Lutie was an Only Child. When Lutie was eighteen her Mother said they ought to do something with Lutie’s Voice. The Neighbors thought so, too. Some recommended killing the Nerve, while others allowed that it ought to be Pulled.
But what Mamma meant was that Lutie ought to have it Cultivated by a Professor. She suspected that Lutie had a Career awaiting her, and would travel with an Elocutionist some day and have her Picture on the Programme.
Lutie’s Father did not warm up to the Suggestion. He was rather Near when it came to frivoling away the National Bank Lithographs. But pshaw! The Astute Reader knows what happens in a Family when Mother and the Only Child put their Heads together to whipsaw the Producer. One Day they shouldered him into a Corner and extorted a Promise. Next Day Lutie started to Take.
She bought a red leather Cylinder marked “Music,” so that people would not take it to be Lunch. Every Morning about 9 o’clock she would wave the Housework to one side and tear for a Trolley.
Her Lessons cost the Family about twenty cents a Minute. She took them in a large Building full of Vocal Studios. People who didn’t know used to stop in front of the Place and listen, and think it was a Surgical Institute.
There were enough Soprani in this one Plant to keep Maurice Grau stocked up for a Hundred Years. Every one thought she was the Particular One who would sooner or later send Melba back to Australia and drive Sembrich into the Continuous. Lutie was just about as Nifty as the Next One.
When she was at Home she would suck Lemons and complain about Draughts and tell why she didn’t like the Other Girls’ Voices. She began to act like a Prima Donna, and her Mother was encouraged a Lot. Lutie certainly had the Artistic Temperament bigger than a Church Debt.
Now before Lutie started in to do Things to her Voice she occasionally Held Hands with a Young Man in the Insurance Business, named Oliver. This Young Man thought that Lutie was all the Merchandise, and she regarded him as Permanent Car-Fare.
But when Lutie began to hang out at the Studios she took up with the Musical Set that couldn’t talk about anything but Technique and Shading and the Motif and the Vibrato. She began to fill up the Parlor with her new Friends, and the first thing Oliver knew he was in the Side Pocket and out of the Game.
In his own Line this Oliver was as neat and easy-running as a Red Buggy, but when you started him on the topic of Music he was about as light and speedy as a Steam Roller. Ordinarily he knew how to behave himself in a Flat, and with a good Feeder to work back at him he could talk about Shows and Foot-Ball Games and Things to Eat, but when any one tried to draw him out on the Classics, he was unable to Qualify.
When Lutie and her Musical acquaintances told about Shopan and Batoven he would sit back so quiet that often he got numb below the Hips. He was afraid to move his Feet for fear some one would notice that he was still in the Parlor and ask him how he liked Fugue No. II, by Bock. He had never heard of any of these People, because they did not carry Tontine Policies with his Company.
Oliver saw that he would have to Scratch the Musical Set or else begin to Read Up, so he changed his Route. He canceled all Time with Lutie, and made other Bookings.
Lutie then selected for her Steady a Young Man with Hair who played the ‘Cello. He was so wrapped up in his Art that he acted Dopey most of the time, and often forgot to send out the Laundry so as to get it back the same Week. Furthermore, he didn’t get to the Suds any too often. He never Saw more than $3 at one time; but when he snuggled up alongside of a ‘Cello and began to tease the long, sad Notes out of it, you could tell that he had a Soul for Music. Lutie thought he was Great, but what Lutie’s Father thought of him could never get past the Censor. Lutie’s Father regarded the whole Musical Set as a Fuzzy Bunch. He began to think that in making any Outlay for Lutie’s Vocal Training he had bought a Gold Brick. When he first consented to her taking Lessons his Belief was that after she had practiced for about one Term she would be able to sit up to the Instrument along in the Dusk before the Lamps were lit, and sing “When the Corn is Waving, Annie Dear,” “One Sweetly Solemn Thought,” or else “Juanita.” These were the Songs linked in his Memory with some Purple Evenings of the Happy Long Ago. He knew they were Chestnuts, and had been called in, but they suited him, and he thought that inasmuch as he had put up the Wherewith for Lutie’s Lessons he ought to have some kind of a Small Run for his Money.