Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Flashman in the Great Game - Chapter 12
How long has it been since I've done one of these? Oh...right...that long. Sorry about that. I've had a lot to read and not enough time to do it, and there's been a waning of interest with this particular volume of Harry's adventures. I've never been the biggest fan of Flashman in the Great Game. Harry often seems to act in very unFlashmanlike ways at times. There's also the subject material itself, it's largely a series of unrelenting blood soaked atrocities by both sides. I know, aside from Flashman himself, that it's all real, but it's still rather tedious to read.
Chapter 12 is a little different, although it's still frustrating at times. Harry is sent back to Jhansi to finish off the mission he was originally dispatched to India to perform. Although the mutiny has largely been put down, Jhansi, or rather the Rani, is still a problem. Harry makes the remark that if Lakshmibai weren't so attractive or young then there may not have been an issue with killing her, but she is both beautiful and young, she's also beloved by her people. Simply killing her is only going to make a bad situation worse.
The British, under Hugh Rose, have Jhansi under bombardment. Flashman likens Rose to another of his brothers in arms General George Custer. According to Harry both men looked similar and acted alike, but that's where it ended. Rose was very competent, Harry didn't share that opinion of Custer. He goes on to intimate had Rose commanded at Little Big Horn, instead of Custer things may have turned out differently. Harry can comment, he was at Little Big Horn (see Flashman and the Redskins).
MacDonald Fraser has managed to dig out an obscure text that supports the book's idea that the plan was to let the Rani escape and take her into custody that way. Flashman's obsession with Lakshmibai resurfaces. They have no problems convincing him to put the plan to her. He does this largely because aside from Elspeth and Havvy, the only person in the world Harry has any real affection for is the Rani. This interest has, to me, never really been explained.
Harry does worry that something will go wrong, that's his nature, it however goes worse than he ever could have imagined. He's intercepted by, of all people, Ignatieff. The Russian plans to out Harry on the rack to get him to give up information, he knows that won't take long, given Flashman's aversion to physical pain, and then rack him to death, just for the fun of it. Before Flashman can break, the Rani's major domo, who knows Harry, runs and fetches his mistress, who orders the torture to stop and roundly scolds Ignatieff.
While she cuddles up to Harry and accepts his message, she won't untie him, and has him escorted somewhere he can be kept under guard by her loyal Pathan Sher Khan. The name always reminded me of the villainous tiger in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. I wondered if the writer had been influenced by Flashman. I eventually concluded that as there's no mention of it, and Harry never misses an opportunity to drop a name, that it's just a coincidence.
When the time comes to escape Harry is taken with the Rani, and he's manacled to the saddle. The penny finally drops and Harry wonders if in fact he ever did have an encounter with the Rani all that time ago, and if he's being used. He can't get past his love of her, though. Very odd.