An excerpt from the book Perfect End, in order to illustrate both the romance, and the power, of the bow. Never underestimate the deadliness of an experienced archer. 400 pound grizzly bears have been taken with nothing more than a bow and home-made wooden arrows.


William Marshall
Chapter Six

From behind his desk in his book-lined room, Professor Kim, with a self effacing smile, said quietly, `Mr Feiffer, I am extremely flattered that you have sought me out, but I hardly know where you wish me to begin, and in relation to what subject.' Kim, a Korean, was a very old man, so frail and slight he looked as if, beneath his thin suit, he might at any moment be taken away by the stillness of the air, consumed by it, and be turned into the finest white ash. His head a little to one side, still smiling, he said gently, `My field is ancient history, the rest-' he paused to choose a descriptive word and found none to fit `-is merely an interest.'

Feiffer said, `My wife took a course in Chinese Civilization here after she came to the Colony. She mentioned hearing about you.' Kim said, `Oh.' He looked at Feiffer carefully. `But why have you come?' `To try to get information from you about-'

Kim said with a sigh, `About the history of the bow and arrow? The bow and arrow is supposed by most authorities to be about fifty thousand years old and probably invented somewhere in Africa.' He raised his fingers in a helpless gesture, then looked down at the little drawing Feiffer had done for him on a sheet of paper on his desk, `About the remnants of what you believe to be an arrowhead and the flight feathers from an arrow? The arrowhead appears to be made using razor blades for its cutting edges and is based loosely on what could either be the design of a medieval crossbow bolt for hamstringing large animals, a Chinese war arrowhead, or indeed what the Japanese archers used to call a disembowelling arrow.' He gave a little shrug. `Or it is simply what the maker had to hand and he did the best he could with it.' He looked at the drawing of the metal flights. `The flights, as you say, are cut from light metal, again like a crossbow bolt design or again-' He saw Feiffer's face. `There is nothing I can tell you.

Feiffer said, `Do you have a bow here, yourself?'

`Yes.' Kim raised his hand in the direction of a little display stand behind him. `And a collection of arrowheads and various other implements: Greek and Scythian arrowheads, flint arrowheads, one or two English longbow arrowheads, several jade archers' rings and a jade arm bracer from the tomb of a Chinese warrior prince from Szechuan province.' He paused for a moment. `I owned, briefly, several dated Turkish flight bows and, indeed, a particularly well known bow from Korea, but since I have no family to share my'- again he searched for a word - (my interest, they have been donated to various museums in and around Seoul.' Kim said, after another thoughtful pause, `Forgive my ignorance of your profession, Mr Feiffer, but do detectives in Hong Kong carry guns?'

Feiffer said, `Yes.' There was something strange happening to him. He had felt it all the way up the stairs to the old man's study. He felt somehow uneasy, unfulfilled. For some totally unaccountable reason he said with a grin, `I've got a friend at the moment who is seriously thinking of giving everything up and fleeing to the backwoods and-' The whole thing was crazy. Feiffer said, `I think I'm wasting your time.'

Kim, with the faintest of smiles, said, `No.' He asked, `What was it your wife said?'

Feiffer, embarrassed, said, `Nothing. Nothing at all.' `What is it you wish to know?' Professor Kim said abruptly. `You wish to know nothing about the bow and arrow because you already know as much as I could tell you from your own experts. The information I gave you about the arrowhead you already knew' - he paused for a moment with a strange look on his face -'And if as a child you made a bow yourself from a stick and a length of string...'

Feiffer said, `No. I never did. I was brought up here and I-' It seemed in retrospect very odd, `-I never had the opportunity.'

Professor Kim said evenly, `Mr Feiffer, when people are shot, what do they do?'

`Shot with a gun?' Feiffer said, shrugging, `Well, they ... they fall over.'

`Always?' Professor Kim leaned forward slightly at his desk, looking interested.

`Well, it depends on where you shoot them.'

`Oh?' Kim thought about it for a moment, `How do you know that?'

`Well, I-' Feiffer said warily, `Well, unfortunately, I've-' He said suddenly, `Are you saying that whoever killed all those people in the station had done it before?'

`I am saying nothing.' Professor Kim said, `All I asked was whether you, as a person who had experience with - various events -would know what would happen if you were to plan to repeat those events.'

'Are you saying the man's a professional killer? With a bow and arrow?'

Professor Kim said, `Now, perhaps you are asking me the question for which you came: is such a stupid little plaything as a bow the weapon of a grown man?'

