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Thankful Blossom Bret Harte

Chapter III

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"Of course," said a voice which Thankful at once, by a woman's unerring instinct, recognized as the elder of the two ladies, and the legitimate keeper of the conscience of some one of the men who were present,--"of course Mistress Thankful will be able to elect which of her lovers among her country's enemies she will be able to cling to for support in her present emergency. She does not seem to have been so special in her favors as to have positively excluded any one."

"At least, dear Lady Washington, she will not give it to the man who has proven a traitor to HER," said the younger woman impulsively. "That is--I beg your ladyship's pardon"--she hesitated, observing in the dead silence that ensued that the two superior male beings present looked at each other in lofty astonishment.

"He that is trait'rous to his country," said Lady Washington coldly, "is apt to be trait'rous elsewhere."

"'Twere as honest to say that he that was trait'rous to his king was trait'rous to his country," said Mistress Thankful with sudden audacity, bending her knit brows on Lady Washington. But that lady turned dignifiedly away, and Mistress Thankful again faced the general.

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"I ask your pardon," she said proudly, "for troubling you with my wrongs. But it seems to me that even if another and a greater wrong were done me by my sweetheart, through jealousy, it would not justify this accusation against me, even though," she added, darting a wicked glance at the placid brocaded back of Lady Washington, "even though that accusation came from one who knows that jealousy may belong to the wife of a patriot as well as a traitor." She was herself again after this speech, although her face was white with the blow she had taken and returned.

Col. Hamilton passed his hand across his mouth, and coughed slightly. Gen. Washington, standing by the fire with an impassive face, turned to Thankful gravely:--

"You are forgetting, Mistress Thankful, that you have not told me how I can serve you. It cannot be that you are still concerned in Capt. Brewster, who has given evidence against your other--FRIENDS, and tacitly against YOU. Nor can it be on their account, for I regret to say they are still free and unknown. If you come with any information exculpating them, and showing they are not spies or hostile to the cause, your father's release shall be certain and speedy. Let me ask you a single question: Why do you believe them honest?"

"Because," said Mistress Thankful, "they were--were--gentlemen."

"Many spies have been of excellent family, good address, and fair talents," said Washington gravely; "but you have, mayhap, some other reason."

"Because they talked only to ME," said Mistress Thankful, blushing mightily; "because they preferred my company to father's; because"-- she hesitated a moment--"because they spoke not of politics, but-- of--that which lads mainly talk of--and--and,"--here she broke down a little,--"and the baron I only saw once, but he"--here she broke down utterly--"I know they weren't spies: there, now!"

"I must ask you something more," said Washington, with grave kindness: "whether you give me the information or not, you will consider, that, if what you believe is true, it cannot in any way injure the gentlemen you speak of; while, on the other hand, it may relieve your father of suspicion. Will you give to Col. Hamilton, my secretary, a full description of them,--that fuller description which Capt. Brewster, for reasons best known to yourself, was unable to give?"

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Thankful Blossom
Bret Harte

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