'Marvellous!' says Rumpfler. 'You could be my double!'
'But I don't understand, sir,' says Stumpe, 'why it is that you cannot command this army in the coming fray. Why must you quit the army on the eve of battle? And why must I wear one of your uniforms?'
'Captain, I have told you: I have urgent business elsewhere with the lovely Miss Nora Hindquarters. You will have to command in my place and pretend that you are me. But you should not fear - the coming battle will hardly be a battle at all. The Bachscuttlers have crushed the Vulgarian army already. Finishing them off will be as easy as stealing leech fricassee from a baby. And if there is any army suitable for an act of theft from a small infant, then it is my army.'
Stumpe pulls miserably at the throat of his coat. 'It doesn't fit very well.'
'Nonsense!' replies Rumpfler, 'It fits pefectly. Except that I should imagine that my britches are somewhat roomier around the crotch than you are used to. Now ... I explained my plan to you yesterday evening: you can remember the key details?'
'I think so, General, although I am very tired - I didn't manage to sleep much.' Poor Stumpe had spent the night tossing and turning; the former, in particular, had interrupted his rest.
Rumpfler chuckles. 'Those poor Palatinate fools. Imagine telling us that the Vulgarians were a shattered ruin and then warning us not to steal their glory.'
'But are you sure, my general, that the Vulgarians are really in such a poor state? Their picket line was sufficient yesterday to drive off our vanguard cavalry.'
Rumpfler now starts stuffing items into a moderately sized wicker hamper. 'Of course I'm sure, Stumpe. Calm yourself - the omens are excellent.'
|Officer: 'Column of fours! Advance upon the|
Dragoon: 'Charge! Charge! For God and Nabstria!'
Another Dragoon: 'Am I the only one who thinks
that those Vulgarians look surprisingly
white and fluffy?'
'A single black cat, Stumpe.'
'Yes, but it was being carried by that old crone, who cackled madly, drew her finger across her throat, and told us that we were all going to die.'
'A single old women Stumpe.'
'Well, there were her two friends as well, sir. And the cauldron. And that stuff about curses, woods coming to Dunsinane, and prominent facial warts. And then they told us that we were all going to die.'
'Bored Vulgarian housefraus, Stumpe, with nothing better to do.'
'But it was during an unseasonable storm, if you recall sir; with the comet; and the two headed cow that laughed at us and told us that our operational planning process was fatally flawed.'
'That, Stumpe,' admits Rumpfler with a nod, 'was quite surprising.'
'You don't often see a two headed cow that talks,' replies Stumpe adjusting the crotch of the britches which is uncomfortably tight.
'No,' says Rumpfler, 'I mean that we haven't really got a formal process for the design of our campaigns. I just get a map and a quill, and ... improvise by drawing some arrows.'
Rumpfler curses and begins searching for something.
'God's wounds, Stumpe, you have to hold the fort while I'm away. I simply must see Miss Hindquarters. It may be my only chance before the campaign season begins in earnest. I must see her! Stumpe, you cannot know the urgent kiss of the burning flames of love.'
Stumpe shrugs. 'I don't know about that, sir. My wife did once set fire to me.'
|Officer: 'Retreat! We are over-matched!'|
Dragoon: 'Flee! Flee!'
Another Dragoon: 'They're everywhere! Game over, man!
'Dammit, Stumpe, where's my best cutlery?'
'Oh yes. I hope Nora appreciates this. Dammit, where's the fork?'
'I don't know, sir.'
'She'll need a fork'
Stumpe chokes. 'It would be impolitic of me to comment.'
'A fork, man: a fork. To eat with!'
'Oh, oh,' says Stumpe nodding.
Rumpfler gesticulates. 'What is she supposed to do - suck?'
'Again,' says Stumpe in a neutral tone, 'It would be impolitic of me ...'
'By all that is holy - where is it?'
Rumpfler straightens. 'Dammit Stumpe - tomorrow will be a small thing. The Bachscuttlers have crushed the Vulgarians. What remains huddled around those campfires that we see in the distance must be a broken remnant of their forces.' He allows himself a grim smile.
'In any case,' says the general. 'I have procured for you the help of one of the foremost military minds in Mittelheim.'
Stumpe looks confused. 'Why would I need a cow, sir?'
'No, no, Stumpe. I have engaged the services of Marshal Horace de Saxe - writer of the such famous top shelf military doctrine manuals as 'Manoeuvre Your Way to Fitness.'
'Horace de Saxe?' asks Stumpe.
'The very same,' replies the general.
'But,' says Stumpe, 'I really think that a cow would be more useful.'
'Bah!' says Rumpfler. 'Sit down,' he says, pushing Stumpe into the chair, 'and cease your bickering. It is decided.'
'Pipe down, Stumpe' scoffs Rumpfler. 'Oh, my lovely Nora. The long miles between us. Stumpe, you cannot know the meaning of real pain.'
'I ... beg to... differ, sir. I think that I have found that fork.'