A TALE OF COUNTRY LIFE
H. Rider haggard
This Tale of Country Life
My Friend and Fellow-Sportsman,
Charles J. Longman
This text was prepared from an 1889
edition published by Longmans,
Green and Co., printed by Kelly and Co., Gate Street, Lincoln’s
Inn Fields, W.C.; and Middle Mill, Kingston-on-Thames.
COLONEL QUARITCH, V.C.
A TALE OF COUNTRY LIFE
Harold Quaritch meditates
There are things and there are faces which, when felt or seen for the first time, stamp themselves upon the mind like a sun image on a sensitized plate and there remain unalterably fixed. To take the instance of a face—we may never see it again, or it may become the companion of our life, but there the picture is just as we first knew it, the same smile or frown, the same look, unvarying and unvariable, reminding us in the midst of change of the indestructible nature of every experience, act, and aspect of our days. For that which has been, is, since the past knows no corruption, but lives eternally in its frozen and completed self.
These are somewhat large thoughts to be born of a small matter, but they rose up spontaneously in the mind of a soldierly-looking man who, on the particular evening when this history opens, was leaning over a gate in an Eastern county lane, staring vacantly at a field of ripe corn.
He was a peculiar and rather battered looking individual, apparently over forty years of age, and yet bearing upon him that unmistakable stamp of dignity and self-respect which, if it does not exclusively belong to, is still one of the distinguishing attributes of the English gentleman. In face he was ugly, no other word can express it. Here were not the long mustachios, the almond eyes, the aristocratic air of the Colonel of fiction—for our dreamer was a Colonel. These were—alas! that the truth should be so plain—represented by somewhat scrubby sandy-coloured whiskers, small but kindly blue eyes, a low broad forehead, with a deep line running across it from side to side, something like that to be seen upon the busts of Julius Caesar, and a long thin nose. One good feature, however, he did possess, a mouth of such sweetness and beauty that set, as it was, above a very square and manly-looking chin, it had the air of being ludicrously out of place. “Umph,” said his old aunt, Mrs. Massey (who had just died and left him what she possessed), on the occasion of her first introduction to him five-and-thirty years before, “Umph! Nature meant to make a pretty girl of you, and changed her mind after she had finished the mouth. Well, never mind, better be a plain man than a pretty woman. There, go along, boy! I like your ugly face.”