GOVERNOR Chris Patten was getting fed up. With the gap before the next round of talks on political reform much longer than expected, it was finally clear all hope of meeting his previous timetable for putting the electoral bill to the Legislative Council was now dead. While he refused to publicly admit as much, Mr Patten made his unhappiness plain last week, with a rare flash of the fighting spirit that was so common just a few months ago. ''If we go on for a very long time and don't appear to be making any progress then I think the community would expect me to govern, and to govern means taking decisions even when they are difficult,'' the Governor said, on a visit to Tsuen Wan, a day after the announcement of a two-week delay before the fifth round of talks, due to begin in Beijing on June 14. The remark may have been off the cuff, yet the implication was clear enough. The Governor and his aides, left to follow their own devices, would be happy to call an end to the talks right now and push ahead unilaterally. It is not merely that he is being forced to renege on his commitment to put the bill to Legco before the July 21 recess. The Governor also appears to be frustrated over the obstacles being thrown up at the negotiating table. Sources close to the British Government say Beijing has rebutted any and every attempt to introduce parts of the Patten package into the discussions. ''These are not seen as a proper basis for discussion and are being rejected. The British are then asked to put alternative proposals,'' said one expert who has been briefed on the talks in London. ''This is a fairly classic way of Chinese negotiation. It is not unlike that employed on prisoners in Chinese jails, who are told their first confession is not good enough and are invited to rewrite it.'' Yet there has been some progress. The Chinese apparently made it clear during the fourth round, which ended in Beijing last weekend, that they are willing to put forward detailed electoral proposals of their own - something Mr Patten has been unsuccessfully trying to prise out of them since last October. That was enough to allow British chief negotiator Sir Robin McLaren to declare that ''concrete issues'' were now on the table. Despite problems caused by China's fury over Legco's passage of the Boundary and Election Commission Bill and the Constitutional Development Panel's bid to study the Patten package - which continued yesterday, with a series of furious commentaries in thelocal leftist press - there is growing optimism on the British side that Beijing really does want to reach agreement, and will not take too long over it. That is one reason why the ''go it alone by July'' option has been effectively shelved, despite being instinctively favoured by the Governor and his team. Instead, the expectation is now that the talks will grind slowly on through August, while Mr Patten is away on leave in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. The new crunch point will come in September - which the British side has long talked of in private asa fallback deadline. THERE are also other considerations ruling out a unilateral move to introduce the bill to Legco - the most important being the perceived attitude of the local community. One member of the British negotiating team privately complained that, when it came to the crunch on March 12, Hongkong people were unwilling to stand up for democracy. Whether that is true or not, the Governor and his aides were taken aback by the strength of public hostility towards the gazettal of the bill on that date, and know the response to any second attempt to go it alone would be 100 times worse. Indeed, Mr Patten showed his awareness of this, almost in the same breath in which he revealed his frustration in Tsuen Wan last Monday. ''I think the overwhelming majority of the community would find it difficult to support such a decision,'' the Governor said, in defence of his refusal to set a public deadline for the talks. Certainly, if Mr Patten tried to over-ride the views of the public, there would be intense opposition from his closest advisers. Executive Councillors, never happy over being railroaded into supporting the political reform package, are already hinting they would put up a determined fight. ''We are not in a 'win-lose' situation. It is either 'win-win' or 'lose-lose','' Exco member Raymond Ch'ien Kuo-fung told the Sunday Morning Post. ''Mutual trust is still quite fragile. If we are not careful, and if one side loses patience, much will be jeopardised.'' Patten loyalists argue such threats of revolt do not apply to their new deadline of September, since everyone agrees the talks will have been given their ''fair wind'' by then. But some on the Chinese side are already suggesting agreement will not come until the turn of the year and, having failed to take the plunge in July, Mr Patten will now have a tough time convincing anyone he is serious about an autumn deadline. The only urgency comes from a need to prepare for the 1994 District Board elections. While the British side is still desperate to play down the possibility of splitting this off and allowing it to be settled first - since that would then allow Beijing tolet the talks over the 1995 Legco polls drag on for another year - that, nonetheless, may ultimately be the only available option. It might even prove to be good for the Governor, for it would allow more time for the political reform proposals that he staked so much on, but which now look almost certain to bite the dust, to be quietly forgotten. And the passage of time will make it less humiliating when a deal on arrangements for the 1995 polls - very different from the one Mr Patten had envisaged - is finally reached at the negotiating table in Beijing.