« EelmineJätka »
thick, baked over the fire on a large circular iron plate (formerly on a stone or slate, hence the name “bakestone" or “ backstone”). This is excellent, either split open and buttered when hot, or the next day cut edgeways into slices of bread-and-butter, a delicacy fit for any lady's afternoon tea.
A little rocky stream bordered by trees and bushes ran through the farm, and was one of my favourite haunts, There was one little sequestered pool about twenty feet long into which the water fell over a ledge about a foot high. This pool was seven or eight feet deep, but shallowed at the further end, and thus formed a delightful bathing-place. Ever since my early escape from drowning at Hertford, I had been rather shy of the water, and had not learned to swim; but here the distance was so short that I determined to try, and soon got to enjoy it so much that every fine warm day I used to go and plunge head first off my ledge and swim in five or six strokes to the shallow water. In this very limited sphere of action I gained some amount of confidence in the water, and afterwards should probably have been able to swim a dozen or twenty yards, so as to reach the bank of a moderate-sized river, or sustain myself till some neighbouring boat came to my assistance. But I have never needed even this moderate amount of effort to save my life, and have never had either the opportunity or inclination to become a practised swimmer. This was partly due to a physical deficiency which I was unable to overcome. My legs are unusually long for my height, and the bones are unusually large. The result is that they persistently sink in the water, bringing me into a nearly vertical position, and their weight renders it almost impossible to keep my mouth above water. This is the case even in salt water, and being also rather deficient in strength of muscle, I became disinclined to practise what I felt to be beyond my powers.
The parish being so extensive we had to stay at many different points for convenience of the survey, and one of these was about five miles up the Dulais valley, where we stayed at a small beershop in the hamlet of Crynant. I was
often here alone for weeks together, and saw a good deal of the labourers and farmers, few of whom could speak any English. The landlady here brewed her own beer in very primitive fashion in a large iron pot or cauldron in the washhouse, and had it ready for sale in a few days—a rather thick and sweetish liquor, but very palatable. The malt and hops were bought in small quantities as wanted, and brewing took place weekly, or even oftener, when there was a brisk demand.
In my bedroom there was a very large old oak chest, which I had not taken the trouble to look in, and one morning very early I heard my door open very slowly and quietly. I wondered what was coming. A man came in, cautiously looking to see if I was asleep. I wondered if he was a robber or a murderer, but lay quite still. He moved very slowly to the big chest, lifted the lid, put in his arm, groped about a little, and then drew out a large piece of hung beef! The chest contained a large quantity bedded in oatmeal. My mind was relieved, and I slept on till breakfast time.
A young Englishman who was a servant in a gentleman's house near used to come to the beershop occasionally, and would sometimes give me local information or interpret for me with the landlady when no one else was at home. He seemed to speak Welsh quite fluently, yet to my great astonishment he told me he had only been in Wales three or four months, and could not read or write. He said he picked up the language by constantly talking to the people, and I have noticed elsewhere that persons who are thus illiterate learn languages by ear with great rapidity. It no doubt arises from the fact that, having no other mental occupations and no means of acquiring information but through conversation, their whole mental capacities are concentrated on the one object of learning to speak to the people. Some natural faculty of verbal memory must no doubt exist, but when this is present in even a moderate degree the results are often very striking. Somewhat analogous cases are those of teaching the deaf and dumb the gesture language, lip-reading, and even articulate speech which they cannot themselves hear, and the still more marvellous cases of Laura Bridgman
and Helen Keller, in which was added blindness, so that the sense of touch was alone available for receiving ideas. The effect in developing the mind and enabling the sufferers to live full, contented, and even happy lives has been most marvellous, and give us a wonderful example of the capacity of the mind for receiving the most abstract ideas through one sense alone. Such persons, without proper training, would be in danger of becoming idiotic or insane from the absence of all materials on which to exercise the larger portion of their higher mental faculties. It is observed that, when first being taught the connection of arbitrary signs with objects, they are docile but apathetic, not in the least understanding the purport of the training. But after a time, when they perceive that they are acquiring a means of communicating their own wishes and even ideas to others, and receiving ideas and knowledge of the outer world from them, their whole nature seems transformed, and the acquisition and extension of this knowledge becomes the great object and the great pleasure of their lives. It seems to occupy all their thoughts and employ all their faculties, and they make an amount of progress which astonishes their teachers and seems quite incredible to persons ordinarily constituted. It gives them, in fact, what every one needs, some useful or enjoyable occupation for body and mind, and is almost equivalent to furnishing them with the faculties they have lost. A similar explanation may be given of the comparatively rapid acquisition by the deaf and dumb of those difficult arts-lipreading by watching the motion of the lips and face of the speaker, and intelligible speech by imitating the motions during speech of the lips, tongue, and larynx by using a combination of vision and touch. These give them new means of communication with their fellows, and their whole mental powers are therefore devoted to their acquisition. It is a new employment for their minds, equivalent to a new and very interesting game for children, and under such conditions learning becomes one of their greatest pleasures. The same principle applies to the rapid acquisition of a new language by the illiterate. Being debarred from reading and
writing, all their intellectual pleasures depend upon converse with their fellows, and thus their thoughts and wishes are intensely and continuously directed to the acquisition of the means of doing so.
