Friday, 10 May 2013

The last post



The post Farewell Flash Harry was, unsurprisingly, the final quote from Mr American and sees the completion of the Flashman’s Retreat compendium and the end of regular updates of this blog.

If you’re looking for a particular Flashman quote and are having difficulties finding it, I can be contacted via flashmansretreat at gmail dot com

My thanks to all those readers who stopped by over the last six years.





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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Farewell Flash Harry



     ‘Well, if you don’t mind,’ said Mr Franklin, ‘I feel I ought to get out here.’ The old gentleman, he told himself yet again, was decidedly unsafe. ‘I hope you don’t think I’m running out — ’
      ‘I do,’ said the veteran promptly. ‘And I commend you for it. First sign of exceptional character I’ve detected in you. But you’re missing a great chance, you know.’ He tapped Mr Franklin on the knee. ‘The first man I ever rode through those gates with was the Duke of Wellington, seventy-two years ago. Wouldn’t you like to be the last?’
      Mr Franklin hesitated. He was amused, and astonished, and a little touched. He looked into the mischievous, grinning old face, then shook his head.
      ‘I think you ought to ride in alone,’ he said gently, ‘And with the hood back.’
      He reached across and shook the old man’s hand, and then managed to push his way out of the car. The Guardsmen had succeeded in clearing the crowd from round the car, and a long aisle between to people ran fairly clear to the gates; police were moving in it, ushering them to keep it clear. At a word from Mr Franklin the hood was removed, and with the General leaning back comfortably in one corner the car rolled slowly forward. The crowd had begun to sing again, willing the King and Queen to come out on the balcony; as the car pulled away, Sir Harry was waving to him with his crooked grin; the crowd jostled forward into the space where the car had been, but Mr Franklin, craning, could see over their heads. With policeman half-running on either side, and Sergeant Rooney pacing ahead on his horse, the car was moving into the open gates held back by the red-coated Guardsmen; the singing was thundering up in full-throated ecstatic chorus, and he could just glimpse the great white head above the back seat and Sir Harry’s raised hand solemnly waving in time to the music:

Land . . . of . . . hope . . . and . . . glory!
Moth . . . er . . . of . . . the . . . free!
How . . . can we . . . extoll . . . thee,
Who . . . are . . . bo-orn of thee!

The car was lost to sight as it turned through the gates and made towards the Palace, even as the lights on the balcony came up again and royalty reappeared. The singing swelled to a triumphant climax; Mr Franklin could imagine the monarch glimpsing the car with its eccentric occupant as it sped across the open space before the Palace — what in God’s name was the old villain going to say when he got inside and the Palace minions discovered he was an entirely unauthorised visitor bent only on relieving himself? Mr Franklin could not guess — but he had no doubt Sir Harry would think of something. He’d had a lot of practice.


Mr American, pp.525-26, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A rather perished article



‘Not before time,’ growled Sir Harry. ‘The amount of liquor that’s occupied my bladder in ninety years has rendered it a rather perished article.’



Mr American, p.525, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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Monday, 6 May 2013

The only good reason for fighting


     A sudden, odd thought struck Mr Franklin, and it seemed doubly odd that it had only just occurred to him.
     ‘D’you think England will win this war?’
     ‘Ask them,’ said the General, and jerked his thumb at the window, grinning. Then he considered, the eyes narrowing in the flushed, ancient face. ‘Probably— yes, on balance, we ought to win. Germany can lick Russia, but not Britain and France together. But they’ll take a lot of beating, if it’s a fight to the finish. Yes, I’d say we were odds on to win — not that it matters all that much.’
     Mr Franklin stared at him in astonishment. ‘You can’t mean that — it doesn’t make sense!’
     Sir Harry turned to look at him, then glanced out the window again.
     ‘It isn’t important whether you win or lose,’ he said, ‘so long as you survive. So long as your people survive. And that’s the only good reason for fighting that anyone ever invented. The survival of your people and race and kind. That’s the only victory that matters.’


