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The Petals of Lao-Tze by J. Allan Dunn

The Petals of Lao-Tze by J. Allan Dunn

The eighth “petal”, is the final piece needed to recreate the complete golden talisman that is said to have given Lao-Tze long life, perhaps even immortality. Retrieving it from a dead man deep in the Himalayas is the easy part. Bringing it back to a wealthy benefactor is another story.

Book Details

Book Details

The eighth “petal”, is the final piece needed to recreate the complete golden talisman that is said to have given Lao-Tze long life, perhaps even immortality. Retrieving it from a dead man deep in the Himalayas is the easy part. Bringing it back to a wealthy benefactor is another story.

That story ranges from Manhattan to Tibet to Shanghai to Honolulu and back to upper New York, and is full of Tibetan lamas, Chinese secret agents, a morphine addled conman, and attempted murder. And the Elixir of Life.

The Petals of Lao-Tze (1917)
Un peu d’espoir el puis, bon soir. (A little hope—and then farewell)

Chapter II – The Land Of Bod
Chapter III – Rouge Et Noir
Chapter IV – Bindloss Makes A Suggestion
Chapter V – The Sailing Of The Pride Of Cathay
Chapter VI – The Hand In The Night
Chapter VII – Redding’s Address-Book
Chapter VIII – The Wing-Wo-Wang Importing Company
Chapter IX – New York
Chapter X – Angus McVea
Chapter XI – The Lhakkang
Chapter XII – In The Temple Gallery
Chapter XIII – The Leaves Of Life
Chapter XIV – The Chauffeur Talks
Chapter XV – Sweetbrier Lodge
Chapter XVI – Claire Arden Explains
Chapter XVII – The Elixir

Joseph Allan Elphinstone Dunn (1872–1941), better known as J. Allan Dunn, was one of the high-producing writers of the American pulp magazines. He published well over a thousand stories, novels, and serials from 1914–41. His main genres were adventure and western; although he did write a number of detective stories.

The Petals of Lao-Tze contains 26 illustrations.


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Excerpt: The Petals of Lao-Tze

Chapter I


“THE risks, I grant you, are great, therefore I am offering a commensurate reward. I believe you are the man I want. You answer all the superficial tests—but—I must make certain. Failure, Keeler, failure means more to me than what ordinary measure of life is left to me.”

The pale blue eyes of Stuart McVea, filmed during most of the interview with the look of the mystic, the scientist and mental recluse, flashed with sudden light below the straggling eyebrows that matched his shock of iron-gray hair. King Keeler looked at him with added intent, struck by the peculiar emphasis laid upon the last sentence. He had seen the same gleam in the eyes of fanatics of various sorts and races and it confirmed his opinion that McVea was, to put it mildly, out of the ordinary.

“Go on,” he said.”

McVea settled back in his chair and sipped at a long glass of vichy palely tinged with Scotch whisky.

“I must eschew all excitement,” went on the scientist. “It is imperative that my health be preserved, if possible improved, against the time you return—successful. Should you fail—?” The light faded and left his eyes lusterless with a glaze of apprehension. “But you must not fail. Do you hear me? You must not fail.”

The gleam leaped back, the lined face flushed as he tapped out the words on the knee of the younger man.

Some crank, Keeler told himself. But, as long as he is financially responsible and I can see my way out, I shouldn’t worry. He nodded as the other took a pull at his liquor.

“You know the country, you have been successful on many expeditions, you have a smattering of the dialects,” continued McVea. “I have looked you up carefully. You are cited courageous and quick-witted. You are in full vigor and—you can obey orders?”

“I am not fond of orders. But, if I enter into a contract, I carry the terms out to the letter—as far as it lies within my power.”

“Ah, there is the hitch. Man, if you only knew what a colossal thing this represents. That I can not tell you. Mark, it would do you no good to know. No other white man could make use of what I want you to bring back. Only one other holds a hint and he has only the key while I possess the cipher. And I have bought the key. Power—power greater than you can imagine, Keeler. Tush, I am getting wrought up again.”

He set his fingers to his pulse and frowned as he made a strong effort at control.

“Sclerosis must be avoided. So. That is better.” He removed his long fingers from his wrist. “To control the heart-beat. That is the secret. You have seen it done. Eh, Keeler? Often, I’ll warrant.”

“Most of the fakirs practise it.”

“Aye and the shamans, the lamas. But I must tell you all the risks. All, because you must know them all in order to surmount them. And because if you consider them too great you are not my man, after all. I want some one who is absolutely fearless.”

