by BRET HARTE
The time was the year of grace 1779; the locality, Morristown, New
It was bitterly cold. A northeasterly wind had been stiffening the
mud of the morning's thaw into a rigid record of that day's
wayfaring on the Baskingridge road. The hoof-prints of cavalry,
the deep ruts left by baggage-wagons, and the deeper channels worn
by artillery, lay stark and cold in the waning light of an April
day. There were icicles on the fences, a rime of silver on the
windward bark of maples, and occasional bare spots on the rocky
protuberances of the road, as if Nature had worn herself out at the
knees and elbows through long waiting for the tardy spring. A few
leaves disinterred by the thaw became crisp again, and rustled in
the wind, making the summer a thing so remote that all human hope
and conjecture fled before them.
Here and there the wayside fences and walls were broken down or
dismantled; and beyond them fields of snow downtrodden and
discolored, and strewn with fragments of leather, camp equipage,
harness, and cast-off clothing, showed traces of the recent
encampment and congregation of men. On some there were still
standing the ruins of rudely constructed cabins, or the semblance
of fortification equally rude and incomplete. A fox stealing along
a half-filled ditch, a wolf slinking behind an earthwork, typified
the human abandonment and desolation.
One by one the faint sunset tints faded from the sky; the far-off
crests of the Orange hills grew darker; the nearer files of pines
on the Whatnong Mountain became a mere black background; and, with
the coming-on of night, came too an icy silence that seemed to
stiffen and arrest the very wind itself. The crisp leaves no
longer rustled; the waving whips of alder and willow snapped no
longer; the icicles no longer dropped a cold fruitage from barren
branch and spray; and the roadside trees relapsed into stony quiet,
so that the sound of horse's hoofs breaking through the thin, dull,
lustreless films of ice that patched the furrowed road, might have
been heard by the nearest Continental picket a mile away.
Either a knowledge of this, or the difficulties of the road,
evidently irritated the viewless horseman. Long before he became
visible, his voice was heard in half-suppressed objurgation of the
road, of his beast, of the country folk, and the country generally.
"Steady, you jade!" "Jump, you devil, jump!" "Curse the road, and
the beggarly farmers that durst not mend it!" And then the moving
bulk of horse and rider suddenly arose above the hill, floundered
and splashed, and then as suddenly disappeared, and the rattling
The stranger had turned into a deserted lane still cushioned with
untrodden snow. A stone wall on one hand--in better keeping and
condition than the boundary monuments of the outlying fields--
bespoke protection and exclusiveness. Half-way up the lane the
rider checked his speed, and, dismounting, tied his horse to a
wayside sapling. This done, he went cautiously forward toward the
end of the lane, and a farm-house from whose gable window a light
twinkled through the deepening night. Suddenly he stopped,
hesitated, and uttered an impatient ejaculation. The light had
disappeared. He turned sharply on his heel, and retraced his steps
until opposite a farm-shed that stood a few paces from the wall.
Hard by, a large elm cast the gaunt shadow of its leafless limbs on
the wall and surrounding snow. The stranger stepped into this
shadow, and at once seemed to become a part of its trembling
At the present moment it was certainly a bleak place for a tryst.
There was snow yet clinging to the trunk of the tree, and a film of
ice on its bark; the adjacent wall was slippery with frost, and
fringed with icicles. Yet in all there was a ludicrous suggestion
of some sentiment past and unseasonable: several dislodged stones
of the wall were so disposed as to form a bench and seats, and
under the elm-tree's film of ice could still be seen carved on its
bark the effigy of a heart, divers initials, and the legend, "Thine
The stranger, however, kept his eyes fixed only on the farm-shed
and the open field beside it. Five minutes passed in fruitless
expectancy. Ten minutes! And then the rising moon slowly lifted
herself over the black range of the Orange hills, and looked at
him, blushing a little, as if the appointment were her own.
The face and figure thus illuminated were those of a strongly
built, handsome man of thirty, so soldierly in bearing that it
needed not the buff epaulets and facings to show his captain's rank
in the Continental army. Yet there was something in his facial
expression that contradicted the manliness of his presence,--an
irritation and querulousness that were inconsistent with his size
and strength. This fretfulness increased as the moments went by
without sign or motion in the faintly lit field beyond, until, in
peevish exasperation, he began to kick the nearer stones against
The soldier started. Not that he was frightened, nor that he had
failed to recognize in these prolonged syllables the deep-chested,
half-drowsy low of a cow, but that it was so near him--evidently
just beside the wall. If an object so bulky could have approached
him so near without his knowledge, might not she--
He drew nearer the wall cautiously. "So, Cushy! Mooly! Come up,
Bossy!" he said persuasively. "Moo"--but here the low unexpectedly
broke down, and ended in a very human and rather musical little
"Thankful!" exclaimed the soldier, echoing the laugh a trifle
uneasily and affectedly as a hooded little head arose above the
"Well," replied the figure, supporting a prettily rounded chin on
her hands, as she laid her elbows complacently on the wall,--"well,
what did you expect? Did you want me to stand here all night,
while you skulked moonstruck under a tree? Or did you look for me
to call you by name? did you expect me to shout out, 'Capt. Allan
"Capt. Allan Brewster of the Connecticut Contingent," continued the
girl, with an affected raising of a low, pathetic voice that was,
however, inaudible beyond the tree. "Capt. Brewster, behold me,--
your obleeged and humble servant and sweetheart to command."
Capt. Brewster succeeded, after a slight skirmish at the wall, in
possessing himself of the girl's hand; at which; although still
struggling, she relented slightly.
"It isn't every lad that I'd low for," she said, with an affected
pout, "and there may be others that would not take it amiss; though
there be fine ladies enough at the assembly halls at Morristown as
might think it hoydenish?"
"Nonsense, love," said the captain, who had by this time mounted
the wall, and encircled the girl's waist with his arm. "Nonsense!
you startled me only. But," he added, suddenly taking her round
chin in his hand, and turning her face toward the moon with an
uneasy half-suspicion, "why did you take that light from the
window? What has happened?"
"We had unexpected guests, sweetheart," said Thankful: "the count
"That infernal Hessian!" He stopped, and gazed questioningly into
her face. The moon looked upon her at the same time: the face was
as sweet, as placid, as truthful, as her own. Possibly these two
inconstants understood each other.
"Nay, Allan, he is not a Hessian, but an exiled gentleman from
"There are no noblemen now," sniffed the trooper contemptuously.
"Congress has so decreed it. All men are born free and equal."
"But they are not, Allan," said Thankful, with a pretty trouble in
her brows: "even cows are not born equal. Is yon calf that was
dropped last night by Brindle the equal of my red heifer whose
mother come by herself in a ship from Surrey? Do they look equal?"
"Titles are but breath," said Capt. Brewster doggedly. There was
an ominous pause.
"Nay, there is one nobleman left," said Thankful; "and he is my
own,--my nature's nobleman!"
Capt. Brewster did not reply. From certain arch gestures and
wreathed smiles with which this forward young woman accompanied her
statement, it would seem to be implied that the gentleman who stood
before her was the nobleman alluded to. At least, he so accepted
it, and embraced her closely, her arms and part of her mantle
clinging around his neck. In this attitude they remained quiet for
some moments, slightly rocking from side to side like a metronome;
a movement, I fancy, peculiarly bucolic, pastoral, and idyllic, and
as such, I wot, observed by Theocritus and Virgil.
At these supreme moments weak woman usually keeps her wits about
her much better than your superior reasoning masculine animal; and,
while the gallant captain was losing himself upon her perfect lips,
Miss Thankful distinctly heard the farm-gate click, and otherwise
noticed that the moon was getting high and obtrusive. She half
released herself from the captain's arms, thoughtfully and
tenderly--but firmly. "Tell me all about yourself, Allan dear,"
she said quietly, making room for him on the wall,--"all,
She turned upon him her beautiful eyes,--eyes habitually earnest
and even grave in expression, yet holding in their brave brown
depths a sweet, childlike reliance and dependency; eyes with a
certain tender, deprecating droop in the brown-fringed lids, and
yet eyes that seemed to say to every man who looked upon them, "I
am truthful: be frank with me." Indeed, I am convinced there is
not one of my impressible sex, who, looking in those pleading eyes,
would not have perjured himself on the spot rather than have
disappointed their fair owner.
Capt. Brewster's mouth resumed its old expression of discontent.
"Everything is growing worse, Thankful, and the cause is lost.
Congress does nothing, and Washington is not the man for the
crisis. Instead of marching to Philadelphia, and forcing that
wretched rabble of Hancock and Adams at the point of the bayonet,
he writes letters."
"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."
"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
"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
"With you at the head of the army," broke in Thankful
enthusiastically, "peace would be declared within a fortnight."
There is no flattery, however outrageous, that a man will not
accept from the woman whom he believes loves him. He will perhaps
doubt its influence in the colder judgment of mankind; but he will
consider that this poor creature, at least, understands him, and in
some vague way represents the eternal but unrecognized verities.
And when this is voiced by lips that are young and warm and red, it
is somehow quite as convincing as the bloodless, remoter utterance
Wherefore the trooper complacently buttoned the compliment over his
chest with the pullets.
"I think you must go now, Allan," she said, looking at him with
that pseudo-maternal air which the youngest of women sometimes
assume to their lovers, as if the doll had suddenly changed sex,
and grown to man's estate. "You must go now, dear; for it may so
chance that father is considering my absence overmuch. You will
come again a' Wednesday, sweetheart; and you will not go to the
assemblies, nor visit Mistress Judith, nor take any girl pick-a-
back again on your black horse; and you will let me know when you
She turned her brown eyes lovingly, yet with a certain pretty
trouble in the brow, and such a searching, pleading inquiry in her
glance, that the captain kissed her at once. Then came the final
embrace, performed by the captain in a half-perfunctory, quiet
manner, with a due regard for the friable nature of part of his
provisions. Satisfying himself of the integrity of the eggs by
feeling for them in his pocket, he waved a military salute with the
other hand to Miss Thankful, and was gone. A few minutes later the
sound of his horse's hoofs rang sharply from the icy hillside.
