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I have already (in chap. xi.) described one of the curious "standing stones” near the source of the Llia river, but there is a still more interesting example about a mile and a half north-west of Ystrad-fellte, where the old Roman roadthe Saru Helen-crosses over the ridge between the Nedd and the Llia valleys. This is a tall, narrow stone, roughly quadrilateral, on one of the faces of which there is a rudely inscribed Latin inscription, as seen in the photograph, and in copy of the letters given opposite. It reads as follows :
DERVACI FILIUS JUSTI IC IACIT meaning [The body] of Dervacus the son of Justus lies here. It will be seen that the letters D, A, and I in Dervaci, and the T and I in Justi are inverted or reversed, probably indicating that the cutting was done by an illiterate workman, who placed them as most convenient when working on an erect stone. The stone itself is probably British, and was utilized as a memorial of a Roman soldier who died near the place.
One of our most memorable excursions was in June, 1846, when I and my brother spent the night in this water-cave. I wanted to go again to the top of the Beacons to see if I could find any rare beetles there, and also to show my brother the waterfalls and other beauties of the upper valley. Starting after an early breakfast we walked to Pont-neddfychan, and then turned up the western branch to the Rocking Stone, a large boulder of millstone-grit resting on a nearly level surface, but which by a succession of pushes with one hand can be made to rock considerably. It was here I obtained one of the most beautiful British beetles, Trichius fasciatus, the only time I ever captured it. We then went on to the Gladys and Einon Gam falls; then, turning back followed up the river Nedd for some miles, crossed over to the cavern, and then on to Ystrad-fellte, where we had supper and spent the night, having walked leisurely about eighteen or twenty miles.
The next morning early we proceeded up the valley to the highest farm on the Dringarth, then struck across the mountain to the road from Hirwain to Brecon, which we followed to the bridge over the Taff, and then turned off towards the Beacons, the weather being perfect. It was a delightful walk, on a gradual slope of fifteen hundred feet in a mile and a half, with a little steeper bit at the end, and the small overhanging cap of peat at the summit, as already described in chapter xi. I searched over it for beetles, which were, however, very scarce, and we then walked along the ridge to the second and higher triangular summit, peeped with nervous dread on my part over the almost perpendicular precipice towards Brecon, noted the exact correspondence in slope of the two peat summits, and then back to the ridge and a little way down the southern slope to where a tiny spring trickles out—the highest source of the river Taff—and there, lying on the soft mountain turf, enjoyed our lunch and the distant view over valley and mountain to the faint haze of the British Channel. We then returned to the western summit, took a final view of the grand panorama around us, and bade farewell to the beautiful mountain, the summit of which neither of us visited again, though I have since been very near it. We took nearly the same route back, had a substantial tea at the little inn at Ystrad-fellte, and then, about seven o'clock, walked down to the cave to prepare our quarters for the night. I think we had both of us at this time determined, if possible, to go abroad into more or less wild countries, and we wanted for once to try sleeping out-of-doors, with no shelter or bed but what nature provided.
Just inside the entrance of the cave there are slopes of water-worn rock and quantities of large pebbles and boulders, and here it was quite dry, while farther in, where there were patches of smaller stones and sand, it was much colder and quite damp, so our choice of a bed was limited to rock or boulders. We first chose a place for a fire, and then 'searched for sufficient dead or dry wood to last us the night. This took us a good while, and it was getting dusk before we lit our fire. We then sat down, enjoying the flicker of the flame on the roof of the cavern, the glimmer of the stars through the trees outside, and the gentle murmur of the little river beside us. After a scanty supper we tried to find a place
where we could sleep with the minimum of discomfort, but with very little success. We had only our usual thin summer clothing, and had nothing whatever with us but each a small satchel, which served as a pillow. As the cave faces north the rocky floor had not been warmed by the sun, and struck cold through our thin clothing, and we turned about in vain for places where we could fit ourselves into hollows without feeling the harsh contact of our bones with the rock or pebbles. I found it almost impossible to lie still for half an hour without seeking a more comfortable position, but the change brought little relief. Being midsummer, there were no dead leaves to be had, and we had no tool with which to cut sufficient branches to make a bed. But I think we had determined purposely to make no preparation, but to camp out just as if we had come accidentally to the place in an unknown country, and had been compelled to sleep there. But very little sleep was to be had, and while in health I have never passed a more uncomfortable night. Luckily it was not a long one, and before sunrise we left our gloomy bedroom, walked up to the main road to get into the sunshine, descended into the Nedd valley and strolled along, enjoying the fresh morning air and warm sun till we neared Pont-nedd-fychan, when, finding a suitable pool, we took a delightful and refreshing bath, dried our bodies in the sun, and then walked on to the little inn, where we enjoyed our ample dish of eggs and bacon, with tea, and brown breadand-butter. We then walked slowly on, collecting and exploring by paths and lanes and through shady woods on the south bank of the river, till we reached our lodgings at Neath, having thoroughly enjoyed our little excursion.
