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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

Darth Walrus posted:

He's calling him gay.

But why quean instead of queen?


joat mon
Oct 15, 2009

I am the master of my lamp;
I am the captain of my tub.

Darth Walrus posted:

He's calling him gay.

Remulak posted:

But why quean instead of queen?

They're homophones.

e: and probably an anachronism on Frazer's part

joat mon fucked around with this message at 18:10 on Apr 19, 2021

Jul 24, 2007

You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.

I thought this was an interesting passage in that the idea of efficiency and modernization is presented as a negative -- it's easy to think "great, one guy can do the work of ten" but then of course that means nine people are out of a job entirely. I remember reading about, oh, I think it was rubber farming along the Ivory Coast, and the colonizers came up to the natives and said "hey, come work for us and we can set up a modern rubber harvesting operation and make a lot of money," and the general consensus was "no thank you, we don't need the money, we've already got everything we need" -- because really, if you've got a little bit of land to grow crops and a house to keep the rain off your head, you can live a perfectly happy life! You don't NEED capitalism pressing everyone into working efficiently. (Of course, this ends with the colonizers setting up a ruling government and raising an army and forcing the locals to do their bidding under threat of violence, but what doesn't?)

It reminds me a bit of modern automation -- we were all doing just fine beforehand, now in the name of progress we can automate half of three people's jobs, fire two of them, and tell the third guy he needs to do the remaining 1.5 people's worth of work. Great, I guess, if you're the guy who just cut his labor costs in half, but it's of dubious benefit to the overall community.

Nov 4, 2009


As soon as the words were out, I saw I'd put my foot in it. The swing stopped abruptly, and she sat upright, with a face like a mask, staring at me.

"I?" says she. "I? Thank the Sirkar?" And she suddenly flung her fruit across the room and stood upright, blazing at me. "You dare to suggest that?"

Ohhh poo poo.


Well, I could grovel, or face it out — but I don't hold with grovelling to pretty women, not unless the danger's desperate or I'm short of cash. So I started to hum and haw placatingly, while she snapped in a voice like ice:

"I owe the Company nothing! If the Company had never been, do you think I would have submitted to suttee, or allowed myself to be made a menial? Do you take me for a fool?"

"By God, no, ma'am," says I hastily. "Anything but, and if I've offended, I beg your pardon. I simply thought that the law was binding on all, ah … ladies, you see, and … "

"The Maharani makes the law," says she, all Good Queen Bess damning the dagoes, and I hurriedly cried thank heaven for that, at which she looked down her nose at me.

"That is not the view of your Company or your country. Why should you be different? Why should you care?"

That was my cue, of course; I hesitated a second, and then looked at her, very frank and manly. "Because I've seen your highness," says I quietly. "And … well … I do care, a great deal, you see." I stopped there, giving her my steadiest smile, with a touch of ardent admiration thrown in, and after a long moment her stare softened, and she even smiled as she sat down again and said:

"Shall we return to the confiscated temple funds?"

She's clearly playing the long game but you can wonder if letting him-know-she-knows-he-knows helped her beyond that first meeting. It did help Flashman slither into a comfortable role quickly enough.


Altogether it was a rum game in those first few days — rum for her, because she was a fair natural tyrant, yet whenever a disagreement in our discussions arose, she would allow it to smooth over, with that warm mysterious smile, and rum for me, because here I was day after day closeted with this choice piece of rump, and not so much as touching her, let alone squeezing and grappling. But I had to bide my time, and since she took such obvious and natural pleasure in my company, I contained my horniness for the moment, in the interests of diplomacy.

In the meantime, I occasionally paid attention to the other side of Pam's business, talking with Skene, and Carshore the Collector, and reassuring myself that all continued to go well among the sepoys. There wasn't a hint of agitation now, my earlier fears about Ignatieff and his scoundrels were beginning to seem like a distant nightmare, and now that I was so well established in the Rani's good graces, the last cloud over my mission appeared to have been dispelled. Laughable, you may think, when you recollect that this was 1856 drawing to a close — you will ask how I, and the others, could have been so blind to the fact that we were living on the very edge of hell, but if you'd been there, what would you have seen? A peaceful native state, ruled by a charming young woman whose grievances were petty enough, and who gave most of her time to seducing the affections of a dashing British colonel; a contented native soldiery; and a tranquil, happy, British cantonment.

I was about it a great deal, and all .our people were so placid and at ease — I remember a dinner at Carshore's bungalow, with his family, and Skene and his pretty little wife so nervous and pleased in her new pink gown, and jolly old Dr McEgan with his fund of Irish stories, and the garrison men with their red jackets, slung on the backs of their chairs, matching their smiling red faces, and their gossipy wives, and myself raising a laugh by coaxing one of the Wilton girls to eat a country captain with the promise that it would make her hair curl when she grew older.

A dish that brings together pivotal places for Flashman.


It was all so comfy and easy, it might have been a dinner-party at home, except for the black faces and gleaming eyes of the bearers standing silent against the chick-screens, and the big moths fluttering round the lamps; afterwards there was a silly card game, and Truth or Con-sequences, and local scandal, and talk of leave and game-shooting with our cheroots and port on the verandah. Trivial enough memories, when you think what happened to all of them — I can still feel the younger Wilton chit pulling at my arm and crying:

"Oh, Colonel Flashman, Papa says if I ask you ever so nicely you will sing us ‘The Galloping Major’ — will you please, oh, please do!" And see those shining eyes, and the ringlets, as she tugged me to where her sister was sitting at the piano.

We couldn't see ahead, then, and life was pleasant — especially for me, with my diplomatic duties to attend to, and they became more enjoyable by the hour; I'll say that for Rani Lakshmibai, she knew how to make business a pleasure. Much of the time we didn't talk in the palace at all; she was, as Skene had told me, a fine horsewoman, and loved nothing better than to put on her jodhpurs and turban, with two little silver pistols in her sash, and gallop on the maidan, or go hawking along a wooded river not far from the city. There was a charming little pavilion there, of about a dozen rooms on two storeys, hidden among the trees, and once or twice I was taken on picnics with a few of her courtiers and attendants. At other times we would talk in the palace garden, among the scores of pet beasts and birds which she kept, and once she had me into one of her hen-parties in the durbar room, at which she entertained all the leading ladies of Jhansi to tea and cakes, and I found myself called on to discourse on European fashions to about fifty giggling Indian females in saris and bangles and kohl-dark eyes — excellent fun, too, although the questions they asked about crinolines and panniers would have made a sailor blush.

Particularly in this book Fraser excels at clearly showing the world before it hit's the fan.


But her great delight was to be out of doors, riding or playing with her adopted son Damodar, a grave-faced imp of eight, or inspecting her guards at field exercise; she even watched their wrestling-matches in the courtyard, and a race-meeting in which some of our garrison officers took part — I was intrigued to see that on this occasion she wore a purdah veil and an enveloping robe, for about the palace she went bare-faced — and pretty bare-bodied, too. And if she could be as formal as a stockbroker with a new-bought peerage, she had a delightful way with the ordinary folk — she was never so gay and happy as when she held a party for children from the city in her garden, letting them run among the birds and monkeys, and at one of her almsgivings I saw her quite concerned as her treasurer scattered coins among the mob of hideous and stinking beggars clamouring at her gate. Not at all like a Rani, sometimes — she was a queer mixture of schoolgirl and sophisticated woman, all scatter one moment, all languor and dignity the next. Damned unpredictable — oh, and captivating; there were times when even I found myself regarding her with an interest that wasn't more than four-fifths lustful — and that ain't like me. It was directly after that alms-giving, when we rode out to her pavilion among the trees, and I had just, remarked that what was needed for India was a Poor Law and a few parish workuses, that she suddenly turned in her saddle, and burst out:

"Can you not see that that is not our way — that none of our ways are your ways? You talk of your reforms, and the benefits of British law and the Sirkar's rule — and never think that what seems ideal to you may not suit others; that we have our own customs, which you think strange and foolish, and perhaps they are — but they are ours — our own! You come, in your strength, and your certainty, with your cold eyes and pale faces, like … like machines marching out of your northern ice, and you will have everything in order, tramping in step like your soldiers, whether those you conquer and civilise — as you call it — whether they will or no. Do you not see that it is better to leave people be — to let them alone?"

She wasn't a bit angry, or I'd have agreed straight off, but she was as intense as I'd known her, and the great dark eyes were almost appealing, which was most unusual. I said that all I'd meant was that instead of thousands going sick and ragged and hungry about her city, it might be better to have some system of relief; come cheaper on her, too, if they had the beggars picking yarn or mending roads for their dole.

"You talk of a system!" says she, striking her riding crop on the saddle. "We do not care for systems. Oh, we admire and respect those which you show us — but we do not want them; we would not choose them for ourselves. You remember we spoke of how twelve Indian babus did the work of one white clerk —"

"Well, that's waste, ma'am," says I respectfully. "There's no point —"

"Wasteful or not, does it matter — if people are happy?" says she, impatiently. "Where lies the virtue of your boasted progress, your telegraphs, your railway trains, when we are content with our sandals and our ox-carts?"

I could have pointed out that the price of her sandals would have kept a hundred Jhansi coolie families all their lives, and that she'd never been within ten yards of an ox-cart, but I was tactful.

"We can't help it, maharaj'," says I. "We have to do the best we can, don't you know, as we see it. And it ain't just telegraphs and trains — though you'll find those useful enough, in time — why, I'm told there are to be universities, and hospitals —"

"To teach philosophies that we do not want, and sciences that we do not need. And a law that is foreign to us, which our people cannot understand."

The poor being used to score points by two people who'd never willingly give them a second thought is a hilarious undercurrent.


"Well, that doesn't leave 'em far behind the average Englishman," says I. "But it's fair law — and with respect that's more than you can say for most of your Indian courts. Look now — when there was a brawl in the street outside your palace two days since, what happened? Your guards didn't catch the culprits — so they laid hands on the first poor soul they met, haled him into your divan, guilty or not — and you have him hanging by his thumbs and sun-drying at the scene of the crime for two solid days. Fellow near died of it — and he'd done nothing! I ask you, ma'am, is that justice?"

"He was a badmash, and well known," says she, wide-eyed. "Would you have let him go?"

"For that offence, yes — since he was innocent of it. We punish only the guilty."

"And if you cannot find them? Is there to be no example made? There will be no more brawls outside the palace, I think." And seeing my look, she went on: "I know it is not your way, and it seems unfair and even barbarous to you. But we understand it — should that not be enough? You find it strange — like our religions, and our forbidden things, and our customs. But can your Sirkar not see that they are as precious to us as yours are to you? Why is it not
enough to your Company to drive its profit? Why this greed to order people's lives?"

"It isn't greed, highness," says I. "But you can't drive trade on a battlefield, now can you? There has to be peace and order, surely, and you can't have 'em without . .well, a strong hand, and a law that's fair for all — or for most people, anyway." I knew she wouldn't take kindly if I said the law was as much for her as for her subjects. "And when we make mistakes, well, we try to put 'em right, you see — which is what I'm here for, to see that justice — our justice, if you like — is done to you —"

"Do you think that is all that matters?" says she. We had stopped in the pavilion garden, and the horses were cropping while her attendants waited out of earshot. She was looking at me, frowning, and her eyes were very bright. "Do you think it is the revenues, and the jewels — even my son's rights; do you think that is all I care for? These are the things that can be redressed — but what of the things that cannot? What of this life, this land, this country that you will change — as you change everything you touch? Today, it is still bright — but you will make it grey; today, it is still free — oh, and no doubt wrong and savage by your lights — and you will make it tame, and orderly, and bleak, and the people will forget what they once were. That is what you will do — and that is why I resist as best I can. As you, and Lord Palmerston would. Tell him," says she, and by George, her voice was shaking, but the pretty mouth was set and hard, "when you go home, that whatever happens, I will not give up my Jhansi. Mera Jhansi denge nay. I will not give up my Jhansi!"

Through Flashman's cynicism these books give readers the feeling that they are 'in the know', that here's a peek behind the curtain of the great and good of the day as they truly were, and it's certainly part of the appeal. A little like Procopius' Secret History of Justinian. Or those sexploitation books about Beijing's leaders that were all the rage in Hong Kong.

Then, in the concluding notes of this book Fraser hits you again by showing where Flashman himself was almost certianly fooled, giving readers a double shot of it on their second read.

Arbite fucked around with this message at 19:17 on Apr 22, 2021

Apr 6, 2009

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

Phenotype posted:

It reminds me a bit of modern automation -- we were all doing just fine beforehand, now in the name of progress we can automate half of three people's jobs, fire two of them, and tell the third guy he needs to do the remaining 1.5 people's worth of work. Great, I guess, if you're the guy who just cut his labor costs in half, but it's of dubious benefit to the overall community.

Arbite posted:

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.
My opinion exactly. By the end, I felt like the author was genuinely loving with me, presenting an interesting scenario, and then... nope, Tyranids all along.

Nov 4, 2009

Xander77 posted:

My opinion exactly. By the end, I felt like the author was genuinely loving with me, presenting an interesting scenario, and then... nope, Tyranids all along.

Ugh, I know. Imigine if The Greater Good had been Cain doing with the Tau what Flashman does with the Sikh Khalsa Army in Mountain of Light. That would have been good reading. Instead we got a cameo at the start, a cameo at the end, and nuthin but 'nids in the middle.

But yeah, first trilogy's a must read (or better, listen), second trilogy's also pretty good. Just leave him in retirement after that.


Forums are back, let's get this show on the road.

Nov 4, 2009


I was astonished; I'd never been in doubt that under the delectable feminine surface there was a tigress of sorts, but I hadn't thought it was such a passionately sentimental animal. D'you know, for a moment I was almost moved, she seemed such a damned spunky little woman; I felt like saying "There, there", or stroking her hand, or squeezing her tits, or something — and then she had taken a breath, and sat upright in the saddle, as though recovering herself, and she looked so damned royal and so damned lovely that I couldn't help myself.

"Maharaj' — you don't need me to say it. Go to London yourself, and tell Lord Palmerston — and I swear he'll not only give you Jhansi but Bombay and Hackney Wick as well." And I meant it; she'd have been a sensation — had 'em eating out of her dusky little palm. "See the Queen herself- why don't you?"

She stared thoughtfully ahead for a moment, and then murmured under her breath: "The Queen … God save the Queen — what strange people you British are."

"Don't you worry about the British," says I, "they'll sing ‘God save the Queen’, all right — and they'll be thinking of the Queen of Jhansi."

"Now that is disloyal, colonel," says she, and the languid smile was back in her eyes, as she turned her horse and trotted off with me following.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, what's come over old Flash? He ain't going soft on this female, surely? Well, you know, I think the truth is that I was a bit soft on all my girls — Lola and Cassie and Valla and Ko Dali's daughter and Susie the Bawd and Takes-Away-Clouds-Woman and the rest of 'em. Don't mistake me; it was always the meat that mattered, but I had a fair affection for them at the same time — every now and then, weather permitting. You can't help it; feeling randy is a damned romantic business, and it's my belief that Galahad was a bigger beast in bed than ever Lancelot was. That's by the way, but worth remembering if you are to understand about me and Lakshmibai — and I've told you a good deal about her on purpose, because she was such a mysterious, contrary female that I can't hope to explain her (any more than historians can) but must just leave you to judge for yourselves from what I've written — and from what was to follow.

I'll get back to this idea of traveling to London in person later but Flashman certainly seemed convinced it would work. The book doesn't do much more with it.


I sensed there was something up as soon as I presented myself in the durbar room; she was perfectly pleasant, vivacious even, as she told me about some new hunting-cheetah she'd been given, but her vakeel and chief minister weren't meeting her eye, and her foot was tap-tapping under the edge of her gold sari; ah, thinks I, someone's been getting the sharp side of missy's tongue. She didn't have much mind to business, either, and once or twice I caught her eyeing me almost warily, when she would smile quickly — with anyone else I would have said it was nervousness. Finally she cut the discussion off abruptly, saying enough for today, and we would watch the guardsmen fencing in the courtyard.

Even there, I noticed her finger tapping on the balcony as we looked down at the Pathans sabring away — damned active, dangerous lads they looked, too — but in a little while she began to take notice, talking about the swordplay and applauding the hits, and then she. glanced sidelong at me, and says:

"Do you fence as well as you ride, colonel?"