Mr American, p.525, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Friday, 3 May 2013

Middling general



‘. . . this’ll be the last outbreak of war I’ll see, and for once I shan’t be going. Went to South Africa, you know— just as a tourist, during the Boer business. Interesting. But not this time — unless Kitchener asks me along as a guest.’ He snorted with laughter at the thought. ‘He’ll be the man they send for, you’ll see. Middling general — we could do worse. Now where the hell have those soldiers got to? Trust the Guards to lose their way.’


Mr American, p.524, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Against the shield wall



It thundered on, the majestic, insistent roar, culminating in another ear-splitting shout at the finish, the crowd chanting out the tremendous triple cheer of the old battle-cry that the Roman legions had heard as the hordes of half-naked, indigo-stained savages had hurled themselves against the shield wall. ‘Hip . . . hip . . . hip . . . hooray! Hip . . . hip . . . hip . . . hooray!’


Mr American, p.524, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Old-fashioned gratitude



‘Charming meal, my dear,’ he said as the waitress presented the bill, ‘and I only regret that infirmity prevents me from inviting you out to express my gratitude in the old-fashioned way. Have a couple of quid instead and give us a hug.’



Mr American, p.521, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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Monday, 29 April 2013

The decline of duelling



‘The decline of duelling has ruined more private lives than I care to think of — in my young day nobody’d have dared tittle-tattle the way they do now. Horse-whipping journalists has gone out too.’


Mr American, p.521, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Friday, 26 April 2013

How many Gettysburgs



‘I’d also like to remind our jingo-drunk public that they haven’t the least notion what a war with modern weapons will be like and the only fellows who can even guess are your American survivors from places like Antietam and Shiloh — that’s the only real war there’s been in a hundred years.’ The General pointed an accusing spoon at Mr Franklin. ‘Know how many men went down at Gettysburg? Fifty thousand — and if I hadn’t moved damned lively I’d have been one of ’em. Well, how many Gettysburgs d’you think it will take to settle a scrap between the kind of forces under arms in Europe today? I don’t know — perhaps a month of it would make everyone cry quits, but knowing the sort of clowns who’ll be in command — who are always in command — I take leave to doubt it.’


Mr American, p.520, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

What you're cheering for



‘I only wish,’ the General added. ‘that when it happens I could take all the asses who’ll be waving flags and cheering and crowding the recruitment office — take ’em all by one collective arm, and say: “Now then, Jack, you know what you’re cheering for? You’re cheering at the prospect of having a soft-nosed bullet fired into your pelvis, shattering the bone and spreading it in splinters all through your intestines, and dying in agony two days later — or, if you’re really unlucky, surviving for a lifetime of pain, unable to walk, a burden to everyone, and a dam’ nuisance to the country that will pay you a pension you can’t live off. That, Jack,” I’d tell ’em, “is what you’re cheering for.” I’d probably be locked up.’


Mr American, p.520, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Monday, 22 April 2013

General Flashman and the Great War, Part 3



     ‘By that reckoning,’ said Mr Franklin, ‘no one would ever stand up to a brute or a bully.’
     ‘Course they would — when it was worth while. You don’t remember the war of 1870 — when those same Germans marched on Paris. Smallish war — but suppose we’d been helping the frogs then? It wouldn’t have been over half as quick, and God knows how many folk would have died who are still happily going about their business in Alsace and Lorraine. Same thing today — we should simply tell the Kaiser that if his fleet puts its nose out of the Baltic we’ll send it to the bottom — that satisfies the Frogs, up to a point, since it guarantees their northern coast, it satisfies the Kaiser who’ll swallow his pride for the sake of us keeping out of the war, and it saves his pretty little ships as well. And five years from now, Liege will be doing rather well — whether it’s got a German provost-marshall still or not. And that won’t matter a damn, to people whose main concern is eating, drinking, fornicating, making money, and seeing their children grow up safe and healthy.’


