The Seeds of Enchantment

Gilbert Frankau
The Seeds of Enchantment
Being Some Attempt to Narrate the Curious Discoveries of Doctor
Cyprian Beamish, M. D., Glasgow; Commandant Rene De Gys,
Annamite Army, and the Honourable Richard Assheton Smith, in the
Golden Land of Indo-China
by Gilbert Frankau

Garden City, N.Y., and Toronto Doubleday, Page & Company 1921
Copyright, 1921, by Doubleday, Page & Company
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages,
including the scandinavian.
Copyright, I920, by Street and Smith Corporation

being by way of a PREFACE
It is so much the custom nowadays for an author who has achieved
your good will with a particular type of tale to continue in the same
vein until either your patience or his own fertility be exhausted, that I
having been fortunate enough to please you with my "Peter Jameson"
feel a little diffident in following up that romance of everyday life with
what I can only describe as an "adventure story." For such without any
pretence is the present volume.
But, apart from this perfectly natural diffidence, I make no apologies
for the book. The idea of it first came to me many years ago, on a
stifling night in Bangkok, Siam, as I lay sleepless under my muslin

curtains, listening to the fierce bass of the never-still mosquitoes, the
keen tremolo tic-call, tic-call, tic-call of the motionless lizards on walls
and ceiling.
We had spent the evening my Siamese friends and I at the theatre, a
great building of green wood, where European uniforms blazed in the
front rows of stalls, and behind naked to brown waist silent, slitty-eyed
women with short hair, blackened teeth, and curled-back fingertips, sat
nonchalantly suckling their doll-like babies.
A strange playhouse, and a strange play! At this lapse of time I
recollect the audience better than the performers. But I can still hear,
vaguely, the wailing, cat-like music of the chorus; I can still remember
the outlines of a polygamous plot (we married our hero to his three
heroines in the sixth act, and all four lived happily ever after at least so
the triumphant kitten-calls of the betel-chewing bridesmaids led me to
believe); and I can still see, quite clearly, the drop-curtain at which we
stared through five interminable entr'actes that curtain whereon little
men in yellow mail fought with bow and arrow, hamstringing axe, and
stabbingspear, against an enormous elephant the white elephant of
Siam, panoplied to victory in resounding brass.
All night, sleepless, I visioned that drop-curtain and the strange
histories which must have gone to the inspiring of it; and all next week,
as the foul cargo-boat on which I had taken passage crawled weary way
round Indo-China to Saigon, I meditated a shapeless tale; and at
Saigon's self the tale began to take form. For it was there that I first met
him whom I have called "Rene de Gys"; and heard from his bearded
lips the legend of the "white women beyond the mountains."
Many million gallons of water have gone bubbling and swirling down
the Mekong River since that man and I smoked our first pipes together
in the "House of Pu-yi the Yunnanese," since we journeyed idle
globe-trotter with idle explorer to the ruins of Angkor, and lit profaning
camp fires at the feet of those four wasp-waisted deities who still smile,
clear-cut on the enduring sandstone, across the titanic courtyards of the
ancient Khmers. Many adventures have befallen both us and the world;
many thoughts, many experiences have combined to alter my original

conception, since we returned to Saigon, bade one another goodbye
over a last "Rainbow" cocktail at the Cafe Pancrazi.
Yet the tale, in its main outlines, is the same tale which came to me, a
decade ago, from that curious drop-curtain in a Siamese theatre; which
elaborated itself to the deep rumble of "de Gys'" voice among the
cushioned divans of Pu-yi's mansion and below the moon-fretted
buttresses of Angkor Wat. In it you will still find those little men in
yellow mail, and the panoplied elephant they fought with, and the white
women "of de Gys'" imagining (he was, I conceive, a most phenomenal
liar), and not a little of that treasure of Indo- Chinese lore and
geography which in the intervals of picturesque inexactitudes he poured
into my receptive ears. And who knows but what, if only you dip below
the surface of the story, you may find even more than these!
No! I cannot apologize for "The Seeds of Enchantment." Re-correcting
it after many months (I owe conventional thanks to the Editors of the
Popular Magazine of America and the Sovereign of Great Britain, who
have published portions of it serially) I am too conscious of the struggle
and the thought expended in its fashioning for apologies. I
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