I said, pretty fair, and she gave me her lazy smile and says:

"Then we shall try a bout," and blow me if she didn't order a couple of foils up to the durbar room, and go off to change into her jodhpurs and blouse. I waited, wondering — of course, Skene had said she'd been brought up with boys, and could handle arms with the best of them, but it seemed deuced odd — and then she was back, ordering her attendants away, tying up her hair in a silk scarf, and ordering me on guard very business-like. They'll never believe this at home, thinks I, but I obeyed, indulgently enough, and she touched me three times in the first minute. So I settled down, in earnest, and in the next minute she hit me only once, laughing, and told me to try harder.

That nettled me, I confess; I wasn't having this, royalty or not, so I went to work — I'm a strong swordsman, but not too academic — and I pushed her for all I was worth. She was better-muscled than she looked, though, and fast as a cat, and I had to labour to make her break ground, gasping with laughter, until her back was against one of the glass walls. She took to the point, holding me off, and then unaccountably her guard seemed to falter, I jumped in with the old heavy cavalry trick, punching my hilt against the forte of her blade, her foil spun out of her hand — and for a moment we were breast to breast, with me panting within inches of that dusky face and open, laughing mouth — the great dark eyes were wide and waiting — and then my foil was clattering on the floor and I had her in my arms, crushing my lips on hers and tasting the sweetness of her tongue, with that soft body pressed against me, revelling in the feel and fragrance of her. I felt her hands slip up my back to my head, holding my face against hers for a long delicious moment, and then she drew her lips away, sighing, opened her eyes, and said:

"How well do you shoot, colonel?"

Well h's only got the one or two children, but


And then she had slipped from my arms and was walking quickly towards the door to her private room, with me grunting endearments in pursuit, but as I came after her she just raised a hand, without turning or breaking stride, and said firmly:

"The durbar is finished … for the moment." The door closed behind her, and I was left with the fallen foils, panting like a bull before business, but thinking, my boy, we're home — the damned little teaser. I hesitated, wondering whether to invade her boudoir, when the little chamberlain came pottering in, eyeing the foils in astonishment, so I took my leave and presently was riding back to the cantonment, full of buck and anticipation — I'd known she'd call "Play!" in the end, and now there was nothing to do but enjoy the game.

That was why she'd been jumpy earlier, of course, wondering how best to bring me to the boil, the cunning minx. "How well do you shoot?" forsooth — she'd find out soon enough, when we finished the durbar — tomorrow, no doubt. So by way of celebration I drank a sight more bubbly than was good for me at dinner, and even took a magnum back to my bungalow for luck. It was as well I did, for about ten Ilderim dropped by for a prose — as he'd taken to doing — and there's nobody thirstier than a dry Gilzai — if you think all Muslims abstain, I can tell you of one who didn't. So we popped the cork, and gassed about the old days, and smoked, and I was enjoying myself with carnal thoughts about my Lucky Lakshmibai and thinking about turning in, when there came a scraping on the chick at the back of the bungalow, and the khitmagar appeared to tell me that there was a bibi who insisted on seeing me.

Ilderim grinned and wagged his ugly head, and I cursed, thinking here was some bazaar houri plying her trade where it was least wanted, but I staggered out, and sure enough at the foot of the steps was a veiled woman in a sari, but with a burly-looking escort standing farther back at the gate. She didn't look like a slut, somehow, and when I asked what she wanted she came quickly up the steps, salaamed, and held out a little leather pouch. I took it, wondering; inside there was a handkerchief, and even through the champagne fumes there was no mistaking — it was heavy with my perfume.

"From my mistress," says the woman, as I goggled at it. "By God," says I, and sniffed it again. "Who the blazes —"

"Name no names," says she, and it was a well-spoken voice, for a Hindoo. "My mistress sends it, and bids you come to the river pavilion in an hour." And with that she salaamed again, and slipped down the steps. I called after her, and took an unsteady step, but she didn't stop, and she and her escort vanished in the dark.

Well, I'm damned, thinks I, surprise giving way to delight — she couldn't wait, by heaven … and of course the river pavilion at night was just the place … far better than the palace, where all sorts of folk were prying. Nice and secluded, very discreet — just the place for a rowdy little Rani to entertain. "Syce!" I shouted, and strode back inside, a trifle unsteadily, damning the champagne, but chortling as I examined my chin in the glass, decided it would do, and roared for a clean shirt.

"Now where away?" says Ilderim, who was squatting on the rug. "Not after some trollop from the bazaar, at this time?"

"No, brother," says I. "Something much better than a trollop. If you could see this one you'd forswear small boys and melons for good." By jove, I was feeling prime; I dandied myself up in no time, rinsed my face to clear some of the booze away, and was out champing on the verandah as the syce brought my pony round.

Hoof, they're definitely close.


"You're mad," growls Ilderim. "Do you go alone — where to?"

"I'm not sharing her, if that's what you mean. I'll take the syce." For I wasn't too sure of the way at night, and it was pitch black. I must have been drunker than I felt, for it took me three shots to mount, and then, with a wave to Ilderim, who was glowering doubtfully from the verandah, I trotted off, with the syce scrambling up behind.

Now, I'll admit I was woozy, and say at the same time that I'd have gone if I'd been cold sober. I don't know when I've been pawing the ground quite so hard for a woman — probably the two weeks' spooning had worked me up, and I couldn't cover the two miles to the pavilion fast enough. Fortunately the syce was a handy lad, for he not only guided us but held me from tumbling out of the saddle; I don't remember much of the journey except that it lasted for ages, and then we were among trees, with the hooves padding on grass, the syce was shaking my arm, and there ahead was the pavilion, half-hidden by the foliage.

I didn't want the syce spying, so I slid down and told him to wait, and then I pushed on. In spite of the night air, the booze seemed to have increased its grip, but I navigated well enough, leaning on a trunk every now and then. I surveyed the pavilion; there were dim lights on the ground floor, and in one room upstairs, and by George, there was even the sound of music on the slight breeze. I beamed into the dark — what these Indians don't know about the refinements of romping isn't worth knowing. An orchestra underneath, privacy and soft lights upstairs, and no doubt refreshments to boot — I rubbed my face and hurried forward through the garden to the outside staircase leading to the upper rooms, staggering quietly so as not to disturb the hidden musicians, who were fluting sweetly away behind the screens.

I mounted the staircase, holding on tight, and reached the little landing. There was a small passage, and a slatted door at the end, with light filtering through it. I paused, to struggle out of my loose trousers — at least I wasn't so tight that I'd been fool enough to come out in boots — took a great lusty breath, padded unsteadily forward, and felt the door give at my touch. The air was heavy with perfume as I stepped in, stumbled into a muslin curtain, swore softly as I disentangled myself, took hold of a wooden pillar for support, and gazed round into the half-gloom.

There were dim pink lamps burning, on the floor against the walls, giving just enough light to show the broad couch, shrouded in mosquito net, against the far wall. And there she was, silhouetted against the glow, sitting back among the cushions, one leg stretched out, the other with knee raised; there was a soft tinkle of bangles, and I leaned against my pillar and croaked:

"Lakshmibai? Lucky? — it's me, darling … chabeli… I'm here!"

She turned her head, and then in one movement raised the net and slipped out, standing motionless by the couch, like a bronze statue. She was wearing bangles, all right, and a little gold girdle round her hips, and some kind of metal headdress from which a flimsy veil descended from just beneath her eyes to her chin — not another stitch. I let out an astonishing noise, and was trying to steady myself for a plunge, but she checked me with a lifted hand, slid one foot forward, crooked her arms like a nautch-dancer, and came gliding slowly towards me, swaying that splendid golden nakedness in time to the throbbing of the music beneath our feet.

I could only gape; whether it was the drink or admiration or what, I don't know, but I seemed paralysed in every limb but one. She came writhing up to me, bangles tinkling and dark eyes gleaming enormously in the soft light; I couldn't see her face for the veil, but I wasn't trying to; she retreated, turning and swaying her rump, and then approached again, reaching forward to brush me teasingly with her fingertips; I grabbed, gasping, but she slid away, faster now as the tempo of the music increased, and then back again, hissing at me through the veil, lifting those splendid breasts in her hands, and this time I had the wit to seize a tit and a buttock, fairly hooting with lust as she writhed against me and lifted the veil just enough to bring her mouth up to mine. Her right foot was slipping up the outside of my left leg, past the knee, up to the hip, and round so that her heel was in the small of my back — God knows how they do it, double joints or something — and then she was thrusting up and down like a demented monkey on a stick, raking me with her nails and giving little shrieks into my mouth, until the torchlight procession which was marching through my loins suddenly exploded, she went limp in my arms, and I thought, oh Lord, now Iettest thou thy servant depart in peace, as I slid gently to the floor in ecstatic exhaustion with that delightful burden clinging and quivering on top of me.

The instructors who taught dancing to young Indian royalty in those days must have been uncommon sturdy; she had just about done for me, but somehow I must have managed to crawl to the couch, for the next I knew I was there with my face cradled against those wonderful perfumed boobies — I tried feebly to go brrr! but she turned my head and lifted a cup to my lips. As if I hadn't enough on board already, but I drank greedily and sank back, gasping, and was just deciding I might live, after all, when she set about me again, lips and hands questing over my body, fondling and plaguing, writhing her hips across my groaning carcase until she was astride my thighs with her back to me, and the torchlight procession staggered into marching order once more, eventually erupting yet again with shattering effect. After which she left me in peace for a good half-hour, as near as I could judge in my intoxicated state — one thing I'm certain of, that if I'd been sober and in my right mind she could never have teased me into action a third time, as she did, by doing incredible things which I still only half-believe as I recall them. But I remember those great eyes, over the veil, and the pearl on her brow, and her perfume, and the tawny velvet skin in the half-light …

I came awake in an icy sweat, my limbs shivering, trying to remember where I was. There was a cold wind from somewhere out in the dark, and I turned my aching head; the pink lamps were burning, casting their shadows, but she was no longer there. Someone was, though, surely, over by the door; there was a dark figure, but it wasn't naked, for I could see a white loin-cloth, and instead of the gold headdress, there was a tight white turban. A man? And he was holding something — a stick? No, it had a strange curved head on it — and there was another man, just behind him, and even as I watched they were gliding stealthily into the room, and I saw that the second one had a cloth in his right hand.

Flashman's highs, lows, and sudden lurches from one to the next are magnificently executed throughout the book, especially at the end.

Feb 4, 2003

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

Arbite posted:

Flashman's highs, lows, and sudden lurches from one to the next are magnificently executed throughout the book, especially at the end.

One thing about the books that the Lets Read format doesn’t convey is that they have a *lot* of footnotes, ostensibly by a descendent of Flashman who found the manuscripts. They mostly give historical context or additional info, but the note on this section is different if I remember right. I remember it being the editor saying that he didn’t think it actually happened this way, and that if it wasn’t made up entirely then Lakshmi probably sent a palace woman instead. I thought it was interesting because I suspect Fraser didn’t want to piss of India by depicting one of their figures from national mythology screwing around with a British guy.

Marshal Radisic
Oct 9, 2012

It's been years since I read them, but aren't the footnotes supposed to be Fraser's own annotations to the original papers to add context, cite his sources suggest "further reading", and correct Flashman's errors?

Jan 15, 2003

Fun Shoe

Pretty sure the footnotes are supposed to be Fraser's.

He does mention that he thinks that the some of the manuscripts were edited by an unknown descendant to censor swear words or to try to make Flashman not look as bad.

Marshal Radisic
Oct 9, 2012

withak posted:

He does mention that he thinks that the some of the manuscripts were edited by an unknown descendant to censor swear words or to try to make Flashman not look as bad.

Harry mentions that his (legitimate) son Harry Jr. ends up becoming a bishop, so I think the assumption is that wee Havvy attempted to bowdlerize his dad's memoirs with an eye to publication sometime after Harry's death in 1915, but soon gave up on the project and locked the memoirs away in a chest that eventually wound its way into George MacDonald Fraser's hands in the late 1960s.

Norwegian Rudo
May 8, 2013

Marshal Radisic posted:

Harry mentions that his (legitimate) son Harry Jr. ends up becoming a bishop, so I think the assumption is that wee Havvy attempted to bowdlerize his dad's memoirs with an eye to publication sometime after Harry's death in 1915, but soon gave up on the project and locked the memoirs away in a chest that eventually wound its way into George MacDonald Fraser's hands in the late 1960s.

It definitely isn't Harry. I want to say it might have been one of Elspeth's sisters?

Oct 11, 2016

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

There's no way you could redact enough of Flashy's adventures for a bishop to publish...unless he was using it as material for a sermon on ...what would the sermon be on? Probably a lot of things. Although considering there's never any moral, I doubt anything would be taken.

90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006

Cobalt-60 posted:

There's no way you could redact enough of Flashy's adventures for a bishop to publish...unless he was using it as material for a sermon on ...what would the sermon be on? Probably a lot of things. Although considering there's never any moral, I doubt anything would be taken.
"It's the story of my life. You see, the quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead. Now, as you look through this document you'll see that I've underlined all the major decisions I ever made to make the stand out. They're all indexed and cross-referenced. See? All I can suggest is that if you take decisions that are exactly opposite to the sort of decisions that I've taken,"

Feb 4, 2003

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

Norwegian Rudo posted:

It definitely isn't Harry. I want to say it might have been one of Elspeth's sisters?

Y'all are right, the end-notes are supposed to be Fraser, but I got it mixed up with this - I remember that a couple of the manuscripts are "redacted" by somebody in the family. I think it was a young woman, because there's a footnote where Fraser points out that she redacted "d----d" or something like it but left some way worse word in and Fraser says he thinks she was innocent enough she didn't even realize that was a slur.

Oct 11, 2016

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

Another point, I've been pondering: if Flashman was virtuous, what would he actually do? His society defines virtue by Doing Your Part for the Team; decorum and ethics are the same. And Flashy rebels against that, but only when he finds it disadvantageous/painful/annoying to himself to play along. So he winds up doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, (or the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, often as not...)

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

Cobalt-60 posted:

Another point, I've been pondering: if Flashman was virtuous, what would he actually do?
One thing the books make quite clear is that if Harry was anything like the brave hero he is supposed to be, he'd be dead a thousand times over. He's alive because his first instinct to run away from trouble as fast as he can (without making it seem too obvious).

The books do have a recurring character who is essentially a virtuous version of Flashman - his old schoolmate Scud East, who showed up in the Crimea and will show up again in the future. No points for guessing exactly what his upstanding Victorian character earns him in the end. A shallow grave in some miserable wasteland very, very far from home.

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

Also IIRC the bowdlerization of some of the Flashman Papers was supposedly done by Elspeth's sister Grizel. The way that words like "bloody" and "damned" were replaced with "b____y" and "d____d", but all the pornographic details of Flashman's amorous adventures were left intact led to an editor's note suggesting that Grizel may have been so dim and un-worldly that she didn't understand what was being described in those passages.

FMguru fucked around with this message at 23:18 on Apr 26, 2021

Jul 27, 2010

Now With Fresh Citrus Scent!

Yeah, he'd have been dead his first time out basically.

For a guy of his social status in the era, he'd probably have been doing some form of colonial work though. Middle to upper class gentlemen were basically raised and indoctrinated to go out and support the Empire. I think it was mentioned in the analysis of the first book, but those public schools were basically factories for producing semi-expendable drones.

I'd actually like to see an alternate universe Flashman where he got shunted into the political service instead of the military.

To reference the Cain series, at one point he reminisces about what an idiot the administrator who decided he'd be trained as a commissar was, since Cain views himself as a self serving coward. The footnotes from the Inquisitor editing his manuscript notes that, to the contrary, the administrator must have been very forward thinking.

Oct 11, 2016

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

FMguru posted:

One thing the books make quite clear is that if Harry was anything like the brave hero he is supposed to be, he'd be dead a thousand times over. He's alive because his first instinct to run away from trouble as fast as he can (without making it seem too obvious).

The books do have a recurring character who is essentially a virtuous version of Flashman - his old schoolmate Scud East, who showed up in the Crimea and will show up again in the future. No points for guessing exactly what his upstanding Victorian character earns him in the end. A shallow grave in some miserable wasteland very, very far from home.

I meant to say, what if Flashy actually wanted to do good. Being a Brave Hero is just playing for the team; it's the House Cup writ large and bloody. Flashman knows that the army is criminals, thugs, and schmucks, led by fools and morons, murdering others over which group of inbreds gets to loot which band of peasants. But he only cares because his personal fundament keeps getting in the fire. The closest thing to a virtuous act I can think of is him helping Cassie escape, and that was entirely because he needed her to get him out.

Flashman but diplomatic corps; sounds like the Retief books by Keith Laumer.

