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HOME > Classical Novels > The House Behind the Cedars33 > XXII IMPERATIVE BUSINESS
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 One Wednesday morning, about six weeks after his return home, Tryon received a letter from Judge Straight with reference to the note left with him at Patesville for collection. This communication properly required an answer, which might have been made in writing within the compass of ten lines. No sooner, however, had Tryon read the letter than he began to perceive reasons why it should be answered in person. He had left Patesville under extremely painful circumstances, vowing1 that he would never return; and yet now the barest pretext2, by which no one could have been deceived except willingly, was sufficient to turn his footsteps thither3 again. He explained to his mother—with a vagueness which she found somewhat puzzling, but ascribed to her own feminine obtuseness4 in matters of business—the reasons that imperatively5 demanded his presence in Patesville. With an early start he could drive there in one day,—he had an excellent roadster, a light buggy, and a recent rain had left the road in good condition,—a day would suffice for the transaction of his business, and the third day would bring him home again. He set out on his journey on Thursday morning, with this programme very clearly outlined.  
Tryon would not at first have admitted even to himself that Rena's presence in Patesville had any bearing whatever upon his projected visit. The matter about which Judge Straight had written might, it was clear, be viewed in several aspects. The judge had written him concerning the one of immediate6 importance. It would be much easier to discuss the subject in all its bearings, and clean up the whole matter, in one comprehensive personal interview.
The importance of this business, then, seemed very urgent for the first few hours of Tryon's journey. Ordinarily a careful driver and merciful to his beast, his eagerness to reach Patesville increased gradually until it became necessary to exercise some self-restraint in order not to urge his faithful mare7 beyond her powers; and soon he could no longer pretend obliviousness8 of the fact that some attraction stronger than the whole amount of Duncan McSwayne's note was urging him irresistibly9 toward his destination. The old town beyond the distant river, his heart told him clamorously, held the object in all the world to him most dear. Memory brought up in vivid detail every moment of his brief and joyous10 courtship, each tender word, each enchanting11 smile, every fond caress12. He lived his past happiness over again down to the moment of that fatal discovery. What horrible fate was it that had involved him—nay, that had caught this sweet delicate girl in such a blind alley13? A wild hope flashed across his mind: perhaps the ghastly story might not be true; perhaps, after all, the girl was no more a negro than she seemed. He had heard sad stories of white children, born out of wedlock14, abandoned by sinful parents to the care or adoption15 of colored women, who had reared them as their own, the children's future basely sacrificed to hide the parents' shame. He would confront this reputed mother of his darling and wring16 the truth from her. He was in a state of mind where any sort of a fairy tale would have seemed reasonable. He would almost have bribed17 some one to tell him that the woman he had loved, the woman he still loved (he felt a thrill of lawless pleasure in the confession), was not the descendant of slaves,—that he might marry her, and not have before his eyes the gruesome fear that some one of their children might show even the faintest mark of the despised race.
At noon he halted at a convenient hamlet, fed an............
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