as first published in

Scribner's Magazine, March 1916


"You ought to buy it," said my host; "it's just the place for a

solitary-minded devil like you. And it would be rather worth

while to own the most romantic house in Brittany. The present

people are dead broke, and it's going for a song--you ought to

buy it."

It was not with the least idea of living up to the character my

friend Lanrivain ascribed to me (as a matter of fact, under my

unsociable exterior I have always had secret yearnings for

domesticity) that I took his hint one autumn afternoon and went

to Kerfol. My friend was motoring over to Quimper on business:

he dropped me on the way, at a cross-road on a heath, and said:

"First turn to the right and second to the left. Then straight

ahead till you see an avenue. If you meet any peasants, don't

ask your way. They don't understand French, and they would

pretend they did and mix you up. I'll be back for you here by

sunset--and don't forget the tombs in the chapel."

I followed Lanrivain's directions with the hesitation occasioned

by the usual difficulty of remembering whether he had said the

first turn to the right and second to the left, or the contrary.

If I had met a peasant I should certainly have asked, and

probably been sent astray; but I had the desert landscape to

myself, and so stumbled on the right turn and walked on across

the heath till I came to an avenue. It was so unlike any other

avenue I have ever seen that I instantly knew it must be THE

avenue. The grey-trunked trees sprang up straight to a great

height and then interwove their pale-grey branches in a long

tunnel through which the autumn light fell faintly. I know most

trees by name, but I haven't to this day been able to decide what

those trees were. They had the tall curve of elms, the tenuity

of poplars, the ashen colour of olives under a rainy sky; and

they stretched ahead of me for half a mile or more without a

break in their arch. If ever I saw an avenue that unmistakeably

led to something, it was the avenue at Kerfol. My heart beat a

little as I began to walk down it.

Presently the trees ended and I came to a fortified gate in a

long wall. Between me and the wall was an open space of grass,

with other grey avenues radiating from it. Behind the wall were

tall slate roofs mossed with silver, a chapel belfry, the top of

a keep. A moat filled with wild shrubs and brambles surrounded

the place; the drawbridge had been replaced by a stone arch, and

the portcullis by an iron gate. I stood for a long time on the

hither side of the moat, gazing about me, and letting the

influence of the place sink in. I said to myself: "If I wait

long enough, the guardian will turn up and show me the tombs--"

and I rather hoped he wouldn't turn up too soon.

I sat down on a stone and lit a cigarette. As soon as I had done

it, it struck me as a puerile and portentous thing to do, with

that great blind house looking down at me, and all the empty

avenues converging on me. It may have been the depth of the

silence that made me so conscious of my gesture. The squeak of

my match sounded as loud as the scraping of a brake, and I almost

fancied I heard it fall when I tossed it onto the grass. But

there was more than that: a sense of irrelevance, of littleness,

of childish bravado, in sitting there puffing my cigarette-smoke

into the face of such a past.

I knew nothing of the history of Kerfol--I was new to Brittany,

and Lanrivain had never mentioned the name to me till the day

before--but one couldn't as much as glance at that pile without

feeling in it a long accumulation of history. What kind of

history I was not prepared to guess: perhaps only the sheer

weight of many associated lives and deaths which gives a kind of

majesty to all old houses. But the aspect of Kerfol suggested

something more--a perspective of stern and cruel memories

stretching away, like its own grey avenues, into a blur of


Certainly no house had ever more completely and finally broken

with the present. As it stood there, lifting its proud roofs and

gables to the sky, it might have been its own funeral monument.

"Tombs in the chapel? The whole place is a tomb!" I reflected.

I hoped more and more that the guardian would not come. The

details of the place, however striking, would seem trivial

compared with its collective impressiveness; and I wanted only to

sit there and be penetrated by the weight of its silence.

"It's the very place for you!" Lanrivain had said; and I was

overcome by the almost blasphemous frivolity of suggesting to any

living being that Kerfol was the place for him. "Is it possible

that any one could NOT see--?" I wondered. I did not finish the

thought: what I meant was undefinable. I stood up and wandered

toward the gate. I was beginning to want to know more; not to

SEE more--I was by now so sure it was not a question of seeing--

but to feel more: feel all the place had to communicate. "But to

get in one will have to rout out the keeper," I thought

reluctantly, and hesitated. Finally I crossed the bridge and

tried the iron gate. It yielded, and I walked under the tunnel

formed by the thickness of the chemin de ronde. At the farther

end, a wooden barricade had been laid across the entrance, and

beyond it I saw a court enclosed in noble architecture. The main

building faced me; and I now discovered that one half was a mere

ruined front, with gaping windows through which the wild growths

of the moat and the trees of the park were visible. The rest of

the house was still in its robust beauty. One end abutted on the

round tower, the other on the small traceried chapel, and in an

angle of the building stood a graceful well-head adorned with

mossy urns. A few roses grew against the walls, and on an upper

window-sill I remember noticing a pot of fuchsias.

