The Waterloo Bridge omnibuses

Oswald Barron, « Day in and day out », Londoner of the Evening News, Londres, Cassell & Co., 1924.

Caddis worm

…to which I am come again after a short month of wandering, has a smell that is strange to my nose. It must be the smell of water . All the drops of that heavy fall have not yet sunk into the depths below the pavement stones ; the leaves of the tree have drunk water and have no more that odour of the herb cupboard.
Truly there must be water near me, or I should not be thinking of the caddis worms. I am in London and I am remembering the caddis worms. A great multitude of them lived under the rocks in the river beside which I have seen sauntering for many days. The river is a French river that was a mighty flood between the granite cliffs. In the time of its pride, it carried great stones with it, lightly as illl-made tea carries tea leaves into your cup. Now that it is a little river it can hardly flow in a dry season, for the boulders that once it tossed about. It is enough to keep the twisting valley cool on the hottest days and the trees there would do you heart good with their greenery. Also you may take the boulders for stepping-stones and cross in the most adventurous fashion. I Would go out of my way to go over an old stone bridge ; a ferry boat is pleasant to a man weary of the sight of the Waterloo (page 34) Bridge omnibuses. But to cross on stepping-stones is a pure joy.
Put a hand down in the water that flow between the stepping-stones and you will touch the caddis worms in their lodging under the rock. They lie close, as though for company’s sake althought I take it that the caddis worms is a lonely soul. He wraps himself in his brown overcoat of dead leaf or bark, he binds it upon him with his sticky silk, and then he lives selfishly as the monstrous and fur-coated rich man of a Labour cartoonist. The stream brings him his dinner ; he grows fat on the spawn of fish. So long as he remain a caddis worm, he shall be one of Nature’s pampered babies. But with the caddis worm, as with man, Nature will have the bitter jest. One day she will give him the terrible gifts of wings and the freedom of the upper air. Then he shall be a May fly and the fish whose spawn he ate shall fatten on the careless May Fly. The boy with the fishing-rod had been giving certain unlucky caddis worms untimely to the fish. I met him as he paddled home barefoot at dusk. He was an earnest fisherman even for that land where the ….

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..boy’s large hopes ; at the day’s end he had still an impérial pint of caddis bait left in a rusty iron can, unfortunate creatures of an unaccomplished destiny.
They would never be May flies ; they had caught no fish. Yet they had not been suffered to live on as caddis worms under the cool rock. Nature that made the caddis worm had made the boy.
By and by, Nature would play her tricks with the boy. He was a sort of caddis worm, clad, like the other, in brown patches mysteriously sewed together. Doubtless he was content and found his food pleasant ; his eyes brightened when he spoke of the frying of gudgeons. Nature will change him, giving him wings of a sort that may carry him out of that valley of rocks and green trees. Time must pass slowly with the caddis worm in the delicious cool of the water, in the shadow of the rock ; a boy’s days are long days. It is when we grow to be men and flutter about a man’s foolish business that our days change to short May fly days.
Change displeases me so much that I could be sorry for the boy and for the caddis worm. I lived as a quiet beside that river as anything that lives in the shadows below the stones. Now that I am home again in London I know that i have suffered some uneasy change and I am not the same man that I was when I stopped to talk with the boy at the ford.
It is true that I have none of the May fly’s gaiety nor its desire for dancing flight. But I have lost my caddis overcoat of a months placid habit ; time is carrying me swiftly. At least one sunday must…