THE RAPE OF VENICE
Chapter one is called ‘The Shape of Things to Come’.
This title is also the name of a famous book written by H.G. Wells in 1933. This book was also printed by Hutchinson. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shape_of_Things_to_Come
DW met HGW at his first meeting of the PEN club. (Poets, Essayists and Novelists).
On a sunny morning in June 1796, William Pitt, the younger was telling Roger Brook that, “What the nation needs now is peace”. The Prime Minister is 37 years old and the monarch on the throne is King George the third. RB is 28 years old and was Mr Pitt’s most successful secret agent during the French Revolution. Mr Pitt, now wishes to create an alliance with Venice and RB is the man for the job. Mr Pitt knows of a secret envoy in London and wishes for RB to meet with Signor Rinaldo Malderini at “Stillwaters” near Ripley in Surrey. Georgina Thursby is now 29 years old and prefers to stay in Ripley rather than White Knights Park, the seat in Northamptonshire of the Earl of St. Ermins, whose tragic death had made her a widow eighteen months before. The meeting is quickly arranged.
RB takes an instant dislike to Malderini particularly as RB was sure that he had cheated at cards that evening. Malderini’s wife, an Indian Princess called Sirishi was with him but said little. Malderini also brags of his psychic abilities and demonstrates them by putting his wife into a trance and goes on to answer questions in numerous languages. He goes on to talk about people’s aura’s, hypnotism and levitation.
Meanwhile, RB goes to see the family children and is surprised to hear that his dead wife, Amanda had arranged for Clarissa (a cousin of Amanda) to look after his daughter and Godson. Amanda had died giving birth to his second child. (See, ‘The Dark Secret of Josephine’). Clarissa had always loved RB and still does. He is still not ready for another relationship.
Malverini organises a levitation demonstration whilst all watching visitors in the house bet against him actually doing so. It turns out to be fraudulent. A fight takes place and a duel follows (with Pikes??) During the fight Malderini nearly overcomes RB as he is able to hypnotise him from a distance. Luckily somebody had shot an arrow from a larger distance and shot Malderini in the backside. The general opinion was that it was Clarissa.
Malderini threatens to get the law onto him and to save anyone else being involved and to avoid an international incident RB leaves the country. (Mr Pitt was not happy). RB decides to head for India. A place he has always wanted to see.
Clarissa meantime manages to get on board the same boat as RB. The initial story is that the she is RB’s niece so that there is no scandal attached but as time goes on they both become very good friends. It then comes as something of a surprise when one of the other passengers asks Clarissa to marry him.....and she accepts!! Her new man is a Mr Sydney Winters. RB tries to buy him off for a substantial sum. Winters chooses to decline.
Then, a storm takes hold and several crew including the Captain, several of the crew are drowned. The Ship sinks but RB, Clarissa and one of the crew named Bodkin manage to clamber ashore with the aid of some wooden chairs which they manage to tie together. They manage to stay awake long enough to get ashore on a beach which turned out to be the East coast of Africa. They are then found by a group of natives who take them to their camp. They appear quite threatening and look ready to cause problems so RB shoots the Witch Doctor with a pistol he had managed to keep dry. This certainly calms the situation down as they had never seen such ‘magic’ before.
In exchange for a pistol RB, Clarissa and Bodkin are guided to the nearest town. It takes them 5 days. They are met by a fat Eunuch with a falsetto voice. The Eunuch’s name is Khunsa Bajazet. He tells them that they are in Zanzibar.
After a brief stay they continue their journey and take a ship to Madras. On their arrival at the hotel they just happen to meet up with Mr Winters (Clarissa’s fiance ) son from his first marriage. There is an argument about financial settlement but there is no way of proving that Clarissa had been co-habiting with Winters and RB.
If meeting up with Winters family was a coincidence then meeting up with RB’s schoolboy enemy, George Gunston was astonishing. Things were going reasonably well when Clarissa is suddenly nowhere to be found. RB thinks that she may have gone off with Gunston, (But this makes no real sense).
RB decides to follow where Gunstons troop had headed. RB is captured by soldiers and taken to the Palace of The Raja of Bahna. Gunston is also there. Then, when things couldn’t get any worse Malderini walks into the room. He tells Roger what he intends to do to him and that he intends to sacrifice Clarissa to the Indian form of Baphomet.
