On Egdon HeathIt was a Saturday afternoon in early November - 5th November 1842. The day was ending. The sky over Egdon Heath was grey. The land below was dark.Egdon Heath was wild, lonely and beautiful. People had always lived on Egdon Heath, butMoreOn Egdon HeathIt was a Saturday afternoon in early November - 5th November 1842. The day was ending. The sky over Egdon Heath was grey. The land below was dark.Egdon Heath was wild, lonely and beautiful. People had always lived on Egdon Heath, but it had never changed.The small, round hills of the heath climbed higher and higher, to the highest hill of all.
This was Rainbarrow, the highest point on Egdon Heath. On top of this hill was an old burial-place which had been there for hundreds of years.A narrow road crossed the heath at its lowest point. A man was walking slowly along the road, leading a horse and van.The man moved slowly across the heath. He was young and good-looking, but his face, clothes and hands were completely red. This strange traveller was a reddleman.
He sold a red dye called reddle to the farmers who used it to mark their sheep. The reddleman was marked by the red dye too. His life was very lonely. All the children on the heath were afraid of this strange, red man.The reddleman stopped after a time.
He fed his horse and sat down by the side of his van. It was darker now. The reddleman looked across the heath. His eyes moved up its slopes to the highest hill of all, Rainbarrow.A young woman was standing alone on the top of Rainbarrow. She was tall and she stood very still. Then suddenly, the woman turned and moved away. She was soon out of sight behind the hill.As the reddleman watched, he saw other figures, climbing slowly to the top of Rainbarrow. They were all carrying wood. When they reached the top of the hill, they threw the wood onto the ground.Very soon, a big fire was burning on Rainbarrow.
As the reddleman turned his head, he could see fires on other hilltops.On 5th November every year, the villagers of Egdon Heath lit these fires. It was an old custom. Perhaps they were trying to forget the darkness of winter.The reddleman stood up. It was almost night now. He brought out a lantern from the van and lit it.
The reddleman and his van moved slowly on.