The Woodlanders HTML version

Chapter 3
The lights in the village went out, house after house, till there only remained two
in the darkness. One of these came from a residence on the hill-side, of which
there is nothing to say at present; the other shone from the window of Marty
South. Precisely the same outward effect was produced here, however, by her
rising when the clock struck ten and hanging up a thick cloth curtain. The door it
was necessary to keep ajar in hers, as in most cottages, because of the smoke;
but she obviated the effect of the ribbon of light through the chink by hanging a
cloth over that also. She was one of those people who, if they have to work
harder than their neighbors, prefer to keep the necessity a secret as far as
possible; and but for the slight sounds of wood- splintering which came from
within, no wayfarer would have perceived that here the cottager did not sleep as
Eleven, twelve, one o'clock struck; the heap of spars grew higher, and the pile of
chips and ends more bulky. Even the light on the hill had now been extinguished;
but still she worked on. When the temperature of the night without had fallen so
low as to make her chilly, she opened a large blue umbrella to ward off the
draught from the door. The two sovereigns confronted her from the looking-glass
in such a manner as to suggest a pair of jaundiced eyes on the watch for an
opportunity. Whenever she sighed for weariness she lifted her gaze towards
them, but withdrew it quickly, stroking her tresses with her fingers for a moment,
as if to assure herself that they were still secure. When the clock struck three she
arose and tied up the spars she had last made in a bundle resembling those that
lay against the wall.
She wrapped round her a long red woollen cravat and opened the door. The
night in all its fulness met her flatly on the threshold, like the very brink of an
absolute void, or the antemundane Ginnung-Gap believed in by her Teuton
forefathers. For her eyes were fresh from the blaze, and here there was no
street-lamp or lantern to form a kindly transition between the inner glare and the
outer dark. A lingering wind brought to her ear the creaking sound of two over-
crowded branches in the neighboring wood which were rubbing each other into
wounds, and other vocalized sorrows of the trees, together with the screech of
owls, and the fluttering tumble of some awkward wood-pigeon ill- balanced on its
But the pupils of her young eyes soon expanded, and she could see well enough
for her purpose. Taking a bundle of spars under each arm, and guided by the
serrated line of tree-tops against the sky, she went some hundred yards or more
down the lane till she reached a long open shed, carpeted around with the dead
leaves that lay about everywhere. Night, that strange personality, which within
walls brings ominous introspectiveness and self-distrust, but under the open sky