My sense of the pressure of the invisible began to yield to my

architectural interest. The building was so fine that I felt a

desire to explore it for its own sake. I looked about the court,

wondering in which corner the guardian lodged. Then I pushed

open the barrier and went in. As I did so, a little dog barred

my way. He was such a remarkably beautiful little dog that for a

moment he made me forget the splendid place he was defending. I

was not sure of his breed at the time, but have since learned

that it was Chinese, and that he was of a rare variety called the

"Sleeve-dog." He was very small and golden brown, with large

brown eyes and a ruffled throat: he looked rather like a large

tawny chrysanthemum. I said to myself: "These little beasts

always snap and scream, and somebody will be out in a minute."

The little animal stood before me, forbidding, almost menacing:

there was anger in his large brown eyes. But he made no sound,

he came no nearer. Instead, as I advanced, he gradually fell

back, and I noticed that another dog, a vague rough brindled

thing, had limped up. "There'll be a hubbub now," I thought; for

at the same moment a third dog, a long-haired white mongrel,

slipped out of a doorway and joined the others. All three stood

looking at me with grave eyes; but not a sound came from them.

As I advanced they continued to fall back on muffled paws, still

watching me. "At a given point, they'll all charge at my ankles:

it's one of the dodges that dogs who live together put up on

one," I thought. I was not much alarmed, for they were neither

large nor formidable. But they let me wander about the court as

I pleased, following me at a little distance--always the same

distance--and always keeping their eyes on me. Presently I

looked across at the ruined facade, and saw that in one of its

window-frames another dog stood: a large white pointer with one

brown ear. He was an old grave dog, much more experienced than

the others; and he seemed to be observing me with a deeper


"I'll hear from HIM," I said to myself; but he stood in the empty

window-frame, against the trees of the park, and continued to

watch me without moving. I looked back at him for a time, to see

if the sense that he was being watched would not rouse him. Half

the width of the court lay between us, and we stared at each

other silently across it. But he did not stir, and at last I

turned away. Behind me I found the rest of the pack, with a

newcomer added: a small black greyhound with pale agate-coloured

eyes. He was shivering a little, and his expression was more

timid than that of the others. I noticed that he kept a little

behind them. And still there was not a sound.

I stood there for fully five minutes, the circle about me--

waiting, as they seemed to be waiting. At last I went up to the

little golden-brown dog and stooped to pat him. As I did so, I

heard myself laugh. The little dog did not start, or growl, or

take his eyes from me--he simply slipped back about a yard, and

then paused and continued to look at me. "Oh, hang it!" I

exclaimed aloud, and walked across the court toward the well.

As I advanced, the dogs separated and slid away into different

corners of the court. I examined the urns on the well, tried a

locked door or two, and up and down the dumb facade; then I faced

about toward the chapel. When I turned I perceived that all the

dogs had disappeared except the old pointer, who still watched me

from the empty window-frame. It was rather a relief to be rid of

that cloud of witnesses; and I began to look about me for a way

to the back of the house. "Perhaps there'll be somebody in the

garden," I thought. I found a way across the moat, scrambled

over a wall smothered in brambles, and got into the garden. A

few lean hydrangeas and geraniums pined in the flower-beds, and

the ancient house looked down on them indifferently. Its garden

side was plainer and severer than the other: the long granite

front, with its few windows and steep roof, looked like a

fortress-prison. I walked around the farther wing, went up some

disjointed steps, and entered the deep twilight of a narrow and

incredibly old box-walk. The walk was just wide enough for one

person to slip through, and its branches met overhead. It was

like the ghost of a box-walk, its lustrous green all turning to

the shadowy greyness of the avenues. I walked on and on, the

branches hitting me in the face and springing back with a dry

rattle; and at length I came out on the grassy top of the chemin

de ronde. I walked along it to the gate-tower, looking down into

the court, which was just below me. Not a human being was in

sight; and neither were the dogs. I found a flight of steps in

the thickness of the wall and went down them; and when I emerged

again into the court, there stood the circle of dogs, the golden-

brown one a little ahead of the others, the black greyhound

shivering in the rear.

"Oh, hang it--you uncomfortable beasts, you!" I exclaimed, my

voice startling me with a sudden echo. The dogs stood

motionless, watching me. I knew by this time that they would not

try to prevent my approaching the house, and the knowledge left

me free to examine them. I had a feeling that they must be

horribly cowed to be so silent and inert. Yet they did not look

hungry or ill-treated. Their coats were smooth and they were not

thin, except the shivering greyhound. It was more as if they had

lived a long time with people who never spoke to them or looked

at them: as though the silence of the place had gradually

benumbed their busy inquisitive natures. And this strange

passivity, this almost human lassitude, seemed to me sadder than

the misery of starved and beaten animals. I should have liked to

rouse them for a minute, to coax them into a game or a scamper;

but the longer I looked into their fixed and weary eyes the more

preposterous the idea became. With the windows of that house

looking down on us, how could I have imagined such a thing? The

dogs knew better: THEY knew what the house would tolerate and

what it would not. I even fancied that they knew what was

passing through my mind, and pitied me for my frivolity. But

even that feeling probably reached them through a thick fog of

listlessness. I had an idea that their distance from me was as

nothing to my remoteness from them. In the last analysis, the

impression they produced was that of having in common one memory

so deep and dark that nothing that had happened since was worth

either a growl or a wag.

"I say," I broke out abruptly, addressing myself to the dumb

circle, "do you know what you look like, the whole lot of you?

