'No, we can't,' replies Dimitri sadly, rolling over in bed. 'We've tried twice to no great effect. Let us face up to the reality, Lola: I am a failure.'
'No, no, no,' says Lola Frumpe, the latest of the Prince's paramours. 'The failure is not yours, my lord. Surely, it is your army's. Two battles and two defeats! What, are you expected to fight the war yourself?'
|Vulgarian statecraft: less diplomacy than one might|
expect; and quite a lot more nakedness
'I'm shtill here,' pipes up Vulgaria's Generalissimo, Hertz van Rentall, averting his eyes.
'Oh yes,' says the Prince, removing his hands quickly. 'That's right. You were reporting on the battle. So, to recap: we really didn't win at Hednitz?'
Rentall shakes his head. 'Not ash shuch, my lord. But, ash wid our lasht battle, our army did sheem to get better as a reshult of our defeat.'
Dimitri frowns. 'So ... as we lose, our army seems to improve?'
'It ish one of da conshequenshes of da depot shyshtem dat we have. And da Guard du Corps,' replies Rentall.
The Prince nods. 'So we're ... losing our way to victory?'
'Yesh, shir, in a manner of shpeaking I shuppose dat we are.'
'That doesn't sound quite right,' says Dimitri frowning. 'Wouldn't it be better to win sometimes? To ... win our way to victory?'
Lola begins to gesticulate. This has an interesting effect upon the coverlet that, as it is, struggles (and largely fails) to retain her modesty. Both of them. 'The fault, my lord, lies with the feeble lackwits that command your armies,' she opines, loudly.
'Shtill here,' says Rentall.
'And,' she continues, 'the pointless, pimple-brained, poodle-faced, planks that advise you.'
'I am also here, madam, 'says Count Arnim von Loon. 'Though I do appreciate the alliteration.'
Dimitri, ardently admiring Lola's modesties, suddenly wakes from his reverie. 'Well, quite, quite. But now: run along my little princess of pulchritude. For I fear that I cannot escape from some dull decision-making and such. Run along - and call in Drumpf when you leave; he is waiting outside.'
Loon groans audiably.
'Are you not an admirer of my Principal Councillor, von Loon,' asks Dimitri, sounding surprised.
Loon sighs. '"No" seems such an inadequate word, my lord.'
With a giggle and a curtsy, Lola retreats from the bedroom.
'What happened to that lovely red-headed wench, my lord?' asks Loon. 'Danila, or Daniela, or somesuch.'
'Ah, Daniela,' replies Dimitri, rapturously. 'The lovely Daniela. The lovely, bubbly, chubbly, rubbly, wubbly Daniela. Happy months. Yes, what a shame.' He sighs. 'She was just too close.'
'Ah yesh,' says Rentall sensitively. 'Too closhe. Unable, my lord, to open hershelf emotionally to you.'
'No, no,' says Dimitri. 'I mean too closely related.'
The slightly awkward silence is filled by the sound of the entry of Principal Councillor Ranald Drumpf.
Drumpf curtsies. 'Good news, my lord. As punishment for our two defeats in battle, I have sacked Lord Konstantin von Kutchenzink, Keeper of the Privy Privy.'
Loon bridles. 'But Kutchenzink has nothing to do with our defeats in battle. Actually, wasn't he investigating you for that newt thing?'
Drumpf scowls. 'No, no. These are lies put about by the liberal press.'
Rentall shakes his head. 'Dis is Vugaria. We don't have a presh.'
Loon interjects. 'Except that press for the britches. But I cannot vouch for its political views.'
'No press?' queries the Prince. 'But what about that special publication that I receive each month?'
'We import that for you, my lord,' replies Loon. 'From some quite particular sources.'
'Why don't we publish it here?' asks Dimitri.
Loon shrugs. 'Because even here, my lord, public decency laws prevent it.'
Dimitri looks puzzled. 'We have public decency laws?'
Loon nods. 'Not many, my lord, it's true. But those that we do have I think are quite specific about not allowing the things in the pamphlets that you are so fond of.'
'So where do we import such material from?' asks the Prince.
Loon says sotto voce, 'The Vatican, my lord.'
'Are dey exshpenshive?' asks Rentall with interest.
'Oh yes,' nods Loon. 'Of course. Because the subject matter means that the artists that make the woodcuts tend to go blind quite quickly.'
'Are dey a bit ... fruity?' asks the Dutchman.
'Like a banana, nestled between an especially fruity pair of melons.'
'What's a banana?' asks Dimitri.
'In truth, my lord,' replies Loon, 'I'm not entirely sure. But I had a long conversation about them some years ago with a merchant who had Caribbean interests. The details are rather hazy sir, but I distinctly remember that they were shaped in an amusingly rude fashion.'
'Like a turnip?'
Dimitri yawns and waves his hands dismissively. 'Now, Rentall: you have delivered your report. We, and by that, of course, I mean you, must come up with a clever plan that will rescue the situation and allow me to retain my God-given position as Voivode of Vulgaria.'
Drumpf jumps up and down excitedly. 'Can we build a wall and make the enemy pay for it? A big, beautiful wall?'
'No, Drumpf,' replies Loon. 'We need an adroit, subtle plan.'
'I know!' replies Drumpf. 'We should build a wall and get them to pay for it!'
'No, Drumpf' says Loon. 'That is a silly plan. It will never work. It is madness. In fact, I suspect that a madman might reflect on your plan and say something like "Oooh, that's a bit unhinged that is."'
'I know!' says Drumpf. 'Couldn't we get our enemies to give us money, and then build a wall with it?'
Loon's lips tighten. 'No, Drumpf. Because that is the same mad plan, but in a different order.'
'I know!' says Drumpf. 'What if we built the wall, and then billed the Spasmodic Sanction?'
Loon begins to shake. 'Drumpf, if you ask about that wall once more, then I'm going to take a hammer and I'm going to take some nails and I'm going to nail your feet to the floor - how does that sound?'
Loon turns to Prince Dimitri. 'My lord. Leaving aside the Principal Councillor's plan for a moment. I think that you will find that events are already moving. The Nabstrian army has withdrawn from our lands. Even now, it would seem that a force from the Landgravate of Rotenburg is about to launch an attack upon them. As for our forces, General Rentall here (Rentall nods) has discovered that an army from the Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp approaches the Voivodate. Our troops march tomorrow to do battle. See, my lord: soon the dice of battle will be thrown again. I am sure that, this time, they will roll double sixes and thus allow us to roll again.'
Dimitri nods, seemingly placated. Drumpf raises his hand.
Loon sighs. 'Councillor Drumpf, You seem to have a question.'
'Yes, Have you got a hammer?'
'No.' says Loon suspiciously.
'Have you got some nails?'
'No, not to hand.'
'So,' replies Drumpf, ''Can we build a wall and make the enemy pay for it? A big, beautiful wall?'