I concluded that I was actually assisting a performance by a troop of little Maltese monkeys, amusing enough but crippled by disease

From Robert Graves’ Lars Porsena or the Future of Swearing and Improper Language (pg 13).

The ingenious General G***r, so remarkable an artist in swearing that he must one day earn a paragraph in the revised DNB, used this form of profanity with the happiest effect. Once, when inspecting the famous “Z” Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, he was dissatisfied with its response to his order “Dismount!”  He bellowed out: “Now climb back again, you pack of consumptive little Maltese monkeys!”  “Z” Battery complained to Headquarters of this affront, and General G***r was in due course asked for his explanation and apology.  He give it briefly as follows:
Sir,
I have the honour to report that, on the occasion to which I am referred, my order to dismount was obeyed in so slovenly a fashion that for the moment I was deceived. I concluded that I was actually assisting a performance by a troop of little Maltese monkeys, amusing enough but crippled by disease, I tender my apologies to all ranks of “Z” Battery for my mistake.
I have the honour to be, sir, 
Your obedient servant,
J. G***r
Major General

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