Friday, January 20, 2017

Fu-Manchu Chapter Twenty

 (Still reading The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu aka The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu because Fu-Manchu is so cunning even the novel has an alias. In Chapter Twenty, Smith and Petrie are on their way to Tilbury for not-yet-explained reasons)

Petrie is puzzled by Fu-Manchu's latest plot although he takes a moment to warn us that someone who takes hashish is "converted temporarily into a maniac". He asks Smith about it as they dash through London in a cab. Smith thinks the bird tracks on the window sill of the locked room mystery belong to Fu-Manchu's marmoset*. He suspects the marmoset carried up a cord and took it over the safety bar (for window cleaners) which was used to carry up a rope which was used to lift one of their silk and bamboo ladders. "To his giant will the drugged brain of West was a pliant instrument which he bent to his own ends." Ah the explanation to the locked room mystery is a monkey! Classic.

Smith has also decoded the message from Karamaneh "ANDAMAN - SECOND", explaining that "The ANDAMAN, of the Oriental Navigation Company's line, leaves Tilbury with the next tide for China ports. Our man is a second-class passenger. I am wiring to delay her departure, and the special should get us to the docks inside of forty minutes." That should wrap things up nicely!

Petrie is impressed by the organisation; a special train, several police, and a great liner delayed. "It was novel, and infinitely exciting." 1912, you had to make your own entertainment.

Smith has a problem; he does not know which of the second class passengers is his man. "I am instructing the authorities at all ports east of Suez to apprehend one of your second-class passengers, should he leave the ship. He is in possession of plans which practically belong to the British Government!**" They will search their luggage when they leave the ship; in the meantime he instructs the captain to have his crew "watch any passenger of Oriental nationality." Could be a few of them considering that the ship is heading east. And, yes, two men from Scotland Yard are being sent abroad at an hour's notice. I hope they haven't arranged to do anything for the next couple of months.

They watch the ship leave but then hear a voice say, "Another victory for China, Mr. Nayland Smith!" It is the voice of Dr Fu-Manchu***. " It is beyond my powers to convey the sense of the uncanny which the episode created," says Petrie.

Petrie admits that there is no explanation for the voice, just as there was none for his drugged fever dream that showed him Fu-Manchu's laboratory****.

"Perhaps that wisdom—the wisdom stored up by Fu-Manchu—is lost forever. There is, however, at least a bare possibility of its survival, in part; and I do not wholly despair of one day publishing a scientific sequel to this record of our dealings with the Chinese doctor." Well, that would be interesting.

* Which is, as he notes, a new world monkey. Are there no limits to Fu-Manchu's grasp? (no)

** Although not ACTUALLY as West has not yet made an agreement. Smith is stretching the truth here and also signalling it by his use of the word "practically". I'm shocked.

*** Or as Petrie puts it "But the voice was the voice of DOCTOR FU-MANCHU."

**** "Can it be that we were drugged on that occasion with Indian hemp? Cannabis indica is a treacherous narcotic, as every medical man knows full well; but Fu-Manchu's knowledge of the drug was far in advance of our slow science." Ah Petrie, I rather think you are more familiar with the hashish than you are letting on.

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