CHAPTER TWENTY: EXILE (1/4)

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The sun remained hidden behind the clouds all morning, but even if it had been clear skies and sunshine, Sol thought, it still would have been a grey day

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The sun remained hidden behind the clouds all morning, but even if it had been clear skies and sunshine, Sol thought, it still would have been a grey day.

Tears were in the eyes of General Gouraud, saluting with his one remaining arm along with the throng of the townsfolk as they listened to the band play their beloved anthem, which never failed to impress. The tune had barely finished when they moved into a rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, and the moment they had been waiting for had at last arrived.

Colonel Hayward gave his cue, and Sol and the rest of the band stepped away from the village square on which they were playing and began their march in perfect unison down the street. They passed their brotherhood of soldiers who clapped their rifles to their shoulders.

Sol couldn't help but glance at them; he hardly recognised them any more. The men he'd once stepped onto a ship with in New York and travelled halfway around the world with seemed like strangers to him now. Apart from their uniforms, there was little left to identify them as American. Gone were the American helmets and trusty Springfield rifles their own army had given them, replaced instead with French helmets and French Lebel rifles which were lumbered with long bayonets. Even the belts and pouches they wore were foreign. It was almost like the U.S. Army wanted nothing to do with them.

"FORWARD MARCH!"

With the band in front, the waiting soldiers clapped their feet and stepped in line behind.

Sol felt tears in his own eyes, then, overcome by the emotion in his own music. He fixed his eyes on the bleak horizon where the road led. Another day, these streets might have led him to an orchard or vineyard. How he wished that was where they were marching now.

Between the beats of the drum, a distant boom could be heard, as though the enemy had heard their music and were replying with a song of their own.

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