Once a long time ago, back in the days when our state was more farmland and cotton fields than highway and industry, there was a beautiful young girl named Abigail who loved to dance. This young lady loved a jaunty tune more than she enjoyed a good meal, a hot bath, or a nice book. Her parents often scolded her when they discovered her humming a happy melody and swaying in time to the music. They’d jokingly tell her, “Abigail, one of these days, you’ll dance yourself to death!” Of course, Abigail paid them no attention. What did parents really know anyhow? She continued to dance, day after day, night after night, humming her favorite tune and swaying in time to the music.
As Abigail grew older, she became more and more attractive. The young men in the area knew of her beauty, and soon her porch was filled with suitors, who had ridden their horses over rough miles to pay her a visit in her ancestral home. Some young men would bring her strawberries picked fresh from the vine, but these young men she paid no heed. Others would bring her lace handkerchiefs as mementos, but these she just quietly tucked away. Seeing so many other suitors turned away, one young man named Thomas was determined he would find a way to capture the beautiful Abigail’s heart.
From Abigail’s maid, Thomas learned that the young lady adored music and dance. So one evening, he brought a man to play his fiddle while the young couple danced the night away. Abigail was delighted. She and Thomas danced the length of the porch and back, time after time, late into the night. Knowing they’d been defeated, the other suitors started to slink away, but their departure was unnoticed by Abigail. She only had eyes for Thomas, who had clearly won her heart and her hand by the time morning came.
Now engaged to be married, Abigail excitedly made preparations for her wedding, which included a full band, so she and Thomas could dance and be the envy of those in attendance. Yet, as the day drew near, Abigail grew ill, and soon, so did many others in her small community. The cause of her illness? Yellow fever. Abigail tossed and turned in her bed. She hovered between life and death, but slowly, the illness subsided until finally, everyone realized that the worst had passed. Thomas visited her many times during her illness, praying that his betrothed would be spared, and she was. She began to recover, but the progress was slow.
One morning, Abigail awoke to the realization that her wedding was only a few days away. The plans for the wedding had been put aside with Abigail so sick, but she was determined that her wedding take place as scheduled. Her parents begged her to wait until she had fully recovered, but Abigail would not yield. Even Thomas asked her to postpone the wedding for a few weeks, so they could enjoy their nuptials without the veil of sickness still hovering over them. Abigail simply would not bend. The plans continued, and finally, the day arrived.
When the band showed up, Abigail had them play her favorite tune while she danced up the long hallway and back down. Yet, she felt strange. A flutter arose in her heart, and she had to sit and wait for it to pass. Not wanting others to see her tiredness, she returned to her room where her maid dress her in her wedding gown. Abigail was anxious, but elated that she would soon be married to the handsome Thomas.
As the guests arrived, Abigail’s excitement grew to the point of agitation. She became restless, and no amount of cajoling from her maid or her parents could stem her excitement. Finally, the minister called the service to order, and as her father walked her down the aisle, everyone gasped at her ethereal beauty. Her anticipation for the dance to follow clearly shown in her feverish eyes. With their vows declared, Thomas and Abigail became man and wife.
The guests did full justice to the food and punch, and many paid their respects to the newly wed couple. But, Abigail could not wait for the music to begin. After what seemed like an eternity, she and Thomas began the evening’s long procession of dances. Abigail danced with her husband, her father, the minister, and many of her former suitors. But each dance seemed to take a little something out of her. Her already bright eyes started to burn furiously, and her partners noticed the heat emanating through her gloved hands. For the night’s last dance, Abigail returned to Thomas, but just as he closed his hand over hers, she collapsed, dead. Unbeknownst to anyone, her body had never truly healed from its battle with yellow fever, and as her parents had once predicted, the exhaustion brought on by too much dancing had killed her. She was buried the next day, and Thomas soon left the area for one where her memory would fade.
Yet, Abigail’s spirit could not rest. Her love of dance was too much to keep her forever in her heavenly home. Wherever there was music in the little community where Abigail had lived and died, a ghostly visage of a beautiful young lady would materialize. Not realizing the attractive girl was an apparition, many a suitor would ask her to dance, only to extend their hands into nothingness. Sometimes, though, her will to dance was so strong, she would appear more fully, and she and her young partner would traverse the length of the ballroom. Only to everyone present, it looked like the young man had lost his mind because he was dancing alone with no partner in sight.
To this day, wherever a jaunty tune is being played, Abigail’s ghost will sometimes appear, seeking a partner for a dance. And young men, should she ever show herself to you and accept your invitation, don’t be too upset if you get picked on for dancing alone later. Just be pleased that you were able to bring happiness to a young girl whose love for music and dance was so strong that it has kept her coming back for more.