Thursday, January 17, 2013

Flashman's Lady Chapter 3

One of my complaints about Flashman in the Great Game was that the same thing seemed to happen chapter after chapter or that things didn't really move quickly enough. This is not the case with Flashman's Lady. Chapter 3 is absolutely packed with happenings, and they are mostly of the too strange to be true variety. In a Flashman book this generally means that George MacDonald Fraser is completely historically accurate.

Harry has to hide away for a while before the Solomon's boat leaves. He doesn't seem all that concerned about Tighe, possibly he thinks his reputation can survive the battering. The Duke bothers him. Mainly because he still seems to think it's the eighteenth century and he can have his bully boys give someone who has offended him a good kicking with complete impunity. Knowing Flashman's physical cowardice this should not be surprising. His Uncle Bindley seems to understand Harry's predicament and very helpfully sorts things out with the Horse Guards and comes up with a convincing explanation as to why Flashman is not in England for an extended period of time.

The cruise on Don Solomon's lavishly appointed steamer is like the nineteenth century equivalent of a trip aboard the Queen Mary. Both Elspeth and Morrison seem to enjoy themselves, but Harry does not. He's continually jealous of Don Solomon although he doesn't make any untoward moves to Elspeth, and she gives no indication that she's anything but in love with her husband. That's actually something about their relationship, though. Until he settled down from adventuring in his 80's he continually suspected Elspeth of cheating on him with all and sundry, even though he never proved it.

They do ominously stop outside Madagascar and are warned that despite the outward appearances that they would be wise to avoid the island as it is ruled by a mad woman and life there seems akin to one of the circles of hell.

They stop at Singapore and there's where things really get interesting. Harry is bored stiff by the staid and pious colonials in the Asian colony and goes seeking other diversions. Solomon discovers him at this and offers to arrange something for him. Harry, while suspicious, does sort of accept.

He's set upon by a number of black faced individuals carrying hatchets. Had it not been for the arrival of an an odd group commanded by a well spoken, good looking character who goes by the name of JB he may have been killed. JB turns out to be James Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak. One of the most interesting and exciting nineteenth century gentleman adventurers there has ever been. Brooke is one of those people who can't possibly have been real, but he was, and nearly everything George MacDonald Fraser writes about him in Flashman's Lady can be historically verified as accurate.

The biggest shock comes when Brooke and his gang get Flashman back to their host in Singapore, a local known as Whampoa. Elspeth is gone! Don Solomon has spirited her away!

Her diary extract at the end of the chapter is, as always, delightful and indicates that she has no intention of being ravished by Don Solomon or ever being unfaithful to her dear, darling Harry.

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