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But not a single tailcoat is seen in the male crowd.

All the men wear uniforms — French, Belgian, English, Russian, Serbian officers — and these uniforms are dusty and gloomy. The violins are played by British servicemen, who respond with bright ivory smiles to the applause and cheers of the audience. They replace the old redcoat zynae. The women point to one of them, repeating the name of the father, a lord famous for his nobility and his millions. “Let us rejoice madly, brothers, that tomorrow we will die.”

And all these men, who have hung their lives as an offering on the altar of the pale goddess, gulp down existence, laugh, drink, sing and kiss with the exasperated enthusiasm of sailors who spend a night on land and when breaking dawn must return to meet the storm.

The two Serbs are young and seem satisfied that the adventures of their homeland have dragged them to Paris, the city of dreams that so often occupied their thoughts in the barbaric monotony of an interior garrison.

They both “can tell”, an ordinary skill in a country where most of them are poets. Lamartine, when traveling three quarters of a century ago the feudal Servia of the Turks, was amazed at the importance of poetry in this town of shepherds and warriors. As very few knew the alphabet, they used the verse to keep the ideas of their memory more closely. The “guzleros” were the national historians, and they all prolonged the Serbian Iliad by improvising new songs.

While sipping champagne, the two captains recall the miseries of their retirement a few months ago; fighting with him hunger and cold; the battles in the snow, one against ten; the exodus of crowds, people and animals in dreadful confusion, at the same time that rifles and machine guns crackle incessantly at the tail of the column; the peoples that burn; the wounded and stragglers howling in flames; the women with their stomachs open, seeing in their agony a spiral of crows descending eagerly; the march of the octogenarian King Pedro, with no other support than a gnarled branch, seized by rheumatism, and continuing his Calvary through the white gorges, hunched over, silent, defying destiny like a Shakespearean monarch.

I examine my two servants as they speak. They are fleshy young men, slender, tough, with extremely aquiline noses, a true beak of a fighting bird. They have erect mustaches.

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