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Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Content note: Flashy gets homophobic at several points during this post.

As they keep insulting each other, Yakub mentions that he's expecting his people to attack the fort soon to get him back, although Kutebar is skeptical that it'll ever happen. Yakub insists that once the sun starts going down, Flashman and Kutebar should let him hang and rest so they'll have their strength for the upcoming attack. Kutebar is reluctant to do it, but finally sits down next to Flashy and leaves Yakub to his suffering.

Flashman isn't sure whether to believe Yakub's promise of rescue or not, especially with the Russian army building up outside, but as it happens there's no attack that night. During the day, Flashy and Kutebar take turns holding Yakub up, but as sundown comes again Yakub demands they once again leave him and rest.

quote:

As so often happens, I dreamed of the last thing I’d seen before I went to sleep, only now it was I, not Yakub Beg, who was hanging in the chains, and someone (whom I knew to be my old enemy Rudi Starnberg) was painting my backside with boot blacking. My late father-in-law, old Morrison, was telling him to spread it thin, because it cost a thousand pounds a bottle, and Rudi said he had gallons of the stuff, and when it had all been applied they would get Narreeman, the Afghan dancing-girl, to ravish me and throw me out into the snow. Old Morrison said it was a capital idea, but he must go through my pockets first; his ugly, pouchy old face was leering down at me, and then slowly it changed into Narreeman’s, painted and mask-like, and the dream became rather pleasant, for she was crawling all over me, and we were floating far, far up above the others, and I was roaring so lustfully that she put her long, slim fingers across my lips, cutting off my cries, and I tried to tear my face free as her grip grew tighter and tighter, strangling me, and I couldn’t breathe; she was murmuring in my ear and her fingers were changing into a hairy paw—and suddenly I was awake, trembling and sweating, with Kutebar’s hand clamped across my mouth, and his voice hissing me to silence.

A soft whistle comes from outside, and Kutebar returns it – and then Flashman hears gunfire, an explosion, Russians screaming, and war cries that remind him of the Ghazis in Afghanistan. Kutebar and Flashman, at Yakub's direction, run to hold the door closed, and none too soon, as Russian guards start trying to force their way in. But when they start shooting the door, Flashman throws himself aside, and Kutebar can't hold the door by himself. A sergeant and two soldiers force their way in, intent on killing Yakub right away, but Kutebar tackles one.

quote:

Old dungeon-fighters like myself—and I’ve had a wealth of experience, from the vaults of Jotunberg, where I was sabre to sabre with Starnberg, to that Afghan prison where I let dear old Hudson take the strain—know that the thing to do on these occasions is find a nice dark corner and crawl into it. But out of sheer self-preservation I daren’t—I knew that if I didn’t take a hand Kutebar and Yakub would be dead inside a minute, and where would Cock Flashy be then, poor thing?

Flashman smashes the sergeant with his chained wrists, making him drop his gun, and grapples with him. The remaining soldier tries to stab Flashy with his bayonet, but Flashy rolls away and the sergeant jumps on him just in time to catch the bayonet himself. Flashy uses the sergeant's gun to shoot the soldier, while Kutebar finishes off the last one with his own bayonet.

They get the door shut and find the sergeant was carrying the key to Yakub's ankle chains but not his wrists. While Flashman is watching the door and Kutebar is trying to bash the chains open with a rifle butt, the rescuers finally show up:

quote:

The door swung back, and before you could say Jack Robinson there were half a dozen of them in the cell—robed, bearded figures with grinning hawk faces and long knives—I never thought I’d be glad to see a Ghazi, and these were straight from that stable. They fell on Kutebar, embracing and slapping him, while the others either stopped short at sight of me or hurried on to Yakub Beg, slumped against the far wall. And foremost was a lithe black-clad figure, tight-turbaned round head and chin, with a flowing cloak—hardly more than a boy. He stooped over Yakub Beg, cursing softly, and then shouted shrilly to the tribesmen:

“Hack through those chains! Bear him up—gently—ah, God, my love, my love, what have they done to you?”

He was positively weeping, and then suddenly he was clasping the wounded man, smothering his cheeks with kisses, cupping the lolling head between his hands, murmuring endearments, and finally kissing him passionately on the mouth.

Well, the Pathans are like that, you know, and I wasn’t surprised to find these near-relations of theirs similarly inclined to perversion; bad luck on the girls, I always think, but all the more skirt for chaps like me. Disgusting sight, though, this youth slobbering over him like that

Our rescuers were eyeing me uncertainly, until Kutebar explained whose side I was on; then they all turned their attention to Oscar and Bosie.

(That last bit is a reference to Oscar Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas.)

The rescuers manage to break the remaining chains, and they start making their way out of the fort with the boy leading them. The others are carrying Yakub with them, while Flashman trails along behind. There's a gunfight going on at one of the guard towers, which Flashy figures is a distraction for this team to sneak over the wall.

quote:

Strong lean hands helped me as I scrambled clumsily at a rope-ladder; voices in Persian were muttering around us in the dark, robed figures were crouching at the embrasures, and then we were sliding down the ropes on the outside, and I fell the last ten feet, landing on top of the man beneath, who gave a brief commentary on my parentage, future, and personal habits as only a hillman can, and then called softly:

“All down, Silk One, including the clown Kutebar, your beloved the Atalik Ghazi, and this misbegotten pig of a feringhi with the large feet.”

Despite not knowing who these people are, or where he'll be going from here, Flashman is immensely relieved to be away from Ignatieff and free. They stop in a gully half a mile from the fort, where horses have been concealed, and Kutebar and Flashman finally rest, with the boy joining them. Yakub has already been sent ahead with some of the others.

quote:

“He is well, God be thanked,” says the boy, and then the furious little pansy began to snivel like a girl. “His poor limbs are torn and helpless—but he is strong, he will mend! He spoke to me, Kutebar! He told me how you—cared for him, and fought for him just now—you and the feringhi here. Oh, old hawk of the hills, how can I bless you enough?”

And the disgusting young lout flung his arms round Kutebar’s neck, murmuring gratefully and kissing him, until the old fellow pushed him away—he was normal, at least.

“Shameless thing!” mutters he. “Respect my grey hairs! Is there no seemliness among you Chinese, then? Away, you bare-faced creature—practise your gratitude on this angliski if you must, but spare me!”

“Indeed I shall,” says the youth, and turning to me, he put his hands on my shoulders. “You have saved my love, stranger; therefore you have my love, forever and all.” He was a nauseatingly pretty one this, with his full lips and slanting Chinese eyes, and his pale, chiselled face framed by the black turban. The tears were still wet on his cheeks, and then to my disgust he leaned forward, plainly intending to kiss me, too.

“No thank’ee!” cries I. “No offence, my son, but I ain’t one for your sort, if you don’t mind…”

But his arms were round my neck and his lips on mine before I could stop him—and then I felt two firm young breasts pressing against my chest, and there was no mistaking the womanliness of the soft cheek against mine. A female, bigad—leading a Ghazi storming-party on a neck-or-nothing venture like this! And such a female, by the feel of her. Well, of course, that put a different complexion on the thing entirely, and I suffered her to kiss away to her heart’s content, and mine. What else could a gentleman do?

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Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Selachian posted:

Content note: Flashy gets homophobic at several points during this post.

One thing that's kind of interesting in that section is... how to put this... the nuance of his homophobia. A sexual encounter with another man is clearly not something Flashman wants. He's very much a man of his culture. At the same time his overall attitude toward male homosexuality seems to be "as long as I don't have to see it or participate in it that's more girls for me so I'm fine with it."

It's just weirdly fun how Flashman, who is, in general, kind of an awful human being is also occasionally more tolerant, perceptive and just better than the culture which birthed him.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

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

Everyone posted:

One thing that's kind of interesting in that section is... how to put this... the nuance of his homophobia. A sexual encounter with another man is clearly not something Flashman wants. He's very much a man of his culture. At the same time his overall attitude toward male homosexuality seems to be "as long as I don't have to see it or participate in it that's more girls for me so I'm fine with it."

It's just weirdly fun how Flashman, who is, in general, kind of an awful human being is also occasionally more tolerant, perceptive and just better than the culture which birthed him.

I think Fraser is suspicious of the concept of morality.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Notahippie posted:

I think Fraser is suspicious of the concept of morality.

As he should be.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



quote:

(W)hen I’ve thumbed through the books and maps, and mumbled the names aloud as an old man does, looking out of my window at the cabs clopping past by the Park in twentieth-century London, and the governesses stepping demurely with their little charges (deuced smart, some of these governesses), I’ll go and rummage until I’ve found that old clumsy German revolver that I took from the Russian sergeant under Fort Raim, and for a threadbare scarf of black silk with the star-flowers embroidered on it—and I can hear again Yakub’s laughter ringing behind me, and Kutebar’s boastful growling, and the thunder of a thousand hooves and the shouting of the turbanned Tajik riders that makes me shiver still. But most of all I smell the wraith of her perfume, and see those slanting black eyes—“Lick up the honey, stranger, and ask no questions.” That was the best part.

Flashman and the rescue party go on a hard overnight ride to put distance between them and Fort Raim, and when they finally reach a secure oasis Flashman collapses from exhaustion. When he wakes up, he discovers there's a small village of the various local tribes there, and everyone's friendly to him for helping save Yakub and Kutebar.

quote:

Somewhere—I believe it’s in my celebrated work, Dawns and Departures of a Soldier’s Life—I’ve written a good deal about that valley, and the customs and manners of the tribesfolk, and what a little Paradise it seemed after what I’d been through. So it was, and some fellows would no doubt have been content to lie back, wallowing in their freedom, thanking Providence, and having a rest before thinking too hard about the future. That’s not Flashy’s way; given a moment’s respite I have to be looking ahead to the next leap, and that very first morning, while the local smith was filing off my fetters in the presence of a grinning, admiring crowd, I was busy thinking, aye, so far so good, but where next? That Russian army at Fort Raim was still a long sight too close for comfort, and I wouldn’t rest easy until I’d reached real safety—Berkeley Square, say, or a little ale-house that I know in Leicestershire.

This is the first mention of Flashy's official, and presumably heavily expurgated, memoirs.

Thinking it over, Flashman decides the easiest course would be to continue on through Afghanistan to British India – not exactly a safe trip but there aren't any realistic alternatives. He thinks he can count on help from Yakub, and of course he knows how to pass as an Afghan himself.

quote:

(A)s my thoughts went bounding ahead it suddenly struck me, the magnificent realization—I was free, within reach of India, and I had Ignatieff’s great secret plan of invasion! Oh, East might have taken it to Raglan, but that was nothing in the gorgeous dream that suddenly opened up before me—the renowned Flashy, last seen vanishing into the Russian army at Balaclava with boundless energy, now emerging in romantic disguise at Peshawar with the dreadful news for the British garrison.

Flashy fantasizes about turning up at the British garrison at Peshawar and telling his story – with the Flashman touch, of course.

quote:

Gad, the Press would be full of it. Hero of Afghanistan, and now Saviour of India—assuming the damned place was saved. Still, I’d have done my bit, and East’s scuttle through the snow would look puny by comparison. I’d give him a careful pat on the back, of course, pointing out that he’d only done his duty, even if it did mean sacrificing his old chum. “Really, I think that in spite of everything, I had the easier part,” I would say gravely. “I didn’t have that kind of choice to make, you see.” Modest, offhand, self-deprecatory—if I played it properly, I’d get a knighthood out of it.

With his head full of these thoughts, Flashman brings up the subject with Kutebar, who agrees that they owe a debt to him – but also mentions that he owes them for getting him out of the prison as well, and of course they all owe Ko Dali's daughter for leading the rescue party.

quote:

“Who is she?” I asked, for I’d seen—and felt—just enough of that remarkable female last night to be thoroughly intrigued. She’d have been a phenomenon anywhere, but in a Muslim country, where women are kept firmly in their place, and never dream of intruding in men’s work, her apparent authority had astounded me. “Do you know, Izzat, last night until she…er, kissed me—I was sure she was a man.”