But, as he reached the summit, two horsemen wheeled suddenly from
the shadow of the roadside, and bade him halt.
"Capt. Brewster, if this moon does not deceive me?" queried the
foremost stranger with grave civility.
"The same. Major Van Zandt, I calculate?" returned Brewster
"Your calculation is quite right. I regret Capt. Brewster, that it
is my duty to inform you that you are under arrest."
"By whose orders?"
"Mutinous conduct, and disrespect of your superior officers."
The sword that Capt. Brewster had drawn at the sudden appearance of
the strangers quivered for a moment in his strong hand. Then,
sharply striking it across the pommel of his saddle, he snapped it
in twain, and cast the pieces at the feet of the speaker.
"Go on," he said doggedly.
"Capt. Brewster," said Major Van Zandt, with infinite gravity, "it
is not for me to point out the danger to you of this outspoken
emotion, except practically in its effect upon the rations you have
in your pocket. If I mistake not, they have suffered equally with
your steel. Forward, march!"
Capt. Brewster looked down, and then dropped to the rear, as the
discased yolks of Mistress Thankful's most precious gift slid
slowly and pensively over his horse's flanks to the ground.
Mistress Thankful remained at the wall until her lover had
disappeared. Then she turned, a mere lissom shadow in that
uncertain light, and glided under the eaves of the shed, and thence
from tree to tree of the orchard, lingering a moment under each as
a trout lingers in the shadow of the bank in passing a shallow, and
so reached the farmhouse and the kitchen door, where she entered.
Thence by a back staircase she slipped to her own bower, from whose
window half an hour before she had taken the signalling light.
This she lit again and placed upon a chest of drawers; and, taking
off her hood and a shapeless sleeveless mantle she had worn, went
to the mirror, and proceeded to re-adjust a high horn comb that had
been somewhat displaced by the captain's arm, and otherwise after
the fashion of her sex to remove all traces of a previous lover.
It may be here observed that a man is very apt to come from the
smallest encounter with his dulcinea distrait, bored, or shame-
faced; to forget that his cravat is awry, or that a long blond hair
is adhering to his button. But as to Mademoiselle--well, looking
at Miss Pussy's sleek paws and spotless face, would you ever know
that she had been at the cream-jug?
Thankful was, I think, satisfied with her appearance. Small doubt
but she had reason for it. And yet her gown was a mere slip of
flowered chintz, gathered at the neck, and falling at an angle of
fifteen degrees to within an inch of a short petticoat of gray
flannel. But so surely is the complete mould of symmetry indicated
in the poise or line of any single member, that looking at the
erect carriage of her graceful brown head, or below to the curves
that were lost in her shapely ankles, or the little feet that hid
themselves in the broad-buckled shoes, you knew that the rest was
as genuine and beautiful.
Mistress Thankful, after a pause, opened the door, and listened.
Then she softly slipped down the back staircase to the front hall.
It was dark; but the door of the "company-room," or parlor, was
faintly indicated by the light that streamed beneath it. She stood
still for a moment hesitatingly, when suddenly a hand grasped her
own, and half led, half dragged her, into the sitting-room
opposite. It was dark. There was a momentary fumbling for the
tinder-box and flint, a muttered oath over one or two impeding
articles of furniture, and Thankful laughed. And then the light
was lit; and her father, a gray wrinkled man of sixty, still
holding her hand, stood before her.
"You have been out, mistress!"
"I have," said Thankful.
"And not alone," growled the old man angrily.
"No," said Mistress Thankful, with a smile that began in the
corners of her brown eyes, ran down into the dimpled curves of her
mouth, and finally ended in the sudden revelation of her white
teeth,--"no, not alone."
"With whom?" asked the old man, gradually weakening under her
strong, saucy presence.
"Well, father," said Thankful, taking a seat on a table, and
swinging her little feet somewhat ostentatiously toward him, "I was
with Capt. Allan Brewster of the Connecticut Contingent."
"I forbid you seeing him again."
Thankful gripped the table with a hand on each side of her, to
emphasize the statement, and swinging her feet replied,--
"I shall see him as often as I like, father."
"I see you know not," said Mr. Blossom, abandoning the severely
paternal mandatory air for one of confidential disclosure, "I see
you know not his reputation. He is accused of inciting his
regiment to revolt,--of being a traitor to the cause."
"And since when, Abner Blossom, have YOU felt such concern for the
cause? Since you refused to sell supplies to the Continental
commissary, except at double profits? since you told me you were
glad I had not polities like Mistress Ford--"
"Hush!" said the father, motioning to the parlor.
"Hush," echoed Thankful indignantly. "I won't be hushed!
Everybody says 'Hush' to me. The count says 'Hush!' Allan says
'Hush!' You say 'Hush!' I'm a-weary of this hushing. Ah, if
there was a man who didn't say it to me!" and Mistress Thankful
lifted her fine eyes to the ceiling.
"You are unwise, Thankful,--foolish, indiscreet. That is why you
require much monition."
Thankful swung her feet in silence for a few moments, then suddenly
leaped from the table, and, seizing the old man by the lapels of
his coat, fixed her eyes upon him, and said suspiciously. "Why did
you keep me from going in the company-room? Why did you bring me
Blossom senior was staggered for a moment. "Because, you know, the
"And you were afraid the count should know I had a sweetheart?
Well, I'll go in and tell him now," she said, marching toward the
"Then, why did you not tell him when you slipped out an hour ago?
eh, lass?" queried the old man, grasping her hand. "But 'tis all
one, Thankful: 'twas not for him I stopped you. There is a young
spark with him,--ay, came even as you left, lass,--a likely young
gallant; and he and the count are jabbering away in their own
lingo, a kind of Italian, belike; eh, Thankful?"
"I know not," she said thoughtfully. "Which way came the other?"
In fact, a fear that this young stranger might have witnessed the
captain's embrace began to creep over her.
"From town, my lass."
Thankful turned to her father as if she had been waiting a reply to
a long-asked question: "Well?"
"Were it not well to put on a few furbelows and a tucker?" queried
the old man. "'Tis a gallant young spark; none of your country
"No," said Thankful, with the promptness of a woman who was looking
her best, and knew it. And the old man, looking at her, accepted
her judgment, and without another word led her to the parlor door,
and, opening it, said briefly, "My daughter, Mistress Thankful
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.
"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,
"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!"
"'Tis but prudence, lass," said Blossom, frowning on the girl.
"'Tis that she might disclose some movement of the army, tending to
defeat the enemy."
"And why should she not try to save her lad from capture or
ambuscade such as befell the Hessian commissary with the provisions
Mr. Blossom, in an ostensible fatherly embrace, managed to pinch
Mistress Thankful sharply. "Hush, lass," he said with simulated
playfulness; "your tongue clacks like the Whippany mill.--My
daughter has small concern--'tis the manner of womenfolk--in
politics," he explained to his guests. "These dangersome days have
given her sore affliction by way of parting comrades of her
childhood, and others whom she has much affected. It has in some
sort soured her."
Mr. Blossom would have recalled this speech as soon as it escaped
him, lest it should lead to a revelation from the truthful Mistress
Thankful of her relations with the Continental captain. But to his
astonishment, and, I may add, to my own, she showed nothing of that
disposition she had exhibited a few moments before. On the
contrary, she blushed slightly, and said nothing.
And then the conversation changed,--upon the weather, the hard
winter, the prospects of the Cause, a criticism upon the commander-
in-chief's management of affairs, the attitude of Congress, etc.,
between Mr. Blossom and the count; characterized, I hardly need
say, by that positiveness of opinion that distinguishes the
unprofessional. In another part of the room, it so chanced that
Mistress Thankful and the baron were talking about themselves; the
assembly balls; who was the prettiest woman in Morristown; and
whether Gen. Washington's attentions to Mistress Pyne were only
perfunctory gallantry, or what; and if Lady Washington's hair was
really gray; and if that young aide-de-camp, Major Van Zandt were
really in love with Lady or whether his attentions were only the
zeal of a subaltern,--in the midst of which a sudden gust of wind
shook the house; and Mr. Blossom, going to the front door, came
back with the announcement that it was snowing heavily.
And indeed, within that past hour, to their astonished eyes the
whole face of nature had changed. The moon was gone, the sky
hidden in a blinding, whirling swarm of stinging flakes. The wind,
bitter and strong, had already fashioned white feathery drifts upon
the threshold, over the painted benches on the porch, and against
Mistress Thankful and the baron had walked to the rear door--the
baron with a slight tropical shudder--to view this meteorological
change. As Mistress Thankful looked over the snowy landscape, it
seemed to her that all record of her past experience had been
effaced: her very footprints of an hour before were lost; the gray
wall on which she leaned was white and spotless now; even the
familiar farm-shed looked dim and strange and ghostly. Had she
been there? had she seen the captain? was it all a fancy? She
A sudden gust of wind closed the door behind them with a crash, and
sent Mistress Thankful, with a slight feminine scream, forward into
the outer darkness. But the baron caught her by the waist, and
saved her from Heaven knows what imaginable disaster; and the scene
ended in a half-hysterical laugh. But the wind then set upon them
both with a malevolent fury; and the baron was, I presume, obliged
to draw her closer to his side.
They were alone, save for the presence of those mischievous
confederates, Nature and Opportunity. In the half-obscurity of the
storm she could not help turning her mischievous eyes on his. But
she was perhaps surprised to find them luminous, soft, and, as it
seemed to her at that moment, grave beyond the occasion. An
embarrassment utterly new and singular seized upon her; and when,
as she half feared yet half expected, he bent down and pressed his
lips to hers, she was for a moment powerless. But in the next
instant she boxed his ears sharply, and vanished in the darkness.
When Mr. Blossom opened the door to the baron he was surprised to
find that gentleman alone, and still more surprised to find, when
they re-entered the house, to see Mistress Thankful enter at the
same moment, demurely, from the front door.
