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May 27 , 2010

The Dance of Death


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Comprised of smart, highly adaptable men and women, the Marine Corps serves as the aggressive tip of the U.S. military spear. Theirs is a smaller, more dynamic force than any other in the American arsenal, and the only forward-deployed force designed for expeditionary operations by air, land, or sea. It is their size and expertise that allow…


"That motley drama! Oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot;
And much of Madness, and more of Sin
And Horror, the soul of the plot!"

Reader, I have an engagement to keep to-night. Let me take you with me; you will be interested.
But, stay—I have a condition to make before I accept of your company. Have you read the preface? "No, of course not; who reads prefaces?" Very well, just oblige me by making mine an exception—it is a Gilead where you perhaps may obtain balm for the wounds you will receive on our expedition. And now, supposing you to have granted this request, let us proceed.
Our carriage pulls up before the entrance of an imposing mansion. From every window the golden gaslight streams out into the darkness; from the wide-open door a perfect glory floods the street from side to side. There is a hum of subdued voices within, there is a banging of coach doors without; there is revelry brewing, we may be sure.
We step daintily from our carriage upon the rich carpet which preserves our patent-leathers from the contamination of the sidewalk; we trip lightly up the grand stone stairway to the entrance; obsequious lackeys relieve us of our superfluous raiment; folding doors fly open before us without so much as a "sesame" being uttered; and, behold, we enter upon a scene of enchantment.
Magnificent apartments succeed each other in a long vista, glittering with splendid decorations; costly frescoes are overhead, luxurious carpets are under foot, priceless pictures, rich laces, rare trifles of art are around us; an atmosphere of wealth, refinement, luxury, and good taste is all-pervading.
But these are afterthoughts with us; it is the splendor of the assembled company that absorbs our admiration now. Let us draw aside and observe this throng a little, my friend.
Would you have believed it possible that so much beauty and richness could have been collected under one roof? Score upon score of fair women and handsome men; the apparel of the former rich beyond conception—of the latter, immaculate to a fault. The rooms are pretty well filled already, but the cry is still they come.
See yonder tall and radiant maiden, as she enters leaning upon the arm of her grey-headed father. Mark her well, my friend; I will draw your attention to her again presently. How proud of her the old man looks; and well he may. What divine grace of womanhood lives in that supple form; what calm, sweet beauty shines in that lovely face—a face so pure and passionless in expression that the nudity of bust and arms, and the contour of limbs more than suggested by the tightly clinging silk, call for no baser admiration than we feel when looking upon the representation of an angel. Observe closely with what high-bred and maidenly reserve she responds to the greeting of the Apollo in a "claw-hammer" who bows low before her—the very type of the elegant and polished gentleman. In bland and gentle tones he begs a favor to be granted a little later in the evening. With downcast eyes she smiles consent; with a bow he records the promise upon a tablet in his hand. Gracefully she moves forward again, leaning on her father's arm, smiling and nodding to her acquaintances, and repeating the harmless little ceremony described above with perhaps a dozen other Apollos before she reaches the end of the room.
"Ah, pure and lovely girl!" I hear you mutter as she disappears, "happy indeed is he who can win that jewel for a wife. That face will haunt me like a dream!" Likely enough, O my friend! but dreams are not all pleasant.

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