Thursday, February 2, 2012
Flash for Freedom - Chapter 2
Remember how I said this is where the series closest thing to a ‘big bad’ is introduced? Well it happens in Chapter 2. Bryant survives his encounter with Flashman, which is a good thing for Harry, had Bryant died Flashman could have very well been hung for murder. Despite that Morrison thinks is might be best for Harry to lay low for a while, and makes plans to get him out of the country for a period.
This isn’t the best turn of events for Flashman, and things are about to get worse. The devil in the form of John Charity Spring is the captain of the ship that will take Harry out of merry olde England for a short ‘holiday’ whilst the fall out over the blackjack affair dies down. Let me introduce you to John Charity Spring. Physically he is not imposing, he is of average height and stockily built, he wears a short, neat beard, his eyes are what first alerts people to the madness that lurks within. Charity Spring is actually a former professor of classics, he learned at and also seemed to teach at Oriel College, Oxford. Despite this he names his ship Balliol College because he hates Balliol, his father and brothers went there. Whether his psychotic hatred of the rival college stems from a hatred of his father and brothers is never stated, but it does seem to be implied. It’s also never explained exactly why he was driven out of teaching, possibly he killed a student for incorrectly remembering a classical Latin or Greek phrase. He certainly appears capable of doing just that. From a classics professor to running a slaving ship, quite a career change. Flashman doesn’t know it yet, but John Charity Spring is insane, he’d be locked up for being psychotic now. His wife is also insane, but in a different way, possibly she’s been driven to madness by being married to the big ball of crazy that is Spring. Spring haunts Flashman in Flash for Freedom, Flashman and the Redskins, Flashman and the Angel of the Lord and is indirectly responsible for an incident that nearly brings the good name of Flashman down in Flashman and the Tiger. He will also be the stuff of Harry’s nightmares from this point on.
The fact that the Balliol College is a slave ship also gives Flashman pause. He doesn’t particularly care that their cargo will be human misery, but it does bother him because slaving is illegal. The last thing he needs is to be discovered aboard a slaver and actively assisting the trade. He does however store the information that Morrison is one of the directors of a company that owns a slaving ship. Could be useful as a tool for extortion later on.
The rest of the crew are all as dangerous or crazy as Spring and his wife, with one exception. That would be the third mate, a well bred, educated young man by the name of Beauchamp Comber. Flashman wonders exactly how Comber came to be serving on John Charity Spring’s pleasure cruise of insanity.
Honestly if he had wanted to George MacDonald Fraser could have written entire books about Spring. How he went from teaching classics to running a slave ship, the adventures he had, etc… A truly fascinating character and a great villain. He’s not based on anyone specific, but in those wild days there were people like him running around causing havoc and quite often making themselves obscenely wealthy and powerful in the process.