When Mr. Blossom knocked at his daughter's door the next morning it
opened upon her completely dressed, but withal somewhat pale, and,
if the truth must be told, a little surly.
"And you were stirring so early, Thankful," he said: "'twould have
been but decent to have bidden God-speed to the guests, especially
the baron, who seemed much concerned at your absence."
Miss Thankful blushed slightly, but answered with savage celerity,
"And since when is it necessary that I should dance attendance upon
every foreign jack-in-the-box that may lie at the house?"
"He has shown great courtesy to you, mistress, and is a gentleman."
"Courtesy, indeed!" said Mistress Thankful.
"He has not presumed?" said Mr. Blossom suddenly, bringing his cold
gray eyes to bear upon his daughter's.
"No, no," said Thankful hurriedly, flaming a bright scarlet; "but--
nothing. But what have you there? a letter?"
"Ay,--from the captain, I warrant," said Mr. Blossom, handing her a
three-cornered bit of paper: "'twas left here by a camp-follower.
Thankful," he continued, with a meaning glance, "you will heed my
counsel in season. The captain is not meet for such as you."
Thankful suddenly grew pale and contemptuous again as she snatched
the letter from his hand. When his retiring footsteps were lost on
the stairs she regained her color, and opened the letter. It was
slovenly written, grievously misspelled, and read as follows:--
"SWEETHEART: A tyranous Act, begotten in Envy and Jealousie, keeps
me here a prisoner. Last night I was Basely arrested by Servile
Hands for that Freedom of Thought and Expression for which I have
already Sacrifized so much--aye all that Man hath but Love and
Honour. But the End is Near. When for the Maintenance of Power,
the Liberties of the Peoples are subdued by Martial Supremacy and
the Dictates of Ambition the State is Lost. I lie in Vile Bondage
here in Morristown under charge of Disrespeck--me that a
twelvemonth past left a home and Respectable Connexions to serve my
Country. Believe me still your own Love, albeit in the Power of
Tyrants and condemned it may be to the scaffold.
"The Messenger is Trustworthy and will speed safely to me such as
you may deliver unto him. The Provender sanktified by your Hands
and made precious by yr. Love was wrested from me by Servil Hands
and the Eggs, Sweetheart, were somewhat Addled. The Bacon is,
methinks by this time on the Table of the Comr-in-Chief. Such is
Tyranny and Ambition. Sweetheart, farewell, for the present.
Mistress Thankful read this composition once, twice, and then tore
it up. Then, reflecting that it was the first letter of her
lover's that she had not kept, she tried to put together again the
torn fragments, but vainly, and then in a pet, new to her, cast
them from the window. During the rest of the day she was
considerably distraite, and even manifested more temper than she
was wont to do; and later, when her father rode away on his daily
visit to Morristown, she felt strangely relieved. By noon the snow
ceased, or rather turned into a driving sleet that again in turn
gave way to rain. By this time she became absorbed in her
household duties,--in which she was usually skilful,--and in her
own thoughts that to-day had a novelty in their meaning. In the
midst of this, at about dark, her room being in the rear of the
house, she was perhaps unmindful of the trampling of horse without,
or the sound of voices in the hall below. Neither was uncommon at
that time. Although protected by the Continental army from forage
or the rudeness of soldiery, the Blossom farm had always been a
halting-place for passing troopers, commissary teamsters, and
reconnoitring officers. Gen. Sullivan and Col. Hamilton had
watered their horses at its broad, substantial wayside trough, and
sat in the shade of its porch. Miss Thankful was only awakened
from her daydream by the entrance of the negro farm-hand, Caesar.
"Fo' God, Missy Thankful, them sogers is g'wine into camp in the
road, I reckon, for they's jest makin' theysevs free afo' the
house, and they's an officer in the company-room with his spurs
cocked on the table, readin' a book."
A quick flame leaped into Thankful's cheek, and her pretty brows
knit themselves over darkening eyes. She arose from her work no
longer the moody girl, but an indignant goddess, and, pushing the
servant aside, swept down the stairs, and threw open the door.
An officer sitting by the fire in an easy, lounging attitude that
justified the servant's criticism, arose instantly with an air of
evident embarrassment and surprise that was, however, as quickly
dominated and controlled by a gentleman's breeding.
"I beg your pardon," he said, with a deep inclination of his
handsome head, "but I had no idea that there was any member of this
household at home--at least, a lady." He hesitated a moment,
catching in the raising of her brown-fringed lids a sudden
revelation of her beauty, and partly losing his composure. "I am
Major Van Zandt: I have the honor of addressing--"
"Thankful Blossom," said Thankful a little proudly, divining with a
woman's swift instinct the cause of the major's hesitation. But
her triumph was checked by a new embarrassment visible in the face
of the officer at the mention of her name.
"Thankful Blossom," repeated the officer quickly. "You are, then,
the daughter of Abner Blossom?"
"Certainly," said Thankful, turning her inquiring eyes upon him.
"He will be here betimes. He has gone only to Morristown." In a
new fear that had taken possession of her, her questioning eyes
asked, "Has he not?"
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"It's a lie,--a cowardly lie!"
Major Van Zandt bowed. Mistress Thankful flew up stairs, and in
another moment swept back again into the room in riding hat and
"I suppose I can go and see--my father," she said, without lifting
her eyes to the officer.
"You are free as air, Mistress Thankful. My orders and
instructions, far from implicating you in your father's offences,
do not even suggest your existence. Let me help you to your
The girl did not reply. During that brief interval, however,
Caesar had saddled her white mare, and brought it to the door.
Mistress Thankful, disdaining the offered hand of the major, sprang
to the saddle.
The major still held the reins. "One moment, Mistress Thankful."
"Let me go!" she said, with suppressed passion.
"One moment, I beg."
His hand still held her bridle-rein. The mare reared, nearly
upsetting her. Crimson with rage and mortification, she raised her
riding-whip, and laid it smartly over the face of the man before
He dropped the rein instantly. Then he raised to her a face calm
and colorless, but for a red line extending from his eyebrow to his
chin, and said quietly,--
"I had no desire to detain you. I only wished to say that when you
see Gen. Washington I know you will be just enough to tell him that
Major Van Zandt knew nothing of your wrongs, or even your presence
here, until you presented them, and that since then he has treated
you as became an officer and a gentleman."
Yet even as he spoke she was gone. At the moment that her
fluttering skirt swept in a furious gallop down the hillside, the
major turned, and re-entered the house. The few lounging troopers
who were witnesses of the scene prudently turned their eyes from
the white face and blazing eyes of their officer as he strode by
them. Nevertheless, when the door closed behind him, contemporary
criticism broke out:--
"'Tis a Tory jade, vexed that she cannot befool the major as she
has the captain," muttered Sergeant Tibbitts.
"And going to try her tricks on the general," added Private Hicks.
Howbeit both these critics may have been wrong. For as Mistress
Thankful thundered down the Morristown road she thought of many
things. She thought of her sweetheart Allan, a prisoner, and
pining for HER help and HER solicitude; and yet--how dared he--if
he HAD really betrayed or misjudged her! And then she thought
bitterly of the count and the baron, and burned to face the latter,
and in some vague way charge the stolen kiss upon him as the cause
of all her shame and mortification. And lastly she thought of her
father, and began to hate everybody. But above all and through
all, in her vague fears for her father, in her passionate
indignation against the baron, in her fretful impatience of Allan,
one thing was ever dominant and obtrusive; one thing she tried to
put away, but could not,--the handsome, colorless face of Major Van
Zandt, with the red welt of her riding-whip overlying its cold
The rising wind, which had ridden much faster than Mistress
Thankful, had increased to a gale by the time it reached
Morristown. It swept through the leafless maples, and rattled the
dry bones of the elms. It whistled through the quiet Presbyterian
churchyard, as if trying to arouse the sleepers it had known in
days gone by. It shook the blank, lustreless windows of the
Assembly Rooms over the Freemasons' Tavern, and wrought in their
gusty curtains moving shadows of those amply petticoated dames and
tightly hosed cavaliers who had swung in "Sir Roger," or jigged in
"Money Musk," the night before.
But I fancy it was around the isolated "Ford Mansion," better known
as the "headquarters," that the wind wreaked its grotesque rage.
It howled under its scant eaves, it sang under its bleak porch, it
tweaked the peak of its front gable, it whistled through every
chink and cranny of its square, solid, unpicturesque structure.
Situated on a hillside that descended rapidly to the Whippany
River, every summer zephyr that whispered through the porches of
the Morristown farm-houses charged as a stiff breeze upon the
swinging half doors and windows of the "Ford Mansion"; every wintry
wind became a gale that threatened its security. The sentry who
paced before its front porch knew from experience when to linger
under its lee, and adjust his threadbare outer coat to the bitter
Within the house something of this cheerlessness prevailed. It had
an ascetic gloom, which the scant firelight of the reception-room,
and the dying embers on the dining-room hearth, failed to
dissipate. The central hall was broad, and furnished plainly with
a few rush-bottomed chairs, on one of which half dozed a black
body-servant of the commander-in-chief. Two officers in the
dining-room, drawn close by the chimney-corner, chatted in
undertones, as if mindful that the door of the drawing-room was
open, and their voices might break in upon its sacred privacy. The
swinging light in the hall partly illuminated it, or rather glanced
gloomily from the black polished furniture, the lustreless chairs,
the quaint cabinet, the silent spinet, the skeleton-legged centre-
table, and finally upon the motionless figure of a man seated by
It was a figure since so well known to the civilized world, since
so celebrated in print and painting, as to need no description
here. Its rare combination of gentle dignity with profound force,
of a set resoluteness of purpose with a philosophical patience,
have been so frequently delivered to a people not particularly
remarkable for these qualities, that I fear it has too often
provoked a spirit of playful aggression, in which the deeper
underlying meaning was forgotten. So let me add that in manner,
physical equipoise, and even in the mere details of dress, this
figure indicated a certain aristocratic exclusiveness. It was the
presentment of a king,--a king who by the irony of circumstances
was just then waging war against all kingship; a ruler of men, who
just then was fighting for the right of these men to govern
themselves, but whom by his own inherent right he dominated. From
the crown of his powdered head to the silver buckle of his shoe he
was so royal that it was not strange that his brother George of
England and Hanover--ruling by accident, otherwise impiously known
as the "grace of God"--could find no better way of resisting his
power than by calling him "Mr. Washington."