`Well, naturally, I know it is-'

Professor Kim said, `Do you? Do you think that if a man carrying a bow and arrow walked into your own police station you would consider the situation so potentially serious that, using your own gun, knowing that your gun had the undoubted potential to-'

Feiffer said, `No, I wouldn't take him seriously.'

Professor Kim said quietly, `From what I read in the newspapers, no doubt, in the first instance the policeman who saw him-'

Feiffer said, `The man at the front desk.'

`-no doubt he failed to take him seriously too.' From somewhere behind his desk Kim produced something in a long leather case, `Inside this case is a bow. In fact, a Chinese war bow of the late nineteenth century, used during the Boxer Rebellion and belonging to the Museum here.' He asked, `What is your first reaction to it?'

Feiffer said, `Curiosity.' He reached out to take the case but Kim pulled it away.

Kim said, `Why? It is nothing more than a length of very plain wood with a piece of string attached to it at both ends.' He asked, `Answer me quickly: what image does it cast up in your mind?'

Feiffer, his eyes glued to the long case, said without thinking, `Power.'

`Your own gun is no doubt considerably more powerful.' Kim, his eyes suddenly bright, said intensely, `When a man shoots with the bow, it is his own vigour of body that drives the arrow and his own mind that controls the missile's flight. The bow is the first lyre, the monochord, the initial rune of fine art.' He paused, still quoting, his voice firm and unwavering, `So long as the new moon returns in heaven a bent, beautiful bow, so long the fascination of archery will keep hold of the hearts of men.' Professor Kim said quietly, with a smile, `That was written by an American, not a Zen Buddhist or a mystic, not even a teacher of ancient history, but I have never heard it said better.' He handed the bow case to Feiffer and watched as he quickly undid the buckle and drew from it a long recurved length of dark-patina-ed wood and sinew.

Professor Kim said, `You have come here with a vague dark longing from the past of your ancestors. You have come here to learn something about the mind of the archer, the man with the bow -the man you fear, who, if you find him, you will be up against with your puny, crude little pistol.' Professor Kim, taking the length of wood from Feiffer's reluctant hand said quietly, `As a matter of fact I remember your wife. Her name, if my memory serves me, is Nicola and once, with a friend she was in here doing research in my library when I drew this bow to test it.' Holding the bow very gently like a living creature, Kim asked without any trace of vanity, `Tell me, what did she say about my drawing it?'

Feiffer said quietly, still gazing at the weapon that more than any other all over the world had given barbaric man mastery of the great and previously unconquerable forces that inhabited it, `She said it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life.' O'Yee, thou shouldst be living at this hour... Feiffer said, `Please, would you show me ... how it's done?'

Kim, rising, a very old man holding the long weapon firmly in his two hands and stringing it in a single movement so that the wood and sinew hummed with sudden pent-up primal power, said softly, `Yes.' Moving to the centre of the long room, he set his feet astride and, drawing a long, calming breath, said in a whisper, `It would be my delight to do so.'

There was a thick mahogany lectern at the end of the room some thirty feet away, and Kim, reaching down into the bowcase and selecting a long feathered arrow and fitting it to the string, indicated it with an outstretched finger and, for a long moment, stood motionless, contemplating it in silence.

Kim said, `A thought, an idea ... the loosing of the arrow is nothing but...' His entire body was within the bow, the great wood straining and tensing with the power of the string drawn back to his ear. His body was immovable, rock hard, powerful and young. Feiffer saw his eyes bright and yet at the same time glazed with hard, bright pleasure, the arrow feathers like a butterfly, like the birds of the air, held back, poising for the air and sky and freedom, the sharp, shining arrowhead trembling slightly against the belly of the bow, aiming, pointing, ready: man's mastery.

Kim said, almost to himself, `The mind and the body...' Feiffer saw, ever so imperceptibly, his hand on the great bow relaxing, becoming at one with the wood and the motion, his fingers on the shaft of the arrow beginning, ever so minutely, to move, the moment coming, coming...

There was a shattering thump! from somewhere at the end of the room and then the arc of wood and string was gone, the symmetry of man and bent wood changing, becoming still, returning to...

He heard the man sigh, with the lowering bow, for his strength and his youth, and, his mouth gone dry, it was a long time in the silent, timeless room before he could bring himself to look at anything so mundane as the undoubtedly shattered lectern.

A whisper, an echo, something happening from a long time ago.

Feiffer's hands on his lap were still.

It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life. He looked at Kim's face as he turned to him with the bow still in his hands and, shaking his head, found that, in common shared humanity - the stuff of ancient history that in school he had found so incredibly boring he had wanted to sleep through it - there was absolutely nothing else between them that needed saying.