CHAPTER V
THE PARTING OF THE WAYS

THE next time Austen visited the hospital Mr. Meader had a surprise in store for him. After passing the time of day, as was his custom, the patient freely discussed the motives which had led him to refuse any more of Victoria's fruit.

"I hain't got nothing against her," he declared; "I tried to make that plain. She's as nice and common a young lady as I ever see, and I don't believe she had a thing to do with it. But I suspicioned they was up to somethin' when she brought them baskets. And when she give me the message from old Flint, I was sure of it."

"Miss Flint was entirely innocent, I'm sure," said Austen, emphatically.

"If I could see old Flint, I'd tell him what I thought of him usin' wimmen-folks to save 'em money," said Mr. Meader. "I knowed she wahn't that kind. And then that other thing come right on top of it."

"What other thing?"

"Say," demanded Mr. Meader, "don't you know?"

"I know nothing," said Austen.

"Didn't know Hilary Vane's be'n here?"

"My father!" Austen ejaculated.

"Gittin' after me pretty warm, so they be. Want to know what my price is now. But say, I didn't suppose your fayther'd come here without lettin' you know."

Austen was silent. The truth was that for a few moments he could not command himself sufficiently to speak.

"He is the chief counsel for the road," he said at length; "I am not connected with it."

-50-

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