The sound of horses' hoofs, the formal challenge of sentry, the
grave questioning of the officer of the guard, followed by
footsteps upon the porch, did not apparently disturb his
meditation. Nor did the opening of the outer door, and a charge of
cold air into the hall that invaded even the privacy of the
reception-room, and brightened the dying embers on the hearth, stir
his calm pre-occupation. But an instant later there was the
distinct rustle of a feminine skirt in the hall, a hurried
whispering of men's voices, and then the sudden apparition of a
smooth, fresh-faced young officer over the shoulder of the
"I beg your pardon, general," said the officer doubtingly, "but--"
"You are not intruding, Col. Hamilton," said the general quietly.
"There is a young lady without who wishes an audience of your
Excellency. 'Tis Mistress Thankful Blossom,--the daughter of Abner
Blossom, charged with treasonous practice and favoring the enemy,
now in the guard-house at Morristown."
"Thankful Blossom?" repeated the general interrogatively.
"Your Excellency doubtless remembers a little provincial beauty and
a famous toast of the country-side,--the Cressida of our Morristown
epic, who led our gallant. Connecticut captain astray--"
"You have the advantages, besides the better memory of a younger
man, colonel," said Washington, with a playful smile that slightly
reddened the cheek of his aide-de-camp. "Yet I think I HAVE heard
of this phenomenon. By all means, admit her--and her escort."
"She is alone, general," responded the subordinate.
"Then the more reason why we should be polite," returned
Washington, for the first time altering his easy posture, rising to
his feet, and lightly clasping his ruffled hands before him. "We
must not keep her waiting. Give her access, my dear colonel, at
once; and even as she came,--ALONE."
The aide-de-camp bowed and withdrew. In another moment the half-
opened door swung wide to Mistress Thankful Blossom.
She was so beautiful in her simple riding-dress, so quaint and
original in that very beauty, and, above all, so teeming with a
certain vital earnestness of purpose just positive and audacious
enough to set off that beauty, that the grave gentleman before her
did not content himself with the usual formal inclination of
courtesy, but actually advanced, and, taking her cold little hand
in his, graciously led her to the chair he had just vacated.
"Even if your name were not known to me, Mistress Thankful," said
the commander-in-chief, looking down upon her with grave
politeness, "nature has, methinks, spared you the necessity of any
introduction to the courtesy of a gentleman. But how can I
especially serve you?"
Alack! the blaze of Mistress Thankful's brown eyes had become
somewhat dimmed in the grave half-lights of the room, in the
graver, deeper dignity of the erect, soldier-like figure before
her. The bright color born of the tempest within and without had
somehow faded from her cheek; the sauciness begotten from bullying
her horse in the last half-hour's rapid ride was so subdued by the
actual presence of the man she had come to bully, that I fear she
had to use all her self-control to keep down her inclination to
whimper, and to keep back the tears, that, oddly enough, rose to
her sweet eyes as she lifted them to the quietly critical yet
placid glance of her interlocutor.
"I can readily conceive the motive of this visit, Miss Thankful,"
continued Washington, with a certain dignified kindliness that was
more reassuring than the formal gallantry of the period; "and it
is, I protest, to your credit. A father's welfare, however erring
and weak that father may be, is most seemly in a maiden--"
Thankful's eyes flashed again as she rose to her feet. Her upper
lip, that had a moment before trembled in a pretty infantine
distress, now stiffened and curled as she confronted the dignified
figure before her. "It is not of my father I would speak," she
said saucily: "I did not ride here alone to-night, in this weather,
to talk of HIM; I warrant HE can speak for himself. I came here to
speak of myself, of lies--ay, LIES told of me, a poor girl; ay, of
cowardly gossip about me and my sweetheart, Capt. Brewster, now
confined in prison because he hath loved me, a lass without
polities or adherence to the cause--as if 'twere necessary every
lad should ask the confidence or permission of yourself or, belike,
my Lady Washington, in his preferences."
She paused a moment, out of breath. With a woman's quickness of
intuition she saw the change in Washington's face,--saw a certain
cold severity overshadowing it. With a woman's fateful
persistency--a persistency which I humbly suggest might, on
occasion, be honorably copied by our more politic sex--she went on
to say what was in her, even if she were obliged, with a woman's
honorable inconsistency, to unsay it an hour or two later; an
inconsistency which I also humbly protest might be as honorably
imitated by us--on occasion.
"It has been said," said Thankful Blossom quickly, "that my father
has given entertainment knowingly to two spies,--two spies that,
begging your Excellency's pardon, and the pardon of Congress, I
know only as two honorable gentlemen who have as honorably tendered
me their affections. It is said, and basely and most falsely too,
that my sweetheart, Capt. Allan Brewster, has lodged this
information. I have ridden here to deny it. I have ridden here to
demand of you that an honest woman's reputation shall not be
sacrificed to the interests of politics; that a prying mob of
ragamuffins shall not be sent to an honest farmer's house to spy
and spy--and turn a poor girl out of doors that they might do it.
'Tis shameful, so it is; there! 'tis most scandalous, so it is:
there, now! Spies, indeed! what are THEY, pray?"
In the indignation which the recollection of her wrongs had slowly
gathered in her, from the beginning of this speech, she had
advanced her face, rosy with courage, and beautiful in its
impertinence, within a few inches of the dignified features and
quiet gray eyes of the great commander. To her utter stupefaction,
he bent his head and kissed her, with a grave benignity, full on
the centre of her audacious forehead.
"Be seated, I beg, Mistress Blossom," he said, taking her cold hand
in his, and quietly replacing her in the unoccupied chair. "Be
seated, I beg, and give me, if you can, your attention for a
moment. The officer intrusted with the ungracious task of
occupying your father's house is a member of my military family,
and a gentleman. If he has so far forgotten himself--if he has so
far disgraced himself and me as--"
"No! no!" uttered Thankful, with feverish alacrity, "the gentleman
was most considerate. On the contrary--mayhap--I"--she hesitated,
and then came to a full stop, with a heightened color, as a vivid
recollection of that gentleman's face, with the mark of her riding-
whip lying across it, rose before her.
"I was about to say that Major Van Zandt, as a gentleman, has known
how to fully excuse the natural impulses of a daughter," continued
Washington, with a look of perfect understanding; "but let me now
satisfy you on another point, where it would seem we greatly
He walked to the door, and summoned his servant, to whom he gave an
order. In another moment the fresh-faced young officer who had at
first admitted her re-appeared with a file of official papers. He
glanced slyly at Thankful Blossom's face with an amused look, as if
he had already heard the colloquy between her and his superior
officer, and had appreciated that which neither of the earnest
actors in the scene had themselves felt,--a certain sense of humor
in the situation.
Howbeit, standing before them, Col. Hamilton gravely turned over
the file of papers. Thankful bit her lips in embarrassment. A
slight feeling of awe, and a presentiment of some fast-coming
shame; a new and strange consciousness of herself, her
surroundings, of the dignity of the two men before her; an uneasy
feeling of the presence of two ladies who had in some mysterious
way entered the room from another door, and who seemed to be
intently regarding her from afar with a curiosity as if she were
some strange animal; and a wild premonition that her whole future
life and happiness depended upon the events of the next few
moments,--so took possession of her, that the brave girl trembled
for a moment in her isolation and loneliness. In another instant
Col. Hamilton, speaking to his superior, but looking obviously at
one of the ladies who had entered, handed a paper to Washington,
and said, "Here are the charges."
"Read them," said the general coldly.
Col. Hamilton, with a manifest consciousness of another hearer than
Mistress Blossom and his general, read the paper. It was couched
in phrases of military and legal precision, and related briefly,
that upon the certain and personal knowledge of the writer, Abner
Blossom of the "Blossom Farm" was in the habit of entertaining two
gentlemen, namely, the "Count Ferdinand" and the "Baron Pomposo,"
suspected enemies of the cause, and possible traitors to the
Continental army. It was signed by Allan Brewster, late captain in
the Connecticut Contingent.
As Col. Hamilton exhibited the signature, Thankful Blossom had no
difficulty in recognizing the familiar bad hand and equally
familiar mis-spelling of her lover.
She rose to her feet. With eyes that showed her present trouble
and perplexity as frankly as they had a moment before blazed with
her indignation, she met, one by one, the glances of the group who
now seemed to be closing round her. Yet with a woman's instinct
she felt, I am constrained to say, more unfriendliness in the
silent presence of the two women than in the possible outspoken
criticism of our much-abused sex.
"Of course," said a voice which Thankful at once, by a woman's
unerring instinct, recognized as the elder of the two ladies, and
the legitimate keeper of the conscience of some one of the men who
were present,--"of course Mistress Thankful will be able to elect
which of her lovers among her country's enemies she will be able to
cling to for support in her present emergency. She does not seem
to have been so special in her favors as to have positively
excluded any one."
"At least, dear Lady Washington, she will not give it to the man
who has proven a traitor to HER," said the younger woman
impulsively. "That is--I beg your ladyship's pardon"--she
hesitated, observing in the dead silence that ensued that the two
superior male beings present looked at each other in lofty
"He that is trait'rous to his country," said Lady Washington
coldly, "is apt to be trait'rous elsewhere."
"'Twere as honest to say that he that was trait'rous to his king
was trait'rous to his country," said Mistress Thankful with sudden
audacity, bending her knit brows on Lady Washington. But that lady
turned dignifiedly away, and Mistress Thankful again faced the
"I ask your pardon," she said proudly, "for troubling you with my
wrongs. But it seems to me that even if another and a greater
wrong were done me by my sweetheart, through jealousy, it would not
justify this accusation against me, even though," she added,
darting a wicked glance at the placid brocaded back of Lady
Washington, "even though that accusation came from one who knows
that jealousy may belong to the wife of a patriot as well as a
traitor." She was herself again after this speech, although her
face was white with the blow she had taken and returned.
