From the Relief Society Magazine, October 1938 –
Not Without Honor
By Mabel Harmer
Ann Berton was picking roses from the garden in front of the house. She wore a blue dimity dress as fresh as the June morning itself and her curls of deep bronze hue were partly covered by a large garden hat. Ann, being a very wide awake girl, was not unconscious of the fact that she made a very charming picture among the roses.
The basket was almost filled and she was beginning to think that she might have to turn to weeding in order to keep herself occupied in the garden, which was not nearly so pleasant as picking roses and much dirtier, when the roadster driven by young Dr. David Ralston came speeding down the road and stopped on her own side rather than by the Billings’ cottage across the way. The Billings had but recently become the proud possessors of a very new baby and Dr. Ralston called shortly after nine every morning to see how all were faring.
As the car came to a complete and not too placid stop, he climbed out, bag in hand and called, “Hello, there! Anybody sick at your house?”
Ann put a rose in the last possible space in the basket and called back, “I’m afraid not. We’re all frightfully healthy over this way.”
“That’s too bad,” he returned cheerfully, coming up and leaning on the picket fence, “because it would give me such a grand excuse to stay around. As it is, I suppose I’ll have to go across the street where I can make myself useful. By the way, do you spend all your time in the garden?’
“Well, hardly,” Ann answered, amused. “I – ”
“You should,” he continued, seriously. “It’s good for the eyes.”
“But my eyes are perfectly all right.”
“I’m quite sure that they are,” he answered, scrutinizing them closely. “I mean, it’s good for other folks’ eyes.”
Ann’s cheeks grew as rosy as the flowers in her basket, one of which she thrust toward him, saying, “Such a pretty speech should have a reward. Will you have a rose, guaranteed good quality and picked fresh this morning?”
“Thank you. If I had time, I’d stay and win the whole lot, but Junior Billings might be annoyed so I’ll have to be content with just this one. I warn you, however, that if it doesn’t prove satisfactory, I’ll be back for another.” He fastened the rose carefully in the lapel of his coat and with a cheery parting smile, he was off on his call leaving Ann with a curious tingling sensation in the region of her heart.
David Ralston was young, personable and very good-looking. It was not at all surprising, Ann reflected, that he had become exceedingly popular during the six months that he had been practicing in Crystal Springs. So far, her own opportunities for acquaintance had been limited to an occasional dance. She didn’t wish Mrs. Billings any hard luck, but she hoped that it would be necessary for the Doctor to call rather frequently.
She turned and walked up the long path that led to the house and into the trim white cottage. She arranged her roses in a vase near the piano where she could enjoy their beauty and fragrance during the hours of teaching. Then she removed her hat and washed her hands just in time to greet Sally Morris, the first student of the morning.
Sally was an exceedingly plain child with straw-colored braids and a manner of sitting at the piano as if she were going to arise any moment and finish her playing standing up. Ann admitted very frankly to herself that she found the child far from prepossessing, but this morning the glow within included even plain little Sally and Ann watched her fidgeting on the seat without the usual desire to push her firmly down and hold her there. She heard her through the scales, exercises and final rendition of “The Morning Patrol,” with practically unruffled feelings, and said goodbye without the customary sigh of relief.
Her next pupil was Adele Warren, the very talkative daughter of the town’s leading socialite. Ann had never quite been able to decide whether she was more annoyed by Sally’s manner of tentative jumping or Adele’s loquaciousness, but her feeling of vast kindliness toward all the world in general made her smile graciously as the child fluffed out her organdy skirt and began playing. Some of the kindliness vanished the next morning, however, when Adele suddenly lifted her fingers from the keys and said in a skeptical tone of voice, “Did you really go away to study music?”
“Certainly. I was away for two years. Why do you ask?”
“Because I heard Mama telling Mrs. Green that you must not have done so very well or you wouldn’t have come back to a little town like Crystal Springs to teach music; you’d have gone on concert tours or stayed in a big city.”
“I’m afraid your mother did not intend you to listen or to repeat what she said,” Ann replied coolly. “As a matter of fact, I came back here because it’s my home and I love it. Perhaps, some day you’ll understand such a reason.”
“Well, but Mama says – ”
“Never mind,” said Ann firmly. “Let me hear the new piece I gave you last week.”
