Dell and her husband had moved again from our neighbourhood to a house nearer town, but on Sundays they continued to drop in for gossip as usual.
On one of those occasions, when she and I were alone, Dell said, “Une, how would you like to be a music critic?”
My natural reply would have been an aesthetic shudder at my own incompetence but Dell’s faith in me was paramount and I tried to live up to it. Since coming to Chicago, she had extended her writing of fashion notes and, in addition to her regular work on the trade journal, was contributing a column to the Saturday Evening Herald, a Chicago weekly devoted to music, art and drama.
According to Dell, the office of music critic carried no salary but it would give me entrée to recitals, the symphony and opera without charge. She also knew how thrilled I had been over hearing European artists. After Lilly’s death I had relinquished my organ position so now I had more time to devote to it.
Dell was not daunted by my reluctance to assume the post and a few nights later announced to me that I was practically in. The next day I was interviewed by the editor and received my pass.
I remember well the first assignment (self-imposed). It was an organ recital in Evanston and I was so scared that I hadn’t decided to risk it. At dinner Maynard had tried to persuade me to eat a Spanish onion but I was not to be coerced. When Brother enjoyed something, his salesmanship led him to adopt unusual tactics, but his “Just taste it. You have no idea how delicious it is” had completely missed fire this time.
“All right then,” he added. “I’ll tell you what I will do. If you will eat a whole onion, I’ll write your criticism for you,” and he proffered me the white tuber.
“It’s a go,” I agreed. The onion and I got together, I took some breath sweeteners, smartened my toilette and we were off.
The write-up, the points of which I dictated, pleased the editor and, from then on, things ran smoothly without Mayne’s offices. Smoothly, I should say, until a temptation not to be resisted tripped me and I fell. The occasion was a recital by the teacher whose sensuality had driven me from his school. He was a veritable show-off anyway and I warmed to my subject and had the best workout of the season. The family approved my review which was frank and less complimentary than usual, but I shall never forget how gently the editor showed me the error of my ways. I crept out of his office feeling as low as a snake’s “tummy”.
I wore the Herald badge for a year and loved the experience but a habit of going to bed late nights was too hard and I was obliged to reign. One of my prides to the day, however, is that so able a newspaper man and fine a gentleman as John M. Dandy offered to make an editor of me.