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May 11 , 2008

Salute to Adventurers


I tell of old Virginian ways;
And who more fit my tale to scan
Than you, who knew in far-off days
The eager horse of Sheridan;
Who saw the sullen meads of fate,
The tattered scrub, the blood-drenched sod,
Where Lee, the greatest of the great,
Bent to the storm of God?

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That evening, I remember, as I came up through the Mill Meadow, I was feeling peculiarly happy and contented. It was still mid-March, one of those spring days when noon is like May, and only the cold pearly haze at sunset warns a man that he is not done with winter. The season was absurdly early, for the blackthorn was in flower and the hedge…

I tell lost tales of savage wars;
And you have known the desert sands,
The camp beneath the silver stars,
The rush at dawn of Arab bands,
The fruitless toil, the hopeless dream,
The fainting feet, the faltering breath,
While Gordon by the ancient stream
Waited at ease on death.

And now, aloof from camp and field,
You spend your sunny autumn hours
Where the green folds of Chiltern shield
The nooks of Thames amid the flowers:
You who have borne that name of pride,
In honour clean from fear or stain,
Which Talbot won by Henry's side
In vanquished Aquitaine.
The reader is asked to believe that most of the characters in this tale and many of the incidents have good historical warrant. The figure of Muckle John Gib will be familiar to the readers of Patrick Walker.

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