Sunday, 18 March 2018

Any Fort in a Storm!

Captain Dreihumpe peers into the chilled gloom of night. It is sometime before dawn. Far off, twinkling glows mark the campfires of the forces of the Spasmodic Sanction. Though the enemy have arrived at Fort Pippin in numbers, as yet they have made no immediate attempt at investment. In a brief Fenwickian council of war, Captain-Governor Schroedinger-Skatt and his senior officers have considered sallying forth and attempting to drive off the enemy. After a short discussion, however, this option has been rejected: the garrison forces are considered too weak; in addition, it is likely that most of them anyway once out of the gates of the fortress would interpret the meaning of 'sallying forth' as just 'sodding off' and that they in consequence they would never actually return. Various methods have been discussed to keep the soldiers at their posts, including bribes, threats, and certain kinds of glue. In the end, having the fortress invested as soon as possible by the enemy seemed to be, it was agreed,  the surest way of forcing the garrison infantry to defend their positions.

Dreihumpe, though absolutely not legally being formally in command of the defenders of this bastion, is nevertheless still out on its battlements. The captain cannot sleep. This is lucky given that most of the sentries, worn out by extended games of skittles, seem already in a metaphorical sense to have passed through the customs checks to the Land of Nod.
Dreihumpe listens intently. Though the night is still, save for the snores of the sentries, the captain is worried, a worry that is clearly unsettling to the soldier next to him.
'I just can't sleep, sir.' he says.
'Strangely, my good fellow, as you are posted here as a sentry I find that I am less sympathetic than you might wish.' replies Dreihumpe. 'An enemy attack is imminent. No investment of the fortress can commence until they have seized this position first.'
'I can't see anything, sir. It's so dark.'
'Nevertheless, soldier: I feel the enemy's presence.'
'You feel their presents? Is it Christmas? What have they got?'
Dreihumpe sighs. If it were not for the fact that they lacked opposable thumbs, he has a strong feeling that a flock of ducks might make better guardians of this bastion than the musketeers absolutely not under his command here. Also, of course, the ducks would have to be paid more.
'No,' replies the captain. 'What I mean is that the enemy are near. They will attack soon.'
Dreihumpe can't actually see the soldier pull a face, but he senses it.
'But sir, they won't be coming for a while yet. It's night. They can't see.'
'Indeed, soldier - they can't see: which means also that?'
There is a pause. Dreihumpe also senses, rather than sees, the sentry pull his 'thinking' face, an expression probably quite similar to the one that he uses when he is sleeping. 'Well, sir - it means that ... that ... they can't easily play billiards?'
'No,' replies Dreinhumpe patiently, 'if they can't see because it's dark, it means that we ... ?'
'Can't easily play billiards either?'
'No,' says Dreihumpe, 'no. It means that we will not be able to see them advance towards ... Wait!' The captain holds his breath and listens. There is nothing. Then, just out of sight, in the gloom can be heard a hissed exchange of words. 'This is strangling me! This is no way to carry a ladder.'
'Alarm!' shouts Dreihumpe. 'Alarm! To arms! To arms! Or rather, I mean that if I were in command of this position I would highly recommend that any garrison that was in this vicinity should man the walls!'
The enemy are attempting to storm the bastion!

Colonel Ernst Leopold von Rheinfunkt, victor of the storming of Fort Gertrude, is once again in command of the attackers. Using the dark to his advantage, he has advanced his force to a position just out of sight of the defenders, and so just out of range especially of any defending cannon. The Gelderland assault force consists of two companies of pandurs, equipped with ladders, a company of jager, and six companies of musketeers. (Above) One company of the irregulars approaches from the left. The other will advance from the right, with the jagers in the centre to provide support. The pandurs, recruited by Gelderland from those balkan mercenaries not competent enough to find employment in the European armies of the Seven Years War, struggle forwards with their ladders. Rheinfunkt does not have high hopes for this portion of his assault. The qualifications required to be a balkan pandur in the armies of Austria or Prussia are not high - a basic competence with a knife; the ability to set fire to things; and the capacity to put on one's own britches. Actually, even the last of these generally is marked down as 'desirable' rather than 'essential'. The Gelderland irregulars thus are not perhaps the most competent or experienced troops. Most have struggled to come to terms with the concept of ladders, or, indeed, how they should best be operated.