Nov 8, 2009

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

You’ve basically hit upon the fundamental irony that makes this series so delightful. It’s a classic adventure story about the days of glory and empire, with a classic daring and dashing hero. Except that he’s an awful, cowardly fraud and reveals the horrors and oppression and naked greed and savagery that the British empire consisted of. You have him win and succeed because he rejects and sees past the propaganda. It brings forward also the contradiction where a brave, noble hero would be just as ruthlessly savage and racist toward the foreign peoples hes oppressing, but you wouldn’t notice it, because that hero wouldn’t realize what an awful person he is

Apr 28, 2007

Veteran, Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force, 1993-1952

Cobalt-60 posted:

Flashman but diplomatic corps; sounds like the Retief books by Keith Laumer.

The Retief stories are pretty awesome and will probably appeal to most of the readers of this thread, have a couple of samples:

Apr 6, 2009

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

mllaneza posted:

The Retief stories are pretty awesome and will probably appeal to most of the readers of this thread, have a couple of samples:
Every single time I read something on Baen's website, I once again realize that Bujold signing up with them was some form of gargantuan cosmic mischance. Basically a 90's comedy about Michael Jordan accidentally signing up for your highschool basketball team, but for writers.

Genghis Cohen
Jun 29, 2013

mllaneza posted:

The Retief stories are pretty awesome and will probably appeal to most of the readers of this thread, have a couple of samples:

This is really bizarre. I personally think the short story I read there was forgettable pulp, but the guy writing this foreword really, really likes the author. The political commentary and worldview has not aged well.

Feb 4, 2003

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

Genghis Cohen posted:

The political commentary and worldview has not aged well.


Nov 4, 2009


For perhaps ten seconds I lay motionless, gazing — and then it rushed in on me that this wasn't a dream, that they were moving towards the couch, and that this was horrible, inexplicable danger. The net was gone from the couch, and I could see them clearly, the white eyes in the black faces — I braced for an instant and then hurled myself off the couch away from them, slipped, recovered, and rushed at the shutters in the screen-wall. There was a snarl from behind me, something swished in the air and thudded, and I had a glimpse of a small pick-axe quivering in the shutter as I flung myself headlong at the screen, yelling in terror. Thank God I'm fourteen stone — it came down with a splintering crash, and I was sprawling on the little verandah, thrashing my way out of the splintered tangle and heaving myself on to the verandah rail.

From the tail of my eye I saw a dark shape springing for me over the couch; there was a tree spreading its thick foliage within five feet of the verandah, and I dived straight into it, crashing and scraping through the branches, clutching vainly and taking a tremendous thump across the hips as I struck a limb. For a second I seemed suspended, and then I shot down and landed flat on my back with a shock that sickened me. I rolled over, trying to heave myself up, as two black figures dropped from the tree almost on top of me; I blundered into one of them, smashed a fist into its face, and then something flicked in front of my eyes, and I only just got a hand up in time to catch the garotte as it jerked back on to my throat.

I shrieked, hauling at it; my wrist was clamped under my chin by the strangler's scarf, but my right arm was free, and as I staggered back into him I scrabbled behind me, was fortunate enough to grab a handful of essentials, and wrenched for all I was worth. He screamed in agony, the scarf slackened, and he went down, but before I could flee for the safety of the wood the other one was on my back, and he made no mistake; the scarf whipped round my windpipe, his knee was into my spine, and I was flailing helplessly with his breath hissing in my ear. Five seconds, it hashed across my mind, is all it takes for an expert garotter to kill a man...

Yeah, that's about right.


—oh, Jesus, my sight was going, my head was coming off, with a horrible pain tearing in my throat, I was dying even as I fell, floating down to the turf— and then I was on my back, gasping down huge gulps of air, and the faces that were swimming in front of my eyes, glaring horribly, were merging into one — Ilderim Khan was gripping my shoulders and urging:

"Flashman! Be still! There — now lie a moment, and breathe! Inshallah! The strangler's touch is no light thing." His strong fingers were massaging my throat as he grinned down at me. "See what comes of lusting after loose women? A moment more, and we would have been sounding retreat over thee — so give thanks that I have a suspicious mind, and followed with my badmashes to see what kind of cunchunee it was who bade thee to her bed so mysteriously. How is it, old friend — can you stand?"

"What happened?" I mumbled, trying to rise.

"Ask why, rather. Has she a jealous husband, perhaps? We saw the lights, and heard music, but presently all was still, and many came out, to a palankeen in which ladies travel, and so away. But no sign of thee, till we heard thee burst out, with these hounds of hell behind thee." And following his nod, I saw there were two of his ruffians squatting in the shadows over two dark shapes lying on the grass — one was ominously still, but the other was gasping and wheezing, and from the way he clutched himself I imagine he was the assassin whose courting-tackle I'd tried to rearrange. One of Ilderim's sowars was ostentatiously cleaning his Khyber knife with a handful of leaves, and presently a third came padding out of the dark.

"The sahib's syce is dead yonder," says he. "Bitten with a tooth from Kali's mouth! "

"What?" says Ilderim, starting up. "Now, in God's name —" and he went quickly to the body of the dead strangler, snatching a lantern from one of his men, and peering into the dead face. I heard him exclaim, and then he beckoned me. "Look there," says he, and pulled down the dead man's eyelid with his finger; even in the flickering light I could see the crude tattoo on the skin.

"Thug!" says Ilderim through his teeth. "Now, Flash-man, what does this mean?"

I was trying to take hold of my senses, with my head splitting and my neck feeling as though it had been through the mangle. It was a nightmare — one moment I'd been in a drunken frenzy of fornication with Lakshmibai, with a houseful of musicians beating time — and the next I was being murdered by professional stranglers — and Thugs at that. But I was too shocked to think, so Ilderim grunted and turned to the groaning prisoner.

"This one shall tell us," says he, and seized him by the throat. "Look now — thou art dead already. But it can be swift, or I can trim off the appurtenances and extremities from thy foul carcase and make thee eat them. That, for a beginning. So choose — who sent thee, and why?"

The Thug snarled, and spat at him, so Ilderim says: "Take him to the tree yonder," and while they did he hauled out his knife, stropped it on his sole, says "Bide here, husoor," and then strode grimly after them.

I couldn't have moved, if I'd wanted to. It was a night-mare, unbelievable, but in those few minutes, while dreadful grunts and an occasional choked-off scream came out of the dark, I strove to make some sense of it. Lakshmibai had plainly left me asleep — or drunk, or drugged, or both — in the pavilion, and shortly after the Thugs had arrived. But why — why should she seek my death? It made no sense — no, by God, because if she had just been luring me out for assassination, she'd have had me ambushed on the way — she'd certainly not have pleasured me like a crazy spinster first. And there was no earthly reason why she should want me killed — what had I done to merit that? She'd been so friendly and straight and kind — I could have sworn she'd been falling in love with me for two weeks past. Oh, I've known crafty women, sluts who'd tickle your buttons with one hand and reach for a knife with the other — but not her. I couldn't swallow that; I wouldn't.

Thoroughly under her spell, even all these decades later.


I could even understand her slipping out and leaving me — it had been a clandestine gallop, after all; she had a reputation to consider. What better way of concluding it than by vanishing swiftly back to the palace, leaving her partner to find his own way home — I reflected moodily that she'd probably done the same thing, countless times, in that very pavilion, whenever she felt like it. She was no novice, that was certain — no wonder her late husband had lost interest and curled up and died: the poor devil must have been worn to a shadow.

But who then had set Thugs on me? Or were they just stray, indiscriminate killers — as Thugs usually were, slaying anyone who happened in their way, for fun and religion? Had they just spotted me, out at night, and decided to chalk up another score for Kali — and then Ilderim came striding out of the dark, whipping his knife into the turf, and squatting down beside me.

"Stubborn," says he, rubbing his beard, "but not too stubborn. Flashman — it is ill news." He stared at me with grave eyes. "There is a fellowship — hunting thee. They have been out this week past — the brotherhood of deceivers, whom everyone thought dead or disbanded these years past — with orders to seek out and slay the Colonel Flashman sahib at Jhansi. That one yonder is a chief among them — six nights since he was at Firozabad, where his lodge met to hear a strange fakir who offered them gold, and —" he tapped my knee " — an end to the Raj in due time, and a rebirth of their order of thugee. They were to prepare against the day — and as grace before meat they were to sacrifice thee to Kali. I knew all along," says he with a grim satisfaction, "that this was palitikal, and ye walked a perilous road. Well, thou art warned in time — but it must be a fast horse to the coast, and ship across the kala pani, for if these folk are riding thy tail, then this land is death to thee; there will not be a safe nook from the Deccan to the Khyber Gate."

I sat limp and trembling, taking this horror in; I was afraid to ask the question, but I had to know.

"This fakir," I croaked. "Who is he?"

"No one knows — except that he is from the north, a one-eyed man with a fair skin from beyond the passes. There are those who think he is a sahib, but not of thy people. He has money, and followers in secret, and he preaches against the sahib-log in whispers …"

Ignatieff — I almost threw up. So it had happened, as Pam had thought it might: the bastard was back, and had tracked me down — and devil a doubt he knew all about my mission, too, somehow — and he and his agents were spreading their poison everywhere, and seeking to revive the devilish thugee cult against us, with me at the top of the menu — and Ilderim was right, there wasn't a hope unless I could get out of India — but I couldn't! This was what I was meant to be here for — why Pam in his purblind folly had sent me out: to tackle Ignatieff at his own game and dispose of him. I couldn't run squealing to Bombay or Calcutta bawling "Gangway — and a first-class ticket home, quick!" This was the moment I was meant to earn my corn — against bloody dacoits and Ruski agents? I gulped and sweated — and then another thought struck me.

Was Lakshmibai part of this? God knew she'd no cause to love the Sirkar — was she another of the spiders in this devilish web, playing Delilah for the Russians? — but no, no, even to my disordered mind one thing remained clear: she'd never have walloped the mattress with me like that if she'd been false. No, this was Ignatieff, impure and anything but simple, and I had to think as I'd never thought before, with Ilderim's eye on me while I took my head in my hands and wondered, Christ, how can I slide out this time. And then inspiration dawned, slowly — I couldn't leave India, or be seen to be running away, but I'd told Skene that if the crisis came I might well vanish from sight, locally, to go after Ignatieff in my own way — well, now I would vanish, right enough; that shouldn't be difficult. I schemed it fast, as I can when I'm truly up against it, and turned to Ilderim.

"Look, brother," says I. "This is a great political affair, as you guessed. I cannot tell thee, and I cannot leave India —"

"Then thou art dead," says he, cheerfully. "Kali's hand will be on thee, through these messengers —" and he pointed at the dead Thug.

"Hold on," says I, sweating. "They're looking for Colonel Flashman — but if Colonel Flashman becomes, say — a Khyekeen pony-pedlar, or an Abizai who has done his time in the Guides or lancers, how will they find him then? I've done it before, remember? Dammit, I speak Pushtu as well as you do, and Urdu even better — wasn't I an agent with Sekundar Sahib? All I need is a safe place for a season, to lie up and sniff the wind before —" and I started lying recklessly, for effect " — before I steal out again, having made my plans, to break this one-eyed fakir and his rabble of stranglers and loose-wallahs. D'you see?"

"Inshallah!" cries he, grinning all over his evil face. "It is the great game! To lie low in disguise, and watch and listen and wait, and conspire with the other palitikal sahibs of the Sirkar, until the time is ripe — and then go against these evil subverters in a secret razzia! And when that time comes — I may share the sport, and hallal these Hindoo and foreign swine, with my lads? — thou wouldst not forget thy old friend then?" He grabbed my hand, the bloodthirsty devil. "Thou'd send me word, surely, when the knives are out — thy brother Ilderim?"

Many times, in many ways, Fraser gets the reader to think 'Flashman doesn't deserve this.'


You'll wait a long time for it, my lad, thinks I; give me a good disguise and a pony and you'll not see me again — not until everything has safely blown over, and some other idiot has disposed of Ignatieff and his bravos. That's when I'd emerge, with a good yarn to spin to Calcutta (and Pam) about how I'd gone after him secretly, and dammit, I'd missed the blighter, bad luck. That would serve, and sound sufficiently mysterious and convincing — but for the moment my urgent need was a disguise and a hiding-place at a safe distance. Some jungly or desert spot might be best; I'd lived rough that way before, and as I'd told Ilderim, I could pass as a frontiersman or Afghan with any of 'em.

"When there are Ruski throats to be cut, you'll be the first to know," I assured him, and he embraced me, chuckling, and swearing I was the best of brothers.

The matter of disguise reminded me that I was still stark naked, and shivering; I told him I wanted a kit exactly like that of his sowars, and he swore I'd have it, and a pony, too.

"And you may tell Skene sahib from me," says I, "that the time has come — and he can start feeling sorry for the Ruskis — he'll understand." For I wasn't going back to the cantonment; I wanted to ride out tonight, wherever I was going. "Tell him of the one-eyed fakir, that the Thugs are abroad again, and the axles are getting hot. You may say I've had a brush with the enemy already — but you needn't tell him what else I was doing tonight." I winked at him. "Understand? Oh, aye — and if he has inquiries after me from the Rani of Jhansi, he may say I have been called away, and present my apologies."

"The Rani?" says he, and his eye strayed towards the pavilion. "Aye." He coughed and grinned. "That was some rich lady's palankeen I saw tonight, and many servants. Perchance, was it —

"‘A Gilzai and a grandmother for scandal’," I quoted. "Mind your own dam' business. And now, be a good lad, and get me that outfit and pony."

He summoned one of his rascals, and asked if the tortured Thug was dead yet.

"Nay, but he has no more to tell," says the other. "For he said nothing when I —" You wouldn't wish to know what he said next. "Shall I pass him some of his own tobacco?" he added.

"Aye," says Ilderim. "And tell Rafik Tamwar I want all his clothes, and his knife, and his horse. Go thou."

For answer the sowar nodded, took out his Khyber knife, and stepped back under the trees to where his companions were guarding the prisoner, or what was left of him. I heard him address the brute — even at that time and place it was an extraordinary enough exchange to fix itself in my mind; one of the most astonishing things I ever heard, even in India.

"It is over, deceiver," says he. "Here is the knife — in the throat or the heart? Choose."

The Thug's reply was hoarse with agony. "In the heart, then — quickly!"

"You're sure? As you wish."

"No — wait!" gasps the Thug. "Put the point … behind … my ear — so. Thrust hard — thus I will bleed less, and go undisfigured. Now!"

There was a pause, and then the sowar's voice says: "He was right — he bleeds hardly at all. Trust a deceiver to know."

A few moments later and Rafik Tamwar appeared, grumbling, in a rag of loin-cloth, with his clothes over his arm, and leading a neat little pony. I told Ilderim that Skene sahib must see his kit replaced, and he could have my own Pegu pony, at which the good Tamwar grinned through his beard, and said he would willingly make such an exchange every day. I slipped into his shirt and cavalry breeches, drew on the soft boots, donned his hairy poshteen, stuck the Khyber cleaver in my sash, and was winding the puggaree round my head and wishing I had a revolver as well, when Ilderim says thoughtfully:

"Where wilt thou go, Flashman — have ye an eyrie to wait in where no enemy can find thee?"

I confessed I hadn't, and asked if he had any suggestions, at which he frowned thoughtfully, and then smiled, and then roared with laughter, and rolled on his back, and then stood up, peering and grinning at me.

"Some juice for thy skin," says he. "Aye, and when thy beard has grown, thou'lt be a rare Peshawar ruiner — so ye swagger enough, and curl thy hair round thy finger, and spit from the back of thy throat —"

"I know all about that," says I, impatiently. "Where d'you suggest I do all these things?"

"In the last place any ill-willer would ever look for a British colonel sahib," says he, chortling. "Look now — wouldst thou live easy for a spell, and eat full, and grow fat, what time thou art preparing to play the game against these enemies of the Raj? Aye, and get well paid for it — 24 rupees a month, and batta also?" He slapped his hands together at my astonishment. "Why not — join the Sirkar's army! What a recruit for the native cavalry — why, given a month they'll make thee a daffadar!" He stuck his tongue in his cheek. "Maybe a rissaldar in time — who knows?"

"Are you mad?" says I. "Me — enlist as a sowar? And how the devil d'you expect me to get away with that?"

"What hinders? Thou hast passed in Kabul bazaar before today, and along the Kandahar road. Stain thy face, as I said, and grow thy beard, and thou'lt be the properest Sirkar's bargain in India! Does it not meet thy need — and will it not place thee close to affairs — within reach of thine own folk, and ready to move at a finger-snap?"

