On the Western Circle. A Love story by Tomas Hardy (for intermediate)

Love Stories by Thomas Hardy "On the western curcuit"

Thomas Hardy wrote the story «On the Western Circuit» about a love triangle. Two women, a young naive girl and a wise beautiful lady, fell in love with the same man. He started with the first but it somehow happened that continued with the second, not knowing that they changed over. When the truth was discovered, it was too late. Nobody woull be happy unless they broke out the rules of morality. Do you think that it it possible? Read and find out by yourself!

A Love Story by Thomas Hardy

On the Western Circuit

You have started reading the love story, but it seems difficult to you. Start with an easier level. You can chose from:

The Contents:

  1. Chapter One
  2. Chapter Two
  3. Chapter Three
  4. Chapter Four
  5. Chapter Five
  6. Chapter Six
Дорогой читатель! Предлагаю прочитать рассказ о любви английского писателя Томаса Гарди. Рассказ называется «В западном судебном округе», что совсем не вяжется с сюжетом. Здесь речь идет о молодом человеке, который по судебным делам объезжает Западный округ. Рассказ адаптирован до уровня intermediate

Chapter One

  • she was not experienced enough to be reserved by art — she didn’t know how to behave with men
  • stuff-gownsman, now going the Western Circuit — a young lawyer, who was travelling on business

A young man was standing in front of the ancient cathedral in the city of Melchester. It was an October evening. The walls of the cathedral were not seen, but they reflected sounds of the street leading from the city square. It was getting dark and he decided to put off till the next morning his attempt to examine the deserted building and went along the street towards the square full of the noise and shouts.

The market square was occupied by the fair. In the centre of it there was a large steam roundabout. Lighting a short pipe, and putting his hat on one side and one hand in his pocket, he went towards it.

It could now be seen that he was unlike the other people in the crowd. He appeared to belong to the type found in large towns only, and London particularly. The delicate lines of his face, civilized look and a fashionable suit proved him to be a gentleman.

The revolving figures on the horses passed before his eyes. There were riders as young as six, and as old as sixty years old, with every age between. At first it was difficult to catch a personality, but by and by his eyes spotted the prettiest girl out of the several pretty ones revolving.

She was wearing the red skirt, dark jacket, brown hat and brown gloves. She was absolutely unconscious of everything ex­cept for the act of riding: for the moment she did not know her age or her history, much less her troubles.

The young man studied her as well as he could, glancing in­differently over the other riders. He had never seen such a natural beauty, and at each round she made a deeper impression on him.

When the roundabout stopped, she stayed at her seat. People began to take other seats, and clearly she was deciding to have another turn. The young man came up to her and asked her if she had enjoyed her ride.

‘O yes!’ she said, her eyes shone with joy. ‘It has been quite unlike anything I have ever felt in my life before!’

It was easy to fall into conversation with her. Unre­served — too unreserved — by nature, she was not experienced enough to be reserved by art, and answered his remarks readily.

She had come to live in Melchester from a village on the Great Plain, and this was the first time that she had ever seen a steam roundabout; she could not understand how such wonderful machine was made. She had come to the city on the invitation of Mrs Harnham, who had taken her into her household to train her as a servant.

Mrs Harnham was a young lady who before she married had been living in the country and had known her in childhood so well. She was even tak­ing the trouble to educate her. Mrs Harnham was the only friend she had in the world, and as she had no children she had wished to have her near her and allowed her to do almost as she liked, and have a holiday whenever she asked for it. The husband of this kind young lady was a rich wine-merchant of the town, but Harnham did not care much about him.

She, the speaker, liked Melchester better than the lonely country, and she was going to have a new hat for next Sunday that was to cost fifteen pence.Then she asked the young man where he lived, and he told her about London, that ancient and smoky city, where everybody lived and then died because they could not live there. He came into Wessex two or three times a year for professional rea­sons; he had arrived from Wintoncester yesterday, and was going on into the next county in a day or two. For one thing he did like the country better than the town, and it was because there were such girls as herself.

