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The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
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by Thomas Hardy


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 way-
side 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
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