Monday, January 02, 2017

Fu Manchu Chapter Two

Fu Manchu Chapter Two (rhymes, innit)

(I'm reading The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu also known as The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu (or, sometimes Fu Manchu) and writing some brief and stupid notes on each chapter)

When we last saw Petrie and Smith they were about to search the study of the recently deceased Sir Crichton Davey. This chapter opens with the line "Sir Crichton Davey's study was a small one..." so perhaps we won't have to spend too much time on this.

Smith opens an envelope and insists Petrie smell the blank page inside; it turns out this isn't some schoolboy trick and he wants to show him it has a distinctive smell. Then Smith tells Petrie not to touch anything while he searches. He finishes by saying, "There is nothing here and I have no time to search farther." Slightly confused way of putting it, but I think we get the gist.

Next they interrogate a groom who reports that just before Sir Crichton's death there was "a low, wailing cry, impossible to describe." Well, that let's Petrie off the hook in writing it up I suppose.

Smith decides he needs to know what is going on next door, at a house belonging to Major-General Platt-Houston. While he's involved with this Petrie finds that "A girl wrapped in a hooded opera-cloak stood at my elbow, and, as she glanced up at me, I thought that I never had seen a face so seductively lovely nor of so unusual a type. With the skin of a perfect blonde, she had eyes and lashes as black as a Creole's, which, together with her full red lips, told me that this beautiful stranger, whose touch had so startled me, was not a child of our northern shores." So, a foreigner of some sort. Pale-skinned black-eyed red-lipped women are not entirely unknown in England, but it turns out he's right.

She gives him an envelope. Petrie reports to Smith who declares "She is one of the finest weapons in the enemy's armory, Petrie. But a woman is a two-edged sword, and treacherous. To our great good fortune, she has formed a sudden predilection, characteristically Oriental, for yourself." No Smith, don't hold back. Tell us what you really think of women. The envelope of course contains a blank sheet with the same perfume they found previously.

Smith declares them in danger but also that "Oh, you need not fear shots or knives. The man whose servants are watching us now scorns to employ such clumsy, tell-tale weapons.*" Immediately afterwards something hisses past them and they escape by cab.

During the ride Smith describes their opponent. "This man, whether a fanatic or a duly appointed agent, is, unquestionably, the most malign and formidable personality existing in the known world today. He is a linguist who speaks with almost equal facility in any of the civilized languages, and in most of the barbaric. He is an adept in all the arts and sciences which a great university could teach him. He also is an adept in certain obscure arts and sciences which no university of to-day can teach. He has the brains of any three men of genius. Petrie, he is a mental giant." Sounds interesting! Unfortunately he has murdered three men: M Jules Furneaux who knew the secret of the key of Tongking; Grand Duke Stanislaus who knew the truth of Mongolia**; and now Sir Crichton Davey, "the only living Englishman who understood the importance of the Tibetan frontiers." Smith, it seems, does not rate Francis Younghusband.

We finish the chapter with one more description of our opponent which I'll quote in full:

"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government—which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu..."

Well there we go. Oh wait, it seems Smith hasn't finished. Well I'm fairly sure he won't be alarmist or exceed the bounds of good taste. "...the yellow peril incarnate in one man."

Hmm.

* Alright, let's think about this for a moment. Someone dying mysteriously in their study, after behaving oddly, and a strange sound outside as it occurs seems to me more tell-tale than (for example) hitting them over the head after faking a burglary gone wrong. Is Fu Manchu really this stupid? I would say no. He scorns such weapons, not for their clumsiness (when we uncover his methods of murder I will look into this again) but instead uses his strange and terrible techniques to unleash fear in his enemies.

** Probably not the Secret History of the Mongols, the earliest Mongol written work.

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