Then the roundabout, that pleasure-machine started again, and, to the light-hearted girl, the figure of the handsome young man, the market-square with its lights and crowd, the houses beyond, and the whole world, began moving round as before. Each time that she ap­proached him they looked at each other with smiles, and with that unmistakable expression which means so little at the moment, yet so often leads up to love, passion, heartache, union, devotion, disappointment and despair.

When the horses slowed again he stepped to her side and proposed another round.

“I’ll pay!” he said.

She laughed till the tears came.

“Why do you laugh, dear?” said he.

“Because — you are so genteel that you must have plenty of money!” she returned.

“Ha-ha!” laughed the young man in unison, and gallantly produced his money for another round.

As he stood smiling there in the crowd, with his pipe in his hand, and wearing the rough jacket and a simple hat that he had put on for his walk, who would have supposed him to be Charles Bradford Raye, Esquire, stuff-gownsman, now going the Western Circuit, detained in Melchester by a small arbitration after his colleagues had moved on to the next county-town?

* * *

On the Western Circuit. Chapter Two

The house where the young girl lived was a large mansion with several windows on each floor. On the first floor, in a large drawing-room, sat a lady. She looked thirty years old. The room was unlit, but some light from the window was enough to reveal the lady’s face. She was an inter­esting creature rather than a handsome woman; dark-eyed, thoughtful, and with sensitive lips.

A man entered the room.

“O, Edith, I didn’t see you,” he said. “Why are you sitting here in the dark?”

“I am looking at the fair,” replied the lady in a low voice.

‘”Oh? Horrid nuisance every year!”

“I like it.”

“H’m. Tastes differ.”

For a moment he looked from the window with her and then went out again.

In a few minutes she rang,

“Hasn’t Anna come in?” asked Mrs Harnham.

“No ma’am.”

“She ought to be in by this time. I allowed her to go for ten minutes only.”

“Shall I go and look for her, m’m?” said the housemaid readily.

“No. It is not necessary: she is a good girl and will come soon.”

However, when the servant had gone Mrs Harnham stood up and went up to her room, put on her cloak and a hat, and went downstairs, where she found her husband.

“I want to see the fair,” she said; “and I am going to look for Anna. I have made myself responsible for her, and I must sure that she’s all right. Will you come with me?”

“Oh, she’s all right. I saw her on one of those roundabout talking to her young man as I came in. But I’ll go if you wish though I’d rather go a hundred miles the other way.”

“Then please do so. I shall go alone.”

She left the house and entered the crowd in the market place where she soon discovered Anna, seated on the revolving horse. As soon as it stopped, Mrs Harnham came up to her and said severely “Anna, how can you be such a wild girl? You were only to be out for ten minutes.”

Anna looked confused, and the young man who was standing near her, tried to explain:

“Please don’t blame her,” he said politely. “It is my fault that she has stayed. She looked so graceful on the horse that I offered her to go round again. I assure you that she has been quite safe.”

“In that case I’ll leave her in your hands,” said Mrs. Harnham, turning to go away.

But this for the moment it was not so easy to do. Something had attracted the crowd to this spot, and the wine-merchant’s wife found herself pressed against the young man without power to move away. Their faces were within a few inches of each other, his breath fanned her cheek as well as Anna’s. They could do no other than smile at the accident; but neither spoke, and each waited passively. Mrs Harnham then felt a man’s hand clasping her fingers, and from the look of consciousness on the young fellow’s

face, she knew the hand to be his: she also knew that from the po­sition of the girl he had no other thought than that this hand was Anna’s.

What made her to refrain from telling him the truth she could hardly tell. Several minutes passed before the crowd thinned sufficiently to allow Mrs Harnham to move away.

‘How did they get to know each other, I wonder?’ she thought.

She was so impressed by the stranger’s manner and voice, by the tenderness of his touch, and while going back towards her house, she turned back again and watched the pair. She was little less impulsive than Anna but she couldn’t but admit that he was so well-bred, so gentlemanly, so fasci­nating, and had such beautiful eyes.