You look as if you'd seen a ghost--that's how you look! I wonder

if there IS a ghost here, and nobody but you left for it to

appear to?" The dogs continued to gaze at me without moving. . .

It was dark when I saw Lanrivain's motor lamps at the cross-

roads--and I wasn't exactly sorry to see them. I had the sense

of having escaped from the loneliest place in the whole world,

and of not liking loneliness--to that degree--as much as I had

imagined I should. My friend had brought his solicitor back from

Quimper for the night, and seated beside a fat and affable

stranger I felt no inclination to talk of Kerfol. . .

But that evening, when Lanrivain and the solicitor were closeted

in the study, Madame de Lanrivain began to question me in the


"Well--are you going to buy Kerfol?" she asked, tilting up her

gay chin from her embroidery.

"I haven't decided yet. The fact is, I couldn't get into the

house," I said, as if I had simply postponed my decision, and

meant to go back for another look.

"You couldn't get in? Why, what happened? The family are mad to

sell the place, and the old guardian has orders--"

"Very likely. But the old guardian wasn't there."

"What a pity! He must have gone to market. But his daughter--?"

"There was nobody about. At least I saw no one."

"How extraordinary! Literally nobody?"

"Nobody but a lot of dogs--a whole pack of them--who seemed to

have the place to themselves."

Madame de Lanrivain let the embroidery slip to her knee and

folded her hands on it. For several minutes she looked at me


"A pack of dogs--you SAW them?"

"Saw them? I saw nothing else!"

"How many?" She dropped her voice a little. "I've always


I looked at her with surprise: I had supposed the place to be

familiar to her. "Have you never been to Kerfol?" I asked.

"Oh, yes: often. But never on that day."

"What day?"

"I'd quite forgotten--and so had Herve, I'm sure. If we'd

remembered, we never should have sent you today--but then, after

all, one doesn't half believe that sort of thing, does one?"

"What sort of thing?" I asked, involuntarily sinking my voice to

the level of hers. Inwardly I was thinking: "I KNEW there was

something. . ."

Madame de Lanrivain cleared her throat and produced a reassuring

smile. "Didn't Herve tell you the story of Kerfol? An ancestor

of his was mixed up in it. You know every Breton house has its

ghost-story; and some of them are rather unpleasant."

"Yes--but those dogs?" I insisted.

"Well, those dogs are the ghosts of Kerfol. At least, the

peasants say there's one day in the year when a lot of dogs

appear there; and that day the keeper and his daughter go off to

Morlaix and get drunk. The women in Brittany drink dreadfully."

She stooped to match a silk; then she lifted her charming

inquisitive Parisian face: "Did you REALLY see a lot of dogs?

There isn't one at Kerfol," she said.


Lanrivain, the next day, hunted out a shabby calf volume from the

back of an upper shelf of his library.

"Yes--here it is. What does it call itself? A History of the

Assizes of the Duchy of Brittany. Quimper, 1702. The book was

written about a hundred years later than the Kerfol affair; but I

believe the account is transcribed pretty literally from the

judicial records. Anyhow, it's queer reading. And there's a

Herve de Lanrivain mixed up in it--not exactly MY style, as

you'll see. But then he's only a collateral. Here, take the

book up to bed with you. I don't exactly remember the details;

but after you've read it I'll bet anything you'll leave your

light burning all night!"

I left my light burning all night, as he had predicted; but it

was chiefly because, till near dawn, I was absorbed in my

reading. The account of the trial of Anne de Cornault, wife of

the lord of Kerfol, was long and closely printed. It was, as my

friend had said, probably an almost literal transcription of what

took place in the court-room; and the trial lasted nearly a

month. Besides, the type of the book was detestable. . .

At first I thought of translating the old record literally. But

it is full of wearisome repetitions, and the main lines of the

story are forever straying off into side issues. So I have tried

to disentangle it, and give it here in a simpler form. At times,

however, I have reverted to the text because no other words could

have conveyed so exactly the sense of what I felt at Kerfol; and

nowhere have I added anything of my own.


It was in the year 16-- that Yves de Cornault, lord of the domain

of Kerfol, went to the pardon of Locronan to perform his

religious duties. He was a rich and powerful noble, then in his

sixty-second year, but hale and sturdy, a great horseman and

hunter and a pious man. So all his neighbours attested. In

appearance he seems to have been short and broad, with a swarthy

face, legs slightly bowed from the saddle, a hanging nose and

broad hands with black hairs on them. He had married young and

lost his wife and son soon after, and since then had lived alone

at Kerfol. Twice a year he went to Morlaix, where he had a

handsome house by the river, and spent a week or ten days there;

and occasionally he rode to Rennes on business. Witnesses were

found to declare that during these absences he led a life

different from the one he was known to lead at Kerfol, where he

busied himself with his estate, attended mass daily, and found

his only amusement in hunting the wild boar and water-fowl. But

these rumours are not particularly relevant, and it is certain

that among people of his own class in the neighbourhood he passed

for a stern and even austere man, observant of his religious

obligations, and keeping strictly to himself. There was no talk

of any familiarity with the women on his estate, though at that

time the nobility were very free with their peasants. Some

people said he had never looked at a woman since his wife's

death; but such things are hard to prove, and the evidence on

this point was not worth much.

