Through the summer, letters from Bill had appeared at regular intervals. He always conscientiously notified me whenever he had a salary raise as if maybe I might turn in his direction. As for Eric, he had suddenly staged a new girl affair in the spring and, as if she were a puppy or pony, asked me to look her over and give him my opinion, assuring me that it was all still off if I said the word. Whatever the word, I did not say it. I happily gave the sweet young things my aged and unneeded blessing and closed the chapter. That was the last I saw of Eric. The night before his wedding he sent me a last nostalgic effusion, the sort some men commit to fire instead of Uncle Sam, and on that discordant note our idyll ended.
Through the summer our family was scattered. Mary was teaching in an orphan asylum down state. Lillyís boys were at their paternal grandfatherís in Missouri, and Mother in Evanston. Falling leaves and shortened days returned us all to the common bard where I received a challenging shock. While I had been lilting the summer away, the Dean had been holding classes for his piano staff and at the opening of the fall semester was to initiate a wholly new system of technic. To further add to my disquiet, without mentioning the matter to me, he had taken me on as his assistant which meant that each of his students would have one private lesson a week in technic with me, beside an extra class lesson. Fortunately I had a two weeks head start and, with the Deanís coaching, we made it.
In September the Rich Yong Man returned brown and triumphant to register for lessons. His singing was beginning to bear fruit and several engagements to sing oratorio were ripening for winter. That entailed more work on my part, and longer more exacting practise. I played for him in churches, in concert halls, and at parties. The hours I spent with him were as a string of pearls to me on terms of dollars, and the more he studied, the more we played, until our business relationship was in jeopardy.
In the spring I had added Chopinís E major Concerto to my list and filed my diploma away. Then Jeannie and I had gone back to the green and lush country. I had thought it would be easier to chart a straight course once I was removed from the immediate scene but nothing was simple any more, and the conviction kept bearing down on me that change was in the offing. Drifting was not for me and never would be.
I was sure of it when, at the usual time, the retinue that composed our winter company at Northwestern University arrived and slipped into gear. The Rich Young Man began where he had left off but very quickly it became evident that the complexion of things had changed. He and I had acquired a habit of being together. He had escorted me in such luxury that I was getting out of a work attitude and something had to be done about it. As far as I was concerned, there was no middle course.
There were many discussions and two viewpoints. His family had serious plans for him, including a Bishopís daughter. I, too, had a strict course charted. Talks and more talks finally ended with the Rich Young Man boarding a train for California and his fatherís ranch, there to prospect for gold in the mines and, if the gods approved, set oil wells to flowing.
Though I knew I should miss him, it was at the same time an immense relief to know that I was free to attack more work without distractions. As the distance widened between us, I threw off depression and returned to music, repeating my oft-affirmed belief that I could never marry a rich man. At the same moment, I found myself wondering if I should ever dare to marry any, rich or poor. For the present I was not concerned. Ordinary living seemed to do pretty well at providing its own complexities.
Autumn, colourful and beguiling, was crammed with work and now that the Rich Young Man was acquiring new petticoats, I took a look around at potentials to discover that university professors could be witty, personable, and what not. I even met one who wore a top hat with distinction and he came uninvited to my studio (in daylight of course, but a shocking infringement nonetheless). I was frankly concerned when the Dean called me into his private office and mentioned the matter of gentlemen callers, commending my skill in manoeuvring them out. Immediately my goose pimples vanished.