“So Ko Dali must have thought, when the fierce little bitch came yelping into the world,” says he. “Who is Ko Dali?—a Chinese war lord, who had the good taste to take a Khokandian wife, and the ill luck to father the Silk One. He governs in Kashgar, a Chinese city of East Turkestan a thousand miles east of here, below the Issik Kul and the Seven Rivers Country. Would to God he could govern his daughter as well—so should we be spared much shame, for is it not deplorable to have a woman who struts like a khan among us, and leads such enterprises as that which freed you and me last night? Am I, Kutebar, to hold up my head and say 'A woman brought me forth of Fort Raim jail’? Aye, laugh, you old cow,” he bellowed at the ancient serving-woman, who had been listening and cackling. “You daughter of shame, is this respect? You take her side, all you wicked sluts, and rejoice to see us men put down. The trouble with the Silk One,” he went on to me, “is that she is always right. A scandal, but there it is. Who can fathom the ways of Allah, who lets such things happen?”

“Well,” says I, “it happened among the Ruskis, you know, Kutebar. They had an empress—why, in my own country, we are ruled by a queen.”

“So I have heard,” says he, “but you are infidels. Besides, does your Sultana, Vik Taria, go unveiled? Does she plan raid and ambush? No, by the black tomb of Timur, I’ll wager she does not.”

“Not that I’ve heard, lately,” I admitted. “But this Silk One—where does she come from? What’s her name, anyway?”

Kutebar admits he doesn't know her name – she's just Ko Dali's daughter to them. She joined up with Yakub and Kutebar a couple of years ago when they'd just started fighting the Russians, bringing a gang of Chinese bandits with her. They needed every hand they could get – plus, Yakub fell in love with her, and Kutebar thinks they'll get married someday, which might put Yakub in line to become ruler of Kashgar when Ko Dali passes.

quote:

“It is said,” he went on confidentially, “that she devours other men also, and that it was for her scandalous habits that the governor of Fort Raim, Engmann the Ruski—may wild hogs mate above his grave!—had her head shaved when she was taken last year, after the fall of Ak Mechet. They say—”

“They lie!” screeched the old woman, who had been listening. “In their jealousy they throw dirt on her, the pretty Silk One!”

“Will you raise your head, mother of discord and ruiner of good food?” says Izzat. “They shaved her scalp, I say, which is why she goes with a turban about her always—for she has kept it shaved, and vowed to do so until she has Engmann’s own head on a plate at her feet. God, the perversity of women! But what can one do about her? She is worth ten heads in the council, she can ride like a Kazak, and is as brave as…as…as I am, by God! If Yakub and Buzurg Khan of Khokand—and I, of course—hold these Russian swine back from our country, it will be because she has the gift of seeing their weaknesses, and showing us how they may be confounded. She is touched by God, I believe—which is why our men admit her, and heed her—and turn their heads aside lest they meet her eye. All save Yakub Beg, who has ever championed her, and fears nothing.”

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Later that day, Flashman and Kutebar go to meet Yakub again..

quote:

So that evening, when I had bathed, trimmed my beard, and had the filthy rags of my captivity replaced by shirt, pyjamy trousers, and soft Persian boots, Kutebar took me through the crowded camp, with everyone saluting him as he strutted by, with his beard oiled and his silver-crusted belt and broad gold medal worn over his fine green coat, and the children crowding about him for the sweets which he carried for them. A robber he might be, but I never saw a man better liked—mind you, I liked him myself, and the thought struck me that he and Pencherjevsky and old Scarlett would have got on like a house on fire. I could see them all three hunting in Rutland together, chasing poachers, damning the government, and knocking the necks off bottles at four in the morning.

We climbed up to the white houses of the village, and Izzat led me through a low archway into a little garden where there was a fountain and an open pillared pavilion such as you might find in Aladdin’s pantomime. It was a lovely little place, shaded by trees in the warm evening, with birds murmuring in the branches, the first stars beginning to peep in the dark blue sky overhead, and some flute-like instrument playing softly beyond the wall. It’s strange, but the reality of the East is always far beyond anything the romantic poets and artists can create in imitation.

Yakub greets them, still exhausted from his ordeal in the prison but recovering, and introduces Flashy to his lieutenant Sahib Khan. But Flashy, naturally, is distracted by his other companion – Ko Dali's daughter.

quote:

(She was) lounging on the cushions near Yakub, playing with a tiny Persian kitten on her lap. Now that I saw her in full light, I had a little difficulty in recognizing the excitable, passionate creature I had taken for a boy only the night before; Ko Dali’s daughter this evening was a very self-possessed, consciously feminine young woman indeed—of course, girls are like that, squealing one minute, all assured dignity the next. She was dressed in the tight-wrapped white trousers the Tajik women wear, with curled Persian slippers on her dainty feet, and any illusion of boyishness was dispelled by the roundness of the cloth-of-silver blouse beneath her short embroidered jacket. Round her head she wore a pale pink turban, very tight, framing a striking young face as pale as alabaster—you’ll think me susceptible, but I found her incredibly fetching, with her slanting almond eyes (the only Chinese thing about her), the slightly-protruding milk-white teeth which showed as she teased and laughed at the kitten, the determined little chin, and the fine straight nose that looked as though it had been chiselled out of marble. Not as perfectly beautiful as Montez, perhaps, but with the lithe, graceful gift of movement, that hint of action in the dark, unfathomable eyes which—aye, well, well.

Yakub formally expresses his thanks for the rescue, and shows his gratitude to Flashman in ritual fashion:

quote:

(A)t a signal from Sahib Khan, a servant brought in a tray on which were four articles—a little bowl containing salt, another in which an ember of wood burned smokily, a small square of earth with a shred of rank grass attaching to it, and a plain, wave-bladed Persian dagger with the snake-and-hare design on its blade. I knew what this meant, and it took me aback, for it’s the ultimate honour a hillman can do to you: Yakub Beg wanted to make me his blood brother. And while you could say I had saved his life—still, it was big medicine, on such short acquaintance.

However, I knew the formula, for I’d been blood brother to young Ilderim of Mogala years before, so I followed him in tasting the salt, and passing my hand over the fire and the earth, and then laying it beside his on the knife while he said, and I repeated:

“By earth, and salt, and fire; by hilt and blade; and in the name of God in whatever tongue men call Him, I am thy brother in blood henceforth. May He curse me and consign me to the pit forever, if I fail thee, my friend.”

As they eat, Flashman tells the group his story (“leaving out the discreditable bits, of course”). Yakub and the others had thought the army being assembled at Fort Raim was for an attack on them, and are surprised to hear that it's bound for India. Yakub says it's possible that Flashy might be able to make it to Peshawar in three weeks, but the word is that the Russians are going to start marching in two weeks, which means that within a month they'll have wiped out the local resistance on their way to Afghanistan. So the best they can hope for is that Flashy will be able to warn the British and avenge them, which is pretty cold comfort.

quote:

“Those of us whom they do not kill, they will enslave: they have said as much. They will sweep us clean, from Persia to Balkash and the Roof of the World. How can we prevent them? I took seven thousand men against Ak Mechet two winters since, and saw them routed; I went again with twice as many, and saw my thousands slain. The Russians lost eighteen killed. Oh, if it were sabre to sabre, horse to horse, man to man, I would not shirk the odds—but against their artillery, their rifles, what can our riders do?”

“Fight,” growls Kutebar. “So it is the last fight, let it be one they will remember. A month, you say? In that time we can run the horse-tail banner to Kashgar and back; we can raise every Muslim fighting-man from Turgai to the Killer-of-Hindus, from Khorassan to the Tarm Desert.” His voice rose steadily from a growl to a shout. “When the Chinese slew the Kalmucks in the old time, what was the answer given to the faint hearts: ‘Turn east, west, north, south, there you shall find the Kirgiz’. Why should we lie down to a handful of strangers? They have arms, they have horses—so have we. If they come in their thousands, these infidels, have we not the Great Horde of the far steppes, the people of the Blue Wolf, to join our jihad? We may not win, but by God, we can make them understand that the ghosts of Timur and Chinghiz Khan still ride these plains; we can mark every yard of the Syr Daria with a Russian corpse; we can make them buy this country at a price that will cause the Tsar to count his change in the Kremlin palace!”

Yakub admits to Flashman that it seems the best they can do is buy him a little time before the Russians kill them, but then Ko Dali's daughter finally speaks up:

quote:

I was surprised how high and yet husky her voice was—the kind that makes you think of French satin sofas, with the blinds down and purple wall-paper. She was lying prone now, tickling the kitten’s belly and murmuring to it.

“Do you hear them, little tiger, these great strong men? How they enjoy their despair! They reckon the odds, and find them heavy, and since fighting is so much easier than thinking they put the scowl of resignation on the face of stupidity, and swear most horribly.” Her voice whined in grotesque mimicry. “‘By the bowels of Rustum, we shall give them a battle to remember—hand me my scimitar, Gamal, it is in the woodshed. Aye, we shall make such-and-such a slaughter, and if we are all blown to the ends of Eblis—may God protect the valorous!—we shall at least be blown like men. Eyewallah, brothers, it is God’s will; we shall have done our best’. This is how the wise warriors talk, furry little sister—which is why we women weep and children go hungry. But never fear—when the Russians have killed them all, I shall find myself a great strong Cossack, and you shall have a lusty Russian tom, and we shall live on oranges and honey and cream forever.”

Yakub asks what she would do, and she proposes attacking Fort Raim right away, before the Russians can move and while they're still backed up against the Aral Sea. Kutebar scoffs, saying there are already 30,000 men in the fort, and there's no way they can raise anywhere near that many. Ko Dali's daughter, however, says that spies in the fort have reported the Russians haven't received their shipments of ammunition yet, so their advantage isn't as great as it looks.

Yakub admits it's not a bad idea, but the powder ships will be arriving in a week, which isn't enough time to raise an army and put together an attack.

quote:

“If it were easy, even you would have thought of it by now,” says the girl. “Let me think of it instead.” She rose, picking up her cat, stroking it and smiling as she nuzzled it. “Shall we think, little cruelty? And when we have thought, we shall tell them, and they will slap their knees and cry: ‘Mashallah, but how simple! It leaps to the eye! A child could have conceived it.’ And they will smile on us, and perhaps throw us a little jumagi, or a sweetmeat, for which we shall be humbly thankful. Come, butcher of little mice.”

And without so much as a glance at us, she sauntered off, with those tight white pants stirring provocatively, and Izzat cursing under his breath.

“Ko Dali should have whipped the demons out of that baggage before she grew teeth! But then, what do the Chinese know of education? If she were mine, by death, would I not discipline her?”

“You would not dare, father of wind and grey whiskers,” says Yakub genially. “So let her think—and if nothing comes of it, you may have the laugh of her.”

“A bitter laugh it will be, then,” says Kutebar. “By Shaitan, it will be the last laugh we have.”

Lemony
Jul 27, 2010

Now With Fresh Citrus Scent!


quote:

“Will you raise your head, mother of discord and ruiner of good food?” says Izzat. “They shaved her scalp, I say, which is why she goes with a turban about her always—for she has kept it shaved, and vowed to do so until she has Engmann’s own head on a plate at her feet. God, the perversity of women! But what can one do about her? She is worth ten heads in the council, she can ride like a Kazak, and is as brave as…as…as I am, by God! If Yakub and Buzurg Khan of Khokand—and I, of course—hold these Russian swine back from our country, it will be because she has the gift of seeing their weaknesses, and showing us how they may be confounded. She is touched by God, I believe—which is why our men admit her, and heed her—and turn their heads aside lest they meet her eye. All save Yakub Beg, who has ever championed her, and fears nothing.”

Dope. I want the book with her as the main character, she's clearly protagonist material.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



In actual history, Ko Dali's daughter gets two sentences devoted to her in this 1878 biography of Yakub Beg:

quote:

The new alliance was cemented by the marriage of Yakoob Beg to the beautiful daughter of Kho Dalay, by whom he has had several children, too young as yet to take any part in public affairs. Perhaps Yakoob Beg's moderation to the Khitay is to be explained by this circumstance, and it is certain that down to the very end his Khitay wife exercised great influence over her husband.

And that's all we know about her. The rest you see here is all Fraser's creation.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Selachian posted:

In actual history, Ko Dali's daughter gets two sentences devoted to her in this 1878 biography of Yakub Beg:


And that's all we know about her. The rest you see here is all Fraser's creation.

But it's a really badass creation and now I'm really hoping nothing bad happens to her because Flashman is up there with Donald Trump in the "everything he touches dies" bit.

