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In The Swim
by [?]

“Do you tango?” asked Miss Hopkins, as soon as we were comfortably seated. I know her name was Hopkins, because I had her down on my programme as Popkins, which seemed too good to be true; and, in order to give her a chance of reconsidering it, I had asked her if she was one of the Popkinses of Hampshire. It had then turned out that she was really one of the Hopkinses of Maida Vale.

“No,” I said, “I don’t.” She was only the fifth person who had asked me, but then she was only my fifth partner.

“Oh, you ought to. You must be up-to-date, you know.”

“I’m always a bit late with these things,” I explained. “The waltz came to England in 1812, but I didn’t really master it till 1904.”

“I’m afraid if you wait as long as that before you master the tango it will be out.”

“That’s what I thought. By the time I learnt the tango, the bingo would be in. My idea was to learn the bingo in advance, so as to be ready for it. Think how you’ll all envy me in 1917. Think how Society will flock to my Bingo Quick Lunches. I shall be the only man in London who bingoes properly. Of course, by 1918 you’ll all be at it.”

“Then we must have one together in 1918,” smiled Miss Hopkins.

“In 1918,” I pointed out coldly, “I shall be learning the pongo.”

My next partner had no name that I could discover, but a fund of conversation.

“Do you tango?” she asked me as soon as we were comfortably seated.

“No,” I said, “I don’t. But,” I added, “I once learned the minuet.”

“Oh, they’re not very much alike, are they?”

“Not a bit. However, luckily that doesn’t matter, because I’ve forgotten all the steps now.”

She seemed a little puzzled and decided to change the subject.

“Are you going to learn the tango?” she asked.

“I don’t think so. It took me four months to learn the minuet.”

“But they’re quite different, aren’t they?”

“Quite,” I agreed.

As she seemed to have exhausted herself for the moment, it was obviously my business to say something. There was only one thing to say.

“Do you tango?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “I don’t.”

“Are you going to learn?”

“Oh, yes!”

“Ah!” I said; and five minutes later we parted for ever.

The next dance really was a tango, and I saw to my horror that I had a name down for it. With some difficulty I found the owner of it, and prepared to explain to her that unfortunately I couldn’t dance the tango, but that for profound conversation about it I was undoubtedly the man. Luckily she explained first.

“I’m afraid I can’t do this,” she apologised. “I’m so sorry.”

“Not at all,” I said magnanimously. “We’ll sit it out.”

We found a comfortable seat.

“Do you tango?” she asked.

I was tired of saying “No.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to find somebody else to do it with?”

“Quite, thanks. The fact is I do it rather differently from the way they’re doing it here to-night. You see, I actually learnt it in the Argentine.”

She was very much interested to hear this.

“Really? Are you out there much? I’ve got an uncle living there now. I wonder if—-“

“When I say I learnt it in the Argentine,” I explained, “I mean that I was actually taught it in St. John’s Wood, but that my dancing mistress came from—-“

“In St. John’s Wood?” she said eagerly. “But how funny! My sister is learning there. I wonder if—-“

She was a very difficult person to talk to. Her relations seemed to spread themselves all over the place.

“Perhaps that is hardly doing justice to the situation,” I explained again. “It would be more accurate to put it like this. When I decided–by the way, does your family frequent Paris? No? Good. Well, when I decided to learn the tango, the fact that my friends the Hopkinses of St. John’s Wood, or rather Maida Vale, had already learnt it in Paris naturally led me to—- I say, what about an ice? It’s getting awfully hot in here.”