"If you scorn me first, sir, you can bet on your life that I'll scorn you second and the final word of our petty little argument will be mine to keep."

Talented, rich and playful, Rebecca Crox swears that she will never marry, despite what her friends want her to do. Thomas Prewett, an old family friend, luckily feels the same way and the two are perfectly happy being nothing but friends, both being of archful, intelligent dispositions. When Becca finally falls in love with him, therefore, she is not expecting it any more than he and it turns out that possibly marriage is a very bad idea, after all.


1. One


When one sits in a darkened parlour, alone and with a sickening headache, one usually wishes to remain in a state of solitary confinement. Rebecca Crox was - at this point in time - feeling ill, miserable and tired, and wanted nothing more than to be left alone. She had, not long ago, begged her governess to quit the room, requested that smelling-salts be brought to her immediately, and had finally slumped in a chair in the darkest corner of the room with the curtains drawn and all the candles out. Now she sat, in her dismal state of mind, massaging the bridge of her nose and trying not to frown; frown lines at the age of fifteen, were not desirable. 


Since almost the age of six, Becca had lived as an only child in the house of her father, her mother having died of fever long ago, mistress of the house and superior to the extent that she was much admired throughout the neighbourhood. She was not vain as such, in the matter of her beauty and intelligence - her vanity lay in a different corner - and very few would have ever dared to call her so. Calling Miss Rebecca Crox vain, as she was the daughter, and sole heir, of the esteemed and valued Henry Crox, was simply not a done thing, and Becca was therefore left to follow her own interests, with scarcely anyone there to hold her back. Her governess, Miss Anne Crawford, an old and frail lady of little intelligence and barely enough skill to keep Rebecca so much as within sight, was an insufficient companion, and a poor teacher, but she had been given the position, by Becca's father, out of pure sympathy for her desperate need for a job. Becca hardly ever gave her half a glance. Miss Crawford was not good enough for her and a great many others, whom Becca usually refered to as 'commoners', had suffered the same ranking and were, along with all their harmless intentions for her, utterly ignored.


The one person who could possibly have kept Becca Crox in check was her mother, a mother long dead and buried, and, whilst Rebecca's father was loved by her almost more than anyone else in the world, he was too old and weary himself to possibly rein in a daughter who almost had more power and leise in her situation than himself. Others had feebly tried and failed to keep Miss Crox in check - she did what she liked, mostly, although Rebecca was not so extreme in her behaviour that she was ever naughty or unladylike - but all had been dismissed as being 'pathetic and common' except one. He had been a close friend of her family for years, was alike her in personality, although a little more refined, and who had remained, in spite of all either of their other connections, almost Becca's closest confident. He was witty, handsome, her immediate equal in looks and fortune, and the only person other than herself who was not affected by the trifling and weak idea of matrimony. At first glance the gentleman seemed to be a man with a love for women and flirting, and, had one not known him any more after that first glance, one might have sustained such an idea of his personality for eternity, but as it was, if you had known him further, you would have easily seen that women were not his priortity, and that flirting was ranked somewhere between eating slugs and wearing pink hair ribbons in terms of what he was most likely to do with his time and idleness.


Rebecca sighed once, from the position in the darkenened corner of her chair, and let her throbbing head fall back against the cushions, letting the pain of her headache briefly wash over her. What an awful way this was to spend a morning! She wished with all her might that she did not have a headache at such an inconvenient moment in time but there was no getting rid of it now. This darkened parlor and privacy would be the only means she had of feeling better rapidly and, so far, it had only made her headache worse. She was bored now, bored and irritable, and her irritation only grew when a raucous shout from the grounds outside the window interrupted her precious silence. There was the sound of galloping hooves, a crack of a whip and a rattling of horse's reins, and then the sound of a front door slamming loudly. There was only one person who crashed about like that and Becca heard herself groan as the person thundered up the stairs, the footsteps drawing closer and closer. Becca immediately pinched her cheeks in an effort not to appear so drawn, biting hastily at her much-admired lips to redden them back to their usual colour. The parlor door slammed open. Miss Crox winced. 


"Becca! Becca, I have something to say to you and- ...Grief! Why do you mope in the dark?" The intruder stopped suddenly and squinted at the rough outline of Miss Crox in the gloom.

