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I was born very near the end of the year. calendar showing 29 December

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.

doll's house

My father was the soul of hospitality,

gent in smoking jacket and gazogene montage

and kept cigars to suit all tastes.

cigar-shaped fishing weights

Never a very strong man,

patent lung protector

he was perforce a great traveller, and my sweet mother loved to follow his wanderings on the quaint old globe in the library.

woman with globe montage

Their's was an ideal union. They were sweethearts since the time my mother wore short frocks.

disembodied short petticoat and stockings

Our house had superb grounds, and the garden was a scene of savage grandeur.

tropical glade engraving

Two swans - one English and one Australian - were always on the lake.

ear-trumpets -- one white, one black

Our head keeper - good fellow! - saw to it that the birds were plentiful.

pheasant ornaments

My father was not only a dead shot,

pistol target

but, as a huntsman, frequently returned home after a long day with the harriers, tired but triumphant, with the brush.

feather duster

My earliest recollection is of lying in the cradle and wondering if lying was my destiny.

ornate doll's crib

Of all my nurses, Gregson was my favourite.

boy and woman montage

She was the daughter of a poor broken-down clarionet player, but was really a lady in spite of her garb of servitude.

gent with topper and cane

dutch boy with wheelbarrow Everyone was kind to me. Our Dutch gardener adored me,

housemaid doll 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.

girl and pierrot doll montage

Her parents lived in a Tudor manor that was reported to be haunted.

half-timbered doll's house

According to the legend whispered by the retainers and villagers, no sooner did the clock strike twelve

mantelpiece clock showing 9:03

than a headless apparition was seen to move slowly across the moonlit hall.

portmanteau with dress coming out on a rail, ghostlike

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.

girl and flügelhorn montage

I pass over other ordinary occurrences incidental to childhood, such as being kidnapped by gipsies,

toy horse and caravan

and my first visit to the dentist,

plier punch

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.

boy with boat, boy with drum montage

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