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Thankful Blossom Bret Harte

Chapter III

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"I can readily conceive the motive of this visit, Miss Thankful," continued Washington, with a certain dignified kindliness that was more reassuring than the formal gallantry of the period; "and it is, I protest, to your credit. A father's welfare, however erring and weak that father may be, is most seemly in a maiden--"

Thankful's eyes flashed again as she rose to her feet. Her upper lip, that had a moment before trembled in a pretty infantine distress, now stiffened and curled as she confronted the dignified figure before her. "It is not of my father I would speak," she said saucily: "I did not ride here alone to-night, in this weather, to talk of HIM; I warrant HE can speak for himself. I came here to speak of myself, of lies--ay, LIES told of me, a poor girl; ay, of cowardly gossip about me and my sweetheart, Capt. Brewster, now confined in prison because he hath loved me, a lass without polities or adherence to the cause--as if 'twere necessary every lad should ask the confidence or permission of yourself or, belike, my Lady Washington, in his preferences."

She paused a moment, out of breath. With a woman's quickness of intuition she saw the change in Washington's face,--saw a certain cold severity overshadowing it. With a woman's fateful persistency--a persistency which I humbly suggest might, on occasion, be honorably copied by our more politic sex--she went on to say what was in her, even if she were obliged, with a woman's honorable inconsistency, to unsay it an hour or two later; an inconsistency which I also humbly protest might be as honorably imitated by us--on occasion.

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"It has been said," said Thankful Blossom quickly, "that my father has given entertainment knowingly to two spies,--two spies that, begging your Excellency's pardon, and the pardon of Congress, I know only as two honorable gentlemen who have as honorably tendered me their affections. It is said, and basely and most falsely too, that my sweetheart, Capt. Allan Brewster, has lodged this information. I have ridden here to deny it. I have ridden here to demand of you that an honest woman's reputation shall not be sacrificed to the interests of politics; that a prying mob of ragamuffins shall not be sent to an honest farmer's house to spy and spy--and turn a poor girl out of doors that they might do it. 'Tis shameful, so it is; there! 'tis most scandalous, so it is: there, now! Spies, indeed! what are THEY, pray?"

In the indignation which the recollection of her wrongs had slowly gathered in her, from the beginning of this speech, she had advanced her face, rosy with courage, and beautiful in its impertinence, within a few inches of the dignified features and quiet gray eyes of the great commander. To her utter stupefaction, he bent his head and kissed her, with a grave benignity, full on the centre of her audacious forehead.

"Be seated, I beg, Mistress Blossom," he said, taking her cold hand in his, and quietly replacing her in the unoccupied chair. "Be seated, I beg, and give me, if you can, your attention for a moment. The officer intrusted with the ungracious task of occupying your father's house is a member of my military family, and a gentleman. If he has so far forgotten himself--if he has so far disgraced himself and me as--"

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Thankful Blossom
Bret Harte

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