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Xander77
Apr 6, 2009

Fuck it then. For another pit sandwich and some 'tater salad, I'll post a few more.




Xander77 posted:

I'm not exactly a huge fan of the glorious Romanov dynasty, but it's important to note Fraiser is only expressing disgust with the dreary landscapes of the Russian empire and its ape-like common folk because that's the political enemy du jour. Had he lived to present day, he would just as happily be castigating the barbarous and cunningly cruel Arabs, who would menace Flashman with the scimitars and kidnap his lady for their harem.
As an aside, I'm reasonably sure the "white terror" (in Russia) is a civil-war thing, and the secret police (which was never particularly active in remote villages for very obvious reasons) as a whole was never referred to in this manner.

As for "at least in jail you don't live in constant terror of being arrested" - it's a common refrain in revolutionary memoirs, but probably not a major concern for mid 19th century provincials.

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Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Flashman finally meets Pencherjevsky at dinner, and finds him a huge man who “made me think of Jack and the Beanstalk,” loud, hearty, overbearing, and undoubtedly played by Brian Blessed if there was ever a movie version. He's officially introduced to Valentina and her aunt, Sara, as well.

quote:

I spared a glance for Aunt Sara as well. She’d be a few years older than I, about thirty-five, perhaps, with dark, close-bound hair and one of those strong, masterful, chiselled faces—handsome, but not beautiful. She’d have a moustache in a few years, but she was well-built and tall, carrying her bounties before her.

The food is excellent and Flashman enjoys the company. Pencherjevsky asks Flashman for details about the fighting at Balaclava, and then demonstrates on the tablecloth how he would have handled it; he's full of admiration for the British, especially Scarlett and the Heavy Brigade, and contemptuous of the Russian commanders.

Pencherjevsky also mentions Valentina's husband, and makes it clear he doesn't think much of the guy – he passed out drunk at the wedding after only a glass or two of vodka. And while he's in the fighting in Crimea, he's an artilleryman and doesn't even ride well, which a born-in-the-saddle Cossack like Pencherjevsky considers unthinkable.

quote:

I found myself liking Pencherjevsky. He was gross, loud, boisterous—boorish, if you like, but he was worth ten of your proper gentlemen, to me at any rate. I got roaring drunk with him, that evening, after the ladies had retired—they were fairly tipsy, themselves, and arguing at the tops of their voices about dresses as they withdrew to their drawing-room—and he sang Russian hunting songs in that glorious organ voice, and laughed himself sick trying to learn the words of “The British Grenadiers”. I flatter myself he took to me enormously—folk often do, of course, particularly the coarser spirits—for he swore I was a credit to my regiment and my country, and God should send the Tsar a few like me.

“Then we should sweep you English bastards into the sea!” he roared. “A few of your Scarletts and Flashmans and Carragans—that is the name, no?—that is all we need!”

The next few weeks pass pleasantly for Flashman. He's allowed nearly total freedom as he learns Russian, goes for rides around the country, and gets to know the family better.

quote:

All mighty pleasant—until you discovered that the civility and good nature were no deeper than a May frost, the thin covering on totally alien beings. For all their apparent civilization, and even good taste, the barbarian was just under the surface, and liable to come raging out.

One evening, when Flashman is playing chess against the Count and the women are playing cards, Valentina calls her maid in and has her long red hair cut off, giving it to her aunt to pay off a bet.

quote:

“Ah, how pretty!” says she, and shrugged, and tossed them over to Aunt Sara, who stroked them, and said:

“Shall I keep them for a wig, or sell them? Thirty roubles in Moscow or St Petersburg.” And she held them up in the light, considering.

“More than Vera is worth now, at any rate,” says Valla, carelessly. Then she jumped up, ran across to Pencherjevsky, and put her arms round his shaggy neck from behind, blowing in his ear. “Father, may I have fifty roubles for a new maid?”

Pencherjevsky grumbles but gives in, only warning his daughter to be more careful playing cards from now on.

quote:

I’ve a strong stomach, as you know, but I’ll admit that turned it—not the disfigurement of a pretty girl, you understand, although I didn’t hold with that, much, but the cheerful unconcern with which they did it—those two cultured ladies, in that elegant room, as though they had been gaming for sweets or counters. And now Valla was leaning on her father’s shoulder, gaily urging him on to victory, and Sara was running the hair idly through her hands, while the kneeling girl bowed her pathetically shorn head to the floor and then followed the housekeeper from the room. Well, thinks I, they’d be a rage in London society, these two. You may have noticed, by the way, that the cost of a maid was fifty roubles, of which her hair was worth thirty.

Of course, they didn’t think of her as human. I’ve told you something of the serfs already, and most of that I learned firsthand on the Pencherjevsky estate, where they were treated as something worse than cattle. The more fortunate of them lived in the outbuildings and were employed about the house, but most of them were down in the village, a filthy, straggling place of log huts, called isbas, with entrances so low you had to stoop to go in. They were foul, verminous hovels, consisting of just one room, with a huge bed bearing many pillows, a big stove, and a “holy corner” in which there were poor, garish pictures of their saints.

Their food was truly fearful—rye bread for the most part, and cabbage soup with a lump of fat in it, salt cabbage, garlic stew, coarse porridge, and for delicacies, sometimes a little cucumber or beetroot. And those were the well-fed ones. Their drink was as bad—bread fermented in alcohol which they call qvass (“it’s black, it’s thick, and it makes you drunk,” as they said), and on special occasions vodka, which is just poison. They’ll sell their souls for brandy, but seldom get it.

Flashman calls the serfs “oppressed, dirty, brutish, useless people – just like the Irish, really, but without the gaiety.” He describes attending one of Pencherjevsky's court sessions, where he hands out justice to serfs who have misbehaved:

quote:

There was an iron collar for a woman whose son had run off, and floggings, either with the cudgel or the whip, for several who had neglected their labouring in Pencherjevsky’s fields. There was Siberia for a youth employed to clean windows at the house, who had started work too early and disturbed Valla, and for one of the maids who had dropped a dish. You will say, “Ah, here’s Flashy pulling the long bow”, but I’m not, and if you don’t believe me, ask any professor of Russian history.

Pencherjevsky doesn't see anything wrong with this system: he's proud to have given his serfs “a stone church, with a blue dome and gilt stars” that's better than most villages', and he says they respect that he gives them “strict justice, under the law.” He says the serfs are stupid, idle, and lazy, and would be unable to fend for themselves without his leadership. Serf revolts were a regular feature of Russian life at the time, but not on Pencherjevsky's estate – he has his Cossacks to keep order and, as he tells Flashman, he never touches a serf woman.

quote:

From him I learned of the peculiar laws governing the serfs—how they might be free if they could run away for ten years, how some of them were allowed to leave the estates and work in the towns, provided they sent a proportion of earnings to their master; how some of these serfs became vastly rich—richer than their masters, sometimes, and worth millions—but still could not buy their freedom unless he wished. Some serfs even owned serfs. It was an idiotic system, of course, but the landowners were all for it, and even the humanitarian ones believed that if it were changed, and political reforms allowed, the country would dissolve in anarchy. I daresay they were right, but myself I believe it will happen anyway; it was starting even then, as Pencherjevsky admitted.

“The agitators are never idle,” says he. “You have heard of the pernicious German-Jew, Marx?” (I didn’t like to tell him Marx had been at my wedding, as an uninvited guest.) “He vomits his venom over Europe—aye, he and other vile rascals like him would spread their poison even to our country if they could. Praise God the moujiks are unlettered folk—but they can hear, and our cities crawl with revolutionary criminals of the lowest stamp. What do they understand of Russia, these filth? What do they seek to do but ruin her? And yet countries like your own give harbour to such creatures, to brew their potions of hate against us! Aye, and against you, too, if you could only see it! You think to encourage them, for the downfall of your enemies, but you will reap the wild wind also, Colonel Flashman!”

The part about Marx being at Flashy's wedding is, as you may remember, a reference to his wedding to Duchess Irma in Royal Flash.

But as much as he enjoys life on Pencherjevsky's estate, Flashman starts getting increasingly bored and homesick as time goes on.

quote:

The thing that bored me most, needless to say, was being without a woman. I tried my hand with Valla, when we got to know each other and I had decided she wasn’t liable to run squealing to her father. By George, she didn’t need to. I gave her bottom a squeeze, and she laughed at me and told me she was a respectable married woman; taking this as an invitation I embraced her, at which she wriggled and giggled, puss-like, and then hit me an atrocious clout in the groin with her clenched fist, and ran off, laughing. I walked with a crouch for days, and decided that these Russian ladies must be treated with respect.

Hey, any woman who punches Harry Flashman in the crotch can't be all bad.

Xander77
Apr 6, 2009

Fuck it then. For another pit sandwich and some 'tater salad, I'll post a few more.




So Flashman is writing his memoirs before 1861? Because that's when serfdom was abolished.

...

Can't recall any major serf rebellions during the 19th century offhand.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Xander77 posted:

So Flashman is writing his memoirs before 1861? Because that's when serfdom was abolished.

...

Can't recall any major serf rebellions during the 19th century offhand.

