Black Powder War

Chapter 11


Chapter 11

PRINCE HOHENLOHE LISTENED to Laurence's attempted explanations without very much expression: some sixty years of age, with a jovial face rendered dignified rather than unpleasantly formal by his white-powdered wig, he looked nonetheless determined. "Little enough did Britain offer, to the defeat of the tyrant you so profess to hate," he said finally, when Laurence had done. "No army has come across from your shores to join the battle. Others, Captain, might have complained that the British prefer to spend gold than blood; but Prussia is not unwilling to bear the brunt of war. Yet twenty dragons we were assured, and promised, and guaranteed; and now we stand on the eve of war, and none are here. Does Britain mean to dishonor her agreement?"

"Sir, not a thought of it, I swear to you," Thorndyke said, glaring daggers at Laurence.

"There can be no such intention," Laurence said. "What has delayed them, sir, I cannot guess; but that can only increase my anxiety to be home. We are a little more than a week's flying away; if you will give me safe-passage I can be gone and back before the end of the month, and I trust with the full company which you have been promised."

"We may not have so long, and I am not inclined to accept more hollow assurances," Hohenlohe said. "If the promised company appears, you may have your safe-passage. Until then, you will be our guest; or if you like, you may do what you can to fulfill the promises which were made: that I leave to your conscience."

He nodded to his guard, who opened the tent-door, signifying plainly the interview was at an end; and despite the courtliness of his manners, there was iron underlying his words.

"I hope you are not so damned foolish you will sit about watching and give them still more disgust of us," Thorndyke said, when they had left the tent.

Laurence wheeled on him, very angry. "As I might have hoped that you would have taken our part, rather than encourage the Prussians in treating us more as prisoners than allies, and insulting the Corps; a pretty performance from a British officer, when you know damned well our circumstances."

"What a couple of eggs can matter next to this campaign, you have leave to try and convince me," Thorndyke said. "For God's sake, do you not understand what this could mean? If Bonaparte rolls them up, where the devil do you suppose he will look next but across the Channel? If we do not stop him here, we will be stopping him in London this time next year; or trying to, and half the country in flames. You aviators would rather do anything than risk these beasts you are hooked to, I know that well enough, but surely you can see - "

"That is enough; that is damned well enough," Laurence said. "By God, you go too far." He gave the man his back and stalked away in a simmering rage; he was not by nature a quarrelsome man, and he had rarely so wanted satisfaction; to have his courage questioned, and his commitment to duty, and withal an insult to his service, was very hard to bear, and he thought if their circumstances had been anything other than desperate, he could not have restrained himself.

But the prohibition forbidding Corps officers to duel was not an ordinary regulation, to be circumvented; here of all places, in the middle of a war, he could not risk some injury, even short of death, that might not only leave him out of the battle but would cast Temeraire wholly down. But he felt the stain to his honor, deeply, "and I suppose that damned hussar is off thinking to himself I have not the courage of a dog," he said, bitterly.

"You did just as you ought, thank Heaven," Granby said, pale with relief. "There's no denying it's a wrench, but the risk isn't to be borne. You needn't see the fellow again; Ferris and I can go-between with him, if there's anything we must deal with him for."

"I thank you; but I should sooner let him shoot me than let him think I have the least reluctance to face him," Laurence said.

Granby had met him at the entrance to the covert; now together they reached the small, bare clearing which had been assigned them; Temeraire was curled up in what comfort he could find and listening intently to the conversation of the Prussian dragons near him, ears and ruff pricked up with attention, while the men busied themselves at cooking-fires, snatching a hasty meal.

"Are we leaving now?" he asked, when Laurence arrived.

"No, I am afraid not," Laurence said, calling over his other senior officers, Ferris and Riggs, to join them. "Well, gentlemen, we are in the thick of it," he told them grimly. "They have refused us the safe-conduct."

When Laurence had finished giving them the whole of the situation, Ferris burst out, "But sir, we will fight, won't - I mean, will we fight with them?" hastily correcting himself.

"We are not children or cowards, to sulk in a corner when there is a battle to hand, and of such vital importance," Laurence said. "Offensive they have been, but I will grant they have been sorely tried, and they might be as outrageous as they liked before I would let pride keep us from doing our duty, and there can scarcely be any question of that; only I wish to God I knew why the Corps has not sent the promised aid."

