Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
 
  • Post
  • Reply
sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Arbite posted:

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

do it, imo

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


[Oliver Twist voice] Please, may we have some more 19th century sociopath? We hunger greatly for more Flashman[/Oliver Twist voice]

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



I'm sorry for leaving this thread sitting for so long, but I just haven't had the time or mood to sit down with Flashy lately. I'll try to remedy that this weekend.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Selachian posted:

I'm sorry for leaving this thread sitting for so long, but I just haven't had the time or mood to sit down with Flashy lately. I'll try to remedy that this weekend.

No biggie. While I like this Flashman thread, it's not like we're paying you to do this. Do whatever you feel like doing whenever you feel like doing it. No pressure, really.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

I'm just gonna give this a bump so it doesn't fall off the end of the forum.

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







Alright, if I'm stuck in this country for another few months I'm going to get this jumpstarted again.

quote:

I had three days still left at Balmoral, and the first of them was spent closeted with Ellenborough and a sharp little creature from the Board of Control, who lectured me in maddening detail about my mission to Jhansi, and conditions in India — I won't weary you with it here, for you'll learn about Jhansi and its attendant horrors and delights in due course. Sufficient to say it did nothing but deepen my misgivings — and then, on the Wednesday morning, something happened which drove everything else clean out of my mind.

It was such a shock, such an unbelievable coincidence in view of what had gone before (or so it seemed at the time) that I can still think back to it with disbelief- aye, and start sweating at the thought.

At the center of a globe spanning empire which adores him, Flashy finds reason for terror.

quote:

The man on the steps, spruce in the rig of an English country gentleman, and now turning away into the castle, was the man I'd last seen beside the line of carrion gallows at Fort Raim — the man Palmerston was sending me to India to defeat and kill: Count Nicholas Pavlevitch Ignatieff.

This shock sends him storming right back to Ellenborough.

quote:

"I want an explanation of this, my lord," says I, "for I'll not believe it's chance."

"What d'ye mean?" says he, goggling.

"Two nights ago we talked of precious little else but this Russian monster — how he'd been spying the length and breadth of India, in the very place to which I'm being sent. And now he turns up — the very man? Is that coincidence?" I was in such a taking I didn't stand on ceremony. "How comes he in the country, even? Will you tell me Lord Palmerston didn't know?"

"My God, Flashman!" His big mottled face looked shocked. "What d'you mean by that?"

"I mean, my lord," says I, trying to hold myself in, "that there's precious little that happens anywhere, let alone in England, that Lord Palmerston doesn't know about — is it possible that he's unaware that the most dangerous agent in Russia — and one of their leading nobles, to boot — is promenading about as large as life? And never a word the other night, when —"

"Wait! Wait!" cries he, wattling. "That's a monstrous suggestion! Contain yourself, sir! Are you positive it's Ignatieff?"

I was ready to burst, but I didn't. "I'm positive."

"Stay here," says he.

In no time it's confirmed.

quote:

"It's true," says he. "Count Ignatieff is here with Lord Aberdeen's party — as a guest of the Queen. It seems — you know we have Granville in Petersburg just now, for the new Tsar's coronation? Well, a party. of Russian noblemen — the first since the war — have just arrived in Leith yesterday, bringing messages of good will, or God knows what, from the new monarch to the Queen. Someone had written to Aberdeen — I don't know it all yet — and he brought them with him on his way north — with this fellow among 'em. It's extraordinary! The damndest chance!"

"Chance, my lord?" says I. "I'll need some convincing of that!"

"Good God, what else? I'll allow it's long odds, but I'm certain if Lord Palmerston had had the least inkling … " He trailed off, and you could see the sudden doubt of his own precious Prime Minister written on his jowly face. "Oh, but the notion's preposterous … what purpose could it serve not to tell us? No — he would certainly have told me — and you, I'm sure."

Well, I wasn't sure — from what I'd heard of Pam's sense of humour I'd have put nothing past him. And yet it would have been folly, surely, with me on the point of setting off for India, ostensibly to undo IgnatiefFs work, to have let him come face to face with me. And then, the wildest thought — was it possible Ignatieff knew about my mission?

"Never!" trumpets Ellenborough. "No, that couldn't be! The decision to send you out was taken a bare two weeks since — it would be to credit the Russian intelligence system with super-human powers — and if he did, what could he accomplish here? — dammit, in the Queen's own home! This isn't Middle Asia — it's a civilised country —"

"My lord, that's not a civilised man," says I. "But what's to be done? I can't meet him!"

"Let me think," says he, and strode about, heaving his stomach around. Then he stopped, heavy with decision.

"I think you must," says he. "If he has seen you — or finds out that you were here and left before your time … wait, though, it might be put down to tact on your part … still, no!" He snapped his fingers at me. "No, you must stay. Better to behave as though there was nothing untoward — leave no room to excite suspicion — after all, former enemies meet in time of peace, don't they? And we'll watch him — by George, we will! Perhaps we'll learn something ourselves! Hah-ha!"

And this was the port-sodden clown who had once governed India. I'd never heard such an idiot suggestion — but could I shift him? I pleaded, in the name of common sense, that I should leave at once, but he wouldn't have it — I do believe that at the back of his mind was the suspicion that Pam had known Ignatieff was coming, and Ellenborough was scared to tinker with the Chief's machinations, whatever they were.

This is not nearly the last reference to unqualified administration over in India. Eventually Flashman calms down and prepares to visit the royal family.

quote:

I'd reminded myself that we weren't meeting on his ground any more, but on mine, and that the kind of power he'd once had over me was a thing quite past. Still, I won't pretend I was feeling at ease, and I'd drummed it into Elspeth's head that not a hint must be let slip about my ensuing departure for India, or Pam's visit. She took it in wide-eyed and assured me she would not dream of saying a word, but I realised with exasperation that you couldn't trust any warning to take root in that beautiful empty head: as we approached the drawing-room doors she was prattling away about what wedding present she should suggest to the Queen for Mary Seymour, and I, preoccupied, said offhand, why not a lusty young coachman, and immediately regretted it — you couldn't be sure she wouldn't pass it on — and then the doors opened, we were announced, and the heads in the room were all turning towards us.

There was the Queen, in the middle of the sofa, with a lady and gentleman behind; Albert, propping up the mantelpiece, and lecturing to old Aberdeen, who appeared to be asleep on his feet, half a dozen assorted courtiers — and Ellenborough staring across the room. As we made our bows, and the Queen says: "Ah Mrs Flashman, you are come just in time to help with the service of tea," I was following Ellenborough's glance, and there was Ignatieff, with another Russian-looking grandee and a couple of our own gentry. He was staring at me, and by God, he never so much as blinked or twitched a muscle; I made my little bow towards Albert, and as I turned to face Ignatieff again I felt, God knows why, a sudden rush of to-hell-with-it take hold of me.

"My — dear — Count!" says I, astonished, and everyone stopped talking; the Queen looked pop-eyed, and even Albert left off prosing to the noble corpse beside him.

"Surely it's Count Ignatieff?" cries I, and then broke off in apology. "Your pardon, ma'am," says I to Vicky. "I was quite startled — I had no notion Count Ignatieff was here! Forgive me," but of course by this time she was all curiosity, and I had to explain that Count Ignatieff was an old comrade-in-arms, so to speak, what? And beam in his direction, while she smiled uncertainly, but not displeased, and Ellenborough played up well, and told Albert that he'd heard me speak of being Ignatieffs prisoner during the late war, but had had no idea this was the same gentleman, and Albert looked disconcerted, and said that was most remarkable.

"Indeed, highness, I had that honour," says Ignatieff, clicking his heels, and the sound of that chilly voice made my spine tingle. But there was nothing he could do but take the hand I stretched out to him.

"This is splendid, old fellow!" says I, gripping him as though he were my long-lost brother. "Wherever have you been keeping yourself?" One or two of them smiled, to see bluff Flash Harry so delighted at meeting an old enemy — just what they'd have expected, of course. And when the Queen had been made quite au fait with the situation, she said it was exactly like Fitzjames and Roderick Dhu.




This is a reference to The Lady of the Lake poem, in which among other things, Fitzjames travels incognito and Roderick dies. Flashman is unaware or too distracted to find this ominous.

quote:

Albert, of course, was much struck by the coincidence of our meeting again, and preached a short sermon about the brotherhood of men-at-arms, to which Ignatieff smiled politely and I cried "Hear, hear!" It was difficult to guess, but I judged my Muscovite monster wasn't enjoying this too much; he must have been wondering why I pretended to be so glad to see him. But I was all affability; I even presented him to Elspeth, and he bowed and kissed her hand; she was very demure and cool, so I knew she fancied him, the little trollop.

The truth is, my natural insolence was just asserting itself, as it always does when I feel it's safe; when a moment came when Ignatieff and I were left alone together, I thought I'd stick a pin in him, just for sport, so I asked, quietly:

"Brought your knout with you, Count?"

He looked at me a moment before replying. "It is in Russia," says he. "Waiting. So, I have no doubt, is Count Pencherjevsky's daughter."

"Oh, yes," says I. "Little Valla. Is she well, d'you know?"

"I have no idea. But if she is, it is no fault of yours." He glanced away, towards Elspeth and the others. "Is it?"

"She never complained to me," says I, grinning at him. "On that tack — if I'm well, it's no fault of yours, either.

"That is true," says he, and the eye was like a sword-point. "However, may I suggest that the less we say about our previous acquaintance, the better? I gather from your … charade, a little while ago — designed, no doubt, to impress your Queen — that you are understandably reluctant that the truth of your behaviour there should be made public."

"Oh, come now," says I. " 'Twasn't a patch on yours, old boy. What would the Court of Balmoral think if they knew that the charming Russian nobleman with the funny eye, was a murderous animal who flogs innocent men to death and tortures prisoners of war? Thought about that?"

"If you think you were tortured, Colonel Flashman," says he, poker-faced, "then I congratulate you on your ignorance." He put down his cup. "I find this conversation tedious. If you will excuse me," and he turned away.

"Oh, sorry if you're bored," says I. "I was forgetting — you probably haven't cut a throat or burned a peasant in a week."

Ever the bully when he has the advantage, however fleeting he should know it to be.

Next time: Flashman has first of many near fatal incidents to come. This series has countless but Great Game has my favorites.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

Arbite posted:

Alright, if I'm stuck in this country for another few months I'm going to get this jumpstarted again.



Huzzah!

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,"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m7RPjQxjmA#t=66s

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







Flashman goes to bed quite satisfied with himself and is eager to leave Scotland.

quote:

And I was far from expecting anything the next day, the last full one I was to spend at Balmoral. It was a miserable, freezing morning, I remember, with flurries of sleet among the rain, and low clouds rolling down off Lochnagar; the kind of day when you put your nose out once and then settle down to punch and billiards with the boys, and build the fire up high. But not Prince Albert; there were roe deer reported in great numbers at Balloch Buie, and nothing would do but we must be drummed out, cursing, for a stalk.

I'd have slid back to Abergeldie if I could, but he nailed me in the hall with Ellenborough. "Why, Colonel Flash-mann, where are your gaiters? Haff you nott called for your loader yet? Come, gentlemen, in this weather we haff only a few hours — let us be ofd"

And he strutted about in his ridiculous Alpine hat and tartan cloak, while the loaders were called and the brakes made ready, and the ghillies loafed about grinning on the terrace with the guns and pouches — they knew I loathed it, and that Ellenborough couldn't carry his guts more than ten yards without a rest, and the brutes enjoyed our discomfiture. There were four or five other guns in the party, and presently we drove off into the rain, huddling under the tarpaulin covers as we jolted away from the castle on the unmade road.

