"She seemed sent me from heaven or the other place."
The narrator was in his studio with a guest rearranging pictures and paintings and showing them this pictures of Mrs. Alice Oke. The narrator, an artist, began the telling of the story of Oke of Okehurst to a guest in his studio.
The story began with Mr. William Oke coming into the narrator’s studio with a friend and requesting a sitting for him and his wife. The narrator accepts and travels to Okehurst. He is welcomed by William when he arrives, who apologizes for his wife bout of sickness that had rendered her absent. The narrator is given a tour of the house and, counter to his expectations, it is beautiful. William comments that the house is too large for them because they have to children. Alice cannot have children. William lies and says that he does not like children. The narrator, in his room, was called for dinner by Mr. Oke.
The narrator described Alice. He cannot help but think how different, and special she is. He became enthralled with Alice, her personality, her appearance, the thing that lured him in. Then he went on to describe William who he says is good and wholesome, but being married to Alice seemed to have changed him. He noted that William had a “manic-frown,” “that deep gash between his eyebrows.” Alice often would look into the distance, with no prompting, and at nothing in particular. The narrator described their relationship as William feebly trying to gain appreciation and acknowledgement from Alice, who paid him no mind and, repulsed, actively tried to irritate and shock him.
"...yet it seemed to me, sometimes, that this monotonous life of solitude, by the side of a woman who took no more heed of him than of a table or chair, was producing a vague depression and irritation in this young man, so evidently cur out for a cheerful, commonplace life."
The narrator discovered the pictures of the couple's predecessors: Nicholas and Alice Oke. Alice looked just like the deceased Alice Oke and not just because she dressed "up to look like her ancestress...sometimes absolutely copied from this portrait." Nicholas was embarrassed of his ancestors and what they did. He tells the narrator the story then about his ancestry. After the Scotch wars, Nicholas became the last Oke, until he married Alice Pompret. William described the Pomprets as "restless, self-seeking," and didn't feel as if he descended from that side of the family. Nicholas Oke rebuilt Okehurst and Christopher Lovelock came to live nearby. He became friendly with everyone, including Alice Oke. One night riding home, Lovelock was attacked and killed by two highway men, who were assumed to be Nicholas and Alice. This story was told to William and Alice as children, and William hoped that tradition would die and that it was false.
"...this bizarre creature of enigmatic, far-fetched exquisiteness--that she should have no intrest in the present, but only an eccentric passion in the past."
The narrator was "required to put her into play," and told Alice that William told him the story of Alice Oke, then Alice told him her version. Alice thought the dead Alice "may have felt that she had a right to rid herself of him, and to call upon her husband to help her to do so." She said that Lovelock has been seen in the house and that the yellow drawing-room is haunted with his ghost. She said that although nothing happened in the room that something will happen in the room.
"The panes of the mullioned window were open, and yet the air seemed heavy, with an indescribable heady perfume, not that of any growing flower, but like that of old stuff that should have lain from years among spices."
Alice showed the narrator the yellow room and read to him the poems of Christopher Lovelock. The narrator wanted to paint her just like that, they way she seemed most natural and herself.
"She drew the curtain and displayed a large-sized miniature, representing a young man, with auburn curls and a peaked auburn beard, dressed in black, but with lace about his neck, and large pear-shaped pearls in his ears: a wistful melancholy face. Mrs. Oke took the miniature religiously off its stand, and showed me , written in faded characters upon the back, the name "Christopher Lovelock," and the date 1626."
After Alice showed him the miniature of Lovelock, he thought she was dangerous and took some time away from her. But not for too long, for he couldn't help but want to watch her as she talked about Lovelock and Alice and draw her in the yellow room.
William was going through a chest of clothes from past generations and the narrator asked about the dress Alice wore in the picture, and William said it wasn't there at that Alice had it. At another sitting, Alice said that the deceased Alice had to kill Lovelock because she "loved him more than the whole word!" and seemed to be sobbing. She ended the sitting, claiming to be ill.
The narrator noted Alice's unusual cheerfulness. William was happy that Alice was so well and wished that she were like that more often, but the narrator thought that her cheerfulness was not normal, considering what happened yesterday. Some relatives were expected and Alice was running around giving orders.
"There was something in her unusual activity and still mroe unusual cheerfulness that was merely nervous and feverish; and I had, the whole day the impression of dealing with a woman who was ill and who would very speedily collapse."
The narrator was walking around the property and came upon Alice at the stables; she was dressed like a man in riding clothes. She took him riding in a horse-drawn cart down the road and stopped at Cotes Common, where Christopher Lovelock died, and told the narrator the story.
Lovelock was riding home when he saw a cart approach with two men, one obviously Nicholas Oke. Nicholas said he had some news for him, brought his horse close to him, and fired a pistol. Lovelock dodged and his horse took the bullet. He drew his sword and Nicholas drew his. Nicholas was disarmed on his back when Lovelock said he would spare him if her asked for forgiveness. The second man rode up and shot Lovelock in the back. Lovelock fell and light shined on the man, and he cried out that it was Alice who killed him, then died. Nicholas threw Lovelock's purse into the pond, then the couple rode off. Alice lived long after but her husband did not. He became mentally ill before his death and threatened to kill Alice. In a fit, he told the story of the killing and made a prophecy that the next time the master of Okehurst marries another Alice, that will be the end of the Okes of Okehurst.