Darth Walrus
Feb 13, 2012




Everyone posted:

But it's a really badass creation and now I'm really hoping nothing bad happens to her because Flashman is up there with Donald Trump in the "everything he touches dies" bit.

I mean, her two-sentence appearance in the historical record says she's going to marry Yakub and have a bunch of kids with him, so whatever happens to her as a result of her present proximity to Flashman can't be too horrible.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Darth Walrus posted:

I mean, her two-sentence appearance in the historical record says she's going to marry Yakub and have a bunch of kids with him, so whatever happens to her as a result of her present proximity to Flashman can't be too horrible.

I don't know. The books so far have taught me to never underestimate the horrible poo poo that follows in Flashman's wake.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Flashman is impatient to get started for Afghanistan, but Yakub suggests he wait until the tribes come to a decision on what to do, so he can bring that news to the British. In the meantime, Yakub sends to his feudal lord, Buzurg Khan, in hopes of getting some military support.

quote:

It was the fourth day, and I was lounging in the camp’s little market, improving my Persian by learning the ninety-nine names of God (only the Bactrian camels know the hundredth, which is why they look so deuced superior) from an Astrabad caravan-guard-turned-murderer, when Kutebar came in a great bustle to take me to Yakub Beg at once.

Yakub is once again in conference with Sahib Khan and Ko Dali's daughter, and excitedly tells Flashy they've learned that the Russian powder boats will arrive tomorrow and be anchored at the mouth of the Syr Daria in the evening, and then unloaded the next day. Right now, the Russian troops have only twenty rounds of powder and shot each, so if they can destroy the boats before their contents are distributed, it might stop the attack entirely.

The powder ships will be surrounded by guard boats, so they can't be attacked directly, and the tribes only have a few crappy cannons, so they can't mount an artillery attack either. But Yakub explains that every slave and prisoner assigned to unloading the ships is one of his people and feeding information back to him, so they know exactly how the boats will be arranged and what supplies are already in the storehouses near Fort Raim. He produces a list and says the Silk One noticed one interesting entry:

quote:

“It says—now listen, and bless the name of your own people, from whom this gift comes—it says: ‘Twenty stands of British rocket artillery; two hundred boxes of cases.’

He stopped, staring eagerly at me, and I was aware that they were all waiting expectantly.

“Congreves?” says I. “Well, what—”

“What is the range of such rockets?” asked Yakub Beg.

“Why—about two miles.” I knew a bit about Congreves from my time at Woolwich. “Not accurate at that distance, of course; if you want to make good practice, then half a mile, three-quarters, but—”

“The ships will not be above half a mile from the shore,” says he, softly.

(…)

“Forgive me,” says I. “But the Ruskis have these rockets—you don’t. And if you’re thinking of stealing some of ’em, I’m sorry, Yakub, but you’re eating green corn. D’ye know how much a single Congreve rocket-head weighs, without its stick? Thirty-two pounds. And the stick is fifteen feet long—and before you can fire one you have to have the firing-frame, which is solid steel weighing God knows what, with iron half-pipes. Oh, I daresay friend Kutebar here has some pretty thieves in his fighting-tail, but they couldn’t hope to lug this kind of gear out from under the Russians’ noses—not unseen. Dammit, you’d need a mule-train. And if, by some miracle, you did get hold of a frame and rockets, where would you find a firing-point close enough? For that matter, at two miles—maximum range, trained at fifty-five degrees—why, you could blaze away all night and never score a hit!”

(…)

“We do not need to do it,” says Yakub, looking like a happy crocodile. “Tell me: these things are like great sky-rockets, are they not? How long would it take unskilled men—handless creatures like the ancient Kutebar, for example—to prepare and fire one?”

“To erect the frame?—oh, two minutes, for artillerymen. Ten times as long, probably, for your lot. Adjust the aim, light the fuse, and off she goes—but dammit, what’s the use of this to you?”



Congreve rockets were first used in the Napoleonic wars, based on rockets used by Indian soldiers against the British East India Company in the 1790s. As Flashy implies, they were basically giant iron bottle rockets, equipped with long trailing rods to stabilize them in flight (fins were a later innovation). They were slow, inaccurate, and unreliable, but they packed a punch and were much easier to transport and use than artillery pieces.

Yakub says that they have no plans to carry away the rockets. Instead, they're going to attack the shed where the rockets are being kept, near the pier, set up a defensive perimeter on the beach – he's confident that with the five or six thousand men they have, he can hold a few yards of beach for an hour – and fire the rockets from there.

Flashman spots the obvious flaw in the plan: the forces holding the beach are going to be outnumbered five to one, and even with the Russians' limited ammunition, they'll get badly mauled. But Yakub is willing to sacrifice a couple thousand lives if it stops the attack and saves his people. Flashy is still horrified by the idea, and it only encourages him to get away to Peshawar as soon as possible. Maybe he can even claim to have come up with the idea for the rocket attack...

quote:

“British Officer’s Extraordinary Adventure. Russian Plot Foiled by His Ingenuity. Tribal Life in the Khokand. Colonel Flashman’s Remarkable Narrative.” Yes, a few helpings of that would go down well…Elspeth would be in raptures…I’d be the lion of the day yet again….

And then Yakub Beg’s voice broke in on my day-dreams.

“Who shall say there is such a thing as chance?” he was exulting. “All is as God directs. He sends the Ruski powder ships. He sends the means of their destruction. And”—he reached out to pass me my coffee cup—“best of all, he sends you, blood brother, without whom all would be naught.”

(…)

“Naught?” I echoed. “What d’you mean?”

“Who among us would have the skill or knowledge to make use of these rockets of yours?” says he. “I said you were sent by God. A British officer, who knows how these things are employed, who can ensure success where our bungling fingers would…”

“You mean you expect me to fire these bloody things for you?” I was so appalled that I said it in English, and he looked at me in bewilderment.

Flashman immediately starts trying to extricate himself from the situation without revealing himself as a coward. He insists he has to bring news of the invasion to his chiefs in India, but Yakub says that if he stops the invasion right there, what urgency will there be? Flashy tries to argue that he's got no direct experience with the rockets, and anyone – even Kutebar – could fire one anyway, but Yakub isn't moved:

quote:

“An artilleryman you may not be, but you are a soldier, with those little skills that mean the difference between success and failure. You know this—and think, blood brother, whether we stand or fall, when those ships flame like the rising sun and sink into destruction, we will have shattered the threat to your folk and mine! We will have lit a fire that will singe the Kremlin wall! By God, what a dawn that will be!”

Just the glitter in those eyes, the joyful madness on that hawk face, sent my spirits into my boots. Normally I’ll talk myself hoarse in my skin’s interest, and grovel all the way to Caesar’s throne, but in that moment I knew it would be no use. You see, even with the saliva pumping into my mouth, I knew that his reasoning was right—ask Raglan or the Duke or Napoleon: they’d have weighed it and said that I should stay.

Flashy shuts up and listens to the plan evolve: Yakub and Sahib Khan will take one division of troops each to seal off the north and south ends of the beach, forming a ring to protect the third group, commanded by Kutebar, which will capture the rockets and fire them under Flashy's supervision. A fourth group, commanded by a Katti Torah, will wait on the other side of the Syr Daria mouth and provide covering fire after the ships are blown up, so whoever's left can escape across the river. And all the while, Flashy is making plans for how he might be able to steal a horse and escape south without being caught, but the prospects are uninspiring -- it's just desert to the south, and if he doesn't get lost and die, the tribesmen will undoubtedly find him and drag him back to face Yakub's wrath.

quote:

Even the beach and the rockets offered a little hope—it couldn’t be worse than Balaclava, surely? (God, what a fearful thought that was.) So I looked as steady as I could, while those grinning wolves chuckled over their plan, and when the Silk One broke silence to announce that she personally would go with Kutebar’s detachment, and assist with the rockets, I even managed to join in the hum of approval, and say how jolly it would be to have her along. One thing tribulation teaches you, and that is to wear the mask when there’s nothing else for it. She gave me a thoughtful glance, and then went back to her nightingale.[

As you can guess, I slept fitfully that night. Here I was again, with my essentials trapped in the mangle, and devil a thing to do but grin and bear it—but it was such madness, I kept swearing to myself as I thumped the pillow. Once on a day I’d have wept, or even prayed, but not now; I’d never had any good from either in the past. I could only sweat and hope—I’d come through so much, so often, perhaps my luck would hold again. One thing I was sure of—the first man into the water tomorrow night was going to be H. Flashman, and no bones about it.

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.



"A coward dies a thousand deaths." I wonder how (theoretically) close Flashy gets to that number? You'd think he'd get fatalistic, eventually...

tokenbrownguy
Apr 1, 2010



Keep it up Selachian, poo poo is fantastic.

Norwegian Rudo
May 8, 2013


The descriptions of the battle coming up are some of the funniest poo poo in the entire series.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



The next day, Flashy decides to go see Yakub again and try to talk him out of the plan, but when he arrives at the pavilion, the only person there is Ko Dali's daughter (and her kitten). Yakub is away meeting Buzurg Khan, she says.

quote:

I was just on the point of making my apology and withdrawing, when she leaned down to the kitten and said:

“Why do you suppose such a tall fellow is so afraid, little sister? Can you tell? No? He would be wise not to let Yakub Beg know it—for it would be a great shame to the Atalik Ghazi to find fear in his blood brother.”

(…)

“Well, I’m damned!” I was beginning, and took a stride forward, red in the face, and stopped.

“Now he is angry, as well as frightened,” says she, pretending to whisper in the brute’s ear. “Is that not fine? We have stirred him to rage, which is one of the seven forbidden sins he feels against us. Yes, pretty tiger, he feels another one as well. Which one? Come, little foolish, that is easy—no, not envy, why should he envy us? Ah, you have guessed it, you wanton of the night walls, you trifler in jimai najaiz. Is it not scandalous? But be at ease—we are safe from him. For does he not fear?”

As she taunts him (via kitten), Flashy comes around the fountain and sits down next to her, and the cat meows at him.

quote:

“There, brave little sister!” She cuddled it, turned to look at me out of those slanting black eyes, and returned to her conversation. “Would you protect your mistress, then? Eyah, it is not necessary—for what will he do? He will gnaw his lip, while his mouth grows dry with fear and desire—he will think. Oh, such thoughts—there is no protection against them. Do you not feel them touching us, embracing us, enfolding us, burning us with their passion? Alas, it is only an illusion—and like to remain one, so great is his fear.”

(…)

“And now he pants, and trembles, and fears to touch, my furry sweet. Like the little boys at the confectioner’s stall, or a beardless youth biting his nails outside a brothel, and he such a fine, strong—nothing of a man. He—”

“drat you!” roars I, “and drat your Yakub Beg! Come here!”

And I grabbed her round the body, one hand on her breast, the other on her belly, and pulled her roughly to me. She came without resistance, her head back, and those almond eyes looking up at me, her lips parted; I was shaking as I brought my mouth down on them, and pulled the robe from her shoulders, gripping her sharp-pointed breasts in my hands. She lay quivering against me for a moment, and then pulled free, pushing the kitten gently aside with her foot.

“Go find a mouse, little idleness. Will you occupy your mistress all day with silly chatter?”

As they get down to business, the cat returns to investigate.

quote:

(N)o sooner had we set to partners and commenced heaving passionately away, than up comes that damned kitten beside my head, and Ko Dali’s daughter had to pause and lift her face to blow at it.

“Does no one pay heed to you, then? Fie, selfish little inquisitive! Can your mistress not have a moment to pleasure herself with an angliski—a thing she has never done before?” And they purred at each other while I was going mad—I’ve never been more mortified in my life.

“I shall tell you all about it later,” said she, which is an astonishing thing to hear, when you’re at grips.

“Never mind telling the blasted cat!” I roared, straining at her. “Dammit, if you’re going to tell anyone, tell me!”

Ko Dali's daughter pulls off her turban, and just as Kutebar said, she's shaved bald (“like a Buddhist monk”), but that's certainly not enough to dissuade Flashman at this point.

quote:

(E)very time I became properly engrossed, she would stop to chide the cat, which kept loafing around miaowing, until I was near crazy, with that naked alabaster beauty squirming athwart my hawse, as the sailors say, and nothing to be done satisfactorily until she had left off talking and come back to work. And once she nearly unmanned me completely by stopping short, glancing up, and crying “Yakub!” and I let out a frantic yelp and near as anything heaved her into the fountain as I strained my head round to look at the archway and see—nothing.

