Bulldog and Rats
A Fantômas Detective Novel
The indomitable Inspector Juve and his sidekick Fandor are rescued after crash landing an airplane in the English Channel, and from there proceed to London to continue their never-ending pursuit of Fantômas. But Fandor, in love with Helene, the daughter of Fantômas, becomes the target of the Lord of Terror’s ire, who has sworn to prevent their marriage by any gruesome and appalling means necessary.
“From the imaginative standpoint Fantômas is one of the richest works that exist.”
“Absurd and magnificent lyricism.”
- A Bluff
- An Escape
- A Council of War
- Juve and His Friends
- An English Colleague
- There Are Pleasantries and Pleasantries
- Fantômas’ Library
- Fandor Is Wrong and Right
- Fandor’s Unscrupulousness
- On Board the Volunteer
- The Tempter
- The Fate of Juve
- An Appalling Alternative
- Juve Makes His Choice
- A Tragicomedy
- Bouzille Redeems His Character
1. A Bluff
“Yes, I heard this much—that I couldn’t hear.”
“Our engine stopped.”
“But it started afresh, Fandor.”
“I know that, but there was a stoppage! Oh God, suppose the petrol runs out! You astound me, Juve.”
“Really? Why, my lad?”
“Because you keep so abominably cool.”
“Would you have me tear my hair?”
“I would rather have you devise something.”
“Something to get us out of the mess.”
“You ask too much, Fandor.”
“But, Juve, your ingenuity…”
“Don’t mention it…”
“My genius won’t refill a tank that’s run dry.”
“Done for, then? We’re done for, Juve, eh?”
“What’s the good of asking? You know that as mil as I do.”
“True! But I think I’m more worried about it than you are”—and Fandor gave a nervous laugh. Yes, undoubtedly the opinion the journalist had just stated seemed justified by the facts. Finding himself along with Juve aboard an airplane floating above the stormy waves of the Channel, knowing that their stock of petrol was coming to an end, observing as he leaned over the side Fantômas’ submarine waiting there for the fall of the plane that was bound to follow, Fandor might well assume that he and his companion were inevitably “done for.”
Nonetheless he exaggerated in surmising that their appalling position affected himself more deeply than it did the police officer. The fact was neither Fandor nor Juve were susceptible to fear. Nor, indeed, could either one or the other be surprised at the tragic fate that manifestly threatened them both.
For years now they had fought the Lord of Terror; for years they had pursued the scoundrel at the peril of their lives. Obviously the struggle was bound to end in a decisive victory or a no less definite defeat. If Fate, then, declared against them, had they any call to feel surprise? Had they not themselves invited the dreadful doom that was about to overtake them?
“Juve,” Fandor went on again, “I’m asking myself a question…”
“Yes, my boy?”
“Is Fantômas going to leave us to drown or will he rescue us to kill us by slow degrees?”
“A silly question, Fandor.”
“But I say it is. To die in one fashion or another is simply to die.”
“Agreed, but the circumstances do matter.”
“The main point is that the villain will be triumphant, free and ready to commit fresh atrocities”—and for once Juve’s voice trembled, betraying a trace of horror. Plainly enough, to die meant nothing to him; but to leave the victory to Fantômas was a torture beyond bearing.
“Well, think of something,” mocked the journalist.
“I have thought of it,” retorted Juve. “You’re just clumsy.”
“I repeat, clumsy. It’s your business to save our lives.”
“By planing down, Fandor. When the petrol’s done, they plane down—so there.”
“Devil take it, you’re quite right. Only…”
“Only you don’t know the trick, eh?”
“True for you, Juve. I don’t know how; it’s all I can do not to capsize the show.”
“You’re just a duffer, Fandor.”
“You make me ashamed of myself, Juve… Whoa, the engine!”
“Leave the engine alone!”
“Oh, never fear, old man! It’s the engine’s going to leave us alone… It’s stopping! Stopping dead!”
Indeed, the fact was beyond dispute. Bit by bit the motor seemed to lose its power. There were constant stoppages; the engine was, in pilots’ phrase, misfiring atrociously. The level of the petrol in the reservoir being too low, the stroke of the engine was becoming more and more irregular.”
“Going precious badly,” observed Fandor with a smile.
“And you laugh?”
“My good man, it adds a certain grace; I take it we mustn’t go crying at our own funeral.”