Still, they might occupy the attentions of the defending garrison whilst the main element of the attacking force deploys. (Above) On the extreme left, three companies of musketeers in close column hurry through the dark, staying  out of sight of the defending cannon. (Below) on the Gelderland right, another column comprised of the balance of the regular infantry also advance as swiftly as they can. The task of both columns is to sweep behind the bastion and then form a firing line. Rheinfunkt hopes that his force from this position will be able to sweep with fire the unprotected rear of the Imperial Fenwick defences.


In Fort Pippin, Captain-Governor Schroedinger-Skatt is woken with an urgent message.
'My lord Captain-Governor - the enemy are trying to storm our outer bastion!'
'What?' replies Schroedinger blearily, taking off his night cap.
'Sentries report the sounds of fighting! The enemy are attacking using ladders and small arms!'
'Small arms?' says the Governor, climbing out of his bed. 'Well - that'll certainly make it more difficult for them to get up the ladders.'
'A night attack sir - they are relying on surprise.'
The governor grunts. 'The fools - it'll never work.'
'Well, it might work, sir.'
'Well of course it might work. That's a given.'

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Nothing to Refort!

Captain Stefan Andreas von Dreihumpe checks his pocket watch and then gazes eastwards into the fading light. The captain stands atop the bastion newly constructed by Fenwickian engineers to protect the approaches to Fort Pippin itself. Dreihumpe is very generally, and not in any legally provable way, in command of the garrison. To the untrained eye, this might seem to be a terrible choice by Imperial Fenwick on at least two counts. First, of course, Dreihumpe's recent performance in command of the defence of Fort Gertrude and the crossings of the River Strudel has proved to be one for which, in its skill and professionalism, even the word 'limp' would seem to be an enthusiastic over-exaggeration. Second is the small matter that Dreihumpe, captured in this fight, was only released on parole having given his word not to serve against the forces of the Spasmodic Sanction for the remainder of this war.

But needs must. Experience seems to have shown that though in the open field the Fenwickian troops might indeed be the 'spartans of Mittleheim', for the very particular demands of the kleine krieg they are to military effectiveness what a snake might be to the skilled execution of a night of vigorous Irish dancing. Dreihumpe, though he might be ill-educated, opinionated, brutal, judgemental, and vegetarian, is still the most experienced officer available for this sort of task. Of course, this leaves the not inconsequential matter of the captain's parole. Luckily for Fenwick, like all Mittleheim officers Dreihumpe is a man of his word: and that word is 'shifty'. If asked on oath, he could certainly avow to a hazy recollection of having promised in some way not to fight again against the forces of the Spasmodic Sanction; but he also 'could have sworn' that the phrase 'promise not fight against'  might actually have been 'promised not to do any cleaning for' - it was an emotional time, what with the shock of defeat, the slaughter of his command, and the soiling of his britches. In any case, Dreihumpe is clear in his own mind that he is not breaking any real promises. If pressed, say between two quite heavy weights, he no doubt would argue he just happens to be in the vicinity of the bastion and that, if an observer heard him 'giving orders' then this is just Dreihumpe musing out loud: if the soldiers around him decided to act on those deliberations then he certainly couldn't be held responsible.

