15 January 2008
When Harry Met Likely
Now, where the bloody hell was I?
May 1st, 1851.
“Harry who?” I asked, although to be honest my actual interest in my cell-mate was extremely minimal.
“Harry Flashman,” repeated the fellow, “I imagine you have heard of me, of course.” He grinned with self-satisfaction and pride, characteristics I was not entirely convinced he had any right to exhibit.
“No, I cannot say I have,” I replied nonchalantly. “Why, are you a notorious criminal, or something? No wait, I have it – are you perchance the most diseased man in the Empire?”
Flashman bristled upon hearing my words, and fixed me with a furious glare.
“I am highly celebrated and much admir’d, actually,” he said. “I am the champion of Afghanistan1, I’ll have you know!”
“Feh!” I snorted. “You do not strike me as a military marvel. I dare say you earnt your honour by simply staying alive the longest, probably by spending most of the war hiding and trembling.”
“Ha! I do not expect you to understand, your lordship. I suppose you were too busy lounging around on your fat, ennobled behind during the war to pay it much heed.”
“Now listen here,” I snapped. “I was very ill at the time and – “
“Whatever you say, your lordship,” beamed Flashman. “Whatever you say. I was honoured by the Queen for my dashing heroics.”
“Well, I have solved countless mysteries and crimes for the police.”
“I got a medal.”
“I have a title.”
“I recovered a priceless gem2.”
“I shot a Turk.”
“I bested Bismarck3.”
“I beat my man-servant.”
“I dined at the palace.”
“I HAVE A HUGE COCK!” I roared triumphantly, at which point I noticed some of the other prisoners had taken rather a keen interest in the conversation, and were eying me up as if I was a three-course meal, with all the trimmings.
“Well,” I said, straightening my tie, “if you really are such a treasured and revered member of society, then what in the bloody blue blazes are you doing here? I doubt they arrested you for being too wonderful.”
“Well, if you must know, I was arrested for having sex.”
“Correct me if I am mistaken, but I do not believe that intercourse has been outlawed yet.”
“No, but then again I was having sex in the middle of Hyde Park.”
“With the police captain’s wife.”
“So what’s your story, your lordship? How does a member of the aristocracy wind up in a small cell with deviants like me?”
“I accidentally bared my buttocks at the Queen,” I said sullenly, as I recalled the horror that had befallen me earlier. “She was not amused.”
“Ha! My, that is rich! She is a frumpy, miserable old sow, isn’t she? I can’t think ol’ Albert is delivering the goods in the sack, else she’d always be smiling.”
“Now listen here,” I snapped, lunging at Flashman and pinning him against the wall. “You show some ruddy respect for Her Majesty, or God help me I shall smack your miserable mouth so far in, your breath shall stink of effluence for ever more.”
“Hey! I’m just trying to lighten the mood here, you know!” Flashman protested. “It’s pretty grim in here, isn’t it?”
“Indeed,” I agreed, releasing Flashman’s collar from my grip. “I have to get out of here.”
“Well, here’s what I was thinking, your lordship. How about if I feign an injury or illness, you know, play-acting and all that. Then, you summon a guard to come and tend to me, and while he’s giving me the once over, you sneak up behind him and WALLOP! We’re home free!”
“Lord Likely?” said a guard, as I mused upon Flashman’s hair-brained scheme. “You’re free to go, milord. Inspector Spunkleford has guaranteed your release.”
“I think I shall go with this plan,” I said, pointing to the bars where Inspector Spunkleford had appeared, waving a piece of important-looking documentation at me. “You see, Flashman, it is simply a matter of who you know, and I know a lot of terribly important people, being so terribly important myself. Good luck with your stupid little scheme, though.”
“Likely, you ruddy fool!” Spunkleford wailed. “Can I not let you be for one moment, without you getting yourself into some sort of trouble? You have no idea how many strings I have had to pull to get you released. I should be a ruddy puppeteer.”
“Good man, Spunkleford! Remind me to buy you an ale one day. Wait, we’d better make that half an ale. We do not want to go crazy, now. Well, Mr. Flashpants,” I said, turning to my recent acquaintance. “I would like to say it has been a pleasant experience, but unfortunately it has been incredibly tedious and really rather awful. I would have rather passed the time having wasps inserted into the top of my penis, to be honest. Toodle-pip!”
“Flashman?” Spunkleford exclaimed, craning his neck through the open door. “Harry Flashman? The hero of Afghanistan?”
Flashman smiled. “The one and the same, sir!”
“Gosh, I’m a ruddy huge fan of yours, Mr. Flashman. You’re an inspiration to us all!” Spunkleford babbled, furiously shaking Flashman’s hand. He turned to the guard next to him, and barked some orders that made me quite certain the Inspector had taken leave of his senses. “Guard, I am also releasing Mr. Harry Flashman here. A man of his stature has no business in these squalid surroundings. Make the necessary arrangements at once. We’ll have you out of here in a trice, Mr. Flashman, sir!”
Flashman sauntered across, and placed a hand on my shoulder.
“It appears that I must be terribly important as well,” he said smugly. “Toodle-pip.“
I felt myself grimace, and prayed to the Good Lord for another war to break out immediately, to further thin out the ranks of such vapid Neanderthals as Mr. Harry Flashman.
- Lord Likely.
In Memoriam: This adventure is written in tribute to George MacDonald Fraser, the author of the Flashman books who died last week, aged 82. It is not intended to infringe upon any copyrights, but simply to pay homage to Fraser’s excellent work as a writer.
For more about Fraser and Flashman, read Mr. Andy Fanton’s article ‘Flash Men and Likely Lords‘.
His lordship’s glorious group, The Upper Crust