Preternaturally Quiet In The Brilliant Moonlight

Posted on September 14, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From Abducting A General
by Patrick Leigh Fermor

The next day everything got much worse. No runner came, and suddenly it would have made no difference if he had. For two hundred of the enemy moved into Saktouria. Our way of escape from the island was blocked. We had to begin all over again.

The southern Messara was stiff with troops. Having moved into Saktouria, were they going to advance further west and garrison every possible getaway beach? There was only one remedy. I would have to leave Billy in charge of our party and head further west, but not beyond reach. I would have to locate our other stations and, if possible, lay hands on one of the sets. I would have to get up-to-date intelligence about the chances for new escape routes. I knew that Billy would be all right with Manoli and Antoni and the rest. And the moment I managed to fix things up, they could make their way westward to join me. The thing was to find a place where a ship could drop anchor. We would have to be able to get away fast, before the Germans moved in, otherwise we might find that all our earths had been stopped.

Never has divisibility into three been more longed for: I wanted to stay with the party; to sit huddled over a wireless set in touch with Cairo; and to peer down through the rocks at a beach where there were no Germans.

After sunset on 4 May, George and I changed our appearance to that of peaceful rustics, climbed out of our prickly home, and set off along the Amari.


Among the cypresses of Pandanasa, we ran into a hitch. The Hieronymakis family, we knew, were in touch with at least one of our wireless stations. By ill luck, it was about the only village in the region where neither of us had ever been. The Hieronymakis family knew all about us, and we knew all about them, but we had never met. There was no one to vouch for us.

The white whiskered faces turned to each other for corroboration; beetling brows were raised in puzzlement; blank glances were exchanged. They went on calmly fingering their amber beads, politely offering coffee. It was no good raging up and down, gesticulating under the onions and paprika pods dangling from the beams. Every attempt to break through was met by identical backward tilts of the head with closed eyelids, and the placidly dismissive tongue click of the Greek negative. They wouldn’t give an inch until they knew, as they say, what tobacco we smoked. We could, after all, be agents provocateurs. They were vague, smiling and inflexible.

This impressive but exasperating wall of security was broken at last, after two precious hours of deadlock, by the entry of Uncle Stavro Zourbakis from Karines, who was a friend of us all. Everything dissolved at once: greetings, recognition, laughter, raki, a crackle of thorns and sizzling in the hearth, and the immediate summoning and despatch of runners to the two wireless stations in the north-west.


In spite of the thought that the ship would be arriving in vain that night, for the third time – unless one of the other stations had warned them of the new garrison at Saktouria – a letter received from Sandy was a great boost. It was a re-establishment of contact, and evidence that Cairo was going all out to help us. The news in a letter from Dick was also out of date – pre-Saktouria, that is – but it contained the signals to be flashed to the boat, on whatever night and near whatever shore it should appear – MK (Monkey King) every ten minutes from 21h00 GMT.

The next phase of the story seems even more confused in retrospect than it did at the time. George and I trudged on to the village of Yeni, five miles beyond Pandanasa, a point roughly equidistant from the areas vital to us.


The goat-fold of Zourbovasili, at Yeni, lay in rolling, biblical hills. There was a round threshing floor nearby, where George and I could sleep on brushwood with a great circular sweep of vision. This place was to become, during the next three days, the centre of all coming and going of messengers, as plans changed and options lapsed. But now, after the scrum of the last few days, it seemed preternaturally quiet in the brilliant moonlight.

Ida towered east of us now, Kedros due south. The White Mountains, which had come nearer to us during the day, loomed shining in the west. How empty and still, after our huddled mountain life, was this empty silver plateau. A perfect place to watch the moon moving across the sky, and chain smoke through the night, pondering on the fix we were in, and how to get out of it. (How were Billy and the General? Would the Germans move further west along the coast? Would the boat arrive, failing a signal flash from Saktouria? Or was it, at that very moment, turning wearily back to Africa for the third time – or was it the fourth? … Now read on … How I wished that I could have done so.)

There was not a sound except a little owl in a wood close by, and an occasional clank from Vasili’s flock.