"Mr Prewett." reterned Rebecca shortly, rising regally from her seat and lighting a candle. As the flame feebly illuminated the parlour, she cocked an eyebrow and folded her arms across her chest. "Do you, in the depths of your mind, truly feel that it is appropriate to storm about this house in such an appaling manner, especially when I am clearly in a poor state of health?"

The only person that had ever managed to retain Becca smiled archly. "Poor state of health? How was I supposed to know of your 'poor state of health'? Am I telepathic?"

Rebecca only glared at him for a moment, before the tension between them snapped, and her companion leaned forwards and embraced her.

"Come." he said. "Let us not quarrel or fight like duelers. You know how I am only teasing you."

"Then do not slam about my father's house in such a lowly manner. You were born to be a gentleman and gentlemen do not run so." But Becca was not angry and neither was her companion. She stepped back from him. "You had a message for me?"

Prewett laughed. "Not for you especially, but I desired you to hear it first. Will you not guess what it is?"

Rebecca flatly refused to guess. He was teasing her again and she would not take the bait "You wish to tell me, I know, and I have no current desire to guess."

There was a slight, but pleading intreat that she would.

"Certainly not. You may tell me outright or you may not tell me at all. What is your news? Is it pleasant news or the opposite?" Miss Crox asked. 

"Good news? Bad news? Is there not some other sort of news? For if there is than I shall fit my news into that category, if you please! It is neither positive nor negative, Rebecca, and you shall think the same on that front as I when you hear of it. You know the name Wilkins?"

Becca laughed happily and clapped her hands. "Athur Wilkins? Oh, be sure that I know of him! Is he not your dearest copanion?"

"Aye, that he is." returned Mr Prewett. "And here comes my news: he is married!"


He shook his head sarcastically. "No, my dear lady! He has turned into a gleaming palace of gold! Of course he is married! The fool! Is there not another bachelor upon whose circumstance I can rely?"

Rebeeca smiled at him. "You have me, Thomas." she said softly. "You shall always have me, for I may not be a bachelor, but I am a bacheloress and they are almost one and the same." There was a slight pause and then Miss Crox spoke again. "Who is to be his wife?"

"Arabella Slohford. A friend of yours, I believe."

"A very close friend. I can confirm that easily." replied Becca. She had, after all, known Miss Slohford for years.

Thomas Prewett sighed. "At least, I suppose, Wilkins had sense enough to choose a decent sort of wife. Although personally I cannot see the attraction."

Rebecca laughed. "Aye, but you have never seen the attraction to any woman you have come across! 'Tis a bachelor's curse and you and I both bear the brunt of it?"

"Curse, lady?" returned her friend. "I cannot think of it as a curse. I scorn marriage of my own free will!"

"As do I." said Becca calmly. "Perhaps you are right."

Prewett snorted. "Ha! This'll be the day! Have I ever before heard Miss Crox admitting she was wrong?" and he threw her a half playful, half gloating, glance.

Becca ignored him. "I should hope you have." she said. "For I do not pretend to be faultless, as I have heard the odd person claim." She was satisfied to see his mock outrage.

"I? You call me one to self-praise? You are raving!"

"I beg your pardon? I am not!" scolded Becca, but she was laughing and so was he. Her headache, she found to her surprise, had mysteriously vanished.

"You will come to the wedding of our friend?" Mr Prewett asked of her, once they had ceased their teasing of one another.

He was answered by her smile. "Of course. I would not miss it for my own well-being."

"I should hope not, for I have heard rumors that I am to be the groomsman and you the brideswoman."

Becca shook her head with a grimace. "Dear me! But you know how I would do anything for Arabella. And you, no doubt, would do the same for Wilkins."

"Upon my honour." was the noble reply. "He is the greatest gentleman I ever had the pleasure to meet. I would sell my soul for him ...Or, in this case, attend even a wedding for him."

"Then he is a lucky gentleman, also." said Miss Crox warmly. "For I should not expect that you would do the same for another."

"Nay." agreed Prewett. "Although perhaps I may allow the odd exception. You, for instance, Rebecca, have forever been held high in my esteem."

Becca smiled. "And I could say the same about you, Thomas." she said. And there the conversation ended.


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