Dreihumpe is certainly not, in any way that one could find written evidence for, in charge of three guns and two companies of infantry. Most of his troops are within the bastion. Their morale is high, a fact which Dreihumpe has put down to the surprising ease with which they seem to have found a supply of beer and skittles. A small force is on watch on the battlements. Drehumpe chews his lip and then says 'Damn and blast.'
'Never mind sir,' says a cheery sentry. 'The enemy are still far from this position, sir. Nothing to worry about at all.'
'Are you sure of that, soldier' asks the captain. 'Is there news from our outposts?'
'Yes, sir. Nothing at all to report.'
'Nothing, soldier?'
'No sir. We've been checking all of the wagons passing by, sir. You know - in case the enemy try for the old "dress up as peasants, hide in the hay wagon, seize the fort" routine.'
'Very enterprising' replies Dreihumpe.
'Thank you sir. And we've also been frisking peasant crones.'
'Ah yes,' nods Dreihumpe. 'To thwart the classic "dress up as old crones, pass the gate guards, seize the fort" gambit.'
'Yes sir. And we've been on the lookout for the arrival of any wooden horses.'
'And?' asks the captain with interest.
'None yet, sir. but we're still looking.'
'Hmmm' says Dreihumpe. 'And you're sure that the enemy aren't advancing upon us?'
'Yes sir. Not even if they cut branches, hid behind them and then approached our position like a strange moving forest.'
'Yet, I think soldier that, despite your best efforts, I can discern the arrival of the enemy.'
'What! What!' the troops on the bastion look alarmed.
'Well.' says Dreihumpe, drawing his sword and signalling back to the ramparts of Fort Pippin in the distance. 'I could claim that this intelligence I have divined from reading the movement of the forest animals; or from discerning the drumming of the ground; or, that because of a special gift from the mountain pixies I am able to communicate with animals and that a squirrel, named Roger, whom I befriended during my childhood, was willing to exchange intelligence of the enemy for his body weight in nuts. But actually,' he points, ' I can see them over there.'
'The squirrels sir, or the nuts?'
'No,' says the captain pointing. 'I should say that that line of figures in the distance would probably be the enemy.'
'Are they the enemy?' asks the sentry, wrinkling his brow. 'We challenged them earlier and then left them alone.'
'And you didn't think,' says Dreihumpe in a surprisingly phlegmatic tone, 'that they might be the an enemy force, whose devilish purpose might be to fall upon this fortification and wrest it from us?'
'Well, sir, they were quite rude when I asked them who they were. And they certainly had the look of an approaching enemy army, what with their musketeers, cavalry, artillery and siege train. It's just that we couldn't escape the feeling that it might be a trick.'
'A trick?'
'Yes sir - approaching us with Gelderland flags, an army and a siege train - it's a bit obvious.'
Dreihumpe sighs.
The soldier peers at the long column of enemy troops that begins to deploy in the far distance, well out of cannon shot.
'No wooden horses,' he whispers to himself. 'Who'd have believed it?'

Sunday, 4 March 2018

It's the Fort that Counts!

'Well, well, well, laddie,' says major Dougal Entendre. 'Who'd have thought it?'
The major looks down from his position high upon a freshly constructed bastion. He takes a bite from his lunch, which he holds in his hand. 'Sanitaire, my fine loon, what do yer think?'
'I have to say, it looks delicious,' replies major Gordon Sanitaire. 'Cheese, smoked ham, mustard between two slices of bread: I can't understand why anyone hasn't yet invented a name for it.'
'No, no, no - not my lunch. Yev to look at this!' He points to the enormous artillery fortification upon which they are both standing. 'I am, truth to be telt, a little surprised.'
'Yes,' replies Sanitaire, kicking the bastion gingerly. 'I'm also surprised. And a little concerned.' He pushes one of the stone crenellations. 'It feels like that meeting with had with Emperor George's aged mother: I'm worried about putting my hands anywhere in case something falls off.'
'No, no,' says Entendre. 'It all seems to be very much in order.' He turns to his nephew, lieutenant Peter Pois. 'Nephew, I must congratulate yer on the surprising alacrity with which yev constructed this defensive bastion.'

Pois nods, thoughtfully. 'Well, we were, I suppose, well motivated.'
Sanitaire chuckles. 'Och, yes - the wheelbarrow.'
Pois shakes his head. 'No, not so much. It was when we broke the wheelbarrow and realised that all that was left was a hay wagon that I think that we really began to focus our efforts.'
'Well, laddie,' replies Entendre. 'Yev made a good fist of things after all.'
'It took a lot of rulers, uncle,' says Pois. 'Also, luckily, it turned out that these workmen had a general familiarity with work of this sort and were able to improvise on those areas in which I was hazy.'
Sanitaire smiles. 'Which areas were those?'
'Well,' replies Pois. 'The building bits. And those involving construction with stone. The work fellows were full of good ideas about the ways in which the traditional plans for building an artillery bastion might be improved.'
Entendre sucks his teeth. 'Improvements - actually, yes, on reflection I think that a ditch and perhaps some chevaux de frise might improve substantially the strength of these fortifications.'
'A ditch? Chevaux de frise,' nods Pois. 'Now you mention it, they certainly would have been useful additions. But no, I rather fancy that I meant other improvements.'
'Other improvements?' asks Entendre, the rising timbre of his voice indicating quite strongly to any who might be listening that he might not view such a use of Pois' initiative as a wholly good thing.
'Indeed, yes uncle. I for one would never have thought, for example, of adding a tap room and a small bar.'
'This bastion has its own ... tavern?' says Entendre, his tone similar to that of replying to the question of whether he would like to snort anchovies.
'Yes. And facilities for the playing of skittles.'
Entendre sighs. 'Nephew, you are dismissed. I need to talk to your workmen.' As Pois salutes smartly and departs, Sanitaire shrugs as if to say 'Engineer subalterns today, eh?'