Well, in his sixty-second year, Yves de Cornault went to the

pardon at Locronan, and saw there a young lady of Douarnenez, who

had ridden over pillion behind her father to do her duty to the

saint. Her name was Anne de Barrigan, and she came of good old

Breton stock, but much less great and powerful than that of Yves

de Cornault; and her father had squandered his fortune at cards,

and lived almost like a peasant in his little granite manor on

the moors. . . I have said I would add nothing of my own to this

bald statement of a strange case; but I must interrupt myself

here to describe the young lady who rode up to the lych-gate of

Locronan at the very moment when the Baron de Cornault was also

dismounting there. I take my description from a rather rare

thing: a faded drawing in red crayon, sober and truthful enough

to be by a late pupil of the Clouets, which hangs in Lanrivain's

study, and is said to be a portrait of Anne de Barrigan. It is

unsigned and has no mark of identity but the initials A. B., and

the date 16--, the year after her marriage. It represents a

young woman with a small oval face, almost pointed, yet wide

enough for a full mouth with a tender depression at the corners.

The nose is small, and the eyebrows are set rather high, far

apart, and as lightly pencilled as the eyebrows in a Chinese

painting. The forehead is high and serious, and the hair, which

one feels to be fine and thick and fair, drawn off it and lying

close like a cap. The eyes are neither large nor small, hazel

probably, with a look at once shy and steady. A pair of

beautiful long hands are crossed below the lady's breast. . .

The chaplain of Kerfol, and other witnesses, averred that when

the Baron came back from Locronan he jumped from his horse,

ordered another to be instantly saddled, called to a young page

come with him, and rode away that same evening to the south. His

steward followed the next morning with coffers laden on a pair of

pack mules. The following week Yves de Cornault rode back to

Kerfol, sent for his vassals and tenants, and told them he was to

be married at All Saints to Anne de Barrigan of Douarnenez. And

on All Saints' Day the marriage took place.

As to the next few years, the evidence on both sides seems to

show that they passed happily for the couple. No one was found

to say that Yves de Cornault had been unkind to his wife, and it

was plain to all that he was content with his bargain. Indeed,

it was admitted by the chaplain and other witnesses for the

prosecution that the young lady had a softening influence on her

husband, and that he became less exacting with his tenants, less

harsh to peasants and dependents, and less subject to the fits of

gloomy silence which had darkened his widow-hood. As to his

wife, the only grievance her champions could call up in her

behalf was that Kerfol was a lonely place, and that when her

husband was away on business at Rennes or Morlaix--whither she

was never taken--she was not allowed so much as to walk in the

park unaccompanied. But no one asserted that she was unhappy,

though one servant-woman said she had surprised her crying, and

had heard her say that she was a woman accursed to have no child,

and nothing in life to call her own. But that was a natural

enough feeling in a wife attached to her husband; and certainly

it must have been a great grief to Yves de Cornault that she gave

him no son. Yet he never made her feel her childlessness as a

reproach--she herself admits this in her evidence--but seemed to

try to make her forget it by showering gifts and favours on her.

Rich though he was, he had never been open-handed; but nothing

was too fine for his wife, in the way of silks or gems or linen,

or whatever else she fancied. Every wandering merchant was

welcome at Kerfol, and when the master was called away he never

came back without bringing his wife a handsome present--something

curious and particular--from Morlaix or Rennes or Quimper. One

of the waiting-women gave, in cross-examination, an interesting

list of one year's gifts, which I copy. From Morlaix, a carved

ivory junk, with Chinamen at the oars, that a strange sailor had

brought back as a votive offering for Notre Dame de la Clarte,

above Ploumanac'h; from Quimper, an embroidered gown, worked by

the nuns of the Assumption; from Rennes, a silver rose that

opened and showed an amber Virgin with a crown of garnets; from

Morlaix, again, a length of Damascus velvet shot with gold,

bought of a Jew from Syria; and for Michaelmas that same year,

from Rennes, a necklet or bracelet of round stones--emeralds and

pearls and rubies--strung like beads on a gold wire. This was

the present that pleased the lady best, the woman said. Later

on, as it happened, it was produced at the trial, and appears to

have struck the Judges and the public as a curious and valuable


The very same winter, the Baron absented himself again, this time

as far as Bordeaux, and on his return he brought his wife

something even odder and prettier than the bracelet. It was a

winter evening when he rode up to Kerfol and, walking into the

hall, found her sitting listlessly by the fire, her chin on her

hand, looking into the fire. He carried a velvet box in his hand

and, setting it down on the hearth, lifted the lid and let out a

little golden-brown dog.

Anne de Cornault exclaimed with pleasure as the little creature

bounded toward her. "Oh, it looks like a bird or a butterfly!"

she cried as she picked it up; and the dog put its paws on her

shoulders and looked at her with eyes "like a Christian's."

After that she would never have it out of her sight, and petted

and talked to it as if it had been a child--as indeed it was the

nearest thing to a child she was to know. Yves de Cornault was

much pleased with his purchase. The dog had been brought to him

by a sailor from an East India merchantman, and the sailor had

bought it of a pilgrim in a bazaar at Jaffa, who had stolen it

from a nobleman's wife in China: a perfectly permissible thing to

do, since the pilgrim was a Christian and the nobleman a heathen

doomed to hellfire. Yves de Cornault had paid a long price for

the dog, for they were beginning to be in demand at the French

court, and the sailor knew he had got hold of a good thing; but

Anne's pleasure was so great that, to see her laugh and play with

the little animal, her husband would doubtless have given twice

the sum.