RB’s friends manage to get him away from Malderini. He then returns to Gunston to try and get some fortifications to get Clarissa out. He returns with a brigade of Hussars who lay siege to the enemy encampment. RB is able to locate Clarissa who is deathly pale. It transpires that when Clarissa had been under the influence of Malderini, “...she had been taken to a crypt in a small temple. At the far end of the crypt was a cross-legged, hideous, many limbed idol. Roger guessed it was one of the evil God Siva (The Destroyer). Clarissa was ordered to strip, on the hideously cold floor. He then made her stretch herself flat on her back and then he proceeded with his evil rites. It had penetrated her bemused mind that Malderini had laid upon her a very young baby. He held the infants head between her breasts, then cut its throat. Streams of blood had run down to her armpits and across the lower part of her neck. Next, she had felt Malderini’s mouth against her flesh as he guzzled up the blood’. He then said, “I have no more use for you , I shall now become Doge of Venice”
Clarissa tells RB that she is going to die but that she was happy that she had spent five months of heaven with him. She was right, she choked, fell back, twisted then died.
RB was desperate to head back to Venice to kill Malderini. Before he leaves he asks for Clarissa’s hair. Normally this would only be a lock of hair. In this case RB requests all of her hair tied into a rope. After the funeral he travels via Nagpur, Surat, The Red Sea, Suez and Cairo. When he arrives in Venice he waits until Maderini’s wife appears from the palace. He tells her of what has happened in India and asks, “does she still want to be rid of him”? She does but fears his powers. Malderini catches the two of them and after a fracas in the main square and RB ends up being incarcerated in the ‘Leads’ Municipal Jail. He is sentenced to be shot but on the ways to the place of execution they have to wait while a crowd of people who were following ‘Bonaparts’ lady Josephine. Josephine knows RB and requests his freedom. Although, he is now free he now knows that Maderini is playing a’Double Agent’ role and as such RB can’t touch him ....yet! However RB creates a plan that enables Napolean to enjoy Malderini’s wife’s company if she is willing. Which she is; in order to get rid of her husband. RB is also organising a secondary story that will create another political storm by forcing Malderini to capture Bonaparte having abducted his wife.
Malderini is drawn to the rendezvous and RB strangles him............... with Clarissa’s rope of hair
Snippet’s (from the Hutchinson Hardback)
Page 13 - Mr Pitt states,”I’ll wager all Lombard to a china orange .....”. DW has used this term before, in Strange Conflict
Lombard street to a China orange' is a phrase which means very badly stacked odds. (Lombard Street signifying wealth of the Italian Lombard merchants in London and China orange poverty and want)
Page 100 - Clarissa had to be careful that she was not ostracised by being seen in illicit relationships. She would have to beware of having to pay the price of having ’’thrown her shift over the moon’’
There was a very similar term used in The Prisoner in the Mask (see below)
Page 378 Angela uses a strange term which I’ve never heard of before. Whilst pondering how she (A married woman) and Armand can become a couple without damaging their reputations, she tells him that she is quite willing to “throw her shoes over the moon” . After all, why should I not put your happiness and mine before that of my parents. They have had their lives, whereas we still have the best part of ours before us”.
Page 118 – 126 - Info dump on the History of India.
Page 173 - For those of you who may not have read ‘The Eunuch of Stamboul’, the description of this man Khunsa Bajazet is a virtual replica of the Eunuch in this book.
Page 233 - Malderini tells Roger what he intends to do to him and that he intends to sacrifice Clarissa to the Indian form of Baphomet.
Page 296 – ..”Clarissa is suffering from Congestion of the lungs”.
Page 305 - (Apparently cutting the hair from the dead was not unusual during these times!) http://traditionscustoms.com/folk-beliefs/hair-folklore
I thought this was a good book. Not great but good. When I think of old Venice I think of something special with intrigue and disappearing chases through the darkened alleyways. Masked balls and sensuous females in glamourous gowns. Gondolier chases. He didn’t use Venice to anywhere near what it could have been. In fact Venice doesn’t come into this book until page 320 which is throwing away a wonderful opportunity.
However, the twists and turns within the story line were well written. I was upset that Clarissa died. I didn’t expect this. Gunston, was almost human in this story line – will it stay that way?
The shipwreck was also very well done.
The Black Magic scene was very well done and thought provoking but not as effective as The Devil Rides Out. How could it be?