CHAPTER VI. LES ALYSCAMPS.
The facts were these. My dear father thought, and thought perhaps justly, that a classical education was but a throwing back of the current of the mind into the past, whereas a mathematical education directed it to the future, and was the sole course which would prove Pactolean. So I was cut down in my classical studies, and drawn out in those which were mathematical. Likewise I was sent the year before entering the university to a senior wrangler to ripen me. I then learned that what as a boy I was wont to call the Rule of Three was more properly termed equations, and that equations might be complicated to the highest limits of muddledom, and when so complicated were termed quadratics. After a course of equations that flattened out my head like the Camargue, I was thrust into what are called surds, a sort of wood of errors, in which one spends hours in hewing one's way to get at nothing of the slightest profit to man or beast; finally, I believe my good tutor, now a bishop, got tired of me. I was stupefied by surds; and I entered the university. Now, after thirty-seven years, I find that every ode of Horace, every chapter of Caesar, every line of Virgil I learned at school lies as a sprig of lavender in the folds of my memory - but I cannot even set and work out a common equation, or add up a sum in compound addition correctly.
I beg the pardon of the reader for this digression. I have made it because I think, should my reader be a father, this experience of mine may be of profit to him.
To return to the monuments of the Elysian Fields. A considerable number have been found here, also at Nimes, S. Gabriel, and Cavaillon, which are the memorials of utriculares.  There were guilds of these men. They appointed noble Romans as their patrons, and these patrons on their tombstones made mention of the fact. But what were these utriculares? They were raftsmen who carried on trade over the lagoons, sustaining their flat vessels upon distended skins. The lagoons were so shallow that no vessel of deep draught could travel over them, and all the merchandise of central Gaul for the Mediterranean - the tin from Britain for instance - and all the goods of the Mediterranean for Gaul, had to be transhipped at Arles from the river boats, unable to cross the bar, on to these barges sustained on inflated skins that conveyed them to Fos, at the mouth of the lagoons, where they were again shipped for the sea voyage. After Marius had cut a canal, matters were better. Ships could come up through the lagoons to Arles, but none at any time of deep draught, and the raftsmen, the utriculares, carried on their trade till the Middle Ages, when the mouths of the lagoons became choked, and the lagoons themselves turned into noxious morasses. Here is one of their monuments, in the museum of Arles: -
"To the manes. To Marcus Junius Messianus, of the guild of the
utriculares of Arles, four times president of this corpora
Junia Valeria raised this monument to him, her son, who died aged
twenty-eight years, five months, and ten days."
Here is another, found near Lyons: -
"To the manes and eternal repose of Caius Victorinus ... urix, also
called Quiguro, citizen of Lyons, one of the corporation of utriculares
there, who lived twenty-eight years,... months and five days, without
giving offence to anyone. His mother, Castorina, raised this to the
memory of her sole and very dear boy."
The navigation on distended skins is now everywhere extinct except on the Euphrates. On some of the Nineveh sculptures may be seen men swimming across rivers sustained on these primitive air-vessels.
[Footnote 1: See Appendix C.]