Caterina ran outside and looked along the lane after her husband. As she watched, Alcandor caught up with the man, grabbed him roughly by the front of his shirt and shook him vigorously. Voices were raised, but Caterina couldn’t hear what was said because they were too far away. The man was shrugging his shoulders, waving his arms and emphatically shaking his head.
Alcandor suddenly released him, and stood watching as the man turned his back, and hurried along the lane, brushing down his hair and straightening his shirt and braces as he went. Caterina hesitated, not sure whether to go to meet her husband or to wait for him where she was. She decided to wait, and saw him read the piece of paper again. He then folded it and thrust it deep in the pocket of his shabby trousers. Her thoughts were racing as she wondered how to broach this with him.
His face was white and he appeared to be in shock, not noticing her at first as he came by. She slipped her arm through his as he passed, and felt his body trembling.
‘Is everything alright?’ she asked, lifting her face to his.
He hesitated a moment, then turned to face her, releasing his arm from hers and taking her by both hands. He held them tightly, looked deeply into her eyes and was about to say something, but suddenly changed his mind. He let go of her hands and walked ahead of her back into the house.
‘We need to leave as soon as we are ready,’ he said. ‘We cannot wait until tomorrow.’
They left within an hour of him receiving the note, and turned the cart to the south in the direction of Athens, as a dusky twilight fell over the village. Alcandor stopped the cart for comfort stops as the children needed, but didn’t stop to sleep until it was nearly midnight.
Alcandor was alternately pale, then flushed, and occasionally he muttered to himself. Many times he looked back over his shoulder and asked the children if anyone was following the cart. The children spoke only to Caterina, if they needed to speak at all, for their father’s strange behaviour frightened them, along with the notion that someone might be following them.
All the way to Athens, Alcandor was nervous and jumpy. Caterina wondered if the threat of the children being evacuated was greater than she realised, and she began to feel nervous too. She remained vigilant, particularly at night, and fought against sleep, not wanting to close her eyes, because then she wouldn’t be able to watch over her children.