The country round Balmoral is primitive at the best of times; on a dank autumn day it's like an illustration from Bunyan's ‘Holy War’, especially near our destination, which was an eery, dreary forest of firs among the mountains, with great patches of bog, and gullies full of broken rocks, and heather waist-deep on the valley sides. The road petered out there, and we clambered out of the brakes and stood in the pouring wet while Albert, full of energy and blood-lust, planned the campaign. We were to spread out singly, with our loaders, and drive ahead up to the high ground, because the mist was hanging fairly thick by this time, and if we kept together we might miss the stags altogether.


GMF excells as ever at setting the scene.

quote:

We were just about to start on our squelching climb, when another brake came rolling up the road, and who should pile out but the Russian visitors, with one of the local bigwigs, all dressed for the hill. Albert of course was delighted.

"Come, gentlemen," cries he, "this is capital! What? There are no bearss in our Scottish mountains, but we can show you fine sport among the deer. General Menshikof, will you accompany me? Count Ignatieff — ah, where iss Flash-mann?" I was having a quick swig from Ellen-borough's flask, and as the Prince turned towards me, and I saw Ignatieff at his elbow, very trim in tweeds and top boots, with a fur cap on his head and a heavy piece under his arm, I suddenly felt as though I'd been kicked in the stomach. In that second I had a vision of those lonely, gully-crossed crags above us, with their great reaches of forest in which you could get lost for days, and mist blotting out sight and sound of all companions — and myself, alone, with Ignatieff down-wind of me, armed, and with that split eye of his raking the trees and heather for a sight of me. It hadn't even occurred to me that he might be in the shooting party, but here he came, strolling across, and behind him a great burly unmistakable moujik, in smock and boots, carrying his pouches.

Ellenborough stiffened and shot a glance at me. For myself, I was wondering frantically if I could plead indisposition at the last minute. I opened my mouth to say something, and then Albert was summoning Ellenborough to take the left flank, and Ignatieff was standing watching me coolly, with the rain beating down between us.

"I have my own loader," says he, indicating the moujik. "He is used to heavy game — bears, as his royal highness says, and wolves. However, he has experience of lesser animals, and vermin, even."

"I … I …" It had all happened so quickly that I couldn't think of what to say, or do. Albert was dispatching the others to their various starting-points; the first of them were already moving off into the mist. As I stood, dithering, Ignatieff stepped closer, glanced at my own ghillie, who was a few yards away, and said quietly in French:

"I did not know you were going to India, Colonel. My congratulations on your … appointment? A regimental command, perhaps?"

After getting Flashman sent to India the first time the prince has caused Flashy's return to be even more unpleasant.

quote:

"Eh? What d'you mean?" I started in astonishment. "Surely nothing less," says he, "for such a distinguished campaigner as yourself."

"I don't know what you're talking about," I croaked.

"Have I been misinformed? Or have I misunderstood your charming wife? When I had the happiness to pay my respects to her this morning, I understood her to say — but there, I may have been mistaken. When one encounters a lady of such exceptional beauty, I fear one tends to look rather than to listen." He smiled — something I'd never seen him do before: it reminded me of a frozen river breaking up. "But I think his royal highness is calling you, Colonel."

"Flash-mann!" I tore myself away from the hypnotic stare of that split eye; there was Albert waving at me impatiently. "Will you take the lead on the right flank? Come, sir, we are losing time — it will be dark before we can come up to the beasts!"

If I'd had any sense I'd have bolted, or gone into a swoon, or claimed a sprained ankle — but I didn't have time to think. The royal nincompoop was gesticulating at me to be off, my loader was already ploughing into the trees just ahead, one or two of the others had turned to look, and Ignatieff was smiling coldly at my evident confusion. I hesitated, and then started after the loader; as I entered the trees, I took one quick glance back; Ignatieff was standing beside the brake, lighting a cigarette, waiting for Albert to set him on his way. I gulped, and plunged into the trees.

The moment Flashman's alone with his ghillie he tries to flee. After some distance

quote:

"Oh!" says he. "What's this? All of a sudden, my pudden's is pad."

"What is it?" says I, impatiently, and he sat down on a rock, holding himself and making strained noises.

"I — I don't know. It's my belly — there's some mischief in herself- owf!"

"Are you ill?"

"Oh, goad — I don't know." His face was green. "What do these foreign puggers tak' to drink? It's — it must be the spirits yon great hairy fella gave me before we cam' up — oh, mither, isn't it hellish? Oh, stop you, till I vomit!"

But he couldn't, try as he would, but leaned against the rock, in obvious pain, rubbing at himself and groaning. And I watched him, in horror, for there was no doubt what had happened — Ignatieff's man had drugged or poisoned him, so that I'd be alone on the hill. The sheer ruthlessness of it, the hellish calculation, had me trembling to my boots — they would come on me alone, and — but wait, whatever he'd been given, it couldn't be fatal: two corpses on one shoot would be too much to explain away, and one of them poisoned, at that. No, it must just be a drug, to render him helpless, and of course I would turn back down the hill to get help, and they'd be there …

"Stay where you are — I'll get help," says I, and lit out along the ledge, but not in the direction we'd come; it was up and over the hills for Flashy, and my groaning ghillie could be taken care of when time served. I scudded round the corner of rock at the ledge's end, and through a forest of bracken, out into a clear space, and then into another fir wood, where I paused to get my bearings.

If I bore off left — but which way was left? We'd taken so many turnings, among the confounded bogs and gullies, I couldn't be sure, and there was no sun to help. Suppose I went the wrong way, and ran into them? God knows, in this maze of hills and heather it would be easy enough. Should I go back to the stricken ghillie, and wait with him? I'd be safer, in his company — but they might be up with him by now, lurking on the gully-side, waiting. I stood clutching my gun, sweating.

Flashman's eternal dilemma.

quote:

Behind me, on the far side of the wood, a twig had snapped.

For an instant I was paralysed, and then I was across the open space of turf and burrowing into the bracken for dear life. I went a few yards, and then writhed round to look back; through the stems and fronds I could see the trees I'd just left, gloomy and silent. But I was deep in cover; if I lay still, not to shake the bracken above me, no one could hope to spot me unless he trod on me. I burrowed down in the sodden grass, panting, and waited, with my ears straining.

For five minutes nothing happened; there was only the dripping of the fronds, and my own heart thumping. What made the suspense so hellish was the sheer unfairness of my predicament — I'd been in more tight corners before than I care to count, but always in some godless, savage part of the world like Afghanistan or Madagascar or Russia or St Louis — it was damnable that I should be lurking in fear of my life in England — or Scotland, even. I hadn't been in this kind of terror on British soil since I'd been a miserable fag at Rugby, carrying Bully Dawson's game bag for him, and we'd had to hide from keepers at Brownsover. They'd caught me, too, and I'd only got off by peaching on Dawson and his pals, and showing the keepers where … and suddenly, where there had been nothing a moment ago, a shadow moved in the gloom beneath the trees, stopped, and took on form in the half-light. Ignatieff was standing just inside the edge of the fir wood.

'Tom Brown's School Days' is more relevant in this adventure than most.

quote:

I stopped breathing, while he turned his head this way and that, searching the thickets; he had his gun cocked, and by God he wasn't looking for stags. Then he snapped his fingers, and the moujik came padding out of the dimness of the wood; he was heeled and ready as well, his eyes glaring above his furze of beard. Ignatieff nodded to the left, and the great brute went prowling off that way, his piece presented in front of him; Ignatieff waited a few seconds and then took the way to the right.

They both disappeared, noiselessly, and I was left fumbling feverishly for my caps. I slipped them under the hammers with trembling fingers, wondering whether to stay where I was or try to wriggle farther back into the undergrowth. They would be on either side of me shortly, and if they turned into the bracken they might easily … and with the thought came a steady rustling to my left, deep in the green; it stopped, and then started again, and it sounded closer. No doubt of it, someone was moving stealthily and steadily towards my hiding place.

It takes a good deal to stir me out of petrified fear, but that did it. I rolled on my side, trying to sweep my gun round to cover the sound; it caught in the bracken, and I hauled frantically at it to get it clear. God, what a din I must be making — and then the damned lock must have caught on a stem, for one barrel went off like a thunderclap, and I was on my feet with a yell, tearing downhill through the bracken.

I fairly flung myself through the high fronds, there was the crack of a shot behind me, and a ball buzzed overhead like a hornet. I went bounding through, came out in a clearing with firs on either side, sprang over a bank of ferns and plunged straight down into a peat cutting. I landed belly first in the stinking ooze, but I was up and struggling over the far side in an instant, for I could hear crashing in the bracken above me, and knew that if I lost an instant he'd get a second shot. I was plastered with muck like a tar-and-feather merchant, but I still had my gun, and then I must have trod on a loose stone, for I pitched headlong, and went rolling and bumping down the slope, hit a rock, and finished up winded and battered in a burn, trying frantically to scramble up, and slithering on the slimy gravel underfoot.

There was a thumping of boots on the bank, I started round, and there was the moujik, not ten yards away. I didn't even have time to look for my gun; I was sprawling half out of the burn, and the bastard had his piece at his shoulder, the muzzle looking me straight in the face. I yelled and grabbed for a stone, there was the crash of a gunshot...

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,"

Frasier does indeed have a really great way of writing tense action like that. You can really feel the terror off the situation.

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post


Genghis Cohen
Jun 29, 2013


Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







quote:

...and the moujik dropped his piece, shrieking, and clutched at his arm as he toppled backwards among the rocks.

"Careful, colonel," says a voice behind me. "He's only winged." And there, standing not five yards off, with a smoking revolver in his hand, was a tall fellow in tweeds; he just gave me a nod, and then jumped lightly over the rocks and stood over the moujik, who was groaning and clutching his bleeding arm.

"Murderous swine, ain't you?" says the newcomer conversationally, and kicked him in the face. "It's the only punishment he'll get, I'm afraid," he added, over his shoulder. "No diplomatic scandals, you see." And as he turned towards me, I saw to my amazement who it was — Hutton, the tall chap with the long jaw who'd taken me to Palmerston only a few nights before. He put his pistol back in his arm-pit and came over to me.

"No bones broken? Bless me, but you're a sight." He pulled me to my feet. "I'll say this, colonel — you're the fastest man over rough country I ever hope to follow. I lost you in five minutes, but I kept track of our friends, all right. Nice pair, ain't they, though? I wish to God it had been the other one I pulled trigger on — oh, we won't see him again, never fret. Not until everyone's down the hill, and he'll turn up cool as you like, never having been near you all day, what?"

"But — but … you mean, you expected this?"

"No-o — not exactly, anyway. But I've been pretty much on hand since the Russian brotherhood arrived, you know. We don't believe in taking chances, eh? Not with customers like Master Ignatieff — enterprising chap, that. So when I heard he'd decided to join the shoot today, I thought I'd look along — just as well I did, I think," says this astonishing fellow. "Now, if you've got your wind back, I suggest we make our way down. Never mind our little wounded bird yonder — if he don't bleed to death he'll find his way back to his master. Pity he shot himself by accident, ain't it? That'll be their story, I dare say — and we won't contradict it — here, what are you about, sir?"

