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The Cabaret Rouge
by [?]

The young man’s face at least was familiar to me, though I had not met him. It was Signor Franconi, quietly watching Gloria and her gay party.

After a few moments, Craig rose, paid his check, and moved over to the table where Franconi was sitting alone. He introduced himself and Franconi, with easy politeness, invited us to join him.

I studied the man’s face attentively. Signor Franconi was still young, in spite of the honors that had been showered on him for his many inventions. I had wondered before why such a man would be interested in a girl of Gloria’s evident type. But as I studied him I fancied I understood. To his serious mind it was just the butterfly type that offered the greatest relief. An intellectual woman would have been merely carrying into another sphere the problems with which he was more than capable of wrestling. But there was no line of approval in his fine face of the butterfly and candle-singeing process that was going on here. I must say I heartily liked him.

“What are you working on now?” asked Kennedy as a preliminary step to drawing him out against the time when we might become better acquainted and put the conversation on a firmer basis.

“A system of wireless transmission of pictures,” he returned mechanically. “I think I have vastly improved the system of Dr. Korn. You are familiar with it, I presume?”

Kennedy nodded. “I have seen it work,” he said simply.

That telephotograph apparatus, I remembered, depended on the ability of the element selenium to vary the strength of an electric current passing through it in proportion to the brightness with which the selenium is illuminated.

“That system,” he resumed, speaking as though his mind was not on the subject particularly just now, “produces positive pictures at one end of the apparatus by the successive transmission of many small parts separately. I have harnessed the alternating current in a brand-new way, I think. Instead of prolonging the operation, I do it all at once, projecting the image on a sheet of tiny selenium cells. My work is done. Now the thing to do is to convince the world of that.”

“Then you have the telephote in actual operation?” asked Kennedy.

“Yes,” he replied. “I have a little station down on the shore of the south side of the island.” He handed us a card on which he wrote the address at South Side Beach. “That will admit you there at any time, if I should not be about. I am testing it out there–have several instruments on transatlantic liners. We think it may be of use in war–sending plans, photographs of spies–and such things.”

He stopped suddenly. The music had started again and Gloria was again out on the dancing floor. It was evident that at this very important time in his career Franconi’s mind was on other things.

“Everyone seems to become easily acquainted with everyone else here,” remarked Craig, bending over the rail.

“I suppose one cannot dance without partners,” returned Franconi absently.

We continued to watch the dancers. I knew enough of these young fellows, merely by their looks, to see that most of them were essential replicas of one type. Certainly most of them could have qualified as social gangsters, without scruples, without visible means of support, without character or credit, but not without a certain vicious kind of ambition.

They seemed to have an unlimited capacity for dancing, freak foods, joy rides, and clothes. Clothes were to them what a jimmy is to a burglar. Their English coats were so tight that one wondered how they bent and swayed without bursting. Smart clothes and smart manners such as they affected were very fascinating to some women.

“Who are they all, do you suppose?” I queried.

“All sorts and conditions,” returned Kennedy. “Wall Street fellows whose pocketbooks have been thinned by dull times on the Exchange; actors out of engagements, law clerks, some of them even college students. They seem to be a new class. I don’t think of any other way they could pick up a living more easily than by this polite parasitism. None of them have any money. They don’t get anything from the owner of the cabaret, of course, except perhaps the right to sign checks for a limited amount in the hope that they may attract new business. It’s grafting, pure and simple. The women are their dupes; they pay the bills–and even now and then something for ‘private lessons’ in dancing in a ‘studio.'”