Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fu-Manchu Chapter Eighteen

 (Reading The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu and in Chapter Eighteen we are shocked to discover there are foreigners in London)

Petrie ponders the story he has been told by Karamaneh, slightly discomfited by his feelings for her*.

"It is a fact, singular, but true, that few Londoners know London." Petrie and Smith go to a door two minutes from Leicester Square in disguise. "We both wore dark suits and fez caps with black silk tassels. My complexion had been artificially reduced** to a shade resembling the deep tan of my friend's." They are greeted by "a negro woman—gross, hideously ugly," who leads them to an elderly bearded man Smith converses with in Arabic. In the back room is "a motley company of Turks, Egyptians, Greeks, and others; and I noted two Chinese. Most of them smoked cigarettes, and some were drinking. A girl was performing a sinuous dance upon the square carpet occupying the center of the floor, accompanied by a young negro woman upon a guitar and by several members of the assembly who clapped their hands to the music or hummed a low, monotonous melody." So many foreigners! They must be up to no good. Smith agrees, certain that some of Fu-Manchu's group patronises the place.

"A woman in an elegant, flame-colored opera cloak," comes in and Petrie recognises her as Karamaneh by her perfume. They follow but lose track of her and the man she brought to the place for a meeting. Petrie worries. "To Smith and me, who knew something of the secret influences at work to overthrow the Indian Empire, to place, it might be, the whole of Europe and America beneath an Eastern rule, it seemed that a great yellow hand was stretched out over London. Doctor Fu-Manchu was a menace to the civilized world." How shocking that someone other than the British might take over the Indian Empire!

Smith is also worried. "Into what dark scheme have we had a glimpse? What State secret is to be filched? What faithful servant of the British Raj to be spirited away? Upon whom now has Fu-Manchu set his death seal?" At Piccadilly Circus, in a traffic jam they catch the whiff of perfume again and a whisper, "ANDAMAN—SECOND!"****

They devote "a whole hour" to trying to figure out what it means. There's a phone call; Frank Norris West, an American Inventor who has been offering the War Office the West aero-torpedo, has been attacked. They rush over to find him lying on his back, telephone receiver in hand. He had called to complain about some Chinamen in his rooms then had been drugged. The front door had been locked, and was forced open by the police. His safe, presumably containing the plans, is still locked. There appears no way to get in or out, until Smith notices some bird tracks on the window sill.

They find some chloral hydrate***** and order in an antidote to wake West. He opens the safe, claiming he is the only one who knows the combination, and discovers the plans are, of course, missing.

"In some way the knowledge came to me that the curtain was about to rise on a new and surprising act in the Fu-Manchu drama." Well spotted Petrie. Well spotted.

* "East and West may not intermingle. As a student of world-policies, as a physician, I admitted, could not deny, that truth. Again, if Karamaneh were to be credited, she had come to Fu-Manchu a slave; had fallen into the hands of the raiders; had crossed the desert with the slave-drivers; had known the house of the slave-dealer. Could it be? With the fading of the crescent of Islam I had thought such things to have passed." Just so Petrie, the fading of Islam. Although also, "At the mere thought of a girl so deliciously beautiful in the brutal power of slavers, I found myself grinding my teeth—closing my eyes in a futile attempt to blot out the pictures called up." Quite. Blot them out Petrie.

** I assume when he says his complexion had been reduced he means darkened, but on the face*** of it sounds as though he's been lightened. Maybe Petrie is worrying overmuch about the personal difficulties he might have if Fu-Manchu's assault on the White Race succeeds.

*** Heh

**** All Caps whisper in the original. Probably would have been better emphasised by italics.

***** Petrie identifies it with his tongue, perhaps not the safest way with master poisoner Fu-Manchu involved.

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