Saturday, May 23, 2009

Unknown - Hallowed and Hushed

(This is the beginning of a creative non-fiction piece I'm working on based on a true story. In the late 1800s, an unknown young woman came to the Graham Springs Hotel in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. During the evenings grand ball, she danced all night with one man after another. Immediately after the last dance, the lady died in her partners arms. Her identity remains a mystery to this day.)

Unknown - Hallowed and Hushed be the place of the dead. Step Softly. Bow Head.

As she entered the Graham Springs Hotel, she self-consciously touched her dark hair. Mid-back length, she had it artfully piled on top of her head with several ringlets of curls dangling like tendrils around her graceful neck.

Her alabaster complexion was deathly white, not a sickly pallor of ill-health, just the markings of a gentle lady brought up to protect her skin from the sun. The apples of each cheek held the faint hue of a pink rosebud at dawn with only a tiny dimple marring the line of her left cheek.

Her eyes were hazel with tiny flecks of gold that glistened and reflected with sunlight or candlelight. Thick curly eyelashes gave her eyes a dreamy look of someone older than her years. Her sweet cupid mouth lit up her face when she smiled, and in rare instances, laughed.

She had checked into the hotel for just one night, arriving unescorted on a coach from Lexington. She had only a small trunk of clothing with her and she was reluctant to let it out of her sight. She paid her bill with Confederate money and signed her name daintily in the thick ledger - Mrs. E. W. Maclaine. They would later learn this was a false name.

She appeared in the grand ballroom at precisely the stroke of nine o'clock, her pale green dress draping behind her like a foaming waterfall. She was instantly the center of attention, turning every young man's head.

She danced with each man in turn and when she was finished, she would start all over again, rarely stopping to catch her breath. She refused offers for glasses of punch or quiet walks in the moonlit garden, preferring instead to continue twirling on the dance floor.

Just a few strokes after midnight, guest began making their way out of the ballroom and up to their rooms. As the mystery girl's last dance partner gave her one last twirl and dipped her for a stolen kiss, he was horrified to find the young woman dead.

All attempts to learn the true identity of Mrs. E. W. Maclaine were unsuccessful. After a week of searching, the unknown lady was laid to rest on the grounds of the Graham Springs Hotel.

The Graham Springs Hotel burned down over a century ago, and this area is now known as Young’s Park. And the unknown tombstone still marks the grave, whispering secrets to those who are brave enough and sensitive enough to listen or care.

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