Chapter Thirteen

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Sonnenhang, Switzerland —Friday, 24 December 1915

"About six inches," David said as he came back into the kitchen from checking the depth of the snow on Friday morning.

Maria looked up from slicing ham. "How much is that?"

"Sorry; about fifteen centimetres, up to here on my hand." He held it up for her. "It's still freezing, but it may warm as the day progresses. At least the snow has stopped falling." He looked at the breakfast preparations. "What may I do to help?"

"Nothing here. You could set the table, though. Are the roads going to be passable? Can we get into town?"

"We often get half a metre or more overnight at home, and the main roads are cleared by horse ploughs and shovellers soon after the snow stops."

"Heavy snow is unusual here," Bethia said. "A few dustings each winter and occasionally some like last night. It usually melts in a day or two or three, so there is no need for ploughs. At least, that's the way it was across the border."

"So, with no ploughing?" Maria paused from arranging slices on a platter. "Can the car make it through the snow?"

"I've driven my father's truck through much deeper. I don't think we'll have any trouble." He ran his fingers through his hair. "After breakfast, I'll go out and drive around the courtyard to practice. Maybe go down the lane and back up to accustom myself with the car's handling in it."

"What about the carriage?" Maria looked across at Bethia. "Could the horse pull it through this?"

"A good horse should have no problem. This one's a bit long in the tooth, though. But she has a fine spirit, so she should be able to."

"We could walk into Unterhallau; it's only six kilometres. An hour and a half, maybe two with the snow," Rachel said as she and Georg entered the kitchen. "But my concern is with the cook and his team and all their ingredients. Can they make it out here through this?"

"We'll place a telephone call to him after breakfast. This will all work out." Bethia looked at David and then at Maria, then she chuckled. "With these two, it always does."

A few moments later, Michael and Mary walked into the kitchen. "What can we do to help?"

"Sit at the table and unfold your linen. We're ready." Bethia put her arm around her sister's shoulder. "I've made only coffee, but I can make tea if you wish. It's so good to see you again." She spun around. "All of you. Sit, sit. Let's eat and enjoy. It's so good to have family."

After they had finished breakfast, David and Georg put on their heavy clothing and boots, then headed out into the courtyard to find out how the Lancia handled in the snow. "Looks like the men have been busy. They've uncovered the car."

"All but a bit in the centre of the roof, and they washed away the road dirt with the snow

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"All but a bit in the centre of the roof, and they washed away the road dirt with the snow. They have it all spiffy." David patted Georg on the back. "You've inspired a fine initiative in them."

"I think their inspiration is you."

"No more than you. But, let's get this machine running." David opened the door and settled behind the wheel, keyed on the ignition circuit, pulled the choke halfway out, then depressed the start button. The engine turned over slowly, but it didn't fire. He pulled the choke all the way out, gave two pumps on the fuel pedal and tried again. This time the engine fired, but it didn't continue running. "That was close. I'll give it half a minute."

On his third attempt, the engine rattled to life, running roughly until David eased the choke back in a bit to smooth it. "We'll let it warm through for a while."

"This is certainly more convenient than cranking the lorry," Georg said as he examined the interior. "And the closed coach should be much warmer than the flapping side curtains."

"Particularly with the heater. We had to open the windows a crack yesterday to keep from cooking as we drove."

After the engine had warmed sufficiently that David could push the choke the remainder of the way in, he shifted into low gear and slowly let out the clutch. The car moved forward a short distance, then paused as the rear wheels spun. "I expected this."

He shifted into reverse and backed a few feet until the wheels spun again. Then again into low, he drove forward, the car continuing this time. "Press lightly on the gas pedal, ride the clutch, and try to keep the tyres from spinning. It's a trick my father taught me."

After he had made a few circuits of the courtyard, he placed the car near the door and switched it off. "I think we'll be fine, though we should give ourselves an hour for the drive, just in case."

As they were getting out of the car, the horse pulled the carriage around the end of the wing with Rick driving it and Manny and Franz on the seat beside him. He reined the horse to a stop beside them, then pointed to the back. "We've scavenged around the estate, and assembled a tow rope, an assortment of boards, a piece of burlap and some sand. We'll follow you along into town, ready to haul you out if you get stuck or slide off the road."

Manny lifted the shovels he was holding. "First, though, we'll swing these banjos to clear some tracks in the lane so the tucker bloke's lorry can make it up the slope."

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The noise of an engine echoed in the courtyard shortly past one as lunch dishes were being washed and dried. David threw on his jacket and went out to find it was the cook and his assistants. He welcomed them, then asked his driver about the road conditions.

The young man shook his head and told him there was no problem as he pointed to the rear wheels of the lorry. Rope had been wrapped in two crisscrossing winds around the tyres and through the spokes.

They chatted as they walked to the rear and bent to examine the wrapping. The lad tugged on the rope. "Make the wraps as tight as possible; they'll last longer that way."

David nodded and thanked him, then he turned to the cook. "Good to see you again. Let's go inside and get instructions from Frau Eberhardt."

While the contents of the lorry were being unloaded into the kitchen, David walked around the wing and down into the rear courtyard to the men's quarters, and he sat with them as they relaxed after lunch. Turning to Manny, he chuckled, then said, "Whatever it was you called the cook; his lorry has arrived."

"The tucker bloke's here. That's ace."

"They've wrapped ropes around their rear wheels to give the tyres a better grip. The driver told me it's what the Swiss Army does, and he said there was no problem driving through the snow. Come and take a look. See if we can do that with the Lancia."

Twenty-five minutes later, when they had finished wrapping a crisscross pattern of ropes around both rear wheels, David drove the car on a circuit of the courtyard, then down the lane and back up. He smiled at the men as he got out. "This works well. We won't need your emergency escort." 

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