Col. Hamilton passed his hand across his mouth, and coughed
slightly. Gen. Washington, standing by the fire with an impassive
face, turned to Thankful gravely:--
"You are forgetting, Mistress Thankful, that you have not told me
how I can serve you. It cannot be that you are still concerned in
Capt. Brewster, who has given evidence against your other--FRIENDS,
and tacitly against YOU. Nor can it be on their account, for I
regret to say they are still free and unknown. If you come with
any information exculpating them, and showing they are not spies or
hostile to the cause, your father's release shall be certain and
speedy. Let me ask you a single question: Why do you believe them
"Because," said Mistress Thankful, "they were--were--gentlemen."
"Many spies have been of excellent family, good address, and fair
talents," said Washington gravely; "but you have, mayhap, some
"Because they talked only to ME," said Mistress Thankful, blushing
mightily; "because they preferred my company to father's; because"--
she hesitated a moment--"because they spoke not of politics, but--
of--that which lads mainly talk of--and--and,"--here she broke down
a little,--"and the baron I only saw once, but he"--here she broke
down utterly--"I know they weren't spies: there, now!"
"I must ask you something more," said Washington, with grave
kindness: "whether you give me the information or not, you will
consider, that, if what you believe is true, it cannot in any way
injure the gentlemen you speak of; while, on the other hand, it may
relieve your father of suspicion. Will you give to Col. Hamilton,
my secretary, a full description of them,--that fuller description
which Capt. Brewster, for reasons best known to yourself, was
unable to give?"
Mistress Thankful hesitated for a moment, and then, with one of her
truthful glances at the commander-in-chief, began a detailed
account of the outward semblance of the count. Why she began with
him, I am unable to say; but possibly it was because it was easier,
for when she came to describe the baron, she was, I regret to say,
somewhat vague and figurative. Not so vague, however, but that
Col. Hamilton suddenly started up with a look at his chief, who
instantly checked it with a gesture of his ruffled hand.
"I thank you. Mistress Thankful," he said quite impassively, "but
did this other gentleman, this baron--"
"Pomposo," said Thankful proudly. A titter originated in the group
of ladies by the window, and became visible on the fresh face of
Col. Hamilton; but the dignified color of Washington's countenance
"May I ask if the baron made an honorable tender of his affections
to you," he continued, with respectful gravity,--"if his attentions
were known to your father, and were such as honest Mistress Blossom
"Father introduced him to me, and wanted me to be kind to him, He--
he kissed me, and I slapped his face," said Thankful quickly, with
cheeks as red, I warrant, as the baron's might have been.
The moment the words had escaped her truthful lips, she would have
given her life to recall them. To her astonishment, however, Col.
Hamilton laughed outright, and the ladies turned and approached
her, but were checked by a slight gesture from the otherwise
impassive figure of the general.
"It is possible, Mistress Thankful," he resumed, with undisturbed
composure, "that one at least of these gentlemen may be known to
us, and that your instincts may be correct. At least rest assured
that we shall fully inquire into it, and that your father shall
have the benefit of that inquiry."
"I thank your Excellency," said Thankful, still reddening under the
contemplation of her own late frankness, and retreating toward the
door. "I--think--I--must--go--now. It is late, and I have far to
To her surprise, however, Washington stepped forward, and, again
taking her hands in his, said with a grave smile, "For that very
reason, if for none other, you must be our guest to-night, Mistress
Thankful Blossom. We still retain our Virginian ideas of
hospitality, and are tyrannous enough to make strangers conform to
them, even though we have but perchance the poorest of
entertainment to offer them. Lady Washington will not permit
Mistress Thankful Blossom to leave her roof to-night until she has
partaken of her courtesy as well as her counsel."
"Mistress Thankful Blossom will make us believe that she has at
least in so far trusted our desire to serve her justly, by
accepting our poor hospitality for a single night," said Lady
Washington, with a stately courtesy.
Thankful Blossom still stood irresolutely at the door. But the
next moment a pair of youthful arms encircled her; and the younger
gentlewoman, looking into her brown eyes with an honest frankness
equal to her own, said caressingly, "Dear Mistress Thankful, though
I am but a guest in her ladyship's house, let me, I pray you, add
my voice to hers. I am Mistress Schuyler of Albany, at your
service, Mistress Thankful, as Col. Hamilton here will bear me
witness, did I need any interpreter to your honest heart. Believe
me, dear Mistress Thankful, I sympathize with you, and only beg you
to give me an opportunity to-night to serve you. You will stay, I
know, and you will stay with me; and we shall talk over the
faithlessness of that over-jealous Yankee captain who has proved
himself, I doubt not, as unworthy of YOU as he is of his country."
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
"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
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--"
"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
"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
"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."
"That creature!" said Lady Washington,--"that light-o'-love with
her Connecticut captain lover! Pardon me, but this is
preposterous;" and with a stiff courtesy she swept from the room,
leaving the central figure of history--as such central figures are
apt to be left--alone.
Later in the evening Mistress Schuyler so far subdued the tears and
emotions of Thankful, that she was enabled to dry her eyes, and re-
arrange her brown hair in the quaint little mirror in Mistress
Schuyler's chamber; Mistress Schuyler herself lending a touch and
suggestion here and there, after the secret freemasonry of her sex.
"You are well rid of this forsworn captain, dear Mistress Thankful;
and methinks that with hair as beautiful as yours, the new style of
wearing it, though a modish frivolity, is most becoming. I assure
you 'tis much affected in New York and Philadelphia,--drawn
straight back from the forehead, after this manner, as you see."
The result was, that an hour later Mistress Schuyler and Mistress
Blossom presented themselves to Col. Hamilton in the reception-
room, with a certain freshness and elaboration of toilet that not
only quite shamed the young officer's affaire negligence, but
caused him to open his eyes in astonishment. "Perhaps she would
rather be alone, that she might indulge her grief," he said
doubtingly, in an aside to Miss Schuyler, "rather than appear in
"Nonsense," quoth Mistress Schuyler. "Is a young woman to mope and
sigh because her lover proves false?"
"But her father is a prisoner," said Hamilton in amazement.
"Can you look me in the face," said Mistress Schuyler
mischievously, "and tell me that you don't know that in twenty-four
hours her father will be cleared of these charges? Nonsense! Do
you think I have no eyes in my head? Do you think I misread the
general's face and your own?"
"But, my dear girl," said the officer in alarm.
"Oh! I told her so, but not WHY," responded Miss Schuyler with a
wicked look in her dark eyes, "though I had warrant enough to do
so, to serve you for keeping a secret from ME!"
And with this Parthian shot she returned to Mistress Thankful, who,
with her face pressed against the window, was looking out on the
moonlit slope beside the Whippany River.
For, by one of those freaks peculiar to the American springtide,
the weather had again marvellously changed. The rain had ceased,
and the ground was covered with an icing of sleet and snow, that
now glittered under a clear sky and a brilliant moon. The
northeast wind that shook the loose sashes of the windows had
transformed each dripping tree and shrub to icy stalactites that
silvered under the moon's cold touch.
"'Tis a beautiful sight, ladies," said a bluff, hearty, middle-aged
man, joining the group by the window. "But God send the spring to
us quickly, and spare us any more such cruel changes! My lady moon
looks fine enough, glittering in yonder treetops; but I doubt not
she looks down upon many a poor fellow shivering under his tattered
blankets in the camp beyond. Had ye seen the Connecticut
tatterdemalions file by last night, with arms reversed, showing
their teeth at his Excellency, and yet not daring to bite; had ye
watched these faint-hearts, these doubting Thomases, ripe for
rebellion against his Excellency, against the cause, but chiefly
against the weather,--ye would pray for a thaw that would melt the
hearts of these men as it would these stubborn fields around us.
Two weeks more of such weather would raise up not one Allan
Brewster, but a dozen such malcontent puppies ripe for a drum-head
"Yet 'tis a fine night, Gen. Sullivan," said Col. Hamilton, sharply
nudging the ribs of his superior officer with his elbow. "There
would be little trouble on such a night, I fancy, to track our
ghostly visitant." Both of the ladies becoming interested, and
Col. Hamilton having thus adroitly turned the flank of his superior
officer, he went on, "You should know that the camp, and indeed the
whole locality here, is said to be haunted by the apparition of a
gray-coated figure, whose face is muffled and hidden in his collar,
but who has the password pat to his lips, and whose identity hath
baffled the sentries. This figure, it is said, forasmuch as it has
been seen just before an assault, an attack, or some tribulation of
the army, is believed by many to be the genius or guardian spirit
of the cause, and, as such, has incited sentries and guards to
greater vigilance, and has to some seemed a premonition of
disaster. Before the last outbreak of the Connecticut militia,
Master Graycoat haunted the outskirts of the weather-beaten and
bedraggled camp, and, I doubt not, saw much of that preparation
that sent that regiment of faint-hearted onion-gatherers to flaunt
their woes and their wrongs in the face of the general himself."
Here Col. Hamilton, in turn, received a slight nudge from Mistress
Schuyler, and ended his speech somewhat abruptly.
Mistress Thankful was not unmindful of both these allusions to her
faithless lover, but only a consciousness of mortification and
wounded pride was awakened by them. In fact, during the first
tempest of her indignation at his arrest, still later at the arrest
of her father, and finally at the discovery of his perfidy to her,
she had forgotten that he was her lover; she had forgotten her
previous tenderness toward him; and, now that her fire and
indignation were spent, only a sense of numbness and vacancy
remained. All that had gone before seemed not something to be
regretted as her own act, but rather as the act of another Thankful
Blossom, who had been lost that night in the snow-storm: she felt
she had become, within the last twenty-four hours, not perhaps
ANOTHER woman, but for the first time a WOMEN.