So far, all the evidence is at one, and the narrative plain

sailing; but now the steering becomes difficult. I will try to

keep as nearly as possible to Anne's own statements; though

toward the end, poor thing . . .

Well, to go back. The very year after the little brown dog was

brought to Kerfol, Yves de Cornault, one winter night, was found

dead at the head of a narrow flight of stairs leading down from

his wife's rooms to a door opening on the court. It was his wife

who found him and gave the alarm, so distracted, poor wretch,

with fear and horror--for his blood was all over her--that at

first the roused household could not make out what she was

saying, and thought she had gone suddenly mad. But there, sure

enough, at the top of the stairs lay her husband, stone dead, and

head foremost, the blood from his wounds dripping down to the

steps below him. He had been dreadfully scratched and gashed

about the face and throat, as if with a dull weapon; and one of

his legs had a deep tear in it which had cut an artery, and

probably caused his death. But how did he come there, and who

had murdered him?

His wife declared that she had been asleep in her bed, and

hearing his cry had rushed out to find him lying on the stairs;

but this was immediately questioned. In the first place, it was

proved that from her room she could not have heard the struggle

on the stairs, owing to the thickness of the walls and the length

of the intervening passage; then it was evident that she had not

been in bed and asleep, since she was dressed when she roused the

house, and her bed had not been slept in. Moreover, the door at

the bottom of the stairs was ajar, and the key in the lock; and

it was noticed by the chaplain (an observant man) that the dress

she wore was stained with blood about the knees, and that there

were traces of small blood-stained hands low down on the

staircase walls, so that it was conjectured that she had really

been at the postern-door when her husband fell and, feeling her

way up to him in the darkness on her hands and knees, had been

stained by his blood dripping down on her. Of course it was

argued on the other side that the blood-marks on her dress might

have been caused by her kneeling down by her husband when she

rushed out of her room; but there was the open door below, and

the fact that the fingermarks in the staircase all pointed


The accused held to her statement for the first two days, in

spite of its improbability; but on the third day word was brought

to her that Herve de Lanrivain, a young nobleman of the

neighbourhood, had been arrested for complicity in the crime.

Two or three witnesses thereupon came forward to say that it was

known throughout the country that Lanrivain had formerly been on

good terms with the lady of Cornault; but that he had been absent

from Brittany for over a year, and people had ceased to associate

their names. The witnesses who made this statement were not of a

very reputable sort. One was an old herb-gatherer suspected of

witch-craft, another a drunken clerk from a neighbouring parish,

the third a half-witted shepherd who could be made to say

anything; and it was clear that the prosecution was not satisfied

with its case, and would have liked to find more definite proof

of Lanrivain's complicity than the statement of the herb-

gatherer, who swore to having seen him climbing the wall of the

park on the night of the murder. One way of patching out

incomplete proofs in those days was to put some sort of pressure,

moral or physical, on the accused person. It is not clear what

pressure was put on Anne de Cornault; but on the third day, when

she was brought into court, she "appeared weak and wandering,"

and after being encouraged to collect herself and speak the

truth, on her honour and the wounds of her Blessed Redeemer, she

confessed that she had in fact gone down the stairs to speak with

Herve de Lanrivain (who denied everything), and had been

surprised there by the sound of her husband's fall. That was

better; and the prosecution rubbed its hands with satisfaction.

The satisfaction increased when various dependents living at

Kerfol were induced to say--with apparent sincerity--that during

the year or two preceding his death their master had once more

grown uncertain and irascible, and subject to the fits of

brooding silence which his household had learned to dread before

his second marriage. This seemed to show that things had not

been going well at Kerfol; though no one could be found to say

that there had been any signs of open disagreement between

husband and wife.

Anne de Cornault, when questioned as to her reason for going down

at night to open the door to Herve de Lanrivain, made an answer

which must have sent a smile around the court. She said it was

because she was lonely and wanted to talk with the young man.

Was this the only reason? she was asked; and replied: "Yes, by

the Cross over your Lordships' heads." "But why at midnight?"

the court asked. "Because I could see him in no other way." I

can see the exchange of glances across the ermine collars under

the Crucifix.

Anne de Cornault, further questioned, said that her married life

had been extremely lonely: "desolate" was the word she used. It

was true that her husband seldom spoke harshly to her; but there

were days when he did not speak at all. It was true that he had

never struck or threatened her; but he kept her like a prisoner

at Kerfol, and when he rode away to Morlaix or Quimper or Rennes

he set so close a watch on her that she could not pick a flower

in the garden without having a waiting-woman at her heels. "I am

no Queen, to need such honours," she once said to him; and he had

answered that a man who has a treasure does not leave the key in

the lock when he goes out. "Then take me with you," she urged;

but to this he said that towns were pernicious places, and young

wives better off at their own firesides.

"But what did you want to say to Herve de Lanrivain?" the court

asked; and she answered: "To ask him to take me away."

"Ah--you confess that you went down to him with adulterous



"Then why did you want him to take you away?"

