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"You are an Historical Character," said the admiring stranger.
"You have changed the whole destiny of Church and State." My grandfather still assumed airily that this might be a poetical manner of describing a successful house-agency.
Bowing down in blind credulity, as is my custom, before mere authority and the tradition of the elders, superstitiously swallowing a story I could not test at the time by experiment or private judgment, I am firmly of opinion that I was born on the 29th of May, 1874, on Campden Hill, Kensington; and baptised according to the formularies of the Church of England in the little church of St.
George opposite the large Waterworks Tower that dominated that ridge.
And before we come to any of my own experiences, it will be well to devote this brief chapter to a few of the other facts of my family and environment which I hold equally precariously on mere hearsay evidence.
Of course what many call hearsay evidence, or what I call human evidence, might be questioned in theory, as in the Baconian controversy or a good deal of the Higher Criticism. I might be the long-lost heir of The Holy Roman Empire, or an infant left by ruffians from Limehouse on a door-step in Kensington, to develop in later life a hideous criminal heredity.
But, used as he was to ceremonial manners, he must have been a good deal mystified by a strange gentleman who entered the office and, having conferred with my father briefly on business, asked in a hushed voice if he might have the high privilege of being presented to the more ancient or ancestral head of the firm.
My father, who was serene, humorous and full of hobbies, remarked casually that he had been asked to go on what was then called The Vestry.