Well, he's writing his memoirs in terms of what he thought at that time the books were set. And this one is set in late 1854 or so at this point.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



East, meanwhile, passes the time writing to Tom Brown, who's now a farmer in New Zealand. Flashy reads part of the letter when East isn't around:

quote:

“…I don’t know what to think of Flashman. He is very well liked by all in the house, the Count especially, and I fear that little Valla admires him, too—it would be hard not to, I suppose, for he is such a big, handsome fellow. (Good for you, Scud; carry on.) I say I fear—because sometimes I see him looking at her, with such an ardent expression, and I remember the kind of brute he was at Rugby, and my heart sinks for her fair innocence. Oh, I trust I am wrong! I tell myself that he has changed—how else did the mean, cowardly, spiteful, bullying toady (steady, now, young East) become the truly brave and valiant soldier that he now undoubtedly is? But I do fear, just the same; I know he does not pray, and that he swears, and has evil thoughts, and that the cruel side of his nature is still there. Oh, my poor little Valla—but there, old fellow, I mustn’t let my dark suspicions run away with me. I must think well of him, and trust that my prayers will help to keep him true, and that he will prove, despite my doubts, to be an upright, Christian gentleman at last.”

You know, the advantage to being a wicked bastard is that everyone pesters the Lord on your behalf; if volume of prayers from my saintly enemies means anything, I’ll be saved when the Archbishop of Canterbury is damned. It’s a comforting thought.

In late January, Valentina's husband, “an amiable, studious little chap,” comes home on leave for a week, with the news that the siege of Sevastopol is still going on. Pencherjevsky clearly can't stand him, barely talks to him, and spends the visit drinking heavily (even by Russian standards.)

Shortly after he leaves, Aunt Sara invites Flashman to take a steam bath (“the sovereign remedy against our long winters”).

quote:

It was a big log structure, divided down the middle by a high partition, and in the half where we stood was a raised wooden slab, like a butcher’s block, surrounded by a trench in the floor. Presently the serfs came in, carrying on metal stretchers great glowing stones which they laid in the trench; the heat was terrific, and Aunt Sara explained to me that you lay on the slab, naked, while the minions outside poured cold water through openings at the base of the wall, which exploded into steam when it touched the stones.

Flashy undresses and lies down while the servants dump in the water and fill the room with the steam: “hellish hot and clammy, but not unpleasant.” As he rolls over, Aunt Sara reenters, now wrapped in a sheet and with a handful of birch twigs.

quote:

And then, in that steam-heat, she began to birch me, very lightly at first, up the backs of my legs and to my shoulders, and then back again, harder and harder all the time, until I began to yelp. More steam came belching up, and she turned me over and began work on my chest and stomach. I was fairly interested by now, for mildly painful though it was, it was distinctly stimulating.

“Now, for me,” says she, and motioned me to get up and take the birches. “Russian ladies often use nettles,” says she, and for once her voice was unsteady. “I prefer the birch—it is stronger.” And in a twinkling she was out of her sheet and face down on the slab. I was having a good gloat down at that long, strong, naked body, when the damned serfs blotted everything out with steam again, so I lashed away through the murk, belabouring her vigorously; she began to moan and gasp, and I went at it like a man possessed, laying on so that the twigs snapped, and as the steam cleared again she rolled over on her back, mouth open and eyes staring, and reached out to seize hold of me, pumping away at me and gasping:

“Now! Now! For me! Pajalsta! I must have! Now! Pajalsta!”

Now, I can recognize a saucy little flirt when I see one, so I gave her a few last thrashes and leaped aboard, nearly bursting. God, it must have been months—so in my perversity, I had to tease her, until she dragged me down, sobbing and scratching at my back, and we whaled away on that wet slab, with the steam thundering round us, and she writhed and grappled fit to dislocate herself, until I began to fear we would slither off on to the hot stones. And when I lay there, utterly done, she slipped away and doused me with a bucket of cold water—what with one thing and another, I wonder I survived that bath.

Mind you, I felt better for it; barbarians they may be, but the Russians have some excellent institutions, and I remain grateful to Sara—undoubtedly my favourite aunt.

Aunt Sara had other motives than boredom, however, which Flashman discovers the day after. Pencherjevsky invites him for a ride out, and starts to talk in a rambling fashion about the history of the Cossacks. He talks about his regret about never having a son, and says that he wishes Flashman didn't have a wife and child of his own back in England so he could stay, and maybe give him a grandson. He dismisses his son-in-law with disgust – he hasn't even gotten Valentina pregnant yet.

And then Pencherjevsky gets to the point:

quote:

“There must be a man to follow me here! I am too old now, there are no children left in me, or I would marry again. Valla, my lovely child, is my one hope—but she is tied to this…this empty thing, and I see her going childless to her grave. Unless…” He was gnawing at his lip, and his face was terrific. “Unless…she can bear me a grandson. It is all I have to live for! To see a Pencherjevsky who will take up this inheritance when I am gone—be his father who he will, so long as he is a man! It cannot be her husband, so…If it is an offence against God, against the Church, against the law—I am a Cossack, and we were here before God or the Church or the law! I do not care! I will see a male grandchild of mine to carry my line, my name, my land—and if I burn in hell for it, I shall count it worth the cost! At least a Pencherjevsky shall rule here—what I have built will not be squandered piecemeal among the rabble of that fellow’s knock-kneed relatives! A man shall get my Valla a son!”

(…)

“You can get sons—you have done so,” he croaked, his livid face beside mine. “You have a child in England—and Sara has proved you also. When the war is over, you will leave here, and go to England, far away. No one will ever know—but you and I!"

Flashman asks if Valentina would be willing, but Pencherjevsky says his daughter will obey him in this. Flashy knows better than to refuse, so he stays quiet and allows Pencherjevsky and Sara to make the arrangements.

quote:

I sallied forth at midnight, and feeling not unlike a prize bull at the agricultural show—“’ere ’e is, ladies’n’ gennelmen, Flashman Buttercup the Twenty-first of Horny Bottom Farm(.)”

He finds Valentina surprisingly ready to welcome him -- maybe she's tired of the winter too. Flashman pays many more visits to Valentina's room in the nights to come – just to make sure, you know – to the point he starts to feel like they're actually married. East, meanwhile, seems to suspect something is up, but doesn't know what.

But East, unlike Flashman, also has military duty on his mind. Over the winter, there have been occasional military visitors to Starotorsk, because the nearby town is an important way camp for troops heading to Crimea, so Pencherjevsky hosts the officers and nobles passing through. During those visits, Flashman and East are kept in their rooms with a Cossack guard. Sometimes there are even conferences held in the house. The guard sometimes sleeps on the job, so East speculates about the possibility of listening in to gather information that might be useful to the British leadership. Flashman denounces the idea as dishonorable and ungentlemanly (by which he means dangerous, and likely to disrupt this cushy vacation from the war), but East says they haven't given parole, so why not?

A couple weeks after Flashman starts making his nighttime visits to Valentina, multiple carriages start arriving at the estate. East and Flashman are sent to their rooms again, but they can hear lots of people moving around downstairs, and from the window they spot Pencherjevsky in full dress uniform, so it's clear someone really important is coming to Starotorsk. The Brits are kept in their rooms for three days, with the guard especially watchful. On the third day, Valentina visits them to play cards, and makes it wordlessly clear to Flashy that she's getting bored again and expects him to visit that night.

And when Flashman sticks his head out the door later on, the Cossack guard is drunk and sleeping. Flashy sneaks past him and into Valentina's room, and sneaks back a few hours later.

quote:

So I kissed her a long good-night, with endearments, resumed my night-shirt, squeezed her bouncers again for luck, and toddled out into the cold, along her corridor, down the little stairs to the landing—and froze in icy shock against the wall on the second step, my heart going like a hammer.

There was someone on the landing. I could hear him, and then see him by the dim light from the far corridor where my room lay. He was crouched by the archway, listening, a man in a nightshirt, like myself. With a wrenching inward sigh, I realized that it could only be East.

East immediately assumes that Flashman has been eavesdropping as well, and quickly moves from the landing to a gallery overlooking the library. Flashy follows, trying silently to get East to turn back. Once in the gallery, which is concealed by a carved screen, they can clearly hear what's being said below. Despite Flashy's best efforts, East won't be budged, so they just lie there and listen. At first, it's just chatter about various organizational details that aren't relevant to the war.

quote:

I became conscious of a rather tired, hoarse, but well-bred voice speaking in the library, and one word that he used froze me where I lay, ears straining:

“So that is the conclusion of our agenda? Good. We are grateful to you, gentlemen. You have laboured well, and we are well pleased with the reports you have laid before us. There is Item Seven, of course,” and the voice paused. “Late as it is, perhaps Count Ignatieff would favour us with a resume of the essential points again."

Flashman freezes at the mention of Ignatieff, and peers through the screen to see who's down there.

quote:

At the far end, facing us, Ignatieff was standing, very spruce and masterful in his white uniform; behind him there was the huge easel, covered with maps. On the side to his left was a stout, white-whiskered fellow in a blue uniform coat frosted with decorations—a marshal if ever I saw one. Opposite him, on Ignatieff’s right, was a tall, bald, beak-nosed civilian, with his chin resting on his folded hands. At the end nearest us was a highbacked chair whose wings concealed the occupant, but I guessed he was the last speaker, for an aide seated at his side was saying:

“Is it necessary, majesty? It is approved, after all, and I fear your majesty is over-tired already. Perhaps tomorrow…”

“Let it be tonight,” says the hidden chap, and his voice was dogweary. “I am not as certain of my tomorrows as I once was. And the matter is of the first urgency. Pray proceed, Count.”

As the aide bowed I was aware of East craning to squint back at me. His face was a study and his lips silently framed the words: “Tsar? The Tsar?”

