Chapter Thirty-Four

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Sonnenhang, Switzerland — Thursday 21 October 1915

The men had all bought new clothing on Wednesday, and they had been packed and ready to go when David greeted them after breakfast on Thursday morning. After a stop for lunch in Winterthur, they arrived at Sonnenhang mid-afternoon.

Bethia and Rachel stepped out of the winery and into the courtyard when they heard the sound of the lorry, then they rushed across to greet David as he climbed down from the cab

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Bethia and Rachel stepped out of the winery and into the courtyard when they heard the sound of the lorry, then they rushed across to greet David as he climbed down from the cab. He wrapped them both in a hug. "I've missed you two."

The women nodded and hummed as they enjoyed the hug, then Bethia said, "We should get the lads settled in their quarters, then we can all pause for tea. You should recognise everything there from your plans."

David turned to see the men had climbed out of the back of the lorry and had been formed in a semicircle behind him. After he had introduced them all, he looked at Bethia and Rachel. "I don't expect you to remember all their names. Thirteen is a bit many to absorb at once."

"Rachel and I will go get started on preparing tea. You know where the quarters are." Bethia pointed to the tables across the courtyard. "It's a lovely day, we'll take tea under the oak trees."

David led the group across the courtyard, explaining as they went, "This is the former carriage house. We put an extension on it, telling the construction crew we were converting it into lodgings for the vineyard workers and grape pickers."

Inside, he paused in the room set with tables and chairs. "This will be our common mess." He turned and pointed. "Yours are the first two bunk rooms along there, the eight privates in the first one and the three corporals in the next." He pointed to doors at the end of the hall. "The water closets are on the left and shower room is on the right. There's near unlimited hot water."

He turned to Herman and Georg. "I'll take you two to your quarters in the schloss while the men settle in." He looked at his watch. "It's now fifteen forty; we'll all meet for tea under the oaks at sixteen."

After he had shown the Second Lieutenant and the Sergeant to their suites upstairs. David descended to the kitchen to assist with preparations. "I was elated to read in your letter, Tante, learning that Greta had reunited with her sons."

"They're both fine men." Bethia wiped her hands on a tea towel and looked around. "It was so good to have them all here to help with the harvest, and to watch her dote on her grandchildren, and to see the way they adore her."

"I'm pleased she's finally at peace from the horrors Franz had inflicted on her." He scanned the kitchen counter. "What can I do?"

"I think the baskets and trays are ready to carry out. Probably two loads. Rachel went to pull jugs of wine from a fermentation vat."

The sixteen of them sat in the shade of the oaks around a doubled table laden with a spread of cheeses, sliced meats and breads. Rachel poured the wine from one of the jugs and explained it. "This is from the overgrown vineyard sections, which we cut back to a few fruiting canes in May. It's far short of the quality that will come in the next years, but I think it gives a glimpse of how fine the potential is here."

She raised her glass and looked into the wine

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She raised her glass and looked into the wine. "This finished its fermentation only two days ago, and it's not yet settled. That's why it's so murky." Raising her glass higher, she said, "Cheers, and welcome to Sonnenhang."

David nosed his glass and took a sip of the wine. "It has the smell and taste of rising bread."

"The dead yeast cells are still in it. That's part of the cloudiness. We could filter it now, but that would deny the wine the complexity the lees will give. They'll settle over the next weeks, and we'll pick an appropriate time to rack it, to run the wine off its sediment."

"You do the same with the red, the Blauburgunder?" David asked.

"No, red and white are made completely differently. Reds are crushed and fermented with their skins. Grape juice is clear, and the red colour comes from skin pigments. For white wines, the grapes are pressed, and only the juice is fermented."

They all shared conversations as they enjoyed the wine and the spread of food, then when they were done, David left Georg to organise the clean up while he took Bethia and Herman aside to talk. "Are the accounts up to date with the War Office?"

Bethia nodded. "Actually, we've a substantial excess at the moment, but that's mostly the advance for accommodating and provisioning the men. The construction costs were covered quickly."

"I'm delighted with the quality of the barracks. The men are as well."

"The same crew that did the renovations in the schloss. Seems they were delighted to be working for us again." She smiled. "I learned long ago the best way to get great work done is to respect the workers and treat them well."

Bethia led them around the end of the wing and down the gentle slope. "Here's your potato field. Half ready to harvest now, the other half in two or three weeks." She turned and pointed to the buildings. "The bins are stacked in the root cellar."

As they walked back up the slope, she said, "I've the list of market days for the towns and villages up the Wutach and through the southern Schwarzwald."

David nodded. "Seems we're nearly ready. I received a cable yesterday from the War Office, informing me the two cooks will arrive tomorrow. Both were born in the French side of the country and have limited German, but at least they have Swiss papers. They'll speak English in the kitchen, anyway."

"You've done a huge amount of organising, David. This is a very professional operation." Bethia pointed up the slope at the former carriage house. "So many clever ideas. From the outside, it all appears inconspicuous."

"We need it to remain that way. Let's go up and organise a duty roster to work in the kitchen. I'm due to pick up the cooks at the train station in Schaffhausen tomorrow afternoon, so we'll have the team also do tomorrow's dinner."

As they arrived in the courtyard, David said to Herman, "You go organise a rotation for the meals from this evening through tomorrow evening, including tea. Three men should be sufficient for each. Include the NCOs and us." He paused and calculated. "That's fifteen. Use me twice."

Herman shook his head. "I'll do the twice, you need to drive into town to pick up the cooks from the train."

David nodded. "Good, let's do that."

Herman headed toward the mess, and David walked Bethia toward the schloss. As they neared the door, he smiled and peered into her eyes. "Did you see how Rachel and Georg were looking at each other during tea?"

She smiled and nodded. "Hard to miss."

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