|From the allegorical series 'A Toy Soldierist's Progress'|
by Wilhelm Huegartt
Plate One: The Invitation
'A Few Toy Soldiers - Where's The Harm?'
Count Lenz von Haut, Minister for War, Alcohol, Sharp Instruments and Children's Welfare shrugs. 'It is so my lord. Our spy indicates that the Nabstrian army are manoeuvering finely crafted military miniatures around the grounds of Burgrave Falco's palace'.
'Finely crafted military miniatures?' asks the Landgrave, still struggling to keep the disbelief from his voice.
Count von Haut continues: 'Indeed so, my lord. What others might term "toy soldiers". They are used for some form of game of war'.
Choldwig stands by his terrapin pool, peering in. 'But why would they do that? Is there nothing else to do in Nabstria? Have they run out of wine; opera; hunting; amusingly shaped vegetables?'
'I cannot say, my lord', says the Count. 'But all of the Nabstrian officers are at it'.
|Plate Two: The Disputation|
'Husband! Cease Your Tedious Toy-related
Tomfoolery! My Anger Is Such That My
Plumpies Have Popped Out'
Count von Haut nods vigorously. 'I should think so, my lord. For this reason, I too have recently acquired a small collection of these miniatures'.
From behind the Count, Baron Woffeltop, Choldwig's skilled diplomat and favoured advisor suddenly emits a sharp expectoration that might be a cough but that also might contain the word "loser"'
The Count ignores Woffeltop. 'I can assure your lordship that these figurines are, indeed, like catnip to the ladies of the court'.
'Are you sure that it isn't actually cats that you are attracting, sir?' Woffeltop snorts dismissively. 'Have you tried balls of wool?'
The Count continues regardless. 'Members of the fair sex I should think would be moved to swoon through the excitement caused by extended tales of blended versus layered painting schemes for these miniatures, or a long discourse on the relative merits of competing regimens for basing them'.
'Swoon?' cries the Baron. '"Sleep", more likely. In their baskets, probably'.
The Count's ire is now raised. 'Damn your eyes, Woffeltop. The current King Frederick of Prussia has an extensive collection of such miniatures in lead. Self-evidently, then, this pursuit must be of a manly character'.
Woffeltop nods. 'Indeed, indeed. Of course, he was seven years old when he was given them. And', he moves on delicately, 'it is fair to say that attracting women is not at the top of his agenda.'
The Count shrugs. 'Perhaps he prefers opera'.
'Yes', says Woffeltop carefully. 'Opera'.
|Plate Three: The Reclamation|
'Blinking Flip Woman! Stop Hiding
The Landgrave ceases contemplation of his terrapins and begins instead to pace slowly, ruminating. 'Gentlemen, should we procure some of these "finely crafted military miniatures"?'
Woffeltop shakes his head vigorously before Haut can intervene. 'I advise not my lord, on the basis first of cost and, second, the divisive nature of these games of war'.
The Landgrave furrows his brow. 'But how much can these these figurines cost? They must be very small'.
'The problem, my lord', says Woffeltop, 'Is that the feeble Nabstrians seem to have monopolised the limited skills available for the production of such things. The good Count has explored alternative sources, and there appears at the moment to be only a single enterprise capable of fulfilling a sufficient order. It is a small manufacturing concern in Roldova known as "The Workshop of Games". The Count has procured an estimate of the costs.' He flourishes a page in front of Landgrave Choldwig.
Choldwig peers at the list for a moment before suddenly recoiling: 'How much?'
Woffeltop looks at the parchment and then pulls out another. 'Apologies, my lord. That list is out of date. They tend to increase their prices weekly. Here, my lord', he passes the new list for Choldwig's perusal.
'HOW MUCH?' chokes the Landgrave, flopping back into a chair for support.
Count von Haut interjects quickly. 'Indeed they are expensive, my lord: but they allow one to play one's miniature wars in a grim world of dark adventure'.
'They live in Roldova' says Choldwig in exasperation, 'how much more "dark adventure" do they need?'
There is silence for a moment before Choldwig then says 'And these games of war - are they improving the quality of the Nabstrian officers?'
Woffeltop shakes his head, looking pleased. 'At the moment, probably not. I mentioned, my lord, that the miniature military activities have proved to be divisive. Our spy has informed us that the intended exercises have ground to a halt because of serious disagreements between some of the participants. Two officers have already been killed in duels'.
|Plate Four: The Temptation|
'I Shouldn't, But They're So Perfectly Sculpted'
'Really? How big are they?'
'Well, sir, the officers are divided into the "one thirders" who believe that the current size of two feet for each figurine allows for the perfect balance between detail and practicality. But others, the "one quarterers" argue that miniatures that are only one and a half feet high are far preferable, allowing greater numbers of such tiny soldiers to be used, thus giving a more accurate sense of the mass involved in modern linear battles'.
'And then' continues the Baron, 'there are more serious cleavages'. Choldwig brightens visibly at the mention of cleavages.
'More savage even than the dispute in Sweden between "Caps" and "Hats" is that in the Nabstrian officer corps between "Ancients" and "Ultras"', says Woffeltop. 'The "Ancients" who argue that the miniature military contests should focus on the wars of Greece and Rome; and the "Ultras" who argue instead that they should focus on ultra modern conflicts of the latest character featuring socket bayonets and cadenced step'.
|Plate Five: The Ruination|
'"It's Them Or Me", She Said.
"I'll Miss You", I Said'
'This all sounds very unpleasant', says Choldwig.
'Quite so, my lord', says Woffeltop. 'Our spy reports that one Nabstrian officer, finding himself one miniature short, was caught using a substitute. A pepper pot, I believe'.
'And they killed him?', says the Landgrave cheerfully.
'No, no, my lord - they took the pepper pot and they put it, as our spy recounts, "where the sun does not shine'".
'They put it in England?'
Woffeltop pauses. 'Well, my lord, that's certainly one possibility'.
'Well', says the Landgrave, 'I see no need to waste my money on such frippery. War is out of fashion now. Mark my words, Woffeltop - in Mittelheim, peace is here to stay, or I'm not the perfect Alexandrian paradigm for a potent prince'.
Woffeltop seems about to say something, but then clearly changes his mind and merely bows.
'Quite so, my lord'.