Monday, May 9, 2011

The ‘Orrible ‘Unston Brothers


by E. M. Sanchez-Saavedra

From the outset of the Harkaway saga, a bit of uncertainty arises as to Hunston's given name, and those of his brothers. During his first day at Pomona House school, Our Hero runs afoul of Arthur Hunston, the "Flashman" clone, who obligingly perpetrates the usual sneaky mischief. Inattentive readers probably assumed that Arthur would become the evil genius of the later adventures. Not so. In Chapter XLIII of Jack Harkaway’s School Days Heming introduced

"Hunston senior. This was Hunston's brother, and he had been in the Royal Navy, but at sixteen he was court-martialled and obliged to leave for bad conduct.

"His father had sent him to Mr. Crawcour's to be prepared for a Civil service examination."

He is further described as “a big, hulking, heavy, repulsive-looking boy, more disagreeable to contemplate than his brother.”

In Chapter XLV, Jack is forced into fighting both brothers. After getting Hunston minor into “chancery” (trapping his head under his left arm) and battering him with his trademark "sledge-hammer blows" until he chokes on a broken front tooth, Jack must then take on Hunston senior.

"Wait a bit," returned Harry Hunston through his teeth; "I'll show him a trick I learnt at Porto Rico,"

He proceeds to floor our hero with a foul (a bit of the French art of "La Savatte.") In other words, he kicks Jack in the jaw. Groggy, bleeding, but undaunted, Jack traps his upraised foot and bashes him senseless: "Arthur Hunston carried his brother to a corner," but the elder Hunston has "had enough of it."

Thus, we can establish that Hunston senior, who will become Jack's nemesis for the next thirteen volumes, is named "Harry." In After School Days, Jack's enemy is referred to as "Hunston senior" when the two meet on shipboard.

Heming suffered a slight lapsus memoriae (or Homeric doze) after coming to America. Jack runs afoul of the middle brother, Alfred, during his adventures In America, and has him sent to prison. In Jack Harkaway and his Friends In Search of the Mountain of Gold, Harry Hunston has been trampled to death by a herd of bison, but a third brother makes his bow. Captured by the Harkaways during an attempted break-in, he reveals that he comes

"...of a race that kills...I am a Hunston."

"I thought my old enemy...had but one brother?" said Jack.

"You find you were mistaken. My eldest brother was hunted down by you, and perished on the prairies of the New World. My second brother [Alfred] is rotting in a prison. I am the third and last...My name is Arthur Hunston, and you will find that I do not bark unless I can bite."

(In their bowdlerized1904 edition, Street & Smith changed "rotting" to "pining away.")

So, after nearly twenty years, Arthur Hunston ("Hunston minor,") reappears to avenge his big bad brother. Jack has no recollection of ever having met him, although Arthur Hunston was his dormitory mate back at Mr. Crawcour's school (and the first recorded recipient of Jack's "sledge-hammer" fist.) Arthur proves himself a worthy Hunston, ruining Dick Harvey's brother financially and driving him to suicide, and making things generally hot for our heroes throughout the rest of the series.

He dies melodramatically on the "Lone Isle," about fifty miles west of Singapore, in the final adventure of the Frank Leslie series:

"But ere Hunston could fire an appalling clap of thunder issued from the sky, the lightning still played, and the earth at Hunston's feet opened.

"A chasm, from which issued fire and smoke, was revealed, and with an awful cry the pirate sank into the flame-belching pit.

"Then the chasm closed up again.

"Harkaway's distempered imagination fancied that a legion of imps from the lower regions clung to the man of blood, and with triumphant cries dragged him down."

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