The Riddle of the Sands

The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service es una novela de 1903 de Erskine Childers. Al final algo sobre pledge, dwindle, y chafe

… In October last (1902), my friend 'Carruthers' visited me in my chambers, and, under a provisional pledge of secrecy, told me frankly the whole of the adventure described in these pages. Till then I had only known as much as the rest of his friends, namely, that he had recently undergone experiences during a yachting cruise with a certain Mr 'Davies' which had left a deep mark on his character and habits… (Preface)

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 23 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 chafing 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 interest in the remaining five millions, and wrote several clever letters in a vein of cheap satire, indirectly suggesting the pathos of my position, but indicating that I was broad-minded enough to find intellectual entertainment in the scenes, persons, and habits of London in the dead season. I even did rational things at the instigation of others. For, though I should have liked total isolation best, I, of course, found that there was a sediment of unfortunates like myself, who, unlike me, viewed the situation in a most prosaic light. There were river excursions, and so on, after office-hours; but I dislike the river at any time for its noisy vulgarity, and most of all at this season. So I dropped out of the fresh air brigade and declined H——'s offer to share a riverside cottage and run up to town in the mornings. I did spend one or two week-ends with the Catesbys in Kent; but I was not inconsolable when they let their house and went abroad, for I found that such partial compensations did not suit me. Neither did the taste for satirical observation last. A passing thirst, which I dare say many have shared, for adventures of the fascinating kind described in the New Arabian Nights led me on a few evenings into some shady haunts in Soho and farther eastward; but was finally quenched one sultry Saturday night after an hour's immersion in the reeking atmosphere of a low music-hall in Ratcliffe Highway… (From The Riddle of the Sands, The Letter, chapter 1, by Erskine Childers)
Praying outside Whitehall, while negotiations were underway, 1921
Praying outside Whitehall, while negotiations were underway, 1921
Pledge: a serious or formal promise.
Dwindle: to become smaller in size or amount.
Chafing: annoying.
Para saber
New Arabian Nights, de Robert Louis Stevenson, publicados en 1882, es una colección de cuentos. La colección contenía las primeras ficciones de Stevenson.
Soho es un area de Westminster y es parte del West End de Londres. Establecida como un distrito para el entretenimiento, gran parte del siglo XX Soho tenía reputación de ser la base de la industria del sexo, además de su vida nocturna.
Highway, anteriormente conocida como Ratcliffe Highway, es una calle en el East End de Londres. Se remonta a los tiempos romanos. En el siglo XIX tenía mala reputación. Alrededor de 1800 Charles Jamrach, el más renombrado comerciante de animales salvajes, abrió Animal Emporium. El lugar se convirtió en el negocio de mascotas más grande del mundo ya que los viajantes arribaban al puerto de Londres a vender cualquier animal exótico a Jamrach quien los vendía a los zoológicos y colecciones privadas.
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