Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flashman in the Great Game Chapter 6

If the chapters in the Flashman books had titles chapter 6 of Flashman in the Great Game could very well be entitled Everything Turns to Shit.

Flashman knows immediately on arriving back at the British officers camp that something is wrong. He sends his female companion, one of Mason's relatives back to the house and goes to check out the jail, which is where he believes the trouble will be. Depending on how back the situation is he has every intention of getting out as quickly as he can, going somewhere he can safely reveal himself as a British officer and get on the first boat back to England.

While trying to get through the town he sees a mob literally tear apart a British officer and knows that he probably won't get out of this as easily as he would like. The notes indicate that this was one of the first British officers killed by the rebelling locals. Going to the jail is out, if anyone there recognises him as one of Mason's servants they'll tag him as a British sympathiser and kill him.

Flashman heads back to the houses. The scenes that greet him are right out of one of the circles of Hell. This is where the mutineers hit hardest. They killed indiscriminately, men, women, children, even their own if they thought they were working for the British.

Flashman goes to the veterinarians house and finds the vet, a soldier called Tommy and a dead woman, who seemed to have been named Mary. The two men panic and don't recognise Harry. There's a brief struggle from which Flashman is lucky to get away alive, and as it is he receives a nasty facial wound.

This incident decides him to go back to Mason's house, because Mason has a revolver in a drawer in his office, and that could come in very useful. Another hellish scene greets him. The lady with whom he had spent a delightful afternoon has been beheaded and the strict Scottish woman who used to advise him on how to manage the servants has been pinned to the wall by a tulwar. Harry takes the revolver, loads it, and leaves the house as angry as he has ever been in his life.

On the way out he meets a drunken mutineer who boasts of murdering the 6 year old daughter of the saddlemaster. Flashman knows the girl, and he liked her. He shoots the mutineer in the groin and leaves him there to die in pain.

What follows is a mad delirious journey through a strife ridden countryside. He has a fever dream that features Arnold and Charity Spring. These two men seem to be in more of Harry's fever dreams than any other figures, and I think it indicates just how much they terrified him. I'm not sure why Arnold, but he really does put the wind up Harry. John Charity Spring was a psychotic lunatic, so that doesn't surprise. He does find out that the entire country has gone to hell and is now being ruled by someone who has seized their chance and named themselves King.

Harry has to get out of the country, but where can he go? At some stage his disguise is going to fail and then he's as good as dead. The idea comes to him that Jhansi was well run and Lakshmibai wouldn't have given up her rule easily. Besides Ilderim had promised to wait for him and keep an eye out at a temple nearby.

Ilderim and his men are there as promised, although it looks like they've been in fighting as well, Ilderim's arm is in a sling. That's when the Pathan delivers the bad news, all the British are dead. Jhansi has become the same sort of hell hole as the rest of the country.

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