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HOME > Classical Novels > The House Behind the Cedars33 > XXVII AN INTERESTING ACQUAINTANCE
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 A few days later, Rena looked out of the window near her desk and saw a low basket phaeton, drawn1 by a sorrel pony2, driven sharply into the clearing and drawn up beside an oak sapling. The occupant of the phaeton, a tall, handsome, well-preserved lady in middle life, with slightly gray hair, alighted briskly from the phaeton, tied the pony to the sapling with a hitching-strap, and advanced to the schoolhouse door.  
Rena wondered who the lady might be. She had a benevolent3 aspect, however, and came forward to the desk with a smile, not at all embarrassed by the wide-eyed inspection4 of the entire school.
"How do you do?" she said, extending her hand to the teacher. "I live in the neighborhood and am interested in the colored people—a good many of them once belonged to me. I heard something of your school, and thought I should like to make your acquaintance."
"It is very kind of you, indeed," murmured Rena respectfully.
"Yes," continued the lady, "I am not one of those who sit back and blame their former slaves because they were freed. They are free now,—it is all decided5 and settled,—and they ought to be taught enough to enable them to make good use of their freedom. But really, my dear,—you mustn't feel offended if I make a mistake,—I am going to ask you something very personal." She looked suggestively at the gaping6 pupils.
"The school may take the morning recess7 now," announced the teacher. The pupils filed out in an orderly manner, most of them stationing themselves about the grounds in such places as would keep the teacher and the white lady in view. Very few white persons approved of the colored schools; no other white person had ever visited this one.
"Are you really colored?" asked the lady, when the children had withdrawn8.
A year and a half earlier, Rena would have met the question by some display of self-consciousness. Now, she replied simply and directly.
"Yes, ma'am, I am colored."
The lady, who had been studying her as closely as good manners would permit, sighed regretfully.
"Well, it's a shame. No one would ever think it. If you chose to conceal9 it, no one would ever be the wiser. What is your name, child, and where were you brought up? You must have a romantic history."
Rena gave her name and a few facts in regard to her past. The lady was so much interested, and put so many and such searching questions, that Rena really found it more difficult to suppress the fact that she had been white, than she had formerly10 had in hiding her African origin. There was about the girl an air of real refinement11 that pleased the lady,—the refinement not merely of a fine natur............
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