CHAPTER ELEVEN: SLUMBER (1/4)

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The gale was relentless

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The gale was relentless. Snow seemed to be blowing in from every direction, so dense that Sol could barely see some of the French soldiers eagerly awaiting their performance. The ground wasn't as steady as he remembered it, either. After almost a full month of sailing, his body had grown accustomed to the constant motions of the ship and he was still swaying on his feet.

"A new day, a new year, a new world," Archie said behind him.

"Yeah," Sol said, blinking the snow out of his eyes. "Happy New Year."

"Alright boys," Jim Europe said from the front, "I know this isn't the ideal weather to put on a show, but Colonel Hayward wants us to greet France in style, so let's show them what the 15th Regiment is made of! We might not know any French, and I doubt they know much English, but music is music and I'm betting they'll know their national anthem when they hear it! La Marseillaise—and let's give it some New York style!"

With that, Europe raised his baton and every band member readied their instrument. Sol slipped his fingers over the keys of his sax and drew a deep breath. Europe gave the cue and the music began.

When Jim first got the band to practice the French national anthem on board the Pocahontas, they more or less played it note for note, just as it was written. With every new go at it, however, another band member would add their own little twist or addition to their part, until by the end of their journey, it had become a composition almost of their own making. The stiff formality and rigid tempo of the song were gone, replaced by an upbeat and highly spirited arrangement in which every instrument seemed to sing its heart out.

As he played, Sol couldn't help but look past Jim to the French soldiers watching in the background—but he was discouraged to see that they looked quite unimpressed. Back in America, if they'd played the American national anthem before a group of soldiers, every one of them would have snapped their feet together and saluted. The Frenchmen were just looking at one another with baffled expressions.

After a few more notes, however, their attitudes swiftly changed. The men's expressions almost unanimously became one of joyous shock, and a Mexican wave of salutes quickly swept through their ranks.

It took Sol a few moments to understand the reason; they had changed the tune to such an extent that the French soldiers hadn't recognised their own national anthem.

Sol let out his laughter through his music.

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