Private Träger looked up from cleaning his musket. “What are you talking about?”
Kleiner shrugged. He sprawled on the ground in the sunshine, hands behind his head, gazing peacefully up at the passing clouds; the very picture of indolence. “What I’m saying is, it could be a lot worse.” Without getting up he gestured around them at the hill and the farm in the dell below. “This is a nice billet, no?”
Träger screwed up his nose. Being of a naturally vinegary disposition he was inclined to find fault in anything, however pleasant. In this case he found it hard to disagree, especially when Ingrid, the farmer’s eldest daughter came into view down by the stream, a basket of laundry balanced on her hip. He gazed thoughtfully at her buxom form, the coquettish smile she sent in his direction. “’S not bad, I suppose.”
Kleiner raised his head, followed the direction of his comrade’s gaze and grinned. “Yeah, ‘snot bad, not bad at all.”
“I saw her first!”
“Did not!” Kleiner rolled onto one elbow the better to follow the sway of Ingrid’s hips until she disappeared into the farmyard. “Anyway, you still stink of powder smoke. A fellow’s got to be fresher than that to attract the likes o’ her.”
“Fresh? A bit of powder smoke would make a nice change for a girl who smells nothing but cow shit all day – gah!” Moments after Ingrid passed from sight another, far less welcome sight appeared in the arched gateway to the farm. “Heads up! It’s the Old Man!”
“Oh, fu…” Kleiner scrambled to his feet, groping for musket and cleaning gear as he did so. It was too late; the Old Man had seen them.
Both men stood and waited as the sergeant climbed the gentle slope, his dark eyes glittering with the special malice reserved for senior NCO’s. He came to a stop in front of them, and looked them over with evident displeasure. “You’re a couple of lazy dogs, hiding away up here! If you two don’t sharpen up, I’ll kick you so bleedin’ high when you come down your uniforms will be out of date!”
“Yessergeant!” they chorused, stiffening to attention.
But the Old Man seemed disinclined to push the matter. He let them stew, his hands on his hips as he looked them over. Finally, with a sniff of disdain, he got to the point. “Get down to the billet and gather your stuff. We’re moving up.”
“What?” Träger exclaimed. “Where to, sarge?”
The Old Man gave a sour grin. “The war misses us so much it’s got a little treat in store.” Their hearts began to sink. “There’s a special operation forming up. We’re going back into the Grand Duchy.”
“Oh, bleedin’ ‘ell!” Kleiner groaned.
“Enough of that! If you’d wanted a quiet life you should’ve avoided the draft.” The Old Man jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the farm. “Get your stuff and parade in the yard. There’ll be no bugle calls. This is going to be quick and quiet, understand?”
He nodded, spun on his heel and walked away down the slope. Kleiner gazed mournfully after him. Träger sighed. “No peace for the wicked, and that’s us.”
* * *
A short post today, as certain computer problems have to be addressed. Meanwhile, I've noticed that Wargamesminis has Dixon's miniatures on sale at around 75c each. I'm heading over to browse and buy in a while. The call of shiny new metal figures is strong today...