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We are a famous people to go ” ‘cross lots,” but we do not make a path, or, if we do, it does not last; the scene changes, the currents set in other directions, or cease entirely, and the path vanishes. In the South one would find plenty of bridle-paths, for there everybody goes horseback, and there are few passable roads; and the hunters and lumbermen of the North have their trails through the forest following a line of blazed trees; but in all my acquaintance with the country,– the rural and agricultural sections,–I do not know a pleasant, inviting path leading from house to house, or from settlement to settlement, by which the pedestrian could shorten or enliven a journey, or add the charm of the seclusion of the fields to his walk.

What a contrast England presents in this respect, according to Mr. Jennings’s pleasant book, “Field Paths and Green Lanes”! The pedestrian may go about quite independent of the highway. Here is a glimpse from his pages: “A path across the field, seen from the station, leads into a road close by the lodge gate of Mr. Cubett’s house. A little beyond this gate is another and smaller one, from which a narrow path ascends straight to the top of the hill and comes out just opposite the post-office on Ranmore Common. The Common at another point may be reached by a shorter cut. After entering a path close by the lodge, open the first gate you come to on the right hand. Cross the road, go through the gate opposite, and either follow the road right out upon Ranmore Common, past the beautiful deep dell or ravine, or take a path which you will see on your left, a few yards from the gate. This winds through a very pretty wood, with glimpses of the valley here and there on the way, and eventually brings you out upon the carriage-drive to the house. Turn to the right and you will soon find yourself upon the Common. A road or path opens out in front of the upper lodge gate. Follow that and it will take you to a small piece of water from whence a green path strikes off to the right, and this will lead you all across the Common in a northerly direction.” Thus we may see how the country is threaded with paths. A later writer, the author of “The Gamekeeper at Home” and other books, says: “Those only know a country who are acquainted with its footpaths. By the roads, indeed, the outside may be seen; but the footpaths go through the heart of the land. There are routes by which mile after mile may be traveled without leaving the sward. So you may pass from village to village; now crossing green meadows, now cornfields, over brooks, past woods, through farmyard and rick ‘barken.’ “

The conditions of life in this country have not.been favorable to the development of byways. We do not take to lanes and to the seclusion of the fields. We love to be upon the road, and to plant our houses there, and to appear there mounted upon a horse or seated in a wagon. It is to be distinctly stated, however, that our public highways, with their breadth and amplitude, their wide grassy margins, their picturesque stone or rail fences, their outlooks, and their general free and easy character, are far more inviting to the pedestrian than the narrow lanes and trenches that English highways for the most part are. The road in England is always well kept, the roadbed is often like a rock, but the traveler’s view is shut in by high hedges, and very frequently he seems to be passing along a deep, nicely graded ditch. The open, broad landscape character of our highways is quite unknown in that country.

The absence of the paths and lanes is not so great a matter, but the decay of the simplicity of manners, and of the habits of pedestrianism which this absence implies, is what I lament. The devil is in the horse to make men proud and fast and ill-mannered; only when you go afoot do you grow in the grace of gentleness and humility. But no good can come out of this walking mania that is now sweeping over the country, simply because it is a mania and not a natural and wholesome impulse. It is a prostitution of the noble pastime.

It is not the walking merely, it is keeping yourself in tune for a walk, in the spiritual and bodily condition in which you can find entertainment and exhilaration in so simple and natural a pastime. You are eligible to any good fortune when you are in the condition to enjoy a walk. When the air and the water taste sweet to you, how much else will taste sweet! When the exercise of your limbs affords you pleasure, and the play of your senses upon the various objects and shows of nature quickens and stimulates your spirit, your relation to the world and to yourself is what it should be,– simple and direct and wholesome. The mood in which you set out on a spring or autumn ramble or a sturdy winter walk, and your greedy feet have to be restrained from devouring the distances too fast, is the mood in which your best thoughts and impulses come to you, or in which you might embark upon any noble and heroic enterprise. Life is sweet in such moods, the universe is complete, and there is no failure or imperfection anywhere.