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The Unprofitable Servant
by [?]

Upon Charley, one of the bartenders, both fame and fortune descended simultaneously. He had once been honored by shaking hands with the great Delano at a Seventh Avenue boxing bout. So with lungs of brass he now cried: “Hallo, Del, old man; what’ll it be?”

Mike, the proprietor, who was cranking the cash register, heard. On the next day he raised Charley’s wages five a week.

Del Delano drank a pony beer, paying for it carelessly out of his nightly earnings of $42.85 and 5/7c. He nodded amiably but coldly at the long line of Mike’s patrons and strolled past then into the rear room of the cafe. For he heard in there sounds pertaining to his own art–the light, stirring staccato of a buck-and-wing dance.

In the back room Mac McGowan was giving a private exhibition of the genius of his feet. A few young men sat at tables looking on critically while they amused themselves seriously with beer. They nodded approval at some new fancy steps of Mac’s own invention.

At the sight of the great Del Delano, the amateur’s feet stuttered, blundered, clicked a few times, and ceased to move. The tongues of one’s shoes become tied in the presence of the Master. Mac’s sallow face took on a slight flush.

From the uncertain cavity between Del Delano’s hat brim and the lapels of his high fur coat collar came a thin puff of cigarette smoke and then a voice:

“Do that last step over again, kid. And don’t hold your arms quite so stiff. Now, then!”

Once more Mac went through his paces. According to the traditions of the man dancer, his entire being was transformed into mere feet and legs. His gaze and expression became cataleptic; his body, unbending above the waist, but as light as a cork, bobbed like the same cork dancing on the ripples of a running brook. The beat of his heels and toes pleased you like a snare-drum obligato. The performance ended with an amazing clatter of leather against wood that culminated in a sudden flat-footed stamp, leaving the dancer erect and as motionless as a pillar of the colonial portico of a mansion in a Kentucky prohibition town. Mac felt that he had done his best and that Del Delano would turn his back upon him in derisive scorn.

An approximate silence followed, broken only by the mewing of a cafe cat and the hubbub and uproar of a few million citizens and transportation facilities outside.

Mac turned a hopeless but nervy eye upon Del Delano’s face. In it he read disgust, admiration, envy, indifference, approval, disappointment, praise, and contempt.

Thus, in the countenances of those we hate or love we find what we most desire or fear to see. Which is an assertion equalling in its wisdom and chiaroscuro the most famous sayings of the most foolish philosophers that the world has ever known.

Del Delano retired within his overcoat and hat. In two minutes he emerged and turned his left side to Mac. Then he spoke.

“You’ve got a foot movement, kid, like a baby hippopotamus trying to side-step a jab from a humming-bird. And you hold yourself like a truck driver having his picture taken in a Third Avenue photograph gallery. And you haven’t got any method or style. And your knees are about as limber as a couple of Yale pass-keys. And you strike the eye as weighing, let us say, 450 pounds while you work. But, say, would you mind giving me your name?”

“McGowan,” said the humbled amateur–“Mac McGowan.”

Delano the Great slowly lighted a cigarette and continued, through its smoke:

“In other words, you’re rotten. You can’t dance. But I’ll tell you one thing you’ve got.”

“Throw it all off of your system while you’re at it,” said Mac. “What’ve I got?”

“Genius,” said Del Delano. “Except myself, it’s up to you to be the best fancy dancer in the United States, Europe, Asia, and the colonial possessions of all three.”