The noise subsided, and Fletcher spoke. “My job here will be over in a week. Jack can manage to join us at the end of it. Your sister-in-law is already here. Why not finish up by getting married and returning to Wallacetown with me?”
“I should have to go back to the farm and get the rest of my things,” said Dot.
“You could do that afterwards,” he said, “when I am away on business. I shan’t be able to take you with me everywhere. Some of the places I have to go to would be too rough for you. But I shall be at Wallacetown for some weeks after this job. You have never seen my house there. I took it over from the last Superintendent. I think you’ll like it. I got it for that reason.”
She started a little. “But you didn’t know then—How long ago was it?”
“Three years,” said Fletcher Hill. “I’ve been getting it ready for you ever since.”
She looked up at him. “You—took a good deal for granted, didn’t you?” she said.
Fletcher was smiling, dryly humorous. “I knew my own mind, anyway,” he said.
“And you’ve never had—any doubts?” questioned Dot.
“Not one,” said Fletcher Hill.
She laid her hand on his arm with a shy gesture. “I hope you won’t be dreadfully disappointed in me,” she said.
He bent towards her, and for a moment she felt as if his keen eyes pierced her. “I don’t think that is very likely,” he said, and kissed her with the words.
She did not shrink from his kiss, but she did not return it; nor did he linger as if expecting any return.
He was on his feet the next moment, and she wondered with a little sense of chill if he were really satisfied.
They found Adela awaiting them in her corner, but chafing for a change.
“I want you to take us to the billiard-room,” she said to Fletcher. “There’s a great match on. I’ve heard a lot of men talking about it. And I adore watching billiards. I’m sure we shan’t be in the way. I’ll promise not to talk, and Dot is as quiet as a mouse.”
Fletcher considered the point. “I believe it’s a fairly respectable crowd,” he said, looking at Dot. “But you’re tired.”
“Oh, no,” she said at once. “I don’t feel a bit sleepy. Let us go in by all means if you think no one will mind! I like watching billiards, too.”
“It’s a man called Warden,” said Adela. “That’s the new manager of the Fortescue Gold Mine, isn’t it? They say he has the most marvelous luck. He is playing the old manager—Harley, and giving him fifty points. There’s some pretty warm betting going on, I can tell you. Do let us go and have a look at them! They’ve got the girl from the bar to mark for them, so we shan’t be the only women there.”
She was evidently on fire for this new excitement, and Fletcher Hill, seeing that Dot meant what she said, led the way without further discussion. He paused outside the billiard-room door, which stood ajar; for a tense silence reigned. But it was broken in a moment by the sharp clash of the balls and a perfect howl of enthusiasm from the spectators.