THE PIGTAIL OF LI-FANG-FU


Sax Rohmer and T.W. Thurban (1919)
performed by
Bransby Williams

They speak of a dead man's vengeance;
They whisper a deed of hell
Neath the Mosque of Mohammed Ali.
And this is the thing they tell.
In a deep and a midnight gully,
By the street where the goldsmiths are,
'Neath the Mosque of Mohammed Ali,
At the back of the Scent Bazaar.
Was the House of a Hundred Raptures,
The tomb of a thousand sighs;
Where the sleepers lay in that living death
Which the opium-smoker dies.
At the House of a Hundred Raptures,
Where the reek of the joss-stick rose
From the knees of the golden idol
To the tip of his gilded nose.
Through the billowing oily vapour,
The smoke of the black chandu,
There a lantern green cast a serpent sheen
On the pigtail of Li-Fang-Fu.
There was Ramsa Lal of Bhiwani,
Who could smoke more than any three,
A pair of Kashmiri dancing girls
And Ameer Khan Motee;
And there was a grey-haired soldier too,
The wreck of a splendid man;
When the place was still I've heard mounted drill
Being muttered by 'Captain Dan'.
Then, one night as I lay a-dreaming,
There was shuddering, frenzied screams;
But the smoke had a spell upon me;
I was chained to that couch of dreams.
All my strength, all my will had left me,
Because of the black chandu,
And upon the floor, by the close-barred door,
Lay the daughter of Li-Fang-Fu.
'Twas the first time I ever saw her,
But often I dream of her now;
For she was as sweet as a lotus,
With the grace of a willow bough.
The daintiest ivory maiden
That ever a man called fair,
And I saw blood drip where Li-Fang-Fu's whip
Had tattered her shoulders bare!
I fought for the power to curse him
And never a word would come!
To reach him... to kill him!...
But opium had stricken me helpless - dumb.
He lashed her again and again,
Until she uttered a moaning prayer,
And as he whipped so the red blood dripped
From those ivory shoulders bare.
When crash!... went the window behind me,
And in leapt a grey-haired man,
As he tore the whip from that devil's grip,
I knew him... 'twas Captain Dan!
Ne'er a word spoke he, but remorseless, grim,
His brow with anger black.
He lashed and lashed till the shirt was slashed
From the Chinaman's writhing back.
And when in his grasp the whip broke short,
He cut with a long keen knife,
The pigtail, for which a Chinaman
Would barter his gold, his life.
He cut the pig-tail from Li-Fang-Fu.
And this is the thing they tell
By the Mosque of Mohammed Ali
For it led to a deed of hell.
In his terrible icy passion,
Captain Dan that pig-tail plied,
And with it he thrashed the Chinaman,
Until any but he had died
Until Li-Fang-Fu dropped limply down
Too feeble, it seemed, to stand.
But swift to arise, with death in his eyes -
And the long keen knife in his hand!
Like fiends of an opium vision
They closed in a fight for life,
And nearer the breast of the Captain crept
The blade of the gleaming knife.
Then a shot! a groan - and a wisp of smoke.
I swooned and knew no more
Save that Li-Fang-Fu lay silent and still
In a red pool near the door.
But never shall I remember how
That curtain of sleep was drawn
And I woke, 'mid a deathly silence,
In the darkness before the dawn.
There was blood on the golden idol!
My God! that dream was true!
For there, like a slumbering serpent,
Lay the pigtail of Li-Fang-Fu.
From the House of a Hundred Raptures
I crept ere the news should spread
That the Devil's due had claimed Li- Fang-Fu,
And that Li-Fang-Fu was dead.
'Twas the end of that Indian summer,
When Fate - or the ancient ties
Drew my steps again to the gully,
To the Tomb of a Thousand Sighs;
And the door of the house was open!
All the blood in my heart grew cold.
For within sat the golden idol,
And he leered as he leered of old!
And I thought that his eyes were moving
In a sinister vile grimace
When suddenly, there at his feet I saw
A staring and well-known face!
With the shriek of a soul in torment,
I turned like a frenzied man,
Falling back from the spot where the moonlight poured
Down upon 'Captain Dan'!
He was dead, and in death was fearful;
With features of ghastly hue
And snakelike around his throat was wound...
The pigtail of Li-Fang-Fu!...


Copyright 2003 Lawrence Knapp. All rights reserved.

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