A few months later one of our walks had a rather serious sequel. We started after breakfast one fine Sunday morning for a walk up the Dulais valley, returning by Pont-ar-dawe, and about four in the afternoon found ourselves near my old lodgings at Bryn-coch. We accordingly went in and, of course, were asked to stay to tea, which was just being got ready. The Misses Rees, with their usual hospitality, made a huge plate of buttered toast with their home-made bread
which was very substantial, and, being very hungry after our long walk, we made a hearty meal of it. My brother felt no ill effects from this, but in my case it brought on a severe attack of inflammation of the stomach and bowels, which kept me in bed some weeks, and taught me not to overtax my usually good digestion.
During my residence at Neath I kept up some correspondence with H. W. Bates, chiefly on insect collecting. We exchanged specimens, and, I think in the summer of 1847, he came on a week's visit, which we spent chiefly in beetlecollecting and in discussing various matters, and it must have been at this time that we talked over a proposed collecting journey to the tropics, but had not then decided where to go. Mr. Bates' widow having kindly returned to me such of my letters as he had preserved, I find in them some references to the subjects in which I was then interested. I will, therefore, here give a few extracts from them.
In a letter written November 9, I finish by asking: “ Have you read Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation,' or is it out of your line ?" And in my next letter (December 28), having had Bates' reply to the question, I say: “I have rather a more favourable opinion of the ‘Vestiges' than you appear to have. I do not consider it a hasty generalization, but rather as an ingenious hypothesis strongly supported by some striking facts and analogies, but which remains to be proved by more facts and the additional light which more research may throw upon the problem. It furnishes a subject for every observer of nature to attend to; every fact he observes will make either for or against it, and it thus serves both as an incitement to the collection of facts, and an object to which they can be applied when collected. Many eminent writers support the theory of the progressive development of animals and plants. There is a very philosophical work bearing directly on the question-Lawrence's 'Lectures on Man'-delivered before the Royal College of Surgeons, now published in a cheap form. The great object of these 'Lectures' is to illustrate the different races of mankind, and the manner in which they probably originated, and he arrives at the conclusion (as also does Pritchard in his work on the 'Physical History of Man') that the varieties of the human race have not been produced by any external causes, but are due to the development of certain distinctive peculiarities in some individuals which have thereafter become propagated through an entire race. Now, I should say that a permanent peculiarity not produced by external causes is a characteristic of species' and not of mere variety,' and thus, if the theory of the ‘Vestiges' is accepted, the Negro, the Red Indian, and the European are distinct species of the genus Homo,
"An animal which differs from another by some decided and permanent character, however slight, which difference is undiminished by propagation and unchanged by climate and external circumstances, is universally held to be a distinct species ; while one which is not regularly transmitted so as to form a distinct race, but is occasionally reproduced from the parent stock (like Albinoes), is generally, if the difference is not very considerable, classed as a variety. But I would class both these as distinct species, and I would only consider those to be varieties whose differences are produced by external causes, and which, therefore, are not propagated as distinct races.... As a further support to the . Vestiges,' I have heard that in his 'Cosmos' the venerable Humboldt supports its views in almost every particular, not excepting those relating to animal and vegetable life. This work I have a great desire to read, but fear I shall not have an opportunity at present. Read Lawrence's work; it is well worth it.”
This long quotation, containing some very crude ideas, would not have been worth giving except for showing that at this early period, only about four years after I had begun to take any interest in natural history, I was already speculating upon the origin of species, and taking note of everything bearing upon it that came in my way. It also serves to show the books I was reading about this time, as well as my appreciation of the “ Vestiges," a book which, in my opinion, has always been undervalued, and which when it first appeared was almost as much abused, and for very much the same reasons, as was Darwin's “Origin of Species," fifteen years later.