She managed to guide Adele through the lesson without any more interruptions, and after seeing her down the path, dropped into an easy chair on the wide front porch. So that was why the townspeople had failed to take any recognition of her as a musician since her return, other than to send her their children as beginning pupils. They believed that she had come back to Crystal Springs because she had failed to make a place for herself elsewhere. She, Ann Berton, who had been graduated from the Millard School of Music with honors and had been offered a teaching position in the school itself. Evidently it isn’t a prophet alone who is “not without honor save in his own country,” she thought with a rueful smile.
And then because she was young and spirited and just that morning had discovered a new and delightful reason for the joy of living, Ann jumped up and ran inside to the piano where she dashed off her favorite Chopin waltz.
As she finished the last note and was about to get up from the bench a girlish voice cried out, “Oh, please don’t stop! I’ve been standing here literally holding my breath for fear I’d spoil something.”
Ann turned to see her best friend, Merle Stewart, in the doorway and answered smiling, “Come in, I was just giving vent to some of my feelings, both good and bad.”
“You must have been concentrating entirely on the ‘good’ from all I heard because it sounded perfectly gorgeous. I was about to dash out and get an audience; it seemed a shame to waste so much beauty on my ears alone.” Merle came in and seated herself in an easy chair near the piano.
Ann turned to face her, sobered at once, and said, “You might have had quite a task – bringing in an audience.”
“Why, Ann! To hear you play? How absurd!”
Ann left the piano and sat down in a chair near Merle. “Do you know how long I have been home from school?” she asked.
“Well, a couple of months, since you’re inquiring. Why?”
“In all that time have you heard me play anywhere except at home?”
“No. Come to think of it, I have not.” Merle pulled off her leghorn hat and dropped it carelessly on the floor. “Why haven’t you?”
“For the very simple reason that I haven’t been asked and I think I learned the reason today from one of my pupils. People think I must have been a failure at Millard or I wouldn’t have come back to this town to teach children. They think that if I’d been any good I’d have gone on the concert stage or stayed in the city. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that I might love my home and family, even the town itself, enough to want to come back here and live.”
Merle’s forehead was puckered in thought for a minute or two and then she said, “Oh, I don’t believe that can be the reason. After all, two months isn’t a very long time. Perhaps there hasn’t been any very good reason for asking you to play, or,” her face brightened, “perhaps there hasn’t been any occasion they thought grand enough for a musical celebrity.”
“You’re sweet,” said Ann, smiling whimsically, “but I’m afraid your guess isn’t very good this time.”
“Maybe not – we’ll see,” Merle replied. “Anyway, to get around to the purpose of my visit – I came over to see if you wanted to go to the dance at Parkers’ with Jim and me.”
“The dance?” For a moment Ann was puzzled and then it flashed across her consciousness that this was the night the Parkers were opening their new Hotel Resort at the Springs and were giving a large party in honor of the event. “I would like very much to go,” she said, thinking of David Ralston, who would surely be there, “but I don’t happen to be invited.”
“Why, Ann! There must be some mistake. It’s to be a huge affair. They’ve sent out invitations to everybody.”
“Except me, evidently.”
“There’s something very strange about this,” said Merle thoughtfully. “Do you suppose there could be some jealousy on the part of the young daughter because you’ve made such a success of your music and she never could get beyond playing ‘Moonlight and Roses’?”
“Of course not. They just don’t happen to remember that I exist – that’s all,” said Ann with a shrug of her shoulders and an attempt at lightness.
Later on when Merle had left and she was alone in her own room, Ann threw herself down on the bed and dropped a few very real tears on the pink cover. Everything was turning out so dismally different from the bright dreams she had had while at school. All her life she had studied and practised for this time, when she should return to her home town, a successful and accomplished musician. And now that she thought she might attain her goal, she was being practically ignored.
“I’ll show them!” she thought, punching an inoffensive pillow with her tightly doubled fist. “I’ll go back to the city and all they’ll ever hear of me will be through the newspapers. I’ll – ” Her threats were interrupted by a knock on the door followed by the shrill voice of her young sister Jinny, saying, “Mother says that if you want any strawberries, you’d better come down because Bill is eatin’ them awful fast.”