It was ridiculous — and yet the more I thought of it, the more obvious it was. How long did I want to hide — a month? Two or three perhaps? I would have to live, and for the life of me I couldn't think of a more discreet and comfortable hiding-place than the ranks of a native cavalry regiment — I had all the qualifications and experience … if I was careful. But I'd have to be that, whatever I did. I stood considering while Ilderim urged me, full of enthusiasm.

"See now — there is my mother's cousin, Gulam Beg, who was malik in one of my father's villages, and is now woordy-major in the 3rd Cavalry at Meerut garrison. If thou goest to him, and say Ilderim sent thee, will he not be glad of such a fine sturdy trooper — ye may touch the hilt, and eat the salt, and belike he'll forget the assami for my sake. Let me see, now," says this mad rascal, chuckling as he warmed to his work, "thou art a Yusufzai Pathan of the Peshawar Valley — no, no, better still, we'll have thee a Hasanzai of the Black Mountain — they are a strange folk, touched, and given to wild fits, so much may be excused thee. Oh, it is rare! Thou art — Makarram Khan, late of the Peshawar police, and so familiar with the ways of the sahibs; thou hast skirmished along the line, too. Never fear, there was a Makarram Khan, until I shot him on my last furlough; he will give thee a shabash from hell, for he was a stout rider in his time. Careless, though — or he'd have watched the rocks as he rode. Well, Makarram —" says he, grinning like a wolf in the gloom " — wilt thou carry a lance for the Sirkar?"

I'd been determining even as he talked; I was in the greatest fix, and there was no other choice. If I'd known what it would lead to, I'd have damned Ilderim's notion to his teeth, but it seemed inspired at the time.

"Bind thy puggaree round thy jaw at night, lest thou babble in English in thy sleep," says he at parting. "Be sullen, and speak little — and be a good soldier, blood-brother, for the credit of Ilderim Khan." He laughed and slapped my saddle as we shook hands in the dark under the trees. "When thou comest this way again, go to Bull Temple, beyond the Jokan Bagh — I will have a man waiting for an hour at sunrise and sunset. Salaam, sowar!" cries he, and saluted, and I dug my heels into my pony and cantered off in the dawn, still like a man in a wild dream.

The footnotes say Flashman must have artifically darkened his features somehow though he nevers mentions the method.

And now, having explored the pre-war situation from the British perspective we are about to get another.

Jan 29, 2012

Really Madcats

Re: skin staining

Walnut juice, maybe? Iirc it was used in Hollywood to keep black horses looking black when they faded to brown in the sun

Nov 4, 2009


You might think it impossible for a white man to pass himself off as a native soldier in John Company's army, and indeed I doubt if anyone else has ever done it. But when you've been called on to play as many parts as I have, it's a bagatelle. Why, I've been a Danish prince, a Texas slave-dealer, an Arab sheik, a Cheyenne Dog Soldier, and a Yankee navy lieutenant in my time, among other things, and none of 'em was as hard to sustain as my lifetime's impersonation of a British officer and gentleman. The truth is we all live under false pretences much of the time; you just have to put on a bold front and brazen it through.

I'll admit my gift of languages has been my greatest asset, and I suppose I'm a pretty fair actor; anyway, I'd carried off the role of an Asian-Afghan n***** often enough, and before I was more than a day's ride on the way to Meerut I was thoroughly back in the part, singing Kabuli bazaar songs through my nose, sneering sideways at anyone I passed, and answering greetings with a grunt or a snarl. I had to keep my chin and mouth covered for the first three days, until my beard had sprouted to a disreputable stubble; apart from that, I needed no disguise, for I was dark and dirty-looking enough to start with. By the time I struck the Grand Trunk my own mother wouldn't have recognised the big, hairy Border ruffian jogging along so raffishly with his boots out of his stirrups, and his love-lock curling out under his puggaree; on the seventh day, when I cursed and shoved my pony through the crowded streets of Meerut City, spurning the rabble aside as a good Hasanzai should, I was even thinking in Pushtu, and if you'd offered me a seven-course dinner at the Cafι Royal I'd have turned it down for mutton-and-rice stew with boiled dates to follow.

My only anxiety was Ilderim's cousin, Gulam Beg, whom I had to seek out in the native cavalry lines beyond the city; he would be sure to run a sharp eye over a new recruit, and if he spotted anything queer about me I'd have a hard job keeping up the imposture. Indeed, at the last minute my nerve slackened a little, and I rode about for a couple of hours before I plucked up the courage to go and see him — I rode on past the native infantry lines, and over the Nullah Bridge up to the Mall in the British town; it was while I was sitting my pony, brooding under the trees, that a dog-cart with two English children and their mother went by, and one of the brats squealed with excitement and said I looked just like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. That cheered me up, for some reason — anyway, I had to have a place to eat and sleep while I shirked my duty, so I finally presented myself at the headquarters of the 3rd Native Light Cavalry, and demanded to see the woordy-major.

I needn't have worried. Gulam Beg was a stout, white-whiskered old cove with silver-rimmed spectacles on the end of his nose, and when I announced that Ilderim Khan of Mogala was my sponsor he was all over me. Hasanzai, was I, and late of the polis? That was good — I had the look of an able man, yes — doubtless the Colonel Sahib would look favourably on such a fine upstanding recruit. I had seen no military service, though? — hm … he looked at me quizzically, and I tried to slouch a bit more.

"Not in the Guides, perhaps?" says he, with his head on one side. "Or the cutch-cavalry? No? Then doubtless it is by chance that you stand the regulation three paces from my table, and clench your hand with the thumb forward — and that the pony I see out yonder is girthed and bridled like one of ours." He chuckled playfully. "A man's past in his own affair, Makarram Khan — what should it profit us to pry and discover that a new ‘recruit’ had once quit the Sirkar's service over some small matter of feud or blood-letting, eh? You come from Ilderim — it is enough. Be ready to see the Colonel Sahib at noon."

Just as perceptive as his cousin, then.


He'd spotted me for an old soldier, you see, which was all to the good; having detected me in a small deception, it never occurred to him to look for a large one. And he must have passed on his conclusion to the Colonel, for when I made my salaam to that worthy officer on the orderly-room verandah, he looked me up and down and says to the woordy-major in English:

"Shouldn't wonder if you weren't right, Gulam Beg — he's heard Boots and Saddles before, that's plain. Probably got bored with garrison work and slipped off one night with half-a-dozen rifles on his back. And now, having cut the wrong throat or lifted the wrong herd, he's come well south to avoid retribution." He sat back, fingering the big white moustache which covered most of his crimson face. "Ugly-looking devil, ain't he though? Hasanzai of the Black Mountain, eh? — yes, that's what I'd have thought. Very good …" He frowned at me and then said, very carefully:

"Company cavalry apka mangta?" which abomination of bad Urdu I took to mean: did I want to join the Company cavalry? So I showed my teeth and says: "Han, sahib," and thought I might as well act out my part by betraying some more military knowledge — I ducked my head and leaned over and offered him the hilt of my sheathed Khyber knife, at which he burst out laughing and touched it, saying that Gulam Beg was undoubtedly right, and I wasn't half knowledgeable for a chap who pretended never to have been in the Army before. He gave instructions for me to be sworn in, and I took the oath on the sabre-blade, ate a pinch of salt, and was informed that I was now a skirmisher of the 3rd Native Light Cavalry, that my daffadar was Kudrat Ali, that I would be paid one rupee per day, with a quarter-anna dyeing allowance, and that since I had brought my own horse I would be excused the customary recruit deposit. Also that if I was half as much a soldier as the Colonel suspected, and kept my hands off other people's throats and property, I might expect promotion in due course.

Thereafter I was issued with a new puggaree, half-boots and pyjamy breeches, a new and very smart silver-grey uniform coat, a regulation sabre, a belt and bandolier, and a tangle of saddlery which was old and stiff enough to have been used at Waterloo (and probably had), and informed by a betel-chewing havildar that if I didn't have it reduced to gleaming suppleness by next morning, I had best look out. Finally, he took me to the armoury, and I was shown (mark this well) a new rifled Enfield musket, serial number 4413 — some things a soldier never forgets — which I was informed was mine henceforth, and more precious than my own mangy carcase.

Without thinking, I picked it up and tested the action, as I'd done a score of times at Woolwich — and the Goanese store-wallah gaped.

Getting comfortable and falling on his face again.


"Who taught you that?" says he. "And who bade you handle it, jangli pig? It is for you to see — you touch it only when it is issued on parade." And he snatched it back from me. I thought another touch of character would do no harm, so I waited till he had waddled away to replace it in the rack, and then whipped out my Khyber knife and let it fly, intending to plant it in the wall a foot or so away from him. My aim was off though — the knife imbedded itself in the wall all right, but it nicked his arm in passing, and he squealed and rolled on the floor, clutching at his blood-smeared sleeve.

"Bring the knife back," I snarled, baring my fangs at him, and when he had scrambled up, grey-faced and terrified, and returned it, I touched the point on his chest and says: "Call Makarram Khan a pig just once more, ulla kabaja, and I will carry thine eyes and genitals on this point as kebabs." Then I made him lick the blood off the blade, spat in his face, and respectfully asked the havildar what I should do next. He, being a Mussulman, was all for me, and said, grinning, that I should make a fair recruit; he told my daffadar, Kudrat Ali, about the incident, and presently the word went round the big, airy barrack-room that Makarram Khan was a genuine saddle-and-lance man, from up yonder, who would strike first and inquire after — doubtless a Border lifter, and a feud-carrier, but a man who knew how to treat Hindoo insolence, and therefore to be properly respected.

So there I was — Colonel Harry Paget Flashman, late of the 11th Hussars, 17th Lancers and the Staff, former aide to the Commander-in-Chief, and now acting-sowar and rear file in the skirmishing squadron, 3rd Cavalry, Bengal Army, and if you think it was a mad-brained train of circumstance that had taken me there — well, so did I. But once I had got over the unreality of it all, and stopped imagining that everyone was going to see through my disguise, I settled in comfortably enough.

It was an eery feeling, though, at first, to squat on my charpai against the wall, with my puggaree off, combing my hair or oiling my light harness, and look round that room at the brown, half-naked figures, laughing and chattering — of all the things that soldiers talk about, women, and officers, and barrack gossip, and women, and rations, and women — but in a foreign tongue which, although I spoke it perfectly and even with a genuine frontier accent, was still not my own. While I'd been by myself, as I say, I'd even been thinking in Pushtu, but here I had to hold on tight and remember what I was meant to be — for one thing, I wasn't used to being addressed in familiar terms by native soldiers, much less ordered about by an officious naik who'd normally have leaped to attention if I'd so much as looked in his direction. When the man who bunked next to me, Pir Ali, a jolly rascal of a Baluch, tapped my shoulder in suggesting that we might visit the bazaar that first evening, I absolutely stared at him and just managed to bite back that "drat your impudence" that sprang to my tongue.

The way Fraser uses the light tension of being discovered at any moment to keep interest while teaching the reader about life as a native soldier works pretty drat well.


It wasn't easy, for a while; quite apart from remembering obeisances at the prescribed times, and making a show at cooking my own dinner at the choola, there were a thousand tiny details to beware of — I must remember not to cross my legs when sitting, or blow my nose like a European, or say "Mmh?" if someone said something I couldn't catch, or use the wrong hand, or clear my throat in the discreet British fashion, or do any of the things that would have looked damned odd in an Afghan frontiersman.

Of course I made mistakes — once or twice I was just plain ignorant of things that I ought to have known, like how to chew a majoon when Pir Ali offered me one (you have to spit into your hand from time to time, or you'll end up poisoned), or how to cut a sheep-tail for curry, or even how to sharpen my knife in the approved fashion. When I blundered, and anyone noticed, I found the best way was to stare them down and growl sullenly.

But more often than not my danger lay in betraying knowledge which Makarram Khan simply wouldn't have had. For example, when Kudrat Ali was giving us sword exercise I found myself once falling into the "rest" position of a German schlager-fencer (not that anyone in India was likely to recognise that), and again, day-dreaming about fagging days at Rugby while cleaning my boots one evening, I found myself humming "Widdicombe Fair" — 'fortunately under my breath. My worst blunder, though, was when I was walking near a spot where the British officers were playing cricket, and the ball came skipping towards me — without so much. as thinking I snapped it up, and was looking to throw down the wicket when I remembered, and threw it back as clumsily as I could. Once or two of them stared, though, and I heard someone say that big n***** was a deuced smart field. That rattled me, and I trod even more carefully than before.

My best plan, I soon discovered, was to do and say as little as possible, and act the surly, reserved hillman who walked by himself, and whom it was safest not to disturb. The fact that I was by way of being a protιgι of the woordy-major's, and a Hasanzai (and therefore supposedly eccentric), led to my being treated with a certain deference; my imposing size and formidable looks did the rest, and I was left pretty much alone. Once or twice I walked out with Pir Ali, to lounge in the Old Market and ogle the bints, or dally with them in the boutique doorways, but he found my grunts a poor return for his own cheery prattle, and abandoned me to my own devices.

It wasn't, as you can guess, the liveliest life for me at first — but I only had to think of the alternative to resign myself to it for the present. It was easy enough soldiering, and I quickly won golden opinions from my naik and jemadar for the speed and intelligence with which I appeared to learn my duties. At first it was a novelty, drilling, working, eating, and sleeping with thirty Indian troopers — rather like being on the other side of the bars of a monkey zoo —

Bang! 'Oh right, he's terrible' It's quite the triumph how many times the books go out of their way to remind you of that without it ever getting old.


but when you're closed into a world whose four corners are the barrack-room, the choola, the stables, and the maidan, it can become maddening to have to endure the society of an inferior and foreign race with whom you've no more in common than if they were Russian moujiks or Irish bog-trotters. What makes it ten times worse is the outcast feeling that comes of knowing that within a mile or two your own kind are enjoying all the home comforts, drat 'em — drinking under-officer barra pegs, smoking decent cigars, flirting and ramming with white women, and eating ices for dessert. (I was no longer so enamoured of mutton pilau in ghee, you gather.) Within a fortnight I'd have given anything to join an English conversation again, instead of listening to Pir Ali giggling about how he'd bullocked the headman's wife on his last leave, or the endless details of Sita Gopal's uncle's law-suit, or Ram Mangal's reviling of the havildar, or Gobinda Dal's whining about how he and his brothers, being soldiers, had lost much of the petty local influence they'd formerly enjoyed in their Oudh village, now that the Sirkar had taken over.

When it got too bad I would loaf up to the Mall, and gape at the mem-sahibs with their big hats and parasols, driving by, and watch the officers cantering past, flicking their crops as I clumped my big boots and saluted, or squat near the church to listen to them singing "Greenland's Icy Mountains" of a Sunday evening. Dammit, I missed my own folk then — far worse than if they'd been a hundred miles away. I missed Lakshmibai, too — odd, ain't it, but I think what riled me most was the knowledge that if she'd seen me as I now was — well, she wouldn't even have noticed me. However, it had to be stuck out — I just had to think of Ignatieff- so I would trudge back to barracks and lie glowering while the sowars chattered. It had this value — I learned more about Indian soldiers in three weeks than I'd have done in a lifetime's ordinary service.

You'll think I'm being clever afterwards, but I soon realised that all wasn't as well with them as I'd have thought at first sight. They were Northern Muslims, mostly, with a sprinkling of high-caste Oudh Hindoos — the practice of separating the races in different companies or troops hadn't come in then. Good soldiers, too; the 3rd had distinguished itself in the last Sikh War, and a few had frontier service. But they weren't happy — smart as you'd wish on parade, but in the evening they would sit about and croak like hell — as first I thought it was just the usual military sore-headedness, but it wasn't.

At first all I heard was vague allusions, which I didn't inquire about for fear of betraying a suspicious ignorance — they talked a deal about one of the padres in the garrison, Reynolds sahib, and how Colonel Carmik-al-Ismeet (that was the 3rd's commander, Carmichael-Smith) ought to keep him off the post, and there was a fairly general repeated croak about polluted flour, and the Enlistment Act, but I didn't pay much heed until one night, I remember, an Oudh sowar came back from the bazaar in a tremendous taking. I don't even remember his name, but what had happened was that he'd been taking part in a wrestling match with some local worthy, and before he'd got his shirt back on afterwards, some British troopers from the Dragoon Guards who were there at the time had playfully snapped the sacred cord which he wore over his shoulder next the skin — as his kind of Hindoos did.