"Because I was afraid for my life."

"Of whom were you afraid?"

"Of my husband."

"Why were you afraid of your husband?"

"Because he had strangled my little dog."

Another smile must have passed around the court-room: in days

when any nobleman had a right to hang his peasants--and most of

them exercised it--pinching a pet animal's wind-pipe was nothing

to make a fuss about.

At this point one of the Judges, who appears to have had a

certain sympathy for the accused, suggested that she should be

allowed to explain herself in her own way; and she thereupon made

the following statement.

The first years of her marriage had been lonely; but her husband

had not been unkind to her. If she had had a child she would not

have been unhappy; but the days were long, and it rained too


It was true that her husband, whenever he went away and left her,

brought her a handsome present on his return; but this did not

make up for the loneliness. At least nothing had, till he

brought her the little brown dog from the East: after that she

was much less unhappy. Her husband seemed pleased that she was

so fond of the dog; he gave her leave to put her jewelled

bracelet around its neck, and to keep it always with her.

One day she had fallen asleep in her room, with the dog at her

feet, as his habit was. Her feet were bare and resting on his

back. Suddenly she was waked by her husband: he stood beside

her, smiling not unkindly.

"You look like my great-grandmother, Juliane de Cornault, lying

in the chapel with her feet on a little dog," he said.

The analogy sent a chill through her, but she laughed and

answered: "Well, when I am dead you must put me beside her,

carved in marble, with my dog at my feet."

"Oho--we'll wait and see," he said, laughing also, but with his

black brows close together. "The dog is the emblem of fidelity."

"And do you doubt my right to lie with mine at my feet?"

"When I'm in doubt I find out," he answered. "I am an old man,"

he added, "and people say I make you lead a lonely life. But I

swear you shall have your monument if you earn it."

"And I swear to be faithful," she returned, "if only for the sake

of having my little dog at my feet."

Not long afterward he went on business to the Quimper Assizes;

and while he was away his aunt, the widow of a great nobleman of

the duchy, came to spend a night at Kerfol on her way to the

pardon of Ste. Barbe. She was a woman of great piety and

consequence, and much respected by Yves de Cornault, and when she

proposed to Anne to go with her to Ste. Barbe no one could

object, and even the chaplain declared himself in favour of the

pilgrimage. So Anne set out for Ste. Barbe, and there for the

first time she talked with Herve de Lanrivain. He had come once

or twice to Kerfol with his father, but she had never before

exchanged a dozen words with him. They did not talk for more

than five minutes now: it was under the chestnuts, as the

procession was coming out of the chapel. He said: "I pity you,"

and she was surprised, for she had not supposed that any one

thought her an object of pity. He added: "Call for me when you

need me," and she smiled a little, but was glad afterward, and

thought often of the meeting.

She confessed to having seen him three times afterward: not more.

How or where she would not say--one had the impression that she

feared to implicate some one. Their meetings had been rare and

brief; and at the last he had told her that he was starting the

next day for a foreign country, on a mission which was not

without peril and might keep him for many months absent. He

asked her for a remembrance, and she had none to give him but the

collar about the little dog's neck. She was sorry afterward that

she had given it, but he was so unhappy at going that she had not

had the courage to refuse.

Her husband was away at the time. When he returned a few days

later he picked up the little dog to pet it, and noticed that its

collar was missing. His wife told him that the dog had lost it

in the undergrowth of the park, and that she and her maids had

hunted a whole day for it. It was true, she explained to the

court, that she had made the maids search for the necklet--they

all believed the dog had lost it in the park. . .

Her husband made no comment, and that evening at supper he was in

his usual mood, between good and bad: you could never tell which.

He talked a good deal, describing what he had seen and done at

Rennes; but now and then he stopped and looked hard at her; and

when she went to bed she found her little dog strangled on her

pillow. The little thing was dead, but still warm; she stooped

to lift it, and her distress turned to horror when she discovered

that it had been strangled by twisting twice round its throat the

necklet she had given to Lanrivain.

The next morning at dawn she buried the dog in the garden, and

hid the necklet in her breast. She said nothing to her husband,

then or later, and he said nothing to her; but that day he had a

peasant hanged for stealing a faggot in the park, and the next

day he nearly beat to death a young horse he was breaking.

Winter set in, and the short days passed, and the long nights,

one by one; and she heard nothing of Herve de Lanrivain. It

might be that her husband had killed him; or merely that he had

been robbed of the necklet. Day after day by the hearth among

the spinning maids, night after night alone on her bed, she

wondered and trembled. Sometimes at table her husband looked

across at her and smiled; and then she felt sure that Lanrivain

was dead. She dared not try to get news of him, for she was sure

her husband would find out if she did: she had an idea that he

could find out anything. Even when a witch-woman who was a noted

seer, and could show you the whole world in her crystal, came to

the castle for a night's shelter, and the maids flocked to her,

Anne held back. The winter was long and black and rainy. One

day, in Yves de Cornault's absence, some gypsies came to Kerfol

with a troop of performing dogs. Anne bought the smallest and

cleverest, a white dog with a feathery coat and one blue and one

brown eye. It seemed to have been ill-treated by the gypsies,

and clung to her plaintively when she took it from them. That

evening her husband came back, and when she went to bed she found

the dog strangled on her pillow.

