Monday, May 7, 2012

Flashman in the Great Game - Chapter 3

Harry finally gets to India in the 3rd chapter of Flashman in the Great Game. The opening of this chapter is one of the very few knocks I have on George MacDonald Fraser. Before heading off on his actual mission in Jhansi Flashman spends time in what he regards as the more civilised parts of the country and largely repeats what he said in Flashman about India being a great place to serve. It was just unnecessary. Perhaps Fraser thought he had to put it in because he was writing an episode of what was a largely self contained series and couldn’t trust that readers would have already have read Flashman.

Things pick up when he gets on the road to Jhansi and meets with Johnny Nicholson on the way. Nicholson was one of those extraordinary frontier soldiers that seem larger than life and have lived an adventure that can’t possibly be true, but is. He and Flashman were comrades in arms from Flashman and he may have also appeared in Flashman and Flashman and the Mountain of Light. He agrees that trouble could be brewing in India from what he’s seen and leaves Flashman wondering. There’s a rather sober note at the end of this encounter that Nicholson was killed by a mutineer during the conflagration that enveloped the country not longer after the meeting.

Flashman tries to get some information about the Rani from Skene, the diplomat stationed there, but as he’s never seen the woman (she conducts all her business with the British from behind a screen) he isn’t a lot of help, although he too is worried about the situation. There’s this whole sense of doom hanging over everything. Flashman has formed the opinion that the Rani is a sour embittered widow and even the Flash Harry charm with his dashing cavalry whiskers may have trouble winning her over.

He goes to meet the Rani the following day. He likes the women he does see and even befriends one of the Rani’s guards, who has heard the Bloody Lance legends and knows ‘Iflassman’ is someone to meet. Something he can dine out on for some time.

The meeting is conducted behind the screen and Harry keeps hearing this rustling noise that he can’t identify. The Rani gives him fairly short shrift and is unimpressed by the picture of the royal family that he presents her. He couldn’t blame her here, he didn’t think much of it himself. He plays an ace in the hole by saying that he has another gift, but he can only present it face to face. Harry is ushered behind the screen and into the presence of Laskhmibai the Rani of Jhansi. She’s not a sour old widow, she’s a stunningly beautiful young woman seated on a hanging swing, which was what created the rustling noise and even the great Harry Flashman is taken by her beauty.    

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