“Oh Eliza, I thought it was him.” Basil said in more of an exhalation than an actual remark.
Eliza gave a sympathetic smile, closed the door behind her, and walked slowly over to the couch, her long yellow dress making it appear as if she were gliding instead of stepping. “No, Basil; not yet. But he said he’s on his way.” Basil’s eyes rested briefly on a copy of Don Quixote and a book on Richard the Lionhearted on the coffee table.
Basil gulped and brushed his right hand through his short brown hair. Elizabeth quickly smoothed his hair back into place. “No, no…keep it neat, remember? Father adores neatness in a man, Basil.”
“Yes,” Basil responded agitatedly, “Along with thrift, frugality, wealth, intelligence, high birth, and savoir-faire—basically, I have to be impeccably flawless.”
Elizabeth frowned but kept her hand on his head. “He only wants the best for me.”
No longer so much agitated as genuinely terrified, Basil looked intently at her and said, “And what if I don’t play into what’s ‘best’ for you, Eliza? What if this is the end of us?”
“Basil, don’t…” Elizabeth began, but stopped short to pull him into an embrace—just as the door opened once again.
“Ahem,” came a deep, rough voice from the doorway. Both Basil and Elizabeth tore away from each other with a guilty amount of haste. “Father,” Elizabeth said, but seemed to have nothing more to add. “Yes, um, Mr. Sinclair,” Basil said as if taking up the responsibility to finish Elizabeth’s incomplete sentence, “thank you for taking the time to see me today.”
The tall, dark-haired Mr. Sinclair blinked twice before saying, “Yes, well—Eliza, darling, I do believe that Basil asked to see me alone, did he not?” Eliza stood up from the couch and nodded. “Yes, Father.” With one brief look back at Basil accompanied by a quick smile, the beautiful, petite Elizabeth walked out of the same door that her stern-faced, robust father had entered.
Taking a seat on the couch, Mr. Sinclair took out his pocket-watch and gave it a quick look. “Well, Basil, you have my full, undivided attention.”
That’s the last thing I want right now, Basil thought to himself.
“Yes,” Basil said as his voice cracked. Clearing his throat, Basil continued. “Yes, Mr. Sinclair. Again, thanks for your time. Now, as you know, I’ve been seeing your daughter for quite some time now, and I—”
“Yes, Basil, you began seeing her…what was it, fourteen months ago?” Mr. Sinclair interrupted.
Oh no…does he know what I’m doing? Of course he does! Does he think fourteen months is not enough time? God help me…
“Um…yes. Yes, sir,” Basil answered. Mr. Sinclair remained tacit and thus Basil resumed. “So, I mean…well, I’m approaching the end of my studies and I wanted to express my full intention to humbly ask—”
“Your field of study is…interesting,” Mr. Sinclair interrupted yet again. “Philosophy, was it?”
“I…” Basil’s impetus had been disrupted yet again. “I…that is—yes. Yes, Philosophy. Sir.”
“Yes,” came the short reply from Mr. Sinclair. “And what does one do with such a discipline?”
“Well,” Basil responded shakily, “there is really only one job in the field. One must become a professor and teach.”
“And is that feasible?”
“Oh, absolutely. Such professors are in short supply.”
“I would imagine so.”
Was that an insult? Did he just make light of my entire academic career? No, calm down. So he’s an investment broker. Doesn’t mean he thinks your future profession is simply rubbish. Oh, who am I kidding? He thinks of me as nothing more than an investment, and a poor one at that…
“Basil,” Mr. Sinclair said in a much different tone of voice, one that almost seemed kind. “Are you worried?”
Yes, yes, a million times yes!
“Are you troubled, then? Is something worrying you?”
I’m troubled as deeply as one may be.
After giving Basil and incredulous look Mr. Sinclair said, “So, what is it again that you wanted to see me about?”
Now or never, Basil. I’ve messed everything else up, so might as well charge forward with all I’ve got.
“Sir, I’ve fallen madly in love with your daughter and would like nothing more than to be her devoted husband. I’ve come to ask for Elizabeth Sinclair’s hand in marriage. Sir.”
Mr. Sinclair’s stern face did not move at all at first. Then, just as the sun breaches a thick cover of clouds, so too a smile broke out on Mr. Sinclair’s visage, a smile so large that it made Basil uncomfortable.
“Basil, my dear boy! Yes! Yes, you have my blessing!” After laughing a few times he embraced Basil just as Elizabeth had earlier, though with much more force.
Dear God, he’s cracked…the sour proposition has driven him mad!
Mr. Sinclair laughed again and suddenly let go of Basil, keeping his hands on Basil’s shoulders. “I’ll go get Eliza at once! And afterwards, we’ll discuss some of my favorite philosophers. I once considered that discipline as well, you know. Ah, to Eliza! My daughter, soon to be wed!” And with that he stood up quickly from the couch and briskly walked out the door.
The entire process had been as nerve-wracking as the initial conversation with Elizabeth had been for Basil when he had first met her, and now it was suddenly over. Vowing that he would certainly be in church come Sunday, he was soon once again joined by Elizabeth and her beaming father.
“Oh, Basil, you did a stellar job!” Elizabeth said while grasping his hand in both of hers. “Was it difficult?”
Attempting to recover what he could of his bravado, he smiled and said, “Like charging a windmill.”