"They are entirely subversive of the principles of American government, to say the least," replied Austen, grimly. He was thinking of the pass which Mr. Flint had sent him, and of the kind of men Mr. Flint employed to make the practices effective.
They descended into the darkness of a deep valley, scored out between the hills by one of the rushing tributaries of the Blue. The moon fell down behind the opposite ridge, and the road ran through a deep forest. He no longer saw the shades of meaning in her face, but in the blackness of Erebus he could have sensed her presence at his side. Speech, though of this strange kind of which neither felt the strangeness, had come and gone between them, and now silence spoke as eloquently. Twice or thrice their eyes met through the gloom,--and there was light. At length she spoke with the impulsiveness in her voice that he found so appealing.
"You must see my father--you must talk to him. He doesn't know how fair you are!"
To Austen the inference was obvious that Mr. Flint had conceived for him a special animosity, which he must have mentioned to Victoria, and this inference opened the way to a wide speculation in which he was at once elated and depressed. Why had he been so singled out? And had Victoria defended him? Once before he remembered that she had told him he must see Mr. Flint. They had gained the ridge now, and the moon had risen again for them, striking black shadows from the maples on the granite- cropped pastures. A little farther on was a road which might have been called the rear entrance to Fairview.
"I am afraid Mr. Flint has other things to do than to see me," he answered. "If he wished to see me, he would say so."
"Would you go to see him, if he were to ask you?" said Victoria.
"Yes," he replied, "but that is not likely to happen. Indeed, you are giving my opinion entirely too much importance in your father's eyes," he added, with an attempt to carry it off lightly; "there is no more reason why he should care to discuss the subject with me than with any other citizen of the State of my age who thinks as I do."
"Oh, yes, there is," said Victoria; "he regards you as a person whose opinion has some weight. I am sure of that. He thinks of you as a person of convictions--and he has heard things about you. You talked to him once," she went on, astonished at her own boldness, "and made him angry. Why don't you talk to him again?" she cried, seeing that Austen was silent. "I am sure that what you said about the change of public opinion in the State would appeal to him. And oh, don't quarrel with him! You have a faculty of differing with people without quarrelling with them. My father has so many cares, and he tries so hard to do right as he sees it. You must remember that he was a poor farmer's son, and that he began to work at fourteen in Brampton, running errands for a country printer. He never had any advantages except those he made for himself, and he had to fight his way in a hard school against men who were not always honourable. It is no wonder that he sometimes takes--a material view of things. But he is reasonable and willing to listen to what other men have to say, if he is not antagonized."