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[208] General followed me—‘A successful and pleasant ride.’ It was kindly meant, but it sounded strangely, like sarcasm. Forward I went into the mud and into the night, every minute growing darker and wetter. All weariness was gone, and I felt as fresh as my mettled horse. In a little while I was rounding the base of the Massanutten mountain, where it breaks as abruptly down into the valley as it rises from it at Strasburg. The towering mass only horrified the night. Then on through McGaheysville and across the south fork of the Shenandoah to Conrad's store. Here, as I approached the Blue Ridge, I felt almost helpless in the impenetrable stormy night. I stopped to make some inquiries, and procured a small bottle of whiskey for an emergency. Then into and up the black mountain. Vision was hopeless, but fortunately the road was solid and fairly good, and my horse could keep to it. I could reach out and feel her neck and ears, but could not see them. My speed was necessarily slackened, not only because a horse cannot climb a mountain like a goat, but safety required some caution. At times I heard the water rush under us and across the road and tumble in torrents so far down below that I knew we were traveling along perilous edges. The ascent seemed very steep and very long. At last we reached the summit of Swift Run Gap. It was from this summit and through this gap that Governor Spotswood and his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe, in 1716, obtained the white man's first view of the Valley of the Shenandoah. From the same point of view I did not partake of their enchantment.

But just here I met a knight of a less romantic order. He was a belated, drowsy, bedraggled courier, plodding his way from Ewell to Jackson. From him I extracted some useful information as to my route, and in return gave him a pull at my flask. It was vile stuff, but as he seemed to like it I gave him the bottle and left him on the summit.

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