Friday, July 10, 2009

And Mars and Mother India floating overhead in suitable draperies

I suspected that Hardinge's aversion to me was rooted in a feeling that I spoiled the picture he had in mind of the whole Sikh War. My face didn't fit; it was a blot on the landscape, all the more disfiguring because he knew it belonged there. I believe he dreamed of some noble canvas for exhibition in the great historic gallery of public approval - a true enough picture, mind you, of British heroism and faith unto death in the face of impossible odds; aye, and of gallantry by that stubborn enemy who died on the Sutlej. Well, you know what I think of heroism and gallantry, but I recognise 'em as only a born coward can. But they would be there, rightly, on the noble canvas, with Hardinge stern and forbearing, planting a magisterial boot on a dead Sikh and raising a penitent, awe-struck Dalip by the hand, while Gough (off to one side) addressed heaven with upraised sword before a background of cannon-smoke and resolute Britons gnashing niggers and Mars and Mother India floating overhead in suitable draperies. Dam' fine.

Well, you can't mar a spectacle like that with a Punch cartoon border of Flashy rogering dusky damsels and spying and conniving dirty deals with Lal and Tej, can you now?
- George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman and the Mountain of Light



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