"There's only one thing it can be; they must be needed more somewhere else," Granby said, "and likely enough it's the same reason they sent us for the eggs in the first place; only if the Channel is not under bombardment, the trouble must be somewhere overseas - some great upset in India, or trouble in Halifax - "

"Oh! Maybe we are taking back the American colonies?" Ferris offered; Riggs opined that it was more likely the colonials had invaded Nova Scotia, ungrateful rebellious sods; and they wrangled it back and forth a moment before Granby interrupted their fruitless speculation.

"Well, it don't matter where, exactly; the Admiralty will never strip the Channel bare no matter how busy Bonaparte is elsewhere, and if all the spare dragons are coming home by transport, any sort of mess at sea could have held them up. But if they are already two months overdue, surely they must arrive any moment."

"For my part, Captain, I hope you'll forgive my saying, I'd as soon stay and fight if they get here tomorrow," Riggs said, in his bluff forthright way. "We could always pass the eggs to some middle-weight to take home; it would be a damned shame to miss a chance to help give Boney a drubbing."

"Of course we must stay and fight," Temeraire put in, dismissing the entire question with a flick of his tail; and indeed there would have been no restraining him, if the battle were anywhere in his vicinity: young male dragons were not notably reluctant to jump into an affray. "It is a great pity that Maximus and Lily are not here, and the rest of our friends; but I am very glad at last we will get to fight the French again. I am sure we can beat them this time, too, and then maybe," he added suddenly, sitting up; his eyes widened and his ruff mounted up with a visible rush of enthusiasm, "the war will be over, and we can go home and see to the liberty of dragons, after all."

Laurence was startled by the intensity of his own sensation of relief; though uneasy, he had not properly realized how very low Temeraire had sunk, that this burst of excitement should provide so sharply defined a contrast. It wholly overcame any inclination he might have had to voice discouraging cautions; though a victory here, he was well aware, was necessary but not sufficient to Bonaparte's final defeat. It was entirely possible, he privately argued with his conscience, that Bonaparte might be forced to make terms, if thoroughly checked in this campaign; and thus give Britain real peace for at least a little while.

So he merely said, "I am glad that you are all of like mind with me, gentlemen, so far as engaging to fight; but we must now consider our other charge: we have bought these eggs too dear in blood and gold to lose them now. We cannot assume the Corps will arrive in time to take them safely home, and if this campaign lasts us more than a month or two, as is entirely likely, we will have the Kazilik egg hatching in the midst of a battlefield."

They none of them spoke for a moment; Granby with his fair skin flushed up red to his roots, and then went pale; he dropped his eyes and said nothing.

"We have them properly bundled up, sir, in a tent with a good brazier, and a couple of the ensigns watching it every minute," Ferris said, after a moment, glancing at Granby. "Keynes says they will do nicely, and if it comes to real fighting, we'd best set the ground crew down somewhere well behind the lines, and leave Keynes behind to look after the eggs; if we have to fall back, we can stop and catch them all up quick enough."

"If you are worried," Temeraire put in unexpectedly, "I will ask it to wait as long as it can, once the shell is a little harder, and it can understand me."

They all looked blankly at him. "Ask it to wait?" Laurence said, confused. "Do you mean - the hatchling? Surely it is not a matter of choice?"

"Well, one does begin to be very hungry, but it does not feel so pressing until one is out of the shell," Temeraire said, as if this were a matter of common knowledge, "and everything outside seems very interesting, once one understands what is being said. But I am sure the hatchling can wait a little while."

"Lord, the Admiralty will stare," Riggs said, after they had all chewed over this startling piece of intelligence. "Though perhaps it is only Celestials who are like that; I am sure I never heard a dragon talk of remembering anything from inside the shell at all."

"Well, there is nothing to talk about," Temeraire said prosaically. "It is quite uninteresting; that is why one comes out."

Laurence dismissed them to go and begin to make some sort of camp, with their limited supplies. Granby hurried away with only a nod; the other lieutenants exchanged a look and followed him. Laurence supposed it was less common with aviators, than with Navy men, that a man got his step only for being in the right place at the right moment, hatchings being under more regular control than captured ships. In the early days of their acquaintance, Granby had himself been one of those officers resentful of Laurence's acquiring Temeraire. Laurence understood his constraint, and his reluctance to speak; Granby could neither speak in favor of a course which would almost certainly result in his being the most senior candidate available when the egg should hatch; nor protest against one which would require him to make the attempt to harness a hatchling under the most dire circumstances, in the midst of a battlefield, the egg barely in their hands for a few weeks, of a rare breed almost unknown to them, and almost certainly no future chance of promotion if he failed.

