Schloss Neuhaus

Schloss Neuhaus
Seat of the Margrave

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Arrivals and Departures

"Your Grace, His Highness Albrecht von Schwerin, the Margrave of Ober Nord Westfalen."

"Welcome, Your Highness, 'tis a meeting I have long desired."

"Thank you for your welcome, Your Grace, I am only sorry that it has been so long in coming, especially now, that other matters have leapt to my notice."

"Other matters, Your Highness? I do not quite take your meaning."

"Would Your Grace be easier, if perhaps, we spoke in English?"

"That I would, or in Frankish, if Your Highness, prefers..."

"No, Your Grace, Englisch suits me well enough. I have, in my youth, in England spent a great deal of time. I was at your Eton at school, and then to Cambridge, I went."

"Very well, Your Highness... let it be English."

"Yes, indeed, Your Grace. I spoke, a moment ago, of other matters which to my attention have sprung..."

"Ah... yes, 'other matters' - now I understand. Well, I take Your Highness' literal meaning, but I fail to see how these other matters shall impinge on our meeting, still less do I understand Your Highness' regret at... Oh! The fiend seize it! May we not dispense with all this 'Your Grace' and 'Your Highness'? I find it becomes tedious!"

"By all means, let us with the shoes off speak!"

"Shoes... shoes? Oh... no, I rather take it that you mean gloves?"

"Of course! How stupid of me. Yes. Let us with the gloves off, speak."

"Indeed, but d'ye know, that raises a pretty problem... How do we address one another? Normally I would suggest that we use our titles, you would address me as 'Marlborough', and I you, as 'Ober Nord Westfalen', but 'tis a plaguey mouthful!"

"Yes, a trifle cumbersome, it is."

"H'mm... Another acceptable mode of address, would be as it was at school... I could address you as von Schwerin. But... 'tis somewhat curt, more, it would sound as if you were subordinate to me."

"And am I not, Your Grace?"

"No, no, not at all. You have consented to use your army in conjunction with my forces, and so be it that I command the larger portion of our forces, then I must needs take the responsibility for conducting our campaign... but you as a subordinate, no, my dear sir, 'tis not to be thought of."

"I could always the playing field, make level... I could, in turn, you address as Churchill?"

"Ha! Yes, indeed, the very thing! Let be so, then 'tis von Schwerin and Churchill, henceforth. Now, my dear Margrave, you will take wine?"

"I thank you".

"Now, what import have these other matters, that cause you regret?"

"You will, of course, of matters in Slavonia, have heard?"

"I confess to massive ignorance of affairs in that country... Some rumours of disturbance have come to my ears, but little of significance."

"Little of significance? My Lord Duke! The Avtokrator Mikhail is dead and his throne by his second son, Pyotr, is assumed. What of the elder son, Aleksander, is become, remains for the moment a mystery. Pyotr is a madman - he has sovereignty over some of the Kaiser's dominions claimed and threatens war with Skania. This, Churchill, at a time when he already at war with the Sublime Porte is."

"Yes, all very disturbing, but how does that affect us?"

"The western and some of the southern borders of Slavonia with the Kaiserreich march, and His Imperial Majesty an invasion by Slavonia, into the border provinces, fears. In light of these circumstances, the Kaiser, an Imperial Conclave has summonsed. And I, as one of his ... vassals?... must the conclave at Wienburg attend. I needs must tomorrow make my departure if am on time for the conclave to be."

"Yes... I see... the timing is, at the very least unfortunate. I expect, any day now, a reinforcement from the Elector of Pommersche to enter the Dutch service ... and had hoped to concentrate my forces once the Pommerschen contingent had arrived. You must, of course, as a matter of duty attend your Emperor, but what of your troops?"

"My army remains, at your disposal, of course. I the command to General von Willich hand over on my return to my Headquarters. I have an English speaking offizier at Headquarters remains ensured. General von Willich will to co-operate fully with you be ordered. I trust that I will no longer than six or eight weeks for the journey, there and back, and at the conclave be detained."

"Six or eight weeks, hey? Well, needs must, of course, but 'tis as you say, not only deuced inconvenient but also most regretful and most dangerous. D'ye know, von Schwerin, it strikes me that we could see the entire continent go up in flames! I thank God for the English Channel!"

"Indeed, Churchill, indeed."

Sunday, 5 July 2009

P To the Power of Five (or Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance )

"The Devil take it, von Smallhausen! This could not have come at a worse time!"

