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Aces Up by Covington Clarke

Scotch Highlanders in their gaudy kilts


To

all allied soldiers on leave of absence from the front, Paris represented what McGee had voiced to Larkin--a place where the war was over for the time limits of their passes. Forgotten, for a few brief hours, were all the memories of military tedium, the roar of guns, the mud of trenches, the flaming airplane plunging earthward out of control--all these things were banished by the stimulating thought that here was the world famous city with all its amusements, its arts, its countless beauties, open to them for a few magic hours.

The fact that Paris was only a ghost of her former self made no impression on war-weary troopers. What mattered it, to them, that the priceless art treasures of the Louvre had been removed to the safety of the southern interior? Was it their concern that the once mighty and fearless Napoleon now lay blanketed by tons of sand bags placed over his crypt to protect revered bones from enemy air raids or a chance hit by the long range gun now shelling the city? What mattered it that famous cafes and chefs were now reduced to the simplest of menus; what difference did it make if the streets were darkened at night; who that had never seen Paris in peace time could sense that she was a stricken city hiding her sorrow and travail behind a mask of dogged, grim determination?

Paris was Paris, to the medley of soldiers gathered there from the four points of the compass, and it was the more to her

credit that she could still offer amusement to uniformed men and boys whose war-weary minds found here relief from the drive of duty.

Everywhere the streets were swarming with men in uniform--French, English, Australian, Canadian, New Zealanders, colored French Colonials, a few Russians who, following the sudden collapse of their government, were now soldiers lacking a flag, Scotch Highlanders in their gaudy kilts, Japanese officers in spick uniforms not yet baptized in the mud of the trenches--a varied, colorful parade of young men bent on one great common objective.

At night, the common magnet was the theatre, and the _Folies Bergeres_, featuring a humorous extravaganza, Zig Zag, in which was starred a famous English comedian, drew its full quota of fun-seeking youths.

It was this show that McGee and Larkin had come to see, and at the end of the first act they were ready to add their praises to the chorus of approval. During the intermission they strolled out into the flag bedecked foyer to mingle with a crowd that was ninety per cent military and which was in a highly appreciative frame of mind. One particularly pleasing note had been added rather unexpectedly when one of the feminine stars, in singing "Scotland Forever," had been interrupted by a group of Highlanders who boosted onto the stage a red-headed, bandy-legged, kilted Scotchman who had the voice of a nightingale. And when, somewhat abashed, he took up the refrain, he was joined by a thunderous chorus from the audience that made the listeners certain that Scotland would never die so long as such fervor remained in the hearts of her sons. The English soldiers, not to be outdone, had followed with "God Save the King" and then, down the aisle with a flag torn from the walls of the foyer stalked an American sergeant, holding aloft Old Glory and leading his countrymen in the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner."


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