'You fellows,' says Entendre, engaging some nearby workmen. 'You will immediately remove the tavern facilities from this bastion.'
The workmen look at one another. 'No sir, there ent no tavern wotsits here, sir.'

Another interjects. 'No sir, no need for it. Just joshing the lieutenant, we was.'
Entendre looks relieved. 'Excellent. We don't need additions to this position that don't add value.'
'Right, sir. But I thinks we has added some real value, what with our other additions.'
'Other additions?' asks the major suspiciously.
'We did some work on that Sans Souci house in Prussia.'
Entendre nods. 'Ah, then yer fellows with some skills in rococo decorative work?'
The workmen look confused. 'No, sir - least ways, there weren't no rocks or cocoa. We was mainly hired to work on the privies. But then it turned out there weren't any. So we came here looking for work.'
Entendre's eyes narrow. 'No skittle park, laddie?'.
'No, sir, no. Only fools would do that, sir. But we did add a small water closet though - that always adds to the re-sale value of any property. And we added some off-road parking for carriages. That's much in demand, that is.'.
'But we won't be selling this bastion.' says Entendre with rising ire.
'I thinks the lieutenant thinks he is, sir. Prime location; easy reach of the town; good schools - any gentleman with a family would be pleased to buy this place.'
'What? What!' stutters Entendre. 'What!'
The workmen chuckle.
'Just joshing you sir. No water closets or parking.' The men nod smiling. 'Anyway sir, we best be off.' They point into the interior of the fort.
'Where are you going?' asks Entendre.
'Knocking off, sir. Time for a quick pint or two.'

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Happy New Manure!

'What do I think?' says Entendre slowly. 'Sanitaire, could you enlighten yon lieutenant as to some of the limitations associated with using a pile of manure as protection against siege artillery?'
'That's ... that's a big pile of manure,' whispers Sanitaire incredulously.
'Och, Indeed,' Entendre replies. 'But, like King Wilhelm's belly, the Burgravina of Nabstria's muttonchops, or my incandescent rage, I think we can agree that just because yev an excessive quantity of something does nae necessarily mean that it makes for adequate artillery protection.'
'I mean,' continues Sanitaire with his reverie. 'Fair play to these fellows. Lieutenant Pois, where did yer get a horse big enough to produce this amount of manure? I mean - did the horse provide it voluntarily? Or did yer scare it.' He views the manure pile again, 'A lot.'

Pois frowns. 'Uncle, you seem ... unenthusiastic about this structure.'
'Nephew,' says Entendre, 'There's a reason that none of the great publications of Vauban have a chapter entitled "On Manure." My cat has coughed up furballs with more structural integrity than this ... this ... Vauban plop.'
'Well, sir,' says Pois, 'I see that you are disappointed, even though I have created exactly what your plans demanded. So let us instead consider this, then, a work in progress.'
'Progress towards what?' replies Entendre sharply. 'Getting on my wick? Dragging our family into laughable disrepute? No, no, no - this will not do. Unless you and your men build a regular artillery bastion by tomorrow lunch time, I shall shove a wheelbarrow up your jacksy.'
Sanitaire chokes and then looks around furtively. 'My good Entendre - this is Fenwick. One cannae just go around saying words like "jacksy". Or "wheelbarrow".'
'Or melons,' adds Pois helpfully. 'Or plums, cucumber, sausage or, as it turns out, dumplings which, I don't mind telling you, can make having stew for dinner a surprisingly dangerous activity.'
'I care not,' hisses Entendre. 'Nephew, I'll have that fortification by midday, or you'll suffer a close encounter with a one-wheel cart that'll make yer eyes water!'
Pois splutters - 'But sir, you ask the impossible. It cannot be done.'
Entendre scoffs. 'I assure you laddie that I am entirely confident that I can make that wheelbarrow fit.'
'No sir, the bastion sir,' replies Pois. 'We cannot construct such a thing in only one night. There must be at least,' he looks around for his ruler; can't find it; and proceeds instead to counts his fingers, 'ten or more stone bricks required for its construction.'
'Gather yer men, laddie, and go to it.'
'It cannot be done,' says the lieutenant morosely.
'Build this bastion, nephew,' says Entendre with finality. 'Because if a pile of manure is all that is here tomorrow to defend our outworks, I'll give ye yer own personal demonstration of what happens if one suffers a rapid assault to one's vital parts without adequate protection.'
With that, the two majors leave.

