She caught a quick breath, turned to the left and walked steadily through the narrower door into the bar. It proved to be a deserted, shrouded, sinister-looking place, with an interminable high mahogany counter at one side, and with a lot of little iron tables placed by pairs, their tops together, so that half of them had their legs in the air. Its lights were fled, its garlands dead all right, but there wasn’t anything poetic about it. However, there was another open door at the far end of the room, through which sounds and light came in. And the watchman hadn’t interfered with her. Evidently she had chosen right.
She paused for a second steadying breath before she went through that farther door, her eyes starry with resolution, her cheeks, just for the moment, a little pale. If the comparison suggests itself to you of an early Christian maiden about to step out into an arena full of wild beasts, then you will have mistaken Rose. The arena was there, true enough. But she was stepping out into it with the intention of, like Androcles, taming the lion.
The room was hot and not well lighted—a huge square room with a very high ceiling. In the farther wall of it was a proscenium arch and a raised stage somewhat brighter than the room itself, though the stained brick wall at the back, in the absence of any scenery, absorbed a good deal of the light. On the stage, right and left, were two irregular groups of girls, with a few men, awkwardly, Rose thought, disposed among them. All were swaying a little to mark the rhythm of the music industriously pounded out by a sweaty young man at the piano—a swarthy, thick young man in his undershirt. There were a few more people, Rose was aware without exactly looking at any of them, sprawled in different parts of the hall, on sofas or cushioned window-seats.
It was all a little vague to her at first, because her attention was focused on a single figure—a compact, rather slender figure, and tall, Rose thought—of a man in a blue serge suit, who stood at the exact center of the stage and the extreme edge of the footlights. He was counting aloud the bars of the music—not beating time at all, nor yielding to the rhythm in any way; standing, on the contrary, rather tensely still. That was the quality about him, indeed, that riveted Rose’s attention and held her as still as he was, in the doorway—an exhilarating sort of intensity that had communicated itself to the swaying groups on the stage. You could tell from the way he counted that something was gathering itself up, getting ready to happen. “Three ... Four ... Five ... Six ... Seven ... Now!” he shouted on the eighth bar, and with the word, one of the groups transformed itself. One of the men bowed to one of the girls and began waltzing with her; another couple formed, then another.
Rose watched breathlessly, hoping the maneuver wouldn’t go wrong;—for no reason in the world but that the man, there at the footlights, was so tautly determined that it shouldn’t.