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HOME > Classical Novels > The House Behind the Cedars33 > XXVI THE SCHOOLHOUSE IN THE WOODS
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 Blanche Leary, closely observant of Tryon's moods, marked a decided1 change in his manner after his return from his trip to Patesville. His former moroseness2 had given way to a certain defiant3 lightness, broken now and then by an involuntary sigh, but maintained so well, on the whole, that his mother detected no lapses4 whatever. The change was characterized by another feature agreeable to both the women: Tryon showed decidedly more interest than ever before in Miss Leary's society. Within a week he asked her several times to play a selection on the piano, displaying, as she noticed, a decided preference for gay and cheerful music, and several times suggesting a change when she chose pieces of a sentimental5 cast. More than once, during the second week after his return, he went out riding with her; she was a graceful6 horsewoman, perfectly7 at home in the saddle, and appearing to advantage in a riding-habit. She was aware that Tryon watched her now and then, with an eye rather critical than indulgent.  
"He is comparing me with some other girl," she surmised8. "I seem to stand the test very well. I wonder who the other is, and what was the trouble?"
Miss Leary exerted all her powers to interest and amuse the man she had set out to win, and who seemed nearer than ever before. Tryon, to his pleased surprise, discovered in her mind depths that he had never suspected. She displayed a singular affinity9 for the tastes that were his—he could not, of course, know how carefully she had studied them. The old wound, recently reopened, seemed to be healing rapidly, under conditions more conducive10 than before to perfect recovery. No longer, indeed, was he pursued by the picture of Rena discovered and unmasked—this he had definitely banished11 from the realm of sentiment to that of reason. The haunting image of Rena loving and beloved, amid the harmonious12 surroundings of her brother's home, was not so readily displaced. Nevertheless, he reached in several weeks a point from which he could consider her as one thinks of a dear one removed by the hand of death, or smitten13 by some incurable14 ailment15 of mind or body. Erelong, he fondly believed, the recovery would be so far complete that he could consign16 to the tomb of pleasant memories even the most thrilling episodes of his ill-starred courtship.
"George," said Mrs. Tryon one morning while her son was in this cheerful mood, "I'm sending Blanche over to Major McLeod's to do an errand for me. Would you mind driving her over? The road may be rough after the storm last night, and Blanche has an idea that no one drives so well as you."
"Why, yes, mother, I'll be glad to drive Blanche over. I want to see the major myself."
They were soon bowling17 along between the pines, behind the handsome mare18 that had carried Tryon so well at the Clarence tournament. Presently he drew up sharply.
"A tree has fallen squarely across the road," he exclaimed. "We shall have to turn back a little way and go around."
They drove back a quarter of a mile and turned into a by-road leading to the right through the woods. The solemn silence of the pine forest is soothing19 or oppressive, according to one's mood. Beneath the cool arcade20 of the tall, overarching trees a deep peace stole over Tryon's heart. He had put aside indefinitely and forever an unhappy and impossible love. The pretty and affectionate girl beside him would make an ideal wife. Of her family and blood he was sure. She was his mother's choice, and his mother had set her heart upon their marriage. Why not speak to her now, and thus give himself the best possible protection against stray flames of love?
"Blanche," he said, looking at her kindly21.
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