Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fu_Manchu Chapter Ten.

 (I'm reading The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu and have reached Chapter Ten. So far they have failed to save Sir Lionel Crichton, uncovered how undercover policemen were being killed although brought no one to justice, and prevented an attack on the Reverend Eltham, at the cost of him not returning to China, which was what Fu-Manchu wanted. Now read on as Petrie and Smith make some sweeping generalisations about China and the Chinese.)

Petrie reads some newspaper articles and decides that Chinese people are scum.* Smith arrives and they discuss Sir Lionel Barton, "Orientalist and explorer, the fearless traveler who first had penetrated to Lhassa, who thrice, as a pilgrim, had entered forbidden Mecca, he now had turned his attention again to Tibet—thereby signing his own death-warrant." He has been in Egypt and now returned to London. Smith tried to warn him that he was in danger, but Sir Lionel laughed at him. Smith describes his house:

"You ought to see his house at Finchley. A low, squat place completely hemmed in by trees. Damp as a swamp; smells like a jungle. Everything topsy-turvy. He only arrived to-day, and he is working and eating (and sleeping I expect), in a study that looks like an earthquake at Sotheby's auction-rooms. The rest of the house is half a menagerie and half a circus. He has a Bedouin groom, a Chinese body-servant, and Heaven only knows what other strange people!"

The Chinese race being uniformly cruel, Petrie exclaims at that. "Yes, I saw him; a squinting Cantonese he calls Kwee. I don't like him. Also, there is a secretary known as Strozza, who has an unpleasant face." Well Smith, you certainly are unhappy with all these foreigners in the household. Perhaps more importantly, Sir Lionel's bagge, including his Tibetan notes, have gone missing, a fact that Petrie declares "Significant." However Sir Lionel is dictating his book again from memory at two hundred words per minute**, stopping only when Smith interruped him, and also to accept delivery of an Egyptian Sarcophagus.

Smith sinks into a despression at their helplessness before the yellow peril. "I never see a report of someone found drowned, of an apparent suicide, of a sudden, though seemingly natural death, without wondering. I tell you, Fu-Manchu is omnipresent; his tentacles embrace everything." Tentacles. Nice.

Then a telegram arrives, that tells them Sir Lionel has been murdered and summoning them to his house.

* Here's a direct quote: "No white man, I honestly believe, appreciates the unemotional cruelty of the Chinese."

Newspaper article 1 is about the hunt for a scorpion dealer in Maui whose insects are used for female infanticide. Article 2 is about the attempted murder of the Governor of Hong Kong; the men caught were financed by the Canton Triad. Article 3 is about the murder of 100 people and destruction of a house belonging to a Russian in Khotan in "Chinese Turkestan". Article 4 is in the personal column "HO-NAN. Have abandoned visit.—ELTHAM."

Articles 2, 3 and 4 are all plausibly about Fu-Manchu, or the Chinese political scene in general. He includes the first article for this reason: "Is it any matter for wonder that such a people had produced a Fu-Manchu? I pasted the cutting into a scrap-book, determined that, if I lived to publish my account of those days, I would quote it therein as casting a sidelight upon Chinese character." Yes quite. A Chinese immigrant minority are resorting to infanticide, and his conclusion is that they are cruel, rather than, I don't know, poor, desperate, under pressure to raise male children etc.

** His secretary, or amanuensis, is extremely on form if he's keeping up with this.

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