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Thankful Blossom Bret Harte

Chapter III

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Hateful to Thankful as was the idea of being commiserated, she nevertheless could not resist the gentle courtesy and gracious sympathy of Miss Schuyler. Besides, it must be confessed that for the first time in her life she felt a doubt of the power of her own independence, and a strange fascination for this young gentlewoman whose arms were around her, who could so thoroughly sympathize with her, and yet allow herself to be snubbed by Lady Washington.

"You have a mother, I doubt not?" said Thankful, raising her questioning eyes to Miss Schuyler.

Irrelevant as this question seemed to the two gentlemen, Miss Schuyler answered it with feminine intuition: "And you, dear Mistress Thankful--"

"Have none," said Thankful; and here, I regret to say, she whimpered slightly, at which Miss Schuyler, with tears in her own fine eyes, bent her head suddenly to Thankful's ear, put her arm about the waist of the pretty stranger, and then, to the astonishment of Col. Hamilton, quietly swept her out of the august presence.

When the door had closed upon them, Col. Hamilton turned half-smilingly, half-inquiringly, to his chief. Washington returned his glance kindly but gravely, and then said quietly,--

"If your suspicions jump with mine, colonel, I need not remind you that it is a matter so delicate that it would be as well if you locked it in your own breast for the present; at least, that you should not intimate to the gentleman whom you may have suspected, aught that has passed this evening."

"As you will, general," said the subaltern respectfully; "but may I ask"--he hesitated--"if you believe that anything more than a passing fancy for a pretty girl--"

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"When I asked your silence, colonel," interrupted Washington kindly, laying his hand upon the shoulder of the younger man, "it was because I thought the matter sufficiently momentous to claim my own private and especial attention."

"I ask your Excellency's pardon," said the young man, reddening through his fresh complexion like a girl; "I only meant--"

"That you would ask to be relieved to-night," interrupted Washington, with a benign smile, "forasmuch as you wished the more to show entertainment to our dear friend Miss Schuyler, and her guest; a wayward girl, colonel, but, methinks, an honest one. Treat her of your own quality, colonel, but discreetly, and not too kindly, lest we have Mistress Schuyler, another injured damsel, on our hands;" and with a half playful gesture peculiar to the man, and yet not inconsistent with his dignity, he half led, half pushed his youthful secretary from the room.

When the door had closed upon the colonel, Lady Washington rustled toward her husband, who stood still, quiet and passive, on the hearthstone.

"You surely see in this escapade nothing of political intrigue--no treachery?" she said hastily.

"No," said Washington quietly.

"Nothing more than an idle, wanton intrigue with a foolish, vain country girl?"

"Pardon me, my lady," said Washington gravely. "I doubt not we may misjudge her. 'Tis no common rustic lass that can thus stir the country side. 'Twere an insult to your sex to believe it. It is not yet sure that she has not captured even so high game as she has named. If she has, it would add another interest to a treaty of comity and alliance."

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Thankful Blossom
Bret Harte

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