* Should be read in conjunction with General Flashman and the Great War, Part 1 & General Flashman and the Great War, Part 2 [Speedicut]


Mr American, p.519, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Thursday, 18 April 2013

General Flashman and the Great War, Part 2



*‘Anyway, imagine yourself a Belgian — in Liege, say. Along come the Prussians, and invade you. What about it? — a few cars commandeered, a shop or two looted, half a dozen girls knocked up, a provost marshal installed, and the storm’s passed. Fierce fighting with the Frogs, who squeal like hell because Britain refuses to help, the Germans reach Paris, peace concluded, and that’s that. And there you are, getting on with your garden in Liege. But — ‘ the General waved his bony finger. ‘Suppose Britain helps — sends forces to aid little Belgium — and the Frogs — against the Teuton horde? what then? Belgian resistance is stiffened, the Frogs manage to stop the invaders, a hell of a war is waged all over Belgium and north-east France, and after God knows how much slaughter and destruction the the Germans are beat — or not, as the case may be. How’s Liege doing? I’ll tell you — it’s a bloody shambles. You’re lying mangled in your cabbage patch, your wife’s had her legs blown off, your daughters have been raped, and your house is a mass of rubble. You’re a lot better off for British intervention, ain’t you?’ He sat back grinning sardonically.


* Should be read in conjunction with General Flashman and the Great War, Part 1 [Speedicut]

Mr American, pp.518-19, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A tasting note from Flashy



The General took a pull at his wine and grimaced. ‘I wish to God someone would tell the Hungarians that their wine would be greatly improved if they didn’t eat the grapes first.’


Mr American, p.518, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

General Flashman and the Great War, Part 1



     Mr Franklin replied non-committally, and asked the General what he thought of the war situation. The old man shrugged.
     ‘Contemptible — but of course it always is. We should stay out, and to hell with Belgium. After all, it’s stretching things to say we’re committed to ’em, and we’d be doing ’em a favour — and the frogs too.’
     ‘By not protecting them, you mean? I don’t quite see that.’
     ‘You wouldn’t — because like most idiots you think of war being between states - coloured blobs on the map. You think if we can keep Belgium green, or whatever colour it is, instead of Prussian blue, then hurrah for everyone. But war ain’t between coloured blobs — it’s between people. You know what people are, I suppose? — chaps in trousers, and women in skirts, and kids in small clothes.’*

*See also General Flashman and the Great War, Part 1 [Speedicut]


Mr American, p.518, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Friday, 12 April 2013

Doubting Flashy



‘ . . . that’s your own Congressional medal down there, among all the foreign stuff. Ten bucks a year I still get for that — Sam Grant must be turning his grave.’ He raised his glass. ‘Here’s to Sam — when in doubt, have a drink.’


Mr American, p.518, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Sporting my tin



‘Sporting my tin, as you see,’ he drawled hoarsely. ‘In the public interest. At a time like this it gives the mob confidence to be reminded of who I am, and that I’m too damned old to mismanage any more campaigns for ’em.’


Mr American, p.518, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

One foot in the grave



. . . after all, the old man was in his nineties, and it must be a great ordeal to have to make his way, even being driven, through all the bustle of London on the brink of hostilities. But a glance across the table reassured him — one foot in the grave he might have, and shockingly ravaged he might look, but Sir Harry appeared in no need of consideration. His flushed satyr face was grinning contentedly, his glossy white whiskers and mane shone in the lamplight, which glinted on the mass of bronze and silver and gold miniatures on his breast, and on the orders which hung on ribbons over his massive shoulders.


Mr American, pp.517-18, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Hungarian for bosom



. . . he found his host ensconced in a corner, looking like a lecherous Old Testament prophet in evening dress and decorations, drinking bull’s blood and trying to converse in what might have been a Balkan language with a buxom waitress in native costume.
    ‘You don’t know the Hungarian for bosom?’ he was saying. ‘Well, you ought to, of all people . . . here, I’ll show you — ah, there you are, Yankee, arriving inopportunely as usual.’


