Miskatonic University Press

The Fall of the Sparrow


From The Fall of the Sparrow (1955) by Nigel Balchin. This scene happens in 1935 in England; the narrator is talking to people going to protest the British Union of Fascists.

Leah sat up and said, “Listen …” and then paused and closed her eyes again. There was a moment’s silence. Then she said quietly, “It’s like this. The Fascists go down there every Sunday, and a good many week days as well. They choose the places where they know there are a lot of Jewish people. They get up and they preach hatred of the Jews, and all that crazy Hitler stuff about their being responsible for everything. If a Jewish person passes he’s insulted, and if he says a word in protest he’s manhandled. Or she, if it’s a woman. Of the people listening, ninety per cent don’t agree with what’s being said. But they’re not organized and the Fascists are. People aren’t going to risk being knocked about. So they keep quiet and let the Fascists talk.”

I said, “But if they don’t agree …”

“Wait a minute. By the time this has happened week after week and the people see that no one stands up to the Fascists, they begin to think that nobody can—that it’s all hopeless. And since everybody likes to be on the winning side they begin to wonder whether the safest thing isn’t to start wearing a black shirt themselves. See?”

Jason said, “It’s a bluff, you see, Henry. Of course Fascism always is. After all, Mussolini’s march on Rome …”

“It’s a bluff,” Leah said curtly. “But it’s a bluff that’s got to be called everywhere, every time it’s tried. Every time. Everywhere.”