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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/431

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Excursions." Abstracts of these papers are given in the "Transactions," and they are of a very instructive character.

If we had space we would print the whole of the admirable "Inaugural Address," by Mr. James Fletcher, who happily remarks in his opening: "One of the chief benefits bestowed by an organization such as ours, is, that it enables one always to know where to find a sympathetic companion. Of all recreations, there is none, to my mind, more enjoyable than a walk in the country with a congenial friend. No kind of intercourse brings you into closer contact with a companion than taking a walk. You can not take ten steps, even with a stranger, without feeling a necessity of saying something, and, if there is anything in a man, you can soon bring it out of him in a country walk. Now, it is very clear that a judicious choice with regard to your companion is a most important matter; but it is not always easy to find one who has the same tastes or takes an interest in the same subjects as yourself. John Burroughs, in 'Winter Sunshine,' writes as follows: 'Professional walkers are very fastidious in choosing or admitting a companion, and hence the truth of a remark of Emerson that "you will generally fare better to take your dog than to invite your neighbor." Your cur dog is a true pedestrian; he enters into the spirit of the enterprise; he is not indifferent or preoccupied; he is constantly sniffing adventure; laps at every spring; looks upon every field or wood as a new world to be explored; is ever on some new trail; knows something important will happen a little farther on; whatever the spot, or whatever the road, he is always satisfied with it. In short, he is just that happy excursive vagabond that touches one at so many points, and whose human prototype in a companion, when such can be found, robs miles and leagues of half their power and fatigue.'

"The most interesting companion in anything is undoubtedly the one who can tell you most about it. Therefore, the best companion in the country must be a naturalist, who can point out objects of interest and explain their beauties and wonders. No one looks upon the world so kindly as he does; no one else gives so much attention to, or takes so much enjoyment from, the country as he does, and he holds a more vital relation to nature, because he is freer, and his mind is more at leisure. Moreover, when a naturalist gets a friend, who is not one, out in the country, he feels a sort of moral responsibility resting upon him to find something particularly interesting to point out, so as to arouse his curiosity, and, if possible, to convert him to the study of 'La Belle Science.' I say particularly interesting, because everything in nature is interesting and beautiful; and I defy any one to bring me a single object, picked up by a country roadside, which is not beautiful, and even exquisitely so—a stick, a piece of straw, a leaf, or a stone, it matters not what, if properly examined and understood, they are all wonderful and lovely."

As before remarked, we refer to the early experience of this club because it may afford guiding suggestions for the formation of similar associations elsewhere. In smaller towns there might not be found so many men cultivated in natural history to sustain such a society as in Ottawa, but that is not essential. In every village of five thousand inhabitants there is cultivated capacity enough, if it were combined, to carry on with some method and to valuable results the work of scientific self-improvement. It may be done to some extent anywhere, in many ways and with few facilities. All over the country there are individuals working alone and to great disadvantage; these would help others and be helped in turn by such combination and coöperation as might be almost everywhere