(…)

(O)ne of my fondest recollections is of lying there ruined in the warmth of that little garden, with the leaves rustling overhead, watching her slip into her robe and turban again, sleek and satisfied as the kitten which she picked up and cuddled against her cheek. (If only the English dowagers of my acquaintance could know what I’m remembering when I see them pick up their gross fat tabbies in the drawing-room. “Ah, General Flashman has gone to sleep again, poor dear old thing. How contented he looks. Ssh-hh.”)

She brings Flashman some sherbet and bowls of kefir, which he devours.

quote:

“Why did we permit him to make love, then? Oh, such a question! Because of his fine shape and handsome head, you think, and the promise of a great baz-baz—oh, whiskered little harlot, have you no blushes? What—because he was fearful, and we women know that nothing so drives out a man’s fear as passion and delight with a beautiful darling? That is an old wisdom, true—is it the poet Firdausi who says ‘The making of life in the shadow of death is the blissful oblivion…’?”

“Stuff and nonsense, beautiful darling,” says I, wolfing away. “The poet Flashman says that a good gallop needs no philosophic excuse. You’re a lusty little baggage, young Silk One, and that’s all about it. Here, leave that animal a moment, and give us a kiss.”

The Book Barn > Let's Read Flashman: The Promise of a Great Baz-Baz

After finishing the snack, Flashy is ready for a repeat performance, regardless of whether Yakub is about to return or not, but Ko Dali's daughter turns him down.

quote:

“You were right, curious tiny leopard—you and Firdausi both. He is much braver now—and he is so very strong, with his great powerful arms and thighs, like the black djinn in the story of es-Sinbad of the sea—he is no longer safe with delicate ladies such as we. He might harm us.” And with that mocking smile she went quickly round the fountain, before I could stop her. “Tell me, angliski,” she said, looking back, but not stopping. “You who speak Persian and know so much of our country—have you ever heard of the Old Man of the Mountains?”

“No, by jove, I don’t think I have,” says I. “Come back and tell me about him.”

“After tonight—when the work has been done,” says she, teasing. “Perhaps then I shall tell you.”

“But I want to know now.”

“Be content,” says she. “You are a different man from the fearful fellow who came here seeking Yakub an hour ago. Remember the Persian saying: ‘Lick up the honey, stranger, and ask no questions’.”

And she leaves Flashy feeling content and in high spirits.

quote:

But, do you know, she was right? I couldn’t account for it, but for some reason I felt full of buck and appetite and great good humour, and I couldn’t even remember feeling doubts or fears or anything much—of course, I knew there was nothing like a good lively female for putting a chap in trim, as her man Firdausi had apparently pointed out. Clever lads, these Persian poets. But I couldn’t recall ever feeling so much the better for it—a new man, in fact, as she’d said.

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,"

Oh my god I completely forgot about this part

The Rat
Aug 29, 2004

You will find no one to help you here. Beth DuClare has been dissected and placed in cryonic storage.



Hell yeah gonna get some

Beefeater1980
Sep 12, 2008

My God, it's full of Horatios!





This is exactly what lifts the Flashman series up from being post-imperial wish fulfilment.

Xander77
Apr 6, 2009

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




In Russian (and other Slavic languages... I don't know about the various Turkic dialects Yakub Beg's crowd should be speaking), the noun "English" (i.e, "I am an Englishman") is "Anglichanin". "Angliyskiy" is the adjective (i.e, "English pepper").

This was a common enough mistake in the Cold War era that it is still found in parodies of Western Propaganda.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Yakub and Kutebar return from meeting with Buzurg Khan, who refused to commit any men to the attack, so it's up to them and their 5,000 followers (and Flashman). “I couldn’t believe such poltroonery, myself, and said so, loudly.”

The two leaders give speeches in the marketplace to get the mob fired up and explain the plan, and then Flashy contributes as well:

quote:

I thought, why not give ’em a bit of civilized comfort, too, so I jumped up myself, roaring “Hear, hear!”, and when they stopped to listen I gave it to them, straight and manly.

“That’s the spirit, you fellows!” I told them. “I second what these two fine associates of mine have told you, and have only this to add. We’re going to blow these bloody Russians from Hell to Huddersfield—and I’m the chap who can do it, let me tell you! So I shall detain you no longer, my good friends—and Tajiks, and n(...)s, and what-not—but only ask you to be upstanding and give a rousing British cheer for the honour of the dear old Schoolhouse—hip, hip, hip, hurrah!”

And didn’t they cheer, too? Best speech I ever made, I remember thinking, and Yakub clapped me on the back, grinning all over(.)

Flashy gets together with his assistants (including Ko Dali's daughter) to explain the finer points of setting up the Congreves and their firing frame. The Silk One evades him when he tries to take her aside for some private tutoring, so Flashy goes to get a saber and some ammunition for his revolver and chat with Kutebar.

quote:

“The only thing that irks me,” I told him, “is that we are going to be stuck in some stuffy go-down, blazing away with rockets, while Yakub and the others have got the best of the evening. drat it, Izzat, I want to put this steel across a few Ruski necks—there’s a wall-eyed rascal called Ignatieff, now, have I told you about him? Two rounds from this pop-gun into his midriff, and then a foot of sabre through his throat—that’s all he needs. By gad, I’m thirsty tonight, I tell you.”

“It is a good thirst,” says he approvingly. “But think, angliski, of the countless hundreds of infidel pigs—your pardon, when I say infidels, I mean Ruskis—whom we shall send to the bottom of Aral with these fine ra-kets. Is that not worthy work for a warrior?”

“Oh, I daresay,” I grumbled. “But it ain’t the same as jamming a sword in their guts and watching ’em wriggle. That’s my sort, now. I say, have I ever told you about Balaclava?”

You may be noticing something slightly different about Flashy at this point.

quote:

I didn’t know when I’d felt so blood-lusty, and it got worse as the evening wore on. By the time we saddled up I was full of hate against a vague figure who was Ignatieff in a Cossack hat with the Tsar’s eagle across the front of his shirt; I wanted to settle him, gorily and painfully, and all the way on our ride across the Kizil Kum in the gathering dark I was dreaming fine nightmares in which I despatched him. But from time to time I felt quite jolly, too, and sang a few snatches of “The Leather Bottel” and “John Peel” and other popular favourites, while the riders grinned and nudged each other, and Kutebar muttered that I was surely bewitched.

The troops form up in a wood about half a mile from Fort Raim, Yakub gives the signal, and they all charge like hell for the beach.

quote:

If I’d been a sentry on those walls I’d have had apoplexy. One moment an empty steppe, and the next it was thick with mounted men, pouring down on the fort; we must have covered quarter of a mile before the first shot cracked, and then we were tearing at full tilt towards the gap between fort and river, with the shouts of alarm sounding from the walls, and musketry popping, and then with one voice the yell of the Ghazi war-cry burst from the riders (one voice, in fact, was crying “Tally-ho! Ha-ha!”), five thousand mad creatures thundering down the long slope with the glittering sea far ahead, and the ships riding silent and huge on the water, and on to the cluttered beach, with men scattering in panic as we swept in among the great piles of bales, sabring and shooting, leaping crazily in the gloom over the boxes and low shelters, Yakub’s contingent streaming out to the left among the sheds and go-downs, while our party and Sahib Khan’s drove for the pier.

God, what a chaos it was! I was galloping like a dervish at Kutebar’s heels, roaring “Hark forrard! Ha-ha, you bloody foreigners, Flashy’s here!”, careering through the narrow spaces between the sheds, with the muskets banging off to our left, startled sleepers crying out, and everyone yelling like be-damned. As we burst headlong onto the last stretch of open beach, and swerved past the landward end of the pier, some stout Russian was bawling and letting fly with a pistol; I left off singing “Rule, Britannia” to take a shot at him, but missed, and there ahead someone was waving a torch and calling, and suddenly there were dark figures all around us, clutching at our bridles, almost pulling us from the saddles towards a big go-down on the north side of the pier.

"Ha-ha, you bloody foreigners, Flashy's here!" wouldn't be a bad thread title either.

The go-down is a shed that's open on the sea side, and as the rockets are unpacked from their crates, Flashy surveys the sea, spotting the two Russian powder ships, the Mikhail and the Obrucheff, anchored a short distance away. At Ko Dali's daughter's urging, Flashy turns to focus on getting the firing frame for the rockets set up as fighting breaks out up and down the beach around them.

quote:

Putting up the frame was simple—it’s just an iron fence, you see, with supports both sides, and half-pipes running from the ground behind to the top of the fence, to take the rockets. I’ve never known my fingers so nimble as I tightened the screws and adjusted the half-pipes in their sockets; everyone else seemed slow by comparison, and I cursed them good-naturedly and finally left Ko Dali’s daughter to see to the final adjustments while I went off to examine the rockets.

They had them broken out by now, the dull grey three-foot metal cylinders with their conical heads—I swore when I saw that, as I’d feared, they were the old pattern, without fins and needing the fifteen-foot sticks.

(…)

I was interrupted by the Silk One, tugging urgently at my sleeve, imploring me to hurry—I couldn’t see what all the fuss was, for I was enjoying things thoroughly. The battle was going great guns outside, with a steady crackle of gunfire, but no regular volleys, which meant, as I pointed out, that the Ruskis hadn’t come to order yet.

“Lots of time, darling,” I soothed her. “Now, how’s the frame? Very creditable, very handy, you fellows—well done. Right-ho, Izzat, let’s have some of those rockets along here, sharp now! Mustn’t keep ladies waiting, what?” And I took a slap at her tight little backside—I don’t know when I’ve felt so full of beans.

They get the frame adjusted and aimed at the Mikhail, and set up the first rocket.

quote:

“Stand clear, boys and girls,” I sang out. “Papa’s going to light the blue touch-paper and retire immediately!” And in that instant before I touched the match to the firing-vent, I had a sudden vivid memory of November the Fifth, with the frosty ground and the dark, and little boys chattering and giggling and the girls covering their ears, and the red eye of the rocket smouldering in the black, and the white fizz of sparks, and the chorus of admiring “oohs” and “aahs” as the rocket bursts overhead—and it was something like that now, if you like, except that here the fizzing was like a locomotive funnel belching sparks, filling the go-down with acrid, reeking smoke, while the firing-frame shuddered, and then with an almighty whoosh like an express tearing by the Congreve went rushing away into the night, clouds of smoke and fire gushing from its tail, and the boys and girls cried “By Shaitan!” and “Istagfarullah!”, and Papa skipped nimbly aside roaring “Take that, you sons of bitches!” And we all stood gaping as it soared into the night like a comet, reached the top of its arc, dipped towards the the Mikhail—and vanished miles on the wrong side of it.

"Light the blue touch-paper and retire immediately," a British idiom associated with setting off fireworks, seems a bit anachronistic for 1855; the earliest use I can find is 1897.

They launch four more rockets and all of them miss, but they're adjusting with each shot to get the range right – the sixth one just barely misses the Mikhail's mast, so Flashy has them load the entire frame and send off a whole bunch of rockets at once.

quote:

It was indescribable, and great fun—like a volcano erupting under your feet, and a dense choking fog filling the go-down; the men clinging to steady the firing-frame were almost torn from their feet, the rush of the launching Congreves was deafening, “and for a moment we were all staggering about, weeping and coughing in that filthy smoke. It was a full minute before the reek had cleared sufficiently to see how our shots had fared, and then Kutebar was flinging himself into the air and rushing to embrace me.

“Ya’allahah! Wonder of God! Look—look yonder, Flashman! Look at the blessed sight! Is it not glorious—see, see how they burn!”

And he was right—the Mikhail was hit! There was a red ball of fire clinging to her timbers just below the rail amidships, and even as we watched there was a climbing lick of flame—and over to the right, by some freakish chance, the ketch had been hit, too: there was a fire on her deck, and she was slewing round at anchor. All about me they were dancing and yelling and clapping hands, like school girls when Popular Penelope has won the sewing prize.

Meanwhile, Ko Dali's daughter is trying to keep the men's minds on their work, ordering the frame to be turned to target the Obrucheff. The fighting on the beach is getting closer as well.

