The old Prussian Colonel's underpants
"The old Prussian Colonel has washed his pants," shouted Little Hans, running excitedly through the village.
Though it was still early on a Sunday morning, it seemed that the whole village was awake, or at least awoke at the news, as within a minute, maybe two, every front door in the village had been flung open, apart from Millie the miller's daughter, of course, who always uses the rear entrance, but she too was gathered in the village Oblong (no-one with even a basic understanding of geometry could ever call it a square).
As one, they followed Little Hans up the hill (in fact, merely a small incline) to the Prussian Colonel's house. Outside the Colonel's bedroom, flying proudly as a flag, were the Colonel's underpants.
"This is bad," said Herr Elder.
"This is bad," agreed Father Hess.
"This is bad," said Herr Klapton, who always had his own opinion, even when it was the same as everyone else's.
"What on earth shall we do if we are invaded today?" said Herr Elder. "We're defenceless."
It was a year ago to the day that Little Hans had seen a boat on the horizon and had run through the village shouting that they were being invaded. The Prussian Colonel had been summoned, as a former military man only he could lead the village forces against an invasion, but had not responded as the villagers had hoped.
"I cannot possibly lead an army today," he had shouted from his bedroom window, "I have washed my underpants this morning." The Old Prussian Colonel had gestured to the pants flying proudly outside his window. "They are still wet, you cannot expect me to lead an army without underpants."
Luckily the invasion had proved to be a false alarm. The 'invading fleet' that Little Hans had seen turned out to be merely a large seabird.
However, it did alert the village to their vulnerability should the Prussian Colonel's underpants prove to be indisposed when the Prussian (and his pants) were most needed.
"Maybe it is not so bad," said Frau Hecker. "If the sun comes out and the wind blows, then the pants should be dry in an hour or so, and there is no sign of any invasion just yet."
But the sun didn't come out and the wind didn't blow and the pants remained hanging outside the window.
"We must make the pants dry more quickly," said Father Hess.
"I could use my bellows," said Herr Hufschmied, the village blacksmith. "They are super-powerful and the pants will be dry in no time."
The villages helped the blacksmith carry his bellows up the small incline to the Prussian Colonel's house. Herr Hufschmied started to work his bellows and the pants could be seen blowing in the artificially-created breeze.
"Ha, the pants will be dry in no time," said Herr Klapton . But he was wrong, for the bellows were too powerful, or the pants were too loosely secured, for they were blown off the washing line and flew threw the air, for a short while, before tumbling into a muddy ditch below.
The villagers looked at the pants aghast. "The Prussian Colonel will be angry," said Father Hess.
"Never mind," said Frau Baumbach, "I will wash the pants, he need never know."
Of course it took time for Frau Baumbach to wash the pants and when she had, they were soaking wet.
"We are worse off than we started," said Herr Storitz, the scientist. "At this rate, with no breeze and a low temperature, it will no be until tomorrow before the pants are dried. We need to enhance the heat of the sun, which I can do with my selection of glass lenses."
And so the villages helped Herr Storitz arrange his glass lenses, and indeed the sun's rays could be seen shining onto the old Prussian Colonel's underpants.
"The pants are on fire!" shouted Frau Martems.
A bucket of water was soon found and the pants were put out.
There was only superficial damage to the pants, but they were once again soaking wet.
"The pants are dripping wet," said Herr Hurdidge, the baker. "I am just about to put a batch of bread into the ovens, I can put the pants in there with them, they will dry in no time."
The whole village crammed into the bakery to wait for the pants to dry. Although it was crowded and uncomfortable, the smell of baking bread was extremely pleasant, so nobody complained.
"What is that smell," said Herr Elder a few minutes later. "It is like burning."
"Oh don't worry," said Herr Hurdidge, "The bread won't be burnt yet, I have the timing to a tee."
"But how is your timing for underpants?"
The baker rushed to the oven to retrieve the pants, but it was too late, they were already burnt to cinders.
"What are we to do," said Herr Elder. "Without pants the old Prussian Colonel will never be able to help us. The entire village is exposed to attack."
"We need a new pair of pants," said Father Hess. "We must go to Herr Schneider immediately."
Herr Schneider, the tailor, lived a mile outside the village, so they all set off to his house.
When the villagers arrived there was no sign of life and the curtains were closed.
"He must still be asleep," said Herr Elder incredulously.
"That's why he lives out here," said Frau Ernst, "He says he finds the village too noisy, he likes a lie-in on a Sunday morning."
"Then we must make noise now and wake him." The villages hammered on the front door and shouted up to the tailor's window, which eventually opened and Herr Shneider's sleepy face appeared.
"What do you all want. I was asleep."
"Asleep but this is a crisis," said Herr Elder.
"Crisis, what crisis?"
"We need you to make emergency underpants. Get up now, don't dawdle, we're not safe until the pants are constructed."
"What on earth are you on about. What are emergency underpants?"
The villages explained, eventually, each of them interrupting the other and several people shouting at once. Finally the situation was made clear.
"Oh, then I shall go back to bed," said Herr Schneider.
"Have you not listened?" shouted Herr Elder. "Don't you understand the emergency?"
"Do you take me for a fool," said Herr Schneider. "After the scare last year I realised that the village couldn't be left vulnerable every time the Colonel washes his pants, so I made him six new pairs to use as spares. "
"You mean all this time the Colonel has pants to hand."
"Yes yes. All of this fuss, just because an old man has washed his pants. And you wonder why I live outside of the village."
So saying, the tailor closed his window and returned to bed.