Laurence spent the evening writing letters in his small tent: all he had in the way of quarters, and that having been put up by his own crew; there had been no offer made to quarter him or his men more formally, though there were barracks for the Prussian aviators erected all around the covert. In the morning he meant to go into Dresden, and see if he could arrange to draw funds on his bank; the last of his money would be gone in a day, provisioning his men and Temeraire at war-time prices, and he had no inclination to go begging to the Prussians under the present circumstances.

A little while after dark, Tharkay tapped one of the tent-poles and came in; the ugly wound at least had not mortified, but he was still limping a little and would bear the deep gouge upon his thigh the rest of his days, a furrow of flesh all seared away. Laurence got up and waved him to the cushion-heaped box which was all he had as a chair. "No, sit; I will do perfectly well here," he said, and himself lay down Turkish-style upon the other cushions on the ground.

"I have only come for a moment," Tharkay said. "Lieutenant Granby tells me we are not to leave; I understand Temeraire has been taken in lieu of twenty dragons."

"Flattering, I suppose, if considered that way," Laurence said wryly. "Yes; we are established here, if against our design, and whether we can fill that tally or no, we mean to do what we can."

Tharkay nodded. "Then I will keep my word to you," he said, "and tell you, this time, that I mean to depart. I doubt an untrained man would be anything other than a dangerous nuisance aboard Temeraire's back in an aerial battle, and you hardly need a guide when you cannot stir out of the camp: I cannot be of any further use to you."

"No," Laurence said slowly, reluctant but unable to argue the point, "and I will not press you to stay, in our present circumstances, though I am sorry to lose you against a future need; and I cannot at the moment reward you as your pains have deserved."

"Let us defer it," Tharkay said. "Who knows? We may meet again; the world is not after all so very large a place."

He spoke with that faint smile, and stood to give Laurence his hand. "I hope we shall," Laurence said, gripping it, "and that I may be of use to you in turn, someday."

Tharkay refused an offer to try and get him a more personal safe-conduct; and indeed Laurence did not have much fear he would need one, despite his game leg. With no further ado, Tharkay put up the hood of his cloak and picking up his small bundle was gone into the bustle and noise of the covert; there were few guards posted around the dragons, and he vanished quickly among the scattered campfires and bivouacs.

Laurence had sent Colonel Thorndyke a stiff, short word that they meant to offer their services to the Prussians; in the morning the colonel came again to the covert, bringing with him a Prussian officer: rather younger than other of the senior commanders, with a truly impressive mustache whose tips hung below his chin, and a fierce, hawk-like expression.

"Your Highness, may I present Captain William Laurence, of His Majesty's Aerial Corps," Thorndyke said. "Captain, this is Prince Louis Ferdinand, commander of the advance guard; you have been assigned to his command."

They were forced for direct communication to resort to French. Laurence ruefully thought that at least his mastery of that language was improving, with as much use as he was being forced to make of it; indeed he was for once not the worse speaker, as Prince Louis spoke with a thick and almost impenetrable accent. "Let us see his range, his skill," Prince Louis said, gesturing to Temeraire.

He called over a Prussian officer, Captain Dyhern, from one of the neighboring coverts, and gave him instructions to lead his own heavy-weight, Eroica, and their formation in a drill to give them the example. Laurence stood by Temeraire's head watching, with private dismay. He had wholly neglected formation-drill practice over the long months since their departure from England, and even at the height of their form they could not have matched the skill on display. Eroica was nearly the size of Maximus, Temeraire's year-mate and a Regal Copper, the very largest breed of dragon known; and he was not a fast flier, but when he moved in square his corners nearly had points, and the distance separating him from the other dragons scarcely varied, to the naked eye.

"I do not at all understand, why are they flying that way?" Temeraire said, head cocked to one side. "Those turns look very awkward, and when they reversed there was enough room for anyone to go between them."

"It is only a drill, not a battle-formation," Laurence said. "But you can be sure they will do all the better in combat for the discipline and the precision required to perform such maneuvers."

Temeraire snorted. "It seems to me that they would do better to practice things that would actually be of use. But I see the pattern; I can do it now," he added.

"Are you sure you would not like to observe a little longer?" Laurence asked, anxiously; the Prussian dragons had only gone through one full repetition, and he for his own part would not at all have minded a little time to practice the maneuver in privacy.

