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The Cabaret Rouge
by [?]

Franconi was dividing his attention between what Kennedy was saying and watching Gloria and her partner, who seemed to be a leader of the type I have just described, tall and spare as must be the successful dancing men of today.

“There’s a fellow named Du Mond,” he put in.

“Who is he?” asked Craig, as though we had never heard of him.

“To borrow one of your Americanisms,” returned Franconi, “I think he’s the man who puts the ‘tang’ in tango. From what I hear, though, I think he borrows the ‘fox’ from fox-trot and plucks the feathers from the ‘lame duck.'”

Kennedy smiled, but immediately became interested in a tall blonde girl who had been talking to Du Mond just before the dancing began. I noticed that she was not dancing, but stood in the background most of the time giving a subtle look of appraisal to the men who sat at tables and the girls who also sat alone. Now and then she would move from one table to another with that easy, graceful glide which showed she had been a dancer from girlhood. Always after such an excursion we saw other couples who had been watching in lonely wistfulness, now made happy by a chance to join the throng.

“Who is that woman?” I asked.

“I believe her name is Bernice Bentley,” replied Franconi. “She’s the–well, they call her the official hostess–a sort of introducer. That’s the reason why, as you observed, there is no lack of friendliness and partners. She just arranges introductions, very tactfully, of course, for she’s experienced.”

I regarded her with astonishment. I had never dreamed that such a thing was possible, even in cosmopolitan New York. What could these women be thinking of? Some of them looked more than capable of taking care of themselves, but there must be many, like Gloria, who were not. What did they know of the men, except their clothes and steps?

“Soft shoe workers, tango touts,” muttered Kennedy under his breath.

As we watched we saw a slender, rather refined-looking girl come in and sit quietly at a table in the rear. I wondered what the official introducer would do about her and waited. Sure enough, it was not long before Miss Bentley appeared with one of the dancing men in tow. To my surprise the “hostess” was coldly turned down. What it was that happened I did not know, but it was evident that a change had taken place. Unobtrusively Bernice Bentley seemed to catch the roving eye of Du Mond while he was dancing and direct it toward the little table. I saw his face flush suddenly and a moment later he managed to work Gloria about to the opposite side of the dancing floor and, though the music had not stopped, on some pretext or other to join the party in the corner again.

Gloria did not want to stop dancing, but it seemed as if Du Mond exercised some sort of influence over her, for she did just as he wished. Was she really afraid of him? Who was the little woman who had been like a skeleton at a feast?

Almost before we knew it, it seemed that the little party had tired of the Cabaret Rouge. Of course we could hear nothing, but it seemed as if Du Mond were proposing something and had carried his point. At any rate the waiter was sent on a mysterious excursion and the party made as though they were preparing to leave.

Little had been said by either Franconi or ourselves, but it was by a sort of instinct that we, too, paid our check and moved down to the coat room ahead of them. In an angle we waited, until Gloria and her party appeared. Du Mond was not with them. We looked out of the door. Before the cabaret stood a smart hired limousine which was evidently Gloria’s. She would not have dared use her own motor on such an excursion.