"But, Your Highness will attend?"

"Of course. I have no option; this is not an invitation but an Imperial summons.

"But, Your Highness declined just such a summons not two years past?"

"True, but that summons was signed by the Kaiser's Secretary for Foreign Affairs. This is signed by the Kaiser himself, ergo, I go. I needs must, however, see von Marlbrouk, as planned, before I depart. So, my orders for my coach for this afternoon stand. In the meantime, you and I have much to do. First, a runner to General von Willich – he must take command in my absence. Second, a promotion order. You shall accompany me to Wienburg - under normal circumstances, I should be accompanied by Flick, but I need him to remain at Schloss Neuhaus – you wish to say something?"

"I am flattered of course, Your Highness, but there are matters outstanding here that would greatly benefit from my continued presence."

"Yes, there are matters here that would also benefit from my continued presence, but it cannot not be! Your light o' love shall have to accustom herself to your absence! Ah, that surprises you, does it not? Yes, von Smallhausen, I do have sources of news, other than what you permit me to know!"

"News, Your Highness? Say, rather baseless gossip!"

"Baseless gossip, hey? Well, never mind, let that pass for the nonce. Now, where was I... Oh, yes, young von Rabensthal to be Hauptmann, and to assume his new rank and new duties in your stead, from tomorrow. Now, another runner to my quarters if you please! Kurt is to pack all that I shall require for a period of at least two months, including attire suitable for the Imperial Court. Now, to the journey itself: We, that is you and I, shall undertake the journey in my travelling coach. My second coach shall contain Kurt, your man and a sufficiency of attire. Our mounts shall accompany us, led by our grooms. I shall take my Head Groom and one other – you?"

"Unlike Your Highness, I have only the one groom".

"You may well need a second. Dammit! This disruption of the Reitere could not have come at a worse time!"

"Your Highness..."

"Yes?"

"A thought occurs to me... suppose it were that some... person or persons ill-disposed to us – I mean, Ober Nord Westfalen – had foreknowledge that this summons was on its way, and had then deliberately fomented the unrest between the regimenten?"

"What!? No, no, no... the ill-will between the two corps is long-standing. A spontaneous uproar, having its source according to your theory of a brawl between a few individuals that got out of hand... Or, no, wait... D'ye know, von Smallhausen, you may have reason, after all. Think on, if you please... there was all that trouble 'ere we left home, and although Herr Flick is fairly confident that it was the false Wetherby and his accomplices... We never did ascertain to our complete satisfaction just who was the guilty party... or parties."

"Just so, Your Highness. But may I just remark that the ill-feeling is indeed of long-standing, and is certainly no state secret. Thus the situation should seem to be easily manipulated by persons ill-disposed to us?

"H'mm, yes... very well I shall think upon it."

"And if I may revert to my absence from here? Your Highness will not have forgotten that the task we set Herr Major Kr... er, I mean Monsieur Du Plessis?"

"Oh... yes, of course.”

"May I remind Your Highness that we are the only two persons who have any knowledge of his task? If he should need support, or to communicate with the army, with both of us absent... What shall then happen?”

"Dammit! I said this was a most inconvenient time! There is nothing else for it, we shall have to admit von Rabensthal into our confidence!”

"I am against such a measure, Your Highness."

"Oh, why is that?”

"Well, Your Highness... von Rabensthal is certainly a most efficient deputy for myself. But his sense of discretion has not yet been fully put to the test. To bring an unknown quantity into the equation may yet set at naught all our calculations! It goes against everything that I have learned from Herr Flick!"

"On the other hand, von Rabensthal has shown no sign of being loose-lipped, has he? Otherwise, I assure you, he would not have lasted a week in his employment!"

"It shall, of course, be as Your Highness wills, but before we include the young man in our inner circle, may I beg Your Highness' indulgence for a few hours while I consider what ought best be done?”

"Very well, but I remind you that we do not have many hours!”

"True, Your Highness, but Your Highness will be away from headquarters for this afternoon – and I suspect for much of the evening. Although there is much for me to do, I am persuaded that I shall have sufficient time in which I shall hit upon some stratagem that will obviate the need to fully inform von Rabensthal of the Du Plessis affair.”

"Very well, you may have until my return from von Marlbrouk's headquarters. Absent a satisfactory alternative at that time, we shall summon von Rabensthal and fully inform him of the situation. Now, to the journey."

