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Decadence

 Before the florid portico
I watched the gamblers come and go,
While by me on a bench there sat
A female in a faded hat;
A shabby, shrinking, crumpled creature,
Of waxy casino-ward with eyes
Of lost soul seeking paradise.
Then from the Café de la Paix There shambled forth a waiter fellow, Clad dingily, down-stooped and grey, With hollow face, careworn and yellow.
With furtive feet before our seat He came to a respectful stand, And bowed, my sorry crone to greet, Saying: "Princess, I kiss your hand.
" She gave him such a gracious smile, And bade him linger by her side; So there they talked a little while Of kingly pomp and country pride; Of Marquis This and Prince von That, Of Old Vienna, glamour gay.
.
.
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Then sad he rose and raised his hat: Saying: "My tables I must lay.
" "Yea, you must go, dear Count," she said, "For luncheon tables must be laid.
" He sighed: from his alpaca jacket He pressed into her hand a packet, "Sorry, to-day it's all I'm rich in - A chicken sandwich from the kitchen.
" Then bowed and left her after she Had thanked him with sweet dignity.
She pushed the package out of sight, Within her bag and closed it tight; But by and bye I saw her go To where thick laurel bushes grow, And there behind that leafy screen, Thinking herself by all unseen, That sandwich! How I saw her grab it, And gulp it like a starving rabbit! Thinks I: Is all that talk a bluff - Their dukes and kings and courtly stuff: The way she ate, why one would say She hadn't broken fast all day.

Poem by Robert William Service
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