"And did you tell Zeb?" asked Austen.
"Yes," Victoria admitted, "but I'm sorry I did, now."
Victoria laughed in spite of herself, and gave a more or less exact though kindly imitation of Mr. Meader's manner.
"He said that wimmen-folks had better stick to the needle and the duster, and not go pokin' about law business that didn't concern 'em. But the worst of it was," added Victoria, with some distress, "he won't accept any more fruit. Isn't he silly? He won't get it into his head that I give him the fruit, and not my father. I suspect that he actually believes my father sent me down there to tell him that."
Austen was silent, for the true significance of this apparently obscure damage case to the Northeastern Railroads was beginning to dawn on him. The public was not in the best of humours towards railroads: there was trouble about grade crossings, and Mr. Meader's mishap and the manner of his rescue by the son of the corporation counsel had given the accident a deplorable publicity. Moreover, if it had dawned on Augustus Flint that the son of Hilary Vane might prosecute the suit, it was worth while taking a little pains with Mr. Meader and Mr. Austen Vane. Certain small fires have been known to light world-wide conflagrations.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Victoria. "It isn't at all polite to forget the person you are talking to."
"I haven't forgotten you," said Austen, with a smile. How could he-- sitting under her in this manner?
"Besides," said Victoria, mollified, "you haven't an answered my question."