Archive for February 17th, 2009


Under Two Flags

February 17, 2009

Under Two Flags, by Ouida, is the mother of all books about running off to join the foreign legion, although technically when Bertie Cecil leaves England for Algeria, he joins the Chasseurs d’Afrique, a cavalry regiment.

Bertie is an officer in the Life Guards, which seems to mean that he gets to hang out with other aristocrats a lot and never has to fight, unless some jealous husband challenges him to a duel. Bertie is languid and elegant and perfectly suited to this lifestyle, but his family, although excessively aristocratic, is not well-off, and Bertie is the second of three sons. The elder brother is the heir to Royallieu, the family estate, and the younger, Berkeley, is their father’s favorite. Berkeley has a gambling problem, and, what’s worse, a weak mouth or chin or something, which is how novelists indicate that someone is going to turn out to be evil in books like this. Yes, it’s another inexplicably evil younger brother.

Bertie manages to float along on absolutely no money at all for a while, winning horse races, hanging out with his friend the Seraph, and and coming up with sneaky ways to spend time with his mistress, Lady Guenevere.Meanwhile, Berkeley is getting ever deeper into debt, and he somehow thinks it’s a good idea to try to borrow money from Bertie at the same time as he whines about how Bertie is even more extravagant and deeper in debt that he is. He also — horror of horrors — asks Bertie to borrow money from Seraph for him, because he has no inborn sense of honor. Whatever. Bertie might be better off if he had less of an inborn sense of honor. Read the rest of this entry ?