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A NIGHT ON HORSEBACK.
By C. A. Goldrick.
It is only a bit of personal experience I would give you. It stands out clear and distinct from all else in my life, and the remembrance even now thrills me unpleasantly. But I must needs digress somewhat for a full understanding of what I am about to relate.
The spring of '65 found me in the Oil Dorado of Pennsylvania. What that was then, words can hardly picture. Should you go there now, you would find the communities steady, regular, lawabiding; the oil trade a regular, recognized branch of commerce, people following the different details of it as a life business. Then the magic cry of "oil!" had wakened this "Sleepy "Hollow" of the State, and flooded its hills and valleys with a cosmopolitan multitude, seeking eagerly for the boundless wealth that floated under their feet. Socially and civilly all seemed chaos and confusion. The machinery of law that sufficed for a sparsely settled region of simple, peaceable farmers, had ncr provision for a population representing almost every nation on the globe, and which literally swarmed over every spot of "promising territory." Lawlessness, robbery, murder even, did not always meet their just deserts. Such were the conditions which I, an American woman, found about me at the time of which I write. For reasons obvious to all who have "pioneered," "by horseback" was our most popular means of locomotion. In this way did I arrange one bright May morning to go from Tankville, where I then was, to Tarr City, some eight miles distant. If any habitu6 of that region at that time fails to remember these places, let him consider them as generic terms for the many towns that bubbled up with the local discovery of oil, and subsided with its disappearance. But though the towns I knew have never found a place in any map or geography of the Keystone State, in the map of memory they have a location, fixed and abiding.
Accompanied by one of the masculine persuasion, whom for convenience we will call John, 1 started. The swift motion, the crisp, bracing mountain air, the brilliant morning sunlight, made
the ride one of exquisite delight. We halted but once, to note the trodden grass and bushes of a spot where a wealthy English traveller had been waylaid, robbed, and well-nigh murdered, only a few days before." On our arrival I alighted at the dingy little hotel, where, my business being completed, I was to await the return of John. "By sundown, sure," he said, as he rode away. Long ere sundown I sat watching the shadows lengthen, and at last saw the day die in a bed of burning clouds; but to the obsequies came no John. I waited. The minutes seemed hours. Then a thought struck me. How stupid not to have done it before! I would go and meet him. Quickly ordering my horse, I mounted and started homeward. Two solitary stars looked down upon me, and the fires from countless engines lit up the surrounding hilltops and valleys. I rode rapidly for nearly a mile, and though the twilight came fast, there was still no sign of the expected rider. But I saw something which in the excitement of the morning I had failed to note, and which made me half puzzled and doubtful. Before me lay two roads. I remembered but one. By which had we come? The more I thought, the less I really knew. At last, thinking I saw some familiar mark, I turned to the left. A light growth of pine trees thickened the shadows over me. I felt no fear, and soon in the distance descried a horseman. I hastened to meet him. Alas! it was only a stranger, laden with drilling tools. He looked curiously after me. I, in my disappointment, said nothing. The darkness increased—only starlight now, lessened by the shadows of the thick branches of the pines, which ever grew in size and number. After some time I became alarmed, and resolved to turn back. But the way seemed to have grown steep and narrow, and to my dismay, I found that in the thick darkness I could no longer discern the road. I rode first one way and then another, until utterly bewildered. I was now conscious of but one thing: I was alone in the dark night in a pine forest, miles perhaps from any human habitation, without any idea of distance or direction, —dazed, confused,