Welcome back to our Christmas celebration of ghost stories by Edith Wharton. For the curious, alert, and not-too-easily frightened, we have several collections of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories here at the Nashville Public Library.
Both of the selections chosen for this showcasing of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories have in common people who are searching for a new house – a swift and easy way to introduce the story and begin the action of the plot.
In addition to writing and the decorative arts, Edith also loved dogs—and was famous both for having many of them and for spearheading campaigns and organizations for their ethical treatment. So it was inevitable, perhaps, that she would write a ghost story featuring dogs.
There are some terms in the story which the reader might find unfamiliar: a chemin de ronde is the walkway behind a castle battlement, where defenders would patrol the ramparts. A sleeve dog can refer to any small dog that can be carried on one arm but often refers to a Pekingese. The Pardon of Locronan is a penitential ceremony and festival held in July, one of several such pilgrimages unique to the Catholics of Brittany.
The house in today’s story, named Kerfol, has a haunted history, not unlike many great houses inhabited by disembodied spirits. As the unnamed narrator visits the house and later begins to weave the unhappy story of its occupants, we are introduced to characters rarely mentioned in a ghost story except for the occasional howl aimed at some unearthly being – dogs, that is. Lots of dogs…but very quiet as dogs go.
“Kerfol,” by Edith Wharton…we begin….