The thirty-nine steps

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The Thirty-Nine Steps
John Buchan

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The Thirty-Nine Steps

TO THOMAS ARTHUR NELSON (LOTHIAN AND BORDER HORSE) My Dear Tommy, You and I have long cherished an affection for that elemental type oftale which Americans call the ‘dime novel’ and which we know as the ‘shocker’ - the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible. During an illness last winter I exhausted my store of those aids to cheerfulness, and was driven to write one for myself. This little volume is the result, and I should like to put your name on it in memory ofour long friendship, in the days when the wildest fictions are so much less improbable than the facts. J.B.

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CHAPTER ONE The Man Who Died
I returned from the City about three o’clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in theOld Country, and was fed up with it. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact. The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick, I couldn’t get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda- water that has been standing in the sun. ‘Richard Hannay,’ I kepttelling myself, ‘you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you had better climb out.’ It made me bite my lips to think of the plans I had been building up those last years in Bulawayo. I had got my pile - not one of the big ones, but good enough for me; and I had figured out all kinds of ways of enjoying myself. My father had brought me out from Scotland at the age of six, and I had never beenhome since; so

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England was a sort of Arabian Nights to me, and I counted on stopping there for the rest of my days. But from the first I was disappointed with it. In about a week I was tired of seeing sights, and in less than a month I had had enough of restaurants and theatres and racemeetings. I had no real pal to go about with, which probably explainsthings. Plenty of people invited me to their houses, but they didn’t seem much interested in me. They would fling me a question or two about South Africa, and then get on their own affairs. A lot of Imperialist ladies asked me to tea to meet schoolmasters from New Zealand and editors from Vancouver, and that was the dismalest business of all. Here was I, thirty-seven years old, sound in wind andlimb, with enough money to have a good time, yawning my head off all day. I had just about settled to clear out and get back to the veld, for I was the best bored man in the United Kingdom. That afternoon I had been worrying my brokers about investments to give my mind something to work on, and on my way home I turned into my club - rather a pothouse, which took in Colonial members. I had a longdrink, and read the evening papers. They were full of the row in the Near East, and there was an article about Karolides, the Greek Premier. I rather fancied the chap. 4 of 184

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From all accounts he seemed the one big man in the show; and he played a straight game too, which was more than could be said for most of them. I gathered that they hated him pretty blackly inBerlin and Vienna, but that we were going to stick by him, and one paper said that he was the only barrier between Europe and Armageddon. I remember wondering if I could get a job in those parts. It struck me that Albania was the sort of place that might keep a man from yawning. About six o’clock I went home, dressed, dined at the Cafe Royal, and turned into a music-hall. It was a silly show, all...
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