Selachian fucked around with this message at 17:35 on Aug 9, 2020

Genghis Cohen
Jun 29, 2013


I always thought that was one of the more obviously pulpy plot hooks in the series. The villainous Ruskis hatching their dastardly schemes even discuss the fact that there are British officers staying who may find out what's going on. But for some incredibly stupid reason they decide that doesn't matter.

Xander77
Apr 6, 2009

Fuck it then. For another pit sandwich and some 'tater salad, I'll post a few more.




Genghis Cohen posted:

I always thought that was one of the more obviously pulpy plot hooks in the series. The villainous Ruskis hatching their dastardly schemes even discuss the fact that there are British officers staying who may find out what's going on. But for some incredibly stupid reason they decide that doesn't matter.
And the dastardly plot totally means the paranoid insanity of British officials who wasted untold money and effort on stopping Russia from conquering India were 100% justified.

On the same note - a later novel outright states the Indian rebellions were sponsored by nefarious Ruski agents.

feedmegin
Jul 30, 2008




Xander77 posted:

So Flashman is writing his memoirs before 1861?

Sometime between the death of Victoria in 1901 and the outbreak of war in 1914 iirc.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



quote:

“Item Seven, the plan known as the expedition of the Indus. By your majesty’s leave.”

I thought I must have misheard. Indus—that was in Northern India! What the devil did they have to do with that?

“Clause the first,” says Ignatieff. “That with the attention of the allied Powers, notably Great Britain, occupied in their invasion of your majesty’s Crimean province, the opportunity arises to further the policy of eastward pacification and civilization in those unsettled countries beyond our eastern and southern borders. Clause the second, that the surest way of fulfilling this policy, and at the same time striking a vital blow at the enemy, is to destroy, by native rebellion aided by armed force, the British position on the Indian continent. Clause the third, that the time for armed invasion by your majesty’s imperial forces is now ripe, and will be undertaken forthwith. Hence, the Indus expedition.”

Ignatieff goes on to explain the invasion will be carried out with 30,000 men, including 10,000 Cossacks. They were hoping the Persians would also attack the Turks to help draw the British deeper into the war, but another agent says that the Persians, while hostile to the British, intend to stay neutral.

However, the Russians are also planning to bring the Afghans and Sikhs in on their side to drive out the British from India, telling them that they're not bent on conquest, just liberation.

quote:

“We have considered five possible routes which the invasion might take. First, the three desert routes—Ust-Yurt-Khiva-Herat, or Raim-Bokhara, or Raim-Syr Daria-Tashkent. These, although preferred by General Khruleff”—at this the stout, whiskered fellow stirred in his seat—“have been abandoned because they run through the unsettled areas where we are still engaged in pacifying the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Khokandians, under the brigand leaders Yakub Beg and Izzat Kutebar. Although stinging reverses have been administered to these lawless bandits, and their stronghold of Ak Mechet occupied, they may still be strong enough to hinder the expedition’s advance. The less fighting there is to do before we cross the Indian frontier the better.”

Ignatieff says that the plan now is to enter south of the Caspian Sea, possibly through Persia, and from there to Kabul and south. There are approximately 25,000 British troops in India and 300,000 native troops, but they expect the natives will overwhelmingly either desert or rebel against the British once the fighting starts.

quote:

”It is doubtful if, six months after we cross the Khyber, a single British soldier, civilian, or settlement will remain on the continent. It will have been liberated, and restored to its people. They will require our assistance, and armed presence, for an indefinite period, to guard against counterinvasion.”

At this I heard East mutter, “I’ll bet they will.” I could feel him quivering with excitement; myself, I was trying to digest the immensity of the thing. Of course, it had been a fear in India since I could remember—the Great Bear coming over the passes, but no one truly believed they’d ever have the nerve or the ability to try it. But now, here it was—simple, direct, and certain. Not the least of the coincidences of our remarkable eavesdrop was that I, who knew as much about Afghan affairs from first hand, and our weakness on the north Indian frontier, as any man living, should be one of the listeners. As I took it in, I could see it happening; yes, they could do it all right.

The Tsar asks a few more questions, and Ignatieff assures him the Russian force can reach the Khyber Pass within seven months; the British will know what's happening when the Russian troops start crossing Persia, but by that time it will be too late to respond. The Tsar gives his approval, but Ignatieff has one more idea: as a distraction, he wants to feed Flashy and East false information that the Russians are looking to invade Canada through Alaska and then let them escape.

quote:

“Too clever,” says Khruleff. “Playing at spies.”

“With submission, majesty,” says Ignatieff, “there would be no difficulty. I have selected these two men with care—they are ideal for our purpose. One is an agent of intelligence, taken at Silistria—a clever, dangerous fellow. Show him the hint of a design against his country, and he would fasten on it like a hawk. The other is a very different sort—a great, coarse bully of a man, all brawn and little brain; he has spent his time here lechering after every female he could find.” I felt East stiffen beside me, as we listened to this infernal impudence. “But he would be necessary—for even if we permitted, and assisted, their escape here, and saw that they reached the Crimea in safety, they would still have to rejoin their army at Sevastopol, and we could hardly issue orders to our forces in Crimea to let them pass through. This second fellow is the kind of resourceful villain who would find a way.”

Khruleff and another general, Duhamel, argue against the idea, saying that Flashy and East might get suspicious if they escaped too easily, and the Tsar agrees with them.

As the meeting breaks up, Flashman and East sneak back to their rooms and start discussing what to do. Flashman says that even if they get word to Raglan, it may be too late – it'll take a month to get word to England, at least a couple of months to collect an army, and then four months to send them to India, by which time the invasion will already have started. East brings out a Russian atlas and says he's figured out they're only a couple hundred miles from Sevastopol, but Flashy says there's the Russian army in the way, not to mention how are they supposed to outrun Pencherjevsky's Cossacks? Plus the geography of the Crimea means they would have to pass through the bottleneck at Armiansk, meaning their pursuers would just have to wait for them there.

quote:

“No, they wouldn’t,” says he, grinning—the same sly, fag grin of fifteen years ago. “Because we won’t go that way. There’s another road to the Crimea—I got it from this book, but they’d never dream we knew of it. Look, now, old Flashy friend, and learn the advantages of studying geography. See how the Crimean peninsula is joined to mainland Russia—just a narrow isthmus, eh? Now look east a little way along the coast—what d’ye see?”

“A town called Yenitchi,” says I. “But if you’re thinking of pinching a boat, you’re mad—”

“Boat nothing,” says he. “What d’ye see in the sea, south of Yenitchi?”

“A streak of fly-dung,” says I, impatiently. “Now, Scud—”

“That’s what it looks like,” says he triumphantly. “But it ain’t. That, my boy, is the Arrow of Arabat—a causeway, not more than half a mile across, without even a road on it, that runs from Yenitchi a clear sixty miles through the sea of Azov to Arabat in the Crimea—and from there it’s a bare hundred miles across to Sevastopol! Don’t you see, man? No one ever uses it, according to this book, except a few dromedary caravans in summer. Why, the Russians hardly know it exists, even! All we need is one night of snow, here, to cover our traces, and while they’re chasing us towards the isthmus, we’re tearing down to Yenitchi, along the causeway to Arabat, and then westward ho to Sevastopol—”

The Arabat Spit is basically a long skinny sandbar, with salt marshes and lagoons on one side and the Sea of Azov on the other. As East says, it was barely used in the 19th century, although it's now a beach resort area (and was partly occupied during the recent Russian invasion of Crimea).

quote:

The thought of abandoning this snug retreat, where I was feeding full, drinking well, and rogering my captivity happily away, and going careering off through the snow-fast Russian wilderness, with those devils howling after me—and all so that we could report this crazy scheme to Raglan! It was mad. Anyway, what did I care for India? I’d sooner we had it than the Russians, of course, and if the intelligence could have been conveyed safely to Raglan (who’d have promptly forgotten it, or sent an army to Greenland by mistake, like as not) I’d have done it like a shot. But I draw the line at risks that aren’t necessary to my own well-being. That’s why I’m eighty years old today, while Scud East has been mouldering underground at Cawnpore this forty-odd years.

But Flashy can't put it that way, so he tries to make reasonable-sounding objections: who knows if the Arrow of Arabat is still navigable in winter, or if it's guarded? How can they travel in Russia without identification, and how can they get away from Starotorsk without the Cossacks chasing them down?

quote:

“I know that!” he cried. “I can count, too! But I tell you we’ve got to try! It’s a chance in a million that we’ve found out this infernal piece of Russian treachery! We must try to use it, to warn Raglan and the people at home! What have we got to lose, except our lives?”

D’you know, when a man talks like that to me, I feel downright insulted. Why other, unnamed lives, or the East India Company’s dividend, or the credit of Lord Aberdeen, or the honour of British arms, should be held by me to be of greater consequence than my own shrinking skin, I’ve always been at a loss to understand.

After arguing back and forth – East for escaping right away, Flashman for waiting and seeing – they're unable to come to an agreement and go to bed, with Flashy determined to block East from doing anything rash.

Selachian fucked around with this message at 11:20 on Aug 13, 2020

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post


Selachian posted:

with Flashy determined to block East from doing anything rash.

Good luck with that, Flashy.

Xander77
Apr 6, 2009

Fuck it then. For another pit sandwich and some 'tater salad, I'll post a few more.




I'm just surprised Flashy never gets to explode the zeppelin fleet Bismark used to invade London.

