I was born very near the end of the year.
The grange where I was born was situated in a secluded corner of the Chiltern Hills. Rumour had it that Queen Elizabeth had slept there.
My father was the soul of hospitality,
and kept cigars to suit all tastes.
Never a very strong man,
he was perforce a great traveller, and my sweet mother loved to follow his wanderings on the quaint old globe in the library.
Their's was an ideal union. They were sweethearts since the time my mother wore short frocks.
Our house had superb grounds, and the garden was a scene of savage grandeur.
Two swans - one English and one Australian - were always on the lake.
Our head keeper - good fellow! - saw to it that the birds were plentiful.
My father was not only a dead shot,
but, as a huntsman, frequently returned home after a long day with the harriers, tired but triumphant, with the brush.
My earliest recollection is of lying in the cradle and wondering if lying was my destiny.
Of all my nurses, Gregson was my favourite.
She was the daughter of a poor broken-down clarionet player, but was really a lady in spite of her garb of servitude.
Everyone was kind to me. Our Dutch gardener adored me,
and I was a prime favourite with our old housekeeper.
But my happiest hours were spent with the little daughter of our neighbour Sir Easton West. She was a pretty child, and, boy-like, I did my best to attract her attention.
Her parents lived in a Tudor manor that was reported to be haunted.
According to the legend whispered by the retainers and villagers, no sooner did the clock strike twelve
than a headless apparition was seen to move slowly across the moonlit hall.
Poor Belinda, her fits were frequent.
Where she is now I cannot say, but I remember that she became a musician. I was at her first concert. Her triumph was complete. The vast audience rose to its feet and demanded an encore.
I pass over other ordinary occurrences incidental to childhood, such as being kidnapped by gipsies,
and my first visit to the dentist,
and come to my life at the preparatory school, to which I went to discover whether I was to serve my country in the Navy or the Army.