Read CHAPTER IV of The Rider in Khaki A Novel , free online book, by Nat Gould, on ReadCentral.com.

THE AUSTRALIAN GIRL

Derby week, London hummed and bustled with excitement. Sport was in the air, racing; everybody talking about the great event. There were thousands of visitors in the city; it was easy to pick out the strangers.

Evelyn Berkeley’s house overlooked Regent’s Park. It was some way out of town, but she found this recompensed by the view, and it was easy to get about in her motor. Alan Chesney called when he arrived in London, before her visitors came.

Conversation turned on the Derby and the Epsom meeting generally.

“Merry Monarch is my tip,” she said. “I had it from the Baron; he fancies his horse tremendously.”

“It would be a popular win,” answered Alan.

“Have you heard anything?”

“The tip at the club last night was Gold Star,” he said.

“The favorite?”

“A very hot favorite. I fancy he’ll be even money on Wednesday. Have you known Baron Childs long?”

“Some months; I was introduced to him at Goodwood last year, in fact he was one of the house party at Colonel Buxton’s.”

“Very rich man, is he not?” asked Alan.

“A millionaire I believe; he is very unassuming, I like him,” she said.

Alan smiled as he said:

“He is a bachelor, the head of a great banking firm, I wonder he does not marry.”

“He has a wide choice, many lovely women would be glad of a chance to accept him.”

Alan wondered if the Baron had given a thought to Evelyn Berkeley; it was highly probable.

“The all-scarlet jacket has won many big races but not a Derby; perhaps it’s his turn this year,” said Alan.

“I hope so, I have backed Merry Monarch,” she said.

“I called to give you some information about my horses. I am likely to win three races, so my trainer says, and he is not an over-confident man.”

“Lucky fellow, three races in Derby week; your colors will be worth following.”

“On the opening day Robin Hood should win the Epsom Plate,” said Alan.

“That will be a good beginning. We shall all have our pockets filled for Derby Day,” laughed Evelyn.

“He’s a pretty good horse, make a note of him.”

“I shan’t forget, no need to write down the names of your horses,” she replied.

“The Duke has a big chance in the Royal Stakes; I have a first-class two-year-old running in the Acorn Stakes. It will be her first appearance; she’s a splendid creature, a real beauty,” said Alan.

“That’s Robin Hood, The Duke, and what’s this wonderful two-year-old’s name?”

“Evelyn,” he replied.

Of course she knew it was named after her and she was gratified.

“Oh, Alan!” she exclaimed, “that’s splendid of you.”

“If she were not a real flyer, with every prospect of winning at the first time of asking, I’d not have named her Evelyn. I waited until Skane pronounced her one of the best before risking it,” he said.

“And you think she’ll win?” asked Evelyn.

“I shall be very disappointed if she fails. With such a name she can’t fail,” he said, smiling.

Alan stood near the window; he saw a lady coming up the walk.

“A visitor,” he said. “I’ll be off.”

Evelyn laughed.

“It is Ella Hallam; I don’t think you have met her. She’s an Australian girl, I went to school with her. She returned to Sydney when she finished her education, and only came to London a month ago. We have corresponded regularly. I like her very much; perhaps you may have heard me speak of her.”

“I don’t think I have,” he said.

“Please don’t go, I want to introduce you. She is coming to stay with me at The Forest when the Epsom meeting is over; her father races in Australia, I believe he once won the Melbourne Cup,” she said.

Ella Hallam came into the room. When she saw Alan she said:

“I did not know you had a visitor. I ought to have asked. It is rude of me.”

“Alan Chesney is an old friend,” said Eve. “Allow me to introduce you.”

They shook hands, their eyes met, and Ella Hallam felt something in her life was changed from that moment; as for Alan, he seemed quite unconscious he had created any interest out of the common.

“Yes, I come from Sydney,” replied Ella, in answer to his question about Australia.

“And your father owns racers?” he asked.

“Yes; racing is his chief amusement. He’s always saying it is a very expensive hobby, and exhorts me to economize in order that he may keep things going,” she replied, laughing. “He is coming to England. I expect him in about a month. He may bring one or two horses, he was thinking of doing so I know. He has a very high opinion of our thoroughbreds, thinks they are equal to your best.”

Alan laughed as he replied:

“I have seen some of your horses run here. They are good, but equal to our best, no; at least I do not think so. I have two I’d like to match against any colonial-bred horse.”

“Perhaps my father will give you a chance if he brings Rainstorm,” she said.

“Is he a good horse?”

“Rather, he won the Melbourne Cup,” she replied.

“Then I shall be taking something on if I tackle him?” he said.

