Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On to Pappenheim

After breakfast, once the reply to the Colonel’s message was received. Ilse was put on the post-coach to Pappenheim that had been deliberately delayed.

“At last” exclaimed a clergyman as they departed “I hope you were not the cause of our delay?”

“No, I was just lucky the coach was still here, there might have been some problem on the road ahead”

With that the clergyman turned to his colleague and recommenced a discussion on ethics of rulers”

Ilse felt she should explain more, but then remembered the coded message, so she took it out to study. She knew something about codes, but there was nothing obvious that stood out, especially as both Pommaine and Prussia should be mentioned so the double letters should be an indicator.

Sitting back and just looking vaguely at the letter, she suddenly spotted a pattern in the writing, the letters seemed to have been written in groups of four. Grabbing a fresh sheet of paper and a pencil she started rewriting the letter reversing each set of four letters. Moments later she stopped as the clergymen switched to speaking in Latin and started discussing local gossip and then speculated on her presence.”

“No I am not a whore of Babylon, I am the daughter of major Von Barner and I am travelling on state business and have not had chance to dress myself in suitable attire!” exclaimed Ilse in Latin to the shock of the clergymen. A stunned apology followed and Ilse was left in peace for the rest of the journey.

Once the message had been rewritten Ilse rescanned it for obvious clues and they gradually appeared. It was a simple transcription using a key word, in this case “kraut” and then realigning the other letters. The message was clear it was a protocol between Prussia and Alsace on how they would divide Pommaine between them if “all other claimants” were to die.

Monday, 30 January 2012

An early morning

Ilse, awoke and realised that she had slept in. It had been a while since she hadn’t tried to remain alert at night and she’d nearly missed her early morning appointment with the Colonel. Dressing quickly she dressed in as feminine a manner as possible, given her remaining clothing and made her way across to the barracks, hoping that her late arrival could be excused as being fashionably late. However, once she arrived, her honesty prevailed and she admitted she had overslept.

“Don’t worry my dear, your early arrival was not needed the message has been sent, we just have to wait for the reply. Now have you tried the local ham, it’s excellent with these fresh rolls and more coffee will arrive shortly”

The Colonel was obviously making an effort and Ilse felt obliged to make an attempt on the repast spread before her. It would not be easy as the landlord at the Weisse Rossl had provide her with a large meal the previous evening and she had overheard the Dragoons talking loudly of her fencing skills from the tap-room.

“Now, before my officers arrive, why don’t you try the chutney, it’s a new idea of preserving from India of all places and works well with our local fruit”

Ilse took a taste and looked shocked “Oh, no, I forgot to explain, you add it to your cheese or meat…. And perhaps the cook has been a bit enthusiastic with the hot spices as my officers like it that way”

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The aftermath

After Major, now Colonel Fruhling left the General turned to the Count “Well any last thoughts?”

“No, but I’m sure we have missed something. As far as we can arrange all communications between Pommaine and the rest of the Empire will be stopped or delayed starting tomorrow, so that our allies have the maximum time to deploy.”

The Count continued “The city gates will be closed and no-one without explicit authorisation will be permitted to pass. Hussars will be patrolling the outskirts of the city and gamekeepers with hawks will be deployed to intercept any carrier pigeons. The border will be closed for a week and only accredited diplomats will be allowed across."

“What about that Alsatian courier?”

“Well as far as we can tell it was just a rather bold horse-thief. It does seem rather stupid to have left the diplomatic papers with the horse while he had breakfast. No spy could have relied on someone being that foolish, anyway they claimed the papers were not important”

”Really, it seems that they and the Prussians have had a lot to talk about”

“Yes, but remember we decided it was better to involve two powers to help us rather than just one so that they could not dominate us, but we need to watch them and play them off against each other”

“Indeed, that was the late Grand-Duke’s observation. You didn’t arrange for the papers to be stolen?"

“NO, though if I had realised it was that easy, perhaps I should have!

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Ducal wake

The wake in the Ducal palace continued, everyone seemed prepared to drink the Grand-Duke’s cellars dry. Count Vladislav spotted his quarry, “Ah Major Fruhling, would you mind joining me and General Von Gessler for a quick discussion” The startled major was led through into an adjoining room where General Von Gessler was actually present.

"Ah Fruhling, glad you could spare the time, you realise of course that when the Grand-Duke’s will is read tomorrow, there might be a few surprises?”

“Yes sir, I presume that was why the Grand Duke made us swear to uphold his wishes”

“Also that your commander Colonel Preysing did not so swear?”

“But I think that was just a formality sir”

The General held out a piece of paper “Well, here is your commission to command the regiment should the Colonel fail to uphold this obligation. You will note that it is signed by the Grand-Duke himself. He gave it to me on the understanding that it was only to be used if Colonel Preysing’s loyalty was suspect”

“But sir, Colonel Preysing has always been loyal”

“That may have been true, but he has been in contact with enemy agents and can no longer be trusted. You will leave the party immediately and return to Illerkamp first thing in the morning and prepare the city for defence”

“But sir, it can’t be that bad?”

“I hope not, but we have to prepare for the worst, thank you Colonel Fruhling”

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Colonel Kraut

Ilse was shown into Colonel Kraut’s office. he was the Governor of Welle and the commander of the Welle Infantry Regiment. After a formal greeting he waited until his aide had shut the door. He started with some pleasantries “Now if I remember correctly we have met before at your father’s residence?”

“That’s correct; I was eleven at the time”

“And, you had fallen out of a tree and broken your arm, or was that your sister”

“No the mayor had pulled the ladder away from under me when I was stealing his apples”

“Indeed, and why were you doing that?”

“Because the boys had dared me too, and then they ran and didn’t warn me when the mayor was coming”

“So was your trip across the border another dare or acting as a courier for your father?”

After a moment’s hesitation, while she realised that the colonel was aware of her father’s role and what the best answer was, she replied “a courier”

“So can you tell me anything about the Prussians and their plans? We’ve been put on a war footing because of their forces in Sedrot and that’s why our patrols are so careful”

“Sorry, I was just collecting information about what was happening in Pommaine, and it’s rather urgent”

Right, it’s too late now. So my adjutant will arrange accommodation for you and then first thing tomorrow once the telegraph is open I’ll send a message to General Wurst about where to send you, as he’ll know where your father is. I trust you will join me for breakfast at eight?"

Of course, thank you for you assistance"

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

On to Welle

As she rode out from the camp, Ilse shouted to the Lieutenant “I forgot to mention that the bridging stores are slightly visible from Pommaine, you might wish to check how well they are hidden”

Ilse rode on, accompanied by the same corporal and dragoon as before. She had retrieved the papers and just wanted a moment to inspect them carefully, at a quick glance they seemed to be from an Alsatian despatch rider, but the message was obviously coded.

Before leaving she had quizzed the old Jaeger about his bet. He apparently had served under her father in America and firmly believed that the real odds were 50:50 otherwise why would she have challenged the Lieutenant? Besides it was well worth getting the Dragoons to bet against her at longer odds. Did he have the money to cover the bet? No but his lads would have helped out and now they would share in the winnings. But you’re only a private she had asked with a wink. He explained he’d been up and down to sergeant so many times over the years, the downs because of drink and gambling. Her father was the best officer he had ever served under and he asked Ilse to pass on his best wishes. And his name “Franz Knappe, miss”

As they approached Welle, The Corporal said “If you don’t mind miss, I’ll go ahead and report.