"As Your Highness wills it.”

"Good. Now,von Smallhausen, you have a map of the German states? Good. Look ye, the most direct route takes us from here to Aachen, Köln, Koblenz, Frankfurt, Nürnberg, München and then to Salzburg and finally Wienburg."

"True, Your Highness, but may I remind Your Highness that Kurfürst Johannes Maximillian of Bayern, is not entirely sympathetic to the Kaiser's claim to the throne of Spannien? It may be the more prudent to take a detour around that Prince's domains?”

"Yes... what do you have in mind?”

"To follow the route suggested by Your Highness until Nürnberg, and then strike further east to Plzn, Brno and then south to Wienburg. For the latter part of the journey we shall thus be safely in the Kaiser's Bohemian realm.”

"Yes... yes... I see your point. Very well. Make it so. We shall need a team of fore-riders, of course, to bespeak changes of horses and accommodations for our journeys. A team of six ought to suffice. And I must have an escort – not only for protection, naturally, but also to mark my position. I really cannot arrive at an Imperial conclave quite unattended!”

"But, Your Highness has just dismounted the Reitere!"

"Yes, von Smallhausen, that fact had not eluded my memory! Dammit, what to do? I needs must have an escort, but I will not appear to be so vacillating as to countermand the orders that I have only just issued!”

"If I may make a suggestion, Your Highness?”

"Yes.”

"Your Highness, although the punishment is richly deserved, it applies to all the personnel of both regimente, does it not?”

"Yes.”

"Surely, Your Highness, it shall be possible to find with the ranks of these regimente sufficient men to furnish an escort; men who did not participate in the riot?”

"Possibly, possibly...”

"Then, Your Highness, permit me to send an order to both regimente requiring them to furnish each a body of men who were not thus involved?”

"Von Smallhausen, I shall need a minimum of one Eskadron. Can it be possible d'ye think?”

"I do not know, Your Highness. All I can do is attempt to find out.”

"Very well, von Smallhausen; make it so."

Thursday, 2 July 2009

An Imperial Summons

Wienburg, 20th Day of May in the Year of Our Lord 1701

To Our Trusty and Well-Beloved Servant Albrecht, Margraf of Ober Nord Westfalen,

Greetings

We are Greatly Troubled by events on Our Northern and Eastern Marches. We have therefore decided that We are in Sore Need of the advice of Our Most Trusted Servants.

To that end Albrecht of Ober Nord Westfalen is summoned to attend an Imperial Conclave in Our Chancellory at Wienburg, commencing on the 14th Day of July in this Year of Our Lord 1701.

Given under Our Hand and Seal at Wienburg
This 20th Day of May in the Year of Our Lord 1701

Leopold
Koening und Kaiser

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

And Upon Further Consideration...

"D'ye realise, von Smallhausen that that young man's idea is not all bad?"

"It should certainly serve as a salutary lesson, Your Highness. But..."

"Yes, but what?"

"But, Your Highness, if you will allow me leave. It may be that such a punishment might rebound upon Your Highness' head."

"How so?"

"Your Highness, if you compel the offizieren as well as the soldaten to undergo such a public... well... humiliation, it may well be that many of the offizieren will tender their resignations."

"Yes, I had taken that into consideration, von Smallhausen, and I believe I have the answer."

"Yes, Your Highness?"

"In a word, no, von Smallhausen. Put quite simply, I will not accept the resignation of any officer who is undergoing punishment. If those offizieren desirous of quitting my service then do so, I shall have no compunction in publishing their names as deserters and sequestering any property they might hold. I will be understood; I will have no further such incidents in my army."

"Ah, had you taken into consideration, Your Highness, that such dealings may be thought to be, well... a little high-handed?"

"Yes, I had, and, once more I tell you it concerns me not! If need be,I will echo the Roman Kaiser, Kaligula, who said, I believe, 'let them fear me as much as they will, so long as they obey me!' However, I am optimistic that matters will not come to such a pass. As von Rabensthal has said, they are probably all very much ashamed of themselves, and will take heed that the punishment must be as public as the offence. Also von Smallhausen it occurs to me that the two regimenten may become the butt of quips and sneers from the infanterie."

"That thought, Your Highness, had also crossed my mind!"

"It may well be that the two regimenten may join ranks in defiance of the scorn of the rest of the army, and come to realise that, like it or no, they are part of the same army, and indeed the same brigade!"