Finally Anna and her acquaintance parted and Anna went to Mrs Harnham’s house.

“Anna,” said Mrs Harnham, coming up. “I’ve been looking at you! That young man kissed you at parting I am almost sure.”

“Well,” stammered Anna; “he said, if I didn’t mind — it would do me no harm, and, and, him a great deal of good!”

“Ah, I thought so! And he was a stranger till tonight?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“No doubt you told him your name and everything about yourself?”

“He asked me.”

“But he didn’t tell you his?”

“Yes ma’am, he did!” exclaimed Anna. “It is Charles Bradford, of London.”

“Well, if he’s respectable, of course I’ve nothing to say against him,” remarked her mistress. “But I must reconsider all that, if he attempts to renew your acquaintance. A country girl like you, who has never lived in Melchester till this month, to capture a young Londoner like him!’

“I didn’t capture him. I didn’t do anything,” said Anna in confusion.

The next morning the emotional Edith Harnham went to the usual weekday service in Melchester cathedral. As soon as she had taken her seat, he entered and sat down opposite her, interested in the architecture of the cathedral. He did not notice her but Mrs Harnham was glancing at him from time to time and wondered more than ever what had attracted him in her little silly maid-servant. The young man left; and Mrs Harnham lonely, impressionable creature that she was — took no further interest in praising the Lord. She wished she had married a London man who knew the art of love as it was evidently known to him who had mistakenly caressed her hand.

* * *

On the Western Circuit. Chapter Three

  • at a stationer’s — at a shop selling paper, pens, and other writing materials
  • a ret­rospect — review of a past course of events or period of time

Raye felt a violent attraction to the pretty country girl Anna and decided to stay in Melchester three days more. He meet with the girl six or seven times during this interval, and in the end he won her body and her soul.
He thought it was due to his loneliness that he had given way to a passion for an inexperienced creature who placed herself in his hands. He hated trifling with her feelings for the sake of a passing desire; and he could only hope that she would not suffer on his account.

She had begged him to come to her again and he had promised that he would do so, and he meant to carry out that promise. His circuit journeys would take him to Melchester three or four times a year; and then he could always see her.

He had not told Anna his full name, but on leaving her he gave her an address at a stationer’s not far from his flat, at which she might write to him under the initials ‘С. В.’

When he returned to London he sent her a letter asking her to write. In a few days the stationer handed to him a letter with the Melchester postmark.

He was not anxious to open the letter, and in truth did not begin to read it for nearly half an hour, expecting passionate ret­rospect and tender words. When at last he opened it, he was surprised and pleased to find the most charming little letter he had ever received from women. The language was simple and the ideas were simple; the paper, too, was common. But what of those things? He had re­ceived letters from women who were called ladies, but never so sensible, so human a letter as this. The letter impressed him greatly.

He sent a short, encouraging line or two, signed with his pseudonym, in which he asked for another letter, and promised that he would try to see her again on some near day, and would never forget how much they had been to each other during their short acquaintance.

* * *

On the Western Circuit. Chapter Four

Let us return now to Melchester. When Anna had received Raye’s letter, she felt embarrassed and her eyes filled with tears. She opened the envelope, kissed the letter and put it in her pocket.

A few minutes later she carried up a cup of tea to Mrs Harnham in her bedroom. Anna’s mistress looked at her, and said: “How sad you look this morning, Anna. What’s the matter?»
“I’m not sad, I’m glad; only I —“ She stopped trying not to sob.


“I’ve got a letter — and what good is it to me, if I can’t read a word in it!”

“Why, I’ll read it, child, if necessary.”

“But this is from somebody — I don’t want anybody to know”’ Anna said.

“I shall not tell anybody. Is it from that young man? I think so.” Anna slowly gave her the letter, saying: “Then will you read it to me, ma’am?”

