Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fu-Manchu Chapter Fourteen

 (I'm reading The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu and despite only being chapter fourteen of thirty the heroes have been captured by Dr Fu-Manchu and there is no hope, although as the novel is supposed to be the recollections of Dr Petrie we might assume that they aren't actually killed or worse)

Petrie is not ashamed to admit that he's afraid; after all they are in a dark cell, at the mercy of the merciless Fu-Manchu ,who has not-so-obliquely threatened to torture them to learn their plans*. Having broken one blade of his pocket knife** on the iron collar, Petrie hears a noise and a trap door opens. Someone comes up, "...a figure from an opium vision***, with her clinging silk draperies and garish jewelry, with her feet encased in little red slippers."

She unlocks them, leaving the broken knife behind to disguise the method of escape, and leads them away after blindfolding them. There's a steamy plant smell, and an animal one, and also "...a subdued stir about me, infinitely suggestive—mysterious." Mysterious indeed. Then there is drumming that Smith recognises as a tom-tom****.

She leads them out onto a punt, then poles them away. Petrie tells her not to go back. She refuses him, and asks that they not uncover their eyes until the clock strikes. She leaves and eventually it strikes the half hour. They find they are at... Windsor Castle!

They run for the train***** and catch the last one to London. "Due at Waterloo at eleven-fifty-one," says Smith. As Fu-Manchu promised that Guthrie would die at half twelve that leaves them very little time to save him.

Smith reveals the events of Rangoon in 1908 that Fu-Manchu referred to; an American who broke his neck jumping out the window, assumed to be suicide, although curiously he had his loaded revolver with him. Later a man named Martin was woken by a scream, sat up in bed in time to observe his French friend Lafitte leap out a window in the same manner. It happened again while Smith was investigating; he heard the cry and then another man, an orchid hunter was dead in the courtyard. "A story got about the native quarter, and was fostered by some mad fakir, that the god Siva was reborn and that the cry was his call for victims; a ghastly story, which led to an outbreak of dacoity and gave the District Superintendent no end of trouble." Yes, quite troublesome.

Some more clews and speculation; each body showed marks of strangling; although Smith did not see it himself, others thought they showed "The five heads of Siva." Other men, both European and Burmese died in the same way elsewhere. There was a theory they might have contracted leprosy and killed themselves but there's no evidence of it. Yet another mysterious method of death that Fu-Manchu has brought to England.

* This is futile as they have no plans.

** Not good Fu-Manchu. Perhaps searching your captives might be an idea? Or stripping them, which they would undoubtedly interpret as being some sadistic foreign practice.

*** Have we established that Petrie is not really an expert on opium? He was certainly effected by fumes in Singapore Charlie's. I suspect that, as a doctor, he knows more about the theory than the practise.

**** Not the satnav, but the drum. Now part of most regular drum kits, this would have been less ubiquitous at the time of the novel.

***** "I sank into a corner of the compartment in a state bordering upon collapse. Neither of us, I think, could have managed another twenty yards. With a lesser stake than a human life at issue, I doubt if we should have attempted that dash to Windsor station." Going to have to work on your stamina if you're going to defeat Fu-Manchu gents.

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