After their breakfast on Monday morning, David and Maria remained in the dining room having a long rambling conversation. He looked at his watch. "Nearly nine thirty. I must read the letter again to ensure it still makes sense. Come, let's do that." They got up and headed toward the lobby.
"I prefer to take the stairs," Maria said, nodding toward them. "For the exercise and for the graceful architecture. I've never imagined such a grand stairwell."
Upstairs in their suite, they sat on the chaise longues, and he read the letter through in silence, then he read it aloud to Maria. "Does this still say what is needed? Are there things I might change?"
Maria slowly shook her head. "I cannot see the need to change anything. This introduces you well, tells of your wounding, evasion and escape. It shows your desire to continue serving, but most importantly, it shows your character, your skills, your initiative and your honour. It would take an incredibly insensitive man to not to see that you've much more to offer to the war than would be served by sending you back to the trenches."
"Then let's hope this lands in the hands of a sensitive man." He refolded the letter, returned it to the envelope and licked the flap. "There, I've sealed my fate. Let's walk over to the Embassy."
Ten minutes later, after he had explained the reason for the visit, they were shown to seats in a waiting area and told it should be only a few minutes. They sat in silence watching the comings and goings in the busy reception foyer, then a tall man in a deep blue suit approached and looked at those seated. "David Meier?"
David stood. "Sir." He nodded his head to the side, then he continued with a slight German accent. "And this is my wife, Maria."
"What may we do for you?"
David looked around to ensure no one else was within hearing, then he pulled the envelope from his pocket and spoke quietly. "We have a letter from a Canadian soldier who has recently evaded capture and escaped to Switzerland. He wishes this placed in proper hands to arrange his return to the war effort."
"And how might we contact him?"
"The details are in the letter." He handed it to the man.
"Thank you. Might we be of further assistance to you?"
"No, I think this is all for the moment. He'll await your contact." David turned to Maria and offered his hand for her to stand, then they nodded and walked across the foyer to the door.
Outside, he let out a deep sigh. "Done. My fate now rests in their hands. Let's hope the hands are attached to a wise head." They strolled through the old town again, taking a different route than on the previous evening and pausing often to examine the ancient buildings and to look into shop windows.
The display of chocolate in the Tobler windows enticed them into the shop. After tasting some samples, they left with a large box of selected pieces and nibbled on some as they continued their slow meanderings. David looked at his watch. "Nearly an hour and a half now. Let's head back to the hotel to see if there's been a response yet."
"So quickly? Wouldn't it take longer?"
"I wouldn't think so. The letter will likely have been immediately read, then quickly passed up the chain of command to someone empowered to make decisions."
"Chain of command? What's that?"
"A military thing, but also the structure of any well-run organisation. The person in charge is at the top, and beneath him is a broadening pyramid of people, each overseeing those below. The higher the level, the greater the responsibility and the more important the decisions."
"I saw that at the hospital — with its administration."
"It's an effective system unless the people at the bottom don't pass important matters up the chain. Matters that are beyond their grasp or capabilities, and they leave them to moulder."
"Might that happen here? With the Embassy?"
"Possible, but not likely. I would think them a well-oiled team. We'll soon find out." He nodded to the doorman as they passed through into the hotel's lobby, toward the counter to pick up their room key. He was handed an envelope with it.
David opened the envelope as they rode the lift. He pulled out a folded note enclosing a calling card.
Dear Mister Berry,
We have read your letter with great interest and have cabled the War Office in London to inform them of your safety. The nature of the information you conveyed has been sent to higher authority to ask for further instructions.
It would be my great honour and pleasure to meet with you in my office this afternoon at three o'clock. Please inform the reception desk if another time is more suitable.
I look forward to meeting you.
"It appears my letter moved directly to the top — this seems to be the Ambassador." He smiled and hugged her to his chest for the remainder of the lift ride. After locking their room door behind them, he checked his watch. "Just past noon. We should have lunch while we wait."
"Let's go back to that patio we saw beyond Münsterplatz. The crêperie with the great view of the Alps."
David laughed loudly. "I'm just thinking of Dad's name for Mamère's crêpes. He called them sissy pancakes. Come, let's go have some sissy pancakes. I'm so relieved my family will now know I'm safe."
"But the postcard you sent? Wouldn't they have received that by now?"
"This information would go by cable. I was calculating this morning as we waited. I mailed the postcard three and a half weeks ago now. Letters were taking about that long to reach us in Belgium, but that's with the British access to all the Transatlantic shipping. I don't know what access Swiss mail has to that." He shook his head. "I can't imagine how horrid it's been for Mamère."
"What about your father? Wouldn't he also be worried?"
"He's probably been suffering even more, the way he keeps his feelings from showing."
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...