Schloss Neuhaus

Schloss Neuhaus
Seat of the Margrave

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Blood is thicker than ink

"Well, von Smallhausen, you are late! I said two days, did I not?"

"Indeed, Your Highness."

"It had been, what, five days?"

"Indeed, Your Highness."

"Is that all you have to say, von Smallhausen?"

"Only that I apologise for my tardiness, Your Highness, and that it will not happen again."

"Is that it? A cursory apology, no explanation?"

"I am indeed sorry, to have betrayed Your Highness' trust, but any explanation I advance would only seem to be an excuse, and I would rather that you you were displeased with me than to consider me as a prevaricator."

"Well, you are correct in assuming my displeasure! I dislike being taken for a fool. If you had reason to suspect that this business upon which you were engaged would take longer than two days, then you should have asked for the extra time, instead of taking it! Now, no more shilly-shallying; where the deuce have you been?"

"Your Highness, I am embarassed to admit the full truth, but if Your Highness will have it so, then I must confess, that my delay was no body's fault but mine own."

"Yes, yes, all very well! But what was the cause of your absence? I was upon the point of publishing your name as a deserter!"

"Your Highness, I had indeed completed my business within the two days, but I must confess to a piece of gross stupidity, negligence and hubris. During my return to Headquarters, I was well satisfied with the outcome of my actions, and basking in the warmth of my self-praise - no recommendation, I am aware. Unfortunately, I failed to pay attention to my surroundings, and was riding loose-reined when a rabbit, or a bird, or somewhat of that ilk, ran across the road under my horse's very feet. Not unnaturally, the beast shied, and as I was not riding on the bit, I lost my balance and fell off. On striking the ground, I bruised my shoulder rather badly, indeed I thought I had broken it, and was obliged to seek rest and treatment, but I assure Your Highness, that I have made the best of my speed to return to headquarters."

"You... fell... off... your... horse? Is that the best explanation with which you can furnish me?"

"Indeed, Your Highness, that is what happened."

"Von Smallhausen, you are a fool, and what is more an incompetent horseman! I have a mind to send you for instruction to one of the Reiterregimente, indeed I would do so on the instant, had not your desk, and mine, become so encumbered with correspondence! Enough, then. Let us resume our duties. In the meantime, I shall consider whether or not to visit my displeasure upon you!"

"Very good, Your Highness."

- - - - - - - - - - -

"Now then, Von Smallhausen, what next?"

"A report from the Oberst of IR Nummer 2, You Highness. He begs to draw your attention to the matter of footwear. He states that the shoes issued at Groeningdorf are already beginning to fall apart. The uppers are becoming detached from the soles, and indeed some of the leather used in their construction appears to have been incompletely tanned, hence the uppers themselves are falling part."

"Groeningdorf? That was only three weeks ago, and we have been static here for over a week! Shoes should last longer than that! Write to the Oberst and ascertain whether or no he has been conducting training marches that may have contributed to the short life-span of these shoes. Write also to the Obersts of IRs Nummer 2 and 3, requesting a report on the condition of their men's shoes, and where and when they were issued."

"Yes, Your Highness."

"Anything further?"

"Just the routine morning states from the Regimente, Your Highness, and the weekly sick state from the Chirugeon-Oberst."

"Is there anything in either that should cause concern, von Smallhausen?"

"Nothing that I can see, Your Highness. Morning states show between eighty five and ninety nine percent attendance, the numbers of sick correspond. II/IR Nummer 2 reports four deserters; while I/IR Nummer 3 has two soldaten under arrest awaiting a Court-Martial."

"Are the charges specified, von Smallhausen?"

"Yes, Your Highness, pillage and rapine."

"Very well, von Smallhausen. A letter to the Commander of I/IR 3. It is to be a General Field Court Martial."

"Your Highness..."

"Yes?"

"If the accused are found guilty by a General Court-Martial, then they could be sentenced to death."

"Exactly. If they are guilty, von Smallhausen, then they shall go to the gallows! Is there nothing further?"

"No, Your Highness."

"Nothing? The Devil take it! I was hoping to hear from both the Englisch Herzog Marlbrouk and from Flick! You are quite sure there is nothing further?"

"I am certain, Your Highness."

"Damn it! What are we to do with the Lady Henrietta? I want confirmation of her identity! I really do not want to find out that she is an imposter! You were quite right, she does indeed have some winning ways, and I would be most reluctant to hang her... What the devil!?"

"Hoy! You can't go in their Missy! Oww! You mad bitch!"

"At last!"

"I beg your pardon, Madam? Alright, Sentinel, she's in, you might as well let her stay. You are dismissed."

"Yerssir! Sorrysir!"

"Now, madam, what is the meaning of this unseemly intrusion!?"

"Unseemly!? Unseemly!? I shall tell you, Your Highness, what is unseemly! It is your arrogance in having me confined against my will! It is your casual neglect of my being and welfare! It is your deprivation of my staff and total disregard of my creature comforts! Your denial of my need for spiritual comfort! It is your cruelty to me ! And above all it is your snivelling string of excuses in denying me the interview I urgently requested on your return from playing at soldiers!"

"Von Smallhausen?"

"I have no idea, Your Highness!"

"Do you not ignore me, you... you popinjay! Do not speak as if I were not present! You will have the goodness to direct your attention to myself!"

"Madam, I have tried to explain to you my reasons for detaining you. And indeed, I have sent messengers to Marlbrouk and to the Schloss in an endeavour to to ascertain your identity. Indeed, I was, just before your interruption, bemoaning to von Smallhausen the fact that I had received no word from Marlbrouk, or from my excellent Herr Flick, and that..."

"Excuses! Excuses! Paint over putty! That's all they are! Why have you not responded to my requests for an interview?! Answer me that!"

Madam, I very much regret that I must remind you that I am conducting a military operation here! You must surely see, that as I am reponsible for the condition of my army, and indeed of my state, that no matter how much I wish to afford you every courtesy, there are only so many hours in the day, and indeed I am persuaded that, you, a reasonable woman..."

"Don't you dare patronise me! You... man! Hah!"

"What!? No, madam! Do not throw that! Oww!"

"And that!"

"Von Smallhausen stop her! Madam! No! That's... an ink pot."

"Oh... Herr Hauptmann, my apologies, That was not meant for you. I am afraid, that I have quite spoiled your uniform, but you should not have grabbed my arm like that, you know. Why, Herr Hauptmann, you look quite palely, it is only ink you know. I am certain that it will come out in cold water, I shall have my maid attend it to for you."

"Madam, that is not ink... It is blood! What have you done? Von Smallhausen, sit down man - before you fall down!"

"I am quite alright, Your Highness, thank you. If I may have your permission, I shall retire and change my wardrobe."

"You will do nothing of the sort! Sit down, I tell you! madam, be so good as to ask the sentinel to send for a chirugeon, and then come and help me get his coat off".