I was lunging for my fallen gun, full of murderous rage now that the danger was past. "I'm going to blow that bloody peasant's head off!" I roared, fumbling with the lock. "I'll teach —"

Always the bully.

quote:

"Hold on!" cries he, catching my arm, and he was positively grinning. "Capital idea, I agree — but we mustn't, you see. One bullet in him can be explained away by his own clumsiness — but not two, eh? We mustn't have any scandal, colonel — not involving her majesty's guests. Come along now — let's be moving down, so that Count Ignatieff, who I've no doubt is watching us this minute, can come to his stricken servant's assistance. After you, sir."

He was right, of course; the irony of it was that although Ignatieff and his brute had tried to murder me, we daren't say so, for diplomacy's sake. God knows what international complications there might have been. This didn't sink in with me at once — but his reminder that Ignatieff was still prowling about was enough to lend me wings down the hill. Not that even he'd have tried another shot, with Hutton about, but I wasn't taking chances.

I'll say this for the secret service — which is what Hutton was, of course — they're damned efficient. He had a gig waiting on the road, one of his assistants was dispatched to the help of my ghillie, and within a half-hour I was back in Balmoral through the servants' entrance, being cleaned up and instructed by Hutton to put it about that I'd abandoned the shoot with a strained muscle.

Flashman's small measure of revenge foiled, he makes one final attempt to get out of approaching doom to Ellenborough later that night.

quote:

I ventured the cautious suggestion that it might be better, after what had happened, to send someone else to Jhansi — just in case Ignatieff had tumbled to me — but Ellenborough wasn't even listening. He was just full of indignation at Ignatieff's murderous impudence — not on my account, you'll note, but because it might have led to a scandal involving the Queen. (Admittedly, you can't have it getting about that her guests have been trying to slaughter each other; the poor woman probably had enough trouble getting people to visit, with Albert about the place.)

So, of course, we kept mum, and as Hutton had fore-seen, it was put about and accepted that Ignatieff's loader had had an accident with a gun, and everyone wagged their heads in sympathy, and the Queen sent the poor unfortunate fellow some shortbread and a tot of whisky. Ignatieff even had the crust to thank her after dinner, and I could feel Ellenborough at my elbow fairly bubbling with suppressed outrage. And to cap it all, the brute had the effrontery to challenge me to a game of billiards — and beat me hollow, too, in the presence of Albert and half a dozen others: I had to be certain there was a good crowd on hand, for God knows what he'd have tried if we'd gone to the pool-room alone. I'll say it for Nicholas Ignatieff — he was a bear-cat for nerve. He'd have been ready to brain me and claim afterwards that it was a mis-cue.

So now — having heard the prelude to my Indian Mutiny adventure, you will understand why I don't care much for Balmoral. And if what happened there that September was trivial by comparison with what followed — well, I couldn't foresee that. Indeed, as I soothed my bruised nerves with brandy fomentations that night, I reflected that there were worse places than India; there was Aberdeenshire, with Ignatieff loose in the bracken, hoping to hang my head on his gunroom wall. I hadn't been able to avoid him here, but if we met again on the coral strand, it wasn't going to be my fault.

I've never been stag-shooting from that day to this, either. Ellenborough was right: the company's too damned mixed.

One last touch of bigotry for the road.

Next time, India!

Warden
Jan 16, 2020


This is the good poo poo.

Thanks for picking this thread up again.

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,"

Now we're really getting going, this is such a good book.

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







quote:

I remember young Fred Roberts (who's a Field-Marshal now, which shows you what pull these Addiscombe wallahs have got) once saying that everyone hated India for a month and then loved it forever. I wouldn't altogether agree, but I'll allow that it had its attractions in the old days; you lived like a lord without having to work, waited on hand and foot, made money if you set your mind to it, and hardly exerted yourself at all except to hunt the beasts, thrash the men, and bull the women. You had to look sharp to avoid active service, of course, of which there was a lot about; I never fell very lucky that way. But even so, it wasn't a half-bad station, most of the time.

Personally, I put that down to the fact that in my young days India was a middle-class place for the British, where society people didn't serve if they could help it. (Cardigan, for example, took one look and fled.) It's different now, of course; since it became a safe place many of our best and most highly-connected people have let the light of their countenances shine on India, with the results you might expect — prices have gone up, service has gone down, and the women have got clap. So they tell me.

And now for a travelog.

quote:

Mind you, I could see things were changing even in '56, when I landed at Bombay. My first voyage to India, sixteen years before, had lasted four months on a creaking East Indiaman; this time, in natty little government steam sloops, it had taken just about half that time, even with a vile journey by camel across the Suez isthmus in between.



And even from Bombay you could get the smell of civilisation; they'd started the telegraph, and were pushing ahead with the first railways, there were more white faces and businesses to be seen, and people weren't talking, as they'd used to, of India as though it were a wild jungle with John Company strongholds here and there. In my early days, a journey from Calcutta to Peshawar had seemed half round the world, but no longer. It was as though the Company was at last seeing India as one vast country — and realising that now the wars with the Sikhs and Maharattas and Afghans were things of the past, it was an empire that had to be ruled and run, quite apart from fighting and showing a nice profit in Leadenhall Street.

It was far busier than I remembered it, and somehow the civilians seemed more to the fore nowadays than the military. Once the gossip on the verandahs had all been about war in the north, or the Thugs; or the bandit chiefs of the Ghats who'd have to be looked up some day; now it was as often as not about new mills or factories, and even schools, and how there would be a railroad clear over to Madras in the next five years, and you'd be able to journey from Mrs Blackwell's in Bombay to the Auckland in Calcutta without once putting on your boots.

quote:

"All sounds very peaceful and prosperous," says I, over a peg and a whore at Mother Sousa's — like a good little political, you see, I was conducting my first researches in the best gossip-mart I could find (fine mixed clientele, Mother Sousa's, with nothing blacker than quarter-caste and exhibition dances that would have made a Paris gendarme blench — well, if it's scuttle-butt you want, you don't go to a cathedral, do you?). The chap who'd bought me the peg laughed and said:

"Prosperous? I should just think so — my firm's divvy is up forty per cent., and we'll have new factories at Lahore and Allahabad working before Easter. Building churches — and when the universities come there'll be contracts to last out my service, I can tell you."

"Universities?" says I. "Not for the n******, surely?"

"The native peoples," says he primly — and the little snirp hadn't been out long enough to get his nose peeled —"will soon be advanced beyond those of any country on earth. Heathen countries, that is. Lie still, you black bitch, can't you see I'm fagged out? Yes, Lord Canning is very strong on education, I believe, and spreading the gospel, too. Well, that's bricks and mortar, ain't it? — that's where to put your money, my boy."

Painting a vast picture in few strokes.

quote:

He was just a pipsqueak, of course, and knew nothing; the little yellow piece I was exercising hadn't heard of Jhansi either, and when I asked her at a venture what chapattis were good for except eating, she didn't bat an eye, but giggled and said I was a verree fonnee maan, and must buy her meringues, not chapattis, yaas? You may think I was wasting my time, sniffing about in Bombay, but it's my experience that if there's anything untoward in a country — even one as big as India — you can sometimes get a scent in the most unexpected places, just from the way the natives look and answer. But it was the same whoever I talked to, merchant or military, whore or missionary; no ripples at all. After a couple of days, when I'd got the old Urdu bat rolling familiarly off my palate again, I even browned up and put on a puggaree*(*Turban.) and coat and pyjamys, and loafed about the Bund bazaar, letting on I was a Mekran coast trader, and listening to the clack. I came out rotten with fleas, stinking of nautch-oil and cheap perfume and cooking ghee, with my ears full of beggars' whines and hawkers' jabbering and the clang of the booths — but that was all. Still, it helped to get India back under my hide again, and that's important, if you intend to do anything as a political.

How dark he tans varies from cover to cover. Some of which are not worksafe.

quote:

Hullo, says you, what's this? — not Flashy taking his duty seriously for once, surely. Well, I was, and for a good reason. I didn't take Pam's forebodings seriously, but I knew I was bound to go to Jhansi and make some sort of showing in the task he'd given me — the thing was to do it quickly. If I could have a couple of official chats with this Rani woman, look into the business of the sepoys' cakes, and conclude that Skene, the Jhansi political, was a nervous old woman, I could fire off a report to Calcutta and withdraw gracefully. What I must not do was linger — because if there was any bottom to Pam's anxieties, Jhansi might be full of Ignatieff and his jackals before long, and I wanted to be well away before that happened.

So I didn't linger in Bombay. On the third day I took the road north-east towards Jhansi, travelling in good style by bullock-hackery, which is just a great wooden room on wheels, in which you have your bed and eat your meals, and your groom and cook and bearer squat on the roof. They've gone out now, of course, with the railway, but they were a nice leisurely way of travelling, and I stopped off at messes along the road, and kept my ears open. None of the talk chimed with what I'd heard at Balmoral, and the general feeling was that the country had never been so quiet. Which was heartening, even if it was what you'd expect, down-country.

I purposely kept clear of any politicals, because I wanted to form my own judgements without getting any uncomfortable news that I didn't want to hear. However, up towards Mhow, who should I run into but Johnny Nicholson, whom I hadn't seen since Afghanistan, fifteen years before, trotting along on a Persian pony and dressed like a Baluchi robber with a beard down to his belly, and a couple of Sikh lancers in tow. We fell on each other like old chums — he didn't know me well, you see, but mostly by my fearsome reputation; he was one of your play-up-and-fear-God paladins, full of zeal and athirst for glory, was John, and said his prayers and didn't drink and thought women were either nuns or mothers. He was very big by now, I discovered, and just coming down for leave before he took up as resident at Peshawar.


He gives Flashman his lay of the land in Jhansi and it's not good.

quote:

"You don't think it amounts to anything, surely?" I found all his cheerful references to Thugs and Pindaris damned disconcerting; he was making Jhansi sound as bad as Afghanistan.

"I don't know," says he, very thoughtful. "But I do know that this whole country's getting warm. Don't ask me how I know — Irish instinct if you like. Oh, I know it looks fine from Bombay or Calcutta, but sometimes I look around and ask myself what we're sitting on, out here. Look at it — we're holding a northern frontier against the toughest villains on earth: Pathans, Sikhs, Baluchis, and Afghanistan thrown in, with Russia sitting on the touchline waiting their chance. In addition, down-country, we're nominal masters of a collection of native states, half of them wild as Barbary, ruled by princes who'd cut our throats for three-pence. Why? Because we've tried to civilise 'em — we've clipped the tyrants' wings, abolished abominations like suttee and thugee, cancelled their worst laws and instituted fair ones. We've reformed 'em until they're sick — and started the telegraph, the railroad, schools, hospitals, all the rest of it."

And now another zealot who's got it all figured out:

quote:

This sounded to me like a man riding his pet hobby; I couldn't see why any of this should do anything but please the people.

"The people don't count! They never do. It's the rulers that matter, the rajas and the nabobs — like this rani of yours in Jhansi. They've squeezed this country for centuries, and Dalhousie put a stop to it. Of course it's for the benefit of the poor folk, but they don't know that — they believe what their princes tell 'em. And what they tell 'em is that the British Sirkar is their enemy, because it stops them burning their widows, and murdering each other in the name of Kali, and will abolish their religion and force Christianity on them if it can."

"Oh, come, John," says I, "they've been saying that for years."

