In a bid to spread the good word of Quincey Morris to those less fortunate than themselves; the fraternity of the QMBC dispatched one of their most capable officers (Mycroft Webb) on a round-the-world tour to win the hearts and minds of heathen masses towards the advancement of contrarian-elitist literary ideals .... and where possible to increase the standing of the pudding course in lesser cultures. As part of his missionary work, he has agreed to record a travelogue; of which, regular excerpts are reproduced here to serve as a permanent record for those who would follow in his footsteps.
Arrival in Peking (39.909341 N, 116.4095 E) – November ‘11
Adequately rested after my international travels and with the freshly talcum-powdered nethers of a newborn, I stepped on to the platform at the Central train station in Peking as if I was about to buy the blasted place, tear it down, and turn it into my own private billiard hall. In that regard, I knew something was amiss almost instantly; there were no waiting footmen or representatives from the city’s international hostelries to usher me through the unknown and potentially feral streets to the sanctity of a comfortable hotel lounge with a decent drinks cabinet and a host of freshly-pressed (albeit dated) periodicals.
Unhappy with such shabby treatment at the hands of a foreign power, I decided to immediately register an informal complaint to the city’s aldermen and officials by breaking wind with as much gusto as I could present at that hour. Such an early show of strength to the natives was the advice of a military man at my club named Farnsworth who swore that similar tactics got him through some pretty hairy scrapes in the Crimean. The Crimean, no less!
|Brigadier Clifford Farnsworth.|
Before my departure for the Orient, old Brigadier Farnsworth, the sot, hollered these words at me across the steps of the Savoy before he was bundled into a waiting hackney cab: “Webb, when it comes to dealing with the Bud-Buds, you have to let them smell you boy! Let the buggers know what you’re made of by Jove”. At that moment, I imagine the attending Orientals must have been of the opinion that I was composed chiefly of hard-boiled eggs and piccalilli. I rested a sturdy brogue upon my trunk momentarily to allow the gentlemanly miasma dissipate further through the crowd. It was but a matter of seconds before a gap-toothed Chinaman dressed in the native fashion presented himself for duty with a bow. He was a swarthy looking brute, nearly as broad as he was tall and his face was home to a grievous looking scar that gave him a most unwholesome air. That said, I could tell that this was no time for due diligence into the man’s background, I flashed some currency from my billfold and saw his eyes light up. I tapped my hardwood cane on the trunk and pointed to the street, striding toward to the exit with unusual conviction - my dangerous new factotum in tow.
|The Raffles Hotel - an oasis amidst the savagery!|
There and then, I had a fancy to christen the fellow Passepartout after the character from Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty days” but deemed the implicit comparison of myself to Phileas Fogg a bit too vainglorious and instead opted to name him “Finbarr” after an Irish setter that I owned as a boy, finding it to be an altogether more suitable monicker. Upon reaching the street outside, I engaged a sizeable rickshaw and petitioned the driver to take us to the Raffles Hotel with all due haste. On the journey through the streets of Peking, I caught a whiff of the pungent aroma of cabbages and piss water that seems to permeate the air. I thought it was no wonder so many of the city’s inhabitants walked around with masks on their faces.
|Squatting like Chinamen, literally.|
Impervious to my disgust, Finbarr, who now hung from the rear of the rickshaw with some abandon, gave birth to the most prodigious piece of expectorate I have ever observed. He lobbed it with great aplomb onto a brazier where six chicken skewers now hissed wildly. He grinned at me from ear-to-ear and I smiled back somewhat anxiously making a note to eat nothing outside of the hotel dining room and to invent some form of hand-sanitisation system immediately. I knew then that the coming weeks were going to be different, possibly fatal but definitely different.