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PAGE 4

Kerfol
by [?]

“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 drawing-room.

“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 thoughtfully.

“A pack of dogs–you SAW them?”

“Saw them? I saw nothing else!”

“How many?” She dropped her voice a little. “I’ve always wondered–“

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.

II

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!”