TELLS HOW THOMAS LOVEDAY AND I WENT IN SEARCH OF FORTUNE.
Seeing that these pages do not profess to be an autobiography, but rather the plain chronicle of certain events connected with the Great Ruby of Ceylon, I conceive myself entitled to the reader’s pardon if I do some violence to the art of the narrator, and here ask leave to pass by, with but slight allusion, some fourteen years. This I do because the influence of this mysterious jewel, although it has indelibly coloured my life, has been sensibly exercised during two periods alone—periods short in themselves, but nevertheless long enough to determine between them every current of my destiny, and to supply an interpretation for my every action.
I am the more concerned with advertising the reader of this, as on looking back upon what I have written with an eye as far as may be impartial, I have not failed to note one obvious criticism that will be passed upon me. “How,” it will be asked, “could any boy barely eight years of age conceive the thoughts and entertain the emotions there attributed to Jasper Trenoweth?”
The criticism is just as well as obvious. As a solitary man for ever brooding on the past, I will not deny that I may have been led to paint that past in colours other than its own. Indeed, it would be little short of a miracle were this not so. A morbid soul—and I will admit that mine is morbid—preying upon its recollections, and nourished on that food alone, cannot hope to attain the sense of proportion which is the proper gift of varied experience. I readily grant, therefore, that the lights and shades on this picture may be wrong, as judged by the ordinary eye, but I do claim them to be a faithful reproduction of my own vision. As I look back I find them absolutely truthful, nor can I give the lie to my own impressions in the endeavour to write what shall seem true to the rest of the world.
This must be, therefore, my excuse for asking the reader to pass by fourteen years and take up the tale far from Lantrig. But before I plunge again into my story, it is right that I should briefly touch on the chief events that occurred during this interval in my life.
They buried my father and mother in the same grave in Polkimbra Churchyard. I remember now that crowds of fisher-folk lined the way to their last resting-place, and a host, as it seemed to me, of tear-stained faces watched the coffins laid in the earth. But all else is a blurred picture to me, as, indeed, is the time for many a long day after.