"Well, there's something in it." He looked troubled, in a stuffy religious way. "I'm a Christian, I hope, or try to be, and I pray I shall see the day when the Gospel is the daily bread of every poor benighted soul on this continent, and His praise is sung in a thousand churches. But I could wish our people went more carefully about it. These are a devout people, Flashman, and their beliefs, misguided though they are, must not be taken lightly. What do they think, when they hear Christianity taught in the schools — in the jails, even — and when colonels preach to their regiments?5 Let the prince, or the agitator, whisper in their ears ‘See how the British will trample on thy holy things, which they respect not. See how they will make Christians of you.’ They will believe him. And they are such simple folk, and their eyes are closed. D'you know," he went on, "there's a sect in Kashmir that even worships me?"
"Good for you," says I. "D'ye take up a collection?"

"I try to reason with them — but it does no good. I tell you, India won't be converted in a day, or in years. It must come slowly, if surely. But our missionaries — good, worthy men — press on apace, and cannot see the harm they may do." He sighed. "Yet can one find it in one's heart to blame them, old fellow, when one considers the blessings that God's grace would bring to this darkened continent? It is very hard." And he looked stern and nobly anguished; Arnold would have loved him.


Strong condemnation.

quote:

"It wouldn't be so bad, if we weren't so confounded soft! If we would only carry things with a high hand — the reforms, and the missionary work, even. Either let well alone, or do the thing properly. But we don't, you see; we take half-measures, and are too gentle by a mile. If we are going to pull down their false gods, and reform their old and corrupt states and amend their laws, and make 'em worthy men and women — then let us do it with strength! Dalhousie was strong, but I don't know about Canning. I know if I were he, I'd bring these oily, smirking, treacherous princes under my heel —" his eyes flashed as he ground his boot in the dust. "I'd give 'em government, firm and fair. I'd be less soft with the sepoys, too — and with some of our own people. That's half the trouble — you haven't been back long enough, but depend upon it, we send some poor specimens out to the army nowadays, and to the Company offices.‘Broken-down tapsters and serving men's sons’, eh? Well, you'll see 'em — ignorant, slothful fellows of poor class, and we put 'em to officer high-caste Hindoos of ten years' service. They don't know their men, and treat 'em like children or animals, and think of nothing but drinking and hunting, and — and … " he reddened to the roots of his enormous beard and looked aside. "Some of them consort with … with the worst type of native women." He cleared his throat and patted my arm. "There, I'm sorry, old fellow; I know it's distasteful to talk of such things, but it's true, alas."

I shook my head and said it was heart-breaking.

"Now you see why your news concerns me so? These omens at Jhansi — they may be the spark to the tinder, and I've shown you, I hope, that the tinder exists in India, because of our own blindness and softness. If we were stronger, and dealt firmly with the princes, and accompanied our enlightenment of the people with proper discipline — why, the spark would be stamped out easily enough. As it is —" he shook his head again. "I don't like it. Thank God they had the wit to send someone like you to Jhansi — I only wish I could come with you, to share whatever perils may lie ahead. It's a strange, wild place, from all I've heard," says this confounded croaker with pious satisfaction, as he shook my hand. "Come, old fellow, shall we pray together — for your safety and guidance in whatever dangers you may find yourself?"

And he plumped down there and then on his knees, with me alongside, and gave God his marching orders in no uncertain fashion, telling him to keep a sharp eye on his servant. I don't know what it was about me, but holy fellows like Nicholson were forever addressing heaven on my behalf — even those who didn't know me well seemed to sense that there was a lot of hard graft to be done if Flashy was ever to smell salvation. I can see him yet — his great dark head and long nose against the sunset, his beard quivering with exhortation, and even the freckles on the back of his clasped hands. Poor wild John — he should have canvassed the Lord on his own behalf, perhaps, for while I'm still here after half a century, he was stiff inside the year, shot in the midriff by a pandy sniper in the attack on Delhi, and left to die by inches at the roadside. That's what his duty earned for him; if he'd taken proper precautions he'd have made viceroy. And Delhi would have fallen just the same.

Next time: Into Jhansi.

Hunterhr
Jan 4, 2007

And The Beast, Satan said unto the LORD, "You Fucking Suck" and juked him out of his goddamn shoes

I've spent the last 24 hours reading this thread from start to finish and it has been an amazing ride. I've been meaning to read the Flashman novels for awhile so this was a great way to jump in. Thanks to all the contributors for keeping this thread going.

I have a new appreciation for my sweet gentle boy Ciaphas Caine now.

Beefeater1980
Sep 12, 2008

My God, it's full of Horatios!





I never quite loved the Caine books because he’s just too nice. Flashman is a monster and he knows it, and it’s what makes the books work IMO.

Hunterhr
Jan 4, 2007

And The Beast, Satan said unto the LORD, "You Fucking Suck" and juked him out of his goddamn shoes

Beefeater1980 posted:

I never quite loved the Caine books because he’s just too nice. Flashman is a monster and he knows it, and it’s what makes the books work IMO.

Yeah to be honest, the Caine books get a bit repetitive because he is so much of an actual real hero. Flashman kept me riveted because he's so much of a loving rear end in a top hat.

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







Caine was my gateway to 40k and I'd recommend the first trilogy any day, but the series suffers over time from too many Tyranids in lieu of personalities and the comedy being increasingly tamped down.

And definitely go for the audiobooks, they turned Sulla's excerpts from my least favorite part to a highlight.

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post


Hunterhr posted:

Yeah to be honest, the Caine books get a bit repetitive because he is so much of an actual real hero. Flashman kept me riveted because he's so much of a loving rear end in a top hat.

And then you compare him to the assholes like Johnny Nicholson in the last set of excerpts and suddenly he doesn't seem so bad in comparison, even if you'd still prefer to avoid him given half a chance...

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

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

Arbite posted:


Painting a vast picture in few strokes.


I can't work out what a "peg" is from this context, I'd assume it meant a shot or something but I haven't heard that expression before and considering everything else going on in this scene it could be drat near anything.

Genghis Cohen
Jun 29, 2013


I believe it's a glass of spirits. Like a 'tot of rum'. Probably arrack in this case.

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







quote:

Whatever his prayers accomplished for my solid flesh, his talk about Jhansi had done nothing for my spirits. "A strange wild place," he'd said, and talked of the Pindari bandits and Thugs and Maharatta scoundrels — well, I knew it had been hell's punch-bowl in the old days, but I'd thought since we'd annexed it that it must be quieter now. Mangles, at the Board of Control in London, had described it as "tranquil beneath the Company's benevolent rule", but he was a pompous rear end with a talent for talking complete bosh about subjects on which he was an authority.

As I pushed on into Bandelkand it began to look as though he was wrong and Nicholson was right — it was broken, hilly country, with jungle on the slopes and in the valleys, never a white face to be seen, and the black ones getting uglier by the mile. The roads were so atrocious, and the hackery jolted and rolled so sickeningly, that I was forced to take to my Pegu pony; there was devil a sign of civilisation, but only walled villages and every so often a sinister Maharatta fort squatting on a hilltop to remind you who really held the power in this land. "The toughest nut south of the Khyber" — I was ready to believe it, as I surveyed those unfriendly jungly hills, seeing nothing cheerier than a distant tiger skulking among the waitabit thorn. And this was the country that we were "ruling" — with one battalion of suspect sepoy infantry and a handful of British civilians to collect the taxes.

My first sight of Jhansi city wasn't uplifting either. We rounded a bend on the hill road, and there it was under a dull evening sky — a massive fort, embattled and towered, on a great steep rock, and the walled city clustered at its foot. It was far bigger than I'd imagined; the walls must have been four miles round at least, and the air over the city was thick with the smoke of a thousand cooking fires. On this side of the city lay the orderly white lines of the British camp and cantonment — God, it looked tiny and feeble, beneath that looming vastness of Jhansi fort. My mind went back to Kabul, and how our camp had seemed dwarfed by the Bala Hissar — and even at Kabul, with an army of ten thousand, only a handful of us had escaped. I told myself that here it was different — that less than a hundred miles ahead of me there were our great garrisons along the Grand Trunk, and that however forbidding Jhansi might look, it was a British state nowadays, and under the Sirkar's protection. Only there wasn't much sign of that protection — just our pathetic little village like a flea on the lion's lip, and somewhere in that great citadel, where our troops never went, that brooding old bitch of a Rani scheming against us, with her thousands of savage subjects waiting for her word. Thus my imagination — as if it hadn't been full enough already, what with Ignatieff' and Thugs and wild Pindaris and dissident sepoys and Nicholson's forebodings.

In three paragraphs we get the prevailing attitudes, surrounding geography, the politics, a strategic summary of the area, and a recap of the perceived threats.

quote:

My first task was to look up Skene, the political whose reports had started the whole business, so I headed down to the cantonment, which was a neat little compound of perhaps forty bungalows, with decent gardens, and the usual groups already meeting on the verandahs for sundown pegs and cordials; there were a few carriages waiting with their grooms and drivers to take people out for dinner, and one or two officers riding home, but I drove straight through, and got a chowkidar's direction to the little Star Fort, where Skene had his office — he'd still be there, the chowkidar said, which argued a very conscientious political indeed.

Frankly, I hoped to find him scared or stupid; he wasn't either. He was one of these fair, intent young fellows who fall over themselves to help, and will work all the hours God sends. He hopped from one leg to another when I presented myself, and seemed fairly overwhelmed to meet the great Flashy, but the steady grey eye told you at once that here was a boy who didn't take alarm at trifles. He had clerks and bearers running in all directions to take my gear to quarters, saw to it that I was given a bath, and then bore me off for dinner at his own bungalow, where he lost no time in getting down to business.

"No one knows why you're here, sir, except me," says he. "I believe Carshore, the Collector, suspects, but he's a sound man, and will say nothing. Of course, Erskine, the Commissioner at Saugor, knows all about it, but no one else." He hesitated. "I'm not quite clear myself, sir, why they sent you out, and not someone from Calcutta."

"Well, they wanted an assassin, you see," says I, easily, just for bounce. "It so happens I'm acquainted with the Russian gentleman who's been active in these parts — and dealing with him ain't a job for an ordinary political, what?" It was true, after all; Pam himself had said it. "Also, it seems Calcutta and yourself and Commissioner Erskine — with all respect — haven't been too successful with this titled lady up in the city palace. Then there are these cakes; all told, it seemed better to Lord Palmerston to send me."

"Lord Palmerston?" says he, his eyes wide open. "I didn't know it had gone that far."

I assured him he'd been the cause of the Prime Minister's losing a night's sleep, and he whistled and reached for the decanter.

"That's neither here nor there, anyway," says I. "You cost me a night's sleep, too, for that matter. The first thing is: have any of these Russian fellows been back this way?"

To my surprise, he looked confused. "Truth is, sir — I never knew they'd been near. That came to me from Calcutta — our frontier people traced them down this way, three times, I believe, and I was kept informed. But if they hadn't told me, I'd never have known."

That rattled me, if you like. "You mean, if they do come back — or if they're loose in your bailiwick now — you won't know of it until Calcutta sees fit to tell you?"

"Oh, our frontier politicals will send me word as soon as any suspected person crosses over," says he. "And I have my own native agents on the look-out now — some pretty sharp men, sir."

"They know especially to look out for a one-eyed man?"

"Yes, sir — he has a curious deformity which he hides with a patch, you know — one of his eyes is half-blue, half-brown."

"You don't say," says I. By George, I hadn't realised our political arrangements were as ramshackle as this. "That, Captain Skene, is the man I'm here to kill — so if any of your … sharp men have the chance to save me the trouble, they may do it with my blessing."

"Oh, of course, sir. Oh, they will, you know. Some of them," says he, impressively, "are Pindari bandits — or used to be, that is. But we'll know in good time, sir, before any of these Ruski fellows get within distance."

