It is one of two Hannay novels set during the First World War, the other being Greenmantle (1916); Hannay's first and best-known adventure, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), is set in the period immediately before the war started.
The title refers to a character in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, to which there are many other references in the novel; Hannay uses a copy of Pilgrim's Progress to decipher coded messages from his contacts, and letters from his friend Peter Pienaar.
Plot:part one: Dick Hannay, under forty and already a successful Brigadier-General with good prospects of advancement, is called out of uniform by his old comrade, spymaster Sir Walter Bullivant, and sent to Fosse Manor in the Cotswolds to receive further instructions. He must pose as a South African, an objector to the war, and once more takes on the name Cornelius Brand (an Anglicisation of the name he had used on his adventures in Germany in Greenmantle). He is upset by the idea of such a pose, but comforted by thoughts of his friend Peter Pienaar, briefly a successful airman and now a prisoner in Germany, and by the beauty of the Cotswold countryside.
At Fosse, he meets two middle-aged spinsters, their cousin Launcelot Wake, a conscientious objector, and their niece Mary Lamington, a girl whose prettiness had struck Hannay earlier, while visiting a shell-shocked friend in the hospital where she works. It emerges that she is his contact, but she can tell him little more than that he must immerse himself in the world of pacifists and objectors, picking up "atmosphere". She gives him a label to paste inside his watch, an address where he will be staying, and advises him to pick up a copy of Pilgrim's Progress.
Hannay heads to Biggleswick, a small town full of artists and writers. He buries himself in their pacifist community, attending meetings at a local hall, and meets Moxon Ivery, a local bigwig who seems vaguely familiar; he also sees Mary about the place. He hears of his old comrade John Blenkiron, and one day the American appears at one of the town's meetings; he passes a message to Hannay, arranging to meet in London.
Blenkiron reveals that he has been hard at work for some time, around the world and undercover around England, on the track of a huge network of German spies and agents, with their head somewhere in Britain, leaking vital information to the enemy. He believes Ivery to be the spider at the centre of the web, but cannot prove it, and wants to use Ivery to feed misinformation to the Germans. He tells Hannay to try and head for Scotland and an American called Gresson, as he believes the information is being sent that way.
Hannay goes to Glasgow, and contacts a trade union man named Amos, through whom he moves into Gresson's circles. He speaks at a meeting which descends into violence, and finds himself in at Gresson's side in a street fight. He saves the day, but makes an enemy of a big Fusilier named Geordie Hamilton. He later learns that Gresson makes regular boat trips up the coast, and plans to tag along...........
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, GCMG, GCVO, CH, PC ( 26 August 1875 - 11 February 1940) was a Scottish novelist, historian, and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada, the 15th since Canadian Confederation................