Later, we find Entendre on the battlements of Fort Pippin. He is staring wearily at the sky whilst Sanitaire peers through his telescope.
'Can you see them at work, Sanitaire?' asks Entendre.
'Och, yes Dougal, I can.'
'How much progress have they made?'
'Well,' replies Sanitaire. 'Not so much really. Actually, they now seem to be measuring up the wheelbarrow.'
'Dammit, Sanitaire. We must have that bastion. The enemy are near. I feel a great encounter in the offing!'

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Cat Sat on the Bastion!

At the Fenwickian stronghold of Pippin Fort, the mercenary engineer major Dougal Entendre has taken his own route to working off the Christmas excess - by building a stone bastion to defend the approaches to the fortifications. Though the Imperial fortress is now well-supplied thanks to the arrival of a much needed supply column, the approach of the forces of the Spasmodic Sanction is surely imminent. Colonel Victor von Shroedinger-Skatt, Captain-Governor of the defences, was disappointed with the ease with which the artillery forts along the river Strudel were lost. He has therefore ordered a substantial strengthening of the outworks here. Whatever happens, Pippin Fort must hold out until the Imperial army can disentangle itself from the current campaign and march to the rescue!

Entendre surveys the progress made thus far on the new bastion. He is accompanied by his compatriot, major Gordon Sanitaire. Also present is the lieutenant of engineers directly responsible for constructing this new defensive edifice. The lieutenant, like the two majors, is also a Scot of Huguenot extraction. His name is Peter Pois and he also happens to be Entendre's nephew. Pois' presence is not an accident, since it was Entendre's influence that secured for the young man his position in the Fenwickian army. Entendre originally intended that his nephew join the British army. Pois' poor education, love of port, lack of common sense, and ability to find humour in the suffering of the poor seemed to make him a perfect candidate for a commission in one of the guards regiments, or perhaps the cavalry. Alas, however, Pois' bourgoise background and his inability to pass the port in the right direction soon stymied this option. In consequence, Pois travelled with Entendre to Mittelheim, where the major has secured for his nephew a commission in the Imperial army. Thus far, Pois has performed perfectly adequately, although, without any actual engineering to do, his chief tasks have been to dress himself, operate a ruler without injuring anyone, and to avoid any salacious references to fruit or vegetables. These tasks he has generally performed well, although there was tricky incident in which Pois, inordinately proud of his skill with a ruler, offered to show the Captain-Governor's wife his 'twelve-incher.' However, Pois now seems to be in a bit of trouble. Surveying the plans for the new bastion, Entendre addresses his nephew with a raised voice. Let us move closer, dear reader, and listen in on their conversation.

'I just don't see what the problem is, uncle,' says Pois. 'I have carried out your instructions.'
'I dinnae think yer have, Peter my laddie,' replies Entendre. 'I asked you to build an impressive stonework artillery fort according to these plans.'
Pois glances at the papers in Entendre's hands. 'But uncle - it is impossible for me to build such an edifice,' says Pois. 'Look at the size of it. See,' he says, waving a short stick of wood. 'My ruler simply isn't big enough. It goes up to twelve inches, and this artillery bastion must be at least ... at least ...sixteen or seventeen inches or something like that.'
Entendre frowns. 'Well, I think that my plans actually call fer something with twenty foot ramparts of stone, in a triangular lay out.'
Pois shrugs his shoulders incredulously, 'But where am I going to get a ruler that long? In any case, I submitted my own plans to you for your comment. And I have constructed the bastion according to your suggestions.'
'Alternative plans?' interjects major Sanitaire. 'I wasnae aware of those.'
'No you wernae,' replies Entendre. 'Because the Lieutenant's "alternative plans" comprised of a sheet of paper with a badly drawn picture of a cat.'
'Uncle, you have often enjoined that I should think outside of the box,' replies Pois.
'Aye, laddie,' says Entendre. 'But that, I dinnae think, was what I meant. Yer "plan" was the result of what might happen if you were thinking outside of the box, and the box itself, which turned out to be quite heavy, fell and then hit you on the head. I told you then, laddie, that what you had drawn was a big pile of manure: and to reinforce that point I wrote on yer "plan" the words "a big pile of manure".'
'Quite so, uncle,' replies Pois smugly. 'And behold!' he says, pointing.
The two majors turn to look.
'John the Baptist's oddly shaped testicles,' blasphemes Sanitaire.
Entendre's mouth works silently up and down, like a mime artist on a trampoline. He then closes his eyes. Always a believer, in the face of bad news, of counting to ten slowly before saying anything, the major just to be safe now starts at a thousand ... 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Faltaire’s New Mortar!