But Flashy's luck seems to have run out: they fire twenty rockets at the Obrucheff without being able to come near – either their aim is off or the rockets, which are old and rusty, fail or go sailing off in the wrong direction entirely.

quote:

(T)he go-down was a scorching inferno of choking smoke in which we shouted and swore hoarsely as we wrestled sticks and canisters into pipes that were so hot we had to douse them with water after every shot. My good humour didn’t survive the twentieth miss; I raged and swore and kicked the nearest n(...)r—I was aware, too, that as we laboured the sounds of battle outside were drawing closer still, and I was in half a mind to leave these infernal rockets that wouldn’t fly straight, and pitch into the fighting on the beach. It was like hell, outside and in, and to add to my fury one of the ships in the bay was firing at us now; the pillar of cloud from the go-down must have made a perfect target, and the rocket trails had long since advertised to everyone on that beach exactly what was going on. The smack of musket balls on the roof and walls was continuous—although I didn’t know it then, detachments of Russian cavalry had tried three times to drive through the lumbered beach in phalanx to reach the go-down and silence us, and Yakub’s riders had halted them each time with desperate courage. The ring round our position was contracting all the time as the Khokandian riders fell back; once a shot from the sea pitched right in front of the go-down, showering us with spray, another howled overhead like a banshee, and a third crashed into the pier alongside us.

Flashy fires one more shot and it falls just short, and then sees that the Obrucheff is starting to move as its engine gets up to speed. Ko Dali's daughter yells for him to fire everything before it can get away, and Flashy and his assistants load up and launch five rockets – just as the Russian artillery hits the go-down. The roof is smashed and Flashy is knocked unconscious for a couple of minutes by falling lumber. When he comes to, the firing frame has been crushed and one wall of the go-down is burning. The Mikhail is on fire as well, but the Obrucheff is steaming away from shore, although Flashy thinks he sees a fire near its stern so maybe one of the rockets finally hit.

quote:

But the strangest thing was, that my head seemed to have floated loose from my shoulders, and I couldn’t seem to focus properly on things around me. The great berserk rage that had possessed me only a moment since seemed to have gone, and I felt quite tranquil, and dreamy—it wasn’t unpleasant, really, for I felt that nothing much mattered, and there was no pain or anxiety, or even inclination to do anything, but just lie there, resting body and brain together.

And yet I have a pretty clear recollection of what was happening around me, although none of it was important at the time. There were folk crawling about the go-down, among the smoke and wreckage, and Kutebar was thundering away blasphemously, and then Ko Dali’s daughter was kneeling beside me, trying to raise my head, which was apparently swollen as big as a house. Outside, the fight was raging, and among the shots and yells I could hear the actual clash of steel—it didn’t excite me now, though, or even interest me. And then Yakub Beg was there, his helmet gone, one arm limp with a great bloodied gash near the shoulder, and a naked sabre in his good hand. Strange, thinks I, you ought to be out on the beach, killing Russians; what the deuce are you doing here?

Yakub says it's all over – they can't hold out against the Russians any longer and have to flee across the river. Sahib Khan will stay and hold out as long as he can to give them the time they need to escape. Yakub and Kutebar, along with Flashy, Ko Dali's daughter, and a few other men, grab a small boat that was anchored near the go-down and pole it out into the river mouth just as the fire cooks off the remaining rockets.

quote:

I saw a brilliant light suddenly glowing on its floor, growing in intensity, and then the rush-rush-rush sound of the Congreves as the flames from the burning wall reached them, and I just had sense enough to duck my head below the gunwale before the whole place dissolved in a blinding light—but strangely enough, without any great roar of explosion, just the rushing noise of a huge whirlwind. There were screams and oaths from the lighter all around me, but when I raised my head there was just one huge flame where the go-down had been, and the pier beside it was burning at its landward end, and the glare was so fierce that beyond there was nothing to be seen.

I just lay, with my cheek on the thwart, wondering if the eddy would carry us out of range before they started shooting at us, and thinking how calm and pleasant it was to be drifting along here, after all the hellish work in the go-down. I still wasn’t feeling any sense of urgency, or anything beyond a detached, dreamy interest, and I can’t say even now whether we were fired on or not, for I suddenly became aware that Ko Dali’s daughter was crouched down beside me at the gunwale, staring back, and people were pressed close about us, and I thought, this is a splendid opportunity to squeeze that lovely little rump of hers. There it was, just nicely curved within a foot of me, so I took a handful and kneaded away contentedly, and she never even noticed—or if she did, she didn’t mind. But I think she was too preoccupied with the inferno we had left behind us; so were the others, craning and muttering as we drifted over the dark water. It’s queer, but in my memory that drifting and bum-fondling seems to have gone on for the deuce of a long time—I suppose I was immensely preoccupied with it, and a capital thing, too.

Yakub is frustrated that the Obrucheff seems to have gotten away unscathed, but at least the rocket crew got half of their job done. Kutebar snorts that it's “all very well for those who had been loafing about on the beach, building sand-castles, to talk.”

quote:

And pat on his words the sun was suddenly in the sky—or so it seemed, for the whole place, the lighter, the sea around, and sky itself, were suddenly as bright as day, and it seemed to me that the lighter was no longer drifting, but racing over the water, and then came the most tremendous thundering crash of sound I’ve ever heard, reverberating over the sea, making the head sing and shudder with the deafening boom of it, and as I tried to put up my hands to my ears to shut out the pain, I heard Kutebar’s frantic yell:

“The Obrucheff! She has gone—gone to the pit of damnation! Now whose work is half-done? By God!—it is done, it is done, it is done! A thousand times done! Ya, Yakub—is it not done? Now the praise to Him and to the foreign professors!”

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



quote:

More than two thousand Khokandians were killed in the battle of Fort Raim, which shows you what a clever lad Buzurg Khan was to keep out of it. The rest escaped, some by cutting their way eastward off the beach, some by swimming the Syr Daria mouth, and a favoured few travelling in style, by boat and lighter. How many Russians died, no one knows, but Yakub Beg later estimated about three thousand. So it was a good deal bigger than many battles that are household words, but it happened a long way away, and the Russians doubtless tried to forget it, so I suppose only the Khokandians remember it now.

It achieved their purpose, anyhow, for it destroyed the Russian munition ships, and prevented the army marching that year. Which saved British India for as long as I’ve lived—and preserved Khokand’s freedom for a few years more, before the Tsar’s soldiers came and stamped it flat in the ’sixties.

In reality, of course, there was never any battle of Fort Raim. The Russians continued to push deeper into Khokand and finally forced the khan to accept vassalage in 1868, followed by absorbing it entirely into Russian Turkestan in 1876. Yakub Beg left Khokand to rule in Kashgar after Ko Dali's death, until the Chinese drove him out in 1877.

Flashman says he remembers nothing more of the battle because he was “in the finest hallucinatory delirium since the first Reform Bill” and didn't come to his senses until two days later, by which time he was back in the village. But he does remember his actions during the battle very clearly and can't understand why he'd been acting that way.

quote:

It had been utterly against nature, instinct and judgement—and I knew it hadn’t been booze, because I hadn’t had any, and anyway the liquor hasn’t been distilled that can make me oblivious of self-preservation. It appalled me, for what security does a right-thinking coward have, if he loses his sense of panic?

He goes to Ko Dali's daughter again and presses her for information, and after some stalling she lets him in on the secret:

quote:

“You remember I spoke to you about the Old Man of the Mountains, of whom you had never heard?”

“What’s he got to do with me rushing about like a lunatic?”

“He lived many years ago, in Persia, beyond the Two Seas and the Salt Desert. He was the master of the mad fighting-men—the hasheesheen—who nerved themselves to murder and die by drinking the hasheesh drug—what the Indians call bhang. It is prepared in many ways, for many purposes—it can be so concocted that it will drive a man to any lengths of hatred and courage—and other passions.”

And she said it as calm as a virgin discussing flower arrangement, sitting there gravely cross-legged on a charpai in a corner of her garden, with her vile kitten gorging itself on a saucer of milk beside her. I stared at her astounded.

“The hasheesheen—you mean the Assassins? Great God, woman, d’you mean to say you filled me with an infernal drug, that sent me clean barmy?”

“It was in your kefir,” says she, lightly. “Drink, little tiger, there is more if you need it.”

Most of this is untrue. The idea that Hassan-i-Sabbah dosed his followers with drugs to make them fanatical killers was a creation of hostile Muslim historians and credulous Western travelers, including Marco Polo. There are accounts of historical soldiers in India, Central Asia, and Africa using pot or hashish before a fight – but it seems intended to steady their nerves and take the edge off, rather than turn them into fearless super-warriors.

Flashy is outraged, but she says there was no choice: she knew he was a coward, and there was no way for the plan to succeed if he chickened out. And besides, if he'd been a coward, he would have gotten killed either way. While Flashy admits to himself that she has a point, it doesn't stop him from getting petty in an attempt to hurt her:

quote:

“If I’m honest, it’s more than you are. All this fine talk of not failing your precious Yakub Beg—we know how much that’s worth! You pretend to be devoted to him—but it doesn’t stop you coupling like a bitch in heat with the first chap that comes along. Hah! That shows how much you care for him!”

She didn’t even blush, but smiled down at the kitten, and stroked it. “Perhaps it does, eh, puss? But the angliski would not be pleased if we said as much. But then—”

“Stop talking to the blasted cat! Speak plain, can’t you?”

“If it pleases you. Listen, angliski, I do not mock—now, and I do not seek to put shame on you. It is no sin to be fearful, any more than it is a sin to be one-legged or red-haired. All men fear—even Yakub and Kutebar and all of them. To conquer fear, some need love, and some hate, and some greed, and some even—hasheesh. I understand your anger—but consider, is it not all for the best? You are here, which is what matters most to you—and no one but I knows what fears are in your heart. And that I knew from the beginning. So—” she smiled, and I remember it still as a winning smile, curse her. “‘Lick up the honey, stranger, and ask no questions’.”

Now that the threat from Russia has been ended, Flashy decides it's time to get back home. With Yakub, Kutebar, and Ko Dali's daughter as escorts, he travels to Samarkand, where some Afghan friends of Yakub's will guide him to Peshawar. There, Flashy stops to make his farewells to Yakub.

quote:

“You know where we are, Englishman?” He pointed along the dusty track, which wound in and out of the little sand-hills, and then ran like a yellow ribbon across the plain before it forked towards the great white barrier of the Afghan mountains. “This is the great Pathway of Expectation, as the hill people say, where you may realize your hopes just by hoping them. The Chinese call it the Baghdad Highway, and the Persians and Hindus know it as the Silk Trail, but we call it the Golden Road.” And he quoted a verse which, with considerable trouble, I’ve turned into rhyming English:

To learn the age-old lesson day by day:
It is not in the bright arrival planned,
But in the dreams men dream along the way,
They find the Golden Road to Samarkand.

(...)

So we shook, and then the others arrived, and Kutebar was gripping me by the shoulders in his great bear-hug and shouting: “God be with you, Flashman—and my compliments to the scientists and doctors in Anglistan.” And Ko Dali’s daughter approached demurely to give me the gift of her scarf and kiss me gently on the lips—and just for an instant the minx’s tongue was half-way down my throat before she withdrew, looking like St Cecilia. Yakub Beg shook hands again and wheeled his horse.

“Goodbye, blood brother. Think of us in England. Come and visit us in Kashgar some day—or better still, find a Kashgar of your own!”

And then they were thundering away back on the Samarkand road, cloaks flying, and Kutebar turning in the saddle to give me a wave and a roar. And it’s odd—but for a moment I felt lonely, and wondered if I should miss them. It was a deeply-felt sentimental mood which lasted for at least a quarter of a second, and has never returned, I’m happy to say. As to Kashgar, and Yakub’s invitation—well, if I could get guaranteed passports from the Tsar, and the Empress of China, and every hill-chief between Astrakhan and Lake Baikal, and a private Pullman car the whole way with running buffet, bar, and waitresses in constant attendance—I might think quite hard about it before declining. I’ve too many vivid memories of Central Asia; at my time of life Scarborough is far enough east for me.

His guides are a tough, reliable crew, and they spend a week crossing the Hindu Kush to Kabul, which stirs up quite a few old memories.

quote:

(A)nd suddenly there was the old Bala Hissar again, and I sat in disbelief looking across to the overgrown orchards where Elphy Bey’s cantonment had been, so many years ago, and the Kabul River, and the hillside where Akbar had spread his carpet and McNaghten had died—I could close my eyes and almost hear the drums of the 44th beating “Yankee Doodle” and old Lady Sale berating some unfortunate bearer for brewing tea before the water was thoroughly boiling.

