The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service

By Erskine Childers; David Trotter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
The Letter

I have read of men who, when forced by their calling to live for long periods in utter solitude--save for a few black faces--have made it a rule to dress regularly for dinner in order to maintain their self-respect and prevent a relapse into barbarism. It was in some such spirit, with an added touch of self-consciousness, that, at seven o'clock in the evening of September 23rd in a recent year, I was making my evening toilet in my chambers in Pall Mall. I thought the date and the place justified the parallel; to my advantage even; for the obscure Burmese administrator might well be a man of blunted sensibilities and coarse fibre, and at least he is alone with nature, while I--well, a young man of condition and fashion, who knows the right people, belongs to the right clubs, has a safe, possibly a brilliant, future in the Foreign Office--may be excused for a sense of complacent martyrdom, when, with his keen appreciation of the social calendar, he is doomed to the outer solitude of London in September. I say 'martyrdom', but in fact the case was infinitely worse. For to feel oneself a martyr, as everybody knows, is a pleasurable thing, and the true tragedy of my position was that I had passed that stage. I had enjoyed what sweets it had to offer in ever dwindling degree since the middle of August, when ties were still fresh and sympathy abundant. I had been conscious that I was missed at Morven Lodge party. Lady Ashleigh herself had said so in the kindest possible manner, when she wrote to acknowledge the letter in which I explained, with an effectively austere reserve of language, that circumstances compelled me to remain at my office. 'We know how busy you must be just now,' she wrote, 'and I do hope you won't overwork; we shall all miss you very much.' Friend after friend 'got away' to sport and fresh air, with promises to write and chaffing condolences, and, as each deserted the sinking ship, I took a grim delight in my misery, positively almost enjoying the first week or two after my world had been finally dissipated to the four bracing winds of heaven. I began to take a spurious

-11-

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The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford World's Classics ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Note on the Text xix
  • Select Bibliography xx
  • A Chronology of Robert Erskine Childers xxi
  • Preface to the Present Edition 2
  • Preface to the Original Edition 3
  • Note 5
  • Chapter I the Letter 11
  • Chapter II the Dulcibella 17
  • Chapter III Davies 28
  • Chapter IV Retrospect 36
  • Chapter IV Retrospect 43
  • Chapter IV Retrospect 50
  • Chapter IV Retrospect 56
  • Chapter VIII the Theory 67
  • Chapter IX I Sign Articles 77
  • Chapter X His Chance 85
  • Chapter XI the Pathfinders 92
  • Chapter XII My Initiation 99
  • Chapter XII My Initiation 108
  • Chapter XIV the First Night in the Islands 113
  • Chapter XV Bensersiel 120
  • Chapter XVI Commander Von Brüning 126
  • Chapter XVI Commander Von Brüning 138
  • Chapter XVIII Imperial Escort 148
  • Chapter XIX the Rubicon 153
  • Chapter XX the Little Drab Book 164
  • Chapter XX the Little Drab Book 173
  • Chapter XXII the Quartette 186
  • Chapter XXIII a Change of Tactics 196
  • Chapter XXIII a Change of Tactics 207
  • Chapter XXIII a Change of Tactics 220
  • Chapter XVII the Seven Siels 230
  • Chapter XXVII the Luck of the Stowaway 240
  • Chapter XXVII the Luck of the Stowaway 252
  • Epilogue by the Editor 260
  • Explanatory Notes 269
  • Nautical Glossary 275
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