Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part One – “The Flower of Silence”

“The Flower of Silence” was the first installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on April 8, 1916 and was later expanded to comprise the first four chapters of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. This third serial began only four months after the second concluded. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“The Flower of Silence” finds Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie rooming at the New Louvre Hotel in London. Smith has been recalled from Cairo by his superiors. When the story opens on a chilly November night, Smith has returned to their apartment to inform Petrie that he has just leaned the name of the mysterious secret society that the late Dr. Fu-Manchu served; it is the Si-Fan and is based in Tibet. The reason for Smith’s recall to London is that Great Britain’s former Ambassador to Peking, Sir Gregory Hale has recently returned to London following the completion of his expedition to Mongolia. Sir Gregory was to have delivered a report on Tibetan Lamaism to the India Office but has failed to do so. Sir Gregory has not left his suite at the New Louvre Hotel for Sir Gregory has uncovered the existence of the Si-Fan and will only share that secret with Nayland Smith.

Upon arrival at his suite, Smith and Petrie learn from Sir Gregory’s valet, Beeton that the former Ambassador has been struck dumb and can only mutter incoherently. He dies in his bed shortly after Smith and Petrie’s arrival but leaves behind a cryptic message scrawled in a notebook containing the mysterious phrases:

“Guard brass box…Tibetan frontier…Key of India…Beware man with the
limp…Yellow rising…Watch Tibet…the Si-Fan”


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