Grendel
Jul 21, 2001
<img alt="" border="0" src="https://fi.somethingawful.com/customtitles/title-grendel.gif" /><br /><i>Heh, heh, heh...bueno</i>


Genghis Cohen posted:

I always thought that was one of the more obviously pulpy plot hooks in the series. The villainous Ruskis hatching their dastardly schemes even discuss the fact that there are British officers staying who may find out what's going on. But for some incredibly stupid reason they decide that doesn't matter.

It's been a couple years since I read the series, but I believe that was the whole point - the "plans" they were discussing were phony. They wanted Flashman & East to escape, carrying misinformation.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Grendel posted:

It's been a couple years since I read the series, but I believe that was the whole point - the "plans" they were discussing were phony. They wanted Flashman & East to escape, carrying misinformation.

Yeah, but the thing is that Flashy and East heard them discussing their real plan to invade India and to let the two of them go with knowledge of the phony plans. Unless I just misread that post.

How are u
May 19, 2005

"I interpret Biden saying we didn't put kids in cages as more accurately saying our policy was not just to lock kids in cages,"

The phony plan was to invade through Alaska.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



East is unable to come up with a workable plan for escape, until events catch up with them. Flashman finds Pencherjevsky losing his temper at two visitors, a priest and “a lean, ugly little fellow dressed like a clerk” named Blank. It turns out that an old woman among Pencherjevsky's serfs can't pay her “soul tax” – a poll tax collected to support the military – and if she can't pay it, she'll be driven out of her house. The priest and Blank want to pay the tax for her, but Pencherjevsky won't have it: if his serfs get the idea that someone else will pay their taxes for them, they'll all stop paying. He says the woman's son is a wealthy kulak (farm-owner) who could pay, but if he won't, then it's no one else's business. Pencherjevsky denounces Blank as a Communist agitator, “sowing sedition, preaching revolution,” and chases them away from his house.

quote:

He advanced, hands clenched, and the two of them went scuttling down the steps. But the fellow Blank had to have a last word:

“You filthy tyrant! You dig your own grave! You and your kind think you can live forever, by oppression and torture and theft—you sow dragon’s teeth with your cruelty, and they will grow to tear you! You will see, you fiend!”

Pencherjevsky went mad. He flung his cap on the ground, foaming, and then ran bawling for his whip, his Cossacks, his sabre, while the two malcontents scampered off for their lives, Blank screaming threats and abuse over his shoulder. I listened with interest as the Count raved and stormed:

“After them! I’ll have that filthy creature knouted, God help me! Run him down, and don’t leave an inch of hide on his carcase!”

The Cossacks ride off, and about an hour later, when Pencherjevsky has mostly calmed down, one of them returns and says they caught one of them and beat him to death. Unfortunately, it was the priest they caught, not Blank, and Pencherjevsky is horrified at what might happen if word got out he had a priest killed. Dinner that night is tense, and after Flashy goes to bed, he's woken by the sounds of gunfire, and stumbles out into the hall with East.

quote:

There was a crash of musket-fire from beyond the front door, splinters flew in the hall, and one of the Cossacks sang out and staggered, clutching his leg. The other were at the hall windows, there was a smashing of glass, and the sound of baying, screaming voices from outside. Pencherjevsky swore, clasped Valla to him with one enormous arm, saw us, and bawled above the shooting:

“That damned priest! They have risen—the serfs have risen! They’re attacking the house!”

I’ve been in a good few sieges in my time, from full-dress affairs like Cawnpore, Lucknow, and the Pekin nonsense a few years ago, to more domestic squabbles such as Kabul residency in ’41. But I can’t think of one worse managed than the moujiks’ attack on Starotorsk. I gathered afterwards that several thousand of them, whipped on by Blank’s fiery oratory, had just up and marched on the house to avenge their priest’s death, seizing what weapons were handiest, and making no attempt at concealment or concerted attack to take the place on all sides at once. They just stamped up the road, roaring, the Cossacks in their little barrack saw them, knocked a few over with rifle fire, and then retired to the main house just as the mob surged into the drive and threw themselves at the front door. And there it was, touch and go, with the moujiks beating on the panels, smashing in the downstairs windows on that side to clamber in, waving their trowels and torches and yelling for Pencherjevsky’s blood.

Pencherjevsky throws Valentina to Flashman, ordering him to get her away from Starotorsk to his other house in Ariansk, and then turns to lead his Cossacks against the oncoming mob. Flashman, East, and Valentina rush down the back stairs, grabbing supplies as they pass through the kitchen, and out to the coach house, where they load up a troika sled and harness the horses.

quote:

East seized the whip from its mount and lashed at the beasts, and with a bound that nearly overturned us they tore away, down the road, with the mob cursing at our tail, waving their fists, and one last shot singing wide as we distanced them.

We didn’t let up for a mile, though, by which time I had the beasts under control, and we were able to pull up on a gentle rise and look back. It was like a Christmas scene, a great white blanket glittering in the full moon, and the dark house rising up from it, with the red dots of torch-light dancing among the outbuildings, and the thin sound of voices echoing through the frosty air, and the stars twinkling in the purple sky. Very bonny, I suppose—and then East clutched my arm.

“My God! Look yonder!”

There was a dull glow at one corner of the house; it grew into an orange flame, licking upwards with a shower of sparks; the torches seemed to dance more madly than ever, and from the sled behind there was a sudden shrieking sob, and Valla was trying to struggle out—my God, she still had nothing on but her nightdress, and as she half fell out it ripped and sent her tumbling into the snow.

Flashman pulls Valentina up and wraps her up in furs, taking some more furs for himself and East, since they've left their coats behind and it's bitterly cold. As they gather themselves to continue their journey, East is struck by a sudden thought: this is their golden opportunity to escape and head for Yenitchi and the Arrow of Arbat. Pencherjevsky and the Cossacks are unlikely to survive the serf attack, and even if they do, it will take days to reorganize themselves.

quote:

“Right,” says I. “Let’s be off. We’re sure to hit some farm or station where we can change horses. We’ll drive in turns, and—”

“We must take Valla with us,” cries he, and even in that ghostly light I’ll swear he was blushing. “We cannot abandon her—God knows what kind of villages these will be we shall pass through—we could not leave her, not knowing what…I mean, if we can reach the camp at Sevastopol, she will be truly safe…and…and…”

And he would be able to press his suit, no doubt, the poor skirt-smitten ninny, if he ever plucked up courage enough. I wonder what he’d have thought if he’d known I had been pupping his little Ukrainian angel for weeks. And there she was, in the sled, with not a stitch to her name.

“You’re right!” I cried. “We must take her. You are a noble fellow, Scud! Off we go, then, and I’ll take the ribbons as soon as you’re tired.”

(…)

They are splendid things, these three-horse sleighs, less like a coach than a little room on runners. They are completely enclosed with a great hood, lashed down all round, with flaps which can be secured on all the window spaces, so that when they are down the whole thing is quite snug, and if you have furs enough, and a bottle or two, you can be as warm as toast.

(…)

It it hadn’t been for the biting cold, I’d have enjoyed that moonlight drive. The snow was firm and flat, so that it didn’t ball in the horses’ hooves, and the runners hissed across the snow—it was strange, to be moving at that speed with so little noise. Ahead were the three tossing manes, with the vapour streaming back in the icy air, and beyond that—nothing. A white sheet to the black horizon, a magnificent silver moon, and that reassuring Pole star dead astern when I looked back.

Flashman spots a village after a while and they ask directions. Valentina wakes up and has an attack of hysterics about her father and aunt, so East gives her some laudanum that knocks her out, much to Flashy's disappointment: “I could have kicked him, for if there’s one thing I’d fancy myself good at, it’s comforting a bereaved and naked blonde under a fur rug.”

After changing horses at a way-station, they stop as the sun is coming up and pull off the road to sleep. They continue on in late afternoon, through frozen wilderness that makes Flashman nervous:

quote:

I had a bottle, and some bread, but nothing could warm me; I was scared, but didn’t know of what—just the silence and the unknown, I suppose. And then from somewhere far off to my right I heard it—that thin, dismal sound that is the terror of the empty steppe, unmistakable and terrifying, drifting through the vast distance: the eldritch cry of the wolf.

The horses heard it too, and whinnied, bounding forward in fear with a stumble of hooves, until we were flying at our uttermost speed.

The howl isn't repeated, and shortly after they stumble across a serf's cabin. He tells them the nearest town is Yenitchi, only a few hours' drive away. As they ride away from the cabin, Flashy hears more wolves howling in the distance, and then spots dark shapes following the sled.

quote:

“Jesus!” I shrieked. “Wolves!”

East yelled something I couldn’t hear, and the sled rocked horribly as he bore on his offside rein; then we righted, and as I gazed over the side, the hellish baying broke out almost directly behind us. There they were—five of them, gliding in our wake; I could see the leader toss up his hideous snout as he let go his evil wail, and then they put their heads down and came after us in dead silence.

I’ve seen horror in my time, human, animal, and natural, but I don’t know much worse than that memory—those dim grey shapes bounding behind us, creeping inexorably closer, until I could make out the flat, wicked heads and the snow spurting up under their loping paws. I must have been petrified, for God knows how long I just stared at them—and then my wits came back, and I seized the nearest rug and flung it out to the side, as far as I could.

