A man rented a country cottage on the banks of the Seine, several miles from Paris, and formed an acquaintance with one of his neighbors, an old boating-man. One evening, as they were walking along the banks of the river, the man asked his neighbor to tell him about some of his nautical experiences. The neighbor began to tell a story of a strange adventure that happened to him about ten years ago.
At that time, the neighbor lived in old mother Lafon's house and one of his best friends, Louis Bernet, was camping out in a nearby village. They used to take dinner together every day, either at his place or at the neighbor's.
One evening, as the neighbor was returning home alone, he stopped to rest near a point formed by reeds, about two hundred yards in front of a railway bridge. The weather was magnificent, and he decided to smoke his pipe there. He dropped the anchor of his boat and settled down comfortably.
The river is silent and treacherous. It flows stealthily, without a murmur, and the eternal gentle motion of the water is more awful to me than the big ocean waves.
As he sat there, he began to feel a strange nervousness creep over him. He tried to overcome his dread, but it was growing worse and worse. He drank some rum and lay down in the bottom of the boat, trying to sleep. He remained there for at least an hour, without sleeping, visited by nightmares. When he finally raised himself up, he saw a marvellous, stupendous sight: the mist that had hung over the water had lifted and settled on the banks of the stream, forming two unbroken hills of dazzling whiteness.
The neighbor eventually dozed off to sleep and when he awoke, the moon was gone and the sky was covered with clouds. He finished the rum and lay listening to the rustling of the reeds and the murmur of the river. Suddenly, he saw a shadow glide past him and shouted to it. It was a fisherman, who helped him tug at the chain of his anchor, which had become stuck.
I felt a horrible depression steal over me, my temples throbbed, my heart beat wildly, and, losing all control over myself, I was ready to plunge overboard and swim to safety.
Another boat joined them, and they finally managed to pull up the anchor, which had a heavy weight attached to it. To their horror, they discovered that the weight was the body of an old woman, with a big stone tied around her neck.