Alice said that they have no children and she doesn't want any. When they returned, William was waiting outside and helped his wife out of the cart. She withdrew pleasantly and said that they were at Cotes Common. William was not happy.
The relatives had arrived and three days into their visit they played dress up in the old clothes. William breilfy opposed but gave in to their insisting. William was excited by seeing everyone dress that he put on his uniform that he wore before he got married. Someone noticed that Alice was missing. At that moment a stranger entered the room.
"...a boy, slight and tall, in a brown riding-coat, leathern belt, and big buff boots, a little grey cloak over one shoulder, a large grey hat slouched over the eyes, a dagger and a pistol at the waist. It was Mrs. Oke, her eyes preternaturally bright, and her whole face lit up with a bold perverse smile."
Alice said it was the outfit Alice wore when she went riding with her husband. A cousin toasted to the health of Alice: dead and alive. Alice toasted to the health of Lovelock's ghost.
After that party, the narrator noticed that change in William that had probably been happening all along. Alice suggested that they all act out the murder, but she really had no intention of following it through. At dinner, William saw a man on the other side of the window making signs at Alice, cried out, and jumped out the window in pursuit. Alice smiled. William returned saying that he made a mistake, but Alice said that is was Lovelock he say.
The narrator noticed that William was irritable, paranoid, and easily frightened, and called him ill. William often start at the sight of a figure in the distance, that often turned out to be a neighbor. The narrator tried to ask Alice not to tease William about Lovelock, and told her he was ill, but she was indifferent and said he should see a doctor in town.
William told the narrator about their childhood. Alice was brought over for Christmas when they were little, then they were married, and finally his suffering through the disappointment of their baby, where Alice almost died of illness.
"I would give anything my life any day if only she would look for two minutes as if she liked me a little as if she didn't utterly despise me;" and the poor fellow burst into a hysterical laugh, which was almost a sob."
The narrator noted that William was jealous of Alice, but didn't know why or of what, and thought that Willaim probably didn't realize this himself. He felt that Alice emotionally neglected him and didn't love him and these feelings changed him gradually. Alice said to William, about his paranoia, that the ghosts in the house have a much a right to be there as they do, and that they laugh at William's attempts at privacy. William suggested that it is Lovelock's steps that he heard on the gravel every night. William said that he does not understand Alice.
After returning from a walk, Willaim spoke in a voice that didn't seem his own. He said he saw Alice walking at the pond with someone at five o'clock. Alice said it was no one, no one living, and that if he saw her with someone that it was probably Lovelock.
"...I did not trust Mrs. Oke. That woman would slip through my fingers like a snake if I attempted to grasp her elusive character."
The narrator and William went on a walk, in the direction of Cotes Commons. On the way he became obsessed with the hops, saying they were doing bad this year, yet, yesterday, he said the hops were doing better than they had in years. William asked the narrator for advice about Alice; he suggests that Alice is surrounded by someone else and won't say. The narrator tried to calm him down, but Wiliam ignores him. He said that this was all Lovelock's fault; that he was causing her to "dishounor" herself, and that he has to save her. The narrator analyzed the couple, to William, and offered to take him to a doctor in town. William said that the narrator was right and admits that he feels crazy sometimes, that he does not want to fulfill the prophecy. He wished that Alice wouldn't mock him with Lovelock.
The narrator was giving Alice a sitting and she seemed unusually happy and as if she were waiting for something to happen. She was reading "Vita Nouva" and the discussion of "whether love so abstract and so enduring was a possibility" arose.
"Love such as that...is very rare, but it can exist. It becomes a person's whole existence, his whole soul; and it can survive the death, not merely of he beloved, but of the lover. It is unextinguishable, and goes on in the spiritual world until it meet a reincarnation of the beloved; and when this happens, it jets out and draws to it all that may remain of that lover's soul, and takes shape and surrounds the beloved once more."
A couple days later, the narrator heard no mention of Alice or Lovelock and William seemed happy and back to normal. That day, Alice, feeling ill, returned to her room, and William was off on business. The narrator spent time rummaging through the drawing-room, when William appeared at the doorway, not entering, and told him to follow him. William appeared ill. He said he had something to show the narrator. He led outside, to the bay window of the yellow-drawing room. He led him to the window. The narrator saw a dark room and Mrs. Oke sitting on a couch in the white dress and "her head slgihtly thrown back, a large red rose in her hand." William said that he was going to get whoever he thought was in the room with Alice, and the narrator said that it didn't sound like William. The narrator and William struggled outside, but William got in through the window, and the narrator followed him.
"As I crossed the threshold, something flashed in my eyes; there was a loud report; a sharp cry, and the thud of a body on the ground."
William shot and killed Alice. There was smoke around him. Alice was on the floor and blood was collecting under her.
"Her mouth was convulsed, as if in that automatic shriek, but her wide-open white eyes seemed to smile vaguely and distantly."
William turned around and laughed. He curses the person for getting away and fooling him again. He unlocked the door and rain out of the house crying. That night, he tried to him himself but just fractured his jaw and died a couple of days after.
The narratoe went through the legal trouble associated with the deaths and it was decided that William went crazy and killed his wife. The narrator's maid brought him a bloody locket from around Alice's neck. Inside was "some very dark auburn hair, not at all the colour of William Oke's. I am quite sure it was Lovelock's."