As one beast they swerved, and were on it in a twinkling, tearing it among them. Only for a second, and then they were after us again—probably all the fiercer for being fooled. I grabbed another rug and hurled it, and this time they never even broke stride, but shot past it, closing in on the sled until they were a bare twenty paces behind, and I could see their open jaws—I’ve never been able to look an Alsatian in the face since—and delude myself that I could even make out their glittering eyes. I’d have given my right arm, then, for the feel of my faithful old Adams in my grip—“You wouldn’t run so fast with a forty-four bullet in you, drat you!” I yelled at them—and they came streaking up, while the horses screamed with fear and tore ahead, widening the gap for about ten blessed seconds. Iwas cursing and scrabbling in the back looking for something else to throw—a bottle, that was no use, but by George, if I smashed one at the bottom it might serve as a weapon when the last moment came and they were ravening over the tailboard—in desperation I seized a loaf (we’d finished the ham) and hurled it at the nearest of them, and I am here to tell you that wolves don’t eat bread—they don’t even bloody well look at it, for that matter. I heard East roaring something, and cracking his whip like a madman, and God help me, I could see the eyes behind us now, glaring in those viciously pointed heads, with their open jaws and gleaming teeth, and the vapour panting out between them. The leader was a bare five yards behind, bounding along like some hound of hell; I grabbed another rug, balled it, prayed, and flung it at him, and for one joyous moment it enveloped him; he stumbled, recovered, and came on again, and East sang out from the box to hold tight.

Then suddenly the wolves fall away, and the sled starts passing houses as they enter Yenitchi.

Selachian fucked around with this message at 03:43 on Aug 16, 2020

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

1) There's a fun footnote musing on who the agitator "Blank" may have been the ancestor of.

2) The wolves chasing the sled is straight out of a couple of [url="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Throw_to_the_wolves"]19th century novels[/url] and marks the third time (along with the escape across the icy river prefiguring the climax of Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Prisoner of Zenda being lifted wholesale from the Schleswig-Holstein adventure) Fraser implies that Flashman's adventures are the real-life inspiration for famous literary scenes.

tokenbrownguy
Apr 1, 2010



Wolves are supposed to be super adverse to human contact right? I wonder if they'd hunt carriage horses and see humans as part of the risk.

Viola the Mad
Feb 13, 2010


tokenbrownguy posted:

Wolves are supposed to be super adverse to human contact right? I wonder if they'd hunt carriage horses and see humans as part of the risk.

They generally stay away unless they're hungry and desperate. There are exceptions, of course, though they typically target isolated children. I suspect the wolves with not-afraid-of-humans genes were either domesticated or killed centuries ago.

I feel like it's pretty telling that East is the one who suggests kidnapping Valentine, not Flashy.

Viola the Mad fucked around with this message at 01:16 on Aug 18, 2020

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Flashy and East roust the local postmaster, who provides them with fresh (although not very good) horses and some more supplies, as well as clothes for Valentina, and rather than pause in town, they head straight for the Arrow of Arabat.

quote:

It was a dismal prospect. Beyond the bridge, which spanned a frozen canal, we could see the Arrow of Arabat, a long, bleak tongue of snow-covered land running south like a huge railway embankment into the Azov Sea. The sea proper, which was frozen—at least as far out as we could see—lay to the left; on the right of the causeway lies a stinking inland lagoon, called the Sivache, which is many miles wide in places, but narrows down as you proceed along the Arrow, until it peters away altogether where the causeway reaches Arabat, on the eastern end of the Crimea. The lagoon seems to be too foul to freeze entirely, even in a Russian winter, and the stench from it would poison an elephant.

Valentina finally wakes up, although she's still sleepy and dazed. Flashy tells her that her father got away with the Cossacks, and that they're taking her to the Russian army for safety.

quote:

It served, after a deal of questioning and answering; whether she was still under the influence of the laudanum or not, I wasn’t certain, but she seemed content enough, in a sleepy sort of way, so we plied her with nips of brandy to keep out the cold—she refused outright the clothes we had got, and stayed curled up in her rugs—and being a Russian girl, she was ready to drink all we offered her.

East and Flashman decide to sleep for a little after all, but Flashy doesn't get much rest – he's too nervous to relax. After an hour, when the moon has risen, they get moving again. They ride down the Arrow for several hours, East and Flashman trading off driving duties. As they get near the end, Flashy hands the reins over to East and climbs into the back of the troika with Valentina.

quote:

Valla stirred sleepily in the darkness, murmuring “Harr-ee?” as she stretched restlessly in her pile of furs on the floor. I knelt down beside her and took her hand, but when I spoke to her she just mumbled and turned over; the laudanum and brandy still had her pretty well foxed, and there was no sense to be got out of her. It struck me she might be conscious enough to enjoy some company, though, so I slipped a hand beneath the furs and encountered warm, plump flesh; the touch of it sent the blood pumping in my head.

“Valla, my love,” I whispered, just to be respectable; I could smell the sweet musky perfume of her skin, even over the brandy. I stroked her belly, and she moaned softly, and when I felt upwards and cupped her breast she turned towards me, her lips wet against my cheek. I was shaking as I put my mouth on hers, and then in a trice I was under the rugs, wallowing away like a sailor on shore leave, and half-drunk as she was she clung to me passionately. It was an astonishing business, for the furs were crackling with electricity, shocking me into unprecedented efforts—I thought I knew everything in the galloping line, but I’ll swear there’s no more alarming way of doing it than under a pile of skins in a sled skimming through the freezing Russian night; it’s like performing on a bed of fire-crackers.

Flashman dozes off afterward, but he's woken as East pulls to a stop. He's heard something behind them, and they pause to listen – and faintly, Flashy hears the sound of hooves and harness. Someone's riding up on them, and it must be pursuit, since who else would be out here at this time of night?

East climbs back into the driver's seat and gets the horses moving again, and Flashy looks back.

quote:

Very dimly through the falling flakes, I could just make out the causeway bend, and there, moving out on to the straight on this side of it, was a dark, indistinct mass—too big and irregular to be anything like a sled. And then the moonlight caught a score of twinkling slivers in the gloom, and I yelled at East in panic:

“It’s cavalry—horsemen! They’re after us, man!”

At the same time they must have seen us, for a muffled cry reached my ears, and now I could see the mass was indeed made up of separate pieces—a whole troop of them, coming on at a steady hand-gallop, and even as I watched they lengthened their stride, closing the distance.

(...)

But if they weren’t gaining, they weren’t dropping back, either. There was nothing in it—it’s a queer thing, but where a horseman can easily overhaul a coach, or even a racing phaeton, a good sled on firm snow is another matter entirely. A horse with a load on his back makes heavy weather in snow, but unladen they can spank a sled along at nearly full gallop.

But how long could our beasts keep up their present pace? They were far from fresh—on the other hand, our pursuers didn’t look too chipper, either.

As Flashy thinks this, he can feel the sled starting to slow down.

quote:

I plunged to the side of the sled, stuck my head out, and bawled at East.

“They’re closing, you fool! Faster! Can’t you stir those bloody cattle!”

He shot a glance over his shoulder, cracked on the reins, and cried:

“It’s no go…horses are almost played out! Can’t…We’re too heavy! Throw out some weight…the food…anything!”

I looked back; they were certainly gaining now, for the pale blobs of their faces were dimly visible even through the driving snow. They couldn’t be much more than two hundred yards away, and one of ’em was shouting; I could just catch the voice, but not the words.

But there's nothing in the sled for Flashy to throw out – the food is just a couple of loaves of bread and bottles. He unbuckles the heavy sled cover and lets it go, but it doesn't seem to make much difference.

quote:

I groaned and cursed, while the freezing wind whipped at me, casting about for anything else to jettison. The furs? We’d freeze without them, and Valla didn’t have a stitch—Valla! For an instant even I was appalled—but only for an instant. There was eight stone of her if there was an ounce—her loss would lighten us splendidly! And that wasn’t all—they’d be bound to check, at least, if she came bouncing over the back. Gallant Russian gentlemen, after all, don’t abandon naked girls in the snow. It would gain us seconds, anyway, and the loss of weight would surely do the rest.

I stooped over her, fighting to balance myself in the rocking sled. She was still unconscious, wrapped in her furs, looking truly lovely with her silver hair shining in the moonlight, murmuring a little in her half-drunken sleep. I heaved her upright, keeping the fur round her as best I could, and dragged her to the back seat. She nestled against me, and even in that moment of panic I found myself kissing her goodbye—well, it seemed the least I could do. Her lips were chill, with the snow driving past us in the wind; there’ll be more than your lips cold in a moment, thinks I. At least her eyes were shut, and our pursuers would see to her before she froze.

“Good-bye, little one,” says I. “Sleep tight,” and I slipped my arm beneath her legs and bundled her over the back in one clean movement; there was a flash of white limbs as the furs fell away from her, and then she was sprawling on the snow behind us. The sled leaped forward as though a brake had been released, East yelled with alarm, and I could guess he was clinging to the reins for dear life; I gazed back at the receding dark blur where the fur lay beside Valla in the snow.

Flashy sees a couple of the riders swerve and stop; the others keep on, but they're falling behind as the sled moves faster.

quote:

“On, Scud, on!” I shouted. “We’re leaving ’em! We’ll beat them yet!”

“What was it?” he cried. “What did you do? What did you throw out?”

“Useless baggage!” shouts I. “Never mind, man! Drive for your life!”

