Like a police patrol the little party roceeded up the pebbled shore where the twain were deposited along with their many goods by the patient soldiery.
"Very good, you fellows. Now, follow me, and boldly, now!"
"Eggskusink me meine Captain, beggink to report."
"Egad, you can speak! Yes, fusilieer? (and let not this sudden affability between me the master and you the man be taken as indicative of anything more than what it is) What is it? Speak up!"
"Ja, vell, meine Captain, vehn I vas in der service of the Erbprinz of Hesse-Hotpantz, ve vere inztrukted to make not der noise and to the creeping being."
"What? Theo, I can never understand the patois these chaps in the foreign regiments speak. Can you make anything of it?"
"Voleur, I think he is of the opinion that caution may be called for."
"Opinion? Ha! Bah! I have never heard such nonsense. They'll be wanting a representative assembly next. No - now see here fellow, Manstein, or whatever you call yourself, I have the blue blood, the utterly in-bred ability to lead men in battle, not just this picnic - now, boldly, on!"
So boldly they went on, stepping boldly out at a regulation 75 paces per minute as measured on the watch given him by Theophraste's mother. The silence was broken only by their noisy passage through the woods and Voleur's insistence on dressing the ranks at regular intervals. Every now and then a twig would crack with a loud report; violently disturbed woosdcocks would clatter into the air; a bayonet would impact with a branch with a musical "blink".
In the end though, it was all worth it, for at leangth they found themselves in a very large clearing and facing what was without a doubt a ruined Roman villa. If it was not, well, who was there to gainsay them, anyway? Although the insects bit and the sun scorched, Voleur and Theophraste were content to make amateur poetry and to sketch the tumbled masonry.
Manstein gathered an armful of fallen branches and soon had a merry blaze burning on the tiles remaining on the floor.
A branch snapped.
Theo looked around in some anxiety. "What was that?"
"Oh, just one of the lads. Probably gathering more firewood. It's for the best - I'm thinking of spending quite a while here. You know, I could do with a cup of good English tea, too." He was trying to render the stones of the wall. His charcoal was not co-operating.
Theo stood up and cracked his back. Equally abruptly he squatted down again.
Voleur asked in amazement:"Whatever are you doing? You've gone bright red. And you're hissing!"
"That was a Vulgarian fusilieer!"
Abruptly Manstein appeared - he was covered in field signs and had apparently fallen over in a puddle - his face was covered in streaks of mud. Theo was impressed with how well he blended into the background. "Meine Captain, you vahnt I should be making with the head-crackink?"