And continuing the pricelss account of Flashman’s midnight ramble through Lucknow, with Kavanaugh, the “mad Irishman”. The last ended at the point… well read it yourself. Warning – be seated calmly when you read this, because I will not be responsible for the consequences that may ensue due to your reactions on reading this sparkling piece of an over the top farce, rendered in unmistakable language that is a rarity now.
~~ Then he lost our way. “That looks devilish like the Kaisar Bagh,” says he, and fell into a monsoon ditch. I hauled him out, and he went striding off into the dark and to my horror stopped a little old fellow and asked where we were. The man said “Jangli Ganj”, and hurried off, glancing suspiciously at us. Kavanaugh stood and scratched himself and said it wasn’t possible. “If this is Jangli Ganj,” says he, “then where the hell is Mirza Kera, will ye tell me that? Ye know what, Flashman, that ould clown doesn’t know where he’s at, at all, at all.” After that we blundered about in the dark, two daring and desperate men on our vital secret mission, and then Kavanaugh gave a huge laugh and said it was all right, he knew where we were, after all, and that must be Moulvie Jenab’s garden, so we should go left.
We did, and finished up striking matches along Haidar’s Canal – at least, that’s what Kavanaugh said it was, and he should have known, for he was in it twice, thrashing about in the water and cursing. When he had climbed out he was in a thundering rage, swearing the Engineers had got the map of Lucknow all wrong, but we must cross the canal anyway, and bear left until we hit the Cawnpore road. “The bloody thing’s over dere somewhere!” cries he, and since he seemed sure of that, at least, I stifled my growing alarm and off we went, with Kavanaugh tripping over things and stopping every now and then to peer in the gloom wondering: “D’ye think that garden could have been the Char Bagh, now? No, no, niver – and yet again, it moight be – what d’ye think, Flashy?”
What I thought you may guess; we must have been wandering for hours, and for all we knew we might be heading back towards the Residency. Kavanaugh’s slippers had given out, and when he lost one of them we had to grope about in a melon patch until he found it; his feet were in a deplorable condition, and he’d lost his shield. but he was still convinced our plight was all the fault of the ancient he had asked the way from. He thought we might try a cast to our right, so we did, and found ourselves wandering in Dilkoosha Park, which was full of pandy artillery; even I knew we were quite out of the way, and Kavanaugh said, yes, he had made a mistake, but such mishaps were of frequent occurrence. We must bear away south, so we tried that, and I asked a peasant sitting out with his crops if he would guide us to the Alam Bagh. He said he was too old and lame, and Kavanaugh lost his temper and roared at him, at which the fellow ran off shrieking, and the dogs began to bark and we had to run for it and Kavanaugh went headlong into a thorn bush. (And this, as he’d remarked, was one of the Deeds that Saved the Empire; it’s all in the books.)
There was no end to the fellow’s capacity for disaster, apparently. Given a choice of paths, he headed along one which brought us full tilt into a pandy patrol, and I had to talk our way out of it by saying we were poor men going to Umroula to tell a friend the British had shot his brother. Arriving in a village, he wandered into a hut when I wasn’t looking, and blundered about in the dark, seized a woman by the thigh – fortunately she was too terrified to cry out, and we got away. After that he took to crying out “That’s Jafirabad, Oi’m certain sure. And that’s Salehnagar, over there.” Pause. “Oi think.” The upshot of that was we landed in a swamp, and spent over an hour ploshing about in the mud, and Kavanaugh’s language was shocking to hear. We went under half a dozen times before we managed to find dry land, and I spotted a house not far off, with a light in an upper window, and insisted that Kavanugh must rest while I found where we were. He agreed, blaspheming because the last of his dye had rubbed off with repeated immersions.
To be continued…..