"Banchuts! Scum!" He was actually weeping with rage. "It is defiled — I am unclean!" And for all that his mates tried to cheer him up, saying he could get a new one, blessed by a holy man, he went on raving — they take these things very seriously, you know, like Jews and Muslims with pork. If it seems foolish to you, you may compare it with how you'd feel if a n***** pissed in the font at your own church.

And on that off putting comparison let's call it there today.

From now on we will see many firsthand examples of how the British through stupidity, stubbornness, and laxity took discontent and made it explode.

Arbite fucked around with this message at 01:30 on May 4, 2021

Nov 4, 2009


"I shall go to the Colonel sahib!" says he finally, and one of the Hindoos, Gobinda Dal, sneered:
"Why should he care — the man who will defile our atta will not rebuke an English soldier for this!"

"What's all this about the atta?" says I to Pir Ali, and he shrugged.

"The Hindoos say that the sahibs are grinding cow bones into the sepoys' flour to break their caste. For me, they can break any Hindoo's stupid caste and welcome." "Why should they do that?" says I; and Sita Gopal, who overheard, spat and says:

"Where have you lived, Hasanzai? The Sirkar will break every man's caste — aye, and what passes for caste even among you Muslims: there are pig bones in the atta, too, in case you didn't know it. Naik Shere Afzul in the second troop told me; did he not see them ground at the sahibs' factory at Cawnpore?"

"Wind from a monkey's backside," says I. "What would it profit the sahibs to pollute your food — since when do they hate their soldiers?"

To my astonishment about half a dozen of them scoffed aloud at this —"Listen to the Black Mountain munshi!" "The sahibs love their soldiers — and so the gora-cavalry broke Lal's string for him tonight!" "Have you never heard of the Dum-Dum sweeper, Makarram Khan?" and so on. Ram Mangal, who was the noisiest croaker of them all, spat out:

"It is of a piece with the padre sahib's talk, and the new regulation that will send men across the kala pani — they will break our caste to make us Christians! Do they not know this even where you come from, hillman? Why, it is the talk of the army!"

I growled that I didn't put any faith in latrine-gossip — especially if the latrine was a Hindoo one, and at this one of the older men, Sardul something-or-other, shook his head and says gravely:

"It was no latrine-rumour, Makarram Khan, that came out of Dum-Dum arsenal." And for the first time I heard the astonishing tale that was, I discovered, accepted as gospel by every sepoy in the Bengal army — of the sweeper at Dum-Dum who'd asked a caste sepoy for a drink from his dish, and on being refused, had told the sepoy that he needn't be so dam' particular because the sahibs were going to do away with caste by defiling every soldier in the army by greasing their cartridges with cow and pig fat.

"This thing is known," says old Sardul, positively, and he was the kind of old soldier that men listen to, thirty years' service, Aliwal medal, and clean conduct sheet, drat your eyes. "Is not the new Enfield musket in the armoury? Are not the new greased cartridges being prepared? How can any man keep his religion?"

"They say that at Benares the jawans have been permitted to grease their own loads," says Pir Ali, But they hooted him down.

Discontent and rumor-mongering spinning into violence is nothing new.


"They say!" cries Ram Mangal. "It is like the tale they put about that all the grease was mutton-fat — if that were so, where is the need for anyone to make his own grease? It is a lie — just as the Enlistment Act is a lie, when they said it was a provision only, and no one would be asked to do foreign service. Ask the 19th at Behrampore — where their officers told them they must serve in Burma if they refused the cartridge when it was issued! Aye, but they will refuse — then we'll see!" He waved his hands in passion. "The polluted atta is another link in the chain — like the preaching of that owl Reynolds sahib with his Jesus-talk, which Carmik-al-Ismeet permits to our offence. He wants to put us to shame!"

"It is true enough," says old Sardul, sadly. "Yet I would not believe it if such a sahib as my old Colonel MacGregor — did he not take a bullet meant for me at Kandahar? — were to look in my eye and say it was false. The pity is that Carmik-al-Ismeet is not such a sahib — there are none such nowadays," says he with morbid satisfaction, "and the Army is but a poor ruin of what it was. You do not know today what officers were — if you had seen Sale sahib or Larrinsh sahib or Cotton sahib, you would have seen men!" (Since he'd served in Afghanistan I'd hoped he would mention Flass-man sahib, but he didn't, the croaking old bastard.)

Never one to get distracted by men from what's important.


"They would have died before they would have put dishonour on their sepoys; their children, they used to call us, and we would have followed them to hell! But now," he wagged his head again, "these are cutch-sahibs, not pakka-sahibs — and the English common soldiers are no better. Why, in my young day, an English trooper would call me brother, give me his hand, offer me his water-bottle (not realising that I could not take it, you understand). And now — these common men spit on us, call us monkeys and hubshis — and break Lal's string!"

Most of their talk was just patent rubbish, of course, and I'd no doubt it was the work of agitators, spreading disaffection with their nonsense about greased cartridges and polluted food. I almost said so, but decided it would be unwise to draw attention to myself — and anyway it wasn't such a burning topic of conversation most of the time that one could take it seriously. I knew they put tremendous store by their religion — the Hindoos especially — and I supposed that whenever an incident like Lal's string stirred them up, all the old grievances came out, and were soon forgotten. But I'll confess that what Sardul had said about the British officers and troops reminded me of John Nicholson's misgivings. I had hardly seen a British officer on parade since my enlistment; they seemed content to leave their troops to the jemadars and n.c.o.s — Addiscombe tripe, of course — and there was no question the British rankers in the Meerut garrison were a poorer type than, say, the 44th whom I'd known in the old Afghan days, or Campbell's Highlanders.

Flashman talked earlier about how since India had become a destination posting everything had worsened.


I got first-hand evidence of this a day or two later, when I accidentally jostled a Dragoon in the bazaar, and the brute turned straight round and lashed out with his boot.

"Aht the way, yer black bastard!" says he. "Think yer can shove a sahib arahnd — banchut!" And he would have taken a swipe at me with his fist, too, but I just put my hand on my knife-hilt and glared at him — it wouldn't have been prudent to do more. "Christ!" says he, and took to his heels until he got to the end of the street, where he snatched up a stone and flung it at me — it smashed a plate on a booth nearby — and then made off. I'll remember you, my lad, thinks I, and the day'll come when I'll have you triced up and flogged to ribbons. (And I did, as good luck had it.) I've never been so wild — that the scum of a Whitechapel gutter should take his boot to me! I'll be honest and say that if I'd seen him do it to a native two months earlier I wouldn't have minded a bit — and still wouldn't, much: it's a n*****'s lot to be kicked. But it ain't mine, and I can't tell you how I felt afterwards — filthy, in a way, because I hadn't been able to pay the swine back. That's by the way; the point is that old Sardul was right. There wasn't the respect for jawans among the British that there had been in my young day; we probably lashed and kicked n****** just as much (I know I did), but there was a higher regard for the sepoys at least, on the whole.

Somewhat like the description of the filled slave ship, Fraser gives the audience full view of what it's like before having Flashman remind us that he doesn't much mind when it's not happening to him or in his sight.


I doubt if any commander in the old days would have done what Carmichael-Smith did in the way of preaching-parades, either. I hadn't believed it in the barrack gossip, but sure enough, the next Sunday this coffin-faced Anglican fakir, the Rev. Reynolds, had a muster on the maidan, and we had to listen to him expounding the Parable of the Prodigal Son, if you please. He did it through a brazen-lunged rissaldar who interpreted for him, and you never heard the like. Reynolds lined it out in English, from the Bible, and the rissaldar stood there with his staff under his arm, at attention, with his whiskers bristling, bawling his own translation:

Oh boy, this is one of my favourite passages in the series:


"There was a zamindar, with two sons. He was a mad zamindar, for while he yet lived he gave to the younger his portion of the inheritance. Doubtless he raised it from a moneylender. And the younger spent it all whoring in the bazaar, and drinking sherab. And when his money was gone he returned home, and his father ran to meet him, for he was pleased — God alone knows why. And in his foolishness, the father slew his only cow — he was evidently not a Hindoo — and they feasted on it. And the older son, who had been dutiful and stayed at home, was jealous, I cannot tell for what reason, unless the cow was to have been part of his inheritance. But his father, who did not like him, rebuked the older son. This story was told by Jesus the Jew, and if you believe it you will not go to Paradise, but instead will sit on the right-hand side of the English Lord God Sahib who lives in Calcutta. And there you will play musical instruments, by order of the Sirkar. Parade — dismiss!"

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,"

That is a phenomenal translation.

Nov 4, 2009


I don't know when I've been more embarrassed on behalf of my church and country. I'm as religious as the next man — which is to say I'll keep in with the local parson for form's sake and read the lessons on feast-days because my tenants expect it, but I've never been fool enough to confuse religion with belief in God. That's where so many clergymen, like the unspeakable Reynolds, go wrong — and it makes 'em arrogant, and totally blind to the harm they may be doing. This idiot was so drunk with testaments that he couldn't conceive how ill-mannered and offensive he was making himself look; I suppose he thought of high-caste Hindoos as being like wilful children or drunken costermongers — perverse and misguided, but ripe for salvation if he just pointed 'em the way. He stood there, with his unctuous fat face and piggy eyes, blessing us soapily, while the Muslims, being worldly in their worship, tried not to laugh, and the Hindoos fairly seethed. I'd have found it amusing enough, I dare say, if I hadn't been irritated by the thought that these irresponsible Christian zealots were only making things harder for the Army and Company, who had important work to do. It was all so foolish and unnecessary — the heathen creeds, for all their nonsensical mumbo jumbo, were as good as any for keeping the rabble in order, and what else is religion for?

Clearsighted as ever.


In any event, this misguided attempt to cure Hindoo souls took place, not just at Meerut but elsewhere, according to the religious intoxication of the local commanders, and in my opinion was the most important cause of the mischief that followed. I didn't appreciate this at the time — and couldn't have done anything if I had. Besides, I had more important matters to engage my attention.

A few days after that parade, there was a gymkhana on the maidan, and I rode for the skirmishers in the nezabazi. Apart from languages and fornication, horsemanship is my only accomplishment, and I'd been well-grounded in tent-pegging by the late Muhammed Iqbal, so it was no surprise that I took the greatest number of pegs, and would have got even more if I'd had a pony that I knew, and my lance hadn't snapped in a touch peg on the last round. It was enough to take the cup, though, and old Bloody Bill Hewitt, the garrison commander, slipped the handle over my broken lance-point in front of the marquee where all the top numbers of Meerut society were sitting applauding politely, the ladies in their crinolines and the men behind their chairs.

"Shabash, sowar," says Bloody Bill. "Where did you learn to manage a lance?"

"Peshawar Valley, hussor," says I.

"Company cavalry?" says he, and I said no, Peshawar police.

"Didn't know they was lancers," says he, and Carmichael-Smith, who was on hand, laughed and said to Hewitt in English:

"No more they are, sir. It's a rather delicate matter, I suspect — this bird here pretends he's never served the Sirkar before, but he's got Guide written all over him.

Shouldn't wonder if he wasn't rissaldar — havildar at least. But we don't ask embarrassing questions, what? He's a dam' good recruit, anyway."

"Ah," says Hewitt, grinning; he was a fat, kindly old buffer. " 'Nough said, then." And I was in the act of saluting when a little puff of wind sprang up, scattering the papers which were on the table behind him, and blowing them under the pony's hooves. Like a good little toady, I slipped out of the saddle and gathered them up, and without thinking set them on the table and put the ink-pot on top of them, to hold them steady — a simple, ordinary thing, but I heard an exclamation, and looked up to see Duff Mason, one of the infantry colonels, staring at me in surprise. I just salaamed and saluted and was back in my saddle in a second, while they called up the next man for his prize, but as I wheeled my pony away I saw that Mason was looking after me with a puzzled smile on his face, and saying something to the officer next to him.

If there's one criticism I have of this section it's that it repeatedly goes over how Flashman's not convincing anyone he has no military bearing only to have all parties immidiately dismiss the importance of that.


Hollo, thinks I, has he spotted something? But I couldn't think I'd done anything to give myself away — until next morning, when the rissaldar called me out of the ranks, and told me to report to Mason's office in the British lines forthwith. I went with my heart in my mouth, wondering what the hell I was going to do if he had seen through my disguise, only to find it was the last thing my guilty conscience might have suspected.

"Makarram Khan, isn't it?" says Mason, when I stood to attention on his verandah and went through the ritual of hilt-touching. He was a tall, brisk, wiry fellow with a sharp eye which he cast over me. "Hasanzai, Peshawar policeman — but only a few weeks' Army service?" He spoke good Urdu, which suggested he was smarter than most, and my innards quaked.

"Well, now, Makarram," says he, pleasantly. "I don't believe you. Nor does your own Colonel. You're an old soldier — you ride like one, you stand like one, and what's more you've held command. Don't interrupt — no one's trying to trap you, or find out how many throats you've cut in the Khyber country in your time: that's nothing to me. You're here now, as an ordinary sowar — but a sowar who gathers up papers as though he's as used to handling 'em as I am. Unusual, in a Pathan — even one who's seen service, don't you agree?"

"In the police, husoor," says I woodenly, "are many kitabs and papers."

"To be sure there are," says he, and then added, ever so easily, in English, "What's that on your right hand?"

I didn't look, but I couldn't help my hand jerking, and he chuckled and leaned back in his chair, pleased with himself.

Got 'em.


"I guessed you understood English when the commander and your Colonel were talking in front of you yesterday," says he. "You couldn't keep it out of your eyes. Well, never mind; it's all to the good. But see here, Makarram Khan — whatever you've done, whatever you've been, where's the sense in burying yourself in the ranks of a native cavalry pultan? You've got education and experience; why not use 'em? How long will it take you to make subedar, or havildar even, in your present situation? Twenty years, thirty — with down-country cavalry? I'll tell you what — you can do better than that."

Well, it was a relief to know my disguise was safe enough, but the last thing I wanted was to be singled out in any way. However, I listened respectfully, and he went on:

"I had a Pathan orderly, Ayub Jan; first-class man, with me ten years, and now he's gone back home, to inherit. I need someone else — well, you're younger than he was, and a sight smarter, or I'm no judge. And he wasn't a common orderly — never did a menial task, or anything of that order; wouldn't have asked him to, for he was Yusufzai — and a gentleman, as I believe you are, d'you see?" He looked at me very steady, smiling. "So what I want is a man of affairs who is also a man of his hands — someone I can trust as a soldier, messenger, steward, aide, guide, shield-on-shoulder —" He shrugged. "When I saw you yesterday, I thought ‘That's the kind of man.’ Well — what d'ye say?"

I had to think quickly about this. If I could have looked at myself in the mirror, I suppose I was just the sort of ruffian I'd have picked myself, in Duff Mason's shoes. Pathans make the best orderly-bodyguards-comrades there are, as I'd discovered with Muhammad Iqbal and Ilderim. And it would be a pleasant change from barracks — but it was risky. It would draw attention to me; on the other hand my character was established by now, and any lapses into Englishness might be explained from the past which Mason and Carmichael-Smith had wished upon me. I hesitated, and he said quietly:

"If you're thinking that coming out of the ranks may expose you to greater danger of — being recognised by the police, say, or some inconvenient acquaintance from the past … have no fear of that. At need, there'll always he a fast horse and a dustuck to see you back to the Black Mountain again."

It was ironic — he thought I went in fear of discovery as a deserter or Border raider, when my only anxiety was that I'd be unmasked as a British officer. Bit of a lark, really — and on that thought I said very good, I'd accept his offer.

"Thank you, Makarram Khan," says he, and nodded to a table that was set behind his chair, against the chick: there was a drawn sabre lying on it, and I knew what was expected of me. I went past him, and put my hand on the blade — it had been so arranged that with my body in between, he couldn't see from where he sat whether I was touching the steel or not. The old dodge, thinks I, but I said aloud:

"On the haft and hilt, I am thy man and soldier." "Good," says he, and as I turned he held out his hand. I took it, and just for devilment I said:

"Have no fear, husoor — you will smell the onion on your fingers." I knew, you see, that in anticipation of the oath, he would have rubbed onion on the blade, so that he could tell afterwards if I'd truly touched it while I swore. A Pathan who intended to break his oath wouldn't have put his hand on the steel, and consequently wouldn't have got the onion-smell on his fingers.

"By Jove!" says he, and quickly sniffed his hand. Then he laughed, and said I was a Pathan for wiliness, all right, and we would get along famously.

