On departing it struck me that it would assuredly be a mistake to return to this village and look at it again by the common lights of day. No, it was better to keep the impressions I had gathered unspoilt; even to believe, if I could, that no such place existed, but that it had existed exactly as I had found it, even to the unruly choir-boys, the ascetic-looking priest with a strange light in his eyes, and the worshippers who kept pet toads in the church. They were not precisely like people of the twentieth century. As for the eccentric middle-aged or elderly person whose portrait adorned the west window, she was not the lady I knew something about, but another older Lady Y—, who flourished some six or seven centuries ago.
We know that there cannot be progression without retrogression, or gain with no corresponding loss; and often on my wheel, when flying along the roads at a reckless rate of very nearly nine miles an hour, I have regretted that time of limitations, galling to me then, when I was compelled to go on foot. I am a walker still, but with other means of getting about I do not feel so native to the earth as formerly. That is a loss. Yet a poorer walker it would have been hard to find, and on even my most prolonged wanderings the end of each day usually brought extreme fatigue. This, too, although my only companion was slow—slower than the poor proverbial snail or tortoise—and I would leave her half a mile or so behind to force my way through unkept hedges, climb hills, and explore woods and thickets to converse with every bird and shy little beast and scaly creature I could discover. But mark what follows. In the late afternoon I would be back in the road or footpath, satisfied to go slow, then slower still, until—the snail in woman shape would be obliged to slacken her pace to keep me company, and even to stand still at intervals to give me needful rest.
But there were compensations, and one, perhaps the best of all, was that this method of seeing the country made us more intimate with the people we met and stayed with. They were mostly poor people, cottagers in small remote villages; and we, too, were poor, often footsore, in need of their ministrations, and nearer to them on that account than if we had travelled in a more comfortable way. I can recall a hundred little adventures we met with during those wanderings, when we walked day after day, without map or guide-book as our custom was, not knowing where the evening would find us, but always confident that the people to whom it would fall in the end to shelter us would prove interesting to know and would show us a kindness that money could not pay for. Of these hundred little incidents let me relate one.