To many people there is nothing so delightful as a country walk. For the real country lover this can be taken alone quite happily if need be, and if the walker is a man he will have his dog with him as sufficient company, and a stick "for turning things over," as he puts it.
Being a woman, I scorned both dog and stick for many years; not that I dislike dogs, but they frighten away things which I prefer to watch -- the rabbit nibbling in and out of the hedge, the small bird preening his feathers in the sun, unconscious of an audience. The walking stick, however, has come into its own, for it has many uses -- turning over a fallen bee who can't get up, or a spider in like trouble, and so on. The lone walker also has the advantage of being able to pause whenever wishing to do so -- to contemplate a particular view, or watch the shimmering light over a field of growing corn, sometimes to have a chat with a hen blackbird, that most sociable of all creatures, sitting on her nest, watching with fearless beady eyes.
The good-mannered walkers, if there are two of them, will take turns in position when a narrow way demands single file, for the one in advance will put up the unsuspecting creature when turning a bend in lane or footpath h-- he stops suddenly with a tantalizing "Hush! do you see that . . . oh, it's gone now!" and the unfortunate one in the rear misses the plum of the day.
If a walking companion is acquired it must be done by careful selection, for there are different kinds of walkers, some to be encouraged, others to be avoided. There is, for instance, the intellectual walker -- Browning, Shelley or Wordsworth go with him everywhere; he treats his companion to their riches, but misses the lark reaching out to heaven above them, and the flock of finches skimming over the meadows. He might as well stroll in the city streets, for all he sees or hears.
Then there is the architectural connoisseur who can give name and date to every building that he passes, and though versed in each pillar and doorway of the village church may yet miss the blackbird singing in the yew tree, and the snowdrops carpeting the ground.
Still another type will walk for the sheer joy of the physical exercise it gives him; his mind is not busy with the intellects nor attuned to the sensitive touches of nature. He will not notice the blossoming hedgerows or the singing of birds, but his body will glow with vigour and he will return in high spirits and with a good appetite for dinner.
Then there is epitome of all bores -- the chatterbox, who keeps up an endless flow of senseless conversation and at all costs should be left behind.
But there is one type -- and how blest is he -- to whom the whole world of nature is as intimate as the closest friend. To him every turn in lane or fieldpath is pregnant with delight, every moving leaf reveals some bird behind it, every quivering grassblade some tiny creature moving near. He willnot miss the light and shadows passing through the trees, or the silver dew resting on the clover on a summer morning, or the soft falling of petals from the wild cherry on a windless day.
Lastly there is that inverterate walker who can outstrip the best of us. He lives in a dull house in a small and dull town surrounded, according to his description, by the beauties of the countryside within easy reach of his doorstep. He invites you for the weekend, and in order to leave his capable and managing wife free to prepare the Sunday meal he marshals you off "for a little stroll." After toiling along dingy pavements, past rows of ugly Victorian houses , you reach a steep and grassy hill, and find you are expected to climbed to the top of it in order to survey the panorama gained from its height. By the time you get there you are already footsore and weary and longing for home. You can only trust this is the turning point, but no -- you are disillusioned -- for, waving his stick toward the delectable landscape reaching to the horizon, he exclaims decisively, "Now, you see, thism is where we start . . ."