The Thirty-Nine Steps
Crime, mystery, espionage
Approx. 41,000 words
Notable lines and passages
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.
My guest was lying sprawled on his back. There was a long knife through his heart which skewered him to the floor.
A fool tries to look different: a clever man looks the same and is different.
"If you are playing a part, you will never keep it up unless you convince yourself that you are it."...It sounds a platitude, but Peter used to say that it was the big secret of all the famous criminals.
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 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.
Three weeks later, as the world knows, we went to war. I joined the New Army the first week, and owing to my Matabele experience got a captain’s commission straight off. But I had done my best service, I think, before I put on khaki.