Summary

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Last Updated on August 22, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 512

One Thursday, about eight o’clock in the evening, Candace Whitcomb receives a visit from all the members of the choir in which she has sung for forty years. They bring cake and oranges for what Candace thinks is a surprise party. After they leave, she finds a photograph album addressed to her from her many friends. Inside the album is a letter informing Candace that she has been dismissed from the choir.

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Candace is angry at being discarded and at the way in which she was removed. The following spring Sunday is warm, so the little church at which Candace used to sing has opened all its windows. When Alma Way, the new soprano, begins her solo, Candace (whose cottage stands close to the church) begins playing loudly on her parlor organ and singing to drown out Alma’s voice. All the members of the choir rally around Alma after the service to express their anger at Candace and their sympathy for the new soprano. The choir director and minister are particularly solicitous about the new singer and critical of her predecessor.

Reverend Pollard visits Candace to try to prevent any recurrence of such a disturbance. He finds that she is using the photograph album as a footstool, and when he suggests that she inadvertently sang a bit too loud during the morning service, she replies that she did so intentionally. She further informs him that she intends to continue to sing against her rival every Sunday. During that afternoon’s service, Candace repeats her performance during Alma’s solo.

Candace’s nephew, Wilson Ford, loves Alma and hopes to marry her someday. Infuriated by his aunt’s treatment of his fiancée, he rushes into Candace’s cottage and threatens to throw her parlor organ out the window if she again disturbs Alma’s singing. Candace replies by telling him that because of his outburst, she will rewrite her will to disinherit him. Then he will not have her money or her house, without which he will not be able to marry.

Candace will not, however, disrupt Alma’s singing again. Her rebellion has so drained her that she becomes fatally ill. On the evening of her rebellion, she looks outside to see a fire in the distance consuming the spring foliage. This conflagration mirrors the fever that is destroying her. Her sister, Mrs. Nancy Ford, who comes to tend her, thinks that the illness is trivial. The wiser Candace knows that it is mortal. During her last week of life, she regrets her hostility to Reverend Pollard, and she asks her sister to brush off the photograph album to remove the signs of the function to which she initially consigned it. She tells her nephew that he can have her house and money, and she even asks Alma to sing a hymn for her: “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” Though dying and repentant, Candace’s spirit has not been totally crushed; when Alma finishes her song, Candace’s last words to her are, “You flatted a little on—soul.”

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