After that she said to herself that she would never have another

dog; but one bitter cold evening a poor lean greyhound was found

whining at the castle-gate, and she took him in and forbade the

maids to speak of him to her husband. She hid him in a room that

no one went to, smuggled food to him from her own plate, made him

a warm bed to lie on and petted him like a child.

Yves de Cornault came home, and the next day she found the

greyhound strangled on her pillow. She wept in secret, but said

nothing, and resolved that even if she met a dog dying of hunger

she would never bring him into the castle; but one day she found

a young sheep-dog, a brindled puppy with good blue eyes, lying

with a broken leg in the snow of the park. Yves de Cornault was

at Rennes, and she brought the dog in, warmed and fed it, tied up

its leg and hid it in the castle till her husband's return. The

day before, she gave it to a peasant woman who lived a long way

off, and paid her handsomely to care for it and say nothing; but

that night she heard a whining and scratching at her door, and

when she opened it the lame puppy, drenched and shivering, jumped

up on her with little sobbing barks. She hid him in her bed, and

the next morning was about to have him taken back to the peasant

woman when she heard her husband ride into the court. She shut

the dog in a chest and went down to receive him. An hour or two

later, when she returned to her room, the puppy lay strangled on

her pillow. . .

After that she dared not make a pet of any other dog; and her

loneliness became almost unendurable. Sometimes, when she

crossed the court of the castle, and thought no one was looking,

she stopped to pat the old pointer at the gate. But one day as

she was caressing him her husband came out of the chapel; and the

next day the old dog was gone. . .

This curious narrative was not told in one sitting of the court,

or received without impatience and incredulous comment. It was

plain that the Judges were surprised by its puerility, and that

it did not help the accused in the eyes of the public. It was an

odd tale, certainly; but what did it prove? That Yves de

Cornault disliked dogs, and that his wife, to gratify her own

fancy, persistently ignored this dislike. As for pleading this

trivial disagreement as an excuse for her relations--whatever

their nature--with her supposed accomplice, the argument was so

absurd that her own lawyer manifestly regretted having let her

make use of it, and tried several times to cut short her story.

But she went on to the end, with a kind of hypnotized insistence,

as though the scenes she evoked were so real to her that she had

forgotten where she was and imagined herself to be re-living


At length the Judge who had previously shown a certain kindness

to her said (leaning forward a little, one may suppose, from his

row of dozing colleagues): "Then you would have us believe that

you murdered your husband because he would not let you keep a pet


"I did not murder my husband."

"Who did, then? Herve de Lanrivain?"


"Who then? Can you tell us?"

"Yes, I can tell you. The dogs--" At that point she was carried

out of the court in a swoon.

. . . . . . . .

It was evident that her lawyer tried to get her to abandon this

line of defense. Possibly her explanation, whatever it was, had

seemed convincing when she poured it out to him in the heat of

their first private colloquy; but now that it was exposed to the

cold daylight of judicial scrutiny, and the banter of the town,

he was thoroughly ashamed of it, and would have sacrificed her

without a scruple to save his professional reputation. But the

obstinate Judge--who perhaps, after all, was more inquisitive

than kindly--evidently wanted to hear the story out, and she was

ordered, the next day, to continue her deposition.

She said that after the disappearance of the old watch-dog

nothing particular happened for a month or two. Her husband was

much as usual: she did not remember any special incident. But

one evening a pedlar woman came to the castle and was selling

trinkets to the maids. She had no heart for trinkets, but she

stood looking on while the women made their choice. And then,

she did not know how, but the pedlar coaxed her into buying for

herself an odd pear-shaped pomander with a strong scent in it--

she had once seen something of the kind on a gypsy woman. She

had no desire for the pomander, and did not know why she had

bought it. The pedlar said that whoever wore it had the power to

read the future; but she did not really believe that, or care

much either. However, she bought the thing and took it up to her

room, where she sat turning it about in her hand. Then the

strange scent attracted her and she began to wonder what kind of

spice was in the box. She opened it and found a grey bean rolled

in a strip of paper; and on the paper she saw a sign she knew,

and a message from Herve de Lanrivain, saying that he was at home

again and would be at the door in the court that night after the

moon had set. . .

She burned the paper and then sat down to think. It was

nightfall, and her husband was at home. . . She had no way of

warning Lanrivain, and there was nothing to do but to wait. . .

At this point I fancy the drowsy courtroom beginning to wake up.

Even to the oldest hand on the bench there must have been a

certain aesthetic relish in picturing the feelings of a woman on

receiving such a message at night-fall from a man living twenty

miles away, to whom she had no means of sending a warning. . .

She was not a clever woman, I imagine; and as the first result of

her cogitation she appears to have made the mistake of being,

that evening, too kind to her husband. She could not ply him

with wine, according to the traditional expedient, for though he

drank heavily at times he had a strong head; and when he drank

beyond its strength it was because he chose to, and not because a

woman coaxed him. Not his wife, at any rate--she was an old

story by now. As I read the case, I fancy there was no feeling

for her left in him but the hatred occasioned by his supposed


At any rate, she tried to call up her old graces; but early in

the evening he complained of pains and fever, and left the hall

to go up to his room. His servant carried him a cup of hot wine,

and brought back word that he was sleeping and not to be

disturbed; and an hour later, when Anne lifted the tapestry and

listened at his door, she heard his loud regular breathing. She

thought it might be a feint, and stayed a long time barefooted in

the cold passage, her ear to the crack; but the breathing went on

too steadily and naturally to be other than that of a man in a

sound sleep. She crept back to her room reassured, and stood in

the window watching the moon set through the trees of the park.

