Chapter Fifty-One

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After their breakfast, David and Maria went out and walked into the shopping district, enjoying the late autumn sun as they meandered through the maze of small streets, pausing frequently to look at window displays as they talked.

At one window, Maria gazed up into David's eyes. "What was that about yesterday? Mr Whitely and you?"

"Looks like I'll be changing jobs in a week or two. From peddling potatoes to peddling watches. Paul is a sales agent for Rolex in Britain, and he's recruited me to be one in Germany. I'm to meet with Hans, the company owner early next month, once I've finished with the railways."

"That's getting close, isn't it? The bridges?"

"Yes. That's why I feel the strong need right now to be up there, in Sonnenhang."

"So the watches? A smoother way for you to get into and to travel through Germany? What will you do there?" Maria squeezed his arm and giggled. "Besides selling watches?"

"I don't know yet but I assume it will be to gather information. I'll have to go to London again and meet with my contact, but I need now to focus on current things. When does your cramping and discomfort usually start?"

"I don't always get them, but when I do, they begin just before the first blood. My mood turns down before that. It's my main sign."

"Your mood seems mainly upbeat today. Have you had any cramping, pangs, discomfort?"

"None. That's the main reason I'm increasingly convinced that we are pregnant. This is so unlike my usual cycle."

"Are there any tests to show pregnancy?"

"None that work. They've been trying for millennia. The Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, and onward have devised weird methods, all without any accuracy. The best proof is the continued absence of monthly bleeding." She chuckled and put a hand on her belly. "And the swelling here. The final proof is the birth of the baby. God, do I ever want that proof."

David wrapped his arms around her and they swayed. "Don't we both!" God, how could I leave her now? I must stay until we know. Surely by tomorrow morning. He squeezed her tighter. "I'll remain overnight. Leave after breakfast."

Sonnenhang, Switzerland — Tuesday 30 November 1915

David braked the lorry to a stop in the courtyard at Sonnenhang a little past eleven thirty on Tuesday, Rachel watching him from the winery door as he did. He walked over and hugged her. "We think Maria's pregnant. We both desperately want it to be so."

Rachel beamed. "I wasn't aware you were trying. That's such wonderful news. What are her signs?"

"No blood yesterday morning when she expected it. No pangs, no discomfort, no depressed mood."

"I started yesterday morning." Rachel nodded and smiled. "We're always in sync. She'll be going through rough times the first many weeks as her body adjusts. Her emotions will be fluctuating wildly and unpredictably."

"She's been talking with Edith about it the past two weeks, and they share a delightfully close companionship. Her studies finish on the 17th, and she wants to come up here for Christmas."

"She needs you to be close for the next while. Can you do that?"

"We'll be finished with our project here in a week or so, we hope. The pressure will be off then, but I have some travelling, Bienne and London. I'll be able to spend time with her in Bern between those commitments."

"Sounds like you're beginning another project."

"Yes, representing Rolex watches in Germany." David looked up at the terraced vineyards. "I see your pruning is progressing well."

"They've become quite the experts at it, and decided to continue. We should have the entire vineyards on this side of the border finished by the end of the week. Georg thought it would look much more natural if we did that before starting on the German side."

David smiled. "You and Georg? Tough not to notice the affinity. Beyond just good friends?"

Rachel smiled, then blushed lightly. "You've picked up some of Maria's curiosity. Yes, life's far too short, David."

"I'm delighted for you. He's a fine man from everything I've seen." David glanced at his watch. "Quarter to noon. I'll go drop my bag in my room, clean off the road dust and see you all at lunch."

Half an hour later, David sat at lunch with Georg, Gerrard, Rachel and Bethia at the kitchen table. "Do you mind if I call you Gerrard, Sergeant Perrier?"

"No, that's fine, Sir."

"You can dispense with the sir. Give us an update on the tunnel."

"It's progressing on schedule with no problems at all. Simple, repetitive routine until around mid-morning tomorrow. We'll be remeasuring and re-sighting at the end of the day today, both above and below ground. I'll do the calculations tonight to determine where to start digging the up ramp to the tool hut. It now appears we should break through into it in the late afternoon on Thursday."

Georg added, "We finished the pit in the earthen floor yesterday, down the four and a half feet to the chalk. Franz and Greg went over this morning to add more shoring and to assess the pruning."

David nodded. "Seems everything is as it should be." He looked at Gerrard. "That's a small target for you to hit at this distance, two by two and a half metres."

"Accurate sights and measurements with basic trigonometry make it easy. The trick is the accurate sights and measurements, the trig tables never lie."

"That must be awkward, digging up a steep ramp."

"We won't make this one as steep. We'll dig shallow steps into it, so we won't need a ladder on this one. The tricky part will be the last bit. We don't want to risk the chalk roof collapsing as it gradually thins. We'll need increasing shoring the last bit, almost a caisson at the end, to ensure we don't have a collapse. That we don't risk compromising the walls of the hut."

"Have you the required lumber for that? What about fasteners?"

"Rachel and Georg drove into town yesterday to buy it all. I think we've everything in place for the breakthrough on Thursday."

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