle-aged man, could not speak a word of English. His VOL. I.

м

grown-up sons, who helped in the shoemaking, spoke but little. The wife, however, a delicate woman and a great invalid, though having to do all the work of the household, spoke English very well, and told us that she preferred it to Welsh, because it was less tiring, the Welsh having so many gutturals and sounds which require an effort to pronounce correctly. There were also two little girls who went to the village school, and who spoke English beautifully as compared with our village children, because they had learnt it from the schoolmaster and their mother. Of course, the whole conversation in the house was in Welsh, and I picked up a few common words and phrases, and could understand others, though, owing to my deficiency in linguistic faculty, I never learnt to speak the language.

The schoolmaster was an intelligent and well-educated man, and he often called in the evening to have a little conversation with my brother. But almost the only special fact I remember about him was his passion for cold water. Every morning of his life he walked to the river half a mile off to take a dip before breakfast, and in some frosty days in winter I often saw him returning when he had had to break the ice at the river's edge.

I looked daily at the Beacons with longing eyes, and on a fine autumn day one of the shoemaker's sons with a friend or two and myself started off to make the ascent. Though less than six miles from us in a straight line, we had to take a rather circuitous course over a range of hills, and then up to the head of a broad valley, which took us within a mile of the summit, making the distance about ten miles. But the day was gloriously fine, the country beautiful, and the view from the top very grand; while the summit itself was so curious as greatly to surprise me, though I did not fully appreciate its very instructive teaching till some years later, after I had ascended many other mountains, had studied Lyell's “ Principles of Geology," and had fully grasped the modern views on sub-aerial denudation. As Brecknockshire is comparatively little known, and few English tourists make the

« EelmineJätka »