As the ‘Brummer’ is wheeled away, its place is taken by a very large mortar, manhandled into place by a large team of sweating gunners…

‘But that is simply enormous!  I’ve never seen a mortar of such a size!’  Exclaims von Rumpfler.
'Indeed, my dear Faltaire, agrees the Burggrave. 'This is quite a whopper!'
‘Ah, well, yes, you see my dear General, operating on  the "tavern wench" principle that bigger is generally better, I worked with Herr Frupp and his considerable knowledge of metallurgy and gun-founding to design simply the biggest mortar ever conceived.  '
Rumpfler peers at the bronze behemoth. 'Surely nothing of this size has been seen in Mittleheim since King Wilhelm last was seen bending over!'
'Even with the use of standard, double milled gunpowder, it should be able to throw a shell over any battlement yet devised’, replies Faltaire.
‘Well, this should be interesting…’ muses the Burggrave.

The gun crew ready the mortar…
‘Make ready!’, ‘Aim!’ ‘Fire!’

As the sergeant puts his linstock to the touch-hole, there is an almighty report in one of the loudest explosions of the eighteenth century…

A vast cloud of gunpowder smoke envelops the dignitaries….

 ‘Well, I say!, (cough, splutter)’,  says the Burggrave, ‘that was simply, (cough) marvellous!’
‘Yes, indeed, sire, (cough) with such a weapon we should be able to raze any town (cough) in the Empire of Grand Fenwick (cough) to rubble!’ von Rumpfler says grimly.
‘I am so (cough) glad you like it, my dear Burggrave!’, exclaims Faltaire.
‘Oh yes, indeed!  (cough) I just hope we haven’t woken the Burggravina….’ worries Burggrave Falco…

Irate (and rather deaf) Burggravina's notwithstanding, Nabstria's new artillery park is quickly manhandled onto barges waiting on the river Queltch. Though the garrison of the Fenwickian citadel of Fort Pippin do not yet know it, their situation is soon to become much less comfortable and a lot louder ...

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Faltaire’s Experiment!

‘See, sire!' says Faltaire, gesticulating at a nearby cannon. 'I have been cogitating on the best medium to dissolve gunpowder into and have settled upon this very white, very fine sand, sourced from the finest of Nabstria’s beaches.  I have mixed an entire bag of sand with just one grain of gunpowder – if my calculations are correct, then we may have invented the most powerful explosive in the world!’

'Interesting,' muses Falco. 'And also rather counter-intuitive, if I may add.'
The gun team go through their evolutions again but this time with Monsieur Faltaire’s ‘homeopathic’ gunpowder.  He does, however, allow them to use the standard Nabstrian gunpowder in the touch hole…

‘Fire!’ There is a slight flash as the gunpowder in the touch-hole goes off and then…..nothing happens…

‘Ahem, excuse me, sir, but, with respect, sir, it doesn’t seem to have bloody worked, sir’. The gunnery sergeant says rather rudely to Faltaire.  ‘It’ll take ages to clear the barrel of that bloody sand’, the sergeant mutters under his breath to no one in particular…

After a rather long and rather awkward silence, Faltaire begins to muse once again..
‘Hmmm…perhaps sand is not the right diluting medium for homeopathic gunpowder… or perhaps the ‘dilution’ is insufficient … perhaps a dilution of one part in a million might prove more efficacious’…. Faltaire's voice once again tails off into a reverie of natural philosophy.
‘Well?  Faltaire?  Is that the end of your experiment?’  enquires Von Rumpfler rather roughly.
‘Ah!  Oh!  Well, my dear general, no, not exactly.  With the Burggrave’s permission, I should rather like to test a new siege mortar of my own design.  Not being entirely sure that I could explore the new science of homeopathy successfully this morning, I decided to design a mortar which would rely on proven concepts.  With your permission, sire?’
‘Yes, yes, of course, Faltaire’, says the Burggrave with a note of irritation in his voice …