David and the three women sat around the kitchen table long after breakfast on Sunday morning, letting their minds run randomly through the broad variety of possibilities with the delicatessen business and the vineyards. Everything they thought of led to enjoyment and success, but every idea was tainted by the uncertainties of the war.
"From what I saw in Belgium, and from what I was told," David said, "this war will likely continue for a long time yet. Some are saying for years, and with our naval blockade, conditions in Germany will continue to decline."
"It might make sense to close-up this place, rather than expanding here," Bethia said. "Establish a new operation across in Switzerland. I've plenty of money, far more than enough to start over."
"Is there a town on the other side close to your vineyards?" David asked. "Might there be a suitable building you could buy?"
"Trasadingen is the first village across the border. Actually, our Swiss vineyard is within that municipality. There's been a movement away from that area to Schaffhausen, Zürich and other large centres. I guess that's happening most places these days with people leaving agriculture for manufacturing, so it's likely there are a few places over there looking for buyers."
"Would you want to do that?" David looked around at the equipment. "Leave this place and start over? That's a huge disruption."
"Better than sitting here with the uncertainty of what might happen, wondering what the Germans might do next."
"What about all the wondrous systems you have here? All the ingenious engineering? You can't take that with you."
"No, but we can take Aaron's engineering drawings of it all and have them built again once we find an appropriate place."
"You've been living here for almost twenty years," Rachel said. "Have you any Swiss papers from before you moved?"
"I still have the travel document I was given about twenty-five years ago when I travelled back to England with my sister — your mother — to settle the family estate after our mother died. It names me as a Swiss citizen. It's long since expired, but I've often used it as proof when I travel."
"That should work well." David smiled and nodded. "So we all have our Swiss papers, then."
"What paper have you?" Bethia asked as she tilted her head.
"Rachel has the birth certificates for Jacob and Nathan, besides Maria's. I'll use Jacob's. His middle name was David, and we were born within weeks of each other. I can't imagine any problem with it; there's no way to either confirm or dismiss the validity."
"We should try the border crossing," Maria said. "I can go across with Mama to find out what the process is. They should have no concern with women crossing. We can ask the Swiss border agents about driving the lorry across. Find out if we need a permit."
"As a ruse to explain our crossing, we can tell the German guards we're investigating bringing food across from Switzerland to help ease the shortage here. I don't know." Rachel shrugged. "Potatoes, cabbages, whatever the shortage is. We can check the market to find out what's needed."
"If the lorry is easy across, once we find a place in Trasadingen, we can start moving the wine and other things from here to there. On the return trips, we can bring in vegetables for the market."
"Alright..." David paused to look at each of them. "We've now explored a fair distance into this one. It seems we all consider this as a good direction. Let's now consider what's wrong with the idea and identify reasons we shouldn't pursue it. Think quietly for a while, and then we'll discuss our thoughts."
"I'll make a pot of tea while I'm thinking." Bethia stood and walked to the sink. A few minutes later, as the kettle began to boil, she said, "I can see nothing wrong with the idea. We should explore this further — not only explore — but make plans for doing it."
"This is a lot of disruption and upheaval for you, Tante." David looked at her and shook his head. "At this point in your life, you should be looking for easier things, not taking on new challenges."
"Poppycock. You young ones have no idea. I'm still the same adventurous girl of eighteen inside that I've been for nearly half a century. My body has certainly changed since I was eighteen, but my spirit hasn't. It's when we give up exploring and adventuring that our spirit starts dying. That's real ageing. Chronological age is only a count of time that has passed. It's the spirit that matters."
"I feel younger just listening to you, Tante," Rachel said. "What a marvellous way to look at life."
They sat quietly for another long while, sipping their tea, nibbling on shortbread fingers and thinking. Finally, Bethia asked, "So, has anyone discovered anything wrong with pursuing this further?"
They looked at each other silently, then shook their heads no in unison. David turned to Bethia and smiled. "Seems we're all in agreement. I'd suggest the first step is to test the border crossing."
"What if I drove Tante across?" Maria asked. "That way we can learn what's needed to take the lorry into Switzerland and for the return into Germany. While we're there, we can continue along to Trasadingen and search for properties for sale."
"Edom's parents, your Oma and Opa." Rachel looked at Maria. "They're only a few kilometres farther along on the road toward Unterhallau. There are likely a few suitable places for sale over that way which they might know about."
Bethia placed a hand on Rachel's. "It makes sense that you and Maria go on this first trip — go visit with Oma and Opa. Today's Sunday, so they'll likely be at home."
Maria stood and headed toward the door. "I'll go out to the lorry to get the driving map."
"It's been ten years," Rachel said as she examined the map, "but I can picture their place so clearly, and the route which leads to it." She ran a finger along the roads from the border crossing, through Trasadingen and on toward Unterhallau. "This is exciting. Let's go visit with them."
YOU ARE READING
In the early months of the First World War, a young Canadian soldier uses quick thinking and ingenuity to evade capture after being wounded fighting in Flanders. While escaping through Germany to the Swiss border, he becomes intimately entwined with...