Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whetherthat station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I wasborn (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelveo'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike,and I began to cry, simultaneously.
In consideration of the day and hour of my birth, it was declaredby the nurse, and by some sage women in the neighbourhood who hadtaken a lively interest in me several months before there was anypossibility of our becoming personally acquainted, first, that I was destined to be unlucky in life; and secondly, that I wasprivileged to see ghosts and spirits; both these gifts inevitablyattaching, as they believed, to all unlucky infants of eithergender, born towards the small hours on a Friday night.
I need say nothing here, on the first head, because nothing canshow better than my history whether that prediction was verified orfalsified by the result. On the second branch of the question, Iwill only remark, that unless I ran through that part of myinheritance while I was still a baby, I have not come into it yet. But I do not at all complain of having been kept out of thisproperty; and if anybody else should be in the present enjoyment ofit, he is heartily welcome to keep it.
I was born with a caul, which was advertised for sale, in thenewspapers, at the low price of fifteen guineas. Whether sea-goingpeople were short of money about that time, or were short of faithand preferred cork jackets, I don't know; all I know is, that therewas but one solitary bidding, and that was from an attorneyconnected with the bill-broking business, who offered two pounds in cash, and the balance in sherry, but declined to be guaranteed fromdrowning on any higher bargain. Consequently the advertisement waswithdrawn at a dead loss - for as to sherry, my poor dear mother'sown sherry was in the market then - and ten years afterwards, thecaul was put up in a raffle down in our part of the country, tofifty members at half-a-crown a head, the winner to spend fiveshillings. I was present myself, and I remember to have felt quiteuncomfortable and confused, at a part of myself being disposed ofin that way. The caul was won, I recollect, by an old lady with ahand-basket, who, very reluctantly, produced from it the stipulatedfive shillings, all in halfpence, and twopence halfpenny short - asit took an immense time and a great waste of arithmetic, toendeavour without any effect to prove to her. It is a fact whichwill be long remembered as remarkable down there, that she wasnever drowned, but died triumphantly in bed, at ninety-two. I haveunderstood that it was, to the last, her proudest boast, that shenever had been on the water in her life, except upon a bridge; andthat over her tea (to which she was extremely partial) she, to thelast, expressed her indignation at the impiety of mariners andothers, who had the presumption to go 'meandering' about the world. It was in vain to represent to her that some conveniences, teaperhaps included, resulted from this objectionable practice. Shealways returned, with greater emphasis and with an instinctiveknowledge of the strength of her objection, 'Let us have nomeandering.'
Not to meander myself, at present, I will go back to my birth.