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The Cabaret Rouge
by [?]

It was a perfect autumn afternoon, one of those days when one who is normal feels the call to get out of doors and enjoy what is left of the fine weather before the onset of winter. We strode along in the bracing air until at last we turned into Broadway at the upper end of what might be called “Automobile Row.” Motor cars and taxicabs were buzzing along in an endless stream, most of them filled with women, gowned and bonneted in the latest mode.

Before the garish entrance of the Cabaret Rouge they seemed to pile up and discharge their feminine cargoes. We entered and were quickly engulfed in the tide of eager pleasure seekers. A handsome and judicious tip to the head waiter secured us a table at the far end of a sort of mezzanine gallery, from which we could look down over a railing at the various groups at the little white tables below. There we sat, careful to spend the necessary money to entitle us to stay, for to the average New Yorker the test seems to be not so much what one is getting for it as how much money is spent when out for a “good time.”

Smooth and glittering on the surface, like its little polished dancing floor in the middle of the squares of tables downstairs, the Cabaret Rouge, one could see, had treacherous undercurrents unsuspected until an insight such as we had just had revealed them.

The very atmosphere seemed vibrant with laughter and music. A string band played sharp, staccato, highly accentuated music, a band of negroes as in many of the showy and high-priced places where a keen sense of rhythm was wanted. All around us women were smoking cigarettes. Everywhere they were sipping expensive drinks. Instinctively one felt the undertow in the very atmosphere.

I wondered who they were and where they all came from, these expensively dressed, apparently refined though perhaps only veneered girls, whirling about with the pleasantest looking young men who expertly guided them through the mazes of the fox-trot and the canter waltz and a dozen other steps I knew not of. This was one of New York’s latest and most approved devices to beguile the languid afternoons of ladies of leisure.

“There she is,” pointed out Kennedy finally. “I recognize her from the pictures I’ve seen.”

I followed the direction of his eyes. The music had started and out on the floor twisting in and out among the crowded couples was one pair that seemed to attract more attention than the rest. They had come from a gay party seated in a little leather cozy corner like several about the room, evidently reserved for them, for the cozy corners seemed to be much in demand.

Gloria was well named. She was a striking girl, not much over nineteen surely, tall, lissome, precisely the figure that the modern dances must have been especially designed to set off. I watched her attentively. In fact I could scarcely believe the impression I was gaining of her.

Already one could actually see on her marks of dissipation. One does not readily think of a girl as sowing her wild oats. Yet they often do. This is one of the strange anomalies of the new freedom of woman. A few years ago such a place would have been neither so decent nor attractive. Now it was superficially both. To it went those who never would have dared overstep the strictly conventional in the evil days when the reformer was not abroad in the land.

I watched Gloria narrowly. Clearly here was an example of a girl attracted by the glamor of the life and flattery of its satellites. What the end of it all might be I preferred not to guess.

Craig was looking about at the variegated crowd. Suddenly he jogged my elbow. There, just around the turn of the railing of the gallery, sat a young man, dark of hair and eyes, of a rather distinguished foreign appearance, his face set in a scowl as he looked down on the heads of the dancers. One could have followed the tortuous course of Gloria and her partner by his eyes, which the man never took off her, even following her back to the table in the corner when the encore of the dance was finished.