They dined by the latticed window;
two candles lighted them; old Anne served them old
Anne of Faeouette in her wide white coiffe and
collarette, her velvet bodice and her chaussons
broidered with the rose.
Always she talked as she moved about
with dish and salver garrulous, deaf, and
aged, and perhaps flushed with the gentle afterglow
of that second infancy which comes before the night.
“Ouidame! It is I, Anne
Le Bihan, who tell you this, my pretty gentleman.
I have lived through eighty years and I have seen life
begin and end in the Woods of Aulnes alas! in
the Woods and the House of Aulnes ”
“The red wine, Anne,” said her mistress,
“Madame the Countess is served....
These grapes grew when I was young, Monsieur and
the world was young, too, mon Capitaine helas! but
the Woods of Aulnes were old, old as the headland
yonder. Only the sea is older, beau jeune
homme only the sea is older the
sea which always was and will be.”
“Madame,” he said, turning
toward the young girl beside him, “ to
France! I have the honour ”
She touched her glass to his and they saluted France
with the ancient wine of France a sip, a
faint smile, and silence through which their eyes
still lingered for a moment.
“This year is yielding a bitter
vintage,” he said. “Light is lacking.
But but there will be sun enough another
“B’en oui! The
sun must shine again,” muttered old Anne, “but
not in the Woods of Aulnes. Non pas. There
is no sunlight in the Woods of Aulnes where all
is dim and still; where the Blessed walk at dawn with
Our Lady of Aulnes in shining vestments all ”
“She has seen thin mists rising
there,” whispered the Countess in his ear.
“In shining robes of grace oui-da! the
martyrs and the acolytes of God. It is I who
tell you, beau jeune homme I, Anne
of Faeouette. I saw them pass where, on my two
knees, I gathered orange mushrooms by the brook!
I heard them singing prettily and loud, hymns of our
blessed Lady ”
“She heard a throstle singing
by the brook,” whispered the chatelaine of Aulnes.
Her breath was delicately fragrant on his cheek.
Against the grey dusk at the window
she looked to him like a slim spirit returned to haunt
the halls of Aulnes some graceful shade
come back out of the hazy and forgotten years of gallantry
and courts and battles the exquisite apparation
of that golden time before the Vendée drowned and
washed it out in blood.
“I am so glad you came,”
she said. “I have not felt so calm, so confident,
Old Anne of Faeouette laid them fresh
napkins and set two crystal bowls beside them and
filled the bowls with fresh water from the moat.
“Ho fois!” she
said, “love and the heart may change, but not
the Woods of Aulnes; they never change they
never change.... The golden people of Ker-Ys
come out of the sea to walk among the trees.”
The Countess whispered: “She
has seen the sunbeams slanting through the trees.”
“Vrai, c’est moi, Anne
Le Bihan, qui vous dites cela, mon Capitaine!
And, in the Woods of Aulnes the werewolf prowls.
I have seen him, gallant gentleman. He walks
upright, and, in his head, he has only eyes; no mouth,
no teeth, no nostrils, and no hair the Loup-Garou! O
Lady of Aulnes, adored and blessed, protect us
from the Loup-Barou!”
The Countess said again to him:
“I have not felt so confident, so content, so
full of faith in months ”
A far faint clamour came to their
ears; high in the fading sky above the forest vast
clouds of wild fowl rose like smoke, whirling, circling,
swinging wide, drifting against the dying light of
day, southward toward the sea.
“There is something wrong there,”
he said, under his breath.
Minute after minute they watched in
silence. The last misty shred of wild fowl floated
seaward and was lost against the clouds.
“Is there a path to the Étang?” he
“Yes. I will go with you ”
“No. Show me the path.”
His shotgun stood by the door; he
took it with him as he left the house beside her.
In the moat, close by the bridge, and pointing toward
the house, L’Ombre lay motionless. They
saw it as they passed, but did not speak of it to
each other. At the forest’s edge he halted:
“Is this the path?”
“Yes.... May I not go?”
“Is there danger?”
“No.... I don’t know if there is
“Will you be cautious, then?”
He turned and looked at her in the
dim light. Standing so for a little while they
remained silent. Then he drew a deep, quiet breath.
She held out one hand, slowly; half way he bent and
touched her fingers with his lips; released them.
Her arm fell listlessly at her side.
After he had been gone a long while,
she turned away, moving with head lowered. At
the bridge she waited for him.
A red moon rose low in the east.
It became golden above the trees, paler higher, and
deathly white in mid-heaven.
It was long after midnight when she
went into the house to light fresh candles. In
the intense darkness before dawn she lighted two more
and set them in an upper window on the chance that
they might guide him back.
At five in the morning every clock struck five.
She was not asleep; she was lying
on a lounge beside the burning candles, listening,
when the door below burst open and there came the trampling
rush of feet, the sound of blows, a fall
A loud voice cried: “Because
you are armed and not in uniform! you British
And the pistol shots crashed through the house.
On the stairs she swayed for an instant,
grasped blindly at the rail. Through the floating
smoke below the dead man lay there by the latticed
window where they had sat together he
Spectres were flitting to and fro grey
shapes without faces things with eyes.
A loud voice dinned in her ears, beat savagely upon
her shrinking brain:
“You there on the stairs! do
you hear? What are those candles? Signals?”
She looked down at the dead man.
“Yes,” she said.
Through the crackling racket of the
fusillade, down, down into roaring darkness she fell.
After a few moments her slim hand
moved, closed over the dead man’s. And
moved no more.
In the moat L’Ombre still remained,
unstirring; old Anne lay in the kitchen dying; and
the Wood of Aulnes was swarming with ghastly shapes
which had no faces, only eyes.