"Almost" Part 29: Book 2, Part 19

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Chapter 75

Tom had never seen such joy, and it was a terrible thing to behold.

Even the German troops were taken aback. Crowds of men, women and children lined the streets, screaming themselves hoarse. Shimmering clouds of flower petals rained down on the armed columns, like unicoloured butterflies.

He was watching the parade from the balcony of the British Embassy, with Sir Palairet. The Ambassador was in silent tears. Tom was not far behind.

“The strangest thing,” murmured Sir Palairet, “is that they genuinely believe that they are being liberated.”

“No Jews,” said Tom, looking for yarmulkes in the crowd.

“No, but they haven’t left. They think that… Oh, I don’t know what they think.”

“Where in Europe would they go? Can’t go East. Can’t go West.” Tom sighed. “I don’t know why they’re so happy.”

“Race…”

“Why do they care about race?”

“It’s what failures cling to. So they don’t have to do anything to be special.”

“This is more than the work of failures,” said Tom with a shudder. “This is something far darker. Deeper. Older.”

“Well, we handed it to them, didn’t we?” asked Sir Palairet sadly. He could not tear his eyes away from the procession.

“How?”

“We told them that a country was defined by culture. By race. By history. By… language.” He almost seemed to spit out the last word.

“What do you think a country is defined by?”

“The good,” said Sir Palairet softly.

The word was almost lost among the clatter of boots and the clashing of arms, but it hit Tom solidly, in the solar plexus. The good

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