The wealth of perspectives is one of this books strongest suits. We saw basic barrack life as a sepoy, and now we get to view life as a more direct servant of the British.


Which I'm bound to say we did — mind you, our association wasn't a long one, but while it lasted I thoroughly enjoyed myself, playing major-domo in his household, for that's what it amounted to, as I soon discovered. His bungalow was a pretty big establishment, you see, just off the east end of the Mall, near the British infantry lines, with about thirty servants, and since there was no proper mem-sahib, and his khansamah was almost senile, there was no order about the place at all. Rather than have me spend my time dogging him about his office, where there wasn't much for me to do except stand looking grim and impressive, Duff Mason decided I should make a beginning by putting his house and its staff into pukka order (as I gathered Ayub Jan had done in his time) and I set about it. Flashy, Jack-of-all-trades, you see: in the space of a few months I'd already been a gentleman of leisure, staff officer, secret political agent, ambassador, and sepoy, so why not a n***** butler for a change?

You may think it odd — and looking back it seems damned queer to me, too — but the job was just nuts to me. I was leading such an unreal existence, anyway, and had become so devilish bored in the sepoy barracks, that I suppose I was ready enough for anything that occupied my time without too much effort. Duff Mason's employ was just the ticket: it gave me the run of a splendid establishment, the best of meat and drink, a snug little bunk of my own, and nothing to do but bully menials, which I did with a hearty relish that terrified the brutes and made the place run like clockwork. All round, I couldn't have picked a softer billet for my enforced sojourn in Meerut if I'd tried. (Between ourselves, I've a notion that had I been born in a lower station in life I'd have made a damned fine butler for some club or Town house, yes-me-lording the Quality, ordering flunkeys about, putting upstarts in their place, and pinching the port and cigars with the best of them.)

I've said there were no proper mem-sahibs in the house, by which I mean that there was no colonel's lady to supervise it — hence the need for me. But in fact there were two white women there, both useless in management — Miss Blanche, a thin, twitchy little spinster who was Duff Mason's sister, and Mrs Leslie, a vague relative who was either a grass widow or a real one, and reminded me rather of a sailor's whore — she was a plumpish, pale-skinned woman with red frizzy hair and a roving eye for the garrison officers, with whom she went riding and flirting when she wasn't lolling on the verandah eating sweets. (I didn't do more than run a brisk eye over either of 'em when Duff Mason brought me to the house, by the way — we n***** underlings know our place, and I'd already spotted a nice fat black little kitchen-maid with a saucy lip and a rolling stern.)

However, if neither of the resident ladies was any help in setting me about my duties, there was another who was — Mrs Captain MacDowall, who lived farther down the Mall, and who bustled in on my first afternoon on the pretext of taking tea with Miss Blanche, but in fact to see that Duff Mason's new orderly started off on the right foot. She was a raw-boned old Scotch trot, not unlike my mother-in-law; the kind who loves nothing better than to interfere in other folk's affairs, and put their lives in order for them. She ran me to earth just as I was stowing my kit; I salaamed respectfully, and she fixed me with a glittering eye and demanded if I spoke English.

And with this delightful acquaintance about to be made, let's call it there.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

In case you are thinking flashies impersonation is completely absurd, check out Richard Burtons story, on whom I'd say a degree of Flashmans character comes. He disguised himself as a Pathan and traveled to Mecca among many other adventures.

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,"

sebmojo posted:

In case you are thinking flashies impersonation is completely absurd, check out Richard Burtons story, on whom I'd say a degree of Flashmans character comes. He disguised himself as a Pathan and traveled to Mecca among many other adventures.

Wow, that guy led an extraordinary life.

Sep 5, 2011

Flashman namedrops him at some point but when never see them meet.

Norwegian Rudo
May 8, 2013

How are u posted:

Wow, that guy led an extraordinary life.

Wait until we meet Josiah Harlan.

Gats Akimbo
May 28, 2007

Ignoring this post

Flashy posted:

(Between ourselves, I've a notion that had I been born in a lower station in life I'd have made a damned fine butler for some club or Town house, yes-me-lording the Quality, ordering flunkeys about, putting upstarts in their place, and pinching the port and cigars with the best of them.)

I can just imagine him as a Blackadder-the-Third-alike.

Jan 16, 2020

sebmojo posted:

In case you are thinking flashies impersonation is completely absurd, check out Richard Burtons story, on whom I'd say a degree of Flashmans character comes. He disguised himself as a Pathan and traveled to Mecca among many other adventures.

This guy, who has mostly been forgotten by history, did it (traveling to Mecca) first:

The English version of his page is almost criminally short and sparse in details though.

Warden fucked around with this message at 13:17 on May 5, 2021

Nov 4, 2009


"Now then, Makarram Khan, this is what you'll do," says she. "This house is a positive disgrace; you'll make it what it should be — the best in the garrison after General Hewitt's, mind that. Ye can begin by thrashing every servant in the place — and if you're wise you'll do it regularly. My father," says she, "believed in flogging servants every second day, after breakfast. So now. Have you the slightest — the slightest notion — of how such an establishment as this should be run? I don't suppose ye have."

I said, submissively, that I had been in a sahib's house before.

"Aye, well," says she, "attend to me. Your first charge is the kitchen — without a well-ordered kitchen, there's no living in a place. Now — I dined here two nights since, and I was disgusted. So I have lists here prepared —" she whipped some papers from her bag. "Ye can't read, I suppose? No, well, I'll tell you what's here, and you'll see to it that the cook — who is none too bad, considering — prepares her menus accordingly. I shouldn't need to be doing this —" she went on, with a withering glance towards the verandah, where Miss Blanche and Mrs Leslie were sitting (reading "The Corsair" aloud, I recall) " — but if I don't, who will, I'd like to know? Hmf! Poor Colonel Mason!" She glared at me. "That's none of your concern — you understand?" She adjusted her spectacles. "Breakfast … aye. Chops-steaks-quail-fried-fish-baked-minced- chickenprovided-the-bird's- no-more-than-a-day-old. No servants in the breakfast room — it can all be placed on the buffet.

Can ye make tea — I mean tea that's fit to drink?"

Bemused by these assaults, I said I could.

"Aye," says she, doubtfully. "A mistress should always make the tea herself, but here …" She sniffed. "Well then, always two teapots, with no more than three spoonfuls to each, and a pinch of carbonate of soda in the milk. See that the cook makes coffee, very strong, first thing in the morning, and adds boiling water during the course of the day. Boiling, I said — and fresh hot milk, or cold whipped cream. Now, then —" and she consulted another list.

"Luncheon — also on the buffet. Mutton-broth-almond-soup-mulligatawny-white-soup-cold-clear-soup-milk-pudding-stewed-fruit. No heavy cooked dishes —" this with a glare over her spectacles. "They're unhealthy. Afternoon tea — brown bread and butter, scones, Devonshire cream, and cakes. Have ye any apostle spoons?"

"Mem-sahib," says I, putting my hands together and ducking my head. "I am only a poor soldier, I do not know what —"

"I'll have two dozen sent round. Dinner — saddle-of-mutton-boiled-fowls-roast-beef … ach!" says she, "I'll tell the cook myself. But you —" she wagged a finger like a marlin-spike "— will mind what I've said, and see that my instructions are followed and that the food is cleanly and promptly served. And see that the salt is changed every day, and that no one in the kitchen wears woollen clothes. And if one of them cuts a finger — straight round with them to my bungalow. Every inch of this house will be dusted twice a day, before callers come between noon and two, and before dinner. Is that clear?"

"Han mem-sahib, han mem-sahib," says I, nodding vigorously, heaven help me. She regarded me grimly, and said she would be in from time to time to see that all was going as it should, because Colonel Mason must be properly served, and if she didn't attend to it, and see that I kept the staff hard at their duties, well … This with further sniffy looks towards the verandah, after which she went to bully the cook, leaving me to reflect that there was more in an orderly's duties than met the eye."

I tell you this, because although it may seem not to have much to do with my story, it strikes me it has a place; if you're to understand India, and the Mutiny, and the people who were caught up in it, and how they fared, then women like Mrs Captain MacDowall matter as much as Outram or Lakshmibai or old Wheeler or Tantia Tope. Terrible women, in their way — the memsahibs. But it would have been a different country without 'em — and I'm not sure the Raj would have survived the year '57, if they hadn't been there, interfering.

At all events, under her occasional guidance and blistering rebukes, I drove Mason's menials until the place was running like a home-bound tea clipper. You'll think it trivial, perhaps, but I got no end of satisfaction in this supervising — there was nothing else to occupy me, you see, and as Arnold used to say, what thy hand findeth to do … I welted the backsides off the sweepers, terrorised the mateys, had the bearers parading twice a day with their dusters, feather brooms, and polish bottles, and stalked grimly about the place pleased as punch to see the table-tops and silver polished till they gleamed, the floors bone-clean, and the chota hazri and darwazaband trays carried in on the dot. Strange, looking back, to remember the pride I felt when Duff Mason gave a dinner for the garrison's best, and I stood by the buffet in my best grey coat and new red sash and puggaree, with my beard oiled, looking dignified and watching like a hawk as the khansamah and his crew scuttled round the candle-lit table with the courses. As the ladies withdrew Mrs Captain MacDowall caught my eye, and gave just a little nod — probably as big a compliment, in its way, as I ever received.

Some might criticize the book for taking a while to get to the action. gently caress'em.


So a few more weeks went by, and I was slipping into this nice easy life, as is my habit whenever things are quiet. I reckoned I'd give it another month or so, and then slide out one fine night for Jhansi, where I'd surprise Skene by turning up a la Pathan and pitch him the tale about how I'd been pursuing Ignatieff in secret and getting nowhere. I'd see Ilderim, too, and find if the Thugs were still out for me; if it seemed safe I'd shave, become Flashy again, and make tracks for Calcutta, protesting that I'd done all that could be done. Might even pay my respects to Lakshmibai on the way … however, in the meantime I'd carry on as I was, eating Duff Mason's rations, seeing that his bearer laid out his kit, harrying his servants, and tupping his kitchen-maid — she was a poor substitute for my Rani, and once or twice, when it seemed to me that Mrs Leslie's eye lingered warmly on my upstanding Pathan figure or my swarthy bearded countenance, I toyed with the idea of having a clutch at her. Better not, though — too many prying eyes in a bungalow household, which is what made life hard for grass widows and unattached white females in Indian garrisons — they couldn't do more than flirt in safety.

Every now and then I had to go back to barracks. Carmichael-Smith had been willing enough to detach me to Duff Mason, but I still had to muster on important parades, when all sepoys on the regimental strength were called in. It was on one of these that I heard the rumour flying that the 19th NJ. had rioted at Behrampore over the greased cartridge, as sepoy Ram Mangal had predicted.

"They have been disbanded by special court," says he to me out of the corner of his mouth as we clattered back to the armoury to hand in our rifles; he was full of excitement. "The sahibs have sent the jawans home, because the Sirkar fears to keep such spirited fellows under arms! So much for the courage of your British colonels — they begin to fear.

Aye, presently they will have real cause to be fearful!"

"It will need to be better cause than a pack of whining monkeys like the 19th," says Pir Ali. "Who minds if a few Hindoos get cow-grease on their fingers?"

"Have you seen this, then?" Mangal whipped a paper from under his jacket and thrust it at him. "Here are your own people — you Mussulmen who so faithfully lick the sahibs' backsides — even they are beginning to find their manhood! Read here of the great jihad that your mullahs are preaching against the infidels — not just in India, either, but Arabia and Turkestan. Read it — and learn that an Afghan army is preparing to seize India, with Ruski guns and artillerymen — what does it say? ‘Thousands of Ghazis, strong as elephants’." He laughed jeeringly. "They may come to help — but who knows, perhaps they will be behind the fair? The goddess Kali may have destroyed the British already — as the wise men foretold."

It was just another scurrilous pamphlet, no doubt, but the sight of that grinning black ape gloating over his sedition riled me; I snatched the paper and rubbed it deliberately on the seat of my trousers. Pir Ali and some of the sepoys grinned, but the rest looked pretty glum, and old Sardul shook his head.

"If the 19th have been false to their salt, it is an ill thing," says he, and Mangal broke in excitedly to say hadn't the sahibs broken faith first, by trying to defile the sepoys' caste?

"First Behrampore — then where?" cries he. "Which pultan will be next? It is coming, brothers — it is coming!" And he nodded smugly, and went off chattering with his cronies.

Yes the man's an agitator but he's given so much to work with. Read the first excerpt again. Oh, absolutely everyone's having a grand old time, right?


I didn't value this, at the time, but it crossed my mind again a couple of nights later, when Duff Mason had Archdale Wilson, the binky-nabob, and Hewitt and Carmichael-Smith and a few others on his verandah, and I heard Jack Waterfield, a senior man in the 3rd Native Cavalry, talking about Behrampore, and wondering if it was wise to press ahead with the issue of the new cartridge.

"Of course it is," snaps Carmichael-Smith. "Especially now, when it's been refused at Behrampore. Give way on this — and where will it end? It's a piece of damned nonsense- some crawling little agitator fills the sepoys' heads with rubbish about beef-grease and pig-fat, when it's been made perfectly plain by the authorities that the new cartridge contains nothing that could possibly offend Muslim or Hindoo. But it serves as an excuse for the troublemakers — and there are always some."

"Fortunately not in our regiment," says another — Plow-den, who commanded my own company. By God, thinks I, that's all you know, and then Carmichael-Smith was growling on that he'd like to see one of his sepoys refuse the issue, by God he would.

"No chance of that, sir," says another major of the 3rd, Richardson. "Our fellows are too good soldiers, and no fools. Can't think what happened with the 19th — too many senior officers left regimental service for the staff, I shouldn't wonder. New men haven't got the proper grip."

"But suppose our chaps did refuse?" says one young fellow in the circle. "Mightn't it —"

"That is damned croaking!" says Carmichael-Smith angrily. "You don't know sepoys, Gough, and that's plain. I do, and I won't countenance the suggestion that my soldiers would have their heads turned by this … this seditious bosh. What the devil — they know their duty! But if they get the notion that any of us have doubts, or might show weakness — well, that's the worst thing imaginable. I'll be obliged if you'll keep your half-baked observations to yourself!"

That shut up Gough, sharp enough, and Duff Mason tried to get the pepper out of the air by saying he was sure Carmichael-Smith was right, and if Gough had misgivings, why not settle them then and there.

"Your colonel won't mind, I'm sure, if I put it to one of his own sowars — don't fret, Smith, he's a safe man." And he beckoned me from where I stood in the shadows by the serving-table from which the bearers kept the glasses topped up.

"Now, Makarram Khan," says he. "You know about this cartridge nonsense. Well — you're a Muslim … will you take it?"

I stood respectfully by his chair, glancing round the circle of faces — Carmichael-Smith red and glistening, Waterfield thin and shrewd, young Gough flustered, old Hewitt grinning and belching quietly.

"If it will drive a ball three hundred yards, and straight, husoor," says I, "I shall take it."

They roared, of course, and Hewitt said there was a real Pathan answer, what?

"And your comrades?" asks Archdale Wilson.

"If they are told, truly, by the colonel sahib, that the cartridge is clean, why should they refuse?" says I, and they murmured agreement. Well, thinks I, that's a plain enough hint, and Carmichael-Smith can put Master Mangal's croaking into the shade.

He might have done, too, but the very next day the barracks was agog with a new rumour — and we heard for the first time a name that was to sweep across India and the world.

"Pandy?" says I to Pir Ali. "Who may he be?"

"A sepoy of the 34th, at Barrackpore," says he. "He shot at his captain sahib on the parade-ground — they say he was drunk with sharab or bhang, and called on the sepoys to rise against their officers. What do I know? Perhaps it is true, perhaps it is rumour — Ram Mangal is busy enough convincing those silly Hindoo sheep that it really happened."

So he was, with an admiring crowd round him in the middle of the barrack-room, applauding as he harangued them.

"It is a lie that the sepoy Pandy was drunk!" cries he. "A lie put about by the sahibs to dishonour a hero who will defend his caste to the death! He would not take the cartridge — and when they would have arrested him, he called to his brothers to beware, because the British are bringing fresh battalions of English soldiers to steal away our religion and make slaves of us. And the captain sahib at Barrackpore shot Pandy with his own hands, wounding him, and they keep him alive for torture, even now!"

He was working himself into a terrible froth over this — what surprised me was that no one — not even the Muslims — contradicted him, and Naik Kudrat Ali, who was a good soldier, was standing by chewing his lip, but doing nothing. Eventually, when Mangal had raved himself hoarse, I thought I'd take a hand, so I asked him why he didn't go to the Colonel himself, and find out the truth, whatever it was, and ask for reassurance about the cartridge.