This was the secret of Anna’s embarrassment. She could neither read nor write. She had grown up under the care of her aunt, at one of the lonely cottages on the Great Mid- Wessex Plain where there had been no school within a distance of two miles. Her aunt was an ignorant woman; there had been nobody to care about her education; though she had been well fed and not unkindly treated. When she had come to live at Melchester with Mrs Harnham, her mistress took a kindly interest in the girl. She taught her to speak correctly and insisted on her getting a spelling copy book and beginning to practise in it.

Edith Harnham read the short letter up to the last sentence, in which Raye asked Anna to send him a tender answer.

“Now — you’ll do it for me, won’t you, dear mistress?” begged Anna. “Please? Because I couldn’t let him think that I am not able to do it myself. I should sink into the earth with shame if he knew that!”

From some words in the letter Mrs Harnham understood that a flirtation had resulted very seriously for the poor little creature. She blamed herself for not interfering in the matter. However, what was done could not be undone, and it was necessary for her now, as Anna’s only protector, to help her as much as she could. She agreed to compose and write the answer to this young man’s letter.

So a tender reply was written in Edith Harnham’s hand. It was the letter which Raye had received and liked so much. It was written in the presence of Anna, and on Anna’s bad paper; but the life, the spirit, the individuality, were Edith Harnham’s.

“Won’t you at least put your name yourself?” she said. “You can manage to write that by this time?”

“No, no,” said Anna, terrified. “I will do it so badly. He’d be ashamed of me, and never see me again!”

The note, as we have seen, brought an answer. Raye declared that it would be such a pleasure to hear from her that she must write every week.

The same process of writing was repeated by Anna and her mistress, and continued for several weeks. Each let­ter was written by Edith; the girl was just standing by. And the answer was read by Edith; Anna was just listening to.

Late on a winter evening, after the sixth letter, Mrs Harnham was sitting alone by the fire. Her husband had gone to bed and she was thinking about a strange thing which she had done that day. Anna had gone to stay over a night or two with her cottage friends on the Plain, and in her absence a letter from Raye had arrived. And to this letter Edith had replied from the depths of her own heart.

Edith Harnham led a lonely life. Influenced by the belief that a bad marriage is better than freedom, she had agreed to marry the eld­erly wine-merchant at the age of twenty-seven — three years be­fore this date — to find afterwards that she had made a mistake.

Now she clearly understood that she had become captured to the bottom of her soul with the image of a man to whom she was nothing. From the first sight she liked his looks and voice; she was attracted by his tender touch; and now after writing letters to him and reading his answers she felt that there was a magnetic relation between them.

They were her own passionate ideas — only made simple —that Edith put into letters signed with another name. And Edith found that the young man mainly responded to these, her own sentiments. The few sentences occasionally added from Anna’s own lips made apparently no impression upon him.

Anna never discovered that letter-writing in her absence; but on her return the next morning she declared she wished to see her lover about something at once, and begged Mrs Harnham to ask him to come. At Edith’s knees, she made confession that the result of her relations with her lover it would soon be seen.

Edith Harnham instantly wrote another letter to Raye hinting delicately at the baby who is going to be born.

Raye replied quickly by a letter saying how much he was concerned at her news: he wrote that he must come to see her immediately.

But a week later the girl got the letter in which Raye informed her that he could not find time for the journey. Anna was broken with grief; but Mrs Harnham asked her not to reproach him. It was necessary to keep the young man’s romantic interest in her alive. Edith, in the name of her maid, asked him not to worry about what is going to happen and not to hurry to Melchester. Because she desired above everything to be no weight upon him in his career. She asked only he must write to her tenderly as ever, and when he come again on the spring circuit they would discuss what should be done.

When the letter had been sent off, and Edith Harnham was left alone, she wept.

“I wish his child was mine — I wish it was!” she whispered.

* * *

On the Western Circuit. Chapter Five

  • send on — sendforward, send to another person or place

Raye was astonished when he got the letter. The absence of any word of reproach, the devotion to his interests, the self-sacrifice was seen in every line, everything showed a noble character that he had never dreamt of finding in a woman.