He shouted at the beasts, snapping the reins, and then cries:

“What baggage? We had none!” He glanced over his shoulder, at where the horsemen were dim shapes now in the distance, and his eyes fell on the sled. “Is Valla all—” and then he positively screamed. “Valla! Valla! My God!” He reeled in his seat, and I had to grab the reins as they slipped from his fingers. “You—you—no, you couldn’t! Flashman, you…”

“Hold on, you infernal fool!” I yelled. “It’s too late now!” He made a grab at the reins, and I had to sweep him back by main force, as I clutched the ribbons in one hand. “Stop it, drat you, or you’ll have us sunk as well!”

“Rein up!” he bawled, struggling with me. “Rein up—must go back! My God, Valla! You filthy, inhuman brute—oh, God!”

“You idiot!” I shouted, lunging with all my weight to keep him off. “It was her or all of us!”

Divine inspiration seized me. “Have you forgotten what we’re doing, curse you? We’ve got to get to Raglan, with our news! If we don’t—what about Ignatieff and his cursed plans? By heaven, East, I don’t forget my duty, even if you do, and I tell you I’d heave a thousand Russian sluts into the snow for my country’s sake!” And ten thousand for my own, but that’s no matter. “Don’t you see—it was that or be captured? And we’ve got to get through—whatever the cost!”

East is overcome by grief, while Flashman plays the stern patriotic duty card for all it's worth; he'd have jumped off himself, but they need the both of them to make it through to increase their chances of getting the information to Raglan.

quote:

“My God, East! Have you any notion what this night’s work has cost me? D’you think it won’t haunt me forever? D’you think I…I have no heart?” I dashed my knuckles across my eyes in a fine gesture. “Anyway, it’s odds she’ll be all right—they’re her people, after all, and they’ll wrap her up nice as ninepence.”

He heaved a great shuddering breath. “Oh, I pray to God it may be so! But the horror of that moment—it’s no good, Flashman—I’m not like you! I have not the iron will—I am not of your metal!”

They pass through Arabat, at the far end of the spit, without stopping, and enter into a hilly area where Flashy hopes to lose the horsemen. But as they start downslope, one of the horses stumbles and then they all go down, and the troika hits something and overturns, sending Flashman and East flying. Flashman lands on his back, and the sled slides over him.

quote:

The sled came lumbering over, slowly almost, on top of me, a fiery pain shot through my left side, a crushing weight was across my chest; I shrieked again, and then it settled, pinning me in the snow like a beetle on a card.

East tries to get the sled off Flashy, but it's too heavy for him to move without the horses. And he can hear the horsemen coming closer.

quote:

”Push, or dig, or anything, curse you!” I cried. “Get me loose, for God’s sake! What are you doing, man? What is it?” For he was standing up now, staring back over the mouth of the gully towards Arabat; for half a minute he stood motionless, while I babbled and pawed at the wreck, and then he looked down at me, and his voice was steady.

“It’s no go, old fellow. I know I can’t move it. And they’re coming. I can just see them, dimly—but they’re heading this way.” He dropped on one knee. “Flashman—I’m sorry. I’ll have to leave you. I can hide—get away—reach Raglan. Oh, my dear comrade—if I could give my life, I would, but—”

“Rot you!” cries I. “My God, you can’t leave me! Push the bloody thing—help me, man! I’m dying!”

“Oh, God!” he said. “This is agony! First Valla—now you! But I must get the news through—you know I must. You have shown me the way of duty, old chap—depend upon it, I shan’t fail! And I’ll tell them—when I get home! Tell them how you gave…But I must go!”

“Scud,” says I, babbling, “for the love of—”

“Hush,” says he, clapping a hand over my lips. “Don’t distress yourself—there’s no time! I’ll get there—one of the horses will serve, and if not—you remember the Big Side run by Brownsover, when we were boys? I finished, you know—I’ll finish again, Flash, for your sake! They shan’t catch me! Trust an old Rugby hare to distance a Russian pack—I will, and I’ll hear you hallooing me on! I’ll do it—for you, and for Valla—for both your sacrifices!”

“drat Valla and you, too!” I squealed feebly. “You can’t go! You can’t leave me! Anyway, she’s a bloody Russian! I’m British, you swine! Help me, Scud!”

But I don’t think he so much as heard me. He bent forward, and kissed me on the forehead, and I felt one of his manly bloody tears on my brow. “Good-bye, dear old fellow,” says he. “God bless you!”

And then he was ploughing away over the snow, to where the near-side horse was standing; he pulled the traces free of its head, and hurried off, pulling it along into the underbrush, with me bleating after him.

“Scud! For pity’s sake, don’t desert me! You can’t—not your old school-fellow, you callous son-of-a-bitch! Please, stop, come back! I’m dying, drat you! I order you—I’m your superior officer! Scud! Please! Help me!”

Selachian fucked around with this message at 02:53 on Aug 18, 2020

TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



Yea this is right up there with the slave-raping scene, because you should never forget that for all his congeniality Flashman is an absolute monster.

How are u
May 19, 2005

"I interpret Biden saying we didn't put kids in cages as more accurately saying our policy was not just to lock kids in cages,"

I love it when Flashy experiences some instant-karma.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


TheGreatEvilKing posted:

Yea this is right up there with the slave-raping scene, because you should never forget that for all his congeniality Flashman is an absolute monster.

Wasn't she one of the ones who shaved a serf-girl's head for the LOLs. It's not that far up with slave-raping.

(USER WAS PUT ON PROBATION FOR THIS POST)

Safety Biscuits
Oct 21, 2010



Everyone posted:

Wasn't she one of the ones who shaved a serf-girl's head for the LOLs. It's not that far up with slave-raping.

Valentina's not a slave, but he raped her and then threw her out of the troika. Nor is it poetic justice like Flashman experiences. In any case, posting that "this rape is not as bad as that rape" is terrible.

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post


How are u posted:

I love it when Flashy experiences some instant-karma.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Safety Biscuits posted:

Valentina's not a slave, but he raped her and then threw her out of the troika. Nor is it poetic justice like Flashman experiences. In any case, posting that "this rape is not as bad as that rape" is terrible.

I completely agree with you. I was skimming the book excerpts and missed Flashman raping Valentina. My earlier post was referring only to Flashman tossing her out of the coach.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Are you saying he raped her because she was drugged? Or did I misread that?

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


sebmojo posted:

Are you saying he raped her because she was drugged? Or did I misread that?

As a guy who ate a day of Probation over this, that would be my take now that I've finally read the passage. Here it is with the relevant (to me) part bolded:

quote:

Valla stirred sleepily in the darkness, murmuring “Harr-ee?” as she stretched restlessly in her pile of furs on the floor. I knelt down beside her and took her hand, but when I spoke to her she just mumbled and turned over; the laudanum and brandy still had her pretty well foxed, and there was no sense to be got out of her. It struck me she might be conscious enough to enjoy some company, though, so I slipped a hand beneath the furs and encountered warm, plump flesh; the touch of it sent the blood pumping in my head.

“Valla, my love,” I whispered, just to be respectable; I could smell the sweet musky perfume of her skin, even over the brandy. I stroked her belly, and she moaned softly, and when I felt upwards and cupped her breast she turned towards me, her lips wet against my cheek. I was shaking as I put my mouth on hers, and then in a trice I was under the rugs, wallowing away like a sailor on shore leave, and half-drunk as she was she clung to me passionately. It was an astonishing business, for the furs were crackling with electricity, shocking me into unprecedented efforts—I thought I knew everything in the galloping line, but I’ll swear there’s no more alarming way of doing it than under a pile of skins in a sled skimming through the freezing Russian night; it’s like performing on a bed of fire-crackers.

Valentina is either unconscious or semi-conscious at this point. Either way she's clearly unable to give informed consent. Having sex with somebody without their consent is by definition rape. Whether she would have consented had she been conscious is irrelevant.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Not long after East leaves, Flashy hears hooves and Russian voices, and a couple of Cossacks ride into his view, and one of them knocks him out with a whip handle.

quote:

I suppose my life has been full of poetic justice—an expression customarily used by Holy Joes to cloak the vindictive pleasure they feel when some enterprising fellow fetches himself a cropper. They are the kind who’ll say unctuously that I was properly hoist with my own petard at Arabat, and serve the bastard right. I’m inclined to agree; East would never have abandoned me if I hadn’t heaved Valla out of the sled in the first place. He’d have stuck by me and the Christian old school code, and let his military duty go hang. But my treatment of his beloved made it easy for him to forget the ties of comradeship and brotherly love, and do his duty; all his pious protestations about leaving me were really hypocritical moonshine, spouted out to salve his own conscience.

Flashman spends a week in a cell in Arabat's fort, until his captors drag him out – and Ignatieff is there waiting for him.

quote:

They had hauled me into the guard-room, and there he was, the inevitable cigarette clamped between his teeth, those terrible hypnotic blue-brown eyes regarding me with no more emotion than a snake’s. For a full minute he stared at me, the smoke escaping in tiny wreaths from his lips, and then without a change of expression he lashed me across the face with his gloves, back and forth, while I struggled feebly between my Cossack guards, trying to duck my head from his blows.

“Don’t!” I cried. “Don’t, please! Pajalsta! I’m a prisoner! You’ve no right to…to treat me so! I’m a British officer…please! I’m wounded…for God’s sake, stop!”
He gave me one last swipe, and then looked at his gloves, weighing them in his hand. Then, in that icy whisper, he said: “Burn those,” and dropped them at the feet of the aide who stood beside him.