"Well... yes, Your Highness, that possibility exists. If it does so chance to occur, had Your Highness considered that sneers, jibes and quips may have two other possible outcomes?"

"And what do you have in mind, von Smallhausen?"

"Well, Your Highness, firstly that each regiment may blame the other for their predicament, and so, resenting their confreres, far from being beneficial, Your Highness' actions may well drive a deeper wedge between the two regimenten?"

"H'mm... you said two possibilities, I believe?"

"Yes, Your Highness, the jeers and jibes may provoke the more hot-blooded among the two regimenten to offset the sneers by further violence."

"Any offizier of either regiment - any offizier, I say, von Smallhausen - that allows his men to become involved in any further disturbance, or issues or receives a challenge over this matter shall speedily find himself with the full power of my wrath poured upon his head!"

"As Your Highness, wills."

"Good, draft out, if you please an order containing the provisions outlined by Herr von Rabensthal, and have it ready for my perusal, by... tomorrow morning."

"Yes, Your Highness."

"Is there aught else to which I should today turn my attention?"

"Ah... routine letters from the Schloss, Your Highness... nothing to overly concern... Hello! What's this?"

"Well, what is it, man?"

"A copy of a... court circular... no, 'tis more emphatic than that, a diktat, perhaps?"

"Go on, von Smallhausen, stop dithering!"

"Your Highness, it is from The Summer Palace at Pavlograd, and announces the passing of the Avtokrator Mikhail of Slavonia. He is succeeded it should seem by his second son, Pyotr... what has happened to his elder son?... who has assumed the title of The Avtokrator of Pan Slavia. Your Highness, it is dated some two months ago!"

"Two months! A plague take it! What the devil does Flick think he is about?! Two months!"

"Ah... a moment, I pray you, Your Highness. Here is a covering letter from Herr Flick. He writes that Slavonia had sealed its borders until two weeks ago, and that no news of the change of Avtokrator had reached the outside world until then."

"These demmed Slavonians and their secrecy! But you say this Pyotr has claimed sovereignty over all of the Slavian states?"

"So it would appear, Your Highness."

"But that is madness! The Ostern Reich has sovereignty over some half a dozen or so of these states! The Kaiser will never stand for this! But wait... is not Pyotr Mikhailovitch reckoned to be..."

"Yes, Your Highness, as mad as a rabid wolf - and with about as much self-control - or so it is held by common repute! But, Your Highness, that is not all!"

"What else then, von Smallhausen?"

"Your Highness, Herr Flick writes that Pyotr has issued a defiance to Karl of Skania, demanding that Skania cede its holdings on the south and east coasts of the Baltic, '...upon pain of war'!"

"The plaguey fellow is mad!"

"Undoubtedly so, Your Highness,"

"No, but look ye, von Smallhausen! He has, implicitly, claimed sovereignty over a portion of the Ostern Reich, and now demands further territory from Skania. We must then, assume that Slavonia has reached some accommodation with the Sublime Porte!"

"One would indeed so think Your Highness. Without such an accommodation, Slavonia is faced with enemies to its south, west and north-west. He cannot be so insane, surely?"

"Even if he is, von Smallhausen. Damme! His generals must surely be able to explain unto him the perils of his actions!"

"But, if he is so insane, Your Highness, will he listen to them?"

"Mayhap not... no... you have reason, von Smallhausen. These actions of his may plunge the whole of the north into war! Skanian holdings on the south coast of the Baltic are not too far from Ober Nord Westfalen, and now that I come to think of it, does not their border march with that of Pommersche?"

"Indeed it does, Your Highness."

"That cunning dog Franz Ferdinand! Think ye that Pommersche had prior news of events in Skania, and the object of his oh-so-puzzling mobilisation is in consequence of those events?"

"H'mm, it might well be so, You Highness."

"Von Smallhausen, the more I think on this, the unhappier I become. What the pox does Flick mean by including such vital news in a package of routine letters? I am persuaded he must realise its significance - if not then it is time he retired! Another draft, von Smallhausen, expressing, if you please, and in the strongest terms, my displeasure at Flick's dilatoriness!"

"Yes, Your Highness."

"I must consider... I must consider... Von Smalhausen!"

"Your Highness?"

"Yet another draft, if you please. This one to the Herzog von Marlbrouk, to the effect that I shall do myself the honour of visiting his headquarters... tomorrow... post meridian. Let this letter take precedence over all other matters if you please, and send suitable instructions to the stables. My travelling coach with two outriders to be ready, here by two of the clock tomorrow afternoon!"

