Thursday, January 5, 2012
Royal Flash - Chapter 5
In the 5th chapter of Royal Flash, Harry is on his way to the continent, for a brief time he employs a German by the name of Helmuth to be a sort of manservant, but really to help him learn German. Harry doesn’t ever learn a language in the conventional way, he just listens to it around him and tends to pick it up.
Flashman actually confesses to liking the German people and if he wasn't an Englishman he would want to be a German. This is largely based on an observation that because of their liking for order people know their place. Of course Flashman would like this as long as he was still of the ruling class.
He’s met in Bavaria by Rudi von Starnberg. Rudi is very like Flashman himself, with one major difference, his reckless bravery isn’t a front, although like many others before and since him Starnberg believes Harry’s reputation. If they hadn’t been on opposite sides the two men may have become good friends, because they both shared a fairly skewed moral compass. The character of Rudi is based on Rupert of Hentzau from Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda, that made me wonder if Flashman isn’t in fact some sort of subversion of the swashbuckling hero and may also be based on Hope’s hero. Rudi conducts Flashman to Lola’s house, although he remarks that in both appearance and appointment it’s more palace than house.
The house aside Lola has done well for herself, she even seems to have gathered an army of supporters, and when I say army I do mean that in the military sense. Although the former dancer acknowledges her former lover’s presence she doesn’t have a great deal to do with him either at the performance/musical recital or the dinner. Flashman claims to have met Richard Wagner at the function (although George MacDonald Fraser’s notes at the back point out that there’s no evidence to suggest that the composer was in Bavaria at the time, then again there’s also no evidence to suggest that he wasn’t), and held forth the opinion that British marching song British Grenadiers and the hunting ditty Drink Puppy Drink (this is the first mention of the nonsensical hunting song, it’s mentioned frequently from here on in. It seems to be the only song Harry knows, and he was forever humming it, to the extent that Elspeth affectionately named it ‘Harry’s Song’) were better than any opera he had ever encountered.
Flashman gets as Hughes put it ‘beastly drunk’ and is led into a room by Lola, she disappears and he falls into a drunken stupor. He comes to being pawed at and undressed by an overweight noblewoman he had encountered at the earlier dinner; the Baroness Pechman. As she is quite insistent Harry eventually relents and starts having s with her. The door then opens to admit Rudi and two uniformed gentleman. When Flashman protests he is knocked unconscious, and wakes up in the local police station in a cell. Rudi and a lawyer in his employ set things out in front of the British adventurer. What he was doing with Pechman was under Bavarian law illegal, and they can lock him up for life if they so wish. If he puts himself in von Starnberg’s custody and agrees to do whatever he’s got planned then the entire incident will be swept under the carpet and forgotten about. Between a rock and a hard place Flashman reluctantly agrees and is transferred to a forbidding castle a good distance from Munich.
At the castle he is introduced to three of Starnbergs colleagues; Kraftstein, a big beefy Prussian, De Gautet, a tall, lean sinister looking character, and Bersonin, stocky, bald and ugly. He doesn't know this at the time, but they're his guards and will also become his teachers, then he sees the man who makes his heart stop and wonder what exactly he’s managed to get himself into this time: Otto von Bismarck.