Sunday, August 19, 2012

Flashman in the Great Game - Chapter 14

Given the events in Chapter 13 you could wonder why this chapter even exists. Surely everything's been wrapped up.

It starts off that way with Harry letting people know what happened to the major players on both sides. Nana Sahib seemed to get away, he vanished somewhere on the frontier and they never seemed to catch up with him. I guess there have been shades of that in the more recent Afghan conflict, too.

Flashman visits the shrine that her people have set up to Lakshmibai, and she does enter the books roll of honour along with Lola Montez and Elspeth as women that Harry Flashman has genuinely been in love with. Lakshmibai is rather unique in that it's highly like Flashman never actually slept with her. The woman he met and had sex with earlier in the book was probably a nautch dancer or courtesan.

He also says that he did encounter Ignatieff again, but quickly adds that both times were diplomatic bunfights, for which he was grateful. I doubt he would have survived any other sort of meeting with the wily Russian.

Whilst waiting to go back home Harry reflects rather glumly that with titles and honours being handed out right left and centre he hasn't received so much as a commendation. He believes this is because Lakshmibai was killed and part of his mission was to get her out alive.

He receives a letter from Elspeth (most welcome) along with a book that Cardigan gave her and asked her to send on to Harry. Elspeth said she didn't much care for it, but sent it anyway, and doesn't seem to know why Cardigan wanted to make Harry a gift of it anyway. Harry stows it in his luggage and doesn't give it a second thought.

During a meeting with Campbell and Lord Canning Flashman is presented with a Victoria Cross, he's barely recovered from that shock when Lady Canning refers to Elspeth as Lady Flashman, which indicates that Harry is now Sir Harry Flashman. A knighthood is all that Harry has ever wanted. His life is almost complete now.

On the way to Calcutta he's bored so picks up the book and starts to read through it. The book is of course Tom Brown's Schooldays, and Cardigan sent it to irritate Harry, which it does. This packet ends with him threatening to sue Thomas Hughes, challenge him to a duel, horsewhip him...

Some of that last passage had a couple of possible continuity mistakes. Flashman indicates that he has not seen or thought of Brown since Rugby. Yet he meets Brown face to face in Flashman's Lady, which although it was published after Flashman in the Great Game, takes place before. He would have remembered the meeting because it was the catalyst for one of his strangest adventures. He also says that he would never admit to being the Flashman in the books, but mentions that he was once asked by Ulysses S. Grant, a fan of the book, if he was the same person, and he replied that yes he was and just to throw Grant referred to his times at Rugby as 'capital' days. I'm not sure which book that happened in. I think it would be either Flashman and the Redskins (book 7) or Flashman and the Angel of the Lord (book 10).

There are two appendices which concern the Mutiny itself and the Rani. Neither of them really add anything to the story, but clear up some of Flashman's errors and confirm other points made.

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