"And yet you have survived triumphant," she exclaimed.
"There wahn't none of 'em like you," said Mr. Meader, "or it might have be'n different."
Again her eyes irresistibly sought Austen's,--as though to share with him the humour of this remark,--and they laughed together. Her colour, so sensitive, rose again, but less perceptibly this time. Then she got up.
"That's unfair, Mr. Meader!" she protested.
"I'll leave it to Austen," said Mr. Meader, "if it ain't probable. He'd ought to know."
In spite of a somewhat natural embarrassment, Austen could not but acknowledge to himself that Mr. Meader was right. With a womanly movement which he thought infinitely graceful, Victoria leaned over the bed.
"Mr. Meader," she said, "I'm beginning to think it's dangerous for me to come here twice a week to see you, if you talk this way. And I'm not a bit surprised that that woman didn't get the better of you."
"You hain't a-goin'!" he exclaimed. "Why, I callated--"