What is the summary of "A Service of Love" by O. Henry?  

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At the beginning of the story, the narrator claims that it shall begin with the premise that "When one loves one's Art no service seems to hard" and then claims that they will then prove that the premise is wrong. Joe Larrabee, a painter, and Delia Caruthers, a pianist, meet in an atelier and quickly fall in love, get married, and set up home in a small flat. Everything goes well until they run out of money, and Delia insists that she will begin to give music lessons; Joe can keep studying with his art teacher in the meantime.

One day she comes home elated, saying that she got a student, but Joe is somewhat put out by the fact that she's going to be earning money while he does not. She reminds him that "When one loves one's Art no service seems too hard." At the end of the week, she brings home her earnings, and Joe surprises her by telling her that he's sold a sketch and taken a commission for another.

During the next week, however, Delia comes home with a burned hand and a story about her pupil spilling something hot on it; Joe, however, figures out that Delia has not actually been teaching. She confesses that she couldn't get any pupils and so she got a job ironing shirts at a laundry—she was burned when another girl set an iron down on her hand. Joe admits that he's actually been "firing the engine in that laundry for the last two weeks." He hasn't sold any of his art. Both of them lied to one another but with good intentions. As Delia now says, the story proves that "When one loves," no service seems too hard. It has to do with love, not art.

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As an introduction to his short story, "A Service of Love," O. Henry declares that he will take the premise of "When one loves one's Art no service seems too hard" and draw a conclusion from this premise while at the same time proving it wrong.

An aspiring artist, Joe Larrabeen from the Midwest and Delia Caruthers, a young talented musician meet in New York in an atelier where a number of youthful artists have met to discuss composers and painter.  There they are attracted to each other; shortly thereafter, they marry.  Living in a "lonesome flat" does not matter to Joe and Delia, for they are happy and in love.  "They had their Art, and they had each other."

While they dwell in this flat, Joe takes art lessons from the great Magister; Delia trains under the great musician Rosenstock.  "But after a while Art flagged" and the Larrabees are too poor to pay for their respective art lessons.  So Delia decides to teach piano.  After a couple of days, Delia returns home, excitedly telling her husband that she has found piano pupils. The proud Joe tells his wife that he cannot let his wife "hustle for wages" while he "philanders" in high art.  And, he offers to find a job.  Delia remonstrates, telling Joe that he must continue his art; after all, she says, in teaching piano, she is yet learning.  "When one loves one's Art, no service seems too hard," said Delia.

Both Delia and Joe bring home money; hers, Delia says, is from General Pinkney and his, Joe declares, is from a man from Peoria, Illinois.  However, one evening Delia returns home with a wrapped hand that has been burned. As she explains what has happened to her, Joe becomes suspicious and asks her what she has really been doing.  So, Delia confesses to having been working in a laundry.

"You're not angry, are you, Joe?  And if I hadn't got the work you mightn't have sold your sketches to that man from Peoria."

Then, Joe confesses that he has not sold any paintings; he works in the engine room for this same laundry, and he was the one who sent up the cotton and oil for a girl who had her hand burned.  The loving couple laughs, and Joe begins, "When one loves one's Art no service seems--"  But, Delia counters, "No..just "When one loves."

Indeed, it is no longer their art that Joe and Delia love enough to work; it is the other for whom they work.  The original premise is incorrect.

 

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