I tidied my skirts with anxious fervor, working incessantly at a wrinkle in my gown. Mother set a gentle hand on my own to calm my fidgeting. I swallowed, folding them neatly in my lap as to restrain them. Why was I so nervous?
If I had feared Mr. Hartley would prove himself a fool before my parents, I shouldn't have doubted him. His performance was a great success.
He arrived a show of neat cleanliness, of humble attire and trim appearance. Overall he was quite dashing, so much so that as his eyes fell upon me that evening, I felt my heart swell in amorous esteem.
If he failed to impress my father with his orderly presentation, Hartley likely eased Father's initial distrust and reservations for him with his oral demonstration. I watched with glowing pride as Hartley spoke so coolly, confidently; assuredly articulating his sharp wit and warm heart.
My mother, at least, seemed greatly impressed. She offered consistent smiles, generous compliments in her husband's brief durations of silence, listening attentively to Mr. Hartley's every word.
After dinner, we customarily split; Mother and I to the parlor and the men to their coffee, Father his cigar, in the library nook. At our separation, Hartley extended to me a parting glance, his expression piercing directly into my heart. I prayed silently for him, hoping the night would continue as smoothly as it had thus far.
"What an incredible man," Mother murmured once we were left on our own, beaming with good-humor.
"You really think so?" I could not contain a giddy grin, gleeful at my mother's acceptance.
"The two of you make such a handsome pair." She smiled pridefully. "How sweet you both are, sharing little glances here and there. I am assured you will be married long before autumn."
"Oh, Mother. Don't be so presumtive," I said, though I could not refrain from a smile of my own. The very thought, a beautiful dream, sent my heart quivering with girlish delight.