"No; it is very silly, but it is not at all difficult," Temeraire said.

This was perhaps not the best spirit in which to enter into the practice, and Temeraire had never much liked formation-flying at all, even the less-rigorous British style. For all Laurence could do to restrain him, he dashed through the maneuver at high speed, a good deal quicker than the Prussian formation had managed it, not to mention than any other dragon over a light-weight in size could have kept up with, spiraling himself about in a flourishy way to boot.

"I put in the turning over, so that I would always be looking out of the formation body," Temeraire added, coiling himself down to the ground rather pleased with himself. "That way I could not be surprised by an attack."

This cleverness plainly did not much impress Prince Louis, nor Eroica, who gave a short coughing snort, as dismissive as a sniff. Temeraire pricked up his ruff at it and sat up on his haunches narrow-eyed. "Sir," Laurence said hurriedly, to forestall any quarreling, "perhaps you are not aware that Temeraire is a Celestial; they have a particular skill - " Here he stopped, abruptly aware that divine wind might sound poetical and exaggerated if directly translated.

"Demonstrate, if you please," Prince Louis said, gesturing. There was no appropriate target nearby, however, but a small stand of trees. Temeraire obligingly smashed them down with one deep-chested violent roar, by no means the full range of his strength, in the process rousing the whole covert of dragons into loud calls and inquiries and sparking a terrified distant whinnying from the cavalry on the opposite side of the encampment.

Prince Louis inspected the shattered trunks with some interest. "Well, when we have pushed them back onto their own fortifications, that will be useful," he said. "At what distance is it effective?"

"Against seasoned wood, sir, not very great," Laurence said. "He would have to come too near exposed to their guns; however, against troops or cavalry, the range is greater, and I am sure would have excellent effect - "

"Ah! But too dear a cost," Prince Louis said, waving a hand expressively towards the perfectly audible sound of the shrilling horses. "The army which exchanges its cavalry for dragon-corps will be defeated in the field, if their opponent's infantry hold; this the work of Frederick the Great conclusively has proven. Have you before fought in a ground engagement?"

"No, sir," Laurence was forced to admit; Temeraire had only a few actions at all to his credit, all purely aerial engagements, and despite many years' service Laurence could not claim any experience himself, for while most aviators come up through the ranks would have had some practice at least working in support of infantry, he had spent those years afloat, and by whatever chance had never been at a land battle of any kind.

"Hm." Prince Louis shook his head and straightened up. "We will not try and train you up now," he said. "Better to make of you the best use we can. You will sweep with Eroica's formation, in early battle, then hold the enemy off their flanks; keep with them and you will not spook the cavalry."

Having inquired into Temeraire's complement, Prince Louis insisted also on providing them with a few Prussian officers and another half-a-dozen ground hands to fill out their numbers; Laurence could not deny the extra hands were of use, after the unhappy losses which he had suffered, without replacement, since their departure from England: Digby and Baylesworth only lately, Macdonaugh killed in the desert, and poor little Morgan slain along with half his harness-men in the French night assault near Madeira so long ago, when they had scarcely weighed anchor. The new men seemed to know their work, but they spoke almost no English and very indifferent French, and he could not like having such perfect strangers aboard; he was anxious a little for the eggs.

The Prussians were plainly not much appeased by his willingness to assist; they had softened a little towards Temeraire and his crew, but the Aerial Corps were still being spoken of as treacherous. Aside from the pain which this could not help but give Laurence, as this justification had been sufficient to make the Prussians comfortable in keeping him against his will, he would not have been wholly astonished if they took the opportunity to commandeer the Kazilik egg, should they become aware of the imminent hatching.

He had made mention of his urgency, without telling them precisely that the egg was so near its time, and he had not said it was a Kazilik, which should certainly provide a great increase of temptation: the Prussians did not have a fire-breather either. But with the Prussian officers about, the secret was in some jeopardy, and they were all unknowing teaching the eggs German by their conversation, which should make a seizure all the easier.

He had not discussed the matter with his own officers, but that had not been necessary to make them share his concerns; Granby was a popular first officer, well-liked, and even if he had been roundly loathed none of the crew could have been happy to see the fruit of all their desperate labors snatched away. Without any instructions, they were standoffish to the Prussian officers and cautious to keep them away from the eggs, which were left in their swaddling-clothes and kept at the heart of their camp under a now-tripled volunteer guard, posted by Ferris, whenever Temeraire was engaged in maneuvers or exercise.

