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Thankful Blossom Bret Harte

Chapter I

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"A dignified, formal old fool," interrupted Mistress Thankful indignantly; "and look at his wife! Didn't Mistress Ford and Mistress Baily, ay, and the best blood of Morris County, go down to his Excellency's in their finest bibs and tuckers, and didn't they find my lady in a pinafore doing chores? Vastly polite treatment, indeed! As if the whole world didn't know that the general was taken by surprise when my lady came riding up from Virginia with all those fine cavaliers, just to see what his Excellency was doing at these assembly balls. And fine doings, I dare say."

"This is but idle gossip, Thankful," said Capt. Brewster with the faintest appearance of self-consciousness; "the assembly balls are conceived by the general to strengthen the confidence of the townsfolk, and mitigate the rigors of the winter encampment. I go there myself rarely: I have but little taste for junketing and gavotting, with my country in such need. No, Thankful! What we want is a leader; and the men of Connecticut feel it keenly. If I have been spoken of in that regard," added the captain with a slight inflation of his manly breast, "it is because they know of my sacrifices,--because as New England yeomen they know my devotion to the cause. They know of my suffering--"

The bright face that looked into his was suddenly afire with womanly sympathy, the pretty brow was knit, the sweet eyes overflowed with tenderness. "Forgive me, Allan. I forgot-- perhaps, love--perhaps, dearest, you are hungry now."

"No, not now," replied Captain Brewster, with gloomy stoicism; "yet," he added, "it is nearly a week since I have tasted meat."

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"I--I--brought a few things with me," continued the girl, with a certain hesitating timidity. She reached down, and produced a basket from the shadow of the wall. "These chickens"--she held up a pair of pullets--"the commander-in-chief himself could not buy: I kept them for MY commander! And this pot of marmalade, which I know my Allan loves, is the same I put up last summer. I thought [very tenderly] you might like a piece of that bacon you liked so once, dear. Ah, sweetheart, shall we ever sit down to our little board? Shall we ever see the end of this awful war? Don't you think, dear [very pleadingly], it would be best to give it up? King George is not such a very bad man, is he? I've thought, sweetheart [very confidently], that mayhap you and he might make it all up without the aid of those Washingtons, who do nothing but starve one to death. And if the king only knew you, Allan,--should see you as I do, sweetheart,--he'd do just as you say."

During this speech she handed him the several articles alluded to; and he received them, storing them away in such receptacles of his clothing as were convenient--with this notable difference, that with HER the act was graceful and picturesque: with him there was a ludicrousness of suggestion that his broad shoulders and uniform only heightened.

"I think not of myself, lass," he said, putting the eggs in his pocket, and buttoning the chickens within his martial breast. "I think not of myself, and perhaps I often spare that counsel which is but little heeded. But I have a duty to my men--to Connecticut. [He here tied the marmalade up in his handkerchief.] I confess I have sometimes thought I might, under provocation, be driven to extreme measures for the good of the cause. I make no pretence to leadership, but--"

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Thankful Blossom
Bret Harte

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