I wished I could share his confidence. "Calcutta has no notion what the Russian spies were up to down here?" I asked him, but he shook his head.

"Nothing definite at all — only that they'd been here. We were sure it must be connected with the chapattis going round, but those have dried up lately. None have passed since October, and the sepoys of the 12th N.I. — that's the regiment here, you know — seem perfectly quiet. Their colonel swears they're loyal — has done from the first, and was quite offended that I reported the cakes to Calcutta. Perhaps he's right; I've had some of my men scouting the sepoy lines, and they haven't heard so much as a murmur. And Calcutta was to inform me if cakes passed at any other place, but none have, apparently."

Come, thinks I, this is decidedly better; Pam's been up a gum-tree for nothing. All I had to do was make a show of brief activity here, and then loaf over to Calcutta after a few weeks and report nothing doing. Give 'em a piece of my mind, too, for causing me so much inconvenience.

"Well, Skene," says I, "this is how I see it. There's nothing to be done about what the Prime Minister calls ‘those blasted buns’ — unless they make a reappearance, what? As to the Russians — well, when we get word of them, I'll probably drop out of sight, d'you see?" I would, too — to some convenient haven which the Lord would provide, and emerge when the coast was clear. But I doubted it would even come to that. "Yes, you won't see me — but I'll be about, never fear, and if our one-eyed friend, or any of his creatures, shows face … well …"

He looked suitably impressed, with a hint of that awe which my fearsome reputation inspires. "I understand, sir. You'll wish to … er, work in your own way, of course." He blinked at me, and then exclaimed reverently: "By jove, I don't envy those Ruski fellows above half — if you don't mind my saying so, sir."

"Skene, old chap," says I, and winked at him. "Neither do I." And believe me, he was my slave for life, from that moment.

So then all's well and the pages of foreboding were a fakeout. Phew. Now about that "Old bitch."

quote:

"There's the other thing," I went on. "The Rani. I have to try to talk some sense into her. Now, I daresay there isn't much I can do, since I gather she's shown you and Erskine that she's not disposed to be friendly, but I'm bound to try, you see. So I'll be obliged to you if you'll arrange an audience for me the day after tomorrow — I'd like to rest and perhaps look around the city first. For the present, you can tell me your own opinion of her."

He frowned, and filled my glass. "You'll think it's odd, sir, I daresay, but in all the time I've been here, I've never even seen her. I've met her, frequently, at the palace, but she speaks from behind a purdah, you know — and as often as not her chamberlain does the talking for her. She's a stickler for form, and since government granted her diplomatic immunity after her husband died — as a sop, really, when we assumed suzerainty — well, it makes it difficult to deal with her satisfactorily. She was friendly enough with Erskine at one time — but I've had no change out of her at all. She's damned bitter, you see – when her husband died, old Raja Gangadar, he left no children of his own — well, he was an odd bird, really," and Skene blushed furiously and avoided my eye. "Used to go about in female dress most of the time, and wore bangles and … and perfume, you see —"

"No wonder she was bitter," says I.

"No, no, what I mean is, since he left no legitimate heir, but only a boy whom he'd adopted, Dalhousie wouldn't recognise the infant. The new succession law, you know. So the state was annexed — and the Rani was furious, and petitioned the Queen, and sent agents to London, but it was no go. The adopted son, Damodar, was dispossessed, and the Rani, who'd hoped to be regent, was deprived of her power — officially. Between ourselves, we let her rule pretty well as she pleases — well, we can't do otherwise, can we? We've one battalion of sepoys, and thirty British civilians to run the state administration — but she's the law, where her people are concerned, absolute as Caesar."

"Doesn't that satisfy her, then?"

"Not a bit of it. She detests the fact that officially she only holds power by the Sirkar's leave, you see. And she's still wild about the late Raja's will — you'd think that with a quarter of a million in her treasury she'd be content, but there was some jewellery or other that Calcutta confiscated, and she's never forgiven us."

'Be grateful I've only robbed you of this.'

What they're referring to is the Doctrine of Lapse, which the British were using to devour every Indian state they found convenient.

quote:

"Interesting lady," says I. "Dangerous, d'you think?"

He frowned. "Politically, yes. Given the chance, she'd pay our score off, double quick — that's why the chapatti business upset me. She's got no army, as such — but with every man in Jhansi a born fighter, and robber, she don't need one, do she? And they'll jump if she whistles, for they worship the ground she treads on. She's proud as Lucifer's sister, and devilish hard, not to say cruel, in her own courts, but she's uncommon kind to the poor folk, and highly thought of for her piety — spends five hours a day meditating, although she was a wild piece, they say, when she was a girl. They brought her up like a Maharatta prince at the old Peshwa's court — taught her to ride and shoot and fence with the best of them. They say she still has the fiend's own temper," he added, grinning, "but she's always been civil enough to me — at a distance. But make no mistake, she's dangerous; if you can sweeten her, sir, we'll all sleep a deal easier at nights."

There was that, of course. However withered an old trot she might be, she'd be an odd female if she was altogether impervious to Flashy's manly bearing and cavalry whiskers — which was probably what Pam had in mind in the first place. Cunning old devil. Still, as I turned in that night I wasn't absolutely looking forward to poodle-faking her in two days' time, and as I glanced from my bungalow window and saw Jhansi citadel beetling in the starlight, I thought, we'll take a nice little escort of lancers with us when we go to take tea with the lady, so we will.

But that was denied me. I had intended to pass the next day looking about the city, perhaps having a discreet word with Carshore the Collector and the colonel of the sepoys, but as the syce (*Groom.) was bringing round my pony to the dak-bungalow, up comes Skene in a flurry. When he'd sent word to the palace that Colonel Flashman, a distinguished soldier of the Sirkar, was seeking an audience for the following day, he'd been told that distinguished visitors were expected to present themselves immediately as a token of proper respect to her highness, and Colonel Flashman could shift his distinguished rump up to the palace forthwith.

Now to chat up the old widow.

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







quote:

"I … I thought in the circumstances of your visit," says Skene, apologetically, "that you might think it best to comply."

"You did, did you?" says I. "Does every Briton in Jhansi leap to attention when this beldam snaps her fingers, then?"

"Shall we say, we find it convenient to humour her highness," says he — he was more of a political than he looked, this lad, so I blustered a bit, to be in character, and then said he might find me an escort of lancers to convoy me in.

"I'm sorry, sir," says he. "We haven't any lancers — and if we had, we've agreed not to send troop formations inside the city walls. Also, since I was excluded from the, er … invitation, I fear you must go alone."

"What?" says I. "Damnation, who governs here — the Sirkar or this harridan?" I didn't fancy above half risking my hide unguarded in that unhealthy-looking fortress, but I had to cover it with dignity. "You've made a rod for your own backs by being too soft with this … this woman. She's not Queen Bess, you know!"

"She thinks she is," says he cheerfully, so in the end of course I had to lump it. But I changed into my lancer fig first, sabre, revolver and all — for I could guess why she was ensuring that I visited her alone: up-country, on the frontier, they judge a man on his own looks, but down here they go on the amount and richness of your retinue. One mounted officer wasn't going to impress the natives with the Sirkar's power — well, then, he'd look his best, and be damned to her. So I figged up, and when I regarded myself in Skene's cracked mirror — blue tunic and breeches, gold belt and epaulettes, white gauntlets and helmet, well-bristled whiskers, and Flashy's stalwart fourteen stone inside it all, it wasn't half bad. I took a couple of packages from my trunk, stowed them in my saddle-bag, waved to Skene, and trotted off to meet royalty, with only the syce to show me the way.

A syce is an Indian groom.

quote:

Jhansi city lies about a couple of miles from the cantonment, and I had plenty of time to take in the scenery. The road, which was well-lined with temples and smaller buildings, was crowded into the city, with bullock-carts churning up the dust, camels, palankeens, and hordes of travellers both mounted and on foot. Most of them were country folk, on their way to the bazaars, but every now and then would come an elephant with red and gold fringed howdah swaying along, carrying some minor nabob or rich lady, or a portly merchant on his mule with a string of porters behind, and once the syce pointed out a group who he said were members of the Rani's own bodyguard — a dozen stalwart Khyberie Pathans, of all things, trotting along very military in double file, with mail coats and red silk scarves wound round their spiked helmets. The Rani 'night not have a army, but she wasn't short of force, with those fellows about : there was a hundred years' Company service among them if there was a day.

And her city defences were a sight to see — massive walls twenty feet high, and beyond them a warren of streets stretching for near a mile to the castle rock, with its series of curtain walls and round towers — it would be the deuce of a place to storm, after you'd fought through the city itself; there were guns in the embrasures, and mail-clad spearmen on the walls, all looking like business.

We had to force our horses through a crowded inferno of heat and smells and noise and jostling niggers to get to the palace, which stood apart from the fort near a small lake, with a shady park about it; it was a fine, four-square building, its outer walls beautifully decorated with huge paintings of battles and hunting scenes. I presented myself to another Pathan, very splendid in steel back-and-breast and long-tail puggaree, who commanded the gate guard, and sat sweating in the scorching sun while he sent off a messenger for the chamberlain. And as I chafed impatiently, the Pathan walked slowly round me, eyeing me up and down, and presently stopped, stuck his thumbs in his belt, and spat carefully on my shadow.

Oh poo poo.

quote:

Now, close by the gate there happened to be a number of booths and side-shows set 'tip — the usual things, lemonade-sellers, a fakir with a plant growing through his palm, sundry beggars, and a kind of punch-and Judy show, which was being watched by a group of ladies in a palankeen. As a matter of fact, they'd already taken my eye, for they were obviously Maharatta females of quality, and four finer little trotters you never saw. There was a very slim, languid-looking beauty in a gold sari reclining in the palankeen, another plump piece in scarlet trousers and jacket beside her, and a third, very black, but fine-boned as a Swede, with a pearl headdress that must have cost my year's pay, sitting in a kind of camp-chair alongside — even the ladies' maid standing beside the palankeen was a looker, with great almond eyes and a figure inside her plain white sari like a Hindoo temple goddess. I was in the act of touching my hat to them when the Pathan started expectorating. At this the maid giggled, the ladies looked, and the Pathan sniffed contemptuously and spat again.

Well, as a rule anyone can insult me and see how much it pays him, especially if he's large and ugly and carrying a tulwar. But for the credit of the Sirkar, and my own face in front of the women, I had to do something, so I looked the Pathan up and down, glanced away, and said quietly in Pushtu:

"You would spit more carefully if you were still in the Guides, hubshi."

He opened his eyes at that, and swore. "Who calls me hubshi? Who says I was in the Guides? And what is it to thee, feringhee pig?"

"You wear the old coat under your breastplate," says I. "But belike you stole it from a dead Guide. For no man who had a right to that uniform would spit on Bloody Lance's shadow."

That set him back on his heels. "Bloody Lance?" says he. "Thou?" He came closer and stared up at me. "Art thou that same Iflass-man who slew the four Gilzais?"

"At Mogala," says I mildly. It had caused a great stir at the time, in the Gilzai country, and won me considerable fame (and my extravagant nickname) along the Kabul road — in fact, old Mohammed Iqbal had killed the four horsemen, while I lit out for the undergrowth, but nobody living knew that.

