"You've been using Dale Travers as model, sir, am I right?"
Alberto Beddini was fuming. "That woman. She is leaving Beddini. for a man! "
"Oh, that's terrible. You see my wife…"
"Your wife is a woman. "
"Yes, I'm afraid so. It's the done thing, you know." Horace looked around very pleased with himself. "It's a rhyme. I don't know why that lyrist charges me so much to do the same thing. It's outrageous."
"Lyrist? Are you by chance Horace Hardwick, the big producer?"
"Do you think so? I thought all that tea might have made my dinner jacket fit better again. Oh, you mean… Yes, I produce shows. I have one on the West End at the moment. It looks like it's going to be a big hit, if I could just find my leading man."
"I thought you were looking for Dale Travers, my model?"
"Yes, yes, I was, but if I find her, I will likely find Jerry and that means we get on the plane back to London and have a big hit."
"They have disappeared, together, and I the great Beddini will not have the women of Europe see my perfect collection."
Horace peered at the man. "Collection of what?"
"My couture collection!"
"There's no need to shout my good man. My hearing is perfectly fine. Is this the right time to be shouting?"
Beddini through his hands in the air and began a stream of Italian.
Horace didn't speak the language, but the gestures and emphasis made his meaning clear. "Oh, my," he said.
As it trailed off, Horace said, "Let me put my man Bates on it. I think what we need is a good brandy."
"Si, si, grappa bene."
Horace herded the couturier to the bar and ran into his wife. "Madge, just the woman I was looking for. Have you seen Bates?"
"No, dear. Oh, Alberto, I'm happy to have found you. First of all, there are two dresses which I've seen Dale wearing which I absolutely must have. Not the one with the feathers. Horace will tell you, I'm never fluffy."
"No, dear," Horace said, "Absolutely not." He turned to Beddini. "Her elbows are so sharp I'd swear she honed them."
His wife looked at him in a wifely way, and Horace took a step back.
Beddini said, "Mrs. Horace, you said there were two things."
"Oh, yes, I'd forget my head if it weren't attached. Now where did I…" A quick search of the table at which she was sitting turned up nothing. Finally, she picked up her purse and said, "Here it is. It's from Dale. She's flown back to London with Jerry."
"Jerry's back in London?" Horace asked.
"Well, how else will he manage to be on stage for the second performance?"
Beddini looked up from the letter. "It is as I thought. I am ruined, ruined."
Madge looked at him and said, "Nonsense, Alberto. Not only am I ordering two of your gowns, I have at least a half dozen friends in London who've been longing to buy items from Dale's wardrobe. And Horace weren't you looking for a new costume designer? For the new Olympiad you're producing?"
"Of course I am. How many times have I told you? That man -- I won't even speak his name -- has done unspeakable things to the chorines."
"Trust me," Madge said, "They're speaking about them. But his dresses are hideous, too."
"Exactly. That's what I mean." He turned to Beddini and said, "Mister Beddini would you believe he wanted the leading lady to wear chartreuse? It would make her look bilious I said, but he insisted and then what did every critic who attended the opening say? Bilious."
"No, no the bright lights do not flatter such shades. Or such actresses. Dale was a brilliant muse who wore my creations perfectly, but not even she could have worn chartreuse on a stage."
"It works for redheads," Madge said.
"No!" Beddini said, "There is no one of delicate complexion who can wear so vivid a shade under the lights of the stage. The actress, she should look ethereal, like she's walking on air above the tragedies of the streets."
Horace nodded. "You understand me, my dear man."
Madge glanced between them. "It may be he does. Although in my experience, Alberto, actresses are the last people to be above the tragedies of the streets. Often, they're the cause of them." She turned to her husband. "Now, what did you want Bates for?"
"Bates? Who said I wanted Bates?"
"You did, Horace."
"Oh, yes. I wanted him to find Jerry or Dale for us, because where the one is, the other is sure to be, but now we know, so Bates is superfluous. I'm taking Mister Beddini to the bar for a brandy, or grappa as these Italians call it. Aren't languages funny things?"
"Run along and play with your new friend, Horace. I'll see you back in London."
"Next month? I thought I could wear my new Beddini dresses at the casino in Mentone."
Beddini clasped one hand to his chest and bowed. "For the Mrs. Horace, the dresses shall be done in time for Mentone."
"How sweet, Alberto. Now let Horace buy you that drink."
The two men went to the bar and sat at one of the tables in its sparkling interior. Beddini ordered them two grappa moscato.
Horace took one swallow and his eyes went wide. "Oh, my. That wasn't what I'd call smooth."
"The little sips are what is needed to appreciate a fine grappa."
"Is this a fine one?"
"It is very fine, Mister Horace."
"It's Hardwicke, you know. Mister Hardwicke. Or just Horace to my friends."
Beddini nodded. "Then, when I become your friend, you will be Horace."
Horace blinked. "I thought we were friends now. Aren't you going to dress my chorines -- and the leads, too, of course -- for my next Olympiads?"
"Si, Horace, I shall dress them so exquisitely you will hear the angels singing."
"So long as they don't drown out the chorus." Horace looked at him sideways. "You know, you could stay with me while you're in New York -- or London for that matter -- though in London my suite has only one bedroom, so perhaps..."
Beddini put his hand over Horace's. "One bedroom, she is sufficient, I think, Horace."
"Mister Beddini that's, that's…" He looked the man full in the face. "Actually, that's an excellent idea."
"And you must call me Alberto."
Horace took another sip of his grappa. "Oh wait, until I tell Madge."
Beddini's eyes went wide and then he grinned. "Your Madge, she has the wisdom of a goddess."
"She does." Horace looked around furtively, "But don't ever let her know I said that."