Rebecca's Refusal
exploits, she was sure he was not the husband for her, and it was something her own experiences had confirmed. Despite his powerful magnetism, he clearly did not see her as an equal, and she had no intention of marrying a man who saw her as his inferior.
    1 see no point in continuing with this conversation,' she said, fighting down her anger and replying with as much coldness as she could muster. Then, turning away from him, she began to skate back towards Hetty and Charles. But he caught up with her with a powerful thrust of his firmly-muscled legs and took hold of her round the waist.
    To the crowds who skated past them they looked to be skating along in perfect amity, but Rebecca was seething inside.
    'Let go of me,' she said.
    ‘I demand -'
    We will return to Hetty and Charles together, as we left them,' he said between gritted teeth. 'And we will inform them of our betrothal.'
    'You cannot make me marry you,' she said, her voice just as determined as his. She dug in her toes, this time deliberately, until she had come to a stop. She had no intention of returning to Hetty and Charles until this ridiculous nonsense had been brought to an end. If you choose to be so foolish as to tell Hetty and Charles that we are betrothed then I will be forced to tell them that we are not.'
    Whereupon she skated off. And this time, though his face was thunderous, he let her go.
    Where is Josh?' asked Hetty, as Rebecca skated up to her.
    ‘I . . . wanted to practise a little skating unaided,' said Rebecca. She did not like lying to Hetty, but she did not feel equal to explaining the true situation. 'He is following me. Ah, here he is now.'
    Joshua skated up.
    Well, this has been a most enjoyable afternoon,' said Charles, as the four of them returned their skates to the stall. 'I think, though, if you're ready, it's time for us to leave.' He looked up at the sky. The light was already fading. The short winter day was closing in, and before long it would be dark. You 11 come back with us to Sloane Street, I hope, Josh? There are some business matters on which I would value your advice.'
    Rebecca looked down at the ice, willing him to refuse. But then she heard him say, I'd be delighted.'
    Somehow, although she may have won the battle, Rebecca had the feeling she had not won the war. She may have refused him once, but she feared he would not allow the matter to rest. He had a stubborn streak, as she had already discovered. Well, if it came to that, so did she.
    They left the frozen Thames and Charles tried to hail a hansom to take them back to Sloane Street: their own carriage had long since returned home, as it was too cold to keep the horses waiting. But there were few hansoms out and about that day. The weather made the going treacherous, and not all the cab drivers wanted to risk their horses in such conditions. The hansoms which were driving round the streets were therefore in demand, and in the end the party experienced such difficulty in trying to hail a cab they decided to walk back to Sloane Street. Their only proviso was that they would hail a cab if they saw one on the way.
    Rebecca endeavoured to walk with Hetty and Charles, but Hetty had already claimed Charles's arm, and it was not possible for all four of them to walk abreast. There was no escape. She was forced to walk behind her aunt and uncle with Joshua. However, she meant to behave with such icy civility that he had no opportunity to raise the subject of marriage again.
    She was fortunate, however, as Joshua seemed to have no more inclination to talk than she had, doubtless because she kept such a brisk pace that they kept close behind Hetty and Charles and there was no opportunity for a truly private conversation.
    At length Hetty and Charles crossed the road. A carriage rolled past behind them, and Rebecca, stopping at the edge of the pavement, glanced to both right and left after it had gone to make sure that all was clear. Some way up the road to their right a

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