I even took a turn up by the ruined Residency, and found my heart beating faster as I looked at the bullet-pocked walls, and marked the window where Broadfoot had tumbled to his death—and from there I turned and tried to find the spot where the Ghazis had set on me and the Burnes brothers, but I couldn’t find it.

It was strange—everything the same and yet different. I stood looking round at the close-packed houses, and wondered in which one Gul Shah had tried to murder me with his infernal snakes—and at that I found myself shivering and hurrying back to the market where my escort were waiting: sometimes ghosts can hover in too close for comfort.

They ride through the Khyber Pass to Peshawar, where Flashy parts from his escort and finds “a young whipper-snapper of a Company ensign.”

quote:

“A very good day to you, old boy,” says I. “I’m Flashman.”

He was a fishy-looking, fresh young lad with a peeling nose, and he goggled at me, going red.

“Sergeant!” he squeaks. “What’s this beastly-looking n(...)r doing on the office verandah?” For I was attired à la Kizil Kum still, in cloak and pyjamys and puggaree, with a bigger beard than Dr Grace.

“Not at all,” says I, affably, “I’m English—a British officer, in fact. Name of Flashman—Colonel Flashman, 17th Lancers, but slightly detached for the moment. I’ve just come from—up yonder, at considerable personal expense, and I’d like to see someone in authority. Your commanding officer will do.”

“It’s a madman!” cries he. “Sergeant, stand by!”

And would you believe it, it took me half an hour before I could convince him not to throw me in the lock-up, and he summoned a peevish-looking captain, who listened, nodding irritably while I explained who and what I was.

“Very good,” says he. “You’ve come from Afghanistan?”

“By way of Afghanistan, yes. But—”

“Very good. This is a customs post, among other things. Have you anything to declare?”

And that, finally, is the end of Flashman at the Charge. Coming up next, another trip to India...

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,"

Definitely one of my favorite Flashman stories, thank you for finishing it! The following book is another great adventure!

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







Congratulations on finishing this one, it had some great points and the next will reach higher drama, thrills, and heights of comedy. Can't wait!

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Arbite posted:

Congratulations on finishing this one, it had some great points and the next will reach higher drama, thrills, and heights of comedy. Can't wait!

I haven't even truly read this book, but now I desperately want a series that follows the adventures of Ko Dali's daughter from this series - much like this series follows Flashman from Tom Brown's School Days.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012





Flashman in the Great Game came along in 1975 and follows directly from Flashman at the Charge, making it fifth in publication order and eighth-and-a-half chronologically. "The Great Game," a term made famous by Kipling in Kim, referred to the political maneuvering in Afghanistan and India as Britain tried to protect its colonies in the region from a perceived Russian threat. This book also sees Flashy dumped into yet another one of the British military's bloody failures, this time the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.

quote:

They don’t often invite me to Balmoral nowadays, which is a blessing; those damned tartan carpets always put me off my food, to say nothing of the endless pictures of German royalty and that unspeakable statue of the Prince Consort standing knock-kneed in a kilt. King Teddy’s company is something I’d sooner avoid than not, anyway, for he’s no better than an upper-class hooligan. Of course, he’s been pretty leery of me for forty-odd years (ever since I misguided his youthful footsteps into an actress’s bed, in fact, and brought Papa Albert’s divine wrath down on his fat head) and when he finally wheezed his way on to the throne I gather he thought of dropping me altogether—said something about my being Falstaff to his Prince Hal. Falstaff, mark you—from a man with piggy eyes and a belly like a Conestoga wagon cover. Vile taste in cigars he has, too.



Here's that statue, by the way.

Flashman reminiscences about being invited to Balmoral every September in Victoria's time; Victoria always liked him, especially after he got Edward through the Tranby Croft Affair. (Flashy would be something of an expert on accusations of card cheating.) Despite his regard for Victoria, he found Balmoral gloomy and depressing.

quote:

But I think what really turns me against Balmoral in my old age is its memories. It was there that the Great Mutiny began for me, and on my rare excursions north nowadays there’s a point on the line where the rhythm of the wheels changes, and in my imagination they begin to sing: “Mera-Jhansi-denge-nay, mera-Jhansi-denge-nay”, over and over, and in a moment the years have dropped away, and I’m remembering how I first came to Balmoral half a century ago; aye, and what it led to—the stifling heat of the parade ground at Meerut with the fettering-hammers clanging; the bite of the muzzle of the nine-pounder jammed into my body and my own blood steaming on the sun-scorched iron; old Wheeler bawling hoarsely as the black cavalry sabres come thundering across the maidan towards our flimsy rampart (“No surrender! One last volley, drat ’em, and aim at the horses!”); the burning bungalows, a skeleton hand in the dust, Colin Campbell scratching his grizzled head, the crimson stain spreading in the filthy water below Suttee Ghat, a huge glittering pile of silver and gold and jewels and ivory bigger than anything you’ve ever seen—and two great brown liquid eyes shadowed with kohl, a single pearl resting on the satin skin above them, open red lips trembling…and, blast him, here’s the station-master, beaming and knuckling his hat and starting me out of the only delightful part of that waking nightmare, with his cry of “Welcome back tae Deeside, Sir Harry! here we are again, then!”

And as he hands me down to the platform, you may be sure the local folk are all on hand, bringing their brats to stare and giggle at the big old buffer in his tweed cape and monstrous white whiskers (“There he is! The V.C. man, Sir Harry Flashman—aye, auld Flashy, him that charged wi’ the Light Brigade and killed a’ the n(...)s at Kau-bool—Goad, but isnae he the auld yin?—hip, hooray!”).

Flashman reflects on his “fifty inglorious years of unwilling soldiering” and the events of the Mutiny before getting started on the story proper:

quote:

One other thing about the Mutiny, before I get down to cases—I reckon it must be about the only one of my campaigns that I was pitched into through no fault of mine. On other occasions, I’ll own, I’ve been to blame; for a man with a white liver a yard wide I’ve had a most unhappy knack of landing myself neck-deep in the slaughter through my various follies—to wit, talking too much (that got me into the Afghan débâcle of ’41); playing the fool in pool-rooms (the Crimea); believing everything Abraham Lincoln told me (American Civil War); inviting a half-breed Hunkpapa whore to a regimental ball (the Sioux Rising of ’76), and so on; the list’s as long as my arm. But my involvement in the Mutiny was all Palmerston’s doing (what disaster of the fifties wasn’t?).

From there, we go back to Flashman's return from the Crimea. After suffering through an attack of cholera in Peshawar, he finally returned to England. By the summer of next year (1856) he's “safely content on half-pay as a staff colonel, and not so much as a sniff of war in sight,” the Crimean War having fizzled out and ended in March. He, Elspeth, and Havvy (“a guzzling lout of seven”) have moved to a house in Berkeley Square, living the high life on Elspeth's inheritance and once again the hero of London for his exploits in the Crimea and rumors of his alleged heroism in Central Asia.

quote:

So with the country in a patriotic fever about its returning braves, I was ace-high in popular esteem—there was even talk that I’d get one of the new Victoria Crosses (for what that was worth) but it’s my belief that Airey and Cardigan scotched it between them. Jealous bastards.

Flashy thinks Airey, Raglan's chief of staff, is still bitter over his letting Willy get killed. Meanwhile, Cardigan has his own problems. As was briefly mentioned during the discussion of the previous book, Cardigan returned to England quickly after the Charge and gave an exaggerated account of his achievements. But when the war ended, he had to deal with other officers who had also been there and who had a less exalted view of what he'd done.

quote:

He’d been at the head of the charge, right enough, with me alongside on a bolting horse, farting my fearful soul out, but after we’d reached the battery he’d barely paused to exchange a cut or two with the Ruski gunners before heading for home and safety again. Shocking bad form in a commander, says I, who was trying to hide under a gun limber at the time—not that I think for a moment that he was funking it; he hadn’t the brains to be frightened, our Lord Haw-Haw. But he had retreated without undue delay, and since he was never short of enemies eager to believe the worst, the gossips were having a field day now. There were angry letters in the press, and even a law-suit, and since I’d been in the thick of the action, it was natural that I should be asked about it.

One night at a card room, Flashy's cousin George Paget (who, you'll remember, was also in the Charge) asks him whether or not he saw Cardigan “cut out”, since the two of them were riding side by side at the lead.

quote:

There were one or two shocked murmurs, and I shuffled a pack, frowning, before I answered. There are more ways than one of damning a man’s credit, and I wanted to give Cardigan of my best. So I looked uncomfortable, and then growled, slapped the pack down as I rose, looked Paget in the eye, and said:

“It’s all by and done with now, ain’t it? Let’s drop it, George, shall we?” And I went out then and there, leaving behind the impression that bluff, gallant Flashy didn’t want to talk about it—which convinced them all that Cardigan had shirked, better than if I’d said so straight out, or called him a coward to his face.

Word clearly spreads fast, because two hours later Cardigan catches up with Flashman coming out of another club.

quote:

“Fwashman! You there, sir!” he croaked—they were absolutely the first words between us since the Charge, nearly two years before. He was breathing frantically, like a man who has been running, his beaky face all mottled and his grey whiskers quaking with fury. “Fwashman—this is intolewable! My honour is impugned—scandalous lies, sir! And they tell me that you don’t deny them! Well, sir? Well? Haw-haw?”

I tilted back my tile with a forefinger and looked him up and down, from his bald head and pop eyes to his stamping foot. He looked on the edge of apoplexy; a delightful sight.

“What lies are these, my lord?” says I, very steady.

“You know vewy well!” he cried. “Bawacwava, sir—the storming of the battewy! Word George Paget has asked you, in pubwic, whether you saw me at the guns—and you have the effwontewy to tell him you don’t know! Damnation, sir! And one of my own officers, too—”

“A former member of your regiment, my lord—I admit the fact.”

“Blast your impudence!” he roared, frothing at me. “Will you give me the lie? Will you say I was not at the guns?”

I settled my hat and pulled on my gloves while he mouthed.

“My lord,” says I, speaking deliberately clear, “I saw you in the advance. In the battery itself—I was otherwise engaged, and had no leisure nor inclination to look about me to see who was where. For that matter, I did not see Lord George himself until he pulled me to my feet. I assumed—” and I bore on the word ever so slightly “—that you were on hand, at the head of your command. But I do not know, and frankly I do not care. Good day to you, my lord.”

Flashman notes that Cardigan wasn't the only commander in trouble after the failures Crimea; Lucan and Airey also got raked over the coals. (Raglan, meanwhile, escaped criticism by dying of dysentery during the Siege of Sevastopol.)

quote:

Unfortunately, government picked the wrong men to do the investigating—MacNeill and Tulloch—for they turned out to be honest, and reported that indeed our high command hadn’t been fit to dig latrines, or words to that effect. Well, that plainly wouldn’t do, so another commission had to be hurriedly formed to investigate afresh, and this time get the right answer, and no nonsense about it. Well, they did, and exonerated everybody, hip-hip-hurrah and Rule, Britannia. Which was what you’d have expected any half-competent government to stage-manage in the first place, but Palmerston was in the saddle by then, and he wasn’t really good at politics, you know.

The report produced by diplomat John McNeill and Colonel Alexander Tulloch focused on how poorly the Crimean army had been supplied with food, clothing, ammunition, and medical supplies, leading to outbreaks of disease that killed thousands of soldiers. At the same time, Florence Nightingale was campaigning relentlessly to expose the lack of sanitation in military camps and hospitals, setting off a national scandal that eventually, glacially, led to reforms in the army supply chain.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


I admit that this book makes me nervous (as did the previous one) because I keep expecting Flashman to end up having sex with Florence Nightingale.

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







Selachian posted:

The report produced by diplomat John McNeill and Colonel Alexander Tulloch focused on how poorly the Crimean army had been supplied with food, clothing, ammunition, and medical supplies, leading to outbreaks of disease that killed thousands of soldiers. At the same time, Florence Nightingale was campaigning relentlessly to expose the lack of sanitation in military camps and hospitals, setting off a national scandal that eventually, glacially, led to reforms in the army supply chain.