She had been thinking that she was too much upset for eating, but with Jinny’s mention of the strawberries her appetite revived amazingly and she freshened up her hair and face so that the family would have no idea that she had been doing anything more than resting.
The local paper the next day carried an account of the opening of the “beautiful new ballroom,” as they were pleased to call it. It seemed that a professional decorator had put on the final artistic touches and that the list of guests had included many prominent people from the city and from neighboring towns. Furthermore, because of the successful opening, a well-known musician had been engaged to give a concert the following week for a group of select guests.
“Jed Parker seems to be making an awful effort to get society coming to that new place he’s built over at the Springs,” Mrs. Berton remarked after reading the item aloud. “I guess he’s put so much into the place already that he figures a few hundred dollars more or less won’t make much difference.”
“Well, from all I know about it, Jed hasn’t got many more hundreds to speculate with. If he doesn’t make a go of it now, the Parker family may have to go back to planting onions and turnips along with the rest of us,” Mr. Berton responded dryly. “I guess that’s why they’re so anxious to get people from the city coming out.”
“Then I hope they make a go of it,” Mrs. Berton said, turning to another section of the paper.
“And I don’t care whether they do or not,” was Ann’s first rebellious thought, which she quickly thrust aside and said aloud, “I imagine they will do all right. Merle says that the place is lovely.”
She set to work quite determinedly to forget about the Parkers and their dance and their forthcoming musical, and had succeeded so well that she was starting out happily with the rest of the family for a summer evening drive and picnic supper on the night of the concert when the telephone rang.
“Ann,” said a distressed, almost tearful voice, “this is Rose Parker. I’m in an awful scrape and I wondered if you could help me out.”
“Perhaps,” was Ann’s noncommittal answer. “What is it?”
“We were to have a musical here tonight. We’ve invited prominent people from all around and I’ve just had a phone call from Madame Callister’s secretary – she was going to play, you know – and she’s taken suddenly ill and can’t come. We just don’t dare disappoint people. So much depends upon making a success of this place – I was wondering if you could come and play?” The words had tumbled out breathlessly, almost incoherently, and Ann knew that Rose Parker was very much upset, indeed.
Her first thought was to refuse. Why should she accommodate someone who had almost rudely ignored her in the past? Her father’s words, “Jed Parker hasn’t got many more hundreds to speculate with,” came back to her and she said graciously, “Why, certainly, Mrs. Parker. What time shall I be there?”
“Oh, thank you,” Rose Parker gasped in relief. “We should begin about 8:30, and you have a formal gown, I suppose?” There was rising doubt in the voice which Ann quickly allayed by assuring her that she possessed the correct wearing apparel for a concert.
“And – ” Rose Parker hesitated, “and could you play something sort of fancy with runs and so on? They’re expecting something real nice, you know.”
“I’ll do my best,” said Ann, with a smile that was just as well Rose Parker couldn’t see.
Two hours later, dressed in blue satin, her hair in deep shining waves and her blue eyes sparkling, Ann walked confidently toward the piano and began playing the “runs and so on” that Mrs. Parker had asked for. With infinite charm and understanding she played the lovely melodies of Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy.
There had been no word of apology or mention that Ann was merely a last minute substitute. Mr. Parker, resplendent, though obviously uncomfortable in evening clothes, had introduced her as “one of the brilliant young graduates of the Millard Institute of Music,” and inferred that they had waited almost breathlessly for her first concert appearance in Crystal Springs.
After it was over, including a number of encores, Ann stood with her hosts to receiver the congratulations of the guests. One of the latter, Roswell Bennett, the portly head of a manufacturing concern from the city, began suggesting that he would like to talk terms concerning a radio contract in the near future. Ann smiled up at him and said that she would like to consider it, remembering, at the same time, that she had recently threatened that the townspeople would hear of her only from a distance in the future.
As Bennett left, young Dr. Ralston stepped up. His hand clasped Ann’s and forgot to release it. “I heard that old duffer talking to you about a radio engagement in the city,” he said. “My professional advice is that you don’t accept it. I think it best that you stay here in Crystal Springs. That is – best for me.”
“I have been rather looking forward to a chance like that, of late,” Ann said, looking up at him with starry eyes, “but on second thought, I think perhaps to stay here would be ‘best’ for me, too.”