Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Fu-Manchu Chapter Three

(I'm still reading (and writing about) The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu aka The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu which is pretty good as a title as so far we have discovered that his plan is to murder anyone who knows anything about Asia, so that it remains, in terms that our protagonists might use, the mysterious east. Now on to Chapter Three.)

After being warned and attacked Smith has led himself and Petrie home (Petrie's home) where Petrie has a strong peg of brandy.

Excuse me one moment, going to do this write up method*.

Okay. Smith, who prefers his pipe to booze (he is described as "smoking hard") explains a few things. They aren't in hiding because Fu-Manchu would inevitably find them**. The woman who Petrie found so striking (and vice versa) "is either Fu-Manchu's daughter, his wife, or his slave." Good information there Smith. Finally he reveals that Sir Crichton "...died of the Zayat Kiss. Ask me what that is and I reply 'I do not know.'" Smith goes on to detail his ignorance for another couple of paragraphs, revealing that from the clues*** he thinks a creature was lowered down chimney, then withdrawn the same way. Probably by a dacoit, the infamous Indian bandits. Fu-Manchu, it seems, is pan-Asian in his personnel.

They go to bed, setting up a camp bed for Smith in the same room. Shortly after two in the morning a dacoit (or so Petrie presumes) enters the room and opens a box. Smith reveals it with his torch:

"It was an insect, full six inches long, and of a vivid, venomous, red color! It had something of the appearance of a great ant, with its long, quivering antennae and its febrile, horrible vitality; but it was proportionately longer of body and smaller of head, and had numberless rapidly moving legs. In short, it was a giant centipede, apparently of the scolopendra group, but of a form quite new to me."

By B. Navez - Own work (own photographic work), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=810622
Smith crushes it with a golf club. The dacoit gets away but Smith is pleased; he now at least knows what the Zayat Kiss is, and "science is richer for our first brush with the enemy, and the enemy is poorer—unless he has any more unclassified centipedes." He deduces that Sir Crichton called out not "The red hand," but "The red ant." Well done for solving the case Smith. Although as he himself admits, it was not happy for Sir Crichton; "Petrie, to think that I failed, by less than an hour, to save him from such an end!"

This, of course, is our first experience of the modus operandi of Dr Fu-Manchu. Firstly he hides behind secrecy and mystery, which creates fear of it's own, and when we penetrate through the veil we discover a disgusting and dangerous poisonous insect, hard to defend against. He is as terrifying when known as unknown. This, amongst other attributes, is one of the things that makes Fu-Manchu a great villain; layers of mystery and horror.

* Method acting, popular in American film and theatre, is where one accesses ones own memories and sensations to enhance a performance; in order to portray a runner one might go on some runs, and to act like a comedian one might do some stand up. A peg is a measure of strong liquor in India but Petrie uses the word informally (I assume), so anyway I'm not making a precise measure.

** Although I do wonder why Smith is making it quite so easy for him.

*** Or 'clews' as the word is charmingly spelt.

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