A great sequence.


quote:

"Sher Khan, havildar, lately of Ismeet Sahib's company of the Guides, as your honour says," croaks he. "Now, shame on me and mine that I put dishonour on Bloody Lance, and knew him not! Think not ill of me, husoor, for —"

"Let the ill think ill," says I easily. "The spittle of a durwan will not drown a soldier." I was watching out of the corner of my eye to see how the ladies were taking this, and noted with satisfaction that they were giggling at the Pathan's discomfiture. "Boast to your children, O Ghazi-that-was-a-Guide-and-is-now-a-Rani's porter, that you spat on Bloody Lance Flass-man's shadow — and lived." And I walked my horse past him into the courtyard, well pleased; it would be all round Jhansi inside the hour.

The man knows his crowds.

quote:

It was a trifling enough incident, and I forgot it with my first glance at the interior of the Rani's palace. Outside it had been all dust and heat and din, but here was the finest garden courtyard you ever saw — a cool, pleasant enclosure where little antelopes and peacocks strutted on the lawns, parrots and monkeys chattered softly in the surrounding trees, and a dazzling white fountain played; there were shaded archways in the carved walls, where well-dressed folk whom I took to be her courtiers sat and talked, waited on by bearers. One of the richest thrones in India, Pam had said, and I could believe it — there were enough silks and jewellery on view there to stuff an army with loot, the statuary was of the finest, in marble and coloured stones that I took to be jade, and even the pigeons that pecked at the spotless pavements had silver rings on their claws. Until you've seen it, of course, you can't imagine the luxury in which these Indian princes keep themselves — and there are folk at home who'll tell you that John Company were the robbers!

I was kept waiting there a good hour before a major-domo came, salaaming, to lead me through the inner gate and up a narrow winding stair to the durbar room on the first storey; here again all was richness — splendid silk curtains on the walls, great chandeliers of purple crystal hanging from the carved and gilded ceiling, magnificent carpets on the floor (with good old Axminster there among the Persian, I noticed) and every kind of priceless ornament, gold and ivory, ebony and silverwork, scattered about. It would have been in damned bad taste if it hadn't all been so bloody expensive, and the dozen or so men and women who lounged about on the couches and cushions were dressed to match; the ones down in the courtyard must have been their poor relations. Handsome as Hebe the women were, too — I was just running my eye over one alabaster beauty in tight scarlet trousers who was reclining on a shawl, playing with a parakeet, when a gong boomed somewhere, everyone stood up, and a fat little chap in a huge turban waddled in and announced that the durbar had begun. At which music began to play, and they all turned and bowed to the wall, which I suddenly realised wasn't a wall at all, but a colossal ivory screen, fine as lace, that cut the room in two. Through it you could just make out movement in the space beyond, like shadows behind thick gauze; this was the Rani's purdah screen, to keep out prying heathen eyes like mine.

I seemed to be first man in, for the chamberlain led me to a little gilt stool a few feet from the screen, and there I sat while he stood at one end of the screen and cried out my name, rank, decorations, and (it's a fact) my London clubs; there was a murmur of voices beyond, and then he asked me what I wanted, or words to that effect. I replied, in Urdu, that I brought greetings from Queen Victoria, and a gift for the Rani from her majesty, if she would graciously accept it. (It was a perfectly hellish photograph of Victoria and Albert looking in apparent stupefaction at a book which the Prince of Wales was holding in an attitude of sullen defiance; all in a silver frame, too, and wrapped up in muslin.) I handed it over, the chamberlain passed it through, listened attentively, and then asked me who the fat child in the picture was. I told him, he relayed the glad news, and then announced that her highness was pleased to accept her sister-ruler's gift — the effect was spoiled a trifle by a clatter from behind the screen which suggested the picture had fallen on the floor (or been thrown), but I just stroked my whiskers while the courtiers tittered behind me. It's hell in the diplomatic, you know.

There was a further exchange of civilities, through the chamberlain, and then I asked for a private audience with the Rani; he replied that she never gave them. I explained that what I had to say was of mutual but private interest to Jhansi and the British government; he looked behind the screen for instructions, and then said hopefully:

"Does that mean you have proposals for the restoration of her highness's throne, the recognition of her adopted son, and the restitution of her property — all of which have been stolen from her by the Sirkar?"

Hah!

quote:

Well, it didn't, of course. "What I have to say is for her highness alone," says I, solemnly, and he stuck his head round the screen and conferred, before popping back.

"There are such proposals?" says he, and I said I could not talk in open durbar, at which there were sounds of rapid female muttering from behind the screen. The chamberlain asked what I could have to say that could not be said by Captain Skene, and I said politely that I could tell that to the Rani, and no other. He conferred again, and I tried to picture the other side of the screen, with the Rani, sharp-faced and thin in her silk shawl, muttering her instructions to him, and puzzled to myself what the odd persistent noise was that I could hear above the soft pipes of the hidden orchestra — a gentle, rhythmic swishing from beyond the screen, as though a huge fan were being used. And yet the room was cool and airy enough not to need one.

The chamberlain popped out again, looking stem, and said that her highness could see no reason for prolonging the interview; if I had nothing new from the Sirkar to impart to her, I was permitted to withdraw. So I got to my feet, clicked my heels, saluted the screen, picked up the second package which I had brought, thanked him and his mistress for their courtesy, and did a smart about-turn. But I hadn't gone a yard before he stopped me.

"The packet you carry," says he. "What is that?"

I'd been counting on this; I told him it was my own. "But it is wrapped as the gift to her highness was wrapped," says he. "Surely it also is a present."

"Yes," says I, slowly. "It was." He stared, was summoned behind the screen, and came out looking anxious. "Then you may leave it behind," says he.

I hesitated, weighing the packet in my hand, and shook my head. "No, sir," says I. "It was my own personal present, to her highness — but in my country we deliver such gifts face to face, as honouring both giver and receiver. By your leave," and I bowed again to the screen and walked away.

"Wait, wait!" cries he, so I did; the rhythmic sound from behind the screen had stopped now, and the female voice was talking quietly again. The chamberlain came out, red-faced, and to my astonishment he bustled everyone else from the room, shooing the silken ladies and gentlemen like geese. Then he turned to me, bowed, indicated the screen, and effaced himself through one of the archways, leaving me alone with my present in my hand. I listened a moment; the swishing sound had started again.

I paused to give my whiskers a twirl, stepped up to the end of the screen, and rapped on it with my knuckles. No reply. So I said: "Your highness?", but there was nothing except that damned swishing. Well, here goes, I thought; this is what you came to India for, and you must be civil and adoring, for old Pam's sake. I stepped round the screen, and halted as though I'd walked into a wall.

When he bothers to prepare he can press every advantage thoroughly.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


classic what th coming up, though it's maybe definitely a little contrived

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







quote:

It wasn't the gorgeously-carved golden throne, or the splendour of the furniture which outshone even what l'd left, or the unexpected sensation of walking on the shimmering Chinese quilt on the floor. Nor was it the bewildering effect of the mirrored ceiling and walls, with their brilliantly-coloured panels. The astonishing thing was that from the ceiling there hung, by silk ropes, a great cushioned swing, and sitting in it, wafting gently to and fro, was a girl — the only soul in the room. And such a girl — my first impression was of great, dark, almond eyes in a skin the colour of milky coffee, with a long straight nose above a firm red mouth and chin, and hair as black as night that hung in a jewelled tail down her back. She was dressed in a white silk bodice and sari which showed off the dusky satin of her bare arms and midriff, and on her head was a little white jewelled cap from which a single pearl swung on her forehead above the caste-mark.

I stood and gaped while she swung to and fro at least three times, and then she put a foot on the carpet and let the swing drag to a halt. She considered me, one smooth dusky arm up on the swing rope — and then I recognised her: she was the ladies' maid who had been standing by the palankeen at the palace gate. The Rani's maid? — then the lady of the palankeen must be …

"Your mistress?" says I. "Where is she?"

"Mistress? I have no mistress," says she, tilting up her chin and looking down her nose at me. "I am Lakshmibai, Maharani of Jhansi."

For a moment I didn't believe it: I had become so used to picturing her over the past three months as a dried-up old shrew with skinny limbs that I just stood and gaped."8 And yet, as I looked at her, there couldn't be any doubt: the richness of her clothes shouted royalty at you, and the carriage of her head, with its imperious dark eyes, told you as nothing else could that here was a woman who'd never asked permission in her life. There was strength in every line of her, too, for all her femininity — by George, I couldn't remember when I'd seen bouncers like those, thrusting like pumpkins against the muslin of her blouse, which was open to the jewelled clasp at her breast bone — if it hadn't been for a couple of discreetly embroidered flowers on either side, there would have been nothing at all concealed. I could only stand speechless before such queenly beauty, wondering what it would be like to tear the muslin aside, thrust your whiskers in between 'em, and go brrrrr!

That's him alright.

quote:

"You have a gift to present," says she, speaking in a quick, soft voice which had me recollecting myself and clicking my heels as I presented my packet. She took it, weighed it in her hand, still half-reclining in her swing, and asked sharply: "Why do you stare at me so?"

"Forgive me, highness," says I. "I did not expect to find a queen who looked so …" I'd been about to say "young and lovely", but changed it hurriedly for a less personal compliment. "So like a queen."

"Like that queen?" says she, and indicated the picture of Vicky and Albert, which was lying on a cushion.

"Each of your majesties," says I, with mountainous diplomacy, "looks like a queen in her own way."

She considered me gravely, and then held the packet out to me. "You may open it."

I pulled off the wrapping, opened the little box, and took out the gift. You may smile, but it was a bottle of perfume — you see, Flashy ain't as green as he looks; it may be coals to Newcastle to take perfume to India, but in my experience, which isn't inconsiderable, there's not a woman breathing who isn't touched by a gift of scent, and it don't matter what age she is, either. And it was just the gift a blunt, honest soldier would choose, in his simplicity — furthermore, it was from Paris, and had cost the dirty old goat who presented it to Elspeth a cool five sovs. (She'd never miss it.) I handed it over with a little bow, and she touched the stopper daintily on her wrist.

"French," says she. "And very costly. Are you a rich man, colonel?"

As we've seen and will see again and again and again the underestimation of those the British are imposing upon will bite them.

Also I'm having trouble pinning down how much five sovereigns would be worth in 1856, nominally five pounds so £542 in todays money, but the coins were made of gold, and even a £542 bottle of perfume isn't going to wow royalty.

quote:

That took me aback; I muttered something about not calling on a queen every day of my life.

"And why have you called?" says she, very cool. "What is there that you have to say that can be said only face to face?" I hesitated, and she suddenly stood up in one lithe movement — by jove, they jumped like blancmanges in a gale. "Come and tell me," she went on, and swept off out on to the terrace at that end of the room, with a graceful swaying stride that stirred the seat of her sari in a most disturbing way. She jingled as she walked — like all rich Indian females, she seemed to affect as much jewellery as she could carry, with bangles at wrist and ankle, a diamond collar beneath her chin, and even a tiny pearl cluster at one nostril. I followed, admiring the lines of the tall, full figure, and wondering for the umpteenth time what I should say to her, now that the moment had come.

Pam and Mangles, you see, had given me no proper directions at all: I was supposed to wheedle her into being a loyal little British subject, but I'd no power to make concessions to any of her grievances. And it wasn't going to be easy; an unexpected stunner she might be, and therefore all the easier for me to talk to, but there was a directness about her that was daunting. This was a queen, and intelligent and experienced (she even knew French perfume when she smelled it); she wasn't going to be impressed by polite political chat. So what must I say? The devil with it, thinks I, there's nothing to lose by being as blunt as she is herself.

