Chapter Thirty-Three

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Sonnenhang, Switzerland — Wednesday, 26 May 1915

The courtyard at Sonnenhang was bustling with people at seven thirty on Wednesday morning. Rachel took the five pruners into the vineyards and demonstrated what was required, using one of the saws and sets of secateurs she had bought in town earlier in the week. She pointed to the cordons and the beginnings of new growth on them. "Leave these, but cut away everything else like this."

Rachel demonstrated again, then watched as they each pruned a vine. She offered guidance and answered their questions until she was satisfied they all understood their job. "We'll break at ten for tea. If you have any questions or concerns, please come find me."

Meanwhile, Maria took the cleaning crew into the house and upstairs to show them the rooms and to explain what was needed. Pointing to the large assortment of ladders, platforms, buckets, brushes, cloths, vinegar, borax and castile soap, she said, "Everything spotless, as if you were preparing a sick room. Open the windows to air out the rooms. Remove any peeling wallpaper as you find it. We'll ring the bell at ten to announce a pause for tea in the courtyard."

David and Bethia sat with the mason and the carpenter, studying Aaron's engineering drawings for the smoker, the brining room and the preparation kitchen. "I'm thinking the old stable is the best place for these," Bethia said. "Let's go see how we can adapt it to our needs."


By Saturday afternoon, when the last of the workers had left, the entire top floor of the house had been cleaned, and electricians had installed lighting in six of the rooms and began the seventh. The carpenters had framed five new bathrooms by dividing three of the old bedrooms, and they cut doorways through to link them to their respective bedrooms. Now instead of eight bedrooms, which were limited to chamber pots, there were five suites, each with a bedroom and a bathroom.

The masons were nearly finished building a brick cistern twenty metres up the slope beside the cascading stream, and a pipeline had been installed to bring water from it to the house. Plumbers had run wastewater pipes from the bathrooms, and labourers were preparing the ground for a septic tank and a leaching field well down the slope from the buildings.

David, Maria, Rachel, Bethia and Greta sat sipping wine under the oak trees in the courtyard as they reviewed the four days of work and looked at the following week. "The electrical turbine is due to arrive on Tuesday," David said. "And the electricians told me the wiring should be complete by then. Lathing the new walls will begin on Monday, and the plasterers are coming on Tuesday."

"All the bathroom and water closet fixtures are due to arrive on Wednesday," Rachel said. "When will the water be connected?"

"The cistern is nearly complete. It needs only the mortar to mature and then a sealing with resin," David said. "They told me we can start filling it Wednesday morning, but we're still waiting for the hot water tanks. No word yet on their arrival."

Greta had listened quietly, then at a lull in the conversation, she said, "This is more like my dream. I was foolish to not kick him out, but he was always such a sweet talker. So much talk and so little action. And I was so gullible, always believing he'd change." She shook her head. "More than thirty years here with chamber pots, buckets from the stream and kettles on the stove for hot water. So plain to see now he was fooling me with his stories of how difficult it would be to make things easier."

"But Jacob and Maddie hadn't modernised until a few years ago," Rachel said. "When Edom and I moved to Germany in 1905, they still had chamber pots, an outhouse and no electricity."

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