"Very well, Leutnant, what next?"
"Your Highness, I have here the findings of the General Field Court Martial, which was held on two soldaten of IR Nummer 3. The verdict is that they are guilty of one charge of pillage, and two of rapine. The sentence is that they shall be hanged."
"Good! I will not have my soldaten act as brigands here, or indeed, if it should ever come to pass the we so enter, in enemy territory - ah, you are shocked, Herr Leutnant?"
"Well, yes, Your Highness. I see the need for deterrence sentences, but I had not thought to find you rejoicing in a capital sentence."
"Believe me, von Rabensthal, I take no pleasure in executing my own soldiers; but it may be that early draconian measures shall go towards preserving the discipline of our army. I need not, I trust, remind you that the vast majority of our soldaten are fresh from the plough or the workbench? Good, so you must understand, von Rabensthal, that without discipline, an army is no longer an army, but a mere armed mob. Orders were promulgated against such acts as pillage, looting, rapine, and so forth; soldiers must learn to obey orders. If they cannot obey simple orders when in garrison, how then may the be expected to obey urgent orders amid the confusion of battle. Discipline is not natural to man, it must be learned, and I trust that the sentence passed on these two miserable creatures may serve as an object lesson to the rest of the army!"
"Yes, Your Highness. But, Your Highness, the papers from the Court Martial also include a recommendation for clemency, and are accompanied by a letter to that end, from the hand, apparently, of the father of the outraged young woman."
"Let me understand you plainly, Leutnant: The father of the young woman who was outraged pleads for clemency to be shown to those who despoiled her?"
"Just so, Your Highness."
"H'mm, 'tis most passing strange. Very well, I shall peruse these communications a little later; pray have the goodness to put them to one side for the nonce. What else?"
"Your Highness, there is a report from each of the Infanterie Regimente, concerning the state of the men's shoes. It should seem that all the shoes issued at Groeningdorf are of faulty manufacture. Many of the men in all regimente are to all intents and purposes, barefoot."
"Very well, make a note. A letter is to be written to Herr General Himmelstoss and copied to Herr Flick at Schloss Neuhaus. The contractor who supplied the footware is to provide a complete replacment of the entire quantity so ordered. Not only is he is to receive no payment for this second consignment, but he is to pay a fine of.... five thousand thaler... yes, five thousand. The facts of the matter are to be published, together with the contractor's name, in the Allgemeine Zeitung."
"Very good, Your Highness."
"Is there aught else to which I should turn my attention this morning?"
"Ah... yes, Your Highness. There is a matter of promotion in Reiter Regiment Nr 2. Rittermeister von Sangen has requested permission to take leave. It should seem that he is, due to a tertian ague, unable to perform his duties. He states that in his current condition he is not only of no use to his regiment, but is in truth a burden to them. He also states that if Your Highness requires it, he shall resign his commission. In either case, the Oberst of the Reiter Brigade requests that you approve the promotion of Oberleutnant Matthias Zeigler of Reiter Regiment Nr 1 to the vacancy, on either a temporary promotion or permanent promotion as the case might be."
"I see. So... Rittermeister von Sangen. Yes, I know him. Very well, von Sangen is granted leave of absence until he shall make a recovery. As to the promotion of Oberleutnant Zeigler, I am not so sure. I like neither temporary promotions, nor do I like promoting a man from one regiment into another. A letter, if you please to the Oberst of the Reiter Regimente - Oberst von Waldenstein, is it not? - explain that, for the reasons I have just given, that the promotion and posting of Zeighler is not approved, and that I require the names of those Oberleutnante of RR Nr 2 that are qualified to take command of von Sangler's squadron during his absence. Do you have that? Good. Now, pass me the court martial papers, and then you may write out the the letters that I require. Have them ready for my signature by two of the clock this afternoon. Thank you, you are dismissed. Oh... before you go, my compliments to the Herr Doktor, and ask him call upon me at some time this afternoon, after he shall have visited Hauptmann von Smallhausen "
"Yes, Your Highness. Your Highness, I trust..."
"Yes! What is it?"
"I begs yer Pardon, sir, but the sentinel reports, that he caught these two young varm..., er..., young gennlemen, trying to sneak into the house, through the servants' entrance."
"I see, thank you, Feldwebel. Bring them forward for my inspection , if you please. H'mm singularly unprepossessing in appearance, are they not, von Rabensthal?"
"Indeed, Your Highness."
"Thank you, Feldwebel. You may leave these dangerous invaders with me. Now, gentlemen; explain yourselves."
