Excerpt from “Impending Love and War” with Cory Beecher explaining courtship to mathematics instructor Douglas Raymond.
My novels are on sale through The Wild Rose Press at www.thewildrosepress.com and http://goo.gl/CFQBd1 “Impending Love and Death” is due out soon.
If Cory had a plan, it disappeared the minute she saw Douglas looking so vulnerable. Maybe it was the sunburn on his high forehead or the way he kept spinning his mangled hat around with his fingertips. She didn’t like hurting others, but it was cruel to lead Douglas on with no hope of loving him. A quick severance was better than letting plans unravel over time.
“I haven’t seen you all day.” Cory tapped Douglas on the shoulder with her closed fan. “Where have you been?”
“I saw you with your family and Mr. Montgomery and hesitated to intrude.”
I love him, and I don’t love you. That might be too abrupt. Cory sat on a bench under one of the shade trees planted on the edge of the square. “You were honest and forthright about your plans for the future, and I wish to talk about mine.”
Douglas sat next to her and took her hand. It was sweaty. Cory opened her fan and waved it with her free hand.
“Then you’re not angry with me?” He lowered his voice. “About the kiss?”
Cory tried not to groan and moved her fan to block her face. “You were quite forward, Mr. Raymond.”
“You make me bold.” He knelt on one knee in front of her. “I will not jeopardize your reputation by hesitating to make my intentions clear. Miss Beecher, will you marry me?”
Cory had meant to gently coax his attention toward Beth, but a harsher voice would be necessary. She glanced around and saw only a few people nearby who might witness the scene she would create. She took a deep breath and launched her attack. “Is that it?” She snatched her hand from his.
Douglas fell back. “What do you mean? I asked you to marry me?”
“Without a declaration of love?” She stood. “Get up! You didn’t even say I was pretty. When other men have proposed to me, they at least compliment me. You didn’t even do that.” She fanned herself with quick, agitated strokes.
Douglas looked stunned. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, don’t apologize!” she snapped. Douglas cowered as if she’d struck him. He looked so scared that Cory had to fight the urge to soften her words. She closed her fan and smacked it against her palm. “It’s too late. Why no self-respecting woman would say yes to such a proposal. A woman expects flowers, flattery, and a declaration of love from the man she marries. In
fact, I don’t think you love me at all. I believe you’re still in love with someone else.”
Douglas shook his head. “No, that isn’t true.”
Cory raised her voice not only in volume but to an annoyingly high pitch. “Don’t lie to me, Mr. Raymond. I won’t be trifled with. I saw how you looked at Beth Davis when we were having supper the other night,” Cory accused. “You couldn’t take your eyes off of her. You still have feelings for her, don’t you?”
“I have the highest regard for Miss Davis but…”
“Don’t say another word.” Cory emphasized the words with a slap of her closed fan on his shoulder. “I could never take second place in a man’s heart.”
“But she turned me down when I proposed.”
“Proposed?” she gasped. “If you asked Beth to marry you the way you proposed to me, it’s no wonder she turned you down.” Cory lifted her chin. “No woman accepts a proposal of marriage with such callous calculation.” She softened her voice. “You should tell Beth how you truly feel about her and demonstrate your affection with words and deeds if you want her to accept a second proposal.”
Douglas looked confused. “Mr. Montgomery said something about Southern women not accepting the first time, but I thought Northern women were more practical.”
“A woman has pride,” she explained. “Not the same pride as a man. She has no career or is equal in education as a man, but she takes pride in little tasks. It could be the way she embroiders or the flaky crust on her pie. A woman cherishes these accomplishments. They make her life of hard work and drudgery bearable. Beth is an excellent cook, but did anyone compliment
her on her pie crust but her father? Did you know she cut nearly all the pies for the contest on the square? She could easily handle the cooking and cleaning for a dozen men.”
Cory paused to make sure he comprehended the implication of her last words. “Those are skills
overlooked by most. Skills a husband should cherish. A romantic like Beth longs for words of affection and kindness, and she expects them from a man who proposes marriage.”
“But to propose to the same woman twice doesn’t seem to increase the probability of acceptance,” Douglas said. “It’s illogical mathematically. The answer is either right or wrong. It doesn’t change the outcome by doing the problem over and over again.”
“But Beth isn’t a mathematical problem.” How could one man be so obtuse? “She’s a woman. She admitted she admires Jane Austen. She wants romance. Even Mr. Darcy had to ask Elizabeth to marry him a second time. I’m sure if you asked Beth, after a proper declaration of love, she would be tempted to accept your proposal.”
“I don’t think I could ask her again,” Douglas said. “What about my pride?”
“Mr. Darcy swallowed his pride,” Cory reminded him. “Any humbling on your part would be replaced by the proud announcement of your impending marriage.”
Douglas thought on her words. Cory was growing impatient. What did she have to do to convince the man to court Beth?
“You said a woman wouldn’t accept the first time. Is that why you turned me down?”
Good Lord. She was caught by her own words. She had given him hope instead of making it clear she had no interest in him. “I said no because I’m in love with another,” she confessed honestly.
Douglas was shocked by her words. “Who?”
“Why, the man I’ve spent the entire day with, Tyler Montgomery.” She raised her fan to mask her face. “I know we haven’t known each other for long, but he has all the qualities I admire.”
“But he spent the entire evening paying attention to Beth,” Douglas recalled.
Cory lowered her voice to a whisper. “She was flirting with him to make you jealous.”
“Why would she do that?”
“Because she still has feelings for you.”
Douglas looked surprised. “I guess I should go and propose to Beth.”
“You can’t do that!” Cory shouted.
He cringed under her outburst. “Why not?”
Cory rolled her eyes. “Haven’t you heard anything I’ve said about romance? You need to court her. Win her affection. Show how much you care. But first, you should ask permission to escort her to the dance.”
“But wouldn’t that be wasting time? I know the solution to the problem. I should act immediately.”
“A woman doesn’t like to be rushed.”
“But I wish to be married before fall term begins,” he said. “I don’t want to waste any more time.”
He was complaining about wasting time. Cory tried a new tactic. “But a dance accelerates your schedule,” she reasoned. “It’s the perfect opportunity to begin anew and show her how you feel, and it’s a public declaration of your intentions.” She put it in terms he would understand. “Dancing with Beth is equal to three Sunday visits.”
“Three visits,” he repeated. “Do you think she’ll go to the dance with me?”
“All you have to do is ask,” she prodded.
Douglas thought for what seemed like an eternity. “I’ll do it.”
Cory sighed when Douglas headed for th