Ignatieff tells Flashy that he has given up any right to be treated as a prisoner of war by trying to escape, kidnapping Valentina, and then throwing her out of the sled. He says that Pencherjevsky has survived the slave revolt, and Valentina is also alive too.

quote:

“I require an answer to one question,” says Ignatieff, “and you will supply it in your own language. Lie to me, or try to evade it, and I will have your tongue removed.” His next words were in English. “Why did you try to escape?”

Terrified as I was, I daren’t tell him the truth. I knew that if he learned that I’d found out about his expedition to India, it was all up with me.

“Because…because there was the opportunity…and there wasn’t any dishonour in it. And we meant…ah, Miss Pencherjevsky no harm, I swear we didn’t…”

Ignatieff brushes off this lie. He can only think of one reason why Flashman and East would have tried such a risky escape. He demands Flashman tell him what “Item Seven” means, and says that Flashy will be killed if he doesn't know. Faced with this, Flashman can only confess the whole story, while blaming the whole idea on East and claiming he tried to stop him. Ignatieff has Flashman's guards gag him and drags him out to the courtyard, with another prisoner.

quote:

Two more Cossacks appeared, carrying between them a curious bench, like a vaulting horse with very short legs and a flat top. The prisoner shrieked at the sight of it, and tried to run, but they dragged him to it, tearing off his clothes, and bound him on it face down, with thongs at his ankles, knees, waist and neck, so that he lay there, naked and immovable, but still screaming horribly.

Ignatieff beckoned one of the Cossacks, who held out to him a curious thick black coil, of what looked for all the world like shiny liquorice. Ignatieff hefted it in his hands, and then stepped in front of me and placed it over my head; I shuddered as it touched my shoulders, and was astonished by the weight of the thing. At a sign from Ignatieff the Cossack, grinning, drew it slowly off my shoulders, and I realized in horror as it slithered off like an obscene black snake that it was a huge whip, over twelve feet long, as thick as my arm at the butt and tapering to a point no thicker than a boot-lace.

“You will have heard of this,” says Ignatieff softly. “It is called a knout. Its use is illegal. Watch.”

The Cossack stood opposite the bench with its howling victim, took the knout in both hands, and swept it back over his shoulder so that its hideous lash trailed behind him in the snow. Then he struck.

I’ve seen floggings, and watched with fascination as a rule, but this was horrible, like nothing imaginable. That diabolical thing cut through the air with a noise like a steam whistle, so fast that you couldn’t see it; there was a crack like a pistol-shot, a fearful, choked scream of agony, and then the Cossack was snaking it back for another blow.

The guards force Flashman to look at the damage the knout has done – “the wretched man's buttocks were cut clean across, as by a sabre, and the blood was pouring out.” The Cossack gives the victim five more strokes, and then:

quote:

“Now observe,” says Ignatieff, “the effect of a flat blow.”

The Cossack struck a seventh time, but this time he didn’t snap the knout, but let it fall smack across the patient’s spine. There was a dreadful sound, like a wet cloth slapped on stone, but from the victim no cry at all. They unstrapped him, and as they lifted the bleeding wreck of his body from the bench, I saw it was hanging horribly limp in the middle.

Flashman is dragged back inside with Ignatieff.

quote:

“That was a demonstration, for your benefit. You see now what awaits you—except that when your turn comes I shall take the opportunity of ascertaining how many of the drawing strokes a vigorous and healthy man can suffer before he dies. Your one hope of escaping that fate lies in doing precisely as you are told—for I have a use for you. If I had not, you would be undergoing destruction by the knout at this moment.”

Ignatieff explains that since the escape, they have been expecting that word of the upcoming invasion has reached Raglan and the British government, especially since East has not been captured. The information East has would lead the Brits to expect an attack on India in seven months, but Ignatieff reveals that it will actually be in four months. Instead of going south through Persia, they will cross the Caspian and Aral Seas and travel through “the Syr Daria country” (roughly, modern Uzbekistan) to Afghanistan.

quote:

“It is as well that you should know this,” went on Ignatieff, “so that you may understand the part which I intend that you should play in it. A part for which you are providentially qualified. I know a great deal about you—so much, indeed, that you “will be astonished at the extent of my knowledge. It is our policy to garner information, and I doubt,” went on this cocky bastard, “whether any state in Europe can boast such extensive secret dossiers as we possess. I am especially aware of your activities in Afghanistan fourteen years ago—of your work, along with such agents as Burnes and Pottinger, among the Gilzais and other tribes. I know even of the exploit which earned you the extravagant nickname of ‘Bloody Lance’, of your dealings with Muhammed Akbar Khan, of your solitary survival of the disaster which befell the British Army—a disaster in which, you may be unaware, our own intelligence service played some part.”

Ignatieff says that having a British officer, who's known among the Afghan tribes, could help them convince the Afghans that it's in their interests to side with Russia over Britain.

quote:

“It is possible, of course, that you will prefer death—even by the knout—to betrayal of your country. I doubt it, but I must take into consideration the facts which are to be found in your dossier. They tell me of a man brave to the point of recklessness, of proved resource, and of considerable intelligence. My own observation of you tends to contradict this—I do not judge you to be of heroic material, but I may be mistaken. Certainly your conduct at Balaclava, of which I have received eye-witness accounts, is of a piece with your dossier. It does not matter. If, when you have been taken to Afghanistan with our army, you decline to make what the Roman priests call a propaganda on our behalf, we shall derive what advantage we can from displaying you naked in an iron cage along the way. The knouting will take place when we arrive on Indian soil.”

Finally done Bond-villaining his plan, Ignatieff has Flashman locked up again and chained hand and foot.

quote:

You may not credit it, but my feelings as they thrust me down into my underground pit, clamped chains on my wrists and ankles, and slammed the door on me, were of profound relief. For one thing, I was out of the presence of that evil madman with his leery optic—that may seem small enough, but you haven’t been closeted with him, and I have. Point two, I was not only alive but due to be preserved in good health for at least four months—and I was old soldier enough to know that a lot can happen in that time. Point three, I wasn’t going into the unknown: Afghanistan, ghastly place though it is, was a home county hunt to me, and if once I could get a yard start, I fancied I could survive the going a sight better than any Russian pursuers.

Flashman also suspects Ignatieff is deluding himself about how easy it will be to take an army through Afghanistan – and he's certainly got some experience in that field, doesn't he?

quote:

And one thing was certain, the Afghans hated the British, and would join in an attack on India like Orangemen on the Twelfth. It would be all up with the Honourable East India Company then, and no bones about it.

Thinking about that, I could make a guess that if there was a point where the Russian force might run into trouble, it would be in the wild country that they must pass through before they reached Afghanistan. In my days at Kabul, Sekundar Burnes had told me a bit about it—of the independent Khanates at Bokhara and Samarkand and the Syr Daria country, where the Russians had even then been trying to extend their empire, and getting a bloody nose in the process. Fearsome bastards those northern tribes were, Tajiks and Uzbeks and the remnants of the great hordes, and from the little I’d heard from folk like Pencherjevsky, they were still fiercely resisting Russian encroachment.

Not that Flashy really cares about any of this, but all he can do right now is wait and watch for his chance to escape.

quote:

You may think it strange, knowing me, that even in the hellish mess I found myself, with the shadow of horrible death hanging over me, I could think ahead so clearly. Well, it wasn’t that I’d grown any braver as I got older—the reverse, if anything—but I’d learned, since my early days, that there’s no point in wasting your wits and digestion blubbering over evil luck and folly and lost opportunities. I’ll admit, when I thought how close I’d been to winning clear, I could have torn my hair—but there it was. However fearful my present predicament, however horrid the odds and dangers ahead, they’d get no better with being fretted over. It ain’t always easy, if your knees knock as hard as mine, but you must remember the golden rule: when the game’s going against you, stay calm—and cheat.

Cobalt-60
Oct 11, 2016

Over time, random factors add up. What is chaos in the moment becomes systemic over time and space. As data accumulates, a pattern emerges.



quote:

You must remember the golden rule: when the game’s going against you, stay calm—and cheat.
That one's going in the quote book.

Did the Afghans really need Russian assistance to drive the British out? Doubt they've ever needed prompting to fight, and the British incompetence did the rest.

Xander77
Apr 6, 2009

Fuck it then. For another pit sandwich and some 'tater salad, I'll post a few more.




Cobalt-60 posted:

That one's going in the quote book.

Did the Afghans really need Russian assistance to drive the British out? Doubt they've ever needed prompting to fight, and the British incompetence did the rest.
No no no - British stupidity and the natural consequences of trying to colonize a free people couldn't possibly had resulted in "revolts" in Afghanistan and India. It had to be the nefarious Russkies, who definitely had an incredibly competent intelligence service in the 18-bloody-40's.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Xander77 posted:

No no no - British stupidity and the natural consequences of trying to colonize a free people couldn't possibly had resulted in "revolts" in Afghanistan and India. It had to be the nefarious Russkies, who definitely had an incredibly competent intelligence service in the 18-bloody-40's.

The Afghans might not of needed Russian aid to drive out the British, but they probably got it anyway and it made the task a little easier.

Viola the Mad
Feb 13, 2010


Xander77 posted:

No no no - British stupidity and the natural consequences of trying to colonize a free people couldn't possibly had resulted in "revolts" in Afghanistan and India. It had to be the nefarious Russkies, who definitely had an incredibly competent intelligence service in the 18-bloody-40's.

Yes, this is all deliciously pulpy stuff, but it's not quite what I'd want out of a Flashman story.