Mr American, p.517, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Monday, 8 April 2013

Death, destruction and national catastrophe



Of course, this was supposedly in the national character; it was proverbial that the Englishman displayed emotion only when faced by some truly earth-shaking crisis, like a cricket match, or the ill-treatment of an animal, or a rise in the price of beer; for such trivia as death, destruction and national catastrophe he was supposed to reserve an indifference that bordered on insanity.


Mr American, pp.510-11, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Friday, 5 April 2013

A curious, knowing expression



‘Well good-night to you, young Franklin. Yes give me a call one of these days. Perhaps you can tell me a few tales, instead. You’re an interesting chap, you know.’ The grostesquely-mottled old face with its flowing whiskers wore a curious, knowing expression. ‘Knew it the first time I saw you. Yes. You’ve got gunfighter’s eyes.’


Mr American, p.439, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Thursday, 4 April 2013

I'm blessed!



     ‘I should have thought you overheard, while you were asleep,’ said Mr Franklin caustically, ‘that Miss Delys is only a friend, that I’m married, and strange as it may seem to you, I’m faithful to my wife.’
     ‘You don’t say!’ The General seemed genuinely surprised. ‘Well, I’m blessed!’ He gave Mr Franklin a curious look. ‘You a Baptist, or something like that?’



Mr American, p.438, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

True words



     ‘One thing becomes clear,’ said Mr Franklin grimly, ‘and that is that every word she said about you is true.’
     ‘What, about being deceitful and dishonest and rotten to the core, you mean? Of course it’s true,’ said Sir Harry comfortably.


Mr American, p.438, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

And from Nebraska, too



     ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, General’
     ‘My God, you’re dense. And from Nebraska, too. She’s my great-niece, ain’t she? You don’t think she’d do the dirty deed herself if she could get some simpleton to do it for her? Of course, she won’t care to admit it, even to herself, but it’s true, just the same. I know my own kind.’
     ‘I don’t believe that for a moment,’ said Mr Franklin. ‘Why she wanted to share the blame — you heard her — she’d have gone to prison like a shot.’
     ‘Yes, I heard her,’ said Sir Harry. ‘Heard myself, in similar situations — when I reckoned it was safe.’


Mr American, p.437, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Friday, 29 March 2013

People he loves



     ‘Although he is quite a dreadful person, really. He is absolutely selfish and dishonest and quite shameless. He has a shocking reputation — and deserves it. Just a few years ago he had to leave Sandringham in disgrace. ‘ She had apparently forgotten that Mr Franklin had been there. ‘How Aunt Elspeth has endured him . . . do you know that next year they will have been married for seventy-five years? It seems incredible . . . she is ninety years old, and a darling. So is he, I suppose — and yet sometimes I feel that I hate him more than anyone I’ve ever known; you would not beleve how mean and deceitful he can be — even with people he loves.’


Mr American, p.433, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Write to the President



     ‘He is over ninety, you know,’ said Lady Helen, and Mr Franklin said, yes he knew.
     ‘One forgets, sometimes,’ said Lady Helen. ‘He doesn’t behave at all like a very old man — he remembers everything, and his brain is so alert and active. Did you know, that only fourteen years ago, he was staying at the Residency in Peking, when it was attacked in the Boxer Rising, and he took charge of the artillery belonging to your American contingent, and commanded it all through the siege? He was seventy-eight then. And when the Residency was relieved, the officer in charge of the American Marines said he would write to the President to ask for some special decoration for him, and Uncle Harry laughed and asked one of the Marines to give him his hat, and then he put it on and said: “That’ll do better than a medal,” and off he went.’ She pressed the old man’s hand, and Mr Franklin saw there were tears in her eyes. ‘We’re very proud of him, of course.’


