If, on the thirteenth of November, 1889, some amateur prophet had foretold that I should spend Christmas Day of that year on the Indian Ocean, I hope I should not by any open and insulting incredulity have added new burdens to the trials of a hard-working soothsayer – I hope I should, with the gentleness due a severe case of aberrated predictiveness, have merely called his attention to that passage in the Koran in which it is written, “The Lord loveth a cheerful liar” – and bid him go in peace. Yet I did spend the 25th day of December steaming through the waters that wash the shores of the Indian Empire, and did do other things equally preposterous, of which I would not have believed myself capable if forewarned of them. I can only claim in excuse that these vagaries were unpremeditated, for the prophets neglected their opportunity and I received no augury.
Firstly, because one suffers from being forced to dwell in a house steadily falling to decay; a trial to the housekeeper, arousing a sense of some innate incompetence that the beams of the building should sag, doors open difficultly, windows dim with the dust of time, the outer complexion of the house grow streaked and grey with the weathering of many seasons. There is a certain desperation in the realization that no repairs are possible. . . . one braces one’s self to accept courageously the wrongs of time; to wear the lichens and mosses with silent gallantry.