“Very good… As a matter of fact, how long do you suppose we shall manage to keep up?”
“Five or six minutes, perhaps.”
“Suppose you get a bit higher, for planing down?”
“How you run on!… Get a bit higher, eh? But I don’t know how to set about it, not I… On the contrary, we’re losing height all the time”—and Fandor spoke truly. A novice, an amateur of the moment, he was perfectly right in declaring his ignorance of how to manage his craft. To keep her on an even keel, to check her capsizing, to keep her going, was the utmost he could do. But any more complicated maneuver was beyond his power.
“You’re a clumsy fellow,” reiterated Juve quietly.
“Do better yourself, then, my fine friend.”
“Not I. I prefer to keep an eye on Fantômas.”
“He’s still there, eh?”
“Yes, still there.”
“Waiting for us, by gad!”
“Not a doubt of it; he has only to wait; he knows very well we’re bound at last to fall into his hands.”
Leaning over the edge of the fuselage, the police officer was gazing down at the surface of the waves, two hundred yards below the machine. Her long, black hull was almost indistinguishable amid the tumbling billows, but her position could yet be dimly made out by reason of the line of her foaming wake.
Alas! if marvels of courage, Juve and Fandor, in a few moments to meet the most terrible of deaths, had found courage to jest, what must be the joy of Fantômas, the cruel ruffian, the hideous torturer, who, risking nothing, assured of victory, was calmly awaiting the instant when his two most mortal foes would meet their doom! Juve! Fandor!—must he not at this tragic hour be tasting a horrid delight in watching their agony?
For Fantômas it was a triumph, certain and assured. For this monstrous criminal, who held the whole world spellbound under the glamour of his foul genius, the sure promise of immunity, the voice, calm and controlled, rose clear above the howling of the wind.
“Yes, done for! Goodbye, Fandor.”
“Goodbye, my gallant Juve.”
“To die together—a consolation that.”
“Yes, Juve—and to know that we have done our duty.”
After that, for some seconds, they said no more. Such was the fury of the wind that beat about them that both were panting, breathless, bewildered.
“About Fantômas,” questioned Fandor presently; fully occupied as he was with the control of his machine, he could not turn round nor yet lean over to look.
But Juve had caught the words. “Still there,” he reported; “partly submerged, that’s all.”
Whirled on by the blustering wind, the two men were now struck dumb, giddy, incapable of thought. Below them, meantime, making mock of the angry waves, rolling in mighty crests and deep hollows, the pirate submarine was steadily pursuing her course. She could be seen cutting through the mountainous billows, plunging into the whirling eddies, disappearing altogether, only to come to the surface again a little further on.
The very elements were Fantômas’ allies. Aboard the vessel the arch-villain ran no risk. If the fury of the waves grew too violent, he could, of course, submerge altogether. Less than six fathoms beneath the surface the greatest storms are entirely unfelt. And what real need was there for him to keep watch on the shattered airplane, whose engine was now slackening more and more, stopping fitfully, then starting afresh, bound before long to come to a complete standstill.
“Juve!” bawled Fandor suddenly.
“Yes?” demanded the police officer.
“I can do no more… Suppose we dived too, eh?”
No need at this moment for Juve to ask an explanation of the young man’s words. It merely meant that, beaten by the storm, Fandor proposed to end the useless struggle. Death was there—certain, inevitable; why prolong the agony they were enduring? Why not let the machine crash here and now and plunge into the waves that would inevitably engulf it in a few brief moments?
But thereupon Juve started to crawl to where Fandor sat in the cockpit, at sore risk of being pitched from the fuselage by some wild plunge of the machine.
“No, no!” he protested.
“Why, Juve? Why?”
“Struggle on; we must fight on to the end.”
“We have no petrol left, Juve!”
“But yes—we have a few drops left.”
“I cannot keep her going any longer.”
“I say yes, you can.”
“We are lost, Juve—lost!”
A silence—one of those silences that seem eternities… Then, in wild tones, Juve’s voice bellowed:
“No, we are saved!”—and he pointed to a point on the horizon. “There!… There!…”
And Fandor, too, saw… There, in the direction Juve had indicated, away on the horizon, appearing and disappearing, smothered in the foam of the dancing waves, a steam vessel was fighting her way against the billows.
“Oh!” was all the journalist found to say. But all the same, his common sense realized how impossible it was this could mean safety. In such tempestuous weather was a rescue practicable, indeed, had they even been seen from the vessel? And for themselves, could they keep aloft till the steamer would be able to pick them up?
