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Thankful Blossom Bret Harte

Chapter II

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The officer, answering her eyes rather than her lips, came toward her gravely. "He will not return to-day, Mistress Thankful, nor perhaps even to-morrow. He is--a prisoner."

Thankful opened her brown eyes aggressively on the major. "A prisoner--for what?"

"For aiding and giving comfort to the enemy, and for harboring spies," replied the major with military curtness.

Mistress Thankful's cheek flushed slightly at the last sentence: a recollection of the scene on the porch and the baron's stolen kiss flashed across her, and for a moment she looked as guilty as if the man before her had been a witness to the deed. He saw it, and misinterpreted her confusion.

"Belike, then," said Mistress Thankful, slightly raising her voice, and standing squarely before the major, "belike, then, I should be a prisoner too; for the guests of this house, if they be spies, were MY guests, and, as my father's daughter, I was their hostess; ay, man, and right glad to be the hostess of such gallant gentlemen,--gentlemen, I warrant, too fine to insult a defenceless girl; gentlemen spies that did not cock their boots on the table, or turn an honest farmer's house into a tap-room."

An expression of half pain, half amusement, covered the face of the major, but he made no other reply than by a profound and graceful bow. Courteous and deprecatory as it was, it apparently exasperated Mistress Thankful only the more.

"And pray who are these spies, and who is the informer?" said Mistress Thankful, facing the soldier, with one hand truculently placed on her flexible hip, and the other slipped behind her. "Methinks 'tis only honest we should know when and how we have entertained both."

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"Your father, Mistress Thankful," said Major Van Zandt gravely, "has long been suspected of favoring the enemy; but it has been the policy of the commander-in-chief to overlook the political preferences of non-combatants, and to strive to win their allegiance to the good cause by liberal privileges. But when it was lately discovered that two strangers, although bearing a pass from him, have been frequenters of this house under fictitious names--"

"You mean Count Ferdinand and the Baron Pomposo," said Thankful quickly,--"two honest gentlefolk; and if they choose to pay their devoirs to a lass--although, perhaps, not a quality lady, yet an honest girl--"

"Dear Mistress Thankful," said the major with a profound bow and smile, that, spite of its courtesy, drove Thankful to the verge of wrathful hysterics, "if you establish that fact,--and, from this slight acquaintance with your charms, I doubt not you will,--your father is safe from further inquiry or detention. The commander-in-chief is a gentleman who has never underrated the influence of your sex, nor held himself averse to its fascinations."

"What is the name of this informer?" broke in Mistress Thankful angrily. "Who is it that has dared--"

"It is but king's evidence, mayhap, Mistress Thankful; for the informer is himself under arrest. It is on the information of Capt. Allan Brewster of the Connecticut Contingent."

Mistress Thankful whitened, then flushed, and then whitened again. Then she stood up to the major.

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Thankful Blossom
Bret Harte

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