"Yes, Your Highness."

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Consequences

"Good Day, Your Highness"

"Von Smallhausen, von Rabensthal".

"Is aught amiss, Your Highness? You seem somewhat distracted?"

"What?... Oh, no... I have just interviewed Herr General Muller."

"Your Highness?"

"Yes, with regard to the disastrous events of the other night concerning the Reitere."

"Ah."

"Yes, von Smallhausen, indeed 'ah'. The good Herr General is absolutely furious - and with reason - he demands courts-martial and hangings all round."

"Yes, Your Highness?"

"The trouble is, von Smallhausen..."

"Do you wish for privacy, Your Highness?"

"What? No, no... stay, von Rabensthal. I have nothing to say that you may not hear."

"Your Highness was saying something about trouble...?"

"Yes. If I followed General Muller's recommendations, then logically, the first court-martial must be his."

"I do not quite understand, Your Highness."

"It is quite simple, von Rabensthal. In this instance that with which we are faced is not an isolated case of indiscipline. If that were all 'twere, then a ganteloupe or a few days salle de police on bread and water should serve to remind the miscreants of their duties of obedience, good order and military discipline. However, we are faced with a complete breakdown of the aforesaid good order and military discipline throughout the mounted arm of this concentration. The soldaten who indulged in the riot must and shall be punished. However, I do not believe that it were only the soldaten involved, from the Chirugeons' reports, it should seem that at least some of the participants were of varying ranks up to and including Unteroffizier! It is not possible to cast two entire regiments into prison - would that it were, for I would do so - from the lowest soldat up to the Hauptfeldwebel! That surprises you, von Rabensthal?"

"Well... yes, Your Highness."

"H'mm, von Smallhausen, mayhap you might be able to enlighten our young friend?"

"I shall try, Your Highness. It is as His Highness has said, von Rabensthal. A complete breakdown of discipline throughout two regimenten. This can only have occurred should the Unteroffizieren and Feldwebelen have been grossly negligent in the application of their responsibilities. That some of them indeed were physically involved in the riot only exacerabates matters. The failure to control their soldaten alone marks them as convicted of failing in their duties. For trusted men to actually have become involved in such a disgraceful affair beggars belief!"

"Under normal circumstances, gentlemen, an Unteroffizier or Feldwebel who betrayed his trust in such a manner should be broken to the ranks! However, when it should seem that the entire corpus of non-commission offizieren is at fault, then how shall the authorities - and ultimately that means me - sanction them as they ought without totally disrupting the entire kavallerie brigade? Moreover, how shall I punish the soldaten and non-commission offizieren when, if their neglect of duty, and the indiscipline within the regimente is so blatant, it should seem that their own offizieren are incapable of detecting it? So, if I punish the non-commission offizieren, then I must equally hold the offizieren culpable and take action against them. If the offizieren of the regimente are at fault, then so must in all logic, equaly be the Brigade staff and heir commander! Unfortunately, I cannot cashier them all - so I needs must consider what action I can take!

"Your Highness, a thought occurs to me..."

"Go on, von Rabensthal."

"Your Highness, it should seem, should it not, that the root of all the friction between the two regimente lies in the immense pride that the soldaten have in their own Regiment?"

"Hah! They must now, indeed, be very proud of themselves!"

"Just so, Your Highness. I make no doubt that now their blood has cooled, that the better soldaten among them are heartily ashamed of themselves and the turn matters took. I would be willing to wager a large sum that there was no intention of turning Aal into a battlefield, and what eventually became a full-scale riot had its inception merely as a brawl between soldiers over some entirely unrelated matter - women, dice, cards, drink, what-have-ye".

"Go on, von Rabensthal, you seem to know about that which you speak!"

"Thank you, Your Highness. You must, I believe, take some action that should indicate your gravest displeasure. May I suggest a possible a remedy?"

"Oh, I must, must I? But, pray continue".

"Your Highness; much of their pride comes from the mere occasion of them being mounted troops. Very well, dismount them!"

"Ah. Von Smallhausen, would you be so king as to explain to our young friend why that oh-so-elegant solution has already been discussed and discarded?"

