The 39 Steps
John Buchan

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The 39 Steps

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The 39 Steps

Copyright © 1915 by the Curtis Publishing Company
Copyright © 1915, 1916, 1919 by Houghton Mifflin Company
Copyright © 1943 by Lady Susan Tweedsmuir

The Adventure of the Literary Innkeeper

Clearly he was very drunk.

“That’s what comes o’ bein’ a teetotaler,” he observed in bitter regret.

I expressed my surprise that in him I should have met a blue-ribbon stalwart.

“Aye, but I’m a strong teetotaler,” he said pugnaciously. “I took the pledge last Martinmass, and I havena touched a drop o’ whisky syne. No even at Hogmanay, though I was sair tempted.”

He swung his heels up on the seat and burrowed a frowsy head into the cushions.

“And that’s a’ I get,” he moaned. “A head hetter than hell fire and twae een lookin’ different ways for the Sabbath.”

“What did it?” I asked.

“A drink they ca’ brandy. Bein’ a teetotaler, I keepit off the whisky, but I was nipnippin’ a’ day yestereen at this brandy, and I doubt I’ll no be weel for a fortnicht.”



The Adventure of the Spectacled Roadman

If you are hemmed in on all sides in a patch of land—there is only one chance of escape. You must stay in the patch, and let your enemies search it and not find you.



I remembered an old scout in Rhodesia, who had done many queer things in his day, once telling me that the secret of playing a part was to think yourself into it. You could never keep it up, he said, unless you could manage to convince yourself that you were it.
The Thirty-Nine Steps

“By this time the news will be on its way.”

“No,” said the Frenchman. “You do not understand the habits of the spy. He receives personally his reward, and he delivers personally his intelligence. We in France know something of the breed.”



Various Parties Converging on the Sea

There seemed only one thing to do—go forward as if I had no doubts, and if I was going to make a fool of myself to do it handsomely.

Peter once discussed with me the question of disguises, and he had a theory which struck me at the time. He said, barring absolute certainties like finger-prints, mere physical traits were very little use for identification if the fugitive really knew his business. He laughed at things like dyed hair and false beards and such childish follies. The only thing that mattered was what Peter called “atmosphere.” If a man could get into perfectly different surroundings from those in which he had been first observed, and—this is the important part—really play up to these surroundings and behave as if he had never been out of them, he would puzzle the cleverest detectives on earth. And he used to tell a story of how he once borrowed a black coat and went to church and shared the same hymn-book with the man that was looking for him.



A fool tries to look different; a clever man looks the same and is different.

A man of my sort, who has travelled about the world in rough places, gets on perfectly well with two classes, what you may call the upper and the lower. He understands them and they understand him. I was at home with herds and tramps and roadmen, and I was sufficiently at my ease with people like Sir Walter and the men I had met the night before. I can’t explain why, but it is a fact. But what fellows like me don’t understand is the great comfortable, satisfied middle-class world, the folk that live in villas and suburbs. He doesn’t know how they look at things, he doesn’t understand their conventions, and he is as shy of them as of a black mamba.

There was more in those eyes than any common triumph. They had been hooded like a bird of prey, and now they flamed with a hawk’s pride. A white fanatic heat burned in them, and I realised for the first time the terrible thing I had been up against. This man was more than a spy; in his foul way he had been a patriot.



text checked (see note) Jun 2007

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