With brimming eyes he sat beating time to the fox-trot measure while Merton Gill proved to all observers that his mastery of this dance would, if ever at all achieved, be only after long and discouraging effort.
"You forget all about your feet," remarked the girl as they paused, swaying to the rhythm. "Remember the feet--they're important in a dance. Now!--" But it was hard to remember his feet or, when he did recall them, to relate their movements even distantly to the music. When this had died despairingly, the girl surveyed her pupil with friendly but doubting eyes.
"Say, Pa, don't he remind you of someone? Remember the squirrel that joined out with us one time in the rep show and left 'East Lynne' flat right in the middle of the third act while he went down and announced the next night's play--the one that his name was Eddie Duffy and he called himself Clyde Maltravers?"
"In a way, in a way," agreed Mr. Montague dismally. "A certain lack of finish in the manner, perhaps."
"Remember how Charlie Dickman, the manager, nearly murdered him for it in the wings? Not that Charlie didn't have a right to. Well, this boy dances like Eddie Duffy would have danced."
"He was undeniably awkward and forgetful," said Mr. Montague. "Well do I recall a later night. We played Under the Gaslight; Charlie feared to trust him with a part, so he kept the young man off stage to help with the train noise when the down express should dash across. But even in this humble station he proved inefficient. When the train came on he became confused, seized the cocoanut shells instead of the sand-paper, and our train that night entered to the sound of a galloping horse. The effect must have been puzzling to the audience. Indeed, many of them seemed to consider it ludicrous. Charlie Dickman confided in me later. 'Syl, my boy,' says he, 'this bird Duffy has caused my first gray hairs.' It was little wonder that he persuaded young Duffy to abandon the drama. He was not meant for the higher planes of our art. Now our young friend here"--he pointed to the perspiring Merton Gill--"doesn't even seem able to master a simple dance step. I might say that he seems to out-Duffy Duffy--for Duffy could dance after a fashion."
"He'll make the grade yet," replied his daughter grimly, and again the music sounded. Merton Gill continued unconscious of his feet, or, remembering them, he became deaf to the music. But the girl brightened with a sudden thought when next they rested.
"I got it!" she announced. "We'll have about two hundred feet of this for the next picture--you trying to dance just the way you been doing with me. If you don't close to a good hand I'll eat my last pay-check."