A mile further up the valley was a small gentleman's house with about a hundred and fifty acres of land attached, owned and occupied by a Mr. Worthington, his wife and wife's sister. They had, I believe, come there not long before from Devonshire, and being refined and educated people, we were glad to make their acquaintance, and soon became very friendly. Mr. Worthington was a tall and rather handsome man between fifty and sixty ; while his wife was perhaps fifteen or twenty years younger, rather under middle size and very quiet and agreeable; while her sister was younger, smaller, and more lively. They lent us books and magazines, and we often went there to spend the evening. I do not think our friend knew much about farming, but he had a kind of working bailiff and two or three labourers to cultivate the land, which, however, was mostly pasture. The place is called Gelli-duchlithe, the meaning of which is obscure. "The grove and the wet moor” is not inappropriate, and seems more likely than any connection with "llaeth” (milk), which implies good land or rich pastures, which were decidedly absent.
Mr. Worthington was an eccentric but interesting man. He played the violin beautifully, and when in the humour would walk about the long sitting-room playing and talking at intervals. He discussed all kinds of subjects, mostly personal, and he was, I think, the most openly egotistical man I ever inet, and I have met many. After playing a piece that was one of his favourites, he would say to my brother, “Was not that fine, Mr. Wallace? There are not many amateurs could play in that style, are there ?-or professionals either,” he would sometimes add. And after telling some anecdote in which he was the principal personage, he would often finish up with, "Don't I deserve praise for that, Mr. Wallace ?” On one occasion, I remember, after telling us of how he befriended a poor girl and resisted temptation, he concluded with, “Was
not that a noble act, Mr. Wallace ?" to which we, as visitors, were, of course, bound to assent with as much appearance of conviction as we could manage to express. These things were a little trying, but he carried them off so well, so evidently believed them himself, and spoke in so earnest and dignified a manner, that had we been more intimate, and could have permitted ourselves to laugh openly at his more extravagant outbursts, we should have had a more thorough enjoyment of his society.
Of course, such an appreciation of his own merits led to his taking the blackest view of all who opposed him, and thus led to what was in the nature of a tragedy for his wife as well as for himself, and one in which we had to bear our part. His property was bounded on one side by the little river Dulais, which wound about in a narrow belt of level pasture, and in places appeared to have changed its course, leaving dry channels, which were occasionally filled during floods. It was to one of these further channels that our friend claimed that his property extended, founding his belief on the evidence of some old people who remembered the river flowing in this channel, some of whom also declared that the cattle and sheep belonging to Gelli used to graze there. He would talk for hours about it, maintaining that the old water-line was always the boundary, and that the adjoining landlord, Lord was trying to rob him by the power of his wealth and influence. The whole of the little pieces of land in dispute did not amount to more than half an acre and were not worth more than a few pounds, and his own lawyer tried to persuade him that the issue was very doubtful, and that even if he won, the bits of land were not worth either the cost or the worry. But nothing would stop him, and by his orders an act of trespass was committed on the land to which he thus formally laid claim, and after much correspondence an action was commenced against him by Lord --'s lawyers. Then we were employed to make a plan of the pieces claimed, and the case came on for trial at the Cardiff Assizes.
The partner of the London solicitor came down for the case and engaged one of the most popular barristers, the best