«God forgive me!» he said. «I did not know she was such a treasure as this!»
He wrote to her, saying that he would not of course desert her, that he would find a home for her somewhere. Mean­while she was to stay where she was as long as her mistress would allow her.

But unfortunately Anna had to leave Mrs Harnham’s house because her husband learned about her circumstances. She chose to go back for a while to the cottage on the Plain. She asked Mrs Harnham — her only friend she had in the world — to receive the letters and reply to them at once, sending them on af­terwards to her on the Plain, where she might at least get some neighbour to read them to her.

Edith Harnham found herself in the strange position of hav­ing to write to the man who was not her husband, the man that was not hers at all; and the man for whom she felt a strong attraction. She opened each letter, read it as if for herself, and replied from her own heart.

At first Edith sent on each of his letters to Anna, and even copies of her replies; but later on these so-called copies were much shortened, and many letters on both sides were not sent on at all, Raye had really tender feelings for the country girl, and it became more tender than ever when he saw that she could express the deepest emotions in the simplest words. He finally decided to consult his sister, an unmarried lady much older than himself. He showed her some of the letters.

«She seems fairly educated,» Miss Raye observed. ‘And bright in ideas. She expresses herself with a taste that must be born.’

«Yes. She writes very prettily».

The result of the discussion was that Raye wrote, in his real name, that he could not live without her, and would come down in the spring and marry her.

Mrs Harnham drove out immediately to the cottage on the Plain to inform Anna of this. Anna jumped for joy like a little child! «O!» she groaned, as she wrote the answer. «Anna — poor good little fool — hasn’t intelligence enough to appreciate him!»

It was now February. The correspondence had continued altogether for four months. In his next letter Raye said that he was sure that, with her powers of development, after a little private training under his supervision, she would make a good wife for a barrister.

«O — poor fellow, poor fellow!» said Edith Harnham.

Edith was deeply worried. It was she who had caused that marriage which meant his ruin; yet she could not, in mercy to her maid, do anything to prevent it now.

Anna came, and her mistress took her into her own room for privacy. Anna began by saying that she was glad the wedding so near.’

«O Anna!» replied Mrs Harnham. «I think we must tell all — that I have been doing your writing for you.»

«O mis’ess, dear mis’ess — please don’t tell him now!» cried Anna. «Perhaps he would not marry me; and what should I do then. And I am getting on with my writing, too. I have brought with me the copybook you had given me, and I practise every day.»

Edith looked at the copybook. The progress as the girl had made looked as grotesque imitations. But even if Edith’s neat words were reproduced, the inspiration would be another thing.

«Very well,» said Edith. «But you must concentrate your attention on writing your name as I write it here.»

* * *

On the Western Circuit. Chapter Six

Soon Raye wrote about the wedding. For greater privacy he wished to have the ceremony in London. So, Mrs Harnham began preparations for Anna’s departure. She had a desperate feeling that she must be present at the death of her dream and see once again the man who by a kind of telepathy had had such an influence on her. She offered to go up with Anna and be with her through the ceremony. Anna accepted the offer; for she had no other friend.
It was a muddy morning in March when Raye, Anna and Mrs Harnham arrived in a cab at the door of a registry-office. A young man — a friend of Raye’s — met them at the door. Anna looked attractive in the somewhat fashionable clothes which Mrs Harnham had helped her to buy, though not quite so attractive as, an innocent child, she had appeared in her country dress on the back of the wooden horse at Melchester Fair.

Till an hour before the ceremony Raye had never known the wine-merchant’s wife, except for that first short meeting. But somehow at the registry Raye discovered a strange and secret gravi­tation between himself and Anna’s friend.

When the ceremony was, the four went in one cab to Raye’s lodgings in a new suburb. Here Anna cut the little cake which Raye had bought on his way home the night before. But she did not do much besides. When Raye’s friend left the only ones virtually present were Edith and Raye who exchanged ideas with much interest. The conversation was indeed theirs only. Anna behaved as a domestic animal who heard but did not understand. Raye did not like that.

