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Chapter XIX

BILL rose early after a night of roseate dreams through which danced a slim, laughing damsel with auburn hair nestling close round her head, and grey eyes that smiled tantalizingly from under long dark eyelashes. It was a beautiful morning, and he hummed light-heartedly as he groomed the two horses and saddled them with extra care.

He rode round to Elaine's hotel at about quarter to nine, lit a cigarette, and tried to curb his impatience. After the third cigarette he led the horses across to the opposite side of the street in full view of the upper veranda, and waited there. At half-past nine he mounted and rode to the corner and back several times with a growing consciousness of the number of curious glances directed at him.

At ten o'clock he could wait no longer. He thrust his way into the bar and beckoned the barman to one side. “Mick, do you know if there's a visitor upstairs … girl of about twenty-five … short, dark red hair …” He hesitated there; no use telling him the colour of her eyes or describing the delicious, sensitive curl of her short upper lip.

The barman scratched his head. “There's about


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twinty red-haired wimmen stoppin' here, but wait an' I'll ask at the office.”

Bill read from his expression as he returned that he had drawn a blank. He was at a loss to know what to do. He couldn't tramp through the hotel calling “Elaine,” or investigating every room. What could have kept her!

Another thought presented itself. He turned cold at the idea but it had to be faced. He presented himself at the office. “Is there a parcel here for Mr Lance?”

The girl dived an arm under the table and pushed a paper parcel at him. “From Mrs Barlow … that right?”

“Mrs Barlow …?” he echoed faintly. “What does she look like?”

“I only saw her when she paid her bill this morning. Young woman … short auburn hair … nice teeth … dressed in a. …”

“Thanks … that would be right.” He turned the parcel over and found an envelope pinned to it. He ripped it open and scanned the few lines penned in a large bold hand.

LANCELOT.

We are leaving early in the morning so I'll probably miss you. It has been a gorgeous time.

Good-bye,

   ELAINE.

He stuffed the letter clumsily into his pocket, looked dully about at the people hurrying to and fro, preparatory to returning to their homes, and at the loungers in the doorway. There was a dull ache inside him. “Mrs


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Barlow …!” So that was why she insisted on remaining Elaine!

His lips tightened savagely. Well, he wasn't going to make a fool of himself because a girl had had a bit of fun at his expense. Not on your life! There were lots of other girls in the world that he could soon square the account with. No more of this sentimental stuff for him.

He strode roughly through the loungers, slipped into the saddle, and went up the street at a brisk canter. He would start out immediately and pick up that mob of cattle. A bit of work would do him good.

To hell with all women, anyhow!

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