This did not occur very often; the Prussians did not believe in exerting dragons very much, outside of battle. The formations daily drilled and went on reconnaissance missions, probing out a little way into the countryside, but they did not go very far, being constrained by the range of their slowest members. Laurence's suggestion that he should take Temeraire farther afield had been denied, on the grounds that if they were to encounter any French party they should be taken, or lead them back towards the Prussian encampment, providing too much intelligence in exchange for small gain: yet another of Frederick the Great's maxims, which he was growing tired of hearing.

Only Temeraire was perfectly happy: he was rapidly acquiring German from the Prussian crewmen, and he was just as pleased not to have to be constantly performing formation exercises. "I do not need to fly around in squares to do well in a battle," he said. "It is a pity not to see more of the countryside, but it does not matter; once we have beaten Napoleon, we can always come back for a visit."

He regarded the coming battle in the light of an assured victory, as indeed did nearly the whole of the army around them, except for the grumbling Saxons, mostly reluctant conscripts. There was much to give foundation to such hopes: the level of discipline throughout the camp was wonderful to behold, and the infantry drill beyond anything Laurence had ever seen. If Hohenlohe was not a genius of Napoleon's caliber, he certainly seemed a soldierly kind of general, and his swelling army, large as it was, comprised less than half of the Prussian forces; and that not even counting the Russians, who were massing in the Polish territories to the east and would soon march in support.

The French would be badly outnumbered, operating far from their home territory with supply lines stretched thin; they would not be able to bring many dragons with them, and the lingering threat of Austria on their flank and Britain across the Channel would force Napoleon to leave a good portion of his troops behind to guard against a surprise late entry into the war on the part of either power.

"Who has he fought, anyway: the Austrians and the Italians, and some heathens in Egypt?" Captain Dyhern said; Laurence had out of courtesy been admitted to the captains' mess of the Prussian aviators, and they were happy on the occasion of his visits to shift their conversation to French, for the pleasure of describing to him the inevitable defeat of that nation. "The French have no real fighting quality, no morale; a few good beatings and we will see his whole army melt away."

The other officers all nodded and seconded him, and Laurence was as willing as any of them to raise a glass to Bonaparte's defeat, if less inclined to think his victories quite so hollow; Laurence had fought enough Frenchmen at sea to know they were no slouches in battle, if not much in the way of sailors.

Still, he did not think they were soldiers of the Prussian caliber, and it was heartening to be among a company of men so determined on victory; nothing like shyness known among them, or even uncertainty. They were worthy allies; he knew without question he should not hesitate to range himself in line with them, on the day of battle, and trust his own life to their courage; as near the highest encomium he could give, and which made all the more unpleasant his sensations when Dyhern drew him aside, as they left the mess together one evening.

"I hope you will allow me to speak, without offense," Dyhern said. "Never would I instruct a man how his dragon is to be managed, but you have been out in the East so long; now he has some strange ideas in his head, I think?"

Dyhern was a plain-spoken soldier, but he did not speak unkindly, and his words were intended in the nature of a gentle hint; mortifying enough to receive for all that, with his suggestion that "perhaps he has not been exercised enough, or he has been kept from battle too often; it is good not to let them grow preoccupied."

His own dragon, Eroica, was certainly an exemplar of Prussian dragon-discipline: he even looked the role, with the heavy overlapping plates of bone which ringed his neck and traveled up the ridges of his shoulders and wings, giving him an armored appearance. Despite his vast size, he showed no inclination to indolence, instead being rather quick to chide the other dragons if they should flag, and was always ready to answer a call to drill. The other Prussian dragons were much in awe of him, and willingly stood aside to let him take first fruits when they had their meals.

Laurence had been invited to let Temeraire feed from the pen, once they had committed to joining the battle; and Temeraire, inclined to be jealous of his own precedence, would not hang back in Eroica's favor. Nor would Laurence have liked to see him do so, for that matter. If the Prussians did not choose to make more use of Temeraire's gifts, that was their lookout; he could even appreciate the reasoning that kept them from disrupting their beautifully precise formations by introducing at so late a date a new participant. But he would not have stood for a moment any disparagement of Temeraire's qualities, nor tolerated a suggestion Temeraire was in any way not the equal - and to his own mind, the superior - of Eroica.