Thank you! I'd been wanting to read this report ever since I first heard this passage years back.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Everyone posted:

I admit that this book makes me nervous (as did the previous one) because I keep expecting Flashman to end up having sex with Florence Nightingale.

Wellllll..... sorta....

In September 1856, the first of Flashy's invitations to Balmoral arrives; he thinks it might be because Russia is in the news again “with the new Tsar's coronation and the recent peace” (Alexander II had taken the throne in 1855), and the Queen might want to have someone with Russian experience around to show off.

quote:

I didn’t have leisure to speculate at the time, though, for Elspeth’s frenzy at the thought of being “in attendance”, as she chose to call it, claimed everyone’s attention within a mile of Berkeley Square. Being a Scotch tradesman’s daughter, my darling was one degree more snobbish than a penniless Spanish duke, and in the days before we went north her condescension to her middle-class friends would have turned your stomach. Between gloating, and babbling about how she and the Queen would discuss dressmaking while Albert and I boozed in the gunroom (she had a marvellous notion of court life, you see), she went into declines at the thought that she would come out in spots, or have her drawers fall down when being presented. You must have endured the sort of thing yourself.

In the fall of 1856, Balmoral was still under construction; the royals' living quarters had been finished, but guests like Flashy and Elspeth were put up at Abergeldie Castle, a bit over a mile away.

quote:

We took a stroll the first afternoon, in the direction of Balmoral, and on the road encountered what seemed to be a family of tinkers led by a small washerwoman and an usher who had evidently pinched his headmaster’s clothes. Fortunately, I recognised them as Victoria and Albert out with their brood, and knew enough simply to raise my hat as we passed, for they loathed to be treated as royalty when they were playing at being commoners. Elspeth didn’t even suspect who it was until we were past; and when I told her she swooned by the roadside. I revived her by threatening to carry her into the bushes and molest her, and on the way back she observed that really her majesty had looked quite royal, but in a common sort of way.

The next day they're formally presented at Balmoral, and Elspeth is once again reduced to terror by having to share a waiting room with a couple of minor nobles ("Lord and Lady Puffbuttock," Flashy dubs them) who are highly offended at having to wait with a couple of nobodies.

quote:

It was quite handy that our companions kept their noses in the air, though, for it gave me the chance to loop a ribbon from the lady’s enormous crinoline on to an occasional table without her knowing, and when the doors to the royal drawing-room were opened she set off and brought the whole thing crashing down, crockery and all, in full view of the little court circle. I kept Elspeth in an iron grip, and steered her round the wreckage, and so Colonel and Mrs Flashman made their bows while the doors were hurriedly closed behind us, and the muffled sounds of the Puffbuttocks being extricated by flunkeys was music to my ears, even if it did make the Queen look more pop-eyed than usual. The moral is: don’t put on airs with Flashy, and if you do, keep your crinolines out of harm’s way.

Luckily, the queen and Elspeth hit it off right away, and Albert doesn't seem to be harboring any bitter feelings about the loss of Willy.

quote:

“Ah, Colonel Flash-mann—haff you read Tocqueville’s L’Ancien Régime?”

I said I hadn’t, yet, but I’d be at the railway library first thing in the morning, and he looked doleful and went on:

“It warns us that bureaucratic central government, far from curing the ills of revolution, can actually arouse them.”

I said I’d often thought that, now that he mentioned it, and he nodded and said: “Italy is very unsatisfactory,” which brought our conversation to a close.

Flashy shares some of his anecdotes about Russia, and the visit proceeds well, although he finds it tiresome having to toady to Albert.

quote:

(W)e went shooting with the other gentlemen, and it was purgatory having to stalk at his pace. He was keen as mustard, though, and slaughtered stags like a Ghazi on hashish—you’ll hardly credit it, but his notion of sport was that a huge long trench should be dug so that we could sneak up on the deer unobserved; he’d have done it, too, but the local ghillies showed so much disgust at the idea that he dropped it. He couldn’t understand their objections, though; to him all that mattered was killing the beasts.

For the rest, he prosed interminably and played German music on the piano, with me applauding like hell. Things weren’t made easier by the fact that he and Victoria weren’t getting on too well just then; she had just discovered (and confided to Elspeth) that she was in foal for the ninth time, and she took her temper out on dear Albert—the trouble was, he was so bloody patient with her, which can drive a woman to fury faster than anything I know. And he was always right, which was worse. So they weren’t dealing at all well, and he spent most of the daylight hours tramping up Glen Bollocks, or whatever they call it, roaring “Ze gunn!” and butchering every animal in view.

However, he does get a chance to meet another famous Victorian – this time, Florence Nightingale.

quote:

I’d never met her, but as the leading Crimean on the premises I was summoned to join in the tête-à-tête she had with the Queen in the afternoon. It was a frost, if you like; pious platitudes from the two of ’em, with Flashy passing the muffins and joining in when called on to agree that what our wars needed was more sanitation and texts on the wall of every dressing-station. There was one near-facer for me, and that was when Miss Nightingale (a cool piece, that) asked me calm as you like what regimental officers could do to prevent their men from contracting certain indelicate social infections from—hem-hem—female camp-followers of a certain sort; I near as dammit put my tea-cup in the Queen’s lap, but recovered to say that I’d never heard of any such thing, not in the Light Cavalry, anyway—French troops another matter, of course. Would you believe it, I actually made her blush, but I doubt if the Queen even knew what we were talking about. For the rest, I thought La Nightingale a waste of good womanhood; handsome face, well set up and titted out, but with that cold don’t-lay-a-lecherous-limb-on-me-my-lad look in her eye—the kind, in short, that can be all right if you’re prepared to spend time and trouble making ’em cry “Roger!”, but I seldom have the patience. Anywhere else I might have taken a squeeze at her, just by way of research, but a queen’s drawing-room cramps your style. (Perhaps it’s a pity I didn’t; being locked up for indecent assault on a national heroine couldn’t have been worse than the ordeal that was to begin a few hours later.)

Kuiperdolin
Sep 5, 2011


quote:

babbling about how she and the Queen would discuss dressmaking while Albert and I boozed in the gunroom (she had a marvellous notion of court life, you see)

Still my favorite line from Flashman after all these years.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Selachian posted:


The next day they're formally presented at Balmoral, and Elspeth is once again reduced to terror by having to share a waiting room with a couple of minor nobles ("Lord and Lady Puffbuttock," Flashy dubs them) who are highly offended at having to wait with a couple of nobodies.

quote:

It was quite handy that our companions kept their noses in the air, though, for it gave me the chance to loop a ribbon from the lady’s enormous crinoline on to an occasional table without her knowing, and when the doors to the royal drawing-room were opened she set off and brought the whole thing crashing down, crockery and all, in full view of the little court circle. I kept Elspeth in an iron grip, and steered her round the wreckage, and so Colonel and Mrs Flashman made their bows while the doors were hurriedly closed behind us, and the muffled sounds of the Puffbuttocks being extricated by flunkeys was music to my ears, even if it did make the Queen look more pop-eyed than usual. The moral is: don’t put on airs with Flashy, and if you do, keep your crinolines out of harm’s way.

I do appreciate it when Flashman uses his powers for good - or at least for evil against people who clearly kind of deserve it.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

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

Selachian posted:



Flashman in the Great Game came along in 1975 and follows directly from Flashman at the Charge, making it fifth in publication order and eighth-and-a-half chronologically. "The Great Game," a term made famous by Kipling in Kim, referred to the political maneuvering in Afghanistan and India as Britain tried to protect its colonies in the region from a perceived Russian threat. This book also sees Flashy dumped into yet another one of the British military's bloody failures, this time the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.


This is my favorite book in the series - it digs more into the mechanisms of empire than any of the others, and as an American I was completely ignorant of the 1857 Mutiny until this book. It's a fascinating time, and I want to read more about it from the Indian perspective. Fraser presents the story pretty well from the Indian POV, but naturally it's Fraser's British take on what the Indian perspective is.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Later that day, Flashy and Elspeth are invited to a birthday party. They return to Abergeldie late in the evening, with Flashy rather drunk and horny, but there's someone wating for them:

quote:

A tall chap, almost a swell, but with a jaw too long and an eye too sharp; very respectable, with a hard hat under his arm and a billy in his hip-pocket, I’ll wager. I know a genteel strong man from a government office when I see one.

(…)

“I am from the Treasury, Colonel Flashman,” says he. “My name is Hutton. Lord Palmerston wishes to speak with you.”

Hutton says Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister, is already in Balmoral. Flashman excuses himself to “change his shoes,” but really to buy time to think. He doesn't know Palmerston particularly well, and has no idea what he might want, but he can't figure out any way to refuse the Prime Minister.

quote:

(S)o I went to my dressing-room, fretting, donned my hat and topcoat against the worsening weather, and remembered that Elspeth, poor child, must even now be waiting for her cross-buttocking lesson. Well, it was hard lines on her, but duty called, so I just popped my head round her door to call a chaste farewell—and there she was, dammit, reclining languorously on the coverlet like one of those randy classical goddesses, wearing nothing but the big ostrich-plume fan I’d brought her from Egypt, and her sniggering maid turning the lamp down low. Elspeth clothed could stop a monk in his tracks; naked and pouting expectantly over a handful of red feathers, she’d have made the Grand Inquisitor burn his books. I hesitated between love and duty for a full second, and then “The hell with Palmerston, let him wait!” cries I, and was plunging for the bed before the abigail was fairly out of the room. Never miss the chance, as the Duke used to say.

“Lord Palmerston? Oooo-ah! Harry—what do you mean?”

“Ne’er mind!” cries I, taking hold and bouncing away.

“But Harry—such impatience, my love! And, dearest—you’re wearing your hat!”

“The next one’s going to be a boy, dammit!” And for a few glorious stolen moments I forgot Palmerston and minions in the hall, and marvelled at the way that superb idiot woman of mine could keep up a stream of questions while performing like a harem houri—we were locked in an astonishing embrace on her dressing-table stool, I recall, when there was a knock on the door, and the maid’s giggling voice piped through to say the gentleman downstairs was getting impatient, and would I be long.

(…)

I carried my darling tenderly back to the bed. Always leave things as you would wish to find them.

“I cannot stay longer, my love,” I told her. “The Prime Minister is waiting.” And with bewildered entreaties pursuing me I skipped out, trousers in hand, made a hasty toilet on the landing, panted briefly against the wall, and then stepped briskly down. It’s a great satisfaction, looking back, that I kept the government waiting in such a good cause, and I set it down here as a deserved tribute to the woman who was the only real love of my life and as the last pleasant memory I was to have for a long time ahead.



Riding with Hutton, Flashman's thoughts turn to Palmerston. At age 71, Palmerston was (and still is) the oldest man to ever become Prime Minister, having spent half a century in politics, including over 15 years as Foreign Secretary. His predecessor, the Earl of Aberdeen, was turned out over the mismanagement of the Crimean War. As Foreign Secretary and later Prime Minister, he pushed an active, interventionist role for Britain. But Flashman has also heard that Palmerston is easy to get along with, so he's not too concerned... yet.

Flashy is escorted into Palmerston's presence and finds him with his secretary, Barrington, a couple of assistants, as well as Lord Ellenborough, former Governor-General of India, and Sir Charles Wood, the First Lord of the Admiralty.

quote:

He was very old at this time, with the gout and his false teeth forever slipping out, but he was evidently full of ginger tonight, and not in one of his easygoing moods. He didn’t beat about, either.

“Young Flashman,” growls he. “Very good. Staff colonel, on half-pay at present, what? Well, from this moment you’re back on the full list, an’ what you hear in this room tonight is to go no further, understand? Not to anyone—not even in this castle. You follow?”

I followed, sure enough—what he meant was that the Queen wasn’t to know: it was notorious that he never told her anything. But that was nothing; it was his tone, and the solemn urgency of his warning, that put the hairs up on my neck.

Victoria hated Palmerston, and would not have chosen him as Prime Minister if there had been anyone else able to command enough support in Parliament. Palmerston, meanwhile, loathed royals meddling in government, and during his terms as Foreign Minister often got into hot water by treating Victoria as an annoying obstacle instead of the head of state.

