1940s Archive

Yogurt and the Bulgarian Colonel

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They led us back to the chalk marks and I heard again the "En garde!" and "Go!" My fright was gone. I was furious, and I thrust out like a bull wounded by a picador's lance. I gesticulated with my weapon as though I were Don Quixote attacking the windmill. Before he could strike me again, the Colonel ran into my sword. I saw the flesh on his chest opening like a Maréchal Niel rose on a June morning. For a moment there was deep silence in the gymnasium; then a general murmur of incredulity. The surgeon and the seconds rushed to the Colonel and went to work on him. I was completely disregarded. Standing in a far corner, unobserved but still trembling, I rehearsed a haughty expression. When the Colonel's wound was sewed up with about fifteen stitches and he was properly bandaged, he came over to me and offering his hand, put his arms around me, and kissed me on both cheeks. "You are the first man who ever did this. You are all right. Maybe you should marry Clarissa …"

But being of a cautious nature, I decided to put a stop to the whole thing. At any rate, my great love had somehow evaporated in all this trouble, and I considered myself extremely lucky to have escaped with a whole skin. Besides, as everyone knows, very young men are not constant—during the hectic days preceding the duel, when I could not see my Clarissa, I had met a Rumanian girl from Bucharest, who was on a short visit in Sofia. She was dark, her figure would have been the envy of Billy Rose, her skin was of … Well, anyhow, I asked the company to transfer me to Bucharest.

I boarded the train without saying farewell to Clarissa; you know, once bitten, twice shy. As I stood there at the train window, I whispered a silent good-by to the town which had given me so much happiness and trouble. When the train started moving, I made my way to the restaurant car. I ordered some yogurt, and as I gazed at the smooth satiny cream, for a moment I thought I saw Clarissa's beautiful face outlined there. Then her visage vanished, and instead I saw distinctly a pair of waxed military moustaches. The things were positively trembling.…

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