“You will and you’ll be beaten,” she answered confidently.

He shook his head.

“I do not think so,” he replied.

“Mr. Chesney hopes to win three races at Epsom this week,” said Eve. She spoke sharply, she thought they were having the conversation to themselves. It was evident they would soon be on a very friendly footing if sufficient opportunity offered.

“I’d love to see your horses win and back them,” said Ella, still speaking to Alan.

Eve looked at Alan, something in her expression warned him she was not in the best of tempers why?

He spoke to her, answering Ella’s remark.

“I am glad your friend will be pleased to see my horses victorious,” he said.

“It would be strange if she were not, especially as she says she will back them eh, Ella?” said Eve.

“And you? You will back them?” she asked.

“Of course; he has just given me the tips, that is what he called about,” said Eve.

“And also to see you,” thought Ella.

“What do you think of Mr. Chesney?” asked Eve when Alan left.

“He’s a very good-looking man and I should think extremely agreeable and excellent company. Is he an old friend?” said Ella.

“We have known each other since we were children.”

“My goodness, how jolly! And I suppose you are quite chums still,” exclaimed Ella.

Eve laughed as she replied:

“We are staunch friends. His estate joins my little place where you are coming to stay with me,” said Eve.

“I shall have opportunities of meeting him,” thought Ella. “You must see him often?” she said aloud.

“Oh, yes; sometimes two or three times a week. He calls when he likes and I am always at home to him.”

“It must be ripping to have a man friend like that; no silly sentiment, no love business about it; but he would be blind if he did not admire you, Eve,” she said.

Eve laughed. She wondered what Ella would think if she knew how she loved Alan, loved him desperately.

“I don’t think love has ever entered into his calculations in connection with me,” she said.

“But he must admire you, he couldn’t help it,” said Ella heartily.

“I daresay he does. He has an eye for beauty in women and horses.”

“Couples them together, does he,” said Ella; “and probably prefers the four-legged creatures.”

“He looked you over pretty well,” said Eve.

She blushed slightly as she replied:

“I didn’t notice it. Do you think he was satisfied with the scrutiny?”

“It’s hard to tell when he’s pleased, he takes everything as it comes, but I think he has decided in your favor.”

“Do you? That’s rather good of him, most condescending,” said Ella.

Next day they went to Epsom. There was a party of ten, a merry lot; there was no mistaking they were on pleasure bent and on good terms with themselves.

Eve had a box. She always did things well, and took care when she went racing she was comfortable and had plenty of elbow-room. Alan came into the box after the first race; he was cordially greeted.

“I expect Miss Berkeley has told you Robin Hood is likely to win the Epsom Plate,” he said.

“Yes, we’ve got the straight tip,” said one of the party.

“I can confirm it, you can put a bit extra on him, it’s a real good thing,” he said with a laugh.

He stood close to Ella, his arm touched hers, she felt a thrill; turning to him she said:

“What a strange place Epsom is! Such a crowd, and there’s no comfort; we’re all right here, thanks to Eve, but over there it’s horrible,” and she pointed to the hill.

“There will be twice as many people to-morrow,” he said. “Perhaps three or four times as many; Derby Day is one of the sights of the world, it is never equalled anywhere.”

“We can beat you at Flemington,” she replied, “and Randwick. Not so many people, but as for comfort, well, you simply don’t know what it is here. Where’s the paddock?” she asked, looking round.

“Over there,” said Alan, pointing in that direction. “Would you like to go? There’s more room to-day, it will be crowded to-morrow. It’s rather a good paddock, when you get to it, picturesque.”

“I should like to see it very much.”

“Then I’ll take you there,” he said, and turning to Eve asked:

“Are you going to the paddock?”

“It’s hardly worth while. We’ll go to-morrow and see the Derby horses,” she said.

“Miss Hallam wishes to see it. I’ll just take her and bring her back safely; we shan’t be long. Come along,” he said to Ella.

“You don’t mind?” said Ella to Eve as they passed.

“Not at all; why should I?” was the sharp reply, and from her tone Ella gathered she did mind, and felt mischievous.

“I’ll take good care of her,” said Alan.

“No doubt,” said Eve quietly.

“What a trouble it is to get there!” said Ella as Alan led her through the crowd.

“Yes, a bit bumpy, but they’re a good-natured lot, although a trifle rough.”

There were not many people in the paddock. Alan pointed out The Duddans and other points of interest.

“Come and see Robin Hood and tell me what you think of him,” he said.

“Where is he?”

“Over there.”

“Surrounded by his merry men,” she said, laughing, as she saw a dozen or more people looking at the horse.