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HOME > Classical Novels > The House Behind the Cedars33 > XI A LETTER AND A JOURNEY
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 War has been called the court of last resort. A lawsuit1 may with equal aptness be compared to a battle—the parallel might be drawn2 very closely all along the line. First we have the casus belli, the cause of action; then the various protocols3 and proclamations and general orders, by way of pleas, demurrers, and motions; then the preliminary skirmishes at the trial table; and then the final struggle, in which might is quite as likely to prevail as right, victory most often resting with the strongest battalions4, and truth and justice not seldom overborne by the weight of odds5 upon the other side.  
The lawsuit which Warwick and Tryon had gone to try did not, however, reach this ultimate stage, but, after a three days' engagement, resulted in a treaty of peace. The case was compromised and settled, and Tryon and Warwick set out on their homeward drive. They stopped at a farm-house at noon, and while at table saw the stage-coach from the town they had just left, bound for their own destination. In the mail-bag under the driver's seat were Rena's two letters; they had been delivered at the town in the morning, and immediately remailed to Clarence, in accordance with orders left at the post-office the evening before. Tryon and Warwick drove leisurely6 homeward through the pines, all unconscious of the fateful squares of white paper moving along the road a few miles before them, which a mother's yearning7 and a daughter's love had thrown, like the apple of discord8, into the narrow circle of their happiness.
They reached Clarence at four o'clock. Warwick got down from the buggy at his office. Tryon drove on to his hotel, to make a hasty toilet before visiting his sweetheart.
Warwick glanced at his mail, tore open the envelope addressed in his sister's handwriting, and read the contents with something like dismay. She had gone away on the eve of her wedding, her lover knew not where, to be gone no one knew how long, on a mission which could not be frankly9 disclosed. A dim foreboding of disaster flashed across his mind. He thrust the letter into his pocket, with others yet unopened, and started toward his home. Reaching the gate, he paused a moment and then walked on past the house. Tryon would probably be there in a few minutes, and he did not care to meet him without first having had the opportunity for some moments of reflection. He must fix upon some line of action in this emergency.
Meanwhile Tryon had reached his hotel and opened his mail. The letter from Rena was read first, with profound disappointment. He had really made concessions10 in the settlement of that lawsuit—had yielded several hundred dollars of his just dues, in order that he might get back to Rena three days earlier. Now he must cool his heels in idleness for at least three days before she would return. It was annoying, to say the least. He wished to know where she had gone, that he might follow her and stay near her until she should be ready to come back. He might ask Warwick—no, she might have had some good reason for not having mentioned her destination. She had probably gone to visit some of the poor relations of whom her brother had spoken so frankly, and she would doubtless prefer that he should not see her amid any surroundings but the best. Indeed, he did not know that he would himself care to endanger, by suggestive comparisons, the fine aureole of superiority that surrounded her. She represented in her adorable person and her pure heart the finest flower of the finest race that God had ever made—the supreme11 effort of creative power, than which there could be no finer. The flower would soon be his; why should he care to dig up the soil in which it grew?
Tryon went on opening his letters. There were several bills and circulars, and then a letter from his mother, of which he broke the seal:—
MY DEAREST GEORGE,—This leaves us well. Blanche is still with me, and we are impatiently awaiting your return. In your absence she seems almost like a daughter to me. She joins me in the hope that your lawsuits12 are progressing favorably, and that you will be with us soon....
On your way home, if it does not keep you away from us too long, would it not be well for you to come by way of Patesville, and find out whether there is any prospect13 of our being able to collect our claim against old Mr. Duncan McSwayne's estate? You must have taken the papers with you, along with the rest, for I do not find them here. Things ought to be settled enough now for people to realize on some of their securities. Your grandfather always believed the note was good, and meant to try to collect it, but the war interfered14. He said to me, before he died, that if the note was ever collected, he would use the money to buy a wedding present for your wife. Poor father! he is dead and gone to heaven; but I am sure that even there he would be happier if he knew the note was paid and the money used as he intended.
If you go to Patesville, call on my cousin, Dr. Ed. Green, and tell him who you are. Give him my love. I haven't seen him for twenty years. He used to be very fond of the ladies, a very gallant15 man. He can direct you to a good lawyer, no doubt. Hoping to see you soon,
Your loving mother,
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