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some of the soft gravel, but instead of the water rising, it merely turned to mud; and the more I put in the muddier it became, while there seemed to be even less water than before. At last I became tired and gave it up, and concluded that the story could not be true; and I am afraid this rather made me disbelieve in experiments out of story-books.

The river in front of our house was the Usk, a fine stream on which we often saw men fishing in coracles, the ancient form of boat made of strong wicker-work, somewhat the shape of the deeper half of a cockle-shell, and covered with bullock's hide. Each coracle held one man, and it could be easily carried to and from the river on the owner's back. In those days of scanty population and abundant fish the river was not preserved, and a number of men got their living, or part of it, by supplying the towns with salmon and trout in their season. It is very interesting that this extremely ancient boat, which has been in use from pre-Roman times, and perhaps even from the Neolithic Age, should continue to be used on several of the Welsh rivers down to the present day. There is probably no other type of vessel now in existence which has remained unchanged for so long a period.

But the chief attraction of the river to us children was the opportunity it afforded us for catching small fish, especially lampreys. A short distance from our house, towards the little village of Llanbadock, the rocky bank came close to the road, and a stone quarry had been opened to obtain stone, both for building and road-mending purposes. Here, occasionally, the rock was blasted, and sometimes we had the fearful delight of watching the explosion from a safe distance, and seeing a cloud of the smaller stones shoot up into the air. At some earlier period very large charges of powder must have been used, hurling great slabs of rock across the road into the river, where they lay, forming convenient piers and standing-places on its margin. Some of these slabs were eight or ten feet long and nearly as wide; and it was these that formed our favourite fishing-stations, where we sometimes found shoals of small lampreys, which could be scooped up in basins or old saucepans, and were then fried for our dinner or supper, to our

great enjoyment. I think what we caught must have been the young fish, as my recollection of them is that they were like little eels, and not more than six or eight inches long, whereas the full-grown lampreys are from a foot and a half to nearly three feet long.


The lamprey was a favourite dish with our ancestors, and is still considered a luxury in some districts, while in others it is rejected as disagreeable, and the living fish is thought to be even poisonous. This is, no doubt, partly owing to its wriggling, snake-like motions, and its curious sucking mouth, by which it sticks on the hand and frightens people so much that they throw it away instantly. But the Rev. J. G. Wood, in his very interesting “ Natural History," tells us that he has caught thousands of them with his bare hands, and has often had six or seven at once sticking to his hand without causing the slightest pain or leaving the least mark. The quantity of these fish is so great in some rivers that they would supply a large amount of wholesome food were there not such a prejudice against them. Since this period of my early childhood I do not think I have ever eaten or even seen a lamprey.

At this time I must have been about four years old, as we left Usk when I was about five, or less. My brother John was four and a half years older, and I expect was the leader in most of our games and explorations. My two sisters were five and seven years older than John, so that they would have been about thirteen and fifteen, which would appear to me quite grown up; and this makes me think that my recollections must go back to the time when I was just over three, as I quite distinctly remember two, if not three, besides myself, standing on the flat stones and catching lampreys.

There is also another incident in which I remember that my brother and at least one, if not two, of my sisters took part. Among the books read to us was "Sandford and Merton," the only part of which that I distinctly remember is when the two boys got lost in a wood after dark, and while Merton could do nothing but cry at the idea of having to pass the night without supper or bed, the resourceful Sandford comforted him by promising that he should have both, and set him to gather

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sticks for a fire, which he lit with a tinder-box and match from his pocket. Then, when a large fire had been made, he produced some potatoes which he had picked up in a field on the way, and which he then roasted beautifully in the embers, and even produced from another pocket a pinch of salt in a screw of paper, so that the two boys had a very good supper. Then, collecting fern and dead leaves for a bed, and I think making a coverlet by taking off their two jackets, which made them quite comfortable while lying as close together as possible, they enjoyed a good night's sleep till daybreak, when they easily found their way home.

This seemed so delightful that one day John provided himself with the matchbox, salt, and potatoes, and having climbed up the steep bank behind our house, as we often did, and passed over a field or two to the woods beyond, to my great delight a fire was made, and we also feasted on potatoes with salt, as Sandford and Merton had done. Of course we did not complete the imitation of the story by sleeping in the wood, which would have been too bold and dangerous an undertaking for our sisters to join in, even if my brother and I had wished to do so.

Another vivid memory of these early years consists of occasional visits to Usk Castle, Some friends of our family lived in the house to which the ruins of the castle were attached, and we children were occasionally invited to tea, when a chief part of our entertainment was to ascend the old keep by the spiral stair, and walk round the top, which had a low parapet on the outer side, while on the inner we looked down to the bottom of the tower, which descended below the groundlevel into an excavation said to have been the dungeon. The top of the walls was about three feet thick, and it was thus quite safe to walk round close to the parapet, though there was no protection on the inner edge but the few herbs and bushes that grew upon it. For many years this small fragment of a mediæval castle served to illustrate for me the stories of knights and giants and prisoners immured in dark and dismal dungeons. In our friend's pretty grounds, where we often had

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