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|Thankful Blossom||Bret Harte|
|Page 8 of 8||
"Yes," said Thankful eagerly, "but a part of his own regiment guards the Baskingridge road."
"How know you this?" said the major, seizing her hand.
"He told me."
Before she could fall on her knees, and beg his forgiveness, he had darted from the room, given an order, and returned with cheeks and eyes blazing.
"Hear me," he said rapidly, taking the girl's two hands, "you know not what you've done. I forgive you. But this is no longer a matter of duty, but my personal honor. I shall pursue this man alone. I shall return with him, or not at all. Farewell. God bless you!"
But before he reached the door she caught him again. "Only say you have forgiven me once more."
There was something in the girl's voice more than this first utterance of his Christian name, that made him pause.
"I told--a--lie--just--now. There is a fleeter horse in the stable than my mare; 'tis the roan filly in the second stall."
"God bless you!"
He was gone. She waited to hear the clatter of his horse's hoofs in the roadway. When Caesar came in a few moments later, to tell the news of Capt. Brewster's escape, the room was empty; but it was soon filled again by a dozen turbulent troopers.
"Of course she's gone," said Sergeant Tibbitts: "the jade flew with the captain."
"Ay, 'tis plain enough. Two horses are gone from the stable besides the major's," said Private Hicks.
Nor was this military criticism entirely a private one. When the courier arrived at headquarters the next morning, it was to bring the report that Mistress Thankful Blossom, after assisting her lover to escape had fled with him. "The renegade is well off our hands," said Gen. Sullivan gruffly: "he has saved us the public disgrace of a trial. But this is bad news of Major Van Zandt."
"What news of the major?" asked Washington quickly.
"He pursued the vagabond as far as Springfield, killing his horse, and falling himself insensible before Major Merton's quarters. Here he became speedily delirious, fever supervened, and the regimental surgeon, after a careful examination, pronounced his case one of small-pox."
A whisper of horror and pity went around the room. "Another gallant soldier, who should have died leading a charge, laid by the heels by a beggar's filthy distemper," growled Sullivan. "Where will it end?"
"God knows," said Hamilton. "Poor Van Zandt! But whither was he sent,--to the hospital?"
"No: a special permit was granted in his case; and 'tis said he was removed to the Blossom Farm,--it being remote from neighbors,--and the house placed under quarantine. Abner Blossom has prudently absented himself from the chances of infection, and the daughter has fled. The sick man is attended only by a black servant and an ancient crone; so that, if the poor major escapes with his life or without disfigurement, pretty Mistress Bolton of Morristown need not be scandalized or jealous."
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