"Yes, Your Highness. Von Rabensthal, should we indeed adopt your suggestion, then 'twould leave the army bereft of mounted troops. It is not, I make no doubt, impossible to wage modern war without kavallerie, and I also misdoubt that there should be sufficient time to recruit and train replacements. There is laso to be borne in mind the economy of such a step. Kavallerie are vastly more expensive to create and maintain than infanterie, and having spent so much on raising, equipping, mounting and training them, 'twould represent a prodigiously vast loss to the fisc."

"Oh. I see... But..."

"But what, young man?"

"But, Your Highness, what if such a dismounting were to be temporary, and known to be such from the start?"

"How do you mean? The horses shall need still to be cared for - aye and exercised."

"Yes, Your Highness... I pray you have patience a moment... I am trying to reach a logical conclusion as thoughts occur... Eheu - eureka! Your Highness - let the regimente keep their mounts, but order that all duties and marches - until further notice, or for a fixed period whichever Your Highness should take as the better option - be undertaken on foot!"

"Yes, go on..."

"I understand, Your Highness, that one of Your Highness' comments was of the nature that if the troops have energy enough to riot, then they are not doing enough work?"

"True."

"Well, Your Highness, walking any distance in riding boots is sufficiently tiring, and should Your Highness think such a punishment insufficient, then let it be ordered that on the march, or during field days, rather than the horses bearing the weight of saddle and gear, that the soldaten - and their offizieren should carry them!"

"Let me understand this, von Rabensthal. The regimente to keep their horses, but to serve - temporarily - on foot?"

"Just so, Your Highness."

"And when undertaking duties when they should normally be mounted, then the men are to carry their saddles and all their gear?"

"Just so, Your Highness."

"And what of their horses the meantime?"

"Normal stable routine, Your Highness, and when carrying out such duties as require the men to carry their saddlery, then let them lead the horses as well!"

"Von Rabensthal, are you quite, quite persuaded that your family has no links to the infamous Torquemada?"

"The who, Your Highness?"

"Never mind, young man, never mind..."

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Decisions, decisions...

"Well! How came you by this von Smallhausen?"

"My... er... correspondent from Potsburgh delivered it to me last evening Your Highness."

"But, according to the wacht, there were no visitors to headquarters last night?"

"No, Your Highness, but a letter was delivered to me, requesting that I attend he... er... my info... correspondent in one of the local gasthofen."

"So... your... 'er... info... correspondent' would not then prove to be a rather attractive female?"

"Your Highness! I beg of you! Please, the uttermost discretion is required in this matter. The lady in question is merely an old and close friend from my days at Wittenberg. Our relationship is based upon affection, companionship and shared history. Frau Fischer is a member of a well-respected Strasburgh family, and makes the journey from Strasburgh to Amsterdam, where she intends to purchase gem-stones, and has merely stopped for a day or two's rest, and discovered my presence here entirely by chance. I am not held in high esteem by her family, and any mention of my name in connection with hers should perchance cause her some disagreeable attention from her family."

"Very well, then von Smallhausen, let us accept, for the nonce, that the arrival of your correspondent and this lady are events connected by pure coincidence."

"Exactly so, Your Highness."

"So. What to do with this document? It is evident - if the document is accurate - that the Kurfurst of Pommersche has no evil intentions towards his neighbours, but is on the contrary preparing to despatch a force to co-operate with the Herzog von Marlbrouk! I ask myself, is Marlbrouk aware of this? And if not, do we tell him of our belief, or maintain a a discreet silence?"

"Oh, the latter of course, Your Highness. It would not be prudent to rely upon this Englischer's ability to conceal his knowledge of our knowledge from others - particularly those of Pommersche - and such disclosure may lead to inconvenient questions as to by what means we gained our knowledge. I - and Herr Flick - would infinitely prefer that our interest in events in Potsburgh and Brandenstadt remain concealed."

"I see... But why are we interested in events in Pommersche?"

"Your Highness, in this unsettled world, we of the Sekretariat take an interest in the thoughts words and deeds of many of the states of Germania. Official despatches from the various capitals are not always the tr... are not always entirely accurate or reliable. Past experience indicates, nay, impels that we maintain discreet observation of those princes that might, as is said, er... rock the boat. Not all rulers are happy with the results of the Treaty of Westfalen, let alone the results of other, more recent disturbances."

"H'mm, I am aware Herr Flick has agents at large in certain, potentially inimical, areas of the Kaiserreich, but am I to understand that I, through the Sekretariat, have a far-flung network of spies?"

