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Thankful Blossom Bret Harte

Chapter IV

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The sun was high over the Short Hills when Mistress Thankful, the next day, drew up her sweating mare beside the Blossom Farm gate. She had never looked prettier, she had never felt more embarrassed, as she entered her own house. During her rapid ride she had already framed a speech of apology to Major Van Zandt, which, however, utterly fled from her lips as that officer showed himself respectfully on the threshold. Yet she permitted him to usurp the functions of the grinning Caesar, and help her from her horse; albeit she was conscious of exhibiting the awkward timidity of a bashful rustic, until at last, with a stammering, "Thank ye," she actually ran up stairs to hide her glowing face and far too conscious eyelids.

During the rest of that day Major Van Zandt quietly kept out of the way, without obtrusively seeming to avoid her. Yet, when they met casually in the performance of her household duties, the innocent Mistress Thankful noticed, under her downcast penitential eyelids, that the eyes of the officer followed her intently. And thereat she fell unconsciously to imitating him; and so they eyed each other furtively like cats, and rubbed themselves along the walls of rooms and passages when they met, lest they should seem designedly to come near each other, and enacted the gravest and most formal of genuflexions, courtesies, and bows, when they accidentally DID meet. And just at the close of the second day, as the elegant Major Van Zandt was feeling himself fast becoming a drivelling idiot and an awkward country booby, the arrival of a courier from headquarters saved that gentleman his self-respect forever.

Mistress Thankful was in her sitting-room when he knocked at her door. She opened it in sudden, conscious trepidation.

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"I ask pardon for intruding, Mistress Thankful Blossom," he said gravely; "but I have here"--he held out a pretentious document--"a letter for you from headquarters. May I hope that it contains good news,--the release of your father.--and that it relieves you from my presence, and an espionage which I assure you cannot be more unpleasant to you than it has been to myself."

As he entered the room, Thankful had risen to her feet with the full intention of delivering to him her little set apology; but, as he ended his speech, she looked at him blankly, and burst out crying.

Of course he was in an instant at her side, and holding her cold little hand. Then she managed to say, between her tears, that she had been wanting to make an apology to him; that she had wanted to say ever since she arrived that she had been rude, very rude, and that she knew he never could forgive her; that she had been trying to say that she never could forget his gentle forbearance: "only," she added, suddenly raising her tear-fringed brown lids to the astonished man, "YOU WOULDN'T EVER LET ME!"

"Dear Mistress Thankful," said the major, in conscience-stricken horror, "if I have made myself distant to you, believe me it was only because I feared to intrude upon your sorrow. I really--dear Mistress Thankful--I--"

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Thankful Blossom
Bret Harte

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