Friday, January 13, 2017

Fu-Manchu Chapter Thirteen

(I'm reading The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu and have reached Chapter Thirteen, and something weird has happened since the end of Chapter Twelve)

Petrie has a nightmare*.

He wakes up, remembering that he and Nayland Smith had been on their way to warn Graham Guthrie that he, like everyone else in England who can find China two times out of three on a globe, is in danger from Fu-Manchu. They had gone up the steps from the Embankment to Essex Street**, seen a big motor-car and then he had been hit on the head. Well, you know, rough part of town, full of lawyers.

He discovers that he is imprisoned by means of a steel collar; next to him is Nayland Smith, similarly restrained. Smith wakes, blames himself, although immediately is taken aback by the two of them having been sandbagged in broad daylight, by two Chinese in European clothes, within hailing distance of the Strand.

Dr. Fu-Manchu enters. "At last they were face to face—the head of the great Yellow Movement, and the man who fought on behalf of the entire white race."

Fu-Manchu has a complaint that seems a little esoteric from a hundred years distance:  "You have linked my name with the futility of the Young China Movement***—the name of Fu-Manchu! Mr. Smith, you are an incompetent meddler—I despise you! Dr. Petrie, you are a fool—I am sorry for you!"

Fu-Manchu has a marmoset as a pet, so he's not all bad, but he also discusses some of his other pets, scorpions, pythons, hamadryads, fungi and bacilli, and even black spiders with diamond eyes, all of them a bit dangerous for the beginner. He makes a prophecy. "To-night, at half-past twelve, Mr. Graham Guthrie dies!" Then he reminisces with Smith about a call made in Rangoon, 1908, "...a low, wailing cry, an uncanny thing of falling cadence..."

Fu-Manchu leaves them in darkness and Smith reveals that the sound was "The Call of Siva****", which means death. For someone. For certain.

* First he finds himself in pain. Then it is eased. He is exhausted then recovers his strength. He gets up, smells some perfume, sees a dim light. He is in a strange room; tapestries and carpet are decorated with golden dragons. There is a dragon-legged table with "instruments unknown to Western science" and other set dressing from a mad scientist's lair. Fu-Manchu is behind the table. There is a musical-girl voice that says "They are killing him! they are killing him! Oh! do you not understand?" Who is saying it? He gets a glimpse:  "...I told myself that she was an houri, and that I, though a Christian, had been consigned by some error to the paradise of Mohammed." Interesting!

** The geography in general and description of house and ground layouts in particular is good, sometimes excellent in the novel. As the relative position of spaces is often important for the plot, this strengthens the novel.

*** To oversimplify, The Young China Movement were for westernisation and reform, and one of the forces behind the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the founding of the Republic of China which took place during the writing of this novel. Indeed, the turmoil and political strife in China at the time forms part of the backdrop, though (so far) it has only been hinted at.

**** Almost certainly a variant spelling of Shiva, the Hindu god.

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