They had planned to start early that afternoon for Knollsea, to spend the few opening days of their married life there. Raye asked his wife if she would go to the writing-desk in the next room and write a little note to his sister, who had been unable to come because of her illness and thank her for her present.

‘Say it in the pretty poetical way you can,’ he added, ‘I want you to win her; both of you are dear to me.’

Anna looked uneasy, but left the room. She was absent for a long time, and her husband suddenly went to look for her.

He found her at the writing-table, with tears in her eyes; and he looked down upon the sheet of note-paper with some interest. To his surprise she had written a few lines, in the characters and spelling of a child of eight, and with the primitive ideas.

‘Anna,’ he said, ‘what’s this?’

‘It only means — that I can’t do it any better!’ she answered, through her tears.

‘Eh? Nonsense!’

‘I can’t!’ she insisted, with miserable sobbing. ‘I — I — didn’t write those letters, Charles!

I only told her what to write! And not always that! But I am learning so fast, my dear, dear husband! And you’ll forgive me, won’t you, for not telling you before?’

He stood a few moments, then turned, and left the room.

‘ Do I guess rightly?’ he asked Edith, with quietly.’ You wrote the letters?’

‘It was necessary,’ said Edith.

‘Did she dictate every word you ever wrote to me?’

‘Not every word.’

‘You wrote a great part of those pages every week from уour own heart, though in her name!’


‘Perhaps you wrote many of the letters when you were alone without communication with her?’

‘I did.’

He turned to the bookcase.

‘You have deceived me — ruined me!’ he said.

‘O, don’t say it!’ she cried, jumping up and putting her hand on his shoulder. ‘I can’t bear that!’

‘Why did you do it — why did you!’

‘I began doing it in kindness to her! How could I try to save such a simple girl from misery? But I admit that I continued it for pleasure to myself.’

Raye went up to her, and took her unresisting hand. ‘Well, to think of such a thing as this!’ he said. ‘Why, you and I are friends — lovers — devoted lovers — by correspondence!’

‘Yes; I suppose.’

‘Legally I have married her — and in soul and spirit I have married you, and no other woman in the world!’


‘But I will not hush! Yes, it is between you and me that the bond is — not between me and her! Now I’ll say no more.’

He drew her towards him.

‘If it was all pure invention in those letters,’ he said, ‘give me your cheek only. If you meant what you said, let it be lips. It is for the first and last time, remember!’

She put up her mouth, and he kissed her long. ‘You forgive me?’ she said crying.


‘But you are ruined!’

‘What matter!’ he said shrugging his shoulders. ‘It serves me right!’

‘She wiped her eyes and went to say good-bye to Anna, who had not expected her to go so soon, and was still struggling with the letter. Raye followed Edith downstairs, and in three minutes she was in a cab driving to the Waterloo station.

He went back to his wife. ‘Never mind the letter, Anna, to­day,’ he said gently. ‘Put on your things. We, too, must be off!’

The simple girl, happy that she was indeed married, was glad to find that he was as kind as ever. She did not know that in his eyes the unlearned country girl was chained to his side for the ret of his life.

Edith travelled back to Melchester that day with a face that showed deep grief. Her lips still remembered the pressure of his kiss. The end of her passionate dream had come.

Entering the house she went in the dark to the drawing-room, and not knowing what she did, fell on the floor.

‘I have ruined him!’ she kept repeating. ‘I have ruined him; because I helped her!’

A figure opened the door of the room.

‘Ah — who’s that?’ she said.

‘Your husband — who should it be?’ said the merchant.

‘Ah — my husband! I forgot I had a husband!’ she whispered to herself.

‘How is Anna?’

‘Anna is married.’

Anna and her husband were sitting at the opposite window of a second-class carriage which hurried to Knollsea. In his hand was a pocket-book full of sheets closely written over. Unfolding them one after another he read them in silence, and sighed.

‘What are you doing, dear Charles?’ she said from the other window, and drew nearer to him as if he were a god.

‘Reading over all those sweet letters to me signed «Anna», he replied in a sad and dull voice.


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