So when she'd settled herself on a daybed, and I'd forced myself to ignore that silky midriff and the shapely brown ankle peeping out of her sari, I set my helmet on the ground and stood up four-square.

"Your highness," says I, "I can't talk like Mr Erskine, or Captain Skene even. I'm a soldier,. not a diplomat, so I won't mince words." And thereafter I minced them for all I was worth, telling her of the distress there was in London about the coolness that existed between Jhansi on the one hand and the Company and Sirkar on the other; how this state of affairs had endured for four years to the disadvantage of all parties; how it was disturbing the Queen, who felt a sisterly concern for the ruler of Jhansi not only as a monarch, but as a woman, and so on — I rehearsed Jhansi's grievances, the willingness of the Sirkar to repair them so far as was possible, threw in the information that I came direct from Lord Palmerston, and finished on a fine flourish with an appeal to her to open her heart to Flashy, plenipotentiary extraordinary, so that we could all be friends and live happy ever after. It was the greatest gammon, but I gave it my best, with noble compassion in my eye and a touch of ardour in the curl shaken down over my brow. She heard me out, not a muscle moving in that lovely face, and then asked:

"You have the power to make redress, then? To alter what has been done?"

I like her already.

quote:

I said I had the power to report direct to Pam, and she said that so, in effect, had Skene. Her agents in London had spoken direct to the Board of Control, without avail.

"Well," says I, "this is a little different, highness, don't you see? His lordship felt that if I heard from you at ftorst-hand, so to speak, and we talked —"

"There is nothing to talk about," says she. "What can I say that has not been said — that the Sirkar does not know? What can you —"

"I can ask, maharaj', what actions by the Sirkar, short of removing from Jhansi and recognising your adopted son, would satisfy your grievances — or go some way to satisfying them."

She came up on one elbow at that, frowning at me with those magnificent eyes. For what I was hinting at — without the least authority, mind you — was concessions, and devil a smell of those she'd had in four years.

"Why," says she, thoughtfully. "They know well enough. They have been told my grievances, my just demands, for four years now. And yet they have denied me. How can repetition serve?"

"A disappointed client may find a new advocate," says I, with my most disarming smile, and she gave me a long stare, and then got up and walked over to the balustrade, looking out across the city. "If your highness would speak your mind to me, openly —"

"Wait," says she, and stood for a moment, frowning, before she turned back to me. She couldn't think what to make of this, she was suspicious, and didn't dare to hope, and yet she was wondering. God, she was a black beauty, sure enough — if I'd been the Sirkar, she could have had Jhansi and a pound of tea with it, just for half an hour on the daybed.

"If Lord Palmerston," says she at last — and old Pam himself would have been tempted to restore her throne just to hear the pretty way she said "Lud Pammer-stan" —"wishes me to restate the wrongs that have been done me, it can only be because he has discovered some interest to serve by redressing them — or promising redress. I do not know what that interest is, and you will not tell me. It is no charitable desire to set right injustices done to my Jhansi " and she lifted her head proudly. "That is certain. But if he wishes my friendship, for whatever purpose of his own, he may give an earnest of his good will by restoring the revenues which should have come to me since my husband's death, but which the Sirkar has confiscated." She stopped there, chin up, challenging, so I said:

"And after that, highness? What else?"

"Will he concede as much? Will the Company?"

"I can't say," says I. "But if a strong case can be made — when I report to Lord Palmerston …"

"And you will put the case, yourself?"

"That is my mission, maharaj'."

"And such other … cases … as I may advance?" She looked the question, and there was just a hint of a smile on her mouth. "So. And I must first put them to you — and no doubt you will suggest to me how they may best be phrased … or modified. You will advise, and … persuade?"

"Well," says I, "I'll help your highness as I can …"

Keeping Flash on the back foot.

quote:

"Oh, the subtlety of the British!" cries she. "Such delicacy, like an elephant in a swamp! Lord Palmerston wishes, for his own mysterious reasons of policy, to placate the Rani of Jhansi. So he invites her to repeat the petition which has been repeatedly denied for years. But does he send a lawyer, or an advocate, or even an official of the Company? No — just a simple soldier, who will discuss the petition with her, and how it may best be presented to his lordship. Could not a lawyer have advised her better?" She folded her hands and came slowly forward, sauntering round me. "But how many lawyers are tall and broad-shouldered and … aye, quite handsome — and persuasive as Flashman bahadur? Not a doubt but he is best fitted to convince a silly female that a modest claim is most likely to succeed — and she will abate her demands for him, poor foolish girl, and be less inclined to insist on fine points, and stand upon her rights. Is this not so?"

"Highness, you misunderstand entirely … I assure you —"

"Do I?" says she, scornfully, but laughing still. "I am not sixteen, colonel; I am an old lady of twenty-nine. And I may not know Lord Palmerston's purpose, but I understand his methods. Well, well. It may not have occurred to his lordship that even a poor Indian lady may be persuasive in her turn." And she eyed me with some amusement, confident in her own beauty, the damned minx, and the effect it was having on me. "He paid me a poor compliment, do you not think?"

What could I do but grin back at her? "Do his lordship justice, highness," says I. "He'd never seen you. How many have, since you are purdah-nishin?"

"Enough to have told him what I am like, I should have hoped. How did he instruct you — humour her, whatever she is, fair or foul, young and silly or old and ugly? Charm her, so that she keeps her demands cheap? Captivate her, as only a hero can." She stirred an eyebrow. "Who could resist the champion who killed the four Gilzais — where was it?"

"At Mogala, in Afghanistan — as your highness heard at the gate. Was it to test me that you had the Pathan spit on my shadow?"

"His insolence needed no instruction," says she. "He is now being flogged for it." She turned away from me and sauntered back into the durbar-room.

"You may have the tongue which insulted you torn out, if you wish," she added over her shoulder.

That brought me up sharp, I can tell you. We'd been rallying away famously, and I'd all but forgotten who and what she was — an Indian prince, with all the capricious cruelty of her kind under that lovely hide. Unless she was just mocking me with the reminder — whether or no, I would play my character.

"Not necessary, highness," says I. "I had forgotten him."

She nodded, and struck a little silver gong with her wrist-bangle. "It is time for my noon meal, and this afternoon I hold my court. You may return tomorrow, and we shall discuss the representations you are to make to the subtle Lord Palmerston." She smiled slightly in dismissal. "And I thank you for your gift, colonel."

Her maids were coming in, and the little fat chamberlain, so I made my bow.

"Maharaj"", says I. "Your most humble obedient."

She inclined her head regally, and turned away, but as I backed out round the screen I noticed that she had picked up my perfume-bottle from the table, and was inviting her maids to have a sniff at it.

Quite the introduction. She kept him off balance and on topic the whole way through.

withak
Jan 15, 2003


Fun Shoe

Flashman motorboat go brrrrrrrrr

poisonpill
Nov 8, 2009

The only way to get huge fast is to insult a passing witch and hope she curses you with Beast-strength.



This is such quality characterization and dialogue. Efficient, entertaining, and conveys a ton. Just solid writing. Also lol

Beefeater1980
Sep 12, 2008

My God, it's full of Horatios!





This is one of the best of the series, for my money. Also Flashie always at his best when he’s pretending to be a bluff simple soldier.

Trin Tragula
Apr 22, 2005



Arbite posted:

Also I'm having trouble pinning down how much five sovereigns would be worth in 1856, nominally five pounds so £542 in todays money, but the coins were made of gold, and even a £542 bottle of perfume isn't going to wow royalty.

Let's try thinking of it like this.

It's hard to figure out what the median wage might have been in 1856. However, a police constable of the time would have been paid very roughly 20 shillings per week, or £52 per year. (Today, a constable's starting wage outside London is very close to the median wage.)

Five sovereigns would have been about 10% of that annual wage. 10% of PC Smith's starting wage in 2021 is roughly £2,500.

That tracks quite closely to some of the items on this Town and Country Magazine list of the world's most expensive perfumes.

I think most of us would agree that anyone who can drop £2,500 buying perfume has *got* to be utterly loaded.

TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



drat she totally destroyed Flashy.

Jazerus
May 24, 2011



flashman stealing the perfume that his wife got as a gift from one of her guys on the side, to present to a queen that he presumes will be stupid and easily over-awed, only to be completely roasted by her is basically flashman.txt

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

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

Arbite posted:

Quite the introduction. She kept him off balance and on topic the whole way through.

I feel like Fraser is very good about presenting actual non-British historical figures in these books. They're always presented basically in the same way that they are in their national mythology, but also he's very good at showing them as human and fully developed characters. I can't think of any historical figures that are presented as idiots or ones where Flashy stunts on them, and it makes me wonder if he was doing it deliberately to avoid pissing people off, or if that's just the dynamic that Flashman has with more powerful characters.

Interestingly, that's not true for British characters - Cardigan is a consistent rear end, for example.

Norwegian Rudo
May 8, 2013


Beefeater1980 posted:

This is one of the best of the series, for my money. Also Flashie always at his best when he’s pretending to be a bluff simple soldier.

I honestly don't know why, but this one never connected with me that well. Maybe it's because the subject matter is so grim (once the actual mutiny starts) that the humour kind of seems out of place? I mostly remember it for getting extra credit on an exam for something I stole from this book.

I really hope we get to the next one as Flashman's Lady is easily my favourite book in the series.

Beefeater1980
Sep 12, 2008

My God, it's full of Horatios!





Notahippie posted:

I feel like Fraser is very good about presenting actual non-British historical figures in these books. They're always presented basically in the same way that they are in their national mythology, but also he's very good at showing them as human and fully developed characters. I can't think of any historical figures that are presented as idiots or ones where Flashy stunts on them, and it makes me wonder if he was doing it deliberately to avoid pissing people off, or if that's just the dynamic that Flashman has with more powerful characters.

Interestingly, that's not true for British characters - Cardigan is a consistent rear end, for example.

Fraser was patriotic and had been a soldier so he had a bone to pick with lovely British senior officers is my guess.

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







quote:

I came away from that audience thinking no small diplomatic beer of myself. At least I seemed to have got further with her than any other representative of the Sirkar had ever done, even if I'd had to lie truth out of Jhansi to do it. God knew I'd not the slightest right to promise redress of any of her grievances against the Raj, and if I trotted back a list of them to London the Board would turn 'em down flat again, no question. But she didn't know that, and if I could jolly her along for a week for two, hinting at this or that possible concession, she might grow more friendly disposed — which was what Pam wanted, after all. Her hopes would revive, and while they were sure to be dashed in the end, I'd be back snug in England by then.

That was the official aspect, of course; the important thing was the delightful surprise that the old beldam of Jhansi was as prime a goer as ever wriggled a hip, and just ripe for my kind of diplomacy. She was a cocky bitch, with a fine sense of her queenly consequence, but I wasn't fooled by her airs, or the set-down she'd tried to give me by warning me not to try to come round her with whiskery blandishments. That was pure flirtation, to put me on my mettle — I know these beauties, you see, and it don't matter whether they're queens or commoners, when they start to play the cool, mocking grand dame it's a sure sign that they're wondering what kind of a mount you'll make. I'd seen the glint in this one's eye when she walked round me, and thought quietly to myself, we'll have you gasping for more, my girl, before this fortnight's out.

