b'DEATH AND A CROCODILE 21Mother inhaled sharply and Father glowered, but Avitus an-sweredasthoughstatingapreferencebetweencherriesand apricots. They think me odd because I avoid their cliques and private dinner parties. And they dislike me because I take cases in sup-port of the poorer classes and foreigners. His tone grew acid. My peers claim to uphold the law while doing their best to en-sure the lower classes remain under the thumb of the wealthy. Well. The man had feelings after all. Livia pressed on. How do you manage to win court cases without allies?I apply the law in unorthodox ways that catch my adversaries by surprise. Also, I have developed what some term an uncanny ability to read the feelings and motives of my audience. His eyes met hers. One eyebrow gave the slightest quirk. To prove he had scored a point? What arrogance.She was not yet ready to concede. Then you admit you twist the law to your purposes? If the barb stung, Avitus did not show it. I prefer to think I am not trapped by the hidebound opinions of my peers.Are you saying you do not value Romes honored traditions? Fathers brows narrowed into the bristling line that presaged an angry tirade.Avitus shook his head. Rather, I believe a rigid insistence on tradition inhibits progress. If nothing was allowed to change then provincial families like yours could never hope to attain the hon-or and recognition they deserve.Oh, a blunder. Father did not like being reminded of his pro-vincial origins. Would the comment be enough to sour his opin-ion of Avitus?Livia held her breath, but after a pause Fathers brows relaxed. Cant argue with that logic. Remind me never to debate with a trained advocate.'