Shortly past three, David gave Maria a hand up into the cab of the lorry. He set the spark, pulled the choke, cranked the spring and released it, then pushed in the choke, climbed aboard, adjusted the spark and waved to Evelyn and Edith. As they drove down the curved lane, Maria leaned onto his shoulder and sighed. "Such a delightful couple."
"He's full of curiosity. See how intrigued he was with the lorry. He seems that way with everything. But you're that way too, brimming over with curiosity."
"And you. That's why you have such a broad knowledge. I'm so excited to be working with Edith. Such a noble project we have ahead of us."
Within twenty minutes, David had wound his way through the city, crossed the bridge and passed the last of the houses of Bern. Maria directed him from the map and kept a sharp eye for road signs. "Interesting here on this road, all the signs for Zürich. It's more a hundred kilometres away, but the other day, we didn't see the first sign for Interlaken until we were quite near."
"Zürich is a much larger city, and this new road is a direct link from Bern. As we drove toward Interlaken, there were many destinations and many roads. Remember, there were signs to Bern before the first one for Interlaken. The signs show the routes to the major destinations here, not like up in Schaffhausen, where they show only the next village or town."
A few minutes before six, David braked the lorry to a stop in the courtyard at Küsnacht as Michael emerged from the house and approach Maria's door to give her a hand. He looked across to David. "The Army didn't want you?"
"Not immediately. I've another few days." He descended from the cab and walked around to greet Michael. "I'm off to Oxford early Monday for training."
"Come, let's go in and greet Mary and Rachel. They've begun worrying about you; it's been five days. I'd been wondering myself. Some wine?"
"Wonderful idea," Maria said. "That'll wash the dust from the last few kilometres. What a difference in roads after Zürich."
After warm hugs and kisses, the five of them sat on the patio sipping wine and nibbling from the trays Murielle had brought out. David and Maria recounted their adventures, trading the telling with each other.
"So while David's away being trained and groomed to be better able to kick the Kaiser's butt, I'll be living in the Embassy. Edith is contacting the University to get information on continuing my training. I'm so excited."
Michael nodded. You've every right to be excited. "I told you the letter would be effective, David. But this is all far beyond what I had imagined."
Maria bounced in her chair. "I must show you my new gown, Grandma. It's similar to the new Paris styles you were showing me in the magazine. And David's suit... You won't believe it." She stood and took David's hand. "Come, we need to wash the road off our bodies, then we can give them a fashion show."
After dinner, while the women sat inside listening to Maria recount details from the dinner and the lunch at the Embassy, David and Michael stood on the patio with snifters of Armagnac and talked about officer training. Michael shared fond memories of his own training, and he talked about the qualities that are required of an officer and of how the training brings these out and refines them.
"There will be many things done that you might question, but bear in mind there's a purpose behind them. I quickly learned to find the intent of the exercises, and that made it easy to succeed. The ones who resist or rebel are counselled, and if they persist in their resistance to leadership, they are dismissed from the training. A leader must first learn to follow before he can lead."
"To follow every order, though? Following some orders might unnecessarily endanger others or the entire mission. I saw that in the trenches. Would it not be wise sometimes to question? If I have knowledge or awareness my leader lacks or hasn't seen, wouldn't I be complicit in the subsequent injuries or failure, if I didn't question?"
"Superb point. That's where a true leader's skill shines; knowing when to question, knowing how to tactfully offer an alternative. But we shouldn't question or criticise unless we have a better way to achieve the goal. A safer and more effective way."
"I often saw officers who were superior only by their rank. Their grasp of the situation was inferior to that of those they led. It seemed sometimes they realised this as they flustered, probably hoping for suggestions. Others just bludgeoned on."
"Another excellent point. As leaders, we must always be open to new ideas and to suggestions. Be aware that there may well be people of greater skill, awareness and ingenuity beneath us in the chain of command. The power of a leader is to be aware of all resources and use them in the most effective manner. Our finest resources are the people we lead, some of whom will be better leaders than we are. Don't be afraid to use their skills. Remember the goal."
"I noted that in how I was received by the Ambassador and the Military Attaché. They sensed I had something to offer that was far beyond my position." He nosed his snifter. "This is quite like the Cognac we had at the Embassy, though more mellow."
"This is Armagnac. It's made in an area east of Bordeaux, toward your mother's home in Toulouse, while Cognac is made in a region north of Bordeaux. Both are made from wines of the same grape variety, but the soils of the vineyards differ, as do distillation methods."
David nosed his snifter again and nodded, then took a sip, pausing as he savoured it. "I need you to keep some things secret, and I'll be needing your advice and your experience. I'll be coming back here after my training."
"I had expected that you would be from what you wrote in the letter. They would be missing a great opportunity had they not responded this way."
"I'm not sure what it will entail, but the Prime Minister has taken a direct interest."
"Excellent. I'm well aware of the need to be discreet."
"On another matter. Maria and I have considered ourselves to be married for five or six weeks now. Do we need to have it made official?"
"Not for us, you don't. Besides, it would be difficult since you're not officially in the country. Your Canadian identity would be questioned, and your Swiss identity shows you as her brother."
"That's what I saw. The Ambassador thought he might have the authority to marry us, but he was informed that Switzerland is one of the countries that don't allow it."
"I'll see what I can do with your passport application to change you from being Maria's brother. The word is that the new system will be in place this autumn. In the meantime, we all consider you're married, and it warms us to watch you."
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...