Gordon Hill, Tennessee, 1901
"So I suppose Millie Beth may be wondering why I was bold enough to ask for the privilege of walking you home today," David commented. Celia's face showed how nonplussed she felt by his upfront manner. "And now, I've disconcerted you with my plain speaking. It's something you'll have to get accustomed to if this courtship is to go any further."
"Courtship?" Celia inquired, only a trifle breathlessly. "Is that truly what this is?"
"It's the best I can do, ma'am," David admitted. "Flowery speeches and subtle hints are not my strong suit. I run more to telling a girl what's on my mind and asking her what's on hers. Maybe that's why I'm thirty-three and still single." He looked down at her and saw that she had no reply. "See, there? I'm doing it again."
She paused for a moment's reflection then nodded her head once. "Plain speaking I can't fault a man for that."
He stopped, there in the middle of the path in full view of at least ten people and turned to face her. "Then I certainly hope you'll accept my proposal. If you don't mind honesty in a man, then you're the girl for me."
"Dr. Byrd, please," Celia replied as she continued on their way down the broad path. "Folks are beginning to stare."
"I'd say I'm sorry," he replied, "but I'm not. If you think it bothers me for people to stare at me as I talk with a beautiful girl, you don't know me very well yet, do you?"
* * * *
He had to work to win her heart and her father's permission. Then he had to find a way to get her down the aisle. David knew how to deal with a wayward girl and didn't hesitate to apply his paddle where it would do the most good, but could he truly convince her to trust him? Giving up wasn't a choice, no matter how many times a bottom had to be set ablaze with belt, spoon and paddle.