"Spies, Your Highness? The Good Lord forbid! Merely some individuals to whom the sicherheit of Ober Nord Westfalen is dear. As to a far-flung network, Your Highness, I could not, with any certainty say yea or nay. I know only of some few correspondents, with whom I deal. What of Herr Flick's correspondents, I cannot say!"

"Be plain with me, if you please, von Smallhausen. 'Some individuals'? You would have me believe that love of Ober Nord Westfalen motivates a variety of people to send you - and Herr Flick - information that may impact on ourselves, particularly should the correspondent be uncovered and swift and condign punishment should follow?. Come, come von Smallhausen, that's coming it far too strong!"

"Indeed, no, Your Highness. I see that complete openness only will serve here! It is true that there are one or two individuals who correspond with us out of love of our homeland, or out of friendship with Herr Flick and myself, but it must be admitted that the majority of them do so in return for monetary considerations."

"Hah! Tell me, von Smallhausen, does it not say in the Book that 'the love of money is the root of all evil'?

"It does indeed, Your Highness. However, the amounts disbursed by Herr Flick and myself, while seemingly generous to the recipients, are generally of little substance. There are occasions, however - and this is one of them - that real generosity is required, in order to reward exceptional service."

"I see... so you want me to empty my purse into the hands of this... correspondent of yours?"

"No, no, Your Highness. But I would wish that you set your signature to this bill of exchange in order to ensure the continued good-will of this particular correspondent, and as mark of appreciation for the very real risks taken, as Your Highness has observed."

"Let me see it. What! Ten thousand Marken! Are you mad, von Smallhausen? And who is this Mlle Eloise de Chardonnay - a Franklander?"

"No, no Your Highness, Mlle Eloise is, despite her name, a good German."

"Even so! Ten thousand Marken!"

"Your Highness. It is impossible, for a variety of reasons, for Mlle Eloise to return to Pommersche. Indeed it is imperative that she disappear entirely. The generosity of the reward is, in part occasioned by the value of the document that she brought here, and in part by the need for Mlle Eloise to ... ah... re-invent herself! I have great hopes that in her new role, she shall provide us with timely news of intentions and events in Frankland. She can hardly do so, but that she has the entree to the Polite World of Parisian society".

"H'mm... I suppose not. Certainly the information contained in this memorandum is of great potential value; can you be sure that any further information shall be of equally significant worth?"

"Your Highness, no, I cannot entertain any such certainty. It is in the nature of Mlle Eloise' s occupation that there is always great doubt, as well as great risk. It is, I most respectfully submit, consequently most fitting that the rewards should be commensurate."

"Very well then, I shall sign the bill. But mark you, von Smallhausen, should this correspondent of yours disappear with the money then my wrath shall most assuredly be visited upon you!"


Thursday, 25 June 2009

'Twixt Fire and Water?

"Your pardon, Herr Hauptmann, I know you did not wish to be disturbed, but this letter has just arrived for you."

"And?"

"Herr Hauptmann, it is marked 'urgent', and was delivered by a lackey from the De Zwarte Adelaar - Der Schwarze Adler."

"I see. Very well, I'll take it! Thank you!"

"H'mm, 'My Very Dear Erich...'. Von Rabensthal! Von Rabensthal!"

"Yes, Herr Hauptmann?"

"A message to the stables, if you please! My bay horse to be saddled and outside my quarters within the next ten minutes! If His Highness enquires for me, I am going to my quarters to shift my dress, and then I am going out! I am not quite certain at what time I shall return. In the meantime, here are the orders for tomorrow. Please check them for accuracy and then have six copies made and on my desk to await my return!"

"Of course, Herr Hauptmann. But if His Highness should enquire for your whereabouts, what shall I tell hi... Herr Hauptmann! Herr Hauptmann!"

- - - - - - - - - - -

"Erich! How very pleasant to see you again!"

"Madam, I wish I could say the same! Are you mad!? What are you doing here!? I had supposed you to be snug in Potsburgh!"

"Unfortunately, Erich, Potsburgh is such a bore! All those Pommerschen, all so very serious. 'Pon rep, Erich 'twas dull beyond belief!"

"Dull? I had supposed you to be enjoying the Pommersche society!"

"Oh, tol-lol, Erich. One endeavours to enjoy one's work, otherwise 'tis so tedious!"

"So. You abandon your task because you were bored!? I had thought better of you madam!"