Palmerston orders Barrington and Ellenborough to show Flashman “the damned buns,” and Barrington passes Flashy a biscuit box.

quote:

I pushed back the lid, mystified, and there, in a rice-paper wrapping, were three or four greyish, stale-looking little scones, no bigger than captain’s biscuits.

“There,” says Pam, not looking up from his papers. “Don’t eat ’em. Tell his lordship what you make of those.”

I knew, right off; that faint eastern smell was unmistakable, but I touched one of them to make sure.

“They’re chapattis, my lord,” says I, astonished. “Indian chapattis.”

Chapatis are extremely simple flatbreads -- just flour, water, and maybe a little butter, oil, or salt.

Ellenborough explains the chapattis came from a place called Jhansi, where the sepoys are making them and, rather than eating them, passing them from one to another. And the last three times there have been cases of chapattis being passed around among native troops like this, it's been followed by a mutiny. (This actually happened, although the significance isn't as clear as Fraser has it here.)

quote:

(I)f he—or Ellenborough, who knew India outside in—was smelling a sepoy revolt in a few mouldy biscuits—well, it was ludicrous. I knew John Sepoy (we all did, didn’t we?) for the most loyal rear end who ever put on uniform—and so he should have been, the way the Company treated him. However, it wasn’t for me to venture an opinion in such august company, particularly with the Prime Minister listening: he’d pushed his papers aside and risen, and was pouring himself some more port.

(…)

“Tokens of revolution in an Indian garrison,” says he. “Very good. Been readin’ that report of yours again, Flashman—the one you made to Dalhousie last year, in which you described the discovery you made while you were a prisoner in Russia—about their scheme for invadin’ India; while we were busy in Crimea. Course, we say nothin’ about that these days—peace signed with Russia, all good fellowship an’ be damned, et cetera—don’t have to tell you. But somethin’ in your report came to mind when this cake business began.” He pushed out his big lip at me. “You wrote that the Russian march across the Indus was to be accompanied by a native risin’ in India, fomented by Tsarist agents. Our politicals have been chasin’ that fox ever since—pickin’ up some interestin’ scents, of which these infernal buns are the latest. Now, then,” he settled himself, eyes half-shut, but watching me, “tell me precisely what you heard in Russia, touchin’ on an Indian rebellion. Every word of it.”

Flashman repeats what he and Scud East oveheard while eavesdropping in Count Pencherjevsky's house. He's already filed an official report about what happened in the Syr Daria (“leaving out the discreditable bits,” as usual).

quote:

But the information about an Indian rebellion had been slight. All we’d discovered was that when the Russian army reached the Khyber, their agents in India would rouse the natives—and particularly John Company’s sepoys—to rise against the British. I didn’t doubt it was true, at the time; it seemed an obvious ploy. But that was more than a year ago, and Russia was no threat to India any longer, I supposed.

They heard me out, in a silence that lasted a full minute after I’d finished, and then Wood says quietly:

“It fits, my lord.”

“Too dam’ well,” says Pam, and came hobbling back to his chair again. “It’s all pat. You see, Flashman, Russia may be spent as an armed power, for the present—but that don’t mean she’ll leave us at peace in India, what? This scheme for a rebellion—by George, if I were a Russian political, invasion or no invasion, I fancy I could achieve somethin’ in India, given the right agents. Couldn’t I just, though!” He growled in his throat, heaving restlessly and cursing his gouty foot. Did you know, there’s an Indian superstition that the British Raj will come to an end exactly a hundred years after the Battle of Plassey?” He picked up one of the chapattis and peered at it. “Dam’ thing isn’t even sugared. Well, the hundredth anniversary of Plassey falls next June the twenty-third. Interestin’. Now then, tell me—what d’you know about a Russian nobleman called Count Nicholas Ignatieff?”

He shot it at me so abruptly that I must have started a good six inches. There’s a choice collection of ruffians whose names you can mention if you want to ruin my digestion for an hour or two—Charity Spring and Bismarck, Rudi Starnberg and Wesley Hardin, for example—but I’d put N. P. Ignatieff up with the leaders any time. He was the brute who’d nearly put paid to me in Russia—a gotch-eyed, freezing ghoul of a man who’d dragged me halfway to China in chains, and threatened me with exposure in a cage and knouting to death, and like pleasantries. I hadn’t cared above half for the conversation thus far, with its bloody mutiny cakes and the sinister way they kept dragging in my report to Dalhousie—but at the introduction of Ignatieff’s name my bowels began to play the Hallelujah Chorus in earnest.

John Wesley Hardin was a Wild West gunfighter. Over the course of the Papers, Flashy drops some hints about spending time out West after the US Civil War, including being Wild Bill Hickok's deputy in Kansas, but that's another part of his life that Fraser never got around to writing up.

Selachian fucked around with this message at 23:57 on Sep 28, 2020

Norwegian Rudo
May 8, 2013


Selachian posted:

Over the course of the Papers, Flashy drops some hints about spending time out West after the US Civil War, including being Wild Bill Hickok's deputy in Kansas, but that's another part of his life that Fraser never got around to writing up.

IIRC the closest we get is Flashy rolling into Deadwood (following Little Bighorn) on the day Wild Bill dies.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Flashman tries to keep a straight face as he explains what he knows about Ignatieff, and how they parted at Fort Raim. Ellenborough, on Palmerston's instructions, tells Flashy that Ignatieff has made two visits to India in disguise over the last year, and in both times British agents were abhle to follow him to Jhansi, although they couldn't find out what he was up to until the chapattis started appearing. And they have word that Ignatieff is going to be returning to Jhansi at some point.

quote:

“Plain enough, what?” says Pam. “The mine’s laid, in Jhansi—an’ if it explodes…God knows what might follow. India looks tranquil enough—but how many other Jhansis, how many other Ignatieffs, are there?” He shrugged. “We don’t know, but we can be certain there’s no more sensitive spot than this one. The Russians have picked Jhansi with care—we only annexed it four years ago, on the old Raja’s death, an’ we’ve still barely more than a foothold there. Thug country, it used to be, an’ still pretty wild, for all it’s one of the richest thrones in India. Worst of all, it’s ruled by a woman—the Rani, the Raja’s widow. She was old when she married him, I gather, an’ there was no legitimate heir, so we took it under our wing—an’ she didn’t like it. She rules under our tutelage these days—but she remains as implacable an enemy as we have in India. Fertile soil for Master Ignatieff to sow his plots.”

So, Palmerston concludes, they've decided to send an agent to Jhansi to find out what the Russians are up to, how mutinous the sepoys might be, and whether the Rani can be persuaded to greater loyalty to the British – not to mention taking care of Ignatieff if he shows up in Jhansi again. Guess who they have in mind.

quote:

“The Board of Control chose you without hesitation, Flashman. I approved the choice myself. You don’t know it, but I’ve been watchin’ you since my time as Foreign Secretary. You’ve been a political—an’ a deuced successful one. I dare say you think that the work you did in Middle Asia last year has gone unrecognised, but that’s not so.” He rumbled at me impressively, wagging his great fat head. “You’ve the highest name as an active officer, you’ve proved your resource—you know India—fluent in languages—includin’ Russian, which could be of the first importance, what? You know this man Ignatieff, by sight, an’ you’ve bested him before. You see, I know all about you, Flashman,” you old fool, I wanted to shout, you don’t know anything of the bloody sort; you ain’t fit to be Prime Minister, if that’s what you think, “and I know of no one else so fitted to this work. How old are you? Thirty-four—young enough to go a long way yet—for your country and yourself.” And the old buffoon tried to look sternly inspiring, with his teeth gurgling.

quote:

But there wasn’t the slightest chance to wriggle; all I could do was put on my muscular Christian expression, look Palmerston fearlessly in the eye, like Dick Champion when the headmaster gives him the job of teaching the fags not to swear, and say I’d do my best.

(…)

“It’s no light commission we’re placin’ in your hands, sir—but they’re the safest hands in England, I believe.”

So help me God, it’s absolutely what he said; it makes you wonder how these fellows ever get elected. I believe I made some manly sounds, and as usual my sick terror must have been manifesting itself by making me red in the face, which in a fellow of my size is often mistaken for noble resolution. It must have satisfied Pam, anyway, for suddenly he was smiling at me, and sitting back in his chair.

(…)

He sat there, beaming like Pickwick. It turned my stomach at the time, and small wonder, considering the stew he was launching me into—and yet, when I think back on Pam nowadays, that’s how I see him, painted whiskers, sloppy false teeth and all, grinning like a happy urchin. You never saw such young peepers in a tired old face. I can say it now, from the safety of my declining years: in spite of the hellish pickle he landed me in, I’d swap any politician I ever met for old Pam—drat him.

Palmerston briskly makes plans for Flashman to receive further briefing and to return to London in a few days to catch a ship to India, and sends him back to Abergeldie.

quote:

You can imagine I didn’t get much rest in what was left of the night. Elspeth was fast asleep, looking glorious with the candlelight on her blonde hair tumbled over the pillow, and her rosebud lips half open, snoring like the town band. I was too fretful to rouse her in her favourite way, so I just shook her awake, and I must say she bore the news of our impending parting with remarkable composure. At least, she wept inconsolably for five minutes at the thought of being bereft while her Hector (that’s me) was Braving the Dangers of India, fondled my whiskers and said she and little Havvy would be quite desolate, whimpered sadly while she teased me, in an absent-minded way, into mounting her, and then remembered she had left her best silk gloves behind at the evening’s party and that she had a spot on her left shoulder which no amount of cream would send away. It’s nice to know you’re going to be missed.

The Rat
Aug 29, 2004

You will find no one to help you here. Beth DuClare has been dissected and placed in cryonic storage.



I really enjoy Flashman's moments of gross impostor syndrome like that.

Somewhat unrelated, I'm in the middle of GMF's war memoir Quartered Safe Out Here and it's pretty good so far. Definitely has the same sort of voice when describing places and events.

Veni Vidi Ameche!
Nov 2, 2017

by Fluffdaddy


The Rat posted:

I really enjoy Flashman's moments of gross impostor syndrome like that.

Somewhat unrelated, I'm in the middle of GMF's war memoir Quartered Safe Out Here and it's pretty good so far. Definitely has the same sort of voice when describing places and events.

That seems to be his particular genius from the excerpts I’ve read in this thread.

Viola the Mad
Feb 13, 2010


This book! It was the first Flashman book and my favorite. First time I learned about the Sepoy rebellion and introduced me to Lakshmi Bai, undisputed historical badass.

The Rat
Aug 29, 2004

You will find no one to help you here. Beth DuClare has been dissected and placed in cryonic storage.



Veni Vidi Ameche! posted:

That seems to be his particular genius from the excerpts I’ve read in this thread.

Just finished the book. I enjoyed it, it seemed pretty earnest as far as soldiers' memoirs go. He was able to talk about it with some detachment, and avoided too much of the rose tinted glasses that some others seem to get. Doesn't shy away from his faults and mistakes when they come up, or those of others. Kind of a nice change compared to reading something like Band of Brothers where everyone is a fine upstanding boy scout and whatnot.

I liked this bit in particular, if only because I didn't realize that that particular question came up prior eras as well:

quote:

But in that railway wagon it was more like the moment when you’re clear with the ball and know you have a few yards to move in and a few seconds to think about it. There wasn’t much time, but enough: to pick a target, hang for an instant on the aim to make sure, take the first pressure according to the manual – and then the second.

It was exciting; no other word for it, and no explanation needed, for honest folk. We all have kindly impulses, fostered by two thousand years of Christian teaching, gentle Jesus, and love they neighbour, but we have the killer instinct, too, the murderous impulse of the hunter . . . but one must not say so. The young men going out to the Gulf felt obliged to tell the cameras that they felt nothing personal against the Iraqis, and wished them no harm — but I know, for I have felt it, that when an Iraqi came in their sights, the blood-lust would take them hot and strong. Never mind the excuse that this is what a soldier is trained for, that it is his duty, that like 007 he is licensed to kill; the truth is that he gets a kick out of it – which may be one reason why, when he is asked later: “Did you ever kill a Jap (or a German or an Iraqi)?” he will often dodge the question. Other reasons include a decent reticence, an understandable wish not to dwell on unpleasant memories, a reluctance to be thought a line-shooter or a psychopath, and a sense that the question is in doubtful taste. (The best answer, incidentally, is “Why do you want to know?” That makes them think.)

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Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







So... should I tag in for a bit again?

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