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Thankful Blossom Bret Harte

Chapter II

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"It's a lie,--a cowardly lie!"

Major Van Zandt bowed. Mistress Thankful flew up stairs, and in another moment swept back again into the room in riding hat and habit.

"I suppose I can go and see--my father," she said, without lifting her eyes to the officer.

"You are free as air, Mistress Thankful. My orders and instructions, far from implicating you in your father's offences, do not even suggest your existence. Let me help you to your horse."

The girl did not reply. During that brief interval, however, Caesar had saddled her white mare, and brought it to the door. Mistress Thankful, disdaining the offered hand of the major, sprang to the saddle.

The major still held the reins. "One moment, Mistress Thankful."

"Let me go!" she said, with suppressed passion.

"One moment, I beg."

His hand still held her bridle-rein. The mare reared, nearly upsetting her. Crimson with rage and mortification, she raised her riding-whip, and laid it smartly over the face of the man before her.

He dropped the rein instantly. Then he raised to her a face calm and colorless, but for a red line extending from his eyebrow to his chin, and said quietly,--

"I had no desire to detain you. I only wished to say that when you see Gen. Washington I know you will be just enough to tell him that Major Van Zandt knew nothing of your wrongs, or even your presence here, until you presented them, and that since then he has treated you as became an officer and a gentleman."

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Yet even as he spoke she was gone. At the moment that her fluttering skirt swept in a furious gallop down the hillside, the major turned, and re-entered the house. The few lounging troopers who were witnesses of the scene prudently turned their eyes from the white face and blazing eyes of their officer as he strode by them. Nevertheless, when the door closed behind him, contemporary criticism broke out:--

"'Tis a Tory jade, vexed that she cannot befool the major as she has the captain," muttered Sergeant Tibbitts.

"And going to try her tricks on the general," added Private Hicks.

Howbeit both these critics may have been wrong. For as Mistress Thankful thundered down the Morristown road she thought of many things. She thought of her sweetheart Allan, a prisoner, and pining for HER help and HER solicitude; and yet--how dared he--if he HAD really betrayed or misjudged her! And then she thought bitterly of the count and the baron, and burned to face the latter, and in some vague way charge the stolen kiss upon him as the cause of all her shame and mortification. And lastly she thought of her father, and began to hate everybody. But above all and through all, in her vague fears for her father, in her passionate indignation against the baron, in her fretful impatience of Allan, one thing was ever dominant and obtrusive; one thing she tried to put away, but could not,--the handsome, colorless face of Major Van Zandt, with the red welt of her riding-whip overlying its cold outlines.

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Thankful Blossom
Bret Harte

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