Simultaneously Juve likewise was reasoning in the same strain. Presently:
“Too late!” he groaned; “it is too late, Fandor. Have us down into the sea.”
But this time it was Fandor who protested.
“Never, Juve, never!”—and he went on, in confident, ironical tones:
“Duty, Juve… To struggle on to the end, to fight to the last drop of petrol, to fight to the death.”
The two men said no more. When the stormy elements are let loose against two stubborn wills, the battle is superb and tragic.
Half dismembered, the wings holed in many places, sundry of the controls torn away and broken, the airplane seemed quite beyond management. But by now Fandor was at grips with Fate, firmly resolved to win the day.
“We will fly to the vessel,” he kept telling himself; “we will fly to the vessel, we will!” It was like a refrain, an imperative word of command he gave himself, an order he was resolved to obey, even if it meant fighting against the impossible. How glorious these last few moments of this tragic flight! As if bent on triumphing over this great bird of wood and canvas, the hurricane grew more terrible than ever. The machine reared and plunged and recovered its balance, tossed by the tempest every way, often half-overset, twenty times brought back to equilibrium by Fandor. Meantime, blinded by the hail, his hands bleeding and benumbed, the pilot hardly knew sometimes what he was doing. Then, from behind him, Juve’s eager voice sounded:
“Hold on, Fandor! Keep a good heart!”
But the encouragement was hardly needed; Fandor was not the man ever to confess himself beaten. In spite of the wind, in spite of sudden squalls that now and again brought him to a halt, at times forced him backwards, Fandor was making his way towards the steamer.
“A ship of war!” sang out Juve. “A torpedo boat! A Frenchman, I think!” Then, before long, with a shout of triumph: “They have seen us! They have seen us!”
Flags were being hauled up along the mast, signals that unfortunately neither Juve nor Fandor could read, but which certainly signified offers of help.
“Oh, the gallant fellows!” Juve was now thinking. “Yet they themselves are in danger.”
For indeed, in this heavy sea, the little vessel was rolling and pitching terrifically; at times she would disappear altogether amid the foaming breakers that broke against her hull. Yet she never failed to reappear, the black smoke pouring in torrents from her smokestack.
“They have seen us! They have seen us!”—but Juve had no time to add another word. Suddenly a yet fiercer blast of air struck the airplane, and the engine stopped altogether.
“Hold on, Juve!”
“Look out, Fandor!”
Now the machine, at the mercy of the winds, was falling, falling; then, spinning like a dead leaf, it crashed. Next second, with a stunning shock, it met the surface of the stormy sea. Another second and two panting voices could be heard:
“Present—all present at the roll-call! But, oh God, this is a cold bath!”
The incorrigible journalist was mocking at Fate, when a wave tossed him over like a cork and cut him short. Still clinging to the wreck of their machine, the two men reappeared next moment on the surface.
“Hold tight, Juve!”
“Never fear, Fandor!”
“They must have seen us come down.”
“Yes… but will they be able to pick us up?”
“And Fantômas, Juve?”
“A moment ago the submarine dived.”
“Look out, Juve! Look!…”
They spoke in broken phrases, the angry surges interrupting their words as they swept over them, rolled them over and over, dashed them against the wreck, which they seemed resolved to destroy and break up and tear to pieces.
No doubt Fantômas was no longer to be feared. Submarines are certainly wonderful craft, but, for all that, they do no while on the surface possess seagoing qualities of a high order. In danger, therefore, of shipwreck, or at any rate of suffering serious damage, Fantômas had been forced to make up his mind to submerge. And was he not convinced of the inevitable death of his two enemies? Had he for one moment suspected the presence of a ship of war capable of affording them help?
Then a huge wave broke. Buried under a mountain of water, the wrecked airplane disappeared, broken and shattered worse than ever. Yet, when it once more rose to the surface, when recovering breath a little, Juve and Fandor opened their eyes, they cried with one voice:
“There! Look there!”—and the agony of their suspense grew more intense than ever.
(End of excerpt from Chapter 1 of Bulldog and Rats)
This Antipodes edition, first published in 2017, is a republication of the work first published by Stanley Paul & Co, London, in 1928. The original translation has been altered to reflect modern spelling and usage.
Antipodes books are distributed worldwide by Ingram Content Group