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128                       MY FIRST BOOK

beyond cavil. And how troublesome the moon is ! I have
come to grief over the moon in Prince Otto, and so soon
as that was pointed out to me, adopted a precaution which
I recommend to other men—I never write now without
an almanack. With an almanack, and the map of the
country, and the plan of every house, either actually
plotted on paper or already and immediately apprehended
in the mind, a man may hope to avoid some of the grossest
possible blunders. With the map before him, he will
scarce allow the sun to set in the east, as it does in The
Antiquary. With the almanack at hand, he will scarce
allow two horsemen, journeying on the most urgent affair,
to employ six days, from three of the Monday morning
till late in the Saturday night, upon a journey of, say,
ninety or a hundred miles, and before the week is out, and
still on the same nags, to cover fifty in one day, as may
be read at length in the inimitable novel of Rob Roy. And
it is certainly well, though far from necessary, to avoid
such ' croppers/ But it is my contention—my super-
stition, if you like—that who is faithful to his map, and
consults it, and draws from it his inspiration, daily and
hourly, gains positive support, and not mere negative
immunity from accident. The tale has a root there; it
grows in that soil; it has a spine of its own behind the
words. Better if the country be real, and he has walked
every foot of it and knows every milestone. But even,
with imaginary places, he will do well in the beginning to
provide a map; as he studies it, relations will appear
that he had not thought upon; he will discover obvious,
though unsuspected, short-cuts and footprints for his mes-
sengers ; and even when a map is not all the plot, as it was
in Treasure Island, it will be found to be a mine of suggestion.