Yet it was singular that she felt more confused when, a few moments
later, the conversation turned upon Major Van Zandt: it was still
more singular that she even felt considerably frightened at that
confusion. Finally she found herself listening with alternate
irritability, shame, and curiosity, to praises of that gentleman,
of his courage, his devotion, and his personal graces. For one
wild moment Thankful felt like throwing herself on the breast of
Mistress Schuyler, and confessing her rudeness to the major; but a
conviction that Mistress Schuyler would share that secret with Col.
Hamilton, that Major Van Zandt might not like that revelation, and,
oddly enough associated with this, a feeling of unconquerable
irritability toward that handsome and gentle young officer, kept
her mouth closed. "Besides," she said to herself, "he ought to
know, if he's such a fine gentleman as they say, just how I was
feeling, and that I don't mean any rudeness to him;" and with this
unanswerable feminine logic poor Thankful to some extent stilled
her own honest little heart.
But not, I fear, entirely. The night was a restless one to her:
like all impulsive natures, the season of reflection, and perhaps
distrust, came to her upon acts that were already committed, and
when reason seemed to light the way only to despair. She saw the
folly of her intrusion at the headquarters, as she thought, only
when it was too late to remedy it; she saw the gracelessness and
discourtesy of her conduct to Major Van Zandt, only when distance
and time rendered an apology weak and ineffectual. I think she
cried a little to herself, lying in the strange gloomy chamber of
the healthfully sleeping Mistress Schuyler, the sweet security of
whose manifest goodness and kindness she alternately hated and
envied; and at last, unable to stand it longer, slipped noiselessly
from her bed, and stood very wretched and disconsolate before the
window that looked out upon the slope toward the Whippany River.
The moon on the new-fallen, frigid, and untrodden snow shone
brightly. Far to the left it glittered on the bayonet of a sentry
pacing beside the river-bank, and gave a sense of security to the
girl that perhaps strengthened another idea that had grown up in
her mind. Since she could not sleep, why should she not ramble
about until she could? She had been accustomed to roam about the
farm in all weathers and at all times and seasons. She recalled to
herself the night--a tempestuous one--when she had risen in serious
concern as to the lying-in of her favorite Alderney heifer, and how
she had saved the life of the calf, a weakling, dropped apparently
from the clouds in the tempest, as it lay beside the barn. With
this in her mind, she donned her dress again, and, with Mistress
Schuyler's mantle over her shoulders, noiselessly crept down the
narrow staircase, passed the sleeping servant on the settee, and,
opening the rear door, in another moment was inhaling the crisp
air, and tripping down the crisp snow of the hillside.
But Mistress Thankful had overlooked one difference between her own
farm and a military encampment. She had not proceeded a dozen
yards before a figure apparently started out of the ground beneath
her, and, levelling a bayoneted musket across her path, called,
The hot blood mounted to the girl's cheek at the first imperative
command she had ever received in her life: nevertheless she halted
unconsciously, and without a word confronted the challenger with
her old audacity.
"Who comes there?" reiterated the sentry, still keeping his bayonet
level with her breast.
"Thankful Blossom," she responded promptly.
The sentry brought his musket to a "present." "Pass, Thankful
Blossom, and God send it soon and the spring with it, and good-
night," he said, with a strong Milesian accent. And before the
still-amazed girl could comprehend the meaning of his abrupt
challenge, or his equally abrupt departure, he had resumed his
monotonous pace in the moonlight. Indeed, as she stood looking
after him, the whole episode, the odd unreality of the moonlit
landscape, the novelty of her position, the morbid play of her
thoughts, seemed to make it part of a dream which the morning light
might dissipate, but could never fully explain.
With something of this feeling still upon her, she kept her way to
the river. Its banks were still fringed with ice, through which
its dark current flowed noiselessly. She knew it flowed through
the camp where lay her faithless lover, and for an instant indulged
the thought of following it, and facing him with the proof of his
guilt; but even at the thought she recoiled with a new and sudden
doubt in herself, and stood dreamily watching the shimmer of the
moon on the icy banks, until another, and, it seemed to her,
equally unreal vision suddenly stayed her feet, and drove the blood
from her feverish cheeks.
A figure was slowly approaching from the direction of the sleeping
encampment. Tall, erect, and habited in a gray surtout, with a
hood partially concealing its face, it was the counterfeit
presentment of the ghostly visitant she had heard described.
Thankful scarcely breathed. The brave little heart that had not
quailed before the sentry's levelled musket a moment before now
faltered and stood still, as the phantom with a slow and majestic
tread moved toward her. She had only time to gain the shelter of a
tree before the figure, majestically unconscious of her presence,
passed slowly by. Through all her terror Thankful was still true
to a certain rustic habit of practical perception to observe that
the tread of the phantom was quite audible over the crust of snow,
and was visible and palpable as the imprint of a military boot.
The blood came back to Thankful's cheek, and with it her old
audacity. In another instant she was out from the tree, and
tracking with a light feline tread the apparition that now loomed
up the hill before her. Slipping from tree to tree, she followed
until it passed before the door of a low hut or farm-shed that
stood midway up the hill. Here it entered, and the door closed
behind it. With every sense feverishly alert, Thankful, from the
secure advantage of a large maple, watched the door of the hut. In
a few moments it re-opened to the same figure free of its gray
enwrappings. Forgetful of every thing now, but detecting the face
of the impostor, the fearless girl left the tree, and placed
herself directly in the path of the figure. At the same moment it
turned toward her inquiringly, and the moonlight fell full upon the
calm, composed features of Gen. Washington.
In her consternation Thankful could only drop an embarrassed
courtesy, and hang out two lovely signals of distress in her
cheeks. The face of the pseudo ghost alone remained unmoved.
"You are wandering late, Mistress Thankful," he said at last, with
a paternal gravity; "and I fear that the formal restraint of a
military household has already given you some embarrassment.
Yonder sentry, for instance, might have stopped you."
"Oh, he did!" said Thankful quickly; "but it's all right, please
your Excellency. "He asked me 'Who went there,' and I told him;
and he was vastly polite, I assure you."
The grave features of the commander-in-chief relaxed in a smile.
"You are more happy than most of your sex in turning a verbal
compliment to practical account. For know then, dear young lady,
that in honor of your visit to the headquarters, the password to-
night through this encampment was none other than your own pretty
The tears glittered in the girl's eyes, and her lip trembled; but,
with all her readiness of speech, she could only say, "Oh, your
"Then you DID pass the sentry?" continued Washington, looking at
her intently with a certain grave watchfulness in his gray eyes.
"And doubtless you wandered at the river-bank. Although I myself,
tempted by the night, sometimes extend my walk as far as yonder
shed, it were a hazardous act for a young lady to pass beyond the
protection of the line."
"Oh! I met no one, your Excellency," said the usually truthful
Thankful hastily, rushing to her first lie with grateful
"And saw no one?" asked Washington quietly.
"No one," said Thankful, raising her brown eyes to the general's.
They both looked at each other,--the naturally most veracious young
woman in the colonies, and the subsequent allegorical impersonation
of truth in America,--and knew each other lied, and, I imagine,
respected each other for it.
"I am glad to hear you say so, Mistress Thankful," said Washington
quietly; "for 'twould have been natural for you to have sought an
interview with your recreant lover in yonder camp, though the
attempt would have been unwise and impossible."
"I had no such thought, your Excellency," said Thankful, who had
really quite forgotten her late intention; "yet, if with your
permission I could hold a few moments' converse with Capt.
Brewster, it would greatly ease my mind."
"'Twould not be well for the present," said Washington
thoughtfully. "But in a day or two Capt. Brewster will be tried by
court-martial at Morristown. It shall be so ordered that when he
is conveyed thither his guard shall halt at the Blossom Farm. I
will see that the officer in command gives you an opportunity to
see him. And I think I can promise also, Mistress Thankful, that
your father shall be also present under his own roof, a free man."
They had reached the entrance to the mansion, and entered the hall.
Thankful turned impulsively, and kissed the extended hand of the
commander. "You are so good! I have been so foolish--so very,
very wrong," she said, with a slight trembling of her lip. "And
your Excellency believes my story; and those gentlemen were NOT
spies, but even as they gave themselves to be."
"I said not that much," replied Washington with a kindly smile,
"but no matter. Tell me rather, Mistress Thankful, how far your
acquaintance with these gentlemen has gone; or did it end with the
box on the ear that you gave the baron?"
"He had asked me to ride with him to the Baskingridge, and I--had
said--yes," faltered Mistress Thankful.
"Unless I misjudge you, Mistress Thankful, you can without great
sacrifice promise me that you will not see him until I give you my
permission," said Washington, with grave playfulness.
The swinging light shone full in Thankful's truthful eyes as she
lifted them to his.
"I do," she said quietly.
"Good-night," said the commander, with a formal bow.
"Good-night, your Excellency."
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
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.
"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
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
"When you took all the pains to go round the hall instead of
through the dining-room, lest I should ask you to forgive me,"
sobbed Mistress Thankful, "I thought--you--must--hate me, and
"Perhaps this letter may mitigate your sorrow, Mistress Thankful,"
said the officer, pointing to the letter she still held
unconsciously in her hand.
With a blush at her pre-occupation, Thankful opened the letter. It
was a half-official document, and ran as follows:--
"The Commander-in-Chief is glad to inform Mistress Thankful Blossom
that the charges preferred against her father have, upon fair
examination, been found groundless and trivial. The Commander-in-
Chief further begs to inform Mistress Blossom that the gentleman
known to her under the name of the 'Baron Pomposo' was his
Excellency Don Juan Morales, Ambassador and Envoy Extraordinary of
the Court of Spain, and that the gentleman known to her as the
'Count Ferdinand' was Senor Godoy, Secretary to the Embassy. The
Commander-in-Chief wishes to add that Mistress Thankful Blossom is
relieved of any further obligation of hospitality toward these
honorable gentlemen, as the Commander-in-Chief regrets to record
the sudden and deeply-to-be-deplored death of his Excellency this
morning by typhoid fever, and the possible speedy return of the
"In conclusion, the Commander-in-Chief wishes to bear testimony to
the Truthfulness, Intuition, and Discretion of Mistress Thankful
"By order of his Excellency,
"Gen. GEORGE WASHINGTON.
