And if I show you my dark side
Will you still hold me tonight?
And if I open my heart to you
And show you my weak side
What would you do?
Would you send me packing?
Or would you take me home?
~The Final Cut, Pink Floyd
Sometimes, Harold Hill hated this newfound conscience of his.
It was the beginning of October – almost three months had passed since the music professor’s arrival to River City – and everything was turning out beautifully for him. On the last day of August, he had triumphantly led the River City boys’ band in a big parade down Main Street. Their enthusiastic performance of Seventy Six Trombones, followed by a stirring rendition of John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, put to rest any lingering questions about whether the Think System had merit. The morning after the parade, Harold posted his application to the U.S. Patent Office, and it wasn’t long before students started enrolling at his music emporium in droves.
Even though his business was still in its early stages, Harold was so confident the music emporium would provide a steady source of income that he moved into the next phase of his plans: purchasing a house. There was a charming little Victorian on East Pine Street that he knew Marian admired and, as the house was located a short walk from the Paroo home, Harold snapped it up as soon as he had verified it was still on the market.
Harold had to marvel at the speed with which he had achieved his aims; in the space of two months, he had established a promising business and acquired a beautiful home. Now that he had laid his solid foundation for a legitimate, respectable existence, he could finally realize the dream he’d had ever since the night he decided to stay in River City: asking Marian to share a life with him.
But when it came to this item on his to-do list, Harold hesitated. Even though everything he had done since staying in town was centered on ensuring his future with Marian, he found himself looking for reasons to delay asking her the crucial question: his home wasn’t properly decorated, his business was still in its fledgling stages, his schedule was already jam-packed with projects for the next several months. Though he had always planned on marrying Marian, the idea of going through with the actual proposal turned out to be more daunting than he thought. Marriage was a big step; though there was no question that he loved her and she him, they hadn’t known each other for more than a few months. So for the time being, Harold was pleased to enjoy Marian’s companionship as her friend and beau and, to his relief, she seemed just as content with the current state of their relationship.
But Harold knew the townspeople were growing impatient. Normally, that wouldn’t have bothered him, but now that he had become a full-fledged River City-zien, he was discovering it wasn’t always so easy to dismiss such considerations. On the day of the parade, when Harold beheld Marian approaching to take her place by his side, he suddenly realized the gravity of the situation into which he had gotten himself.
Marian, as usual, was a charming vision to behold. Harold’s heart beat faster as he saw her coming to meet him; she had worn the ensemble he requested, and she looked lovely. Though Marian gazed only at him, he knew the buoyant skip in her step and the joy in her eyes were evident to all who were watching. And he was also aware that everyone could see the same delight radiating from his own countenance. Not that he had any particular wish to hide his feelings – by then, it was common knowledge that the two of them had come to an understanding – but this was the first time they had unequivocally demonstrated the seriousness of their relationship to the entire town. And the River City-ziens seemed to approve of this union: They cheerfully returned the couple’s smiles and waves, and shouted their greetings in hearty voices as the parade passed by.
Oddly, Harold found the townspeople’s endorsement more unsettling than he would have their condemnation. Even though Marian remained innocently unaware of what their behavior indicated – he saw from her beaming expression that she adored this outpouring of friendship and approbation – he realized the townspeople would expect to hear news of their engagement in the near future. Indeed, from that day on, the town rumor mill began buzzing about the music professor’s and librarian’s assumed, upcoming nuptials.
And once Harold had bought his house, the talk only increased. He knew he couldn’t vacillate indefinitely; the longer he put things off, the more his and Marian’s reputations would suffer. But as much as Harold loved his dear librarian, he wasn’t sure he was ready to be tied down just yet.
But at the same time, Harold wanted Marian. Not just physically; he was also captivated by their growing friendship. Most days, it was enough to simply spend an hour or two in her company, sharing conversation laced with the occasional, often flirtatious repartee. Even though he’d had his doubts – especially after the passionate kiss they shared on the footbridge the evening he drove Miss Harper out of town – Harold had found it surprisingly easy to curb his ardor. Though he wouldn’t hesitate to plant a kiss or two on Marian’s lips if no one was looking, he had for the most part remained on his best behavior when in her company. When the two of them were alone together in the music emporium – as happened rather often when they were in the final stages of preparing for an event – Harold was courteous and respectful of Marian as he was of any of his students. And even though he did allow himself the luxury of taking her on a clandestine stroll to the footbridge every week or two, Harold always made sure they never stayed away for more than an hour.
But Harold was beginning to find all this restraint rather galling. He had been reduced to the level of a of youth partaking in his first romantic experience and, for a man who was used to more adult relationships, this kind of existence quickly became stultifying. It didn’t help matters that the intensity of his longing for Marian was deepening as time passed; some days, it was all Harold could do to prevent himself from taking her in his arms and covering every inch of her with kisses.
Still, he wasn’t about to propose to Marian simply to satisfy his lust; it wouldn’t have been fair to either of them. And as tempting as the idea was, Harold refused to press his advantage – he had long ago promised he would never do anything to dull the pristine sparkle in Marian’s eyes and smile, and that was one promise he intended to keep. But sometimes – especially when they were alone together at the footbridge – he came perilously close to breaking this vow.
Still, even in the heat of the moment, full-scale seduction of Marian was an option Harold refused to consider. Unfortunately, his conscience – that damn conscience! – wouldn’t let him proceed with offering a marriage proposal, either.
So as of October third – exactly three months since he had first come to town – things remained in limbo as Harold pondered what would be his best course of action.