The sky was misty and starless, and after the moon went down the

night was pitch black. She knew the time had come, and stole

along the passage, past her husband's door--where she stopped

again to listen to his breathing--to the top of the stairs.

There she paused a moment, and assured herself that no one was

following her; then she began to go down the stairs in the

darkness. They were so steep and winding that she had to go very

slowly, for fear of stumbling. Her one thought was to get the

door unbolted, tell Lanrivain to make his escape, and hasten back

to her room. She had tried the bolt earlier in the evening, and

managed to put a little grease on it; but nevertheless, when she

drew it, it gave a squeak . . . not loud, but it made her heart

stop; and the next minute, overhead, she heard a noise. . .

"What noise?" the prosecution interposed.

"My husband's voice calling out my name and cursing me."

"What did you hear after that?"

"A terrible scream and a fall."

"Where was Herve de Lanrivain at this time?"

"He was standing outside in the court. I just made him out in

the darkness. I told him for God's sake to go, and then I pushed

the door shut."

"What did you do next?"

"I stood at the foot of the stairs and listened."

"What did you hear?"

"I heard dogs snarling and panting." (Visible discouragement of

the bench, boredom of the public, and exasperation of the lawyer

for the defense. Dogs again--! But the inquisitive Judge


"What dogs?"

She bent her head and spoke so low that she had to be told to

repeat her answer: "I don't know."

"How do you mean--you don't know?"

"I don't know what dogs. . ."

The Judge again intervened: "Try to tell us exactly what

happened. How long did you remain at the foot of the stairs?"

"Only a few minutes."

"And what was going on meanwhile overhead?"

"The dogs kept on snarling and panting. Once or twice he cried

out. I think he moaned once. Then he was quiet."

"Then what happened?"

"Then I heard a sound like the noise of a pack when the wolf is

thrown to them--gulping and lapping."

(There was a groan of disgust and repulsion through the court,

and another attempted intervention by the distracted lawyer. But

the inquisitive Judge was still inquisitive.)

"And all the while you did not go up?"

"Yes--I went up then--to drive them off."

"The dogs?"



"When I got there it was quite dark. I found my husband's flint

and steel and struck a spark. I saw him lying there. He was


"And the dogs?"

"The dogs were gone."

"Gone--where to?"

"I don't know. There was no way out--and there were no dogs at


She straightened herself to her full height, threw her arms above

her head, and fell down on the stone floor with a long scream.

There was a moment of confusion in the court-room. Some one on

the bench was heard to say: "This is clearly a case for the

ecclesiastical authorities"--and the prisoner's lawyer doubtless

jumped at the suggestion.

After this, the trial loses itself in a maze of cross-questioning

and squabbling. Every witness who was called corroborated Anne

de Cornault's statement that there were no dogs at Kerfol: had

been none for several months. The master of the house had taken

a dislike to dogs, there was no denying it. But, on the other

hand, at the inquest, there had been long and bitter discussion

as to the nature of the dead man's wounds. One of the surgeons

called in had spoken of marks that looked like bites. The

suggestion of witchcraft was revived, and the opposing lawyers

hurled tomes of necromancy at each other.

At last Anne de Cornault was brought back into court--at the

instance of the same Judge--and asked if she knew where the dogs

she spoke of could have come from. On the body of her Redeemer

she swore that she did not. Then the Judge put his final

question: "If the dogs you think you heard had been known to you,

do you think you would have recognized them by their barking?"


"Did you recognize them?"


"What dogs do you take them to have been?"

"My dead dogs," she said in a whisper. . . She was taken out of

court, not to reappear there again. There was some kind of

ecclesiastical investigation, and the end of the business was

that the Judges disagreed with each other, and with the

ecclesiastical committee, and that Anne de Cornault was finally

handed over to the keeping of her husband's family, who shut her

up in the keep of Kerfol, where she is said to have died many

years later, a harmless madwoman.

So ends her story. As for that of Herve de Lanrivain, I had only

to apply to his collateral descendant for its subsequent details.

The evidence against the young man being insufficient, and his

family influence in the duchy considerable, he was set free, and

left soon afterward for Paris. He was probably in no mood for a

worldly life, and he appears to have come almost immediately

under the influence of the famous M. Arnauld d'Andilly and the

gentlemen of Port Royal. A year or two later he was received

into their Order, and without achieving any particular

distinction he followed its good and evil fortunes till his death

some twenty years later. Lanrivain showed me a portrait of him

by a pupil of Philippe de Champaigne: sad eyes, an impulsive

mouth and a narrow brow. Poor Herve de Lanrivain: it was a grey

ending. Yet as I looked at his stiff and sallow effigy, in the

dark dress of the Jansenists, I almost found myself envying his

fate. After all, in the course of his life two great things had

happened to him: he had loved romantically, and he must have

talked with Pascal. . .