Toward spring, Mr. Lutkin called me into his office. “St. James Church is looking for an organist,” he said, “and I have written them a letter recommending you for the position. There is to be a short trial program at which you will play. I have told them that you read practically anything at sight and I think you have a good chance for the position.”
“Oh, but I could never do that and you shouldn’t feel that you must always recommend me,” I said.
“It would be very foolish on my part to say things that cannot be backed up by truth,” Mr. Lutkin continued. “And I have not done so. Your musicianship is of the highest order as I have told them” and he rose and bowed me out of his studio.
I was scared pink but it was impossible to refuse him and I climbed on the stool of our defective old organ in the Women’s Hall and played over my numbers with shaking knees.
The trial meeting occurred and almost immediately I received an offer of the position and was inducted into service with comingled feelings of relief and regret. Relief that I had stood up to what was expected of me artistically, but regret that my Saturdays and Sundays would henceforth be mortgaged from sunup to bedtime.
My main difficulty was with the mechanics of the organ. The Lord in creating me had seen fit to give me small hands and short legs. I approached the music committee of the church with a request that the legs of the organ bench be shortened but the committee could not be persuaded. They may have been looking for a more attenuated operator.
At any rate they declined to adapt the stool to my needs with the result that I swung from one side to the other like a restless child, perched on the edge of the seat and on Mondays had a hangover backache that shook my five-foot-one poise to the nth vertebra. At the same time such unhappy associations were set up that I dreaded Sundays with an unholy zeal and wished that the Dean would allow me to resign before I fell off the stool at service someday.
Dell Eberhard was still writing Fashion notes and, as graduation demands became imminent, she stepped in and planned and bought my recital and graduation gowns. They were charming too, cream-colored oil-boiled taffeta with bunches of artificial forget-me-nots and butter colored lace and organdy all wrapped in two parcels of frou-frou.
Sometime before June, Mother had written home urging Maynard and Lilly to come to commencement. It hardly seemed feasible for Lilly but Brother had just completed his term as assistant professor and was in line for a new connection. There was nothing in Springfield for him and the panic of eighteen ninety three was in full swing so they arrived in time for various show-offs. Bill came too, and he and I went to the Beta Picnic and finished off in great style.
Lilly dressed me in her clothes. She and I tried to get acquainted when we were alone. She was voting for Bill yet she was interested in my musical achievements.
“Doesn’t it thrill you to be the only one given an encore?” she asked.
“Yes, but it usually means that I have to play again and that scares me all over again,” I replied in a clutch of stage fright at the very thought.
Lilly stayed over the weekend. I think she had come out of loyalty for she was very tired and Mother’s summons must have seemed irrefutable. I admired her greatly but since coming away I had grown up so fast that there were sometimes moments of awkwardness when we were together.
The thought of another family separation was painful and we put Lilly on the train with heavy hearts. Our family was still scattered and no one knew when we would meet again. We little dreamed that it would be so soon and under such poignant and challenging circumstances.