"Hear him!" cries he scornfully. "Ask a sahib for the truth? Hah! Only the gora-colonel's lapdog would suggest it! Maybe I will speak to Carmik-al-Ismeet, though in my own time!" He looked round at his cronies with a significant, ugly grin. "Yes, maybe I will … we shall see!"

Well, one swallow don't make a summer, or one ill-natured agitator a revolt — no doubt what I'm telling you now about barrack-room discontent among the sepoys looks strong evidence of trouble brewing, but it didn't seem so bad then. Of course there was discontent, and Ram Mangal played on it, and every rumour, for all he was worth — but you could go into any barracks in the world, you know, at any time, and find almost the same thing happening. No one did anything, just sullen talk; the parades went on, and the sepoys did their duty, and the British officers seemed content enough — anyway, I was only occasionally in the barracks myself, so I didn't hear much of the grumbling. When the word came through that Sepoy Pandy had been hanged at Barrackpore for mutiny, I thought there might be some kind of stir among our men, but they never let cheep.

Flashman dies in 1915 and how conditions changed from just 1857 until then just in India could fill volumes. The largest immediate change in terms of administration will be touched on later in this and other books.


In the meantime, I had other things to claim my attention: Mrs Leslie of the red hair and lazy disposition had begun to take a closer interest in me. It started with little errands and tasks that put me in her company, then came her request to Duff Mason that I should ride escort on her and Miss Blanche when they drove out visiting ("it looks so much better to have Makarram Khan attending us than an ordinary syce"), and fmally I found myself accompanying her when she went riding alone — the excuse was that it was convenient to her to have an attendant who spoke English, and could answer her questions about India, in which she professed a great interest.

I know what interests you, my girl, thinks I, but you'll have to make the first move. I didn't mind; she was a well-fleshed piece in her way. It was amusing, too, to see her plucking up her courage; I was a black servant to her, you see, and she was torn between a natural revulsion and a desire to have the big hairy Pathan set about her. On our rides, she would flirt a very little, in a hoity-toity way, and then think better of it; I maintained my correct and dignified noble animal pose, with just an occasional ardent smile, and a slight squeeze when I helped her dismount. I knew she was getting ready for the plunge when she said one day:

"You Pathans are not truly … Indian, are you? I mean … in some ways you look … well, almost … white."

"We are not Indian at all, mem-sahib," says I. "We are descended from the people of Ibrahim, Ishak and Yakub, who were led from the Khedive's country by one Moses."

"You mean — you're Jewish?" says she. "Oh." She rode in silence for a while. "I see. How strange." She thought some more. "I … I have Jewish acquaintances … in England. Most respectable people. And quite white, of course."

Well, the Pathans believe it, and it made her happy, so I hurried the matter along by suggesting next day that I show her the ruins at Aligaut, about six miles from the city; it's a deserted temple, very overgrown, but what I hadn't told her was that the inside walls were covered with most artistically-carved friezes depicting all the Hindoo methods of fornicating — you know the kind of thing: effeminate-looking lads performing incredible couplings with fat-titted females. She took one look and gasped; I stood behind with the horses and waited. I saw her eyes travel round from one impossible carving to the next, while she gulped and went crimson and pale by turns, not knowing whether to scream or giggle, so I stepped up behind her and said quietly that the forty-fifth position was much admired by the discriminating. She was shivering, with her back to me, and then she turned, and I saw that her eyes were wild and her lips trembling, so I gave my swarthy ravisher's growl, swept her up in my arms, and then down on to the mossy floor. She gave a little frightened moan, opened her eyes wide, and whispered:

"You're sure you're Jewish … not … not Indian?"

"Han, mem-sahib," says I, thrusting away respectfully, and she gave a contented little squeal and grappled me like a wrestler.

We rode to Aligaut quite frequently after that, studying Indian social customs, and if the forty-fifth position eluded us, it wasn't for want of trying. She had a passion for knowledge, did Mrs. Leslie, and I can think back affectionately to that cool, dim, musty interior, the plump white body among the ferns, and the thoughtful way she would gnaw her lower lip while she surveyed the friezes before pointing to the lesson for today. Pity for some chap she never re-married. Aye, and more of a pity for her she never got the chance.

And on that ominous note, let's call it.

Nov 4, 2009


For by now April had turned into May, the temperature was sweltering, and there was a hot wind blowing across the Meerut parade-ground and barracks that had nothing to do with the weather. You could feel the tension in the air like an electric cloud; the sepoys of the 3rd N.C. went about their drill like sullen automatons, the native officers stopped looking their men in the eye, the British officers were quiet and wary or explosively short-tempered, and there were more men on report than anyone could remember. There were ugly rumours and portents: the 34th N.I. — the executed Sepoy Pandy's regiment — had been disbanded at Barrackpore, a mysterious fakir on an elephant had appeared in Meerut bazaar predicting that the wrath of Kali was about to fall on the British, chapattis were said to be passing in some barrack-rooms, the Plassey legend was circulated again. Out of all the grievances and mistrust that folk like Ram Mangal had been voicing, a great, discontented unease grew in those few weeks — and one thing suddenly became known throughout the Meerut garrison: without a word said, the certainty was there. When the new greased cartridge was issued, the 3rd Native Cavalry would refuse it.

Now, you may say, knowing what followed, something should have been done. I, with respect, will ask: what? The thing was, while everyone knew that feeling was rising by the hour, no one could foresee for a moment what was about to happen. It was unimaginable. The British officers couldn't conceive that their beloved sepoys would be false to their salt — dammit, neither could the sepoys. If there's one thing I will maintain, it is that not a soul — not even creatures like Ram Mangal — thought that the bitterness could explode in violence. Even if the cartridge was refused — well, the worst that could follow was disbandment, and even that was hard to contemplate. I didn't dream of what lay ahead — not even with all my forewarning over months.

And I was there — and no one can take fright faster than I. So when I heard that Carmichael-Smith had ordered a firing-parade, at which the skirmishers (of whom I was one) would demonstrate the new cartridge, I simply thought: well, this will settle it — either they'll accept the new loads, and it'll all blow over, or they won't and Calcutta will have to think again.

Waterfield tried to smooth things beforehand, singling out the older skirmishers and reassuring them that the loads were not offensively greased, but they wouldn't have it — they even pleaded with him not to ask them to take the cartridge. I think he tried to reason with Carmichael-Smith — but the word came out that the firing-parade would take place as ordered.

After Waterfield's failure, this was really throwing down the gauntlet, if you like — I'd not have done it, if I'd been Carmichael-Smith, for one thing I've learned as an officer is never to give an order unless there's a good chance of its being obeyed.

Still a maxim to this day and with drat good reason.


And if you'd fallen in with the skirmishers that fine morning, having seen the sullen faces as they put on their belts and bandoliers and drew their Enfields from the armoury, you'd not have wagered a quid to a hundred on their taking the cartridge. But Carmichael-Smith, the rear end, was determined, so there we stood, in extended line between the other squadrons of the regiment facing inwards, the native officers at ease before their respective troops, and the rissaldar calling us to attention as Carmichael-Smith, looking thunderous, rode up and saluted.

We waited, with our Enfields at our sides, while he rode along the extended rank, looking at us. There wasn't a sound; we stood with the baking sun at our backs; every now and then a little puff of warm wind would drive a tiny dust-devil across the ground; Plowden's horse kept shying as he cursed and tried to steady it. I watched the shadows of the rank swaying with the effort of standing igid, and the sweat rivers were tickling my chest. Naik Kudrat Ali on my right was straight as a lance; on my other side old Sardul's breathing was hoarse enough to be audible. Carmichael-Smith completed his slow inspection, and reined up almost in front of me; his red face under the service cap was as heavy as a statue's. Then he snapped an order, and the havildar-major stepped forward, saluted, and marched to Carmichael-Smith's side, where he turned to face us. Jack Waterfield, sitting a little in rear of the colonel, called out the orders from the platoon exercise manual.

"Prepare to load!" says he, adding quietly: "Rifle-at-full-extent-of-left-arm." The havildar-major shoved out his rifle.

"Load!" cries Jack, adding again: "Cartridge-is-brought-to-the-left-hand-right-elbow-raised-tear-off-top-of-cartridge-with-fingers-by-dropping-elbow. "

This was the moment; you could feel the rank sway forward ever so little as the havildar-major, his bearded face intent, held up the little shiny brown cylinder, tore it across, and poured the powder into his barrel. A hundred and eighty eyes watched him do it; there was just a suspicion of a sigh from the rank as his ram-rod drove the charge home; then he came to attention again. Waterfield gave him the "present" and "fire", and the single demonstration shot cracked across the great parade-ground. On either side, the rest of the regiment waited, watching us.

"Now," says Carmichael-Smith, and although he didn't raise his voice, it carried easily across the parade. "Now, you have seen the loading drill. You have seen the havildar-major, a soldier of high caste, take the cartridge. He knows the grease with which it is waxed is pure. I assure you again — nothing that could offend Hindoo or Muslim is being offered to you — I would not permit it. Carry on, havildar-major."

What happened was that the havildar-major came along the rank, with two naiks carrying big bags of cartridges, of which he offered three to each skirmisher. I was looking straight to my front, sweating and wishing the back of my kg would stop itching; I couldn't see what was happening along the rank, but I heard a repeated murmur as the havildar-major progressed —"Nahin, havildar-major sahib; nahin, havildar-major sahib." Carmichael-Smith's head was turned to watch; I could see his hand clenched white on his rein.

The havildar-major stopped opposite Kudrat Ali, and held out three cartridges. I could feel Kudrat stiffen — he was a big, rangy Punjabi Mussulman, a veteran of Aliwal and the frontier, proud as Lucifer of his stripes and himself, the kind of devoted rear end who thinks his colonel is his father and even breaks wind by numbers. I stole a glance at him; his mouth was trembling under his heavy moustache as he muttered:

"Nahin, havildar-major sahib."

And we're off.


Suddenly, Carmichael-Smith broke silence; his temper must have boiled higher with each refusal.

"What the devil do you mean?" His voice cracked hoarsely. "Don't you recognise an order? D'you know what insubordination means?"

Kudrat started violently, but recovered. He swallowed with a gulp you could have heard in Poona, and then says:

"Colonel sahib — I cannot have a bad name!"

"Bad name, by God!" roars Smith. "D'you know a worse name than mutineer?" He sat there glowering and Kudrat trembled; then the havildar-major's hand was thrust out to me, his blood-shot brown eyes glaring into mine; I looked at the three little brown cylinders, aware that Waterfield was watching me intently, and old Sardul was breathing like a walrus on my other side.

I took the cartridges — there was a sudden exclamation farther along the rank, but I stuffed two of them into my belt, and held up the third. As I glanced at it, I realised with a start that it wasn't greased — it was waxed.

Oh for gently caress's sake.


I tore it across with a shaky hand, poured the powder into the barrel, stuffed the cartridge after it, and rammed it down. Then I returned to attention, waiting.

Old Sardul was crying. As the cartridges were held out to him he put up a shaking hand, but not to take them. He made a little, feeble gesture, and then sings out:

"Colonel sahib — it is not just! Never — never have I disobeyed — never have I been false to my salt! Sahib — do not ask this of me — ask anything — my life, even! But not my honour!" He dropped his Enfield, wringing his hands. "Sahib, I -

"Fool!" shouts Carmichael-Smith. "D'you suppose I would ask you to hurt your honour? When did any man know me do such a thing? The cartridges are clean, I tell you! Look at the havildar-major — look at Makarram Khan! Are they men of no honour? No — and they're not mutinous dogs, either!"

It wasn't the most tactful thing to say, to that particular sepoy; I thought Sardul would go into a frenzy, the way he wept — but he wouldn't touch the cartridges. So it went, along the line; when the end had been reached only four other men out of ninety had accepted the loads — four and that stalwart pillar of loyalty, Flashy Makarram Khan (he knew his duty, and which side his bread was buttered).

One of the more useless and self-defeating examples of British conduct in the series, and it's about to get worse.


So there it was. Carmichael-Smith could hardly talk for sheer fury, but he cussed us something primitive, promising dire retribution, and then dismissed the parade. They went in silence — some stony-faced, others troubled, a number (like old Sardul) weeping openly, but mostly just sullen. For those of us who had taken the cartridges, by the way, there were no reproaches from the others — proper lot of long-suffering holy little Tom Browns they were.
That, of course, was something that Carmichael-Smith didn't understand. He thought the refusal of the cartridges was pure pig-headedness by the sepoys, egged on by a few malcontents. So it was, but there was a genuine religious feeling behind it and a distrust of the Sirkar.

If he'd had his wits about him, he'd have seen that the thing to do now was to drop the cartridge for the moment, and badger Calcutta to issue a new one that the sepoys could grease themselves (as was done, I believe, in some garrisons). He might even have made an example of one or two of the older disobedients, but no, that wasn't enough for him. He'd been defied by his own men, and by God, he wasn't having that. So the whole eighty-five were court-martialled, and the court, composed entirely of native officers, gave them all ten years' hard labour.

And then,


I can't say I had much sympathy with 'em — anyone who's fool enough to invite ten years on the rock-pile for his superstitions deserves all he gets, in my view. But I'm bound to say that once the sentence had been passed, it couldn't have been worse carried out — instead of shipping the eighty-five quietly off to jail the buffoon Hewitt decided to Iet the world — and other sepoys especially — see what happened to mutineers, and so a great punishment parade was ordered for the following Saturday.

As it happened, I quite welcomed this myself, because I had to attend, and so was spared an excursion to Aligaut with Mrs Leslie — that woman's appetite for experiment was increasing, and I'd had a wearing if pleasurable week of it. But from the official point of view, that parade was a stupid, dangerous farce, and came near to costing us all India.

It was a red morning, oppressive and grim, with a heavy, overcast sky, and a hot wind driving the dust in stinging volleys across the maidan. The air was suffocatingly close, like the garrison there — the Dragoon Guards with their sabres out; the Bengal Artillery, with their British gunners and native assistants in leather breeches standing by their guns; line on line of red-coated native infantry completing the hollow square, and in the middle Hewitt and his staff with Carmichael-Smith and the regimental officers, all mounted. And then the eighty-five were led out in double file, all in full uniform, but for one thing — they were in their bare feet.

I don't know when I've seen a bleaker sight than those two grey ranks standing there hangdog, while someone bawled out the court's findings and sentence, and then a drum began to roll, very slow, and the ceremony began.

Now I've been on more punishment parades than I care to remember, and quite enjoyed 'em, by and large. There's a fascination about a hanging, or a good flogging, and the first time I saw a man shot from a gun — at Kabul, that was — I couldn't take my eyes off it. I've noticed, too, that the most pious and humanitarian folk always make sure they get a good view, and while they look grim or pitying or shocked they take care to miss none of the best bits. Really, what happened at Meerut was tame enough — and yet it was different from any other drumming-out or execution I remember; usually there's excitement, or fear, or even exultation, but here there was just a doomed depression that you could feel, hanging over the whole vast parade.

While the drum beat slowly, a havildar and two naiks went along the ranks of the prisoners, tearing the buttons off the uniform coats; they had been half cut off before-hand, to make the tearing easy, and soon in front of the long grey line there were little scattered piles of buttons, gleaming dully in the sultry light; the grey coats hung loose, like sacks, each with a dull black face above it.

Then the fettering began. Groups of armourers, each under a British sergeant, went from man to man, fastening the heavy lengths of irons between their ankles; the fast clanging of the hammers and the drum-beat made the most uncanny noise, clink-clank-boom! clink-clank-clinkboom! and a thin wailing sounded from beyond the ranks of the native infantry.

"Keep those damned people quiet!" shouts someone, and there was barking of orders and the wailing died away into a few thin cries. But then it was taken up by the prisoners themselves; some of them stood, others squatted in their chains, crying; I saw old Sardul, kneeling, smearing dust on his head and hitting his fist on the ground; Kudrat All stood stiff at attention, looking straight ahead; my half-section, Pir Ali — who to my astonishment had refused the cartridge in the end — was jabbering angrily to the man next to him; Ram Mangal was actually shaking his fist and yelling something. A great babble of noise swelled up from the line, with the havildar-major scampering along the front, yelling "Chubbarao! Silence!" while the hammers clanged and the drum rolled — you never heard such an infernal din. Old Sardul seemed to be appealing to Carmichael-Smith, stretching out his hands; Ram Mangal was bawling the odds louder than ever; close beside where I was an English sergeant of the Bombay Artillery knocked out his pipe on the gun-wheel, spat, and says:

"There's one black bastard I'd have spread over the muzzle o' this gun, by Jesus! Scatter his guts far enough, eh, Paddy?"