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post


Everyone posted:

The Afghans might not of needed Russian aid to drive out the British, but they probably got it anyway and it made the task a little easier.

True or not Ignatieff is 100% going to tell Flashy that to try and overawe him a bit more.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

Viola the Mad posted:

Yes, this is all deliciously pulpy stuff, but it's not quite what I'd want out of a Flashman story.

The series is weird that way, it's a mix of Fraser's detailed and journalistic retellings of history paired with deliberately pulpy subplots and characters. I kind of feel like you can give each book a ratio of history:pulp, and this one is more skewed pulp than most.

Viola the Mad
Feb 13, 2010


Notahippie posted:

The series is weird that way, it's a mix of Fraser's detailed and journalistic retellings of history paired with deliberately pulpy subplots and characters. I kind of feel like you can give each book a ratio of history:pulp, and this one is more skewed pulp than most.

That's a good point. I'm not exactly complaining about the pulp, mind you. But the thoroughly researched history is what drew me to the books in the first place back in high school.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Time for a travelogue, as Flashman, Ignatieff, and Flashy's Cossack escorts travel 1,250 miles or so. They re-cross the Arabat Spit to Yenitchi and head down the coast. Flashman is kept constantly in chains and vigilantly guarded by the Cossacks.

quote:

Cossacks, of course, never wash (although they brush their coats daily with immense care) and I wasn’t allowed to either, so by the time we were rolling east into the half-frozen steppe beyond Rostov I was filthy, bearded, tangled, and itchy beyond belief, stinking with the garlic of their awful food, and only praying that I wouldn’t contract some foul disease from my noisome companions—for they even slept either side of me, with their nagaikas knotted into my chains. It ain’t like a honeymoon at Baden, I can tell you.

From Yenitchi, they pass through Astrakhan...

quote:

Astrakhan city itself is a hell-hole. The land all about is as flat as the Wash country, and the town itself lies so low they have a great dyke all round to prevent the Volga washing it into the Caspian, or t’other way round. As you might expect, it’s a plague spot; you can smell the pestilence in the air, and before we passed through the dyke Ignatieff ordered everyone to soak his face and hands with vinegar, as though that would do any good. Still, it was the nearest I came to making toilet the whole way.

Mark you, there was one good thing about Astrakhan: the women. Once you get over towards the Caspian the people are more slender and Asiatic than your native Russian, and some of those dark girls, with their big eyes and long straight noses and pouting lips had even me, in my unkempt misery, sitting up and dusting off my beard. But of course I never got near them; it was into the kremlin for Flash and his heavenly twins, and two nights in a steaming cell before they put us aboard a steamer for the trip across the Caspian.

It’s a queer sea, that one, for it isn’t above twenty feet deep, and consequently the boats are of shallow draught, and bucket about like canoes. I spewed most of the way, but the Cossacks, who’d never sailed before, were in a fearful way, vomiting and praying by turns.

They land at a town called Tishkandi (which, Flashy says, no longer exists, thanks to the Caspian's frequently shifting coast), collect a lancer squad for an escort, and spend five days crossing the Ustyurt Plateau to the Aral Sea. The natives of the area strike Flashman as familiar – their looks and way of dressing remind him of Afghanistan. Another steamer carries them across the Aral Sea to a fort on the Syr Daria River, where Russian troops are gathering for the expected invasion of India. Ignatieff points out some gallows holding the remains of local bandits who tried to raid the fort.

Ignatieff goes off with the fort's commander, and Flashman is taken by guards and tossed into a secure cell, which he finds already occupied.

quote:

I started with astonishment, for suspended flat in the air in the middle of the cell, spreadeagled as though in flight, was the figure of a man. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dimness I drew in a shuddering breath, for now I could see that he was cruelly hung between four chains, one to each limb from the top corners of the room. More astonishing still, beneath his racked body, which hung about three feet from the floor, was crouched another figure, supporting the hanging man on his back, presumably to take the appalling strain of the chains from his wrists and ankles. It was the crouching man who was speaking, and to my surprise, his words were in Persian.

“It is a gift from God, brother,” says he, speaking with difficulty. “A rather dirty gift, but human—if there is such a thing as a human Russian. At least, he is a prisoner, and if I speak politely to him I may persuade him to take my place for a while, and bear your intolerable body. I am too old for this, and you are heavier than Abu Hassan, the breaker of wind.”

The hanging man, whose head was away from me, tried to lift it to look. His voice, when he spoke, was hoarse with pain, but what he said was, unbelievably, a joke.

“Let him…approach…then…and I pray…to God…that he has…fewer fleas…than you…Also…you are…a most…uncomfortable…support…God help…the woman…who shares…your bed.”

The crouched man asks Flashman for help, and then faints.

quote:

The hanging man gave a sudden cry of anguish as his body took the full stretch of the chains; he hung there moaning and panting until, without really thinking, I scrambled forward and came up beneath him, bearing his trunk across my stooped back. His face was hanging backward beside my own, working with pain.

As has been mentioned before, Fraser eventually softened Flashman's behavior in later books, and we have a prime example here. Can you imagine the Harry Flashman of the first three books instinctively moving to help someone at his own expense?

Flashman explains briefly who he is and how he came here.

quote:

“I am Yakub Beg,” whispers he, and even through his pain you could hear the pride in his voice. “Kush Begi, Khan of Khokand, and guardian of…the White Mosque. You are my…guest…sent to me…from heaven. Touch…on my knee…touch on my bosom…touch where you will.”

I recognized the formal greeting of the hill folk, which wasn’t appropriate in the circumstances.

“Can’t touch anything but your arse at present,” I told him, and I felt him shake—my God, he could even laugh, with the arms and legs being drawn out of him.

The other man finally wakes up, and Yakub Beg introduces him:

quote:

“That ancient creature who grovels on the floor is Izzat Kutebar,” says he. “A poor fellow of little substance and less wit, who raided one Ruski caravan too many and was taken, through his greed. So they made him ‘swim upon land’, as I am swimming now, and he might have hung here till he rotted—and welcome—but I was foolish enough to think of rescue, and scouted too close to this fort of Shaitan. So they took me, and placed me in his chains, as the more important prisoner of the two—for he is dirt, this feeble old Kutebar. He swung a good sword once, they say—God, it must have been in Timur’s time!”

“By God!” cries Kutebar. “Did I lose Ak Mechet to the Ruskis? Was I whoring after the beauties of Bokhara when the beast Perovski massacred the men of Khokand with his grapeshot? No, by the pubic hairs of Rustum! I was swinging that good sword, laying the Muscovites in swathes along Syr Daria, while this fine fighting chief here was loafing in the bazaar with his darlings, saying ‘Eyewallah, it is hot today, Give me to drink, Miriam, and put a cool hand on my forehead.’ Come out from under him, feringhee, and let him swing for his pains.”

“You see?” says Yakub Beg, craning his neck and trying to grin. “A dotard, flown with dreams. A badawi zhazh-kayan who talks as the wild sheep defecate, at random, everywhere. When you and I go hither, Flashman bahadur, we shall leave him, and even the Ruskis will take pity on such a dried-up husk, and employ him to clean their privies—those of the common soldiers, you understand, not the officers.”



Yakub Beg (1820-1877) was an Uzbek soldier, and later king of East Turkestan and Kashgar, a short-lived independent state in central Asia. He spent much of his life fighting against Russian and Chinese attempts to extend their rule into his territory, but was eventually forced off the throne by the Chinese in 1876 and died soon after (some claim he was poisoned).

Izzat Kutebar (no picture available, 1800?-?) was a Kyrgyz bandit who raided extensively against Russian outposts in the Ust-Yurt region in the 1820s-1850s. He finally surrendered -- to Count Ignatieff, as it happens -- in 1858 and gave up his war with Russia; no one seems to know what happened to him after that.

Viola the Mad
Feb 13, 2010


I'm honestly surprised that the Flashman of this book went out of his way to help someone.

His Divine Shadow
Aug 7, 2000

I'm not a fascist. I'm a priest. Fascists dress up in black and tell people what to do.


Maybe he knew deep down his chances of surviving depended on making friends.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


His Divine Shadow posted:

Maybe he knew deep down his chances of surviving depended on making friends.

One thing to recall is that at this point Flashman is in his 30s with quite a bit of life experience. So, he's aware that "The enemy of my enemy is my friend somebody I can use now and gently caress over later when it's to my advantage."

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FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Everyone posted:

One thing to recall is that at this point Flashman is in his 30s with quite a bit of life experience. So, he's aware that "The enemy of my enemy is my friend somebody I can use now and gently caress over later when it's to my advantage."
A close look at the text supports this - when Flashman enters, Kutebar says "At least, he is a prisoner, and if I speak politely to him I may persuade him to take my place for a while, and bear your intolerable body." which puts the idea out there that the prisoners all together might be able to help each other.

Flashman has a keen understanding of group dynamics, been in plenty of tight spots by this time, and has spent the last month trying to think of a way to escape. He's been in captivity often enough to know that it's always good to make friends. These two guys are the closest inkling to an opportunity that has come his way in a month, so why not pitch in and help out and make some new friends? Seems to have a better likely payoff than sulking alone in the corner of the cell.

Yakub and Kutebar are probably my favorite characters in the entire series - they have so much fun giving each other poo poo with their mutt-and-jeff routine and it's always hilarious. The whole section in Central Asia is a high point, and is why Charge is one of my two favorite novels (Dragon is the other).

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