Mr American, p.432, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

That gnarled old man



. . . at that moment an audible snore erupted from the General’s corner of the cab. He was leaning back, his great head sunk forward on his chest, his hat tilted over his eyes, breathing stertorously; one great mottled hand lay palm down on the seat beside him; Mr Franklin could see the shiny white streak of a wound running from wrist to little finger, and there was a star-shaped scar of what might have been an old bullet-hole in the loose flesh between thumb and forefinger. He shivered; he had looked Sir Harry up in Who’s Who and read incredulously through the succinct list of campaigns and decorations — that gnarled old man sleeping there had seen Custer ride into the broken bluffs above Little Big Horn, and fought hand-to-hand with Afghan tribesman more than seventy years ago; he had ridden into the guns at Balaclava and seen the ranks form for Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg; he had known Wellington and Lincoln — and now he was snoring gently in the corner of a motor car in the busy heart of modern London, and all the glory and horror and fear and bloodshed were small, dimly-remembered things of no account, and when he woke his one concern would not be the fate of nations or armies or his own life in the hazard, but the welfare of one wilful young woman who he was trying to save from her own folly in his strange, unscrupulous way.


Mr American, pp.431-2, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.


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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A sort of atmospheric pressure



     ‘Are you saying,’ said Mr Franklin grimly, ‘the trial was rigged?’
     ‘You’re a bigger ass than I thought you were, if you believe that,’ said Sir Harry. ‘Of course it wasn’t. It didn’t have to be. This isn’t America, where you have to slip a thousand dollars to a congressman or a judge to get things done. You’re a new country; things ain’t settled yet. But here — things aren’t rigged. Look at Button — her father’s a lord, connected to God knows who. She’s my great niece, and I’m half-Paget, and my sister-in-law married a Rothschild, and among the lot of us I dare say we’re connected to half the criminal upper-classes — you don’t “rig” things because you don’t have to. There’s a sort of atmospheric pressure that causes things to go properly and fittingly. Button couldn’t go to jail unless her family washed their hands of her — which they would, like a shot, if it was murder or high treason. But smashing pictures? Hardly. And it isn’t rigging, you see. You couldn’t rig a British judge and jury nowadays, not if you tried.’


Mr American, p.430, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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Friday, 22 March 2013

Some half-baked crank notion



‘. . . I won’t have you ruin your life for some half-baked crank notion that thinks the way to get votes for women is to bomb railway trains. Don’t you see it’s the last thing that can work — no government, not even that weak-kneed rabble of Asquith’s, dare give into terror and vandalism? Anyway, they’ll have a dam’ sight more important things to think of shortly, with this next war that the country’s spoiling for.’ Sir Harry snorted derisively. ‘Look at ’em — legions of bloodthirsty lunatics drilling in Ireland, workers within an ace of a general strike — dammit, even you women have got the fighting fever, with your smashing and bombing and shooting up locomotives. Any fool can see it’ll end in civil war — or more likely our tackling the Kaiser when he takes a slap at Russia or France, which he’s itching to do. Your votes are going to look like small beer, Button — which is why you’re sure to get ’em in the end, and much good they’ll do you. But war or not, you’ll get ’em all the faster if you lie low and work away quietly.’

Mr American, pp.428-9, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Nothing but shame



     ‘And you expect me to be grateful! I feel shame — nothing but shame!
     ‘Very good,’ said Sir Harry equably. ‘It’s a dam’ sight better feeling shame between linen sheets in Curzon Street than feeling virtuous on a blanket in Holloway, let me tell you.’


Mr American, p.427, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Our movement



     ‘You know what they will say? That there is one law for the rich and powerful and another for the poor and feeble! The very injustice our movement is dedicated to — ’
     ‘Well, if that’s what they say, they’re quite right, and you can thank God for it.’ said Sir Harry.


Mr American, p.427, Pan Books, paperback edition 1982.



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