"ALEX. HAMILTON, Secretary.
"To Mistress THANKFUL BLOSSOM, of Blossom Farm."
Thankful Blossom was silent for a few moments, and then raised her
abashed eyes to Major Van Zandt. A single glance satisfied her
that he knew nothing of the imposture that had been practised upon
her,--knew nothing of the trap into which her vanity and self-will
had led her.
"Dear Mistress Thankful," said the major, seeing the distress in
her face, "I trust the news is not ill. Surely I gathered from the
"What?" said Thankful, looking at him intently.
"That in twenty-four hours at furthest your father would be free,
and that I should be relieved--"
"I know that you are a-weary of your task, major," said Thankful
bitterly: "rejoice, then, to know your information is correct, and
that my father is exonerated--unless--unless this is a forgery, and
Gen. Washington should turn out to be somebody else, and YOU should
turn out to be somebody else--" And she stopped short, and hid her
wet eyes in the window-curtains.
"Poor girl!" said Major Van Zandt to himself. "This trouble has
undoubtedly frenzied her. Fool that I was to lay up the insult of
one that sorrow and excitement had bereft of reason and
responsibility! 'Twere better I should retire at once, and leave
her to herself," and the young man slowly retreated toward the
But at this moment there were alarming symptoms of distress in the
window-curtain; and the major paused as a voice from its dimity
depths said plaintively, "And YOU are going without forgiving me!"
"Forgive YOU, Mistress Thankful," said the major, striding to the
curtain, and seizing a little hand that was obtruded from its
folds,--"forgive you? rather can you forgive me for the folly--the
cruelty of mistaking--of--of"--and here the major, hitherto famous
for facile compliments, utterly broke down. But the hand he held
was no longer cold, but warm and intelligent; and in default of
coherent speech he held fast by that as the thread of his
discourse, until Mistress Thankful quietly withdrew it, thanked him
for his forgiveness, and retired deeper behind the curtain.
When he had gone, she threw herself in a chair, and again gave way
to a passionate flood of tears. In the last twenty-four hours her
pride had been utterly humbled: the independent spirit of this
self-willed little beauty had met for the first time with defeat.
When she had got over her womanly shock at the news of the sham
baron's death, she had, I fear, only a selfish regard at his taking
off; believing that if living he would in some way show the world--
which just then consisted of the headquarters and Major Van Zandt--
that he had really made love to her, and possibly did honorably
love her still, and might yet give her an opportunity to reject
him. And now he was dead, and she was held up to the world as the
conceited plaything of a fine gentleman's masquerading sport. That
her father's cupidity and ambition made him sanction the imposture,
in her bitterness she never doubted. No! Lover, friend, father--
all had been false to her, and the only kindness she had received
was from the men she had wantonly insulted. Poor little Blossom!
indeed, a most premature Blossom; I fear a most unthankful Blossom,
sitting there shivering in the first chill wind of adversity,
rocking backward and forward, with the skirt of her dimity short-
gown over her shoulders, and her little buckled shoes and clocked
stockings pathetically crossed before her.
But healthy youth is re-active; and in an hour or two Thankful was
down at the cow-shed, with her arms around the neck of her favorite
heifer, to whom she poured out much of her woes, and from whom she
won an intelligent sort of slobbering sympathy. And then she
sharply scolded Caesar for nothing at all, and a moment after
returned to the house with the air and face of a deeply injured
angel, who had been disappointed in some celestial idea of setting
this world right, but was still not above forgiveness,--a spectacle
that sunk Major Van Zandt into the dark depths of remorse, and
eventually sent him to smoke a pipe of Virginia with his men in the
roadside camp; seeing which, Thankful went early to bed, and cried
herself to sleep. And Nature possibly followed her example; for at
sunset a great thaw set in, and by midnight the freed rivers and
brooks were gurgling melodiously, and tree and shrub and fence were
moist and dripping.
The red dawn at last struggled through the vaporous veil that hid
the landscape. Then occurred one of those magical changes peculiar
to the climate, yet perhaps pre-eminently notable during that
historic winter and spring. By ten o'clock on that 3d of May,
1780, a fervent June-like sun had rent that vaporous veil, and
poured its direct rays upon the gaunt and haggard profile of the
Jersey hills. The chilled soil responded but feebly to that kiss;
perhaps a few of the willows that yellowed the river-banks took on
a deeper color. But the country folk were certain that spring had
come at last; and even the correct and self-sustained Major Van
Zandt came running in to announce to Mistress Thankful that one of
his men had seen a violet in the meadow. In another moment
Mistress Thankful had donned her cloak and pattens to view this
firstling of the laggard summer. It was quite natural that Major
Van Zandt should accompany her as she tripped on; and so, without a
thought of their past differences, they ran like very children down
the moist and rocky slope that led to the quaggy meadow. Such was
the influence of the vernal season.
But the violets were hidden. Mistress Thankful, regardless of the
wet leaves and her new gown, groped with her fingers among the
withered grasses. Major Van Zandt leaned against a bowlder, and
watched her with admiring eyes.
"You'll never find flowers that way," she said at last, looking up
to him impatiently. "Go down on your knees like an honest man.
There are some things in this world worth stooping for."
The major instantly dropped on his knees beside her. But at that
moment Mistress Thankful found her posies, and rose to her feet.
"Stay where you are," she said mischievously, as she stooped down,
and placed a flower in the lapel of his coat. "That is to make
amends for my rudeness. Now get up."
But the major did not rise. He caught the two little hands that
had seemed to flutter like birds against his breast, and, looking
up into the laughing face above him, said, "Dear Mistress Thankful,
dare I remind you of your own words, that 'there be some things
worth stooping for'? Think of my love, Mistress Thankful, as a
flower,--mayhap not as gracious to you as your violets, but as
"Ready to spring up in a single night," laughed Thankful. "But no;
get up, major! What would the fine ladies of Morristown say of
your kneeling at the feet of a country girl,--the play and sport of
every fine gentleman? What if Mistress Bolton should see her own
cavalier, the modish Major Van Zandt, proffering his affections to
the disgraced sweetheart of a perjured traitor? Leave go my hand,
I pray you, major,--if you respect--"
She was free, yet she faltered a moment beside him, with tears
quivering on her long brown lashes. Then she said tremulously,
"Rise up, major. Let us think no more of this. I pray you forgive
me, if I have again been rude."
The major struggled to rise to his feet. But he could not. And
then I regret to have to record that the fact became obvious that
one of his shapely legs was in a bog-hole, and that he was
perceptibly sinking out of sight. Whereat Mistress Thankful
trilled out a three-syllabled laugh, looked demure and painfully
concerned at his condition, and then laughed again. The major
joined in her mirth, albeit his face was crimson. And then, with a
little cry of alarm, she flew to his side, and put her arms around
"Keep away, keep away, for Heaven's sake, Mistress Blossom," he
said quickly, "or I shall plunge you into my mishap, and make you
as ridiculous as myself."
But the quick-witted girl had already leaped to an adjacent
bowlder. "Take off your sash," she said quickly; "fasten it to
your belt, and throw it to me." He did so. She straightened
herself back on the rock. "Now, all together," she cried, with a
preliminary strain on the sash; and then the cords of her well-
trained muscles stood out on her rounded arms, and, with a long
pull and a strong pull and a pull all together, she landed the
major upon the rock. And then she laughed; and then, inconsistent
as it may appear, she became grave, and at once proceeded to scrape
him off, and rub him down with dried leaves, with fern-twigs, with
her handkerchief, with the border of her mantle, as if he were a
child, until he blushed with alternate shame and secret
They spoke but little on their return to the farm-house, for
Mistress Thankful had again become grave. And yet the sun shone
cheerily above them; the landscape was filled with the joy of
resurrection and new and awakened life; the breeze whispered gentle
promises of hope, and the fruition of their hopes in the summer to
come. And these two fared on until they reached the porch, with a
half-pleased, half-frightened consciousness that they were not the
same beings who had left it a half-hour before.
Nevertheless at the porch Mistress Thankful regained something of
her old audacity. As they stood together in the hall, she handed
him back the sash she had kept with her. As she did so, she could
not help saying, "There are some things worth stooping for, Major
But she had not calculated upon the audacity of the man; and as she
turned to fly she was caught by his strong arm, and pinioned to his
side. She struggled, honestly I think, and perhaps more frightened
at her own feelings than at his strength; but it is to be recorded
that he kissed her in a moment of comparative yielding, and then,
frightened himself, released her quickly, whereat she fled to her
room, and threw herself panting and troubled upon her bed. For an
hour or two she lay there, with flushed cheeks and conflicting
thoughts. "He must never kiss me again," she said softly to
herself, "unless"--but the interrupting thought said, "I shall die
if he kiss me not again; and I never can kiss another." And then
she was roused by a footstep upon the stair, which in that brief
time she had learned to know and look for, and a knock at the door.
She opened it to Major Van Zandt, white and so colorless as to
bring out once more the faint red line made by her riding-whip two
days before, as if it had risen again in accusation. The blood
dropped out of her cheeks as she gazed at him in silence.
"An escort of dragoons," said Major Van Zandt slowly, and with
military precision, "has just arrived, bringing with them one Capt.
Allan Brewster, of the Connecticut Contingent, on his way to
Morristown to be tried for mutiny and treason. A private note from
Col. Hamilton instructs me to allow him to have a private audience
with you--if YOU so wish it."
With a woman's swift and too often hopeless intuition, Thankful
knew that this was not the sole contents of the letter, and that
her relations with Capt. Brewster were known to the man before her.
But she drew herself up a little proudly, and, turning her truthful
eyes upon the major, said, "I DO so wish it."
"It shall be done as you desire, Mistress Blossom," returned the
officer with cold politeness, as he turned upon his heel.
"One moment, Major Van Zandt," said Thankful swiftly.
