I didn't want her to go. I said, 'Nell…' and heard it sound too full of anxiety, too full of plain physical battering, but it was past calling back.

Her face changed. The games died away.

'Read that when I've gone,' she said. 'And I'll be there… through the glass.'

She went out of the President's room without looking back and soon reappeared among the others. I unfolded the paper slowly, not wanting it to be bad news, and found it was a telex. It said:


I closed my eyes.

'Is that despair?' Mercer said.

I opened my eyes. The telex still read the same way. I handed it to him, and he read it also.

'I dare say,' he said ironically, 'that Val Catto will match this.'

'If he doesn't, I'll resign.'

We spent the afternoon companionably and watched the preliminary races with the interest of devotees. When it was time for the Jockey Club Race Train Stakes Mercer decided that, Sheridan or not, he would go down to see Voting Right saddled, as he could go and return by express elevator to our eyrie to watch the race.

When he'd gone and the room next door had mostly emptied, I looked down on the flags and the banners and the streamers and balloons and the razzamatazz with which Exhibition Park had met the challenge of Assiniboia Downs and Woodbine and thought of all that had happened on the journey across Canada, and I wondered whether I would find flat-footing round British racecourses in the rain a relaxation or a bore, wondered if I would go on doing it; thought that time would show me the way, as it always had.

I thought of Mrs Baudelaire, whom I would never meet, and wished she could have watched this next race; thought of Aunt Viv with gratitude.

Mercer came back looking happy: happier in a peaceful way, as if he had settled ghosts.

'Daffodil is amazing,' he said. 'She's down there holding court, kissing Laurentide Ice, laughing, on top of the world. There seems to be no difficulty in the horse running, even though half still presumably belongs to Filmer.'

'It's in Daffodil's name on the race-card,' I said.

'So it is. And the Youngs… Rose and Cumber… with Sparrowgrass, and the people with Redi-Hot. It's like a club, down there. They were pleased, they said, that I had come.'

They genuinely would be, I thought. The party was incomplete without Mercer.

There was a large television set in the President's room, through which one could hear the bugles preceding the runners to the track and hear crowd noises and the commentary. Nothing like being down near the action, but better than silence. The race was being broadcast live throughout Canada and recorded for the rest of the world, and there was a long spiel going on about the Growing International Flavour of Canadian Racing, and how the Great Transcontinental Mystery Race Train had awakened enormous interest everywhere and was altogether A Good Thing For Canada.

Mercer, who had been prepared to do a lot for Canadian racing, watched Voting Right lead the pre-race parade, the horse on the screen appearing larger to us than the real one far down on the track.

'He's looking well,' he told me. 'I do hope…' He stopped. 'I think he may be the best of all my horses. The best to come. But he may not be ready today. It's perhaps too soon. Sparrowgrass is favourite. It would be nice for the Youngs…'

We watched Sparrowgrass prance along in his turn.

'Cumber Young has found out it was Filmer who bought… or took… Ezra Gideon's horses. If Cumber had been up here this morning, he'd have torn Filmer limb from limb.'

'And been in trouble himself,' I said.

'As Filmer is now?'

'Yes, roughly speaking.'

'Rough is the word.' He looked at me sideways, but made no further comment.

'Watch the horses,' I said mildly. Not the lumps that were swelling.

With a wry twitch of the lips, he turned his attention back to Redi-Hot who looked fit to scorch the dirt, and to Laurentide Ice, the colour of his name.

Nine of the ten runners had travelled on the train. The tenth was a local Vancouver horse bought by the Unwins for the occasion. Not as good a prospect as Upper Gumtree, but the Unwins had wanted to take their part in the climax.

All of the owners and Nell, precious Nell, came to watch the race in the glassed-in part of the stands slanting down in front of the window of the President's room, so that it was over their excited heads that Mercer and I saw the horses loaded into the stalls and watched the flashing colours sprint out.

'All the way across Canada,' Mercer said as if to himself, 'for the next two minutes.'

All the way across Canada, I thought, in worry and love and grief for his son.

Voting Right shot out of the gate and took a strong lead.

Mercer groaned quietly, 'He's running away.'

Laurentide Ice and Sparrowgrass, next, weren't in a hurry but kept a good pace going, their heads together, not an inch in it. Behind them came five or six in a bunch, with Redi-Hot last.

The sing-song commentary on the television read off the time of the first quarter-mile covered by Voting Right.

'Too fast,' Mercer groaned.

At the half-mile. Voting Right was still in front, still going at high speed, ahead by a full twenty lengths.

'It's hopeless,' Mercer said. 'He'll blow up in the home stretch. He's never been ridden this way before.'

'Didn't you discuss it with the jockey?'

'I just wished him luck. He knows the horse.'

'Maybe the horse has been inspired by the train travel,' I said flippantly.

'To come all this way…' Mercer said, taking no notice. 'Oh well, that's racing.'

'He hasn't exactly blown up yet,' I pointed out.

Voting Right was far in front, going down the back-stretch a good deal faster than the race train had gone through the Rockies, and he didn't know he was going too fast, he simply kept on going.

The jockeys on Sparrowgrass, Laurentide Ice, Redi-Hot and the others left their move on the leader until they'd come round the last bend and spread out across the track to give themselves a clear run home.

Then Laurentide Ice melted away as Mrs Baudelaire had said he would, and Redi-Hot produced a spurt, and Sparrowgrass with determination began to close at last on Voting Right.

'He's going to lose,' Mercer said despairingly.

It looked like it. One couldn't say for certain, but his time was too fast.

Voting Right kept right on going. Sparrowgrass raced hard to the finish, but it was Voting Right, as Mrs Baudelaire had predicted, Voting Right who had the edge, who went floating past the post in a record time for the track; the best horse Mercer would ever own, the target kept safe from Filmer.

Sheridan lay in untroubled eternity, and who was to say that Mercer wasn't right, that in his impulsive way the son hadn't died to give his father this moment.

Mercer turned towards me, speechless, brimming to overflowing with inexpressible emotion, wanting to laugh, wanting to cry, like all owners at the fulfilment of a dreamed of success. The sheen in his eyes was the same the world over: the love of the flying thoroughbred, the perfection of winning a great race.

He found his voice. Looked at me with awakening humour and a good deal of understanding.

'Thank you,' he said.

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