"Your Highness, we meant no harm, and we were not 'sneaking' anywhere. We were merely attempting to pay a social call on Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen."
"And why, pray, should two Fahnenjunkern of a Reiter Regiment - just who are you? You have not yet had the good manners to report yourself!"
"Your Highness! Fahnenjunkern Johannes Detweiler and Thomas Hozlhof beg to report that they were in the process of paying a social call upon Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen when they were prevented from so doing by a sentinel outside the Herr Hauptmann's quarters!"
"Detweiler and Holzhof, hey? Von Rabensthal, a note of those names, if you please."
"Yes, Your Highness."
"So, gentlemen - I use the term loosely - what is the nature of your business with Hauptmann von Smallhausen?"
"Your Highness, we had heard that the Herr Hauptmann was sick, and we thought to bear him company for a while".
"Now, why would von Smallhausen wish for the company of two of the scruffiest Fahnenjunkern it has yet been my displeasure to see?"
"Your Highness. Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen was extremely informative during his lesson on the subject of the war betwixt Hesse-Cusall and Hesse-Damnall, and we thought to alleviate any tedium he may be suffering. Also, Your Highness, Thomas - I mean Fahnenjunker Holzhof - is an adept at the game of chess, a pursuit which rumour has it that Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen is also expert."
"H'mm, does all this sound plausible to you, von Rabensthal?"
"Plausible, Your Highness? Yes... but likely? No. Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen, a man of broad intellect, is not likely to feel entertained by the chatter of two, who are when all is said and done, little more than schoolboys. Besides, Your Highness, I thought I detected just a hint of unwillingness in these two to meet your gaze in an open manner."
"Yes, thank you von Rabensthal; I had gained much the same impression. Now! Out with it, what are you two playing at?"
"Indeed, Your Highness. We did come to see the Herr Hauptmann! See, Your Highness, Holzhof even has his chess-pieces with him!"
"Yes, I am prepared to accept that you had intended to pay a visit to Hauptmann von Smalhausen, but I remain unconvinced of your reasons. Now, unless you wish me to end your probationship here and now, and discharge you from the army, I most strongly urge that you tell the truth! I will not have liars serving as officers in my army!"
"Your Highness! Indeed we did come to visit the Herr Hauptmann. You see, Your Highness, we had heard that he was injured. and Your Highness,we fear that it is our fault that he came by his injury".
"Indeed, how so?"
"Your Highness will recall that one of our fellows was slain by an Officer claiming to be in the service of the Elector of Hannunter?"
"Indeed I do. Go on".
"Well, Your Highness, one boy - if not wearing uniform - looks much the same as any other. So, some us adopted ordinary dress and reconnoitred the villages in the area. In one such village, the party of Elector's officers were found, and again, some us decided to teach the bully a lesson. We had armed and equipped ourselves, and were about to ride out of the cantonments when we were discovered by Hauptmann von Smallhausen. He, thanks to a loose-lipped fellow among us - and I have yet to deal with him! - discovered also our destination and intent and most straightly forbade us to do anything, and that he was, on your instructions, to resolve the matter. The next news we had of the Herr Hauptmann that he was sick of the wound-fever, so in order to find out what had happened to him, we two were resolved to ask him what had passed."
"Go on, you begin to interest me greatly".
"Your Highness, that is the whole of the matter. We were concerned that Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen had taken his wound in an encounter with the Elector's officers, and that if that were so, then without the information he had gained from us, the encounter would not have chanced to occur, and therefore we were responsible for the Herr Hauptmann's injury".
"I am to understand that you were prepared to take unauthorised leave of absence, in an attempt to visit some form of punishment on the killer of your friend?"
"Yes, Your Highness."
"And that some of your number had, ipso facto, already done so in order to gather intelligence of the party of foreign officers?"
"Yes, Your Highness".
"Gentlemen, this is a grave matter. You have done very wrong. Return to your quarters and remain there until I have had time to consider this matter. You will wait outside this room until Leutnant Rabensthal has written a message to your Commanding Officer, which you will, upon your honour deliver to him. Am I understood?"
"Yes, Your Highness".
"Good. Now, get out! - Well, von Rabensthal what think you of this embroglio?"
"Unbelievable, Your Highness. Mere children thinking that they could somehow get the better of an accomplished swordsman! Fantastic!"
"Yes, there is that aspect to the affair, but I was rather thinking that these young gentlemen have altogether far too much spare time on their hands. I think that perhaps they would get into less mischief if they were kept too busy and made too tired for such adventures!"
"Just so, Your Highness".