In a Hollow of the Hills by Bret Harte Page 1 of 126
It was very dark, and the wind was increasing. The last gust had been preceded by an ominous roaring down the whole mountain-side, which continued for some time after the trees in the little valley had lapsed into silence. The air was filled with a faint, cool, sodden odor, as of stirred forest depths.
In those intervals of silence the darkness seemed to increase in proportion and grow almost palpable. Yet out of this sightless and soundless void now came the tinkle of a spur's rowels, the dry crackling of saddle leathers, and the muffled plunge of a hoof in the thick carpet of dust and desiccated leaves.
Then a voice, which in spite of its matter-of-fact reality the obscurity lent a certain mystery to, said:-
"I can't make out anything! Where the devil have we got to, anyway? It's as black as Tophet, here ahead!"
"Strike a light and make a flare with something," returned a second voice. "Look where you're shoving to-now-keep your horse off, will ye."
There was more muffled plunging, a silence, the rustle of paper, the quick spurt of a match, and then the uplifting of a flickering flame. But it revealed only the heads and shoulders of three horsemen, framed within a nebulous ring of light, that still left their horses and even their lower figures in impenetrable shadow.
Then the flame leaped up and died out with a few zigzagging sparks that were falling to the ground, when a third voice, that was low but somewhat pleasant in its cadence, said:-
"Be careful where you throw that. You were careless last time. With this wind and the leaves like tinder, you might send a furnace blast through the woods."
"Then at least we'd see where we were."