Chapter Thirty-Seven

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David remained silent as he supervised Wilfred's packing, wanting to ensure nothing but his personal effects were removed from the Attaché office. "Have you taken files to your hotel room? Anything from here?"

"No, I haven't."

"You haven't, what?"

Wilfred looked at him with a questioning face. "You had asked if I had taken any files, and I replied that I hadn't."

"You don't get it, do you?"

"Don't get what?"

"The Ambassador has asked me to teach you a proper respect. You are to call him Sir, and you are to use that honorific liberally throughout all dialogue you have with him. You'll begin by practising with me. Do you understand, Captain?"

Wilfred sucked his teeth as he nodded. "Yes, I do... Sir."

"Good. Continue to practice. You'll find it becomes easier as you do. Have you everything now?"

"I believe so..." He paused as he looked into the carton, then scanned the room. "Sir."

"Very well. I'll show you to your new office."

David led him out of the Attaché's office and into the one between it and the Ambassador's. "Miss Hutchins will tell you where to put your box until she can have a desk brought in for you."

"And what am I to do here?"

David stared at him, his head askance.

"Sir."

"Miss Hutchins will brief you on your duties. I have other matters to which I must attend. Have you any immediate questions before I leave you with her?"

Wilfred's trembled, "No," spread to the rest of his body. "N-no, I don't."

David stared at him with an expectant expression.

"Sir."

"Good. And she's Ma'am to you."

David winked at Miss Hutchins, then he headed into the hallway, knocked on the Ambassadors open door and looked across the room. "I'm ready now, Sir, if you are."

As the Ambassador walked with David toward the Munitions Office, he said, "I was told they took no action, and they've spoken by telephone with Mr Wilsdorf to apologise for Wilfred's Germanic slurs."

"David smiled. You've assembled a fine staff here, Sir."

"Finer, now."


Friday, 7 January 1916

The Ambassador looked up at the knock on the door, then he rose, stepped from behind his desk and extended his hand. "Welcome back, Henry."

"I was told I missed some excitement, Sir."

"Nothing serious. A few wrinkles to iron out." Evelyn pushed the white button on his desk. "Have you eaten? I can have Pierre prepare something for us all."

"That would be most agreeable. I have much to tell you, and much more to do afterwards. I can brief you as we eat, and then carry on."

Miss Hutchins knocked and stepped in. "What may I do for you, Sir?"

"Please inform David that Colonel Picot has arrived, and ask him to join us. Also, have Pierre prepare sandwiches for three."

After she had left, Evelyn motioned toward the chairs. "Please, let's sit, Henry. Relax from your travelling."

"So, what transpired? I heard a little about it at dinner on Wednesday evening, but there were no details."

"We've requested it be kept quiet. Essentially, your replacement became a loose cannon thrashing about our decks." Evelyn chuckled. "The crew soon recognised Wyndcom for what he is, and they quickly rendered him ineffective."

Picot nodded. "He did seem somewhat at a loss when I briefed him. But I was distracted as I prepared to leave." He looked at his watch. "Seems I'll need to spend more time with him than I had anticipated. I'll need to be brief here."

"No, I think you'll find the situation has been resolved to everyone's advantage."

Picot looked askance. "How so?"

"We..." Evelyn paused when David knocked and entered. Once they had greeted, they all sat, and he continued. "I was about to tell Henry the outcome with Wilfred. Perhaps you could begin the tale with your initial encounters. Then we'll take it from there."

David and Evelyn shared in giving Henry a précis of the events, David concluding with, "Now he's under the control of a commoner from the Colonies, one he considers a child, and the under the watchful eyes of a woman old enough to be his mother."

Henry chuckled again. "I know both his father and his uncle. It appears the attitudes are congenital." He nodded as he looked at David. "That leaves me with much less to do. I was dreading having to teach young Wyndcom."

While they ate their sandwiches and sipped tea, Henry outlined what had been done with setting up an infrastructure to select, transport and receive the injured prisoners. "We'll begin with the tuberculous. They'll gain the greatest benefit by being brought into fresh, clean air and having professional attention. It'll also slow the contagion in the camps."

"And where will they be accommodated," David asked.

"There are now many mountain resorts whose hotels have seen their trade all but disappear with the drop in leisure travel from abroad, and they are eager to participate. The first one chosen is the sport and health resort village of Château-d'Œx. It has a long-standing reputation for the treatment of consumptives."

"I'm not familiar with the village," Evelyn said.

"It's up a valley in the mountains at the eastern end of Lake Geneva, and I'm to visit it next week. Oberst Hauser, the Swiss Army's principal medical officer, has organised a tour of the facilities for the three of us; the French, the German and me. It will be my first opportunity to meet with them."

Picot leaned forward to select another sandwich. "I'm so relieved to be able to relax for a while. I envisioned spending several tedious days with Wyndcom, making him safe to leave in charge of the portfolio. Now I've little to do but concentrate on the prisoner programme."

"You still have to teach me the ropes, Sir."

"You already know the ropes, David. Introducing you to a few quirks will be a pleasure, and we can do that over drinks." Henry tilted his head and chuckled. "And what's with the sir, Colonel?"

"Respect, Sir. You've earned your rank. Mine is little but a temporary contingency."

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