The major turned quickly; but Thankful's eyes were gazing
thoughtfully forward, and scarcely glanced at him. "I would
prefer," she said timidly and hesitatingly, "that this interview
should not take place under the roof where--where--where--my father
lives. Half-way down the meadow there is a barn, and before it a
broken part of the wall, fronting on a sycamore-tree. HE will know
where it is. Tell him I will see him there in half an hour."
A smile, which the major had tried to make a careless one, curled
his lip satirically as he bowed in reply. "It is the first time,"
he said dryly, "that I believe I have been honored with arranging a
tryst for two lovers; but believe me, Mistress Thankful, I will do
my best. In half an hour I will turn my prisoner over to you."
In half an hour the punctual Mistress Thankful, with a hood hiding
her pale face, passed the officer in the hall, on the way to her
rendezvous. An hour later Caesar came with a message that Mistress
Thankful would like to see him. When the major entered the
sitting-room, he was shocked to find her lying pale and motionless
on the sofa; but as the door closed she rose to her feet, and
"I do not know," she said slowly, "whether you are aware that the
man I just now parted from was for a twelvemonth past my
sweetheart, and that I believed I loved him, and KNEW I was true to
him. If you have not heard it, I tell you now, for the time will
come when you will hear part of it from the lips of others, and I
would rather you should take the whole truth from mine. This man
was false to me. He betrayed two friends of mine as spies. I
could have forgiven it, had it been only foolish jealousy; but it
was, I have since learned from his own lips, only that he might
gratify his spite against the commander-in-chief by procuring their
arrest, and making a serious difficulty in the American camp, by
means of which he hoped to serve his own ends. He told me this,
believing that I sympathized with him in his hatred of the
commander-in-chief, and in his own wrongs and sufferings. I
confess to my shame, Major Van Zandt, that two days ago I did
believe him, and that I looked upon you as a mere catch-poll or
bailiff of the tyrant. That I found out how I was deceived when I
saw the commander-in-chief, you, major, who know him so well, need
not be told. Nor was it necessary for me to tell this man that he
had deceived me: for I felt that--that--was--not--the--only reason--
why I could no longer return--his love."
She paused, as the major approached her earnestly, and waved him
back with her hand. "He reproached me bitterly with my want of
feeling for his misfortunes," she went on again: "he recalled my
past protestations; he showed me my love-letters; and he told me
that if I were still his true sweetheart I ought to help him. I
told him if he would never call me by that name again; if he would
give up all claim to me; if he would never speak, write to me, nor
see me again; if he would hand me back my letters,--I would help
him." She stopped: the blood rushed into her pale face. "You will
remember, major, that I accepted this man's love as a young,
foolish, trustful girl; but when I made him this offer--he--he
"The dog!" said Major Van Zandt. "But in what way could you help
this double traitor?"
"I HAVE helped him," said Thankful quietly.
"But how?" said Major Van Zandt.
"By becoming a traitor myself," she said, turning upon him almost
fiercely. "Hear me! While you were quietly pacing these halls,
while your men were laughing and talking in the road, Caesar was
saddling my white mare, the fleetest in the country. He led her to
the lane below. That mare is now two miles away, with Capt.
Brewster on her back. Why do you not start, major? Look at me. I
am a traitor, and this is my bribe;" and she drew a package of
letters from her bosom, and flung them on the table.
She had been prepared for an outbreak or exclamation from the man
before her, but not for his cold silence. "Speak," she cried at
last, passionately. "Speak! Open your lips, if only to curse me!
Order in your men to arrest me. I will proclaim myself guilty, and
save your honor. But only speak!"
"May I ask," said Major Van Zandt coldly, "why you have twice
honored me with a blow?"
"Because I loved you; because, when I first saw you I saw the only
man that was my master, and I rebelled; because, when I found I
could not help but love you, I knew I never had loved before, and I
would wipe out with one stroke all the past that rose in judgment
against me; because I would not have you ever confronted with one
endearing word of mine that was not meant for you."
Major Van Zandt turned from the window where he had stood, and
faced the girl with sad resignation. "If I have in my foolishness,
Mistress Thankful, shown you how great was your power over me, when
you descended to this artifice to spare my feelings by confessing
your own love for me, you should have remembered that you were
doing that which forever kept me from wooing or winning you. If
you had really loved me your heart, as a woman's, would have warned
you against that which my heart, as a gentleman's, has made a law
of honor; when I tell you, as much for the sake of relieving your
own conscience as for the sake of justifying mine, that if this
man, a traitor, my prisoner, and your recognized lover, had escaped
from my custody without your assistance, connivance, or even
knowledge, I should have deemed it my duty to forsake you until I
caught him, even if we had been standing before the altar."
Thankful heard him, but only as a strange voice in the distance, as
she stood with fixed eyes, and breathless, parted lips before him.
Yet even then I fear that, womanlike, she did not comprehend his
rhetoric of honor, but only caught here and there a dull, benumbing
idea that he despised her, and that in her effort to win his love
she had killed it, and ruined him forever.
"If you think it strange," continued the major, "that, believing as
I do, I stand here only to utter moral axioms when my duty calls me
to pursue your lover, I beg you to believe that it is only for your
sake. I wish to allow a reasonable time between your interview
with him, and his escape, that shall save you from any suspicion of
complicity. Do not think," he added with a sad smile, as the girl
made an impatient step toward him, "do not think I am running any
risk. The man cannot escape. A cordon of pickets surrounds the
camp for many miles. He has not the countersign, and his face and
crime are known."
"Yes," said Thankful eagerly, "but a part of his own regiment
guards the Baskingridge road."
"How know you this?" said the major, seizing her hand.
"He told me."
Before she could fall on her knees, and beg his forgiveness, he had
darted from the room, given an order, and returned with cheeks and
"Hear me," he said rapidly, taking the girl's two hands, "you know
not what you've done. I forgive you. But this is no longer a
matter of duty, but my personal honor. I shall pursue this man
alone. I shall return with him, or not at all. Farewell. God
But before he reached the door she caught him again. "Only say you
have forgiven me once more."
There was something in the girl's voice more than this first
utterance of his Christian name, that made him pause.
"I told--a--lie--just--now. There is a fleeter horse in the stable
than my mare; 'tis the roan filly in the second stall."
"God bless you!"
He was gone. She waited to hear the clatter of his horse's hoofs
in the roadway. When Caesar came in a few moments later, to tell
the news of Capt. Brewster's escape, the room was empty; but it was
soon filled again by a dozen turbulent troopers.
"Of course she's gone," said Sergeant Tibbitts: "the jade flew with
"Ay, 'tis plain enough. Two horses are gone from the stable
besides the major's," said Private Hicks.
Nor was this military criticism entirely a private one. When the
courier arrived at headquarters the next morning, it was to bring
the report that Mistress Thankful Blossom, after assisting her
lover to escape had fled with him. "The renegade is well off our
hands," said Gen. Sullivan gruffly: "he has saved us the public
disgrace of a trial. But this is bad news of Major Van Zandt."
"What news of the major?" asked Washington quickly.
"He pursued the vagabond as far as Springfield, killing his horse,
and falling himself insensible before Major Merton's quarters.
Here he became speedily delirious, fever supervened, and the
regimental surgeon, after a careful examination, pronounced his
case one of small-pox."
A whisper of horror and pity went around the room. "Another
gallant soldier, who should have died leading a charge, laid by the
heels by a beggar's filthy distemper," growled Sullivan. "Where
will it end?"
"God knows," said Hamilton. "Poor Van Zandt! But whither was he
sent,--to the hospital?"
"No: a special permit was granted in his case; and 'tis said he was
removed to the Blossom Farm,--it being remote from neighbors,--and
the house placed under quarantine. Abner Blossom has prudently
absented himself from the chances of infection, and the daughter
has fled. The sick man is attended only by a black servant and an
ancient crone; so that, if the poor major escapes with his life or
without disfigurement, pretty Mistress Bolton of Morristown need
not be scandalized or jealous."
The ancient crone alluded to in the last chapter had been standing
behind the window-curtains of that bedroom which had been Thankful
Blossom's in the weeks gone by. She did not move her head, but
stood looking demurely, after the manner of ancient crones, over
the summer landscape. For the summer had come before the tardy
spring was scarce gone, and the elms before the window no longer
lisped, but were eloquent in the softest zephyrs. There was the
flash of birds in among the bushes, the occasional droning of bees
in and out the open window, and a perpetually swinging censer of
flower incense rising from below. The farm had put on its gayest
bridal raiment; and looking at the old farm-house shadowed with
foliage and green with creeping vines, it was difficult to conceive
that snow had ever lain on its porches, or icicles swung from its
"Thankful!" said a voice still tremulous with weakness.
The ancient crone turned, drew aside the curtains, and showed the
sweet face of Thankful Blossom, more beautiful even in its
"Come here, darling," repeated the voice.
Thankful stepped to the sofa whereon lay the convalescent Major Van
"Tell me, sweetheart," said the major, taking her hand in his,
"when you married me, as you told the chaplain, that you might have
the right to nurse me, did you never think that if death spared me
I might be so disfigured that even you, dear love, would have
turned from me with loathing?"
"That was why I did it, dear," said Thankful mischievously. "I
knew that the pride, and the sense of honor, and self-devotion of
some people, would have kept them from keeping their promises to a
"But, darling," continued the major, raising her hand to his lips,
"suppose the case had been reversed: suppose you had taken the
disease, that I had recovered without disfigurement, but that this
"I thought of that too," interrupted Thankful. "Well, what would
you have done, dear?" said the major, with his old mischievous
"I should have died," said Thankful gravely.
"Somehow. But you are to go to sleep, and not ask impertinent and
frivolous questions; for father is coming to-morrow."
"Thankful, dear, do you know what the trees and the birds said to
me as I lay there tossing with fever?"
"Thankful Blossom! Thankful Blossom! Thankful Blossom is coming!"
"Do you know what I said, sweetheart, as I lifted your dear head
from the ground when you reeled from your horse just as I overtook
you at Springfield?"
"There are some things in life worth stooping for."
And she winged this Parthian arrow home with a kiss.
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