“Then I am not your man,” said Keeler. “For I have been afraid, desperately afraid a score of times in tight places.”

“Ah, but you got out of them. You are my man. I misused a word. I meant a man without cowardice. The coward and the fool laugh at fear and fall into panic. Two things more. You have investigated my standing?”

Keeler nodded again.

“And you are without entanglements? Wife, children, sweetheart?”

“I have none dependent upon me or on whom I depend. I am my own man, save as I contract myself.”

“Good! Good! I need your single-mindedness. Too often the thought of a woman swings down the balance and magnifies the risk in hand. Blunts the keen edge of boldness. I shall tell you the story briefly. Later, if you accept, we will go into details. You are thirty-two, you say. How old do you think I am?”

Keeler scrutinized the lean face, bereft of all superfluous flesh. It held traces of sunburn, the lines about the eyes were the runes of travel, of gazing at far horizons, the throat was shrunken, there were hollows at the temples, the veins were prominent.”

“Between fifty-five and sixty, I should say. But the marks I judge by might be those of illness rather than age.”

“Aye, the runnels of pain. I am forty-seven. This is not irrelevant. You shall see. You are to go to Tibet, to a point eighty miles south and west of Lhasa. You must avoid Lhasa as you would the plague. In a glen, nearly fourteen thousand feet above sea-level, you will find a cave. There are several. You will know the right one by a crumbling pile of stones, an ancient votive dyke, a mani, nearly half a mile long. Near by are the remains of a dung-ten, a relic repository, and one wall of a Lhak-kang, a temple. In the wall one slab bears the olden Sanskrit words, the mystic sentence of Tibet and Mongolia. Om ma-ni pad-me hum.

“I have seen it on ten thousand prayer-wheels,” said Keeler. “Means ‘Oh, the jewel of the lotus, Amen,’ does it not?”

“Literally, yes, but there are mysterious meanings attached to each of the six syllables that only the initiate—only the initiate —understand.”

McVea repeated the phrase in a low rapt voice. Keeler watched him curiously.

“Gone daffy over Lamaism,” was his unspoken judgment. That accounted for the film over his eyes, the fanaticism of the sudden flash.

“Do you speak Tibetan?” The scientist seemed to force himself back from a compelling reverie.

“Only as a traveler picks it up. Enough for practical uses. There are a hundred dialects.”

“Do you know anything of their religion?”

“Perverted Buddhism, as I understand it.”

“Buddhism grafted on Taoism, or rather on the ancient Bon religion. A wondrous mixture of philosophy, necromancy and approved knowledge. So, it is not necessary.

“THIRTEEN years ago, Keeler, I was cornered in that cave by a band of inferior Lamas, furious at my possession of a talisman. Never mind how I obtained it. I had one servant with me, a Mongol. My caravan had been dispersed or killed. I built a barrier of loose rocks and I held them off with my rifle. They shot Fing-Tu. Then they brought camels’ dung and smoked me out. But—they did not find the talisman. I had hidden it where even their cunning could not discover it. And, because they thought they could make me tell where it was, they did not kill me but took me to Lhasa.”

His eyes took on their introspective gaze. He shuddered and roused himself, finishing his glass.

Perhaps you know something of Tibetan torture methods. I bear the marks yet.

I was ten weeks in the cellars of the labrang, the lamas’ house, and that is why I look ten years older than I should. But they had not gone very far, for they healed me between whiles and they were, very patient, before I was rescued.”

“Rescued from Lhasa?” Keeler’s eyes showed the incredulity he felt. A rescue from Lhasa, the Forbidden! McVea must have dreamed some of his adventures. For all his reputation and undoubted learning, the man’s brain had a lesion. Strange religions and mania were close relations, as Keeler knew well. McVea looked at him composedly.

“You have forgotten the year. On the third of August, nineteen hundred and four, General Younghusband led the British armed mission into Lhasa and the Dalai Lama fled with Dorjiev, the Russian intriguer. I left for India with the expedition at the end of the month following.

“This talisman is a leaf, or petal, of gold, about two and one-half inches in length and a trifle over an inch in its broadest part. I will show you one of its fellows. On one side you will find a turquoise, one of the eight mystic jewels, on the other characters are inscribed in Hindu Sanskrit. There are eight of these petals. I then held three more. I knew that this one was safe. Frankly, I did not dare return to Tibet. The memory of the ten weeks in the labrang was, is, to say the least of it, unnerving. And there were four more petals to obtain. I have seven now. And the eighth—”

“I am to bring back from Tibet.”

Excerpt From: J. Allan Dunn. “The Petals of Lao-Tze.”

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