It had been ninety-three years since the old Goose and Turrets Hotel had burned to the ground. Some said it was the fault of a dry winter. Fallen pine needles and the casually discarded butt of a cigarillo invariably resulted in conflagration.
Others were certain it was arson, the hotelier’s last-ditch effort to avoid getting caught selling liquor. True, the law turned a blind eye to Society folk sipping champagne at parties, but it was known that Rick was moving more than the occasional bottle of bubbly through his wine cellars.
Either way, the place was ablaze before midnight, and the new day dawned on ash and rubble.
Henry had died inside, they said, rushing into the wood-framed structure again and again to help others get out.
She’d been seen wandering the beach early in the morning, barefoot, with the train of her silk-velvet bridal gown so laden with wet sand it was nearly the same color as the smoldering ruins.
They never found her body, but she’d been walking below the waterline, and the morning high tide hadn’t yet come to wash away the scattered shoes and bags of those who had escaped the island on boats.
And everyone knows that you shouldn’t wade while wearing velvet. It soaks up the water and drags you down to the bottom of the sea.
The cold, dark Atlantic is unforgiving that way.
Teenagers who go to the beach to make out in the moonlight claim that when the fog rolls in and the arc of the lighthouse beam swings leeward, you can see the outline of the old hotel, standing stalwart on the cliff, and you can hear the waltz music underneath the sound of the waves.
And folks who live in the cottages (mansions, really, but the pretense is maintained) tucked among the pine trees say they often catch a glimpse of a bride in white velvet, seaweed in her hair, and a skeletal partner gently leading the form of a waltz.
It’s Isabelle and Henry, they whisper, for fear a loud voice will disturb the timeless lovers. It’s Henry and Isabelle having one last dance.
May they rest in peace, when the song is done.