23 September 2012
Sound the Charge. . .
"I say, von Tschatschke?" began General de Latte in a rare moment of quiet reflection some minutes after his Gallic fire dance around the drawing room.
"Yes, old birdbath? What is it?" answered his opponent and leaned forward over the table to hear better. De Latte continued.
"I say, do you think that with all of this smoking and drinking and what-not that we are putting our health at risk? What would the good Herr Doktor von Oettker, your personal physician, have to say on the matter?"
"Nonsense, nonsense!" blustered von Tschatschke. And von Oettker? Knowing that old goat, he'd probably offer some of his best tobacco and schnapps after a heavy evening meal and advise us to continue enjoying life to the utmost and follow with an invitation to join him at the card table for a game of Snap. And were we to complain of trouble sleeping afterwards, I'm quite sure he would write us prescriptions for tranquilizers to boot! Just the sort of doctor one wants. No trouble with asking all sorts of fool questions, or undignified poking and prodding. He just gets on with it and writes a prescription for whatever ails you. As it should be! Now," he glanced at his pipe, which had gone out in his hand while he held forth, "what about our game?"
"Oh, answered de Latte momentarily at a loss for words. "Yes. Of course. Back to our game. Where were we then?"
"Near the end of Turn Six wasn't it?" Answered his host. "In any case, I'm declaring a charge by my Anspach-Beyreuth Cuirassiers toward the unprotected flank of your Ermland Garde. And might as well send some of them to gallop in amongst your limbered battery moving up just beyond as well."
"What?" asked General de Latte with an incredulous expression almost dropping his half-empty snifter of brandy in the process.
"Yes," said von Tschatschke with a succinct Teutonic chuckle. "You'd have noticed sooner had you not taken up our time with your premature dance of victory or whatever the deuce that was a few moments ago. And I suspect, old scythe, that your cavorting with my chamber maids these last several months might also have had something to do with it. Though that is only a guess of course. Anyway," he continued, "You'll note that my cuirassiers are well within the 24" necessary to close with your infantry and artillery."
At a temporary loss for words, General de Latte gaped at the tabletop. Then, he muttered something in French before von Tschatschke pressed on.
"Close your mouth, de Latte," his host urged, "or flies will get in it! And too bad that those guns of yours are still limbered and moving up," he beamed, adjusting his monocle before he tamped a new bunch of tobacco into the bowl of his clay pipe and added, "It will take you at least two turns to unlimber them, range up, and fire on my cavalry, what?"
"It cannot be true," said de Latte, shaking his head and blinking his eyes in disbelief.
"Bad luck, old garden rake," said von Tscatschke in reply and lighted his pipe, puffing enthusastically and filling the room with a new layer of pungent blue tobacco smoke before he moved his cavalry figures into their new positions. From across the table, General de Latte stared at his troops with hollow eyes in uncharacteristic silence before speaking,
"My dear von Tschatschke," he began, "I need to sit down. Be a good chap and fix me a fresh gin and tonic, please. I suddenly don't feel so well.
"Of course, my dear de Latte! Of course! But we'll need a refill. I see that we've exhausted our supply in the decanter. Just let me ring for some more. And a fresh bucket of ice" Von Tschatschke strode expansively to the nearest corner of the drawing room and tugged on the bellpull a few times. Across the room, General de Latte lowered himself gingerly into a sitting position on the maroon chaise with golden dragon flies all over it and then reclined in full, made a pained expression, and closed his eyes. He next raised his right arm wearily and, with great care, placed his wrist across his forehead before exclaiming quietly in a breathless, exhausted voice,
"It's simply all too much, my dear von Tschatschke! I can't go on. Really I can't." His closed eyelids fluttered slightly and de Latte muttered additional phrases in French to himself, perhaps underscoring the terrific depths to which his suffering went.
"Come, come now!" replied von Tschatschke in a stern tone. "That's enough of that! On your feet de Latte. We have another turn to begin and execute before resolving our melee at the close of it. We need to plot our orders and moves. Chop, chop!" Von Tschatschke clapped his hands together.
From the maroon chaise, General de Latte pulled a white silk handkerchief from his left sleeve and began fanning himself with it. His host rolled his eyes skyward and thundered,
"De Latte? De Latte! Damn it all man!" fumed von Tschatschke, "Don't be so theatrical! It's just a game! Pull yourself together!" At that moment, General de Latte opened his right eye just a peek and noticed the comely Fraulein Adelheid enter the drawing room. Sweat broke out on his brow. . .