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Thirty-nine Steps

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 the Old 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 kept telling 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 been home since; so 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 race-meetings. I
had no real pal to go about with, which probably explains things. 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 and limb, 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 pot-house,
which took in Colonial members. I had a long drink, 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. 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 in Berlin 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 capering women and monkey-faced men, and I did not stay
long. The night was fine and clear as I walked back to the flat I had hired near Portland
Place. The crowd surged past me on the pavements, busy and chattering, and I envied the
people for having something to do. These shop-girls and clerks and dandies and
policemen had some interest in life that kept them going. I gave half-a-crown to a beggar
because I saw him yawn; he was a fellow-sufferer. At Oxford Circus I looked up into the
 
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