Eroica did not object to sharing his dinner himself, but the other Prussian dragons looked a little sourly at Temeraire's daring, and they all of them stared when Temeraire did not immediately eat, but took his kill over to Gong Su to be cooked first. "It always tastes just the same, if you only eat it plain," Temeraire said to their very dubious expressions. "It is much nicer to have it cooked; try a little and you will see."

Eroica made no answer to this but a snort, and deliberately tore into his own cows quite raw, devouring them down to the hooves; the other Prussian dragons at once followed his example.

"It is better not to give in to their whims," Dyhern added to Laurence now. "It seems a small thing, I know - why not let them have all the pleasure they can, when they are not fighting? But it is just as with men. There must be discipline, order, and they are the happier for it."

Guessing that Temeraire had once again broached the subject of his reforms with the Prussian dragons, Laurence answered him a little shortly, and went back to Temeraire's clearing, to find him curled up unhappily and silent. What little inclination Laurence had to reproach him vanished in the face of his disappointed droop, and Laurence went to him at once to stroke his soft muzzle.

"They say I am soft, for wishing to eat cooked food, and for reading," Temeraire said, low, "and they think I am silly for saying dragons ought not to have to fight; they none of them wanted to listen."

"Well," Laurence said gently, "my dear, if you wish dragons to be free to choose their own way, you must be prepared that some of them will wish to make no alteration; it is what they are used to, after all."

"Yes, but surely anyone can see that it is nicer to be able to choose," Temeraire said. "It is not as though I do not want to fight, whatever that booby Eroica says," he added, with abrupt and mounting indignation, his head coming up off the ground and the ruff spreading, "and what he has to say to anything, when he does not think of anything but counting the number of wingbeats between one turn and the next, I should like to know; at least I am not stupid enough to practice ten times a day just how best to show my belly to anyone who likes to come at me from the flank."

Laurence received this stroke of temper with dismay, and tried to apply himself to soothing Temeraire's jangled nerves, but to little success.

"He said that I ought to practice my formations instead of complaining," Temeraire continued heatedly, "when I could roll them up in two passes, the way they fly; he ought to stay at home and eat cows all day long, for the good they will do in a battle."

At last he allowed himself to be calmed, and Laurence thought nothing more of it; but in the morning, sitting and reading with Temeraire - now puzzling laboriously, for his benefit, through a famous novel by the writer Goethe, a piece of somewhat dubious morality called Die Leiden des jungen Werther - Laurence saw the formations go up for their battle-drills, and Temeraire, still smarting, took the opportunity to make a great many critical remarks upon their form, which seemed to Laurence accurate so far as he could follow them.

"Do you suppose he is only in a savage mood, or mistaken?" Laurence privately asked Granby, afterwards. "Surely such flaws cannot have escaped them, all this time?"

"Well, I don't say I have a perfectly clear picture of what he is talking about," Granby said, "but he isn't wrong in any of it so far as I can tell, and you recall how handy he was at thinking up those new formations, back during our training. It's a pity we've never yet had a chance of putting them to work."

"I hope I do not seem to be critical," Laurence said to Dyhern that evening. "But though his ideas are at times unusual, Temeraire is remarkably clever at such things, and I would consider myself amiss not to raise the question to you."

Dyhern eyed Laurence's makeshift and hasty diagrams, and then shook his head smiling faintly. "No, no; I take no offense; how could I, when you so politely bore my own interference?" he said. "Your point is well-taken: what's right for one, is not always fair for the other. Strange how very different the tempers of dragons can be. He would be unhappy and resentful, if you were always correcting or denying him, I expect."

"Oh, no," Laurence said, dismayed. "Dyhern, I meant to make no such implication; I beg you believe me quite sincere in wishing to draw to your attention a possible weakness in our defense, and nothing more."

Dyhern did not seem convinced, but he did look over the diagrams a little longer, and then stood up and clapped Laurence on the shoulder. "Come, do not worry," he said. "Of course there are some openings you here have found; there is no maneuver without its points of weakness. But it is not so easy to exploit a little weakness in the air, as it might seem upon paper. Frederick the Great himself approved these drills; with them we beat the French at Rossbach; we will beat them again here."

With this reply Laurence had to be content, but he went away dissatisfied; a dragon properly trained ought be a better judge of aerial maneuvers than any man, it seemed to him, and Dyhern's answer more willful blindness than sound military judgment.

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