Friday, February 10, 2012

Flash for Freedom - Chapter 8

Flashman believed that the two men who approached him at the end of Chapter 7 were apprehending him on behalf of the navy. They are actually far from that. He's hooded and taken with them who knows where.

When the hood is removed he finds himself in a well furnished and appointed room facing a rather innocuous looking fellow. As the man begins to talk and outline what he wants Flashman to do and why, Harry knows he's in the presence of another fanatic like Bismarck. Flashman seems to have a knack for finding these types, it's rare for a book to go by without at least one of them appearing, they usually get Harry into all sorts of trouble, almost as much as his pursuit of women does.

This one goes by the name of Crixus, exactly who he really is, is never discovered, and he may have been a composite of a number of prominent abolitionists, I don't believe George MacDonald Fraser ever really speculates on his identity, even in the notes. Crixus is an abolitionist, part of a movement that was devoted to getting rid of the institution of slavery in the US. John Brown is one of their best known members, and his involvement with Harry Flashman is covered in another book (Flashman and the Angel of the Lord), I wonder if the seeds for that packet were sewn when Fraser was writing this one.

Crixus believes Harry is the anti slavery British naval lieutenant Beauchamp Comber and will jump at the chance to undertake the task they have him earmarked for. He is supposed to help them smuggle an escaped slave by the name of George Randolph out of the south and into the slave free north. By the time I read Flash for Freedom I had learned about Dred Scott and his famous case. Randolph is possibly in part based on Scott.

George Randolph is the sort of person Harry detests, irrespective of the colour of his skin, he's arrogant, vain and pompous. He's quite intelligent, but not especially worldly or street smart. From the time he opens his mouth he rubs Harry up the wrong way. Flashman can't refuse Crixus, he may look like a cheerful old buffer, but he's not where his cause is concerned. Flashman has met enough of his sort to know that if he knocks him back then his life will become a living hell, that's if Crixus even allows him to get out of the room alive. With no other option open to him Flashman agrees to do what they ask. At least with him being white and Randolph being black they won't have to travel together.

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