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An essay by A. A. Milne

An Ordnance Map

Title:     An Ordnance Map
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

Spring calls to us to be up and about. It shouts to us to stand bareheaded upon hills and look down upon little woods and tiny red cottages, and away up to where the pines stand straight into the sky. Let the road, thin and white, wander on alone; we shall meet it again, and it shall lead us if it will to some comfortable inn; but now we are for the footpath and the stile--we are to stand in the fields and listen to the skylark.

Must you stay and work in London? But you will have ten minutes to spare. Look, I have an ordnance map--let us take our walk upon that.

We will start, if you please, at Buckley Cross. That is the best of walking on the map; you may start where you like, and there are no trains to catch. Our road goes north through the village--shall we stop a moment to buy an apple or two? Apples go well in the open air; we shall sit upon a gate presently and eat them before we light our pipes and join the road again. A pound, if you will--and now with bulging pockets for the north.

Over Buckley Common. You see by the dotted lines that it is an unfenced road, as, indeed, it should be over gorse and heather. A mile of it, and then it branches into two. Let us take this lane on the left; the way seems more wooded to the west.

By now we should be passing Buckley Grove. Perhaps it is for sale. If so, we might stop for a minute or two and buy it. We can work out how many acres it is, because it is about three-quarters of an inch each way, and if we could only remember how many acres went to a square mile--well, anyhow, it is a good-sized place. But three miles from a station, you say? Ah yes, but look at that little mark there just round the corner. Do you know what _that_ stands for? A wind pump. How jolly to have one at your very door. "Shall we go and look at the wind pump?" you would say casually to your guests.

Let us leave the road. Do you see those dots going off to the right? That is a footpath. I have an idea that that will take us to the skylark. They do not mark skylarks on the map--I cannot say why--but something tells me that about a mile farther on, where the dots begin to bend.... Ah, do you hear? Up and up and up he goes into the blue, fainter and fainter falls the music. He calls to us to follow him to the clean morning of the world, whose magic light has shone for us in our dreams so long, yet ever eluded us waking. Bathed in that light, Youth is not so young as we, nor Beauty more beautiful; in that light Happiness is ours at last, for Endeavour shall have its perfect fulfilment, a fulfilment without regret....

Yes, let us have an apple.

Our path seems to end suddenly here. We shall have to go through this farm. All the dogs barking, all the fowls cluttering, all the lambs galloping--what a jolly, friendly commotion we've made! But we can get into the road again this way. Indeed, we must get into the road soon because it is hungry work out in the air, and two inches to the north-west is written a word full of meaning--the most purposeful word that can be written upon a map. "Inn," So now for a steady climb. We have dropped down to "200" by the farmhouse, and the inn is marked "500." But it is only two miles--well, barely that. Come along.

What shall we have? Ought it not to be bread and cheese and beer? But if you will excuse me, I would rather not have beer. I know that it sounds well to ask for it--as far as that goes, I will ask for it willingly--but I have never been able to drink it in any comfort. I think I shall have a gin and ginger. That also sounds well. More important still, it drinks well; in fact, the only thing which I don't like about it is the gin. "Oh, good morning. We want some bread and cheese, please, and one pint of beer, and a gin and ginger. And--er--you might leave out the gin." Yes, of course, I could have asked straight off for a plain ginger beer, but that sounds so very mild. My way I use the word "gin" twice. Let us be dashing on this brave day.

After lunch a pipe, while we consider where to go next.

It is anywhere you like, you know. To the north there is Greymoor Wood, and we pass a windmill; and to the east there is the little village of Colesford which has a church without a steeple; and to the west we go quite near another wind pump; and to the south--well, we should have to cross the line pretty soon. That brings us into touch with civilization; we do not want that just yet. So the north again let it be....

This is Greymoor Wood. Yes; there is a footpath marked right through it, but footpaths are hard to see beneath such a carpet of dead leaves. I dare say we shall lose ourselves. One false step and we are off the line of dots. There you are, there's a dot missing. We have lost the track. Now we must get out as best we can.

Do you know the way of telling the north by the sun? You turn the hour hand of your watch to the sun, and half-way between that and the XII is the south. Or else you turn the XII to the sun and take half-way between that and the hour hand. Anyhow you do find the south eventually after one or two experiments, and having discovered the south it is easy enough to locate the north. With your permission then we will push due north through Greymoor Wood.

We are through and on the road, but it is getting late. I et us hurry on. It would be tempting to wander down to that stream and follow its banks for a little; it would be pleasant to turn into that "unmetalled, unfenced" road--ah, doesn't one know those roads?--and let it carry us to the village of Milden, rich in both telegraph office and steeple. There is also, no more than two miles from where we stand, a contour of 600 ft.--shall we make for the view at the top of that? But no, perhaps you are right. We had best be getting home now. It is growing chilly; the sun has gone in; if we lost ourselves again, we could never find the north. Let us make for the nearest station. Widdington, isn't it? Three miles away....

There! Now we're home again. And must you really get on with your work? Well, but it has been a jolly day, hasn't it?

[The end]
A. A. Milne's essay: Ordnance Map