A tale of kidnapping, politics, suspense-and rugby. When the agents of a foreign power are hunting a Scottish newspaper tycoon, exciting things can happen … and they do! Unusual and delightful Rugby three-quater here gets involved in kidnapping, violence … and romance. Taut with suspense and high adventure are spiced with Buchan’s characteristic warm humour.
380 pages, with a reading time of ~6.0 hours (95,144 words), and first published in 1930. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Mr Dickson McCunn laid down the newspaper, took his spectacles from his nose, and polished them with a blue-and-white spotted handkerchief.
“It will be a great match,” he observed to his wife. “I wish I was there to see. These Kangaroos must be a fearsome lot.” Then he smiled reflectively. “Our laddies are not turning out so bad, Mamma. Here’s Jaikie, and him not yet twenty, and he has his name blazing in the papers as if he was a Cabinet Minister.”
Mrs McCunn, a placid lady of a comfortable figure, knitted steadily. She did not share her husband’s enthusiasms.
“I know fine,” she said, “that Jaikie will be coming back with a bandaged head and his arm in a sling. Rugby in my opinion is not a game for Christians. It’s fair savagery.”
“Hoots, toots! It’s a grand ploy for young folk. You must pay a price for fame, you know. Besides, Jaikie hasn’t got hurt this long time back. He’s learning caution as he grows older, or maybe he’s getting better at the job. You mind when he was at the school we used to have the doctor to him every second Saturday night…. He was always a terrible bold laddie, and when he was getting dangerous his eyes used to run with tears. He’s quit of that habit now, but they tell me that when he’s real excited he turns as white as paper. Well, well! we’ve all got our queer ways. Here’s a biography of him and the other players. What’s this it says?”
Mr McCunn resumed his spectacles.
“Here it is. ‘J. Galt, born in Glasgow. Educated at the Western Academy and St Mark’s College, Cambridge … played last year against Oxford in the victorious Cambridge fifteen, when he scored three tries…. This is his first International … equally distinguished in defence and attack…. Perhaps the most unpredictable of wing three-quarters now playing….’ Oh, and here’s another bit in ‘Gossip about the Teams.’” He removed his spectacles and laughed heartily. “That’s good. It calls him a ‘scholar and a gentleman.’ That’s what they always say about University players. Well, I’ll warrant he’s as good a gentleman as any, though he comes out of a back street in the Gorbals. I’m not so sure about the scholar. But he can always do anything he sets his mind to, and he’s a worse glutton for books than me. No man can tell what may happen to Jaikie yet…. We can take credit for these laddies of ours, for they’re all in the way of doing well for themselves, but there’s just the two of them that I feel are like our own bairns. Just Jaikie and Dougal–and goodness knows what will be the end of that red-headed Dougal. Jaikie’s a douce body, but there’s a determined daftness about Dougal. I wish he wasn’t so taken up with his misguided politics.”
“I hope they’ll not miss their train,” said the lady. “Supper’s at eight, and they should be here by seven-thirty, unless Jaikie’s in the hospital.”
“No fear,” was the cheerful answer. “More likely some of the Kangaroos will be there. We should get a telegram about the match by six o’clock.”
So after tea, while his wife departed on some domestic task, Mr McCunn took his ease with a pipe in a wicker chair on the little terrace which looked seaward. He had found the hermitage for which he had long sought, and was well content with it. The six years which had passed since he forsook the city of Glasgow and became a countryman had done little to alter his appearance. The hair had indeed gone completely from the top of his head, and what was left was greying, but there were few lines on his smooth, ruddy face, and the pale eyes had still the innocence and ardour of youth. His figure had improved, for country exercise and a sparer diet had checked the movement towards rotundity. When not engaged in some active enterprise, it was his habit to wear a tailed coat and trousers of tweed, a garb which from his boyish recollection he thought proper for a country laird, but which to the ordinary observer suggested a bookmaker. Gradually, a little self- consciously, he had acquired what he considered to be the habits of the class. He walked in his garden with a spud; his capacious pockets contained a pruning knife and twine; he could talk quite learnedly of crops and stock, and, though he never shouldered a gun, of the prospects of game; and a fat spaniel was rarely absent from his heels.