Picture by Howard Chandler Christy for Scribner’s in January 1916.
Her guests were bobbing for apples at her Valentine’s Day party when Mavis Cross looked out the window and saw the man standing under the Maple Tree in her front yard.
She looked over her shoulder, furtively and with a little smile she pushed her nose against the window so that she could get a better look at the man, dressed from head to toe in black.
He held his arms up-he was asking her to dance.
She nodded and raised her hands and he stepped forward
she stepped back.
He stopped and whispered and she heard him clearly in her right ear
she nodded and dropped her hands. Mavis was smiling. She was giggling. She was blushing a little too.
Mavis Cross turned toward away from the window, she waltzed around and around to where her guests were bobbing for apples.
She waltzed to the fountain where the apples were bobbing in the water and her guests were laughing and gurgling and making little jokes to each other.
Mavis dropped her arms to her side and she glided up to the fountain and looked down into the water and back up again.
Her guests smiled back.
Then she reached out and put her hand on the back of one of her guests’s neck and she pushed down.
Nobody could pull her back, she was so devilishly strong, they said.
Later some of the guests would swear that they saw the man Mavis was dancing with and they saw the both of them reach out and drown Marina Trask . They couldn’t understand why other people would swear though that Mavis was dancing alone and that she drowned Marina alone.
Mavis said, when the police asked, when her lawyers asked, when the Doctors at the Asylum asked why she drowned Marina Trask, she told them that the Man under the tree asked her to dance and as they danced he asked if she wanted to raise a little Hell and what he said sounded like a grand idea.
So she said yes.
Go ask him yourself if you have any more questions, she said. He’s probably under that same tree.