The King of Ypres

A Scots soldier of the 10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

A Scots soldier of the 10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was a Scottish novelist and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada, the 15th since that country’s confederation.

After a brief career in law, Buchan simultaneously began writing and his political and diplomatic career, serving as a private secretary to the colonial administrator of various colonies in Southern Africa, and eventually wrote propaganda for the British war effort in First World War.  The following short story is set in this era.  Buchan is probably most famous, in literary circles, for his book The Thirty-Nine Steps.

The King of Ypres

Private Peter Galbraith, of the 3rd Lennox Highlanders, awoke with a splitting headache and the consciousness of an intolerable din. At first he thought it was the whistle from the forge, which a year ago had pulled him from his bed when he was a puddler in Motherwell, He scrambled to his feet, and nearly cracked his skull against a low roof. That, and a sound which suggested that the heavens were made of canvas which a giant hand was rending, cleared his wits and recalled him to the disagreeable present. He lit the dottle in his pipe, and began to piece out his where- abouts.

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