You may think me a presumptuous ambassador on short notice, especially since the object of my carnal ambitions was royal, clever, dangerously powerful, and a high-caste Hindoo lady of reputed purity to boot. But that means nothing when a woman fancies a buck like me; besides, I knew about these high-born Indian wenches — randy as ferrets, the lot of them, and with all the opportunity to gratify it, too. A woman with a shape and face like Lakshmibai's hadn't let it go to waste in four years' widowhood (after being married to some prancing old quean, too), not with the stallions of her palace guard available at the crook of her little finger. Well, I'd make a rare change of bedding for her — and if her lusty inclinations needed any prompting, she might find it in the thought that being amiable to ambassador Flashy was the likeliest way of getting what she wanted for herself and her state. Dulce et decorum est pro patria rogeri, she could say to herself — and I cantered back to the cantonments full of cheery thoughts, imagining what that voluptuous tawny body would look like when I peeled the sari off it, and speculating on the novel uses to which the pair of us could put that swing of hers, in the interests of diplomatic relations.

Seems neither got distracted from their true aims.

quote:

In the meantime, I had Pam's other business to attend to, so I spent the afternoon in the Native Infantry lines, looking at the Company sepoys to gauge for myself what their temper was. I did it idly enough, for they seemed a properly smart and docile lot, and yet it was a momentous visit. For it led to an encounter that was to save my life, and set me on one of the queerest and most terrifying adventures of my career, and perhaps shaped the destiny of British India, too.

I had just finished chatting to a group of the jawans, and telling 'em that in my view they'd never be called on to serve overseas, in spite of the new act, when the officer with me — fellow called Turnbull — asked me if I'd like to look at the irregular horse troop who had their stables close by. Being a cavalryman, I said yes, and a fine mixed bunch they were, too, Punjabis and frontiersmen mostly, big, strapping ruffians with oiled whiskers and their shirts inside their breeches, laughing and joking as they worked on their leather, and as different from the smooth-faced infantry as Cheyennes are from hottentots. I was having a good crack with them, for these were the kind of scoundrels with whom I'd ridden (albeit reluctantly) in my Afghan days, when their rissaldar came up — and at the sight of me he stopped dead in the stable door, gaping as though he couldn't believe his eyes. He was a huge, bearded Ghazi of a fellow, Afghan for certain by the devil's face of him — I'd have said Gilzai or Dourani — with a skull cap on the back of his head, and the old yellow coat of Skinner's riders over his shoulders.

"Jehannum!" says he, and stared again, and then stuck his hands on his hips and roared with laughter.

"Salaam, rissaldar," says I, "what do you want with me?"

"A sight of thy left wrist, Bloody Lance," says he, grinning like a death's head. "Is there not a scar, there, to match this? —" and he pulled up his sleeve, while I stared in disbelief at the little puckered mark, for the man who bore it should have been dead, fifteen years ago — and he'd been a mere slip of a Gilzai boy when it had been made, with his bleeding fore-arm against mine, and his mad father, Sher Afzul, doing the honours and howling to heaven that his son's life was pledged eternally to the service of the White Queen.

"Ilderim?" says I, flabbergasted. "Ilderim Khan, of Mogala?" And then he flung his arms round me, roaring, and danced me about while the sowars grinned and nudged each other.

"Flashman!" He pounded my back. "How many years since ye took me for the Sirkar? Stand still, old friend, and let me see thee! Bismillah, thou hast grown high and heavy in the service — such a barra sahib, and a colonel, too! Now praise God for the sight of thee!"

And then he was showing me off to his fellows, telling them how we'd met in the old Kabul days, when his father had held the passes south, and how I'd killed the four Gilzais (strange, the same lying legend coming up twice in a day), and he'd been pledged to me as a hostage, and we'd lost sight of each other in the Great Retreat. It's all there, in my earlier memoirs, and pretty gruesome, too, even if it was the basis of my glorious career.

So now it was Speech Day with a vengeance, while we relieved old memories and slapped each other on the shoulder for half an hour or so. And then he asked me what I was doing here, and I answered vaguely that I was on a mission to the Rani, but soon to go home again; and at this he looked at me shrewdly, but said nothing more until I was leaving.

"It will be palitikal, beyond doubt," says he. "Do not tell me. Listen, instead, to a friend's word. If ye speak with the Rani, be wary of her; she is a Hindoo woman, and knows too much for a woman's good."

"What d'you know about her?" says I.

"Little enough," says he, "except that she is like the silver krait, in that she is beautiful and cunning and loves to bite the sahibs. The Company have made a cutch-rani of her, Flashman, but she still has fangs. This," he added bitterly, "comes of soft government in Calcutta, by ducks and mulls who have been too long in the heat. So beware of her, and go with God, old friend. And remember, while thou art in Jhansi, Ilderim is thy shadow — or if not me, then these loose-wallahs and jangli-admis of mine. They have their uses —" And he jerked a thumb towards his troopers.

That, coming from an Afghan upper roger who was also a friend, was the best kind of insurance policy you could wish — not that I now had any fears, fool that I was, about my stay in Jhansi. As to what he'd said of the Rani — well, I knew it already, and Afghans' views on women are invariably sour — beastly brutes. Anyway, I didn't doubt my ability to handle Lakshmibai, in every sense of the word.

Fraser artfully uses non-English in a way that boosts immersion and still allows understanding through context.

quote:

Still, I found his simile coming to mind next day, when I attended her durbar again, and watched her sitting enthroned to hear petitions, dressed in a cloth-of-silver sari that fitted her like a skin, with a silver-embroidered shawl framing that fine dark face; when she moved it was for all the world like a great gleaming snake stirring. She was very grave and queenly, and her courtiers and suppliants fairly grovelled, and scuttled about if she raised her pinky; when the last petitioner had been heard, and a gong had boomed to end the durbar, she sat with her chin in the air while the mob bowed itself out backwards, leaving only me and her two chief councillors standing there — and then she slipped out of her throne with a little cry of relief, hissed at one of her pet monkeys and chased it out on to the terrace, clapping her hands in mock anger, and then returned, perfectly composed, to lounge on her swing.

"Now we can talk," says she, "and while my vakeel reads out the matter of my ‘petition’, you may refresh yourself, colonel —" and she indicated a little table with flasks and cups on it. "Ah, and see," she added, flicking a flimsy little handkerchief from her sari, "I am wearing French perfume today — do you care for it? My lady Vashki thinks I am no better than an infidel."

It was my perfume, right enough; I bowed acknowledgement while she smiled and settled herself, and the vakeel began to drone out her petition in formal Persian.

It's worth repeating, perhaps, for it was a fair sample of the objections that many Indian princes had to British rule — the demand for restoration of her husband's revenues, compensation for the slaughter of sacred cows, reappointment of court hangers-on dismissed by the Sirkar, restitution of confiscated temple funds, recognition of her authority as regent, and the like. All a waste of time, had she but known it, but splendid stuff for me to talk to her about over the next week or two while I pursued the really important work of charming her into a recumbent position.

I had no doubt she was willing enough for me to make the running there — she was wearing my scent, and letting me know it, and she was as pleasant as pie in her cool way at that meeting — nodding graciously as I talked to her wise men about the petition, smiling if I ventured a joke, inviting them to admire my reasoning (which they fell over themselves to do, absolutely), even asking my advice occasionally, and always considering me languidly with those dark slanting eyes as I talked. All of which might have seemed suspiciously amiable after her frankness at our first encounter — but since then she'd had time to weigh the political advantages of being pleasant to me, and was setting out to make me enjoy my work.

But I knew politics wasn't the half of it — I know when a woman's got that little flutter in her midriff about me, and in our ensuing meetings I could watch her enjoying using her beauty on me — and she could do that with a touch that Montez might have envied. I'll admit it now, I found her enchanting; she had the advantage of being a queen, of course, which makes a beauty all the more tantalising — well, even I, on short acquaintance; could hardly have taken her belly in one hand, her bum in the other, and fondled her flat on her back with passionate murmurs, as one would do in ordinary circumstances. No, with royalty you have to wait a little. Not that I wasn't tempted, in those early talks, when she had dismissed her councillors, and we were alone, and just once or twice, from the warm gleam in her eye as she swayed on her swing or lay on her daybed, I wondered if perhaps … but I decided to make haste slowly, and play the bowling as it came down.

It came mighty fast, too, sometimes, for if she was generally content just to politick flirtatiously, I soon discovered that she could be dead serious when Jhansi and her own ambitions were concerned; let the talk turn that way, and you saw the passion of her feeling.

"Five years ago, how many beggars were on the streets?" she rounded on me once. "One for every ten today. And who has accomplished this? Who but the Sirkar, by assuming the affairs of the state, so that one white sahib comes to do the work that employed a dozen of our people, who must be turned out to starve. Who guards the state? Why, the Company soldiers — so Jhansi's army must be disbanded, and they, too, can shift or steal or go hungry!"

"Well now, highness," says I, "it's hard to blame the Sirkar for being efficient, and as for your unemployed soldiers, they'll be more than welcome in the Company service —"

"In a foreign army? And will there be room in its ranks, too, for the Indian craftsmen whom the Sirkar's efficiency has put out of work? For the traders whose commerce has decayed under the benevolent rule of the Raj?"

"You must give us a little time, maharaj'," says I, humouring her. "And it ain't all bad, you know. Banditry has ceased; the poor folk are safe from dacoits and Thugs — why, your own throne is secure against greedy neighbours like Kathe Khan and the Dewan of Orcha —"

"My throne is safe?" says she, stopping the swing on which she had been swaying, and lifting her brows at me. "Oh, very safe — for the Sirkar to enjoy its revenues, and usurp my place, and disinherit my son — ha! As to Kathe Khan and that jackal of Orcha, whom the Company in their wisdom allow to live — if I ruled this state, and had my soldiers, Kathe Khan and his fellow-viper would come against me once —" she picked up a fruit from the tray at her elbow, considered it, and nibbled daintily " — and crawl home again — without their hands and feet."

"No doubt, ma'am," says I. "But the fact is that when Jhansi ruled itself, it couldn't deal with these foes. Nor were the Thugs put down —"

"Oh, aye — we hear much of them, and how the Company suppressed their wickedness. And why — because they slew travellers, or was it because they served a Hindoo god and so offended the Christian Company?" She eyed me contemptuously. "Belike had the Thugs been Jesus-worshippers, they would have been roaming yet — especially if they had chosen Hindoo victims."

You can't argue with gross prejudice...

Well...

quote:

...so I just looked amiable and said:
"And doubtless had suttee, that fine old Hindoo custom whereby widows were tortured to death, been a Christian practice, we would have encouraged it? But in our ignorance and spite, we forbade it — along with the law which condemned those widows who had escaped burning to a life of slavery and degradation with their heads shaved and heaven knows what else. Come, maharaj' — can we do nothing right?" And without thinking I added: "I'd have thought your highness, as a widow, would have cause to thank the Sirkar for that at least."

Oh poo poo.

Arbite fucked around with this message at 14:38 on Apr 19, 2021

TheGreatEvilKing
Mar 28, 2016



Kipling would be proud.

The Rani's about to hilariously ruin Flashman again isn't she?

Remulak
Jun 8, 2001

The four most over-rated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics. Oh, and that stupid children's book 'The Little Prince,' ugh.


Yams Fan

quote:

after being married to some prancing old quean, too
I didn’t know that expression so I looked it up.

quote:

quean (plural queans)

A woman, now especially an impudent or disreputable woman; a prostitute. from 10th c.

Not quite sure what to make of this but it’s interesting.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Darth Walrus
Feb 13, 2012




Remulak posted:

I didn’t know that expression so I looked it up.


Not quite sure what to make of this but it’s interesting.

He's calling him gay.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply