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Mr. Standfast

by John Buchan

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I spent one-third of my journey looking out of the window of a first-class carriage, the next in a local motor-car following the course of a trout stream in a shallow valley, and the last tramping over a ridge of downland through great beech-woods to my quarters for the night. In the first part I was in an infamous temper; in the second I was worried and mystified; but the cool twilight of the third stage calmed and heartened me, and I reached the gates of Fosse Manor with a mighty appetite and a quiet mind. As we slipped up the Thames valley on the smooth Great Western line I had reflected ruefully on the thorns in the path of duty. For more than a year I had never been out of khaki, except the months I spent in hospital. They gave me my battalion before the Somme, and I came out of that weary battle after the first big September fighting with a crack in my head and a D.S.O. I had received a C.B. for the Erzerum business, so what with these and my Matabele and South African medals and the Legion of Honour, I had a chest like the High Priest's breastplate. I rejoined in January, and got a brigade on the eve of Arras.

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In Mr Standfast (1919), the third of the four novels featuring Richard Hannay, we meet again Pieter Pienaar and John S. Blenkiron, who are joined by the spirited Mary Lamington. It is 1917 and Hannay is brought out of the battlefield to perform the desperate task of tracking down and destroying a network of German spies. Hannay's opponent is Morton Ivery, the bland master of disguise, who seeks to outwit Hannay as he and his agents are pursued through England, Scotland, France, and Switzerland. For its pace and suspense, its changes of scene, and thrilling descriptions of the last great battles against the Germans, Mr Standfast offers everything that has made its author so enduringly popular.



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