"Aye," says his mate, and paced about, scratching his head. " 'Tis a bad business, though, Mike, right enough. drat N******! Bad business!"

"Oughter be a bleedin' sight worse," says Mike. "Pampered sods — lissen 'em squeal! If they 'ad floggin' in the n***** army, they'd 'ave summat to whine about — touch o' the cat'd 'ave them bitin' each other's arses, never mind cartridges. But all they get's the chokey, an' put in irons. That's what riles me — Englishmen get flogged fast enough, an' these black pigs can stand by grinnin' at it, but somebody pulls their buttons off an' they yelp like bleedin' kids!"

"Ah-h," says the other. "Disgustin'. An' pitiful, pitiful."

I suppose it was, if you're the pitying kind — those pathetic-looking creatures in their shapeless coats, with the irons on their feet, some yelling, some pleading, some Indifferent, some silently weeping, but mostly just sunk in shame — and out in front Hewitt and Carmichael-Smith and the rest sat their horses and watched, unblinking. I'm not soft, but I had an uneasy feeling just then — you're making a mistake, Hewitt, thinks I, you're doing more harm than good. He didn't seem to know it, but he was trampling on their pride (I may not have much myself, but I recognise it in others, and it's a chancy thing to tamper with). And yet he could have seen the danger, in the sullen stare of the watching native infantry; they were feeling the shame, too, as those fetters went on, and the prisoners wept and clamoured, and old Sardul grovelled in the dust for one of his fallen buttons, and clenched it against his chest, with the tears streaming down his face.

He was one, I confess, that I felt a mite sorry for, when the fettering was done, and the band had struck up "The Rogues March", and they shuffled off, dragging their irons as they were herded away to the New Jail beyond the Grand Trunk Road. He kept turning and crying out to Carmichael-Smith — it reminded me somehow of how my old guv'nor had wept and pleaded when I saw him off for the last time to the blue-devil factory in the country where he died bawling with delirium tremens. Damned depressing — and as I walked my pony off with the four other loyal skirmishers, and glanced at their smug black faces, I thought, well, you bloody toadies — after all, they were Hindoos; I wasn't.

However, I soon worked off my glums back at Duff Mason's bungalow, by lashing the backside off one of the bearers who'd lost his oil-funnel. And then I had to be on hand for the dinner that was being given for Carmichael-Smith that night (doubtless to celebrate the decimation of his regiment), and Mrs Leslie, dressed up to the nines for the occasion, was murmuring with a meaning look that she intended to have a long ride in the country next day, so I must see picnic prepared, and there were the mateys to chase, and the kitchen-staff to swear at, and little Miss Langley, the riding-master's daughter, to chivvy respectfully away — she was a pretty wee thing, seven years old, and a favourite of Miss Blanche's, but she was the damnedest nuisance when she came round the back verandah in the evenings to play, keeping the servants from their work and being given sugar cakes.


Nov 4, 2009


With all this, I'd soon forgotten about the punishment parade, until after dinner, when Duff .Mason and Carmichael-Smith and Archdale Wilson had taken their pegs and cheroots on to the verandah, and I heard Smith's voice suddenly raised unusually loud. I stopped a matey who was taking out a tray to them, and took it myself, so I was just in time to hear Smith saying:

… of all the damned rubbish I ever heard! Who is this havildar, then?"

"Imtiaz Ahmed — and he's a good man, sir." It was young Gough, mighty red in the face, and carrying his crop, for all he was in dinner kit.

"Damned good croaker, you mean!" snaps Smith, angrily. "And you stand there and tell me that he has given you this cock-and-bull about the cavalry plotting to march on the jail and set the prisoners free? Utter stuff — and you're a fool for listening to —"

"I beg your pardon, sir," says Gough, "but I've been to the jail — and it looks ugly. And I've been to barracks; the men are in a bad way, and -

"Now, now, now," says Wilson, "easy there, young fellow. You don't know 'em, perhaps, as well as we do. Of course they're in a bad way — what, they've seen their comrades marched off in irons, and they're upset. They're like that — they'll cry their eyes out, half of 'em … All right, Makarram Khan," says he, spotting me at the buffet, "you can go." So that was all I heard, for what it was worth, and since nothing happened that night, it didn't seem to be worth too much.

Next morning Mrs Leslie wanted to make an early start, so I fortified myself against what was sure to be a taxing day with half a dozen raw eggs beaten up in a pint of stout...

And the man lived to be 93.


...and we rode out again to Aligaut. She was in the cheeriest spirits, curse her, climbing all over me as soon as we reached the temple, and by the end of the afternoon I was beginning to wonder how much more Hindoo culture I could endure, delightful though it was. I was a sore and weary native orderly by the time we set off back, and dozing pleasantly in my saddle as we passed through the little village which lies about a mile east of the British town — indeed, I could just hear the distant chiming of the church bell for evening service — when Mrs Leslie gave an exclamation and reined in her pony.

"What's that?" says she, and as I came up beside her, she hushed me and sat listening. Sure enough, there was another sound — a distant, indistinct murmur, like the sea on a far shore. I couldn't place it, so we rode quickly forward to where the trees ended, and looked across the plain. Straight ahead in the distance were the bungalows at the end of the Mall, all serene; far to the left, there was the outline of the Jail, and beyond it the huge mass of Meerut city — nothing out of the way there. And then beyond the Jail, I saw it as I peered at the red horizon — where the native cavalry and infantry lines lay, dark clouds of smoke were rising against the orange of the sky, and flickers of flame showed in the dusk. Buildings were burning, and the distant murmur was resolving itself into a thousand voices shouting, louder and ever louder. I sat staring, with a horrid suspicion growing in my mind, half-aware that Mrs Leslie was tugging at my sleeve, demanding to know what was happening. I couldn't tell her, because I didn't know; nobody knew, in that first moment, on a peaceful, warm May evening when the great Indian Mutiny began.

And having written that last enjoyable jaunt for Flashman, Fraser begins to tell of how the poo poo has hit the fan.


If I'd had my wits about me, or more than an inkling of what was happening, I'd have turned our ponies north and ridden for the safety of the British infantry lines a mile away. But my first thought was: Gough was right, some crazy bastards are rioting and trying to break the prisoners loose — and of course they'll fail, because Hewitt'll have British troops marching down to the scene at once; maybe they're there already, cutting up the n******. I was right — and wrong, you see, but above all I was curious, once my first qualms had settled. So it wasn't in any spirit of chivalry that I sang out to Mrs Leslie:

"Ride to the bungalow directly, mem-sahib! Hold tight, now!" and cut her mare hard across the rump. She squealed as it leaped forward, and called to me, but I was already wheeling away down towards the distant Jail — I wanted to see the fun, whatever it was, and I had a good horse tinder me to cut out at the first sign of danger. Her plaintive commands echoed after me, but I was putting my pony to a bank, and clattering off towards the out-lying buildings of the native city bazaar, skirting south so that I'd pass the Jail at a distance and see what was happening.

At first. there didn't seem to be much; this side of the bazaar was strangely empty, but in the gathering dark I could hear rather than see confused activity going on between the Jail and the Grand Trunk — shouting and the rush of hurrying feet, and sounds of smashing timber. I wheeled into the bazaar, following the confusion of noise ahead; the whole of the sky to my front beyond the bazaar was glowing orange now, whether with fire or sundown you couldn't tell, but the smoke was hanging in a great pall beyond the city — it's a hell of a fine fire, thinks I, and forged on into the bazaar, between booths where dim figures seemed to be trying to get their goods away, or darting about in the shadows, chattering and wailing. I bawled to a fat vendor, who was staring down the street, asking what was up, but he just waddled swiftly into his shop, slamming his shutters — try to get sense out of an excited Indian, if you like. Then I reined up, with a chico scampering almost under my hooves, and the mother after it, crouching and shrieking, and before I knew it there was a swarm of folk in the street, all wailing and running in panic; stumbling into my pony, while I cursed and lashed out with my quirt; behind them the sounds of riot were suddenly closer — hoarse yelling and chanting, and the sudden crack of a shot, and then another.

Time to withdraw to a safer distance, thinks I, and wheeled my pony through the press into a side-alley. Someone went down beneath my hooves, they scattered like sheep — and then down the alley ahead of me, running pell-mell for his life, was a man in the unmistakable stable kit of the Dragoon Guards, bare-headed and wild-eyed, and behind him, like hounds in full cry, a screaming mob of n******.

He saw me ahead, and yelled with despair — of course, what he saw was a great hairy native villain blocking his way. He darted for a doorway, and stumbled, and in an instant they were on him, a clawing, animal mob, tearing at him while he lashed out, yelling obscenities. For an instant he broke free, blood pouring from a wound in his neck, and actually scrambled under my pony; the mob was round us in a trice, dragging him out bodily while I struggled to keep my seat — there was no question of helping him, even if I'd been fool enough to try. They bore him up, everyone shrieking like madmen, and smashed him down on the table of a pop-shop, holding his limbs while others broke the pop-bottles and slashed and stabbed at him with the shards.

It was a nightmare. I could only clutch my reins and stare at that screaming, thrashing figure, half-covered in the pop foam, as those glittering glass knives rose and fell. In seconds he was just a hideous bloody shape, and then someone got a rope round him, and they swung him up to a beam, with his life pouring out of him. In panic I drove my heels into the pony, blundered to the corner, and rode for dear life.

The man knows how to write a chaotic scene.


It was the shocking unexpectedness of it that had unmanned me — to see a white man torn to pieces by natives. Perhaps you can't imagine what that meant in India; it was something you could not believe, even when you saw it. For a few moments I must have ridden blind, for the next thing I knew I was reining up on the edge of the Grand Trunk where it comes north out of Meerut city, gazing at a huge rabble pouring up towards the British town; to my amazement half of them were sepoys, some of them just in their jackets, others in full fig down to the cross-belts, brandishing muskets and bayonets, and yelling in unison: "Mat Karo! Mat Karo!*(*"Kill!) Sipahi Jai!" and the like — slogans of death and rebellion. There was one rascal on a cart, brandishing ankle-irons above his head, and a heaving mass of sepoys and bazaar-wallahs pushing his vehicle along, yelling like drunkards.

Beyond the road the native cavalry barracks were in full flame; even as I watched I saw one roof cave in with an explosion of sparks. Behind me there were buildings burning in the bazaar, and even as I turned to look I saw a gang of ruffians hurling an oil-lamp into a booth, while others were steadily thrashing with clubs at the fallen body of the owner; finally they picked him up and tossed him into the blaze, dancing and yelling as he tried vainly to struggle out; he was a human torch, his mouth opening and closing in unheard screams, and then he fell back in the burning ruin.

I don't know how long I sat there, staring at these incredible things, but I know it was dark, with flames leaping up everywhere, and an acrid reek pervading the air, before I came to my senses enough to realise that the sooner I lit out the better — of course, I was safe enough in that I was to all outward appearance a native, and a big, ugly one at that, but it made no sense to linger; any moment there must be the sound of bugles up the road, heralding a British detachment, and I didn't want to be caught up in the ensuing brawl. So I put my pony's nose north, and trotted along the edge of the road, with that stream of mad humanity surging in the same direction at my elbow.

Even then I hadn't determined what it all meant, but any doubts I might have had were resolved as I came level with the Jail, and there was a huge crowd, clamouring and applauding round a bonfire, and forming up, in their prison dhotis,*(*Loin-cloths.) but with their ankles freed, were some of the prisoners — I recognised Gobinda, and one or two others, and a sepoy whom I didn't know was standing on a cart, haranguing the mob, although you could hardly hear him for the din:

"It is done! … Death to the gora-log!*(*British.) … sahibs are already running away … see the broken chains! … On, brothers, kill! kill! To the white town!"

The whole mob screamed as one man, leaping up and down, and then bore the prisoners shoulder-high, streaming out on to the Grand Trunk towards the distant Mall — God, I could see flames up there already, out towards the eastern end. There must be bungalows burning on this side of the Mall, beyond the Nullah.

There was only one way for me to go. Behind was Meerut city and the bazaar, which was being smashed up and looted by the sound of things; to my left lay the burning native barracks; ahead, between me and the British Town, the road was jammed with thousands of crazy fanatics, bent on blood and destruction. I waited till the press thinned a little, and swung right, heading for the Nullah north of the Jail; I would cross the east bridge, and make a long circle north past the Mall to come to the British camp lines.

The first part was easy enough; I crossed the Nullah, and skirted the east end of the British Town, riding carefully in the half-dark, for the moon wasn't up yet. It was quiet here, in the groves of trees; the tumult was far off to my left, but now and then I saw little groups of natives — servant-women, probably, scurrying among the bushes, and one ominous sign that some of the killers had come this way — an old chowkidar, with his broken staff beside him, lying with his skull beaten in. Were they butchering anyone, then — even their own folk? Of course — any natives suspected of loyalty would be fair game — including the gora-colonel's lapdog, as Ram Mangal had charmingly called me. I pressed on quickly; not far behind me, I could hear chanting voices, and see torch-light among the trees. The sooner I …

"Help! Help! In God's name, help us!"

It came from my right; a little bungalow, behind a white gate, and as I stopped, uncertain, another voice (Tied:

"Shut up, Tommy! God knows who it is … see the lights yonder!"

"But Mary's dead!" cries the first voice, and it would have made your hair stand up. "She's dead, I tell you — they've —"

They were English, anyway, and without thinking I slipped from the saddle, vaulted the gate, and cried: "It's a friend! Who are you?"

"Oh, thank God!" cries the first voice. "Quickly — they've killed Mary … Mary!"

I glanced back; the torches were still two hundred yards away among the trees. If I could get the occupants of the bungalow moving quickly, they might get away. I strode up the verandah steps, looked through the space where a chick had been torn down, and saw a wrecked room, with an oil-lamp burning feebly, and a white man, his left leg soaked in blood, lying against the wall, a sabre in his hand, staring at me with feverish eyes.

"Are you ...?" he began, and then yelled. "Christ — it's a mutineer — 3rd Cavalry! Jim!"

And I hadn't got my mouth open when out of the shadows someone sprang; I had an instant's vision of a white face, red moustache, staring eyes, and whirling sabre, and then I was locked with him, crashing to the floor, while I yelled:

"You bloody idiot! I'm English, drat you!"

But he seemed to have gone mad; even as I wrestled his sabre from him and sprang away he yelled to his pal, who feebly shoved his sabre towards him; the next thing he was slashing at me, yelling curses, and I was guarding and trying to shout sense at him. I broke ground, fell over something soft, and realised as I struck the ground that it was a white woman, in evening dress — or rather it was her body, for she was lying in a pool of blood. I flung up my sabre to guard another maniac slash, but too late; I felt a fiery pain across my skull, just above the left ear, and the fellow on the floor screams:

"Go it, Jim! Finish him, finish —"

The crash of musketry filled the room; the fellow above me twisted grotesquely, dropping his sabre, and tumbled down across my legs; there were black faces grinning at the window above me through the powder smoke, and then they were in the room, yelling with triumph as they drove their bayonets into the wounded Tommy, hacking at him, smashing the furniture, and finally one of them was helping me up, shouting:

"Just in time, brother! Thank the 11th N.I., sowar'

Aieee! Three of the pigs! God be praised — have ye been at their goods, then?"

I was dizzy with pain, so he dropped me, and while they ransacked the bungalow, growling like beasts, I crawled out on to the verandah and into the bushes. I lay there, staunching the blood that was running down my cheek; it wasn't a bad wound — no worse than the schlager cut beside it, which de Gautet had given me years ago. But I didn't come out, even after they'd gone, taking my pony with them; I was too shaken and scared — that idiot Jim had come within an ace of fmishing me — my God, it had been Jim Lewis, of course — the veterinary. I'd bowed him out of Mason's bungalow only a couple of nights before. And now, he was dead, and his wife Mary — and I was alive, saved by the mutineers who'd murdered them.

With that near scrape let's call it for now.

In the interest of not quadruple posting, let me ask you: We're halfway through the book and Flashman's given us at least five perspectives on life in the British Empire during this time. Up to this point, What do you think about this books portrayal of the events and people in the lead up to the Mutiny?

Please contribute even if you haven't piped up in the thread yet.

Also kindly don't spoil specific events that happen to Flashman later in this book, of course.

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