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HOME > Classical Novels > The House Behind the Cedars33 > XX DIGGING UP ROOTS
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 When the first great shock of his discovery wore off, the fact of Rena's origin lost to Tryon some of its initial repugnance1—indeed, the repugnance was not to the woman at all, as their past relations were evidence, but merely to the thought of her as a wife. It could hardly have failed to occur to so reasonable a man as Tryon that Rena's case could scarcely be unique. Surely in the past centuries of free manners and easy morals that had prevailed in remote parts of the South, there must have been many white persons whose origin would not have borne too microscopic3 an investigation4. Family trees not seldom have a crooked5 branch; or, to use a more apposite figure, many a flock has its black sheep. Being a man of lively imagination, Tryon soon found himself putting all sorts of hypothetical questions about a matter which he had already definitely determined6. If he had married Rena in ignorance of her secret, and had learned it afterwards, would he have put her aside? If, knowing her history, he had nevertheless married her, and she had subsequently displayed some trait of character that would suggest the negro, could he have forgotten or forgiven the taint7? Could he still have held her in love and honor? If not, could he have given her the outward seeming of affection, or could he have been more than coldly tolerant? He was glad that he had been spared this ordeal8. With an effort he put the whole matter definitely and conclusively9 aside, as he had done a hundred times already.  
Returning to his home, after an absence of several months in South Carolina, it was quite apparent to his mother's watchful10 eye that he was in serious trouble. He was absent-minded, monosyllabic, sighed deeply and often, and could not always conceal11 the traces of secret tears. For Tryon was young, and possessed12 of a sensitive soul—a source of happiness or misery13, as the Fates decree. To those thus dowered, the heights of rapture14 are accessible, the abysses of despair yawn threateningly; only the dull monotony of contentment is denied.
Mrs. Tryon vainly sought by every gentle art a woman knows to win her son's confidence. "What is the matter, George, dear?" she would ask, stroking his hot brow with her small, cool hand as he sat moodily15 nursing his grief. "Tell your mother, George. Who else could comfort you so well as she?"
"Oh, it's nothing, mother,—nothing at all," he would reply, with a forced attempt at lightness. "It's only your fond imagination, you best of mothers."
It was Mrs. Tryon's turn to sigh and shed a clandestine16 tear. Until her son had gone away on this trip to South Carolina, he had kept no secrets from her: his heart had been an open book, of which she knew every page; now, some painful story was inscri............
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