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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Many critics agree that Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) was a pioneer in developing the modern short story in English literature and Markheim is among his most celebrated. The tale is generally interpreted as an allegory or fable, a narrative of virtue and vice containing a moral.

‘Yes,’ said the dealer, ‘our windfalls are of various kinds. Some customers are ignorant, and then I touch a dividend on my superior knowledge. Some are dishonest,’ and here he held up the candle, so that the light fell strongly on his visitor, ‘and in that case,’ he continued, ‘I profit by my virtue.’

Markheim had but just entered from the daylight streets, and his eyes had not yet grown familiar with the mingled shine and darkness in the shop. At these pointed words, and before the near presence of the flame, he blinked painfully and looked aside.

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Snaekoll’s Saga

Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (London, 24 May 1852 – Buenos Aires, 20 March 1936) was a Scottish  politician, writer, journalist and adventurer. He was a Liberal Party Member of Parliament (MP); the first-ever socialist member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom; a founder of the Scottish Labour Party (1888-1893); a founder of the National Party of Scotland; and the first president of the Scottish National Party in 1934.

After being educated at Harrow  public school in England, Robert finished his education in Brussels, Belgium  before moving to Argentina to make his fortune cattle ranching. He became known as a great adventurer and gaucho there, and was affectionately known as Don Roberto. He also travelled in Morocco disguised as a Turkish sheikh, prospected for gold  in Spain, befriended Buffalo Bill in Texas, and taught fencing in Mexico City, having travelled there by wagon train from San Antonio de Bexar with his young bride sic “Gabrielle Chidiock de la Balmondiere” a supposed half French half Chilean poet.

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