To those good-mannered and agreeable children
SUSIE and CLARA CLEMENS
this book is affectionately inscribed
by their father.
I will set down a tale as it was told to me by one who had it of his father, which latter had it of his father, this last having in like manner had it of his father—and so on, back and still back, three hundred years and more, the fathers transmitting it to the sons and so preserving it. It may be history, it may be only a legend, a tradition. It may have happened, it may not have happened: but it could have happened. It may be that the wise and the learned believed it in the old days; it may be that only the unlearned and the simple loved it and credited it.
‘The quality of mercy . . . is twice bless’d;|
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes;
’Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The thronéd monarch better than his crown’.
Merchant of Venice.