The Woodlanders - Thomas Hardy - Страница 1 из 506


by
Thomas Hardy
CHAPTER I.
The rambler who, for old association or other reasons, should trace the
forsaken coach-road running almost in a meridional line from Bristol to
the south shore of England, would find himself during the latter half
of his journey in the vicinity of some extensive woodlands,
interspersed with apple-orchards. Here the trees, timber or
fruit-bearing, as the case may be, make the wayside hedges ragged by
their drip and shade, stretching over the road with easeful
horizontality, as if they found the unsubstantial air an adequate
support for their limbs. At one place, where a hill is crossed, the
largest of the woods shows itself bisected by the high-way, as the head
of thick hair is bisected by the white line of its parting. The spot
is lonely.
The physiognomy of a deserted highway expresses solitude to a degree
that is not reached by mere dales or downs, and bespeaks a tomb-like
stillness more emphatic than that of glades and pools. The contrast of
what is with what might be probably accounts for this. To step, for
instance, at the place under notice, from the hedge of the plantation
into the adjoining pale thoroughfare, and pause amid its emptiness for
a moment, was to exchange by the act of a single stride the simple
absence of human companionship for an incubus of the forlorn.
At this spot, on the lowering evening of a by-gone winter's day, there
stood a man who had entered upon the scene much in the aforesaid
manner. Alighting into the road from a stile hard by, he, though by no


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