"Oh, Erich!... and I had thought that you would be pleased to see me!"

"I would have been better pleased if you had stayed where I had sent you!"

"Erich, I protest! 'Tis prodigiously unkind in you! Upon my soul, I do believe you are become as tedious as those benighted Pommerschen! I am quite put out by your reception! I am of a mind not to give you the gift which I brought especially for you!"

"Gift? What gift?"

"Oh, 'tis merely a manuscript in which I had thought you might be interested. I know how you love to gather knowledge! Here."

"A manuscipt? What nonsense is this, madam?"

"Read it and find out!"

"Very well... God above! Isabelle, do you know what this is!?"

"Of course I do. I would hardly bring you something the nature of which was unknown to me!"

"Isabelle, this is a memorandum from the Pommerschen War Ministry. It gives details of every single regiment, their station, their Inhabern and their strength! How, in the name of all that's holy did it come into your possession?"

"Oh, quite easily, my dear. I had established, er... cordial relations, with one of the deputy ministers in Potsburgh..."

"Cordial relations?"

"Just so, my dear. I confess, sadly, that he was not the most exciting lover I have had. That however, is bye the bye. But really my dear Erich, read on, I pray you."

"But... but... this is incredible. It is the Pommerschen war plans! Look: what regiment is to carry out what task, when the task is to be completed, what date the regiments are to move! Isabelle, this is a master stroke! But, how shall you to conceal this... acquisition, and how shall you now return to Potsburgh?"

"I am afraid Erich, that my return to Potsburgh is now entirely ineligible! You see, I had to find some reason to leave Pommersche, and to that end I, ah..., engineered... a violent quarrel with my protector and left Potsburgh toute de suite! Quite simply, my dear, I did not think it expedient to entrust that package to a common carrier, and believed that we would both be best served were I to convey it in person. My return there now would cause a great deal of eyebrow rasing, and 'tis not impossible, that dull dogs though they are, some Pommersche with more than the average intellect may have connected my disappearance with the disappearance of that document which you are so fervently clutching! Which brings me to my next topic: I found Pommersche to be so dreary that I positively yearn for laughter, gaiety and music. I am of a mind to seek solace in Paris. 'Tis a city the which I have always been enamoured, and I am sure that I can be of some value to you while I take my ease there!"

"Paris! No, no...ah... wait! Perhaps so... What have you in mind?"

"Ah, Erich, you no longer see before you Witwe Isabelle Fischer, but rather Mademoiselle Eloise de Chardonnay, a single lady of independent mind and means, a native of Strasburgh and travelling to Paris on the qui vive for an eligible parti! Oh, and some new gowns! My wardrobe, my dear is positively dowdy! I fear that I must look a perfect quiz!""

"Yes, yes, of course, Strasburgh will serve, It shall excuse any slight accent that might betray your origins. Do you have the necessary papers?"

"How ungallant 'tis in you! You should never let pass the opportunity to compliment and reassure a lady on her looks! But, I thank you, Erich, yes I do have the necessary papers! However, as I have proposed, I am to be a lady of independent means, and sadly, means are severely lacking at the moment."

"Yes?"

"I thought, dear Erich, that you might be so good as to..."

"Unfortunately, Isabelle, or Eloise, specie is in markedly short supply at the present. However, I can probably furnish you with sufficient funds to reimburse your travel from Potsburgh and to enable you to complete your journey in comfort."

"Oh, Erich, dearest Erich, is not that parcel worth just a teeny little bit more than subsistence?"

"For my part, Isabelle, in return for such a document as this, I would empty the Schloss treasury! But, I cannot make such a decision without weighing carefully the benefits and consequences. Are you in great haste to reach Frankland?"

"I confess, it shall be much easier to reach Paris, if it could be managed, before the outbreak of open hostilities."

"So, a delay of day or two shall not weigh heavily in the scales?"

"No... this Inn, primitive 'though 'tis, is not so markedly uncomfortable. But 'tis an inn for travellers, how shall I explain my inexplicable delay in departing this place?"

"Let me think a minute. Ah! I have it! Unless you should think the scheme ineligible?"

"Yes, go on, my dear"?

"By receiving me here in a private parlour, you are already somewhat compromised. We shall offer explanations to none, but let people think what they will - and 'tis bound to be the worst! We shall pretend to be lovers!"

"Oh Erich! 'Tis positively brilliant. No one shall think it strange that you visit me here! But... pretend...?"