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Thankful Blossom Bret Harte

Chapter II

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With the opening of the door came the sound of earnest voices that instantly ceased upon the appearance of Mistress Thankful. Two gentlemen lolling before the fire arose instantly, and one came forward with an air of familiar yet respectful recognition.

"Nay, this is far too great happiness, Mistress Thankful," he said, with a strongly marked foreign accent, and a still more strongly marked foreign manner. "I have been in despair, and my friend here, the Baron Pomposo, likewise."

The slightest trace of a smile, and the swiftest of reproachful glances, lit up the dark face of the baron as he bowed low in the introduction. Thankful dropped the courtesy of the period,--i. e., a duck, with semicircular sweep of the right foot forward. But the right foot was so pretty, and the grace of the little figure so perfect, that the baron raised his eyes from the foot to the face in serious admiration. In the one rapid feminine glance she had given him, she had seen that he was handsome; in the second, which she could not help from his protracted silence, she saw that his beauty centred in his girlish, half fawn-like dark eyes.

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"The baron," explained Mr. Blossom, rubbing his hands together as if through mere friction he was trying to impart a warmth to the reception which his hard face discountenanced,--"the baron visits us under discouragement. He comes from far countries. It is the custom of gentlefolk of--of foreign extraction to wander through strange lands, commenting upon the habits and doings of the peoples. He will find in Jersey," continued Mr. Blossom, apparently appealing to Thankful, yet really evading her contemptuous glance, "a hard-working yeomanry, ever ready to welcome the stranger, and account to him, penny for penny, for all his necessary expenditure; for which purpose, in these troublous times, he will provide for himself gold or other moneys not affected by these local disturbances."

"He will find, good friend Blossom," said the baron in a rapid, voluble way, utterly at variance with the soft, quiet gravity of his eyes, "Beauty, Grace, Accom-plishment, and--eh--Santa Maria, what shall I say?" He turned appealingly to the count.

"Virtue," nodded the count.

"Truly, Birtoo! all in the fair lady of thees countries. Ah, believe me, honest friend Blossom, there is mooch more in thees than in thoss!"

So much of this speech was addressed to Mistress Thankful, that she had to show at least one dimple in reply, albeit her brows were slightly knit, and she had turned upon the speaker her honest, questioning eyes.

"And then the General Washington has been kind enough to offer his protection," added the count.

"Any fool--any one," supplemented Thankful hastily, with a slight blush--"may have the general's pass, ay, and his good word. But what of Mistress Prudence Bookstaver?--she that has a sweetheart in Knyphausen's brigade, ay,--I warrant a Hessian, but of gentle blood, as Mistress Prudence has often told me,--and, look you, all her letters stopped by the general, ay, I warrant, read by my Lady Washington too, as if 'twere HER fault that her lad was in arms against Congress. Riddle me that, now!"

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Thankful Blossom
Bret Harte

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