The Thirty-Nine Steps

The Thirty-Nine Steps

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.”- John Buchan

“I got the first hint in an inn on the Achensee in Tyrol. That set me inquiring,
and I collected my other clues in a fur-shop in the Galician quarter of Buda, in a
Strangers’ Club in Vienna, and in a little bookshop off the Racknitzstrasse in
Leipsig. I completed my evidence ten days ago in Paris. I can’t tell you the
details now, for it’s something of a history. When I was quite sure in my own
mind I judged it my business to disappear, and I reached this city by a mighty
queer circuit. I left Paris a dandified young French-American, and I sailed from
Hamburg a Jew diamond merchant. In Norway I was an English student of Ibsen
collecting materials for lectures, but when I left Bergen I was a cinema-man with
special ski films. And I came here from Leith with a lot of pulp-wood
propositions in my pocket to put before the London newspapers. Till yesterday I
thought I had muddied my trail some, and was feeling pretty happy. Then….”

Book Excerpt

Slowly that thorn let me go. I subsided first on the hedge, and then very gently
on a bower of nettles. As I scrambled to my feet a hand took me by the arm, and
a sympathetic and badly scared voice asked me if I were hurt.
I found myself looking at a tall young man in goggles and a leather ulster, who
kept on blessing his soul and whinnying apologies. For myself, once I got my
wind back, I was rather glad than otherwise. This was one way of getting rid of
the car.
“My blame, sir,” I answered him. “It’s lucky that I did not add homicide to my
follies. That’s the end of my Scotch motor tour, but it might have been the end of
my life.”
He plucked out a watch and studied it. “You’re the right sort of fellow,” he
said. “I can spare a quarter of an hour, and my house is two minutes off. I’ll see
you clothed and fed and snug in bed. Where’s your kit, by the way? Is it in the
burn along with the car?”
“It’s in my pocket,” I said, brandishing a toothbrush. “I’m a colonial and
travel light.”
“A colonial,” he cried. “By Gad, you’re the very man I’ve been praying for.
Are you by any blessed chance a Free Trader?”
“I am,” said I, without the foggiest notion of what he meant.
He patted my shoulder and hurried me into his car. Three minutes later we
drew up before a comfortable-looking shooting-box set among pine trees, and he
ushered me indoors. He took me first to a bedroom and flung half a dozen of his
suits before me, for my own had been pretty well reduced to rags. I selected a
loose blue serge, which differed most conspicuously from my former garments,
and borrowed a linen collar. Then he haled me to the dining-room, where the
remnants of a meal stood on the table, and announced that I had just five minutes
to feed. “You can take a snack in your pocket, and we’ll have supper when we
get back. I’ve got to be at the Masonic Hall at eight o’clock, or